All the Bright Places

Page 46


“The real story’s boring. My dad gets in these black moods. Like, the blackest black. Like, no moon, no stars, storm’s coming black. I used to be a lot smaller than I am now. I used to not know how to get out of the way.” These are just some of the things I never wanted to say to her. “I wish I could promise you perfect days and sunshine, but I’m never going to be Ryan Cross.”

“If there’s one thing I know, it’s that no one can promise anything. And I don’t want Ryan Cross. Let me worry about what I want.” And then she kisses me. It’s the kind of kiss that makes me lose track of everything, and so it may be hours or minutes by the time we break apart.

She says, “By the way? Ryan Cross is a kleptomaniac. He steals stuff for fun. And not even things he wants, but everything. His room looks like one of those rooms on Hoarders. Just in case you thought he was perfect.”

“Ultraviolet Remarkey-able, I think I love you.”

So that she doesn’t feel she has to say it back, I kiss her again, and wonder if I dare do anything else, go any further, because I don’t want to ruin this moment. And then, because I’m now the one thinking too much, and because she is different from all other girls and because I really, really don’t want to screw this up, I concentrate on kissing her on the banks of the Blue Hole, in the sunshine, and I let that be enough.

VIOLET

The day of

Around three o’clock the air turns cool again, and we drive to his house to shower and get warm. His house is empty because everyone comes and goes as they please. He grabs waters from the fridge, and a bag of pretzels, and I follow him upstairs, still damp and shivering.

His bedroom is blue now—walls, ceiling, floor—and all the furniture has been moved to one corner so that the room is divided in two. There’s less clutter, no more wall of notes and words. All that blue makes me feel like I’m inside a swimming pool, like I’m back at the Blue Hole.

I shower first, standing under the hot water, trying to get warm. When I come out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, Finch has music playing on the old turntable.

Unlike his swim in the Blue Hole, his shower lasts no more than a minute. Before I’m dressed, he reappears, towel around his waist, and says, “You never asked me what I was doing up on that ledge.” He stands, open and ready to tell me anything, but for some reason I’m not sure I want to know.

“What were you doing up on that ledge?” It comes out a whisper.

“The same thing you were. I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to imagine jumping off it. I wanted to leave all the shit behind. But when I did start to imagine it, I didn’t like what it looked like. And then I saw you.”

He takes my hand and spins me out and then in so I’m tucked against him, and we sway, and rock a little, but mostly stand still, pressed together, my heart pounding because if I tilt my head back, just like this, he will kiss me like he’s doing now. I can feel his lips curving up at the corners, smiling. I open my eyes at the moment he opens his, and his blue-blue eyes are shining so fierce and bright that they’re nearly black. The damp hair is falling across his forehead, and he rests his head against mine. And then I realize his towel is lying on the floor and he’s naked.

I lay my fingers against his neck, long enough to feel his pulse, which feels just like my own—racing and feverish.

“We don’t have to.”

“I know.”

And then I close my eyes as my own towel drops and the song comes to an end. I still hear it after we are in the bed and under the sheets and other songs are playing.

FINCH

The day of

She is oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. The same elements that are inside the rest of us, but I can’t help thinking she’s more than that and she’s got other elements going on that no one’s ever heard of, ones that make her stand apart from everybody else. I feel this brief panic as I think, What would happen if one of those elements malfunctioned or just stopped working altogether? I make myself push this aside and concentrate on the feel of her skin until I no longer see molecules but Violet.

As the song plays on the turntable, I hear one of my own that’s taking shape:

You make me love you …

The line plays over and over in my head as we move from standing to lying down.

You make me love you

You make me love you

You make me love you …

I want to get up and write it down and tack it to the wall. But I don’t.

Afterward, as we lie tangled up, kind of winded and Huh and Wow, she says, “I should get home.” We lie there a little longer and then she says it again. “I should get home.”

In the car, we hold hands and don’t talk about what happened. Instead of driving to her house, I take a detour. When I get to the Purina Tower, she wants to know what we’re doing.

I grab the blanket and pillow from the back and say, “I’m going to tell you a story.”

“Up there?”

“Yes.”

We climb up the steel ladder, all the way to the top. The air must be cold because I can see my breath, but I feel warm all the way through. We walk past the Christmas tree and I spread out the blanket. We lie down and wrap ourselves in and then I kiss her.

She is smiling as she pushes me away. “So tell me this story.” We lie back, her head on my shoulder, and, as if I ordered them, the stars are clear and bright. There are millions of them.

I say, “There was this famous British astronomer named Sir Patrick Moore. He hosted a BBC television program called Sky at Night, which ran for something like fifty-five years. Anyway, on April 1, 1976, Sir Patrick Moore announced on his show that something extraordinary was getting ready to happen in the skies. At exactly 9:47 a.m., Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter, in relation to the earth. This was a rare alignment that meant the combined gravitational force of those two planets would exert a stronger tidal pull, which would temporarily counteract gravity here on earth and make people weigh less. He called this the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect.”

Violet is heavy against my arm, and for a minute I wonder if she’s asleep.

“Patrick Moore told viewers that they could experience the phenomenon by jumping in the air at the exact moment the alignment occurred. If they did, they would feel weightless, like they were floating.”

She shifts a little.

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