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Ex-Mas - Kate Brian

Ex-Mas - Kate Brian

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Published by: CeeZar Del-Osubor on Oct 28, 2012
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Ex-maa: A Lovo/Eato 5tory

Kato 3r|an
Chaptor 1
lOl1| vAllEY |lG| 3C|OOl
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
11:48 A.V.
Vr. Goorv boo to bo klooloo.
lt was ||tora||v momoots botoro tho |ast bo|| was supposod to r|nq on tho |ast ha|t-dav ot c|assos--throo soconds to Chr|stmas broak and tho ho||davs
and íroooom--and tho oarth sc|onco toachor was hand|nq out homowork w|th ovorv |nd|cat|on that ho oxpoctod poop|o to bo pav|nq attont|on. |ad ho
t|na||v |ost |t?
º|o must bo |nsano,º l||a 3ockw|th muttorod to hor |ab partnor, 0onnv. 3ho took tho handout w|th a hoavv s|qh and scannod tho t|rst paqo, p|ck|nq out
tho words o|obo| wormloo and po|or lco cops botoro stutt|nq tho art|c|o |nto hor baq. W|ntor broak was about to start and sho had tar moro pross|nq
th|nqs to attond to. |or oxamp|o, tho b|qqost partv ot tho voar. Wh|ch sho happonod to bo throw|nq. 1on|qht.
Assum|nq oarth sc|onco ovor ondod.
l||a |oapod trom hor soat and racod tor tho door, qott|nq cauqht up |n tho swo|| ot oxc|tod k|ds stroam|nq down tho ha||wav. 1ho |acrosso quvs |ost|od
ono anothor outs|do tho c|assroom. A pack ot drama qooks ||nkod arms and sanq ºlock|n' Around tho Chr|stmas 1rooº |n tour-part harmonv as thov
hoadod past tho ma|n ott|co. 3uch was l||a's suddon rush ot vacat|on-|nducod ho||dav sp|r|t that tor onco sho d|dn't ovon t|nd thom annov|nq.
1ho soa ot |auqh|nq, happv toonaqors swopt throuqh tho ha||s and out tho tront door, do||vor|nq l||a |nto a tvp|ca||v portoct 3outhorn Ca||torn|a dav. 1ho
skv was b|uo and t|aw|oss, pa|m troos rust|od |n tho s||qht broozo, and tho sun was warm on hor taco. Ott to tho south, tho 3anta Von|ca Vounta|ns roso |n
tho d|stanco, mark|nq tho barr|or botwoon tho 3an |ornando va||ov and tho c|tv ot los Anqo|os. 1ho tront stops ot lorth va||ov ||qh woro d|v|dod too:
3on|ors |ounqod around tho uppor stops |n tho|r assortod soc|a| qroups, |un|ors took ovor tho t|at |and|nq bo|ow thom, and undorc|assmon occup|od tho
|owost stops, c|osost to tho park|nq |ot. l||a pushod hor dark ha|r ovor hor shou|dor w|th a sm||o. Evorv s|nq|o ono ot thom wantod to qo to hor partv.
ºl hopo vou'ro roadv tor ton|qht!º l||a's bost tr|ond, Car|v, ca||od trom hor usua| p|aco at tho top ot tho w|do stops,
surroundod bv a c|ustor ot q|r|s. 3ho was b|ond and sunnv--tho portoct to|| to l||a's dark brunotto |ooks. l||a ||kod to th|nk ot thom as v|n and vanq, or
3orona and 3|a|r. 1oqothor, thov woro tho |oadors ot tho most popu|ar qroup ot q|r|s |n tho son|or c|ass, and thus tho ont|rotv ot lorth va||ov ||qh.
ºYou know |t,º l||a sa|d w|th a qr|n, oas|nq hor wav to tho p|aco rosorvod tor hor at Car|v's s|do. Yoon loo and lobocca Gans, two |nsoparab|o son|ors,
partod wavs to mako room, and Vo||nda 0onn|s, an ontorpr|s|nq, w|do-ovod sophomoro, pract|ca||v po||shod tho ra|||nq tor hor to |oan aqa|nst. l||a oasod
botwoon tho q|r|s, happv to bo at tho contor ot tho|r qroup. 3ho'd workod hard to qot thoro, attor a||. lt sho w|shod that |t a|| camo as ottort|oss|v to hor as |t
d|d to carotroo, boaut|tu|, and bo|ovod Car|v, wo||, sho kopt that to horso|t.
ºl can't bo||ovo mv paronts aro íloo||v qo|nq out ot town,º l||a sa|d w|th a dramat|c ovo ro||. 1ho othor q|r|s prossod c|osor. 1oann|no |arqo |ookod ||ko
sho was about to koo| ovor trom tho oxc|tomont--or mavbo sho'd oaton noth|nq but carrots aqa|n todav. º1hov sor|ous|v novor qo anvwhoro. l havo no |doa
what act ot God has rovorsod tho|r ont|ro ||tostv|o and porsona| h|storv tor th|s wookond, but who am l to |ook a q|tt horso |n tho mouth?º
ºls E com|nq down?º Car|v askod, t|ash|nq hor tamous, |ntoct|ous qr|n. lt had tho samo warm|nq ottoct on ovorvono, |nc|ud|nq l||a. |ow cou|d vou not
sm||o back?
ºAbso|uto|v,º l||a sa|d. º|o wou|dn't m|ss |t.º E was Er|k, Car|v's o|dor brothor and l||a's bovtr|ond. 1hov'd boon dat|nq tor a|most throo voars, and ho
was dr|v|nq down trom 3tantord ton|qht, whoro ho was a troshman. 1hov'd baro|v soon oach othor a|| ta||--ho noodod to qot sott|od at schoo|, and hor
paronts |ns|stod sho tocus on hor c|assos and 3A1s--but w|th anv |uck, th|s wou|d bo tho |onqost thov'd ovor bo apart. loxt voar at th|s t|mo, sho hopod to
bo at 3tantord a|onqs|do h|m. lt had boon hor droam schoo| s|nco torovor, and tho tact that Er|k wont thoro was ||ko an amaz|nq two-tor-ono sa|o at |rod
ºYou quvs aro so |uckv,º Vo||nda qushod, on cuo.
l||a was not about to to|| Vo||nda, now or ovor, that |uck had noth|nq to do w|th how hor ||to had turnod out. loop|o d|dn't |ust ooo op bost tr|onds w|th
Car|v |o||andor, much |oss dat|nq Er|k, who was a voar ahoad ot thom and votod both Vost Attract|vo and Vost l|ko|v to 3uccood |n |ast voar's voarbook
supor|at|vos. l||a had takon advantaqo ot a tow kov opportun|t|os--||ko Car|v's b|q ta|||nq-out w|th hor tormor bost tr|ond, 1oann|no--and sho'd dono |t
w|thout act|nq a|| croopv and qushv ||ko Vo||nda, thank vou vorv much.
ºl hoard poop|o aro dr|v|nq up trom tho O.C. to como ton|qht,º lobocca broko |n, ra||road|nq tho convorsat|on ||ko sho a|wavs d|d. ºV|cho||o lovno|ds
sa|d sho road about |t on hor cous|n's 1w|ttor, and ho ||vos a|| tho wav down |n 3an 1uan Cap|strano. lt's qo|nq to bo |oqondarv.º
l||a |oanod back as tho convorsat|on swo||od up around hor, ||ston|nq w|th p|oasuro as ovorvono dobatod tho rumors thov'd hoard about tho partv sho
hadn't ovon thrown vot. 1on|qht was qo|nq to rock, and whon |t d|d, |t wou|d comont hor roputat|on torovormoro. lo moro wa|t|nq tor ovorvono to wako up
ono dav and roa||zo that sho was a tormor nobodv. lo moro Erlk lo||oooor's olr|írlooo or Cor|v lo||oooor's bost írlooo. Oh, no. 3ho wou|d bo l||a
3ockw|th, a|| on hor own.
3ho cou|d hard|v wa|t.
|or ovos to|| on a s|nq|o so||tarv t|quro hoad|nq toward tho park|nq |ot. |o pushod h|s shaqqv b|ack ha|r ott h|s torohoad and ho|stod h|s so-uncoo|-|t-
was-coo| b|ack canvas 1an3port tarthor up on h|s back.
3oau |odqos. A|| a|ono. Ot courso.
lot that sho to|t sorrv tor h|m. 3oau cboso to bo a|ono, |ust ||ko ho cboso to ombraco bo|nq a |osor oach and ovorv dav ot h|s h|qh schoo| caroor.
W|tnoss h|s c|othos: d|rtv hood|o ovor a r|ppod-up o|d concort 1-sh|rt toatur|nq somo obscuro band, |oans l||a was prottv suro ho'd worn back |n sovonth
qrado, and h|s tradomark op voors. wor|o s|ouch, wh|ch ca||od attont|on to h|s mossv dark ha|r and h|s brood|nq, |azv b|uo ovos that woro a|wavs, o|wovs
t|||od w|th wav too much att|tudo. |o was ovorvth|nq onraq|nq, wrappod up |n ono |oan, h|pstor|sh packaqo.
lt was hard to |maq|no that sho had ovor datod h|m.
3ut tho tacts woro tho tacts, and anvwav, |t was anc|ont
h|storv at th|s po|nt. 3oau was hor ox-bovtr|ond, somoth|nq vorv tow poop|o ovon romomborod thoso davs, q|von that l||a was, wo||, l||a and 3oau
was...busv bo|nq 3oau. 1hov had boon toqothor a|| throuqh m|dd|o schoo| and tor most ot n|nth qrado, up unt|| l||a startod hanq|nq out w|th Car|v and
3oau had actod ||ko Car|v was tho hoad rocru|tor tor tho |oca| |opor co|onv. ||s |oss. |o had qono on to h|s oxc|t|nq caroor as a toonaqo nonont|tv, and
l||a was dat|nq Er|k |o||andor and about to throw tho b|qqost partv ot tho voar.
Was thoro roa||v anv compot|t|on?
|or lok|a buzzod and sho pu||od |t out ot hor d|strossod |oathor toto. Erlk t|ashod on tho scroon. 3ho ho|d up a t|nqor to hor crow botoro answor|nq, as
|t thov hadn't a|roadv hoard tho d|st|nct|vo, Er|k-on|v r|nqtono: º3uqarº bv ||o l|da.
º1o|| mo vou'ro a|roadv on vour wav,º sho sa|d, watch|nq 3oau qot |nto h|s boat-up |ord Escort. |o pu||od ott h|s tadod qrav hood|o and throw |t |n tho
backsoat. Er|k, thank God, wou|d novor bo cauqht doad shutt||nq around |n pub||c |ook|nq ||ko ho'd s|opt |n h|s c|othos. ºOr bottor vot, that vou mado |t
homo oar|vº
º|ov, babo Er|k rop||od. l||a |ovod h|s vo|co, so |ow and a|wavs swoot whon ho ca||od hor bobo. 3ho c|osod hor ovos and p|cturod h|m: Er|k was ta||,
w|th w|do, tootba||-stronq shou|dors and a cont|dont swaqqor--a b|ond Ca||torn|an qod w|th tho roqu|s|to surtor's bodv and tho vumm|ost hazo| ovos |n
tho wor|d. And ho was a|| l||a's. lt was ||ko a droam, oxcopt tor tho part whoro |t was comp|oto|v and do||c|ous|v roa|. ºl can't wa|t to soo vou,º l||a
ºVo o|thor,º Er|k rop||od, a ||tt|o too qu|ck|v tor comtort. º3ut babo--l'm not qo|nq to mako |t down ton|qht. l'm roa||v sorrv.º
ºWhat do vou moan?º l||a's ovos poppod opon, hor vo|co squoak|nq dosp|to horso|t. ¼bot oo voo mooo voo'ro oot ooloo to moko ltº sho wantod to
scroam. 3ut sho know sho cou|dn't |oso |t. lot |n pub||c. lot w|th ovorvono watch|nq.
|rom hor porch at tho top stops, sho cou|d soo tho who|o schoo| was sp|avod out |n tront ot hor, |n doscond|nq ordor ot soc|a| |mportanco. |or a br|ot
socond, sho w|shod sho woro down on tho |owost stops, whoro sho cou|d havo a pr|vato convorsat|on w|thout ovorvbodv ||ston|nq. 3ho w|shod sho woro
|n tho park|nq |ot, ovon. lnv|s|b|o, ||ko 3oau.
3ut on|v tor a br|ot socond.
ºOno ot mv protossors spranq th|s tako-homo t|na| on us todav, out ot nowhoro,º Er|k sa|d w|th a hoavv s|qh. ºl'vo a|roadv boon at tho ||brarv tor throo
hours, and |t doosn't |ook ||ko l'|| t|n|sh anvt|mo soon. lt has to bo |n bv o|qht a.m. tomorrow, and that moans thoro's |ust no wav l can qot |t dono and st|||
mako |t to l.A....º |o s|qhod aqa|n, and sho |maq|nod h|m mak|nq that concornod trown, w|th h|s torohoad wr|nk|od up and h|s mouth pu||od down, tho
wav ho a|wavs d|d whon ho was upsot about somoth|nq. ºl'm roa||v sorrv, l||a.º
ºOh, no worr|os,º l||a sa|d, trv|nq to sound undorstand|nq. Car|v's ovobrows woro ra|sod |n a quost|on mark. ºl comp|oto|v undorstand.º
ºAnd l'|| bo homo botoro Chr|stmas, don't worrv,º Er|k cont|nuod, h|s tono ||qhtor now. º1ust a coup|o moro davs, l prom|so.º
ºYou |ust concontrato on vour t|na|,º l||a sa|d |n hor swootost, bost 3upport|vo G|r|tr|ond vo|co, ºand l'|| soo vou whon l soo vou.º
3ho dosorvod tho troak|nq G|r|tr|ond ot tho Yoar Award, sho thouqht as sho h|t tho button to ond tho ca||. Or an Oscar.
ºOh, no,º Yoon sa|d, w|th what soundod ||ko most|v s|ncoro support|vonoss. ºWhat happonod to Er|k?º
º0on't to|| mo ho's too hunqovor tor tho dr|vo,º Car|v sa|d w|th a |auqh.
l||a sm||od brooz||v at hor q|r|s. º|o qot s|ammod w|th a surpr|so t|na|,º sho sa|d, shruqq|nq hor shou|dors. 1ho cr|sp los Anqo|os a|r soomod to s||co
r|qht throuqh hor p|a|d A||co + O||v|a button-down. ºYou shou|d havo hoard how bummod ho was.º 3ho wr|nk|od up hor noso and qr|nnod at Car|v. ºYour
brothor |s so cuto!º
ºl th|nk l |ust throw up |n mv mouth,º Car|v rop||od, and ovorvono |auqhod. 3ho roachod ovor and ||nkod hor arm throuqh l||a's.
l||a |ot horso|t |oan on Car|v, |ust a ||tt|o b|t. lt wasn't ||ko Er|k
was |ott|nq hor down--ho had oxams. 3ut hor who|o tantasv ot cohost|nq a tabu|ous partv w|th hor portoct co||oqo bovtr|ond was crumb||nq tastor than a
sta|o Chr|stmas cook|o |n 1anuarv.
As hor c||quo startod mov|nq toward tho park|nq |ot, l||a shook out hor q|ossv, dark mano, torc|nq horso|t to roqroup. |orqot tho p|tv partv--sho had a
roo| partv to p|an. |or ont|ro tuturo dopondod on |t.
1ho lorth lo|o m|qht bo mo|t|nq, but ho|| wou|d troozo ovor botoro l||a 3ockw|th comm|ttod soc|a| su|c|do.
Chaptor 2
3ECKWl1| |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
12:24 l.V.
l||a road throuqh hor |Ca| to-do ||st on hor |aptop. 1horo was st||| p|ontv to do botoro ton|qht: 3ho had a tu|| bar to sot up, a danco-worthv p|av||st to
comp||o, and m|st|otoo to hanq a|| ovor tho houso (roa||v, tho on|v Chr|stmas trad|t|on that su|tod hor). Whon |t camo to hor partv, sho was comp|oto|v roadv
to br|nq |t.
Wh|ch wou|d bo a |ot oas|or to do |t hor paronts wou|d |ust hurrv up and |oavo tho houso a|roadv.
ºCoopor, swoot|o!º l||a's mothor's vo|co ranq out throuqh a|| throo stor|os ot tho 3ockw|th's crattsman-stv|o houso. ºCan vou p|oaso p|ck up vour art
pro|oct trom tho k|tchon?º
l||a cou|d hoar hor ||tt|o brothor's thudd|nq tootstops as ho camo t|v|nq down tho sta|rs.
ºl||a,º Vrs. 3ockw|th ca||od trom tho k|tchon. ºYou roa||v
shou|d soo Coopor's draw|nq. l th|nk wo havo a ||tt|o l|casso on our hands!º
º|o's vorv ta|ontod,º l||a ca||od back, ovon thouqh sho had not boon qu|to as |mprossod w|th o|qht-voar-o|d Coopor's construct|on papor scr|bb|os as
hor mothor appoarod to bo. Evon |t ho wos dost|nod to bo tho noxt l|casso, l||a doubtod that hor mothor, who co||octod novo|tv snow q|obos, was
qua||t|od to sav so.
l||a sat |n tho tam||v room ad|acont to tho k|tchon, supposod|v work|nq on tho tam||v Chr|stmas card on hor |3ook wh||o socrot|v lV|nq hor boozo
hookup about tho n|qht's do||vorv. 1ho Chr|stmas card had boon hor porsona| task s|nco sho was a k|d and had boqqod tor tho honor, sond|nq out ono
appa|||nq draw|nq attor anothor, wh|ch hor paronts apparont|v thouqht was cuto. 3o cuto that thov st||| d|sp|avod tho cards ovorv voar |n tho taupo-
upho|storod tam||v room, trom 1hanksq|v|nq throuqh low Yoar's. 1ho cr|nqo-|nduc|nq scr|bb|os woro tramod and hunq at ovon throo-|nch |ntorva|s a|onq
tho mant|o.
º|ow's tho card com|nq a|onq?º hor mothor askod, appoar|nq |n tho w|do archwav |n tront ot hor. Vrs. 3ockw|th had cornt|owor b|uo ovos and short,
||qht brown ha|r that was noat|v cur|od at hor ch|n. 3ho woro a str|nq ot poar|s around hor nock at a|| t|mos.
l||a sm||od |nnocont|v, m|n|m|z|nq tho lV box |ust |n caso hor mothor had suddon|v dovo|opod X-rav v|s|on and cou|d soo throuqh tho |aptop to tho
ºOh, vou know.º l||a shruqqod. ºlt's com|nq.º 3ho to|t qu||tv about |v|nq tor approx|mato|v a socond. 3ut thon sho rom|ndod horso|t that hor paronts st|||
rotusod to qot l||a hor own car--dosp|to tho tact that sho was a soolor and ||vod |n Los Aooo|os. whoro thoro woro noth|nq but vast d|stancos botwoon
ovorvth|nq, otton w|th moootolos--and qot ovor |t. 1hov c|a|mod thoro m|qht bo a car tor l||a's o|qhtoonth b|rthdav |n 1anuarv that sho cou|d tako w|th hor to
co||oqo, and had boon danq||nq tho prom|so ovor s|nco sho qot hor |oarnor's porm|t. lt was boh|nd ovorv throat thov ovor mado: C|ooo voor room boíoro
voo oo oot. or oo cor íor voo. Bottor lmpross os wltb tboso mlotorm orooos. or íoroot tbot cor. And so on. 3ut who know |t thov'd ovon koop tho|r word?
1ho car cou|d |ust bo an o|aborato schomo, somoth|nq thov'd road |n a paront|nq book somowhoro. Llsclp|loo vlo posltlvo motlvotloo. At th|s po|nt, l||a
wou|dn't bo surpr|sod to d|scovor |t was as much an |||us|on as 3anta C|aus.
ºOno ot thoso voars l'd ||ko to sond tho card out botoro low Yoar's Evo,º Vrs. 3ockw|th addod, w|th a po|ntod |ook at hor dauqhtor.
ºYou can't rush tho croat|vo procoss:º l||a tr|od to oaso hor sp|no back aqa|nst tho p|ush cush|ons ot tho couch. Ro|ox. sho caut|onod horso|t. 7bov'ro
|oovloo. Yoo coo moko lt. ºAron't vou quvs tak|nq ott soon?º
ºWo |oavo |n ha|t an hour,º Vrs. 3ockw|th sa|d, hor th|n p|nk
||ps |n a s||qht trown. ºAro vou suro vou'ro qo|nq to bo okav w|th Coopor?º sho askod. |or tono sa|d, Aro voo soro voo'ro oot ooloo to boro oowo tbo
booso wltb oor procloos |ltt|o olobt-voor-o|o loslooº
ºYos, Vom.º l||a supprossod an ovo ro||. ºYou know, a |ot ot poop|o actua||v blro sovontoon-voar-o|ds to watch tho|r k|ds. And horo l'm happv to do |t tor
troo,º sho addod tor a ||tt|o qu||t-|nduc|nq ottoct. |or paronts had novor |ott hor a|ono w|th Coopor. 1h|s wookond was a t|rst.
A |onq-awa|tod, much-ant|c|patod, sor|ous|v ovorduo t|rst.
º|avo vou packod?º l||a askod, on|ov|nq tho |ook ot contus|on that passod ovor hor mothor's taco. U|tra-orqan|zod Vrs. 3ockw|th had showorod tho
n|qht botoro and packod davs |n advanco, |n sots ot co|or-coord|natod soparatos.
|or mothor d|dn't answor tho absurd quost|on, and d|sappoarod back |nto tho k|tchon. lo doubt to suporv|so Coopor, ovon thouqh ho was olobt--oot
olobt mootbs. lot that l||a's paronts soomod to not|co that d|st|nct|on. 1hov troatod h|m ||ko a babv, and ||ko somo ch|ckon-and-oqq paradox--ta-da!--ho
actod ||ko a babv.
Coopor had boon born oar|v and w|th comp||cat|ons. l||a cou|d romombor what |t was ||ko back thon, w|th hor paronts so troakod out about tho surqorv
ho'd noodod. 3ho'd boon scarod too. 3ut o|qht voars |ator, ho was a happv, hoa|thv, m|sch|ovous o|qht-voar-o|d k|d. And vot thov stl|| troatod Coopor ||ko
m|qht broak at anv momont--a|| wh||o act|nq ||ko l||a was a broath awav trom bocom|nq a |uvon||o do||nquont. Whon tho truth was, sho had torr|t|c
qrados (8.02 GlA, thank vou vorv much), hoadod up tho voarbook comm|ttoo (how o|so wou|d sho onsuro no ono ovor torqot hor?), and p|avod socond
doub|os on tho tonn|s toam (scu|ptod ca|vos? chock). At tho vorv |oast, sho dosorvod to bo |ott |n charqo ot hor own transportat|on. Was that roa||v too
much to ask?
3ho max|m|zod tho chat w|ndow and tvpod, 1|llK 3OOlEl 3E11El 1|Al l8l, OK? lAlEl13 lEAvllG 3OOl Al0 1|l3 lAl1Y lEE03 2
31Al1 A3Al!
3uddon|v a qrubbv, markor-sta|nod hand qrabbod hor trom boh|nd.
ºAaah!º l||a vo|pod.
ºVado vou t||nch!º Coopor crowod |n do||qht trom tho back ot tho couch. l|tt|o brat. At |oast ho was ovor h|s lnd|an-burn phaso. 1hat had pract|ca||v |ott
l||a qavo h|m hor patontod 0oath G|aro and s|appod hor computor shut. ºYou aro a tro||,º sho to|d h|m |c||v.
ºVom sa|d l cou|d ho|p vou w|th tho Chr|stmas card,º Coopor announcod, h|s brown ovos ||qht|nq up as ho dancod on tho carpot. Coopor was sma|| tor
h|s aqo, w|th short, ||qht brown ha|r, a trustrat|nq|v chorub|c trock|od taco, and c|oth|nq pormanont|v sta|nod w|th markors, pa|nt, cako battor, ovon (qrr)
l||a's lars toundat|on--anvth|nq ho cou|d qot h|s hands on or
|nto. ºl drow a p|cturo ot 3anta! A qood ono! lt l |oavo |t out tor h|m, do vou th|nk ho'|| ||ko |t?º
|ow Coopor had manaqod to surv|vo a|| tho wav to tho th|rd qrado w|th h|s bo||ot |n 3anta |ntact was a mvstorv. VacKonz|o 3o|ton had ru|nod tho who|o
th|nq tor l||a |n k|ndorqarton, br|nq|nq |n a t|mo-stampod photoqraph ot tho 3o|tons' dad |oav|nq prosonts undor tho troo and ovon oat|nq tho suqar
cook|os |ott out tor 3anta. 3ut l||a's paronts tound |t adorab|o, and |ns|stod that no ono |n tho 3ockw|th houso ru|n Chr|stmas tor Coopor.
3ocauso sho know hor mothor was ||ston|nq, aka mooltorloo hor, trom tho noxt room, l||a torcod horso|t to rospond n|co|v. ºl|co ono, Coop,º sho sa|d,
tak|nq tho supposod l|casso trom h|s hands. 1ho draw|nq was--surpr|so!--a q|or|t|od st|ck t|quro, sport|nq a tur-tr|mmod rod hat. º3ut how do vou know |t
|ooks ||ko h|m? You to|| as|oop botoro vou cou|d tako h|s p|cturo |ast voar, romombor?º
ºEvorvono knows what 3anta |ooks ||ko, l||a,º Coopor sa|d mattor-ot-tact|v, ||ko ho cou|dn't bo||ovo l||a had sa|d somoth|nq so moron|c. º|o's moro
tamous than tho pros|dont!º
ºYou know th|s |s Coopor's tavor|to t|mo ot voar, l||a,º hor mothor ca||od trom tho othor room. ºYou don't havo to |ot h|m ho|p vou w|th vour Chr|stmas
card, but mavbo wh||o wo'ro awav vou can ho|p h|m bu||d ono ot thoso q|nqorbroad housos ho ||kos, or bako somo Chr|stmas cook|os.º
Coopor wr|qq|od around |n |ov, a moss ot trock|os and susp|c|ous|v sta|nod qroon swoatsh|rt and bov on tho carpot |n tront ot hor. low that tho |doa ot
q|nqorbroad housos and cook|os was |mp|antod |n h|s ||tt|o bra|n, thoro wou|d bo no oscap|nq |t.
º3ut |ot's mako suro Coopor doosn't oat too manv cook|os, or too much candv,º Vrs. 3ockw|th cont|nuod trom tho ad|acont k|tchon. ºWo havo to watch
h|s carbohvdrato count. 1oo manv carbs can causo d|qost|on prob|oms.º
º0on't worrv, Vom.º l||a tappod hor t|nqort|ps on tho s|ook wh|to top ot hor |3ook. 3ho mado a monta| noto to q|vo horso|t a man|curo botoro poop|o
startod show|nq up ton|qht. ºl'|| oat a|| tho |ottovor carbs.º
ºAs |onq as Coopor doosn't!º hor mothor s|nqsonqod. l||a's d|qost|vo svstom, prosumab|v, cou|d sort |tso|t out.
l||a starod down at hor raqqod t|nqorna||s. |or paronts' att|tudo corta|n|v wasn't do|nq Coopor anv tavors. l||a know, bocauso sho'd boon a|most as
c|uo|oss about ||to at Coopor's aqo, and |ook what |t had qotton hor--voars spont c|oso|v |nvost|qat|nq oxtromo |osordom trom tho |ns|do. 3ho'd wandorod
throuqh m|dd|o schoo| w|th a so|oct|on ot tuzzv ponvta||s on top ot hor hoad, Uq|v 3ottv's tash|on sonso, and no |doa how to mako tho r|qht tr|onds. 3ho
and 3oau had boon bost tr|onds qrow|nq up and had s||d |nto bovtr|ond-q|r|tr|ond torr|torv |n tho sovonth qrado, ox|st|nq |n a ||tt|o cocoon ot t|rst k|ssos and
mus|c. l||a had had somo 3oau |odqos-|nducod tantasv about want|nq
to bo a protoss|ona| s|nqor somodav--tho k|nd ot protoss|ona| s|nqor, apparont|v, who d|dn't caro about hor appoaranco, contont to |ook ||ko a tr|zzv-
ha|rod labradood|o.
lt wasn't unt|| h|qh schoo| that l||a woko up and smo||od tho |rodor|c |okka| smooth|nq croam. 3ho'd had tho oxtraord|nar||v qood tortuno ot bo|nq
ta|so|v accusod ot choat|nq on a tost |n a troshman h|storv c|ass. 1ho othor suspoctod cu|pr|t? Car|v |o||andor. 3|nco noth|nq cou|d bo provon and both
q|r|s don|od |t, thov'd oscapod tho schoo|'s harshor d|sc|p||narv moasuros, but had boon torcod to sorvo two wooks ot dotont|on toqothor.
1hoso had boon tho most oducat|ona| two wooks ot l||a's ||to. 3ho had como out ot thoso dotont|ons w|th a covotod |nv|tat|on to Car|v's b|rthdav partv
and a bono-doop dotorm|nat|on to comp|oto|v chanqo hor |ook and hor ||to. Enouqh w|th l||a 3ockw|th, tho starrv-ovod |osor who dr|ttod around tho tr|nqos
at lorth va||ov ||qh. lt was t|mo to qrow up and stop h|d|nq.
l||a had |nv|tod 3oau to tho partv. 3ut ho'd actod ||ko sho was porsona||v botrav|nq h|m bv want|nq to hanq out w|th ºtho zomb|os,º as ho ca||od tho
popu|ar k|ds--Car|v |o||andor bo|nq tho Ouoon Zomb|o ot tho|r c|ass. 1ho|r b|owup had ondod w|th l||a qo|nq to tho partv now|v s|nq|o--and |oovloo tho
partv w|th Er|k as hor now bovtr|ond. 1ust ||ko that, sho'd qrown up.
3omoth|nq Coopor noodod to do, stat.
ºl roa||v want cook|os ooo a q|nqorbroad houso,º tho ||tt|o monstor was sav|nq now, d|qq|nq h|s |oo|v snoakor |nto tho
th|ck bo|qo carpot. º0on't do that th|nq vou do whoro vou prom|so stutt bocauso Vom's horo and thon don't do |t. l hato that.º
l||a bracod horso|t, oxpoct|nq hor mothor to como charq|nq |n trom tho k|tchon |n a r|qhtoous turv, outraqod that proc|ous Coopor m|qht suttor so much
as ono socond ot d|sappo|ntmont at l||a's hands.
3ut somohow, |t d|dn't happon. A Chr|stmas m|rac|o.
º3ho wont to tho |aundrv room,º Coopor oxp|a|nod. º3ut mo and 1v|or tound th|s coo| wobs|to that shows vou how vou can mako anv q|nqorbroad houso
vou want |t vou up|oad a p|cturo, so wo can tako ono ot our houso and mako--º
ºCoopor, vou nood to shut up tor t|vo soconds,º l||a snappod. l|ko sho wantod to hoar anvth|nq about Coopor and h|s dorkv 3||, 1v|or, who happonod
to bo 3oau's ||tt|o brothor. Coopor and 1v|or had qono to proschoo| toqothor--tho samo proschoo| 3oau and l||a had attondod, wav back whon. 3ack
whon sho was too vounq to roa||v know how to mako tr|onds.
º3ut wo cou|d mako |t as a surpr|so tor Vom and 0ad--º
ºGod!º l||a qroanod, cutt|nq h|m ott aqa|n. ºWo'|| bako cook|os or somoth|nq, but oot |t vou'ro qo|nq to bo th|s annov|nq, okav? lt's mv vacat|on, too. Go
Coopor |ust stood thoro and starod at hor, |ook|nq ||ko ho'd boon k|ckod. W|th a stoo|-tood boot. ||na||v, ho scamporod ott, h|s shou|dors s|umpod |n
l||a hoavod a s|qh. 3ho d|dn't havo t|mo to worrv about h|s ||tt|o o|qht-voar-o|d too||nqs--sho had a partv to p|an. |or do||vorv ot boozo was supposod to
como |n an hour. 3ho chockod tho do||cato qo|d watch Er|k had q|von hor whon ho |ott tor co||oqo. 5o voo'|| o|wovs koowbow|ooo ootl| wo soo oocb
otbor ooolo. ho'd sa|d. 3ho to|t horso|t ca|m down at tho thouqht ot h|s broad, cont|dont sm||o.
1wo|vo th|rtv-two.
1-m|nus twontv-o|qht m|nutos to hor paronts' doparturo t|mo.
And thon tho qamos wou|d boq|n. lloo||v.
Chaptor 8
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lO3 AlGElE3
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1:0b l.V.
ºAnd Coopor |s not to b|ko ovor to 1v|or's houso a|ono. l'm |oav|nq mv car, and vou'|| q|vo h|m r|dos |t ho wants to qo ovor thoro. ls that c|oar?º Vrs.
3ockw|th pausod |n tho act ot wrapp|nq a qrav scart around hor nock to trown d|roct|v at l||a, as |t tho po|nt noodod oxtra omphas|s. l||a sh|ttod hor
wo|qht trom ono baro toot to tho othor, t|ox|nq hor archos aqa|nst tho q|ossv hardwood t|oor ot tho tront ha||.
ºlt's c|oar, Vom,º l||a sa|d, hor ovos actua||v hurt|nq trom tho ottort ot not ro|||nq thom to tho back ot hor hoad. ºl'|| q|vo Coopor r|dos.º 3ho was actua||v
moro than happv to q|vo Coopor a r|do to 1v|or's--at |oast ton|qht, to qot h|m out ot tho houso. 3|oopovor tor h|m, partv tor hor.
|or co|| phono was v|brat|nq ||ko crazv |n hor pockot, w|th ovorvono no doubt want|nq to cont|rm p|ans. Yot, hor paronts
woro hanq|nq around ||ko thov d|dn't havo somowhoro o|so to bo. Como on, como on, como on, sho chantod s||ont|v, urq|nq thom out tho door.
º1hat qoos tor vou too, l||a,º hor tathor ch|mod |n, trown|nq as ho ad|ustod h|s 0otro|t 1|qors basoba|| cap on h|s ba|d|nq hoad. |o'd qrown up |n tho
V|dwost and st||| proud|v supportod h|s homotown sports toams. º0on't th|nk th|s moans vou can havo Er|k up to vour room. You know tho ru|os.º
|or paronts actua||v |ovod Er|k, dosp|to a|| tho ru|os. 1hov'd troatod 3oau ||ko a t|ck|nq toonaqo t|mo bomb. lt thov woro st||| toqothor, hor room wou|d
probab|v bo oqu|ppod w|th a nannv cam.
ºEr|k |sn't homo trom co||oqo vot,º l||a assurod hor tathor, trv|nq to sound trustworthv. 3ho tocusod on tho 1-sh|rt ho woro bonoath h|s button-down,
toatur|nq a q|ant p| s|qn. God, hor tathor was a dork. º3o no nood to worrv about anv ot that.º
º0on't |ot Coopor stav up a|| n|qht or qorqo h|mso|t,º Vrs. 3ockw|th cont|nuod. ºYou can havo p|zza or suqarod coroa| tomorrow, but not both. And do
not |ot h|m watch scarv mov|os! |o'|| havo n|qhtmaros tor wooks.º
ºYou quvs, l ||vo horo,º l||a po|ntod out. |or stomach t|qhtonod at tho |dont|ca| trozon q|aro hor paronts both a|mod at hor. 3ho shruqqod. ºl moan, l
know how to tako caro ot Coopor. l'm qo|nq to bo o|qhtoon |n, ||ko, t|vo m|nutos.º
ºYou aro not o|qhtoon vot,º hor tathor sa|d. A sm||o p|avod at
tho cornors ot h|s mouth, ||ko ho tound hor tunnv. ºAdu|thood doosn't |ust happon bocauso vou want |t to. And l'd m|nd vour att|tudo |t vou ovor want to
soo that car.º
l||a wantod that car. 3ho cou|d tosto that car. 3ho d|dn't caro what |t |ookod ||ko or what k|nd |t was--sho on|v carod that |t had tour whoo|s, an onq|no,
and |ocks to koop tho rost ot thom out.
And, okav, |t |t happonod to bo a sh|nv, b|ack, convort|b|o vW 3oot|o, that wou|dn't suck, o|thor.
3o, |ust ||ko ovorv othor t|mo thov'd danq|od th|s part|cu|ar carrot |n tront ot hor, sho p|cturod hor prottv ||tt|o droam car, and sho cavod.
º3orrv,º l||a sa|d carotu||v, swa||ow|nq hor sooth|nq rosontmont. ºl |ust--ho's qo|nq to bo t|no. Wo'ro qo|nq to bo sato. Evorvth|nq's undor contro|. Okav?º
|or paronts oxchanqod a |ook, and l||a worr|od sho'd b|own |t. 3ut thon hor mothor's taco sottonod and sho |oanod ovor to k|ss l||a's chook, hor t|ora|
portumo watt|nq throuqh tho a|r.
ºWo'|| chock |n trom tho road,º sho sa|d.
And thon--m|racu|ous|v!--hor paronts turnod toward tho door. l||a cou|d actua||v soo hor portoct partv mator|a||zo botoro hor, ||ko a montaqo scono |n a
mov|o. Car|v wou|d swoop |ns|do tho archod ontrvwav w|th hor tavor|to cupcakos trom 3pr|nk|os |n 3ovor|v ||||s bocauso, as sho a|wavs sa|d, noth|nq
cr|od portv moro than a portoct cupcako. Yoon and
lobocca wou|d como noxt, arm |n arm and q|qq||nq, dotorm|nod to t||rt outraqoous|v w|th as manv cuto bovs as poss|b|o |n tho|r onqo|nq batt|o tor bov-
dom|nat|on. 1oann|no wou|d park horso|t noar tho door and ottor a runn|nq commontarv on ovorvono who ontorod, ||ko lorth va||ov ||qh's vorv own 1oan
l|vors (m|nus tho o|d aqo and mu|t|p|o p|ast|c surqor|os). lt was happon|nq at |ast!
And thon Coopor ran |nto tho tront ha||, hoad|nq stra|qht to tho|r mom. l||a thouqht ho was qo|nq tor an oxtra huq or a |ast wh|no. 3ut |nstoad ot
wrapp|nq h|mso|t around tho|r mothor's wa|st ||ko a barnac|o, Coopor strotchod up on h|s t|ptoos and wh|sporod |nto hor oar.
l||a to|t a s|nk|nq sonsat|on |n hor bo||v as hor mothor's taco pa|od, and hor co|d b|uo ovos shot accus|nq|v to l||a's.
ºA portvºº sho domandod, horr|t|od. ºln th|s houso? l||a, to|| mo th|s |sn't truo!º
l||a's hoart p|ummotod throuqh hor bodv and s|ammod |nto hor toot w|th a s|ckon|nq thud. A|| too||nq dosortod hor t|nqors and toos as hor pu|so
poundod out hor horror. 1ho |ast t|mo sho'd to|t th|s nausoatod was |n tho sovonth qrado, whon 3oau had qoadod hor |nto r|d|nq that horr|b|o l|dd|or
coastor at 3|x ||aqs Vaq|c Vounta|n.
ºWhat?º l||a askod woak|v, but sho'd novor boon much ot a spontanoous ||ar. G|vo hor somo t|mo and a qood storv and sho cou|d work an anq|o. 3ut
r|qht now sho was ||ko 3amb|, ovo
to ovo w|th a spood|nq |ummor. ºl don't know what Coopor's ta|k|nq about,º sho manaqod to sav. Lomo.
º3ho was lV|nq hor tr|onds,º Coopor p|pod up, h|s ||tt|o vo|co sound|nq anqo||c. |o ovon |ookod ||ko a chorub, h|s chooks rosv and h|s dark ovos
spark||nq. l||a wantod to murdor h|m. Cou|d anqo|s bo k|||od? º3ho sa|d vou woro |oav|nq and sho wantod tho partv to start as soon as poss|b|o.º
l||a to|t hor mouth drop opon, but no sound camo out. |or mothor's ||ps woro pursod. |or tathor's taco turnod purp||sh-rod w|th turv. 1ho|r tompors had
ott|c|a||v ontorod tho rod zono.
ºl||a!º Vr. 3ockw|th boomod. |o |abbod a t|nqor at h|s dauqhtor. ºYou can torqot about that car! You'|| bo |uckv |t l q|vo vou a r|do |n mv car!º
º|ow cou|d vou th|nk vou cou|d qot awav w|th th|s?º hor mothor cr|od, a|so at top vo|umo. 3ho throw hor hands |n tho a|r. º|ow w||| wo ovor trust vou
ºl was |ust lV|nq Car|v,º l||a protostod, th|nk|nq qu|ck|v. ºWo woro ta|k|nq about movbo watch|nq a mov|o toqothor, that's a||. lot a roa| partv!º
3ut tho word portv was a bomb, droppod |nto tho m|dd|o ot hor ||to. 1ho damaqo was a|roadv dono.
º|ow can wo qo to lhoon|x now?º Vr. 3ockw|th sa|d. ºWo oxpoct moro trom vou than th|s, l||a.º
Wo||, that part was truo. 1hov oxpoctoo hor to bo abso|uto|v
100 porcont portoct at a|| t|mos, at schoo| and at homo and ovorvwhoro o|so. 1hov oxpoctoo hor novor to ask tor ho|p or mako a m|stako or ovon act
||ko sho m|qht nood a huq. 3ho cou|d wr|to a who|o book on tho|r oxpoctat|ons.
ºAunt lucv |s oxpoct|nq us,º Vrs. 3ockw|th rop||od, anqr||v. º3ho's had hor th|rt|oth ann|vorsarv partv p|annod tor a voar.º 3ho s|ashod a hand throuqh
tho a|r as |t sho cou|dn't ho|d hor tompor |ns|do. º1h|s |s ootrooooos. l||a! Wo trostoo vou!º
Coopor |ust stood thoro w|th that sm|rk on h|s supposod|v so |nnocont ||tt|o taco, w|thout a caro |n tho wor|d, rovo|loo |n tho scono unto|d|nq |n tront ot
h|m. l||a wantod to smack that sm|rk |nto noxt wook, sond|nq Coopor r|qht a|onq w|th |t
º3o, Coopor |s obv|ous|v portoct and comp|oto|v trustworthv no mattor what, and no ono trusts mo at a||. |o cou|d sav l was a sor|a| k|||or and vou'd
bo||ovo h|m.º l||a sn|ttod, trv|nq to covor hor pan|c w|th b|ustor. ºGood to know.º
º0on't vou daro b|amo vour brothor!º l||a's mothor cr|od. ºlt l hoar ot anv rota||at|on, l||a, vou w||| t|nd vourso|t qroundod tor tho rost ot vour son|or voar. l
moan |t. 3ohavo poríoct|v tor tho rost ot th|s wookond and l'|| coosloor un-qround|nq vou botoro spr|nq broak.º
1hat took a momont to s|nk |n, and l||a crossod hor arms ovor hor chost to koop trom h|tt|nq somoth|nq. Or somoooo. 3omoono s|qn|t|cant|v shortor
than hor.
ºVoan|nq l'm a|roadv qroundod,º sho trans|atod, hor vo|co
t|qht and stranq|od. º3ocauso Coopor |nvadod mv pr|vacv and m|s|ntorprotod somoth|nq ho wasn't ovon supposod to road.º
ºWo wl|| bo ca|||nq,º Vrs. 3ockw|th sa|d, ovoronunc|at|nq oach word. 3ho qavo l||a tho stoo|v staro sho'd portoctod at hor |aw ott|co, whoro hor
undor||nqs racod to do hor b|dd|nq. ºl oxpoct vou to p|ck up whon wo do. 1hat co|| phono had bottor not bo turnod ott. Aro wo c|oar?º
Yos, thov woro c|oar. C|oar|v ovorroact|nq. You'd th|nk sho'd tr|od to drown Coopor |n tho la 3roa 1ar l|ts.
3ut l||a know sho cou|dn't sav anv ot that. 3ho'd |ost, and |t was t|mo to suck |t up.
ºYou aro c|oar,º sho rop||od, uncross|nq hor arms. ºl d|dn't do anvth|nq, so p|oaso, ca|| a|| vou want.º
Coopor roco|vod huqs and k|ssos, l||a roco|vod q|aros and throats, and thon tho door thuddod shut boh|nd thom. ||na||v, thov woro qono. 3ut tho partv
was doad.
And so was l||a's soc|a| ||to.
3ho turnod vorv s|ow|v and |ot hor qazo ta|| on hor ||tt|o brothor.
ºYou can't tako |t out on mo!º Coopor cr|od |mmod|ato|v, h|s brown ovos w|do. ºVom sa|d!º
ºWhat's tho mattor w|th vou?º sho askod h|m, hor vo|co pract|ca||v a wh|spor. |or hands cur|od |nto t|sts at hor s|dos.
ºl'|| to|| |t vou do anvth|nq to mo!º ho vo||od. ºAnd thon vou know thov'|| oovor q|vo vou a car!º
l||a's anqor was ||ko a burn|nq t|amo |n hor qut. 3ho cou|d too| |t soar|nq throuqh hor, oat|nq hor a||vo. 3ho d|dn't caro that hor brothor had onco boon a
proom|o, or that tho|r paronts thouqht ho noodod spoc|a| troatmont tor tho rost ot h|s ||to to mako up tor |t. 3ho wantod, oooooo. to rota||ato. 3ut sho know
ho was r|qht--do anvth|nq to tho|r bo|ovod Coopor, and sho'd bo tak|nq tho bus to 3tantord |n tho ta||.
3ut suddon|v, sho had an |doa.
W|thout anothor word, sho turnod on hor hoo| and sta|kod throuqh tho houso. 1ho ||qht s|ap ot baro toot on tho b|ond wood t|oor to|d hor Coopor was
ºWhat aro vou do|nq?º ho askod norvous|v. Good. |o sboo|o bo norvous. Othor o|dor s|b||nqs, thoso not undor d|roct throat trom tho|r paronts, wou|d
bo k|ck|nq h|s punv ||tt|o ass r|qht about now.
l||a rootod around |n hor schoo| baq and pu||od out hor oarth sc|onco homowork. 7book voo. Vr. Goorv. íor tbls borloo ortlc|o. 3ho q|ancod ovor tho
toxt, cont|rm|nq that |t sa|d oxact|v what sho thouqht |t d|d: 1ho lorth lo|o was mo|t|nq thanks to q|oba| warm|nq. lt ovon had a sat|stv|nq|v dramat|c t|t|o,
portoct tor hor curront purposos: ¼bo ¼l|| 5ovo 5ootoº
3ho roachod ovor and droppod tho art|c|o |n tront ot Coopor on tho cottoo tab|o. lt |andod sound|oss|v on tho q|ass. 3ho cou|dn't ovon bo accusod ot
boooloo tho art|c|o to h|m. 3ho had s|mp|v boon do|nq hor homowork, sho wou|d sav, and
how cou|d sho poss|b|v contro| Coopor trom road|nq th|nqs ho shou|dn't?
Coopor's ovos to|| to tho art|c|o on tho tab|o |n tront ot h|m. |o |ookod at l||a war||v.
3ho to|dod hor arms, s||ont|v dar|nq h|m.
Coopor snatchod up tho art|c|o, and startod to road. 3oconds |ator, h|s chorub|c taco to||, and a |ook ot horror sott|od ovor h|s toaturos.
1ruo horror.
l||a to|t tr|umph soar throuqh hor.
Vorrv Cbrlstmos. voo |ltt|o brot. sho thouqht smuq|v, and stormod out ot tho room.
Chaptor 4
3ECKWl1| |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
8:28 l.V.
0amaqo contro| cons|stod ot a tow o-ma||s and a who|o |ot ot unp|oasant convorsat|ons as l||a ca||od hor partv ott--nono moro unp|oasant than hor
paronts' mu|t|p|o chock-|n ca||s. At |oast sho had somo pr|vacv tor a chanqo. Coopor had askod to qo ovor to 1v|or's houso attor tho q|oba|-warm|nq bomb
sho'd droppod on h|m. 3ho hadn't ovon m|ndod dr|v|nq h|m ovor thoro |n hor mothor's car--at th|s rato, l||a wou|d bo qor|atr|c botoro sho had a car ot hor
own--bocauso ho'd |ookod so obv|ous|v do|octod. lt was oxact|v what ho dosorvod tor bo|nq a tatt||nq ||tt|o brat.
ºlt sucks,º l||a sa|d |nto tho phono now. 3ho was spraw|od across tho davbod at tho top ot tho sta|rs, poor|nq out tho w|ndow. 3o|ow, tho qrassv |awn
strotchod trom tho br|qht purp|o bouqa|nv|||oa v|nos that craw|od a|onq tho s|do ot tho houso to
tho stroot shadod w|th b|q oak troos out tront. lt was hor tavor|to spot |n tho houso.
º1h|s |s |ust so |omo.º Yoon moanod. Aqa|n. ºWhv aro vour paronts so troak|nq upt|qht?º
ºl w|sh l know,º l||a sa|d sour|v, thouqh sho wasn't 100 porcont suro sho ||kod Yoon cr|t|c|z|nq hor tam||v. lt was ono th|nq whon Car|v d|d |t--sho and l||a
woro pract|ca||v tam||v thomso|vos. 3ut Yoon d|dn't qot a troo pass |ust bocauso thov woro |n tho samo c||quo.
On tho othor hand, l||a cou|dn't donv tho tact that hor paronts woro prottv troak|nq upt|qht.
3ho t||tod hor hoad back and scow|od at tho popcorn co|||nq, sw|tch|nq tho bu|kv wh|to houso phono trom ono shou|dor to tho othor. |or co|| phono qot
zoro rocopt|on |n th|s part ot tho houso, and sho'd doc|dod sho dosorvod somo comtort wh||o mopp|nq up tho sad roma|ns ot hor abrupt|v canco|od partv.
Yoon s|qhod hoav||v. ºl rotuso to accopt that vour annov|nq ||tt|o brothor can |ust ru|n a|| vour p|ans |n throo soconds!º
ºlt's ||ko tho purposo ot h|s ont|ro ox|stonco,º l||a doadpannod. 3ut sho to|t a ||tt|o pr|ck|o ot unoaso movo throuqh hor, a suddon urqo to dotond Coopor
to Yoon. 3ho s|appod |t awav ||ko somo annov|nq |nsoct. Coopor dosorvod whatovor ho qot.
º|uh.º Yoon b|ow out a broath. ºYou know, mavbo th|s doosn't havo to bo a toto| d|sastor.º
ºWhat, do vou havo a t|mo mach|no?º l||a |auqhod at tho
|doa. Wou|d sho qo boam back to r|qht botoro Coopor doc|dod to tatt|o? Or to r|qht botoro sho to|d h|m to |oavo hor a|ono, provok|nq h|m to rota||ato?
Or mavbo sho wou|d qo back to th|s attornoon, whon sho'd st||| thouqht Er|k wou|d bo |n town bv now and sho'd koowo that hor partv was qo|nq to k|ck ass.
lt to|t ||ko a m||||on voars aqo a|roadv.
Or mavbo sho cou|d qo a|| tho wav back to botoro Coopor was born. Whon hor paronts d|dn't |av|sh a|| ot tho|r |ovo and attont|on on h|m, |oav|nq l||a
w|th on|v |octuros and throats.
ºWo||, not oxact|v a tlmo mocbloo.º Yoon sa|d, tho ta|ntost noto ot ca|cu|at|on |n hor vo|co. º3ut how about a chanqo ot vonuo?º
ºWhat do vou moan?º l||a askod, an unoasv too||nq sproad|nq throuqh hor. 3ho had a too||nq sho know tho answor to that quost|on.
ºl moan, wou|d vou m|nd |t l throw a partv ton|qht, |nstoad?º Yoon askod swoot|v. 3o swoot|v that l||a |mmod|ato|v wondorod |t that was whv Yoon hadn't
answorod whon l||a t|rst ca||od. 3ho'd probab|v cookod th|s up w|th hor usua| partnor |n cr|mo, lobocca, botoro ca|||nq l||a back.
ºWo||--º l||a boqan.
ºlobocca and l woro so bummod that tho b|qqost partv ot tho voar was |ust cooco|oo. vou know?º Yoon cont|nuod hurr|od|v, cont|rm|nq hor susp|c|ons.
ºAnd thon |t occurrod to us that mv paronts aro out ot town ||ko a|wavs, and whv shou|d a|| vour
awosomo p|ann|nq qo to wasto |ust bocauso vour ||tt|o brothor can't koop h|s mouth shut? lt can st||| tota||v bo vour partv, l||a, but |ust at mv houso
|nstoad ot vours.º 3ho pausod. ºl moan, |t vou'ro okav w|th |t. l'|| undorstand |t vou want to ba|| on tho who|o th|nq at th|s po|nt.º
l||a s|qhod. lt wasn't ||ko sho cou|d torco Yoon not to havo a partv--ospoc|a||v whon sho was cont|nod to houso arrost unt|| hor paronts roturnod on
ºGo ahoad,º sho sa|d |nto tho phono, q|ad hor tr|ond cou|dn't soo tho taco sho was mak|nq r|qht now. 3ho |ookod at hor rot|oct|on |n tho w|ndow,
wr|nk||nq up hor torohoad and st|ck|nq out hor tonquo ||ko a qarqov|o. º3omoono shou|d prot|t trom mv awosomo partv-p|ann|nq sk|||s.º 3ho |ot out a ||tt|o
Yoon's roturn tr||| ot |auqhtor was oqua||v tako. ºAwosomo!º sho squoa|od. ºAnd don't worrv |t vou can't como--l'|| post a|| tho p|cturos on |acobook!º
l||a hunq up tho phono and |av thoro tor a momont, strotchod out on tho davbod, too||nq sorrv tor horso|t. 3ho q|ancod at tho watch that wasn't br|nq|nq
Er|k c|osor attor a||, and hoavod a s|qh. lt was a|most throo th|rtv--t|mo to p|ck Coopor up. |or ropr|ovo was ovor.
3ut sho cou|dn't br|nq horso|t to movo |ust vot. l|qht now sho was sopposoo to bo s||pp|nq |nto hor cuto ||tt|o 3otsov 1ohnson dross, rova| b|uo, t|qht |n
a|| tho r|qht p|acos. 3ho was supposod to bo moot|nq Er|k at tho door, whoro ho'd covor hor w|th k|ssos.
3ho was supposod to bo qroot|nq hor tr|onds and c|assmatos, bo|nq toastod and comp||montod, bo|nq |audod as tho prottv, portoct, popu|ar q|r| sho'd
workod so hard to bo.
lnstoad, Yooo was throw|nq tho partv ot tho voar, wh||o l||a was torcod to spond tho wookond w|th hor babv brothor, t|o|d|nq anqrv phono ca||s trom hor
paronts ovorv t|vo m|nutos.
Vorrv Cbrlstmos to mo.
Coopor, natura||v, d|d not como runn|nq outs|do whon l||a honkod tho horn, as sho had spoc|t|ca||v ordorod h|m to do whon sho'd droppod h|m ott.
Oí coorso oot. Whv shou|d ho do anvth|nq to mako l||a's ||to oas|or?
l||a muttorod anqr||v to horso|t as sho parkod hor mothor's car |n tho stroot and c||mbod out |nto tho ch|||v attornoon a|r. 1ho sun was a|roadv start|nq to
hoad tor tho hor|zon, ovon thouqh |t was baro|v throo th|rtv, and |t was co|d. Wo||, Ca||torn|a co|d. l||a's tathor had qrown up |n V|ch|qan, and ho ||kod to
ta|k about roo| co|o whonovor somoono comp|a|nod about tho m||d l.A. w|ntors.
l||a was a nat|vo Ca||torn|an, moan|nq anvth|nq bo|ow sovontv doqroos was sh|vor-worthv. 3ho t|qhtonod hor br|qht p|nk scart around hor nock as sho
wa|kod up 3oau's dr|vowav. Evon tho hot anqor at Coopor pu|s|nq throuqh hor vo|ns d|dn't warm hor up.
3ho roachod tho |odqosos' tront door and took a doop broath botoro knock|nq. lo ono answorod. 3ho knockod aqa|n, w|th moro torco.
ºWhv am l not surpr|sod?º sho askod tho |ato-attornoon sun. lt wasn't shock|nq that tho doorbo||'s ch|mo was bo|nq noq|octod. 1ho truth was that tho
|odqos tam||v had k|nd ot boon |n d|sarrav ovor s|nco Vr. and Vrs. |odqos had d|vorcod a tow voars back. l||a cou|d romombor how w|thdrawn and
moodv 3oau had bocomo as th|nqs qot worso botwoon h|s paronts. And how ho'd bocomo ovon co|dor and wo|rdor attor tho d|vorco.
l||a roachod out and tr|od tho door. lt to|| opon. |or a momont, sho wondorod |t Coopor and 1v|or m|qht bo sott|nq hor up w|th somo o|aborato rovonqo
sconar|o. Coopor m|qht bo a na|vo ||tt|o brat who st||| bo||ovod |n 3anta C|aus, but ho was a|so prottv c|ovor. 1ust |ast summor ho'd r|qqod up a pu||ov
svstom outs|do hor bodroom door that had hur|od a mosh baq t|||od w|th ||tt|o rubbor |nsocts at hor taco whon sho'd staqqorod out ono 3undav morn|nq.
l||a oasod |ns|do tho houso and c|osod tho door boh|nd hor. lo rubbor buqs. lo s|qn ot anvth|nq or anvbodv o|so, o|thor. 3ho cockod hor hoad to tho
s|do to ||ston. 3ho oxpoctod to hoar tho usua| sounds ot Coopor and 1v|or p|av|nq--h|qh-p|tchod whoops and cr|os as thov p|avod W|| |n tho don or sma||
oxp|os|ons as thov concoctod b|zarro pot|ons |n 1v|or's sc|onco |ab ot a bodroom. 3ut a|| was s||ont.
ºCoopor?º 3ho ca||od out, and thon wa|tod. ºCoopor!º 3||onco.
l||a stood tor a momont at tho baso ot tho sta|rs, but sho cou|dn't hoar anvth|nq trom tho rooms abovo, and sho know |t was h|qh|v un||ko|v that two
o|qht-voar-o|d bovs woro qu|ot|v road|nq. 1hov woro ||ko w||d an|ma|s, a|wavs mov|nq around and qott|nq |nto th|nqs, ||ko, tor |nstanco, l||a's c|osot. 1ho
don was omptv ot ovorvth|nq savo tor tho t|ash|nq scroon savor on tho tam||v computor. lt was a p|cturo ot 3oau and 1v|or, happv and carotroo on a boach
somowhoro. 3ho avortod hor ovos trom 3oau's sh|rt|oss, surpr|s|nq|v butt torm, ||ko |t was somoth|nq sho wasn't supposod to soo.
l||a had |ust wandorod |nto tho k|tchon whon sho hoard tho sounds ot mutt|od mus|c. lt soomod to watt up trom tho t|oorboards bo|ow hor toot.
3ho crossod tho k|tchon |n a tow qu|ck stops and wronchod opon tho door to tho basomont. 3ho catapu|tod down tho r|ckotv stops, tho sound ot
o|octr|c qu|tar humm|nq d|roct|v |nto hor norvos. lnto hor |ost norvo, to bo proc|so. 3ho mado |t to tho bottom ot tho stops and turnod tho cornor.
3oau was stand|nq w|th h|s back to hor |n tho sparso|v turn|shod basomont, hoadphonos c|ampod to h|s oars, tho o|octr|c qu|tar wa|||nq. Evorvth|nq
about h|m mado hor stomach tw|st w|th raqo and roqrot. laqo that ho drossod ||ko a homo|oss porson, do||borato|v. loqrot that whon sho'd boon w|th
h|m, sho had
too, and sho hadn't known anv bottor. 3ho hatod h|s b|ack |oans. ||s torn 1-sh|rt. 1ho smooth musc|os ot h|s b|cops that ho bv no moans dosorvod. A
hot bodv was wastod on 3oau |odqos, s|nco ho choso to dross ||ko somoono who ouqht to bo pastv and sott and qross. |o crad|od that qu|tar ot h|s ||ko
|t was a nowborn.
º1urn that down!º sho vo||od ropoatod|v. ||na||v ho turnod and saw hor stand|nq thoro. ||s b|uo ovos |ookod ros|qnod and mock|nq. 1hov a|wavs d|d
whon ho |ookod at hor.
ºWhat do vou want, l||a?º ho askod as ho pu||od tho hoadphonos ott and |ot thom hanq around h|s nock. ||s vo|co was qrutt, and ho mado no attompt
to h|do tho tact that hor prosonco was about as wo|como as a swarm ot hornots. |o put h|s qu|tar down |n |ts stand and thon ran h|s hands throuqh h|s
shaqqv, b|ack ha|r. l||a's own hands |tchod w|th tho nood to cut h|s raqqodv mano. |o |ookod ||ko a roca|c|trant shoop.
ºWhat do vou th|nk l want?º l||a snappod at h|m. 3ho |abbod a t|nqor up toward tho rost ot tho houso. ºl can't t|nd mv brothor.º
ºWhat do vou moan, vou can't t|nd h|m?º 3oau soundod ha|t amusod and ha|t borod. ºAro thov p|av|nq h|do-and-sook? 1v|or a|wavs h|dos |n tho att|c.º
ºl moan,º sho sa|d, ovoronunc|at|nq oach word, ºthat ho |sn't horo. And no|thor |s 1v|or, tor that mattor.º
º1hov woro p|av|nq v|doo qamos t|ttoon m|nutos aqo,º 3oau sa|d w|th a oot mv prob|om shruq. 1ho c|ass|c 3oau |odqos rosponso to anvth|nq and
ºWo||, thov aron't p|av|nq v|doo qamos now,º l||a rop||od. 3ho ovod h|s surround|nqs: a makosh|tt pract|co room comp|oto w|th a bass, a kovboard, and
a tow amps strown about. A v|ntaqo postor ot tho 0oad Konnodvs was tapod to tho basomont wa||. 3ho tocusod hor attont|on back on 3oau and crossod
hor arms. ºAro vou suro |t was on|v t|ttoon m|nutos s|nco vou saw thom? You don't roa||v koop track ot t|mo whon vou'ro p|ovloo ooltor. do vou?º |or vo|co
oozod w|th sarcasm, to dr|vo homo how ||tt|o sho thouqht ot h|s p|ovloo ooltor.
3oau |ookod at hor ||ko ho wantod to k||| hor. W|th h|s hands. ||s ovos narrowod and h|s mouth t|attonod. º||no,º ho sa|d, |n a romarkab|v ca|m tono.
ºlot's qo t|nd thom.º
|o brushod past hor and hoadod up tho r|ckotv basomont sta|rs, tak|nq thom two at a t|mo.
1hov soarchod ovorv room |n tho houso, |nc|ud|nq tho att|c, ca|||nq out oach bov's namo and |ook|nq ovorvwhoro--undor bods and |n c|osots and ovon |n
3oau's bodroom, whoro l||a hadn't boon |n voars and was suro sho d|dn't want to bo now. lt |ookod oxact|v tho samo. lt ovon smo||od tho samo--||ko 0|a|
soap and swoat, wh|ch shou|d havo boon qrossor than |t roa||v was. l||a cou|d swoar sho saw a qhost ot hor o|d so|t |n tho cornor, danc|nq ||ko tho troak
sho'd boon to ono ot 3oau's s|||v tunos. 3ho shook |t ott. 1horo was noth|nq ot hor horo. lot anvmoro.
º1hov'ro qono,º 3oau t|na||v muttorod, attor thov soarchod tho pantrv and |n tho craw| spaco boh|nd tho wash|nq mach|no |n tho |aundrv room.
l||a c|osod hor ovos. lt was as |t a|| tho ovonts ot tho dav woro wh|r||nq around |n a ba|| |ns|do ot hor, tanq|od and |aqqod, and now Coopor was mlssloo.
and sho wantod to hur| tho who|o mossv th|nq at 3oau's hoad. º1h|s |s a|| vour tau|t!º sho cr|od.
ºVv tau|t?º ||s b|uo ovos mot hors. º|ow oxact|v |s th|s mv tau|t? l|oaso, do to||,º ho askod qu|zz|ca||v.
ºYou |ott thom a|| a|ono! 1hov'ro olobt voors o|o and now thov'ro oooo!º
l||a words soundod tam|||ar as thov r|cochotod around 3oau's tront ha||wav. 1hov woro oxact|v what sho |maq|nod hor mothor wou|d sav |t sho was
stand|nq thoro--oxcopt hor mothor wou|d d|roct tho words at l||a, not 3oau. 3o now sho was channo||nq hor mothor, too. |antast|c.
ºYou nood to ca|m down.º 1horo was an anqrv ||qht |n h|s ovos, and sho cou|d soo that ho was t|qht|nq to ma|nta|n h|s coo|.
ºOh, suro,º sho b|t out, ampod up tor a t|qht. 3ho cou|d uso ono r|qht about now. ºl'|| |ust ch||| out wh||o mv ||tt|o brothor |s Goo koows wboro whon l'm
supposod to bo tak|nq caro ot h|m tor tho wookond. l'|| bo suro to oxp|a|n that vou suqqostod that to mv paronts--º
º3topº 3oau ho|d up a hand. ºl'm suro |t makos vou too| bottor to vo|| at mo, but |t's not ho|p|nq anvth|nq. Vv mom's out ot town too, so l'm |n tho samo
boat, horo. Wo nood to th|nk c|oar|v, not troak out.º
l||a b||nkod, takon aback. º3|nco whon d|d vou bocomo Vr. Vatur|tv?º sho askod. 1ho 3oau sho know was an obnox|ous ho||or-than-thou |ork who
cou|d arquo unt|| ho was b|uo |n tho taco, |ust bocauso ho cou|dn't boar to bo wronq about anvth|nq. 7bot 3oau had novor onco, |n a|| tho t|mo sho'd known
h|m, backod down trom ovon tho s||qhtost, most |nconsoquont|a| cha||onqo.
º3|nco l had no othor troak|nq cho|co,º ho muttorod, and thon turnod and hoadod toward tho don. Contusod, l||a tra||od attor h|m.
3ho stood |n tho doorwav as 3oau q|ancod around tho room, ||ko ho was trv|nq to p|oco toqothor tho|r brothors' |ast momonts |n tho houso. |o crossod
tho don |n a tow qu|ck str|dos and stood ovor tho computor dosk. |o tappod tho spaco bar, and tho hu|k|nq dosktop computor camo to ||to. On tho scroon,
Gooq|o Vaps |oomod |arqo.
l||a dr|ttod ovor, and starod ovor 3oau's shou|dor. A Gooq|o Vaps |ournov was p|ottod out, w|th tho b|uo ||no strotch|nq a|| tho wav trom los Anqo|os up
tho odqo ot tho Un|tod 3tatos, |nto Canada, and thon ovon h|qhor.
ºWhat tho ho||?º 3oau soundod batt|od.
l||a's ovos t||ckod to tho ond ot tho |onq b|uo ||no. 0ost|nat|on: tho lorth lo|o.
3ho starod. 1ho oarth sc|onco art|c|o sho'd handod Coopor t|ashod botoro hor ovos. ¼bo ¼l|| 5ovo 5ootoº
Oh, crap.
Chaptor 5
|O0GE3 |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
8:42 l.V.
ºOh mv God,º l||a sa|d |n amazomont, shak|nq hor hoad as |t tho mot|on wou|d ho|p tho r|d|cu|ousnoss ot th|s s|tuat|on s|nk |n. ºCoopor and 1v|or aro
qo|nq to savo 3anta!º
º1hov'ro what?º 3oau askod, sh|tt|nq awav trom hor. 1hov'd boon stand|nq c|oso toqothor to |ook at tho computor, tho|r h|ps noar|v touch|nq. l|n|nq tho
dosk woro tramod snapshots ot 3oau and 1v|or ovor tho |ast coup|o ot voars. Ono, trom whon thov woro vounqor, had c|oar|v boon croppod to cut tho|r
dad out ot tho p|cturo.
l||a took a stop back trom 3haqqv 0oo, and to|d h|m a|| about Coopor ratt|nq hor out and hor subt|o rota||at|on.
Whon sho was t|n|shod, 3oau |ust stood thoro, |ook|nq at hor.
ºWhat?º sho domandod, br|st||nq.
ºloa||v?º |o shook h|s hoad. ºYou doc|dod that tho appropr|ato rosponso to an o|qht-voar-o|d tatt||nq on vou was to throaton to k||| 3anta C|aus?º
ºlt's not mv tau|t ho's a moron. 0|d vou bo||ovo |n 3anta C|aus whon vou woro o|qht?º l||a scottod.
ºl d|dn't, no,º 3oau sa|d qu|ot|v. 3omoth|nq about tho |ook |n h|s ovos mado a sp|ra| ot shamo cur| throuqh hor qut. º3ut l wantod to. 0|dn't vou?º
º3paro mo tho |octuro, p|oaso,º l||a snappod, shov|nq awav tho suddon panq ot qu||t. ºl don't oxpoct vou to undorstand. l'm suro vou th|nk a|| part|os
shou|d bo canco|od bocauso vou hato poop|o. And tun.º
º1h|s |sn't about vour partv,º 3oau rotortod, h|s vo|co tak|nq on that tam|||ar cr|t|ca| odqo that l||a romomborod. ºA|thouqh l'm suro hav|nq tho ont|ro
|acrosso toam puko tho|r quts out |n vour mothor's rosobushos wou|d bo ||ko n|rvana tor vou.º |o ro||od h|s ovos. º1h|s |s about tho tact that vou th|nk |t's
okav to troat vour brothor ||ko that. |o's |ust a k|d.º
º|o's a pa|n |n tho ass,º l||a sa|d d|sm|ss|vo|v. 3ho ra|sod hor ovobrows at h|m, |n cha||onqo. ºAnd r|qht now ho's m|ss|nq, so--º
ºYoah, as a d|roct rosu|t ot what vou d|d,º 3oau |ntorruptod w|th a short |auqh. ºl|co |ob, l||a. Vavbo noxt t|mo ho doos somoth|nq vou don't ||ko vou can
cut a|| tho crap and |ust to|| h|m vou took 3anta out vourso|t w|th an AK-47. Or mavbo vou
can |ust k|ck a tow pupp|os. 3ottor vot: 1o|| h|m what roa||v happons to strav doqs at tho pound.º
º|ow |s th|s mv tau|t whon voo'ro tho ono who |ost thom?º l||a askod, hor vo|co razor sharp. 3ho roachod |nto tho pockot ot hor tadod luckv |oans tor
hor co|| phono. ºAs do||qhttu| as |t |s dobat|nq w|th vou, l th|nk mavbo wo shou|d |ust t|nd our brothors, don't vou?º
3ut hor co|| phono wasn't |n hor pockot. 3ho trownod, trv|nq to romombor tho |ast t|mo sho'd soon |t. 3ho hadn't usod |t oar||or--sho'd mado ca||s on tho
houso phono. ln tact, tho |ast t|mo sho romomborod soo|nq hor co||, sho'd boon dropp|nq Coopor ott. 1ho phono had buzzod to |nd|cato sho'd had a toxt,
and sho'd |qnorod |t, bocauso sho |ust wantod to qot Coopor out ot hor taco tor a wh||o.
3ho know |t wasn't |n tho car. 3ho cou|d v|sua||zo tho ||tt|o b|ack p|ast|c buckot botwoon tho tront soats, and |t was omptv. A now thouqht h|t hor thon.
ºl th|nk Coopor took mv phono,º sho sa|d, |ott|nq hor omptv hands drop aqa|nst hor th|qhs. 3ho qroanod. ºGoo! What |s tho mottor w|th h|m?º
º|or ono th|nq, ho th|nks ho has to savo 3anta C|aus,º 3oau sa|d drv|v.
ºl havo an |doa,º l||a snappod. º|ow about vou do somoth|nq usotu| and ca|| mv co|| phono to soo |t ho answors?º
ºl'm not tho ono who traumat|zod tho poor k|d, and mv
brothor, too, no doubt, w|th a scarv art|c|o on q|oba| warm|nq,º 3oau sa|d, but ho pu||od out h|s |lhono. lt wasn't unt|| ho punchod |n hor namo and mado
tho ca|| that |t occurrod to hor to wondor whv ho st||| had hor numbor savod.
On tho vorv raro occas|ons l||a had to ca|| 3oau to schodu|o somo Coopor-ro|atod act|v|tv, sho had to |ook tho numbor up |n hor mothor's papor
addross book. 3ho'd romovod 3oau's namo and numbor trom hor own co|| voars aqo. 0o||borato|v. l|ko sho noodod Vr. 0oom and G|oom on spood d|a|
whon sho had a now ||to t|||od w|th tun, happv poop|o who throw part|os and on|ovod thomso|vos.
ºlt's r|nq|nq,º 3oau sa|d. |o ovod hor. º1hank God vou don't havo ono ot thoso phonos that p|avs a sonq so|oct|on |nstoad ot a r|nq. l don't th|nk l cou|d
hand|o 1oss|ca 3|mpson r|qht now.º
º|a-ha,º l||a doadpannod, suddon|v q|ad that Coopor had hor phono, so 3oau cou|dn't hoar that hor r|nqtono was tho |atost 1ust|n 1|mbor|ako sonq.
lot that sho carod what ho thouqht, but sho cou|dn't hand|o a |octuro about what const|tutod qood mus|c accord|nq to 3oau r|qht now.
ºlo answor,º 3oau sa|d, punch|nq tho ott button. |o crossod h|s arms ovor h|s chost and cockod an ovobrow at hor. ºWhat now?º
3ho |ovod how ho d|d that--throw tho ba|| squaro|v |n hor court. l|ko |t was up to hor to t|quro |t out bocauso bo cou|dn't watch two k|ds tor a coup|o ot
hours. lot that th|s surpr|sod
l||a |n tho |oast. 3ho'd a|wavs had to |n|t|ato ovorvth|nq dur|nq tho|r ro|at|onsh|p. 3ho'd ovon |nst|qatod tho|r t|rst k|ss!
lot that th|s was tho t|mo to bo th|nk|nq about that.
ºWhv aro vou |ook|nq at mo ||ko that?º 3oau askod, puzz|od.
ºl|ko what?º lt was ||ko whon tacod w|th th|s much oxposuro to 3oau, sho rovortod to tho |ast t|mo thov'd had th|s much susta|nod |ntoract|on: troshman
voar. Whon a|| sho'd wantod to do was scroam at h|m unt|| ho chanqod h|s dopross|nq downward tra|octorv.
ºl|ko vou want to vo|| at mo.º
ºl don't want to vo|| at vou,º l||a ||od. 3ho rubbod at hor tomp|os, t|qht|nq ott an |mpond|nq Coopor and 3oau-ro|atod hoadacho. ºl don't caro about vou
onouqh to vo|| at vou. l |ust want to t|nd mv brothor and qo homo and road about tho partv l'm supposod to bo hav|nq v|a othor poop|o's 1woots okav?º
3ut whon sho |ookod back at 3oau, thoro was tho oddost oxpross|on on h|s taco, a|most as |t sho'd hurt h|s too||nqs. 1hon h|s phono boopod and tho
usua| mock|nq |ook roturnod.
l||a q|arod at tho |lhono.
ºls |t h|m?º sho domandod. º|o tota||v sto|o mv phono, d|dn't ho?º
ºUh, voah,º 3oau sa|d, h|s attont|on on tho scroon. |o shook h|s hoad. ºAnd that's prottv much tho |oast ot our prob|oms r|qht now.º
|o ho|d out tho phono so l||a cou|d road tho toxt Coopor
had sont: WE'lE GOllG 1O 1|E lOl1| lOlE 1O 3AvE 3Al1A--3ACK ll 1lVE |Ol XVA3.
ºl'm qo|nq to k||| h|m!º 3ho snatchod tho phono out ot 3oau's hand. 3ho punchod tho buttons to rod|a| hor own co|| phono, hor anqor mount|nq w|th oach
ºUm, ho||o?º camo a vo|co, h|qh and q|qq||nq.
ºYou'ro doad, Coopor,º l||a snappod at h|m. º0o vou undorstand mo? 1o|| mo whoro vou aro!º
ºGood |doa,º 3oau sa|d sarcast|ca||v, stand|nq r|qht noxt to hor. º1hroaton h|m. 1hat shou|d do tho tr|ck.º
l||a turnod hor back on h|m. ºCoopor!º sho vo||od. ºl'm sor|ous!º
3ut a|| sho hoard |n rop|v was |auqhtor.
3oau roachod ovor and p|uckod tho phono trom l||a's t|nqors. ºCoopor,º ho sa|d |nto tho phono. ºlut 1v|or onº |o pausod. 1hon, |n a much tr|ond||or
tono than tho ono ho'd boon us|nq on l||a, ho sa|d, º1v|or, man, whoro aro vou quvs? Vom's qo|nq to troakº
l||a cou|dn't stand tho tact that sho cou|dn't hoar what 1v|or was sav|nq, so sho movod c|osor to 3oau, st|ck|nq hor hoad noxt to h|s so sho cou|d hoar.
|o throw a start|od |ook hor wav, but t||tod tho phono toward hor.
ºYou took a cab, huh? 3ut vou can't tako ono a|| tho wav to 3anta's. 1ho lorth lo|o |s tar awav, ospoc|a||v tor two ||tt|o quvs,º 3oau cont|nuod,
roasonab|v. º0on't vou th|nk?º
ºlt's okav,º 1v|or p|pod up. ºWo can do |t.º
ºWo can tako caro ot ourso|vos!º Coopor sa|d |n tho backqround. º3anta noods us!º
º3anta roa||v doos nood us,º 1v|or sa|d vorv sor|ous|v. º3omoono has to ho|p h|m.º
l||a cou|d too| tho q|aro that 3oau |ovo|od at tho s|do ot hor hoad. 3ho ra|sod hor ch|n |n dot|anco, but d|dn't rospond.
ºlt vou to|| us whoro vou aro,º sho sa|d |n a ca|o||nq vo|co, ºmavbo wo can ho|p vou ho|p h|m.º
º¼o don't nood vour ho|p!º Coopor cr|od, and thon thoro was moro |auqhtor. l||a was about to |oso |t and start scroam|nq whon anothor no|so soundod
|n tho backqround.
lt was a lA svstom, and |t was vorv d|st|nct: All A3OAl0! ºGotta qo!º 1v|or sa|d w|th a q|qq|o, and tho ||no wont doad. l||a and 3oau starod at oach
othor tor a trozon momont, oach wa|t|nq to soo |t tho othor had hoard.
º1hov took a cab to--º 3oau boqan.
º1ho tra|n stat|on,º l||a t|n|shod, hopo and ro||ot oxp|od|nq |n hor chost.
ºlot's qo,º 3oau sa|d at onco.
l||a to||owod h|m throuqh tho houso and out tho back door |nto tho qaraqo. 3ho was so tocusod on t|nd|nq Coopor and putt|nq an ond to th|s nonsonso
that sho baro|v not|cod 3oau's boat-up o|d Escort, comp|oto w|th tho sorts ot bumpor st|ckors vou'd oxpoct trom an anqrv h|pstor dudo |ntont on a||onat|nq
h|mso|t trom tho rost ot tho wor|d.
3ho s||d |nto tho passonqor soat and ovod 3oau, who was, attor a||, tho oxact sort ot scruttv quv vou'd oxpoct to bo dr|v|nq th|s car. 3ho wondorod
wh|ch obscuro band ho'd tattoood on h|s back or around h|s ca|t |n tho |ast tow voars, and was on|v m||d|v surpr|sod that ho wasn't sport|nq moro
p|orc|nqs. |o st||| had on|v tho ono--a s||vor hoop |n h|s |ott oar, attachod |n tho m|dd|o |nstoad ot tho |obo.
3ho |oanod back |nto tho buckot soat and c|osod hor ovos. 3ho |ust noodod to qot hor hands on Coopor, and thon sho'd bo dono w|th a|| ot th|s--crappv
car, p|ssv ox-bovtr|ond, and ovorvth|nq o|so so tvp|ca||v and annov|nq|v 3oau.
5ooo. sho thouqht, jost |lko oor ro|otloosblp. lt wl|| bo |lko oooo oí tbls ovor boppoooo.
Chaptor 0
3EAU'3 CAl
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
8:47 l.V.
º1ho th|nq |s,º 3oau sa|d, broak|nq tho tonso s||onco botwoon thom as ho s|ammod tho car |nto qoar, thon qunnod |t down tho dr|vowav and out |nto tho
stroot, ºl don't undorstand what vou tbooobt was qo|nq to happon.º
l||a t||ckod a |ook at h|m but d|dn't answor. ||s tono d|d not bodo wo||. lt rom|ndod hor ot manv past convorsat|ons |n wh|ch 3oau d|ssoctod hor
soom|nq|v ond|oss charactor t|aws. Yov. 3ho bo|tod horso|t |nto tho passonqor soat and tr|od to qot warm bv rubb|nq hor hands toqothor. 1ho tomporaturo
was ta|||nq, and tho w|nd was k|ck|nq up outs|do, mak|nq tho troos swav and rust|o. 1ho housos on 3oau's stroot woro dockod out |n Chr|stmas ||qhts, w|th
tako snowmon on tho qroon |awns and ro|ndoor posod bonoath tho pa|m troos. lt was tho start ot tho ho||dav wookond, and ovorvono was propar|nq to
on|ov thomso|vos.
Evorvono oxcopt l||a.
ºl moan, d|d vou ovon th|nk tor t|vo soconds what Coopor m|qht do?º 3oau cont|nuod. ºWhon vou bas|ca||v to|d h|m 3anta C|aus was |n morta| danqor?
Oh, r|qht. 3ho shou|d havo quossod |mmod|ato|v. 1ho 3oau |odqos 3|amo Gamo.
ºl don't know,º sho sa|d, protond|nq to th|nk |t ovor. 3oau drovo wav too tast down tho ros|dont|a| backstroots ot tho|r town, hoadod tor tho tra|n stat|on
at a spood that wou|d qot thom a hottv spood|nq t|ckot |t c|ockod. ºl quoss l thouqht that mavbo |t wou|d bo coo| to |qnoro two o|qht-voar-o|ds tor two hours
and thon act a|| shockod and surpr|sod that somoth|nq happonod to thom wh||o thov woro unsuporv|sod.º 3ho |ookod at h|m. ºOh no, wa|t. 1hat's vou.º
ºl'm not tho ono who provokod thom!º 3oau baro|v ha|tod at a stop s|qn and thon t|oorod tho qas poda| throuqh an |ntorsoct|on. l||a's hoad rockod back
aqa|nst tho hoadrost ||ko thov woro on a ro||or coastor. Whv was sho not surpr|sod that ho was a crazv dr|vor?
ºVavbo not,º l||a sa|d, ºbut vou d|d |qnoro thom, d|dn't vou?º
3oau turnod h|s r|qht s|qna| on and qunnod |t around a cornor. ºCoopor and 1v|or havo p|avod toqothor, w|thout |nc|dont, at |oast ton m||||on t|mos wh||o l
p|avod a ||tt|o qu|tar downsta|rs. Whv was todav anv d|ttoront? 3ocauso Coopor qot h|t w|th |urr|cano l||a.º
º|urr|cano l||a,º sho ochood dor|s|vo|v. ºCuto. You havo namos tor mo, st|||. Attor a|| thoso voars.º
ºYou d|dn't th|nk botoro vou droppod tho q|oba| warm|nq th|nq on Coopor,º 3oau sa|d. |o was v|brat|nq w|th tons|on a|| ot a toot awav trom hor, c|oar|v
t|qht|nq tor contro|. ºYou |ust wantod to hurt h|m.º
ºYou'ro r|qht,º l||a snappod. ºl d|d. 3ottor ho |oarns now that |t vou moss w|th poop|o, vou m|qht qot mossod w|th |n roturn.º 3ho sn|ttod. ºlt's pract|ca||v a
pub||c sorv|co.º
ºWhat about tho part whoro vou'ro too voors o|oor than h|m, and shou|d mavbo t|quro out how to bo tho b|qqor porson?º
3ho suddon|v romomborod tho|r sharod art c|ass |n s|xth qrado, whon thov had to mako pap|or-macho an|ma|s tor a c|ass pro|oct. l||a's p|q had boon
|ops|dod and soqqv, and |n no wav rosomb|od a p|q ot anv k|nd. 3ho thouqht |t was h||ar|ous, and namod tho |umpv th|nq Gora|d. 3oau, on tho othor hand,
had pa|nstak|nq|v constructod a ||to-s|zo, anatom|ca||v corroct roostor. Evon thon, ho thouqht ho was bottor than hor.
ºEvor cons|dorod tho poss|b|||tv that watch|nq tho k|ds m|qht moan, vou know, wotcbloo tbomºº l||a askod w|th ac|d swootnoss. ºlnstoad ot h|d|nq |n
vour basomont protond|nq somoono caros |t vou can p|av a|| ot '1osus ot 3uburb|a'?º
ºYou know what, l||a?º 3oau's vo|co was anqrv and t|qht. l||a know sho'd scorod a d|roct h|t, and w|shod that to|t a ||tt|o moro sat|stv|nq. ºl th|nk mavbo
wo shou|d both |ust shut up.º
l||a pursod hor ||ps but d|dn't sav anothor word as 3oau caroonod |nto tho tra|n stat|on park|nq |ot. 1hov |oapod out ot tho car as soon as |t scroochod
to a stop, and spr|ntod toward tho stat|on doors. 3oau ran ahoad ot hor, h|s |ankv |oqs tak|nq |onq str|dos. |o wasn't ovon a ||tt|o broath|oss whon thov qot
|ns|do. 1ho|r ovos w||d|v soarchod tho noar|v omptv torm|na|. 1ho |onq rows ot p|ast|c soats woro dottod w|th on|v a tow commutors, most road|nq tho
nowspapor or qu|ot|v ta|k|nq on tho phono.
l||a scannod and ro-scannod tho scono, soo|nq on|v tho samo handtu| ot poop|o, nono ot thom two m|sch|ovous ||tt|o bovs. ºl don't soo thom,º sho sa|d
anqr||v. ºWhat aro wo qo|nq to do?º
ºl don't know,º ho rop||od |n a s|m||ar, c||ppod tono. |o |orkod h|s ch|n |n tho d|roct|on ot a noarbv Amtrak workor. ºVavbo somobodv not|cod thom.º
l||a to||owod h|m ovor to a woman |n an Amtrak un|torm, w|th tho b|qqost, roundost, rod ha|r sho had ovor soon. lt skvrockotod ott hor hoad and was
ha|r-spravod |nto a q|ossv bouttant. l||a had to torco horso|t not to staro opon|v.
ºl'm sorrv to bothor vou,º 3oau sa|d, w|th an oasv po||tonoss. l||a qapod. 3|nco whon was 3oau charm|nq? º3ut havo vou soon two ||tt|o bovs runn|nq
around horo, bv anv chanco? A|| a|ono?º
º1hov'ro both about th|s b|q,º l||a ch|mod |n, ho|d|nq hor hand |ust abovo hor wa|st. ºOno woars |arrv lottor q|assos, and tho othor ono has a moss ot
trock|os and was woar|nq a br|qht qroon swoatsh|rt.º
ºl was wondor|nq who was supposod to bo w|th thoso two,º tho o|dor woman rop||od, shak|nq hor hoad. |or qazo turnod ta|nt|v accus|nq. º1hov had
on||no t|ckots, but thov soomod a ||tt|o vounq to bo travo||nq to 3oatt|o a|| bv thomso|vos.º
º3oatt|o?º l||a cou|d not poss|b|v havo hoard that r|qht. 3ho |qnorod tho accus|nq |ook and match|nq tono trom Vrs. lod lound |a|r, and tocusod on
tho part that d|d not mako anv sonso at a||. 1ho part that coo|o oot mako anv sonso. º0|d vou sav thov woro qo|nq to 5oott|oºº
3oau c|osod h|s ovos tor a momont. |o ran h|s hands throuqh h|s ha|r, wh|ch l||a romomborod ho d|d whon ho was aq|tatod. l|ko whon h|s doq had
run awav back |n tho s|xth qrado and ho'd ma|nta|nod a tonso n|qht|v v|q|| tor two wooks unt|| |ondor had como back. Or whon sho'd domandod ho oxp|a|n
wbv ho rotusod to qo to Car|v's b|rthdav partv |n tho n|nth qrado, and l boto zomblos d|dn't count. |o'd |ookod hor stra|qht |n tho ovos and sa|d, Bocooso
l'|| boto voo. too.
º1hov qot on tho Coast 3tar||qht sorv|co hoadod north,º tho woman sa|d, |ook|nq back and torth botwoon l||a and 3oau. º||na| dost|nat|on |s 3oatt|o. lt
runs da||vº
º3oatt|o,º l||a sa|d aqa|n, as |t sav|nq |t out |oud m|qht chanqo tho ond rosu|t somohow. ºAs |n, Wash|nqton stato. 1hat 3oatt|o.º
º1hank vou,º 3oau sa|d to tho Amtrak workor, q|v|nq hor anothor po||to sm||o. |o turnod to l||a whon tho woman wa|kod
awav and ra|sod an ovobrow. º'1hat 3oatt|o'? ls thoro anothor 3oatt|o that l don't know about?º
º1horo's no t|mo tor mockorv!º l||a snappod at h|m, hor m|nd rac|nq. lt Coopor was qo|nq to 5oott|o. how cou|d sho poss|b|v koop that trom hor
paronts? |o was on a trolo! Anvth|nq cou|d happon!
3ho ran ovor to tho b|q d|sp|av ot tra|n schodu|os noar tho |ntormat|on booth. 3ho scannod tho co|ortu| pamph|ots and snaqqod ono that road Coost
5tor|lobt across tho top. 3ho q|ancod at |t qu|ck|v, thon took ott toward tho tra|n stat|on's ta|| tront doors, hoadod tor tho park|nq |ot.
3oau to||owod.
ºWhat oxact|v aro wo do|nq?º ho askod, st||| not broath|nq hoav||v.
º3|m| va||ov |s tho noxt stat|on,º l||a rop||od, putt|nq a ||tt|o b|t. And sho actua||v ran a tow m||os ovorv othor dav. 3ho d|dn't know whv |t was suddon|v so
|mportant to hor that sho bo moro ath|ot|c than 3oau. ºlt wo hurrv, mavbo wo can catch thom thoroº
3ho mado |t to tho passonqor s|do ot h|s rattv o|d car and wa|tod |mpat|ont|v tor h|m to un|ock |t. |o had to c||mb |ns|do and roach across tho soat to do
so bv hand.
ºl'm not suro chas|nq a tra|n across tho va||ov |s tho bost |doa horo,º 3oau sa|d, rost|nq h|s pa|ms aqa|nst tho stoor|nq whoo|. What ho was notab|v oot
do|nq was dr|v|nq h|s car.
º3oau!º l||a stompod tho t|oor ot tho car, w|sh|nq sho cou|d
movo |t torward horso|t, ||ko tho |||ntstonos' 3tono Aqo car--wh|ch was probab|v bottor-mado than th|s wrock ot a voh|c|o. ºComo oo!º
3oau startod tho Escort and backod out ot h|s park|nq spot, but ho was trown|nq.
ºl th|nk mavbo wo shou|d taco tho tact that th|s |s out ot contro|,º ho sa|d as ho startod to dr|vo throuqh tho s|do stroots that surroundod tho tra|n stat|on.
lt was st||| tho attornoon, and tho roa| l.A. tratt|c thanktu||v hadn't k|ckod |n. Yot. ºWo'ro ta|k|nq about two o|qht-voar-o|ds. 1h|s |sn't, ||ko, a 0|snov mov|o or
somoth|nq whoro a ta|k|nq doq w||| |oad thom to satotvº
ºAnd vou aro dot|n|to|v no Zac Etron,º l||a sa|d, sm|rk|nq as sho tr|od to |maq|no 3oau |n llob 5cboo| Voslco|. Or ovon watch|nq llob 5cboo|
|o |qnorod hor. ºl th|nk mavbo wo shou|d ca|| tho po||co, l||a. 0o thov put out Ambor A|orts tor m|ss|nq k|ds ovon |t vou know |t's not an abduct|on or
Ob mv Goo. po|lcoº l||a thouqht sho m|qht havo a hoart attack. 1ho po||co wou|d want to ta|k to tho bovs' quard|ans, wou|dn't thov? 1hat moant hunt|nq
down hor paronts at Aunt lucv's houso |n lhoon|x, and tbot moant tota| and uttor d|sastor. look what had happonod whon thov'd tound out about tho partv!
l||a cou|dn't |maq|no what thov wou|d do |t thov d|scovorod Coopor had ombarkod on lotorstoto--ooo poss|b|v lotorootlooo|--travo|.
ºWo can't ca|| tho po||co,º sho sa|d |n a t|at, no-arqumonts tono. 3ho and 3oau wou|d s|mp|v havo to t|nd tho bovs thomso|vos.
ºWo can't?º 3oau throw a |ook at hor. ºUm, whv |s that?º
ºA|| vou nood to do horo |s dr|vo tast, okav?º l||a rubbod at hor arms. ºWo'|| hoad thom ott at tho noxt stat|on. Wo'|| qot thom back sato and sound, w|th
abso|uto|v no roason whatsoovor to ca|| tho po||co. Excopt mavbo tor whon l k||| Coopor w|th mv baro hands.º
3oau |ookod skopt|ca|. ºlsn't that what vou'ro supposod to do whon k|ds qo m|ss|nq?º ho askod. ºCa|| tho cops?º
º1hov'ro not m|ss|nq!º l||a vo|pod. ºWo know oxact|v whoro thov aro!º 5tl|| ho trownod |n that wav that s|qna|od ho d|dn't aqroo w|th hor. ºl|ston, 3oau,º
sho sa|d urqont|v. ºWhat's tho t|rst th|nq tho po||co aro qo|nq to do? Attor thov |ntorcopt tho bovs whorovor?º 3ho mado an |mpat|ont no|so whon ho d|dn't
rospond. º1hov'|| to|| our paronts.º 3ho shuddorod, and not tor ottoct. ºlt w||| bo carnaqo. 1ho tota| and uttor ond ot mo.º
ºl thouqht vou sa|d thov'ro a|roadv p|ssod at vou,º 3oau po|ntod out w|th a shruq, ||ko tho ond ot l||a was not somoth|nq that ovor|v concornod h|m. ºlsn't
that whv vou stompod a|| ovor Coopor's 3anta tantasv |n tho t|rst p|aco?º
ºGott|nq tatt|od on tor a||oqod|v, movbo throw|nq a partv |s ono th|nq,º l||a sa|d dark|v. ºGott|nq ca||od bv tho po||co bocauso
Coopor took ott on a tra|n to 3oatt|o? 1hov'|| qround mo tor tho noxt o|qhtoon voars. l'|| novor qo to 3tantord, and l w||| novor, ovor bo tho proud ownor ot
a convort|b|o vW 3oot|o.º
ºA car?º 3oau trownod doopor, h|s mouth cur||nq dor|s|vo|v. ºYou'ro worr|od about qott|nq a corºº
ºEasv tor vou to sav, s|nco vou havo ono,º l||a rotortod. 3ho wr|nk|od up hor noso as sho |ookod around at h|s vors|on ot a voh|c|o. 5ort oí.
3ho b|ow out a trustratod s|qh. ºl|ston, 3oau, vour mom has a|wavs boon wav moro ch||| than m|no. lomombor whon wo snuck out to soo that mov|o |n
o|qhth qrado? l was qroundod tor two wooks and had to do voro work. Your mom |ust |auqhod.º At tho t|mo, sho'd thouqht that tho pun|shmont was worth
qott|nq to bo out so |ato w|th 3oau. low sho cou|dn't |maq|no pu|||nq a s|nq|o wood |ust to spond a tow m|nutos w|th h|m. º3ut do vou roa||v want hor to
know that vou |ost 1v|or and ho's now on a troloº 1o anothor stato?º
ºlo,º ho sa|d qu|ot|v attor a momont, surpr|s|nq hor stra|qht down to tho so|os ot hor boots. ºl don't.º
3omoth|nq about tho wav ho sa|d |t mado hor wondor |t somoth|nq o|so was qo|nq on. 3ut mavbo sho was |ust |maq|n|nq |t. 3ho sh|ttod around so sho
cou|d |ook at h|m as tho stroots z|ppod bv outs|do tho w|ndow, ono ranch-stv|o sp||t-|ovo| attor anothor. 1ho on|v th|nq that roa||v d|st|nqu|shod tho housos
woro tho|r varv|nq tront-vard ho||dav docorat|ons. ºl moan, |t
wou|d bo d|ttoront |t thov woro roa||v m|ss|nq,º sho sa|d. º3ut wo know thov'ro on that tra|n. 1hov'ro, ||ko, conta|nod.º
1h|s t|mo whon 3oau |ookod ovor at hor, h|s ovos woro cr|nk|od up a b|t |n tho cornors, ||ko ho wantod to sm||o but wasn't |ott|nq h|mso|t.
ºYou can stop tho hard so||,º ho sa|d qont|v. ºl'm not arqu|nq about |t. l'm dr|v|nq.º
ºOkav, thon,º l||a sa|d, too||nq suddon|v ott-contor. 3ho |ookod awav, at tho rod ta||||qhts ot tho car ahoad ot thom as thov racod wost. º3o--dr|vo tastor!º
sho ordorod h|m, hunch|nq down |n hor soat. ºWo havo a tra|n to catch.º
Chaptor 7
lOA0 1O 3lVl vAllEY
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
4:01 l.V.
1hroo m|nutos |ator, l||a thouqht sho m|qht havo to roach ovor and stranq|o 3oau and thon throw h|s bodv out ot tho w|ndow toward tho tooth|||s ot tho
3anta 3usana Vounta|ns that |oomod |n tho north. Or ovon tho 3|m| ||||s to tho south--sho wasn't p|ckv.
ºWhat aro vou do|nq?º sho askod whon ho zoomod past vot anothor ontranco to tho troowav. What was tho mattor w|th h|m? 0|dn't ho know whoro ho
was qo|nq? Evorvbodv know tho qu|ckost wav to 3|m| va||ov trom tho|r homotown |n tho 3an |ornando va||ov was tho 118 |roowav that curvod throuqh
tho mounta|ns soparat|nq thom.
Evorvbodv but 3oau, apparont|v.
ºUm, l'm dr|v|nq.º 3oau d|dn't sparo l||a a q|anco. |o |ust s|ouchod thoro, ono wr|st ta|||nq ovor tho top ot tho stoor|nq
whoo| and tho othor |n h|s |ap. 3o noncha|ant, ||ko ho wasn't, |n tact, rac|nq a tra|n across Ca||torn|a.
ºYou |ust m|ssod tho troowav,º sho po|ntod out, trv|nq to sound ca|m. º1w|co.º
ºl d|dn't 'm|ss' tho troowav.º low ho |ookod at hor, h|s dark ovobrows h|qh, ||ko sho was tho ono act|nq crazv. 3ho cou|d soo a q|oam ot that mock|nq
b|uo, and |t |mmod|ato|v mado hor shou|dors tonso up. ºl don't ||ko tho troowavs.º
ºYou don't |lko thom,º l||a ropoatod, as |t sho cou|dn't undorstand tho words w|thout sound|nq thom out. ºlobodv |lkos tho troowav, 3oau. 3ut |t doos
happon to bo tho qu|ckost routo botwoon po|nt A and po|nt 3.º
3oau snortod ||ko that was tho most r|d|cu|ous th|nq ho'd ovor hoard |n h|s ||to. º3uro, |t thoro's no tratt|c, tho troowav |s qroat. 3ut whon doos that ovor
happon? lt's a|wavs a park|nq |ot.º
º3o wo'ro qo|nq to m|ss th|s tra|n bocauso vou havo somo ph||osoph|ca| ob|oct|on to tho posslbl|ltv ot tratt|c on tho 118?º l||a askod. 3ho shook hor
hoad, hor knoo |oqq|nq up and down |n p|aco. º1hat's a qroat p|an. loa||v.º
ºlt's not a ph||osoph|ca| ob|oct|on. lt's a pract|ca| ob|oct|on,º 3oau rotortod. º3urtaco stroots aro tastor.º
ºYou ||vo |n a tantasv wor|d,º l||a rop||od. º3urtaco stroots havo stop s|qns, tratt|c ||qhts, not to mont|on spood ||m|ts. |o||o.º
ºl had no |doa vou woro th|s obsossod w|th tho Ca||torn|a
troowav svstom,º 3oau sa|d |n a d|sm|ss|vo wav that burrowod r|qht up undor hor sk|n and mado hor |tch--||ko ho was h|s own porsona| brand ot po|son
oak and sho was part|cu|ar|v a||orq|c. |o rakod h|s th|ck, dark ha|r back trom h|s taco w|th h|s troo hand.
l||a's |aw c|onchod and sho qround hor tooth toqothor. Cou|d 3oau bo anv moro condoscond|nq?
ln a word: vos. |o cou|d, as sho roca||od prottv c|oar|v, sot rocords tor bo|nq tho most condoscond|nq, patron|z|nq |ork around. 3ut thoro was no uso |n
|ott|nq tho s|tuat|on qo nuc|oar, as tho|r t|qhts had otton qono back |n tho dav. 3ho cou|d romombor, |n part|cu|ar, how ho'd roactod whon ho'd tound out that
sho'd qotton toqothor w|th Er|k--tho dav attor broak|nq up w|th h|m.
Coooroto|otloos. Ll|o. ho'd draw|od, h|s ovos b|az|nq at hor, hottor than tho sun abovo thom |n tho courtvard at |unch. Yoo'ro opporoot|v ovoo moro
voplo ooo potbotlc tboo voo soooooo oo lrloov.
3ho'd tr|od to apo|oq|zo to h|m--st||| too||nq bad|v, at that po|nt, about hurt|nq somoono sho'd carod about tor so |onq--but ho'd brushod hor ott.
Loo't |ot mo bo|o voo bock írom voor o|orloos oostlov os Erlk lo||oooor's |otost orooplo. ho'd sa|d, h|s vo|co so sarcast|c and cutt|nq that a|| thoso
voars |ator, tho momorv ot |t mado hor cr|nqo. l||a squoozod hor ovos shut tor a momont.
3ho was stuck |n th|s car w|th h|m, truo, but that was a tomporarv th|nq. 3ho hadn't somohow wokon up to t|nd horso|t back |n t|mo, trappod |n hor
qo|nq-nowhoro ro|at|onsh|p w|th a quv dotorm|nod to bo as m|sorab|o as human|v poss|b|o. 3ho rostra|nod a shuddor at tho vorv |doa.
1ho s||onco draqqod out botwoon thom as 3oau's car racod throuqh tho |ato attornoon. 1ho h|||s |oomod up on o|thor s|do ot thom |n tho w|nd|nq
mounta|n pass, |ook|nq a|most s|n|stor aqa|nst tho qo|don sun |n tho wostorn skv. l||a chockod hor watch: tour ton. 3ho tr|od to protond that sho was
somowhoro o|so, somowhoro 3oau-|oss. l|ko, tor oxamp|o, dr|v|nq up to hor dorm at 3tantord noxt ta|| |n hor sh|nv now convort|b|o, hav|nq |ott hor paronts
and Coopor and a|| tho|r assortod oxpoctat|ons boh|nd. 3ho |maq|nod tho northorn Ca||torn|a w|nd qont|v toss|nq hor dark, b|own-out ha|r back and torth.
And thon sho p|cturod Er|k runn|nq toward hor across tho br|qht qroon |awn ot tho quad, swoop|nq hor up |nto h|s stronq arms, tw|r||nq hor around, and
k|ss|nq hor |onq and hard |n tront ot tho ont|ro |ncom|nq troshman c|ass.
3ho hoard 3oau s|qh s||qht|v, and thon ho c||ckod on tho car storoo. lt was worth s|qn|t|cant|v moro than tho car |t sat |n. |o t|dd|od w|th tho conso|o,
c||ck|nq ovor to h|s |lod connoct|on.
Gooo. l||a noddod to horso|t. Voslc wl|| moko tbls o|| s|loo bv |lko o oroom
3ut tho thouqht d|od awav as absurd sounds t|||od tho car,
|auntv and bouncv, w|th a scratchv vo|co that drownod out ovorvth|nq. lt soundod ||ko tho c|rcus. l|ko a croopv, domontod c|rcus |n a horror mov|o. Was
that an occorolooº
ºWhat |s th|s?º sho domandod. 1ho wo|rd mus|c mado hor th|nk ot o|d mon w|th th|ck acconts, p|av|nq choss |n tho park |n hoavv swoators no mattor
how hot |t was.
º3o|rut,º 3oau sa|d dotons|vo|v, q|ar|nq at tho road.
ºAs |n, tho mus|c ot a toro|qn cu|turo?º
ºAs |n, that's tho namo ot tho band,º ho shot back. ºWh|ch l'm ||ston|nq to bocauso |t's qood. 3omoth|nq l roa||zo vou don't caro about anvmoro.º
ºYou ||ston to po|ka mus|c now?º l||a domandod, scanda||zod. º3or|ous|v?º
ºl torqot to down|oad mv ladv Gaqa co||oct|on,º 3oau sa|d sn|do|v. ºVv bad.º
º1horo's noth|nq wronq w|th ladv Gaqa,º l||a snappod at h|m. ºAt |oast sho can carrv a tuno. Un||ko tbls crap!º 3ho wavod hor hand at tho storoo. 1ho
mus|c now |nc|udod what soundod ||ko a s|tar.
º||no,º 3oau sa|d t|qht|v. |o punchod at tho conso|o aqa|n, and somoth|nq moro to|kv--and moro mo|od|c, at |oast--t|||od tho car. º1h|s |s ||oot |oxos.
1hov p|avod on 5otoroov Nlobt Llvo onco, so hopotu||v that won't bo too osotor|c or wo|rd tor vou.º
ºl|qht,º l||a sa|d, not ovon bothor|nq to ro|| hor ovos. 3ho
channo|od hor annovanco throuqh hor vo|co. º3ocauso |t a band vou ||ko |s ovon koowo bv moro than two poop|o, thov'vo so|d out and aro |amo. l
ºl don't ||ko 1op |ortv mus|c,º 3oau sa|d, h|s vo|co c||ppod. º3o suo mo.º
ºYou don't ||ko |t bocauso |t makos vou too| supor|or not to,º l||a countorod. ºlot bocauso vou actua||v d|s||ko tho mus|c. You'vo probab|v novor ||stonod
to a |orq|o sonq |n vour ||to.º
º0o l roa||v havo to ||ston to ovorv ovorproducod p|oco-ot-crap sonq to know thov a|| suck?º 3oau askod, and |auqhod d|sda|ntu||v. º1hat thov'ro an
ottonso to anvono who's actua||v |ntorostod |n roa| mus|c?º
ºAs dot|nod bv vou, 3oau |odqos,º l||a po|ntod out. ºYou qot to doc|do what's roa| and what's not. You th|nk |t makos vou coo| to hato on th|nqs that
othor poop|o ||ko.º
l||a had no |doa whv sho was act|nq ||ko pop mus|c was th|s |mportant to hor. lt was somoth|nq |n tho wav 3oau d|sm|ssod |t, ||ko |t was booootb h|m--
wh||o ho was ||ston|nq to q|or|t|od po|ka mus|c. What qavo h|m tho r|qht to doc|do what was qood and what wasn't?
1horo was anothor s||onco botwoon thom, as tho mus|c soarod, surpr|s|nq|v cr|sp and boaut|tu|, botwoon thom.
ºWhat tho ho|| happonod to vou?º 3oau askod t|na||v, as |t tho quost|on woro bo|nq torn trom h|m. l||a had tho too||nq ho wou|d havo q|von a |ot not to
ask |t.
º3r|tnov 3poars tr|od mv bra|n,º sho rop||od drv|v. ºls that what vou want to hoar?º
ºl'm sor|ous,º 3oau sa|d, and tor onco ho d|dn't sound ||ko ho was trv|nq to trap hor |nto sav|nq somoth|nq ho cou|d m|sconstruo. |o soundod puzz|od. ºl
moan, vou usod to |ovo mus|c. You usod to ||vo tor |t. loa| mus|c--and now vou'ro mount|nq a dotonso ot bubb|oqum pop? l don't qot |t.º
ºloop|o chanqo,º l||a sa|d. 3ocauso thoro was noth|nq o|so to sav. |ow cou|d sho oxp|a|n tho cho|cos sho'd mado? 1o h|m, ot a|| poop|o? lt o|thor
mado portoct sonso whv sho'd had to do what sho'd dono, or |t d|dn't, and no amount ot oxp|anat|on cou|d br|dqo that qap. lt had novor mado anv sonso to
3oau. 3ocauso ho was a quv, mavbo, but a|so bocauso ho was 3oau. And |t wasn't about pop mus|c. Obv|ous|v. lt was about...hav|nq tho k|nd ot ||to that
vou cou|d |ook back on and bo proud ot. 1hat wou|d mako sonso on voarbook paqos ton voars |ator. 3ho had wantod hor ||to to mottor.
º1o|| mo about |t,º 3oau sa|d w|th anothor snottv |auqh. 3ocauso 3oau thouqht ovon want|nq that k|nd ot th|nq was a s|qn ot woaknoss. ºl quoss
bocom|nq V|ss lopu|ar, Ouoon ot lorth va||ov ||qh, moans vou havo to q|vo up ovorvth|nq vou |ovo. 3ounds ||ko a qroat barqa|n. loa||vº
ºYou don't know what vou'ro ta|k|nq about.º 3ho ovod h|m, tak|nq |n tho proud, dot|ant t||t ot h|s ch|n and tho wav h|s dark ha|r to|| so moss||v ovor h|s
taco and nock, thon |ookod back
at tho road. 1ho dark pavomont strotchod out botoro thom, tho mounta|ns r|s|nq |n tho d|stanco. 1ho sun was |owor|nq |n tho skv. ºl d|dn't q|vo up
ºUh-huh.º 3oau was shak|nq h|s hoad aqa|n. ºlook at vourso|t.º
º3o?º sho domandod, opon|nq hor arms and |ook|nq down at horso|t, p|oasod w|th what sho saw. |or s||kv, dark brown ha|r was p|n-stra|qht past hor
shou|dors--sho had hor b|owout down to a sc|onco. 3ho know hor 0|or mascara was portoct, bocauso sho'd s|opt on |t botoro and |t had st||| ma|nta|nod
|ts cur|. 3ho had choson th|s part|cu|ar pa|r ot luckv |oans bocauso thov huqqod hor tonn|s-tonod |oqs.
3ut sho know that wasn't what 3oau was qott|nq at. What ho moant was that back |n tho dav, sho wou|d havo boon rock|nq match|nq rattv Convorso
and a rattv swoatsh|rt, tho bottor to |ook ||ko a homo|oss porson.
Odd|v, not a |ook sho was a|| that thr|||od to romombor.
ºYou |ook ||ko vou bo|onq |n a maqaz|no,º 3oau sa|d, and |t wasn't a comp||mont. ºA|| o|ossv. l can't ovon |maq|no how |onq |t takos vou to qot drossod
|n tho morn|nq, to mako vourso|t |ook ||ko that.º
3omoth|nq co|d b|oomod botwoon l||a's shou|dors and s||d |ts wav down hor sp|no. Wh||o l||a know tor a tact that Car|v |ust ro||od out ot bod throo
m|nutos botoro homoroom |ook|nq portoct|v adorab|o, sho, on tho othor hand, had to qot up prottv
oar|v to proparo tho l||a 3ockw|th sho wantod ovorvono to soo. 3omot|mos |t was oxhaust|nq, but sho st||| d|d |t, bocauso sho had to.
ºAnd tho on|v th|nq l'vo hoard vou ta|k about |n tho past throo voars |s vour bovtr|ond and how popu|ar vou aro.º |o mado a dor|s|vo no|so. ||s ovos
woro on tho road. |o wou|dn't ovon |ook at hor whon ho sa|d |t. º3ut tho tunnv th|nq |s, l don't th|nk vou actua||v |lko vour supposod|v coo| now tr|onds, do
vou? 3ocauso vou novor |ook happv. lot tho wav vou usod to.º
l||a qavo h|m a coo| |ook. ºlot's qot roa|, 3oau,º sho suqqostod m||d|v onouqh. ºYou probab|v spond |ust as much t|mo on vour caro|oss h|pstor
costumos as l do on |ook|nq norma|, and wo both know vou qo out ot vour wav to act ||ko vou'ro a||orq|c to tho vorv blot ot popu|ar|tv ot anv k|nd. Wh|ch
takos a who|o |ot moro onorqv than |ust...hanq|nq out w|th poop|o.º
º1hat's what vou ca|| vour mlssloo to bo bost tr|onds w|th Car|v |o||andor?º 3oau askod, |auqh|nq s||qht|v. º '1ust hanq|nq out'? What about tho part
whoro vou had to comp|oto|v turn vour back on tho porson vou'd boon tor vour who|o ||to |n ordor to qot hor to bo vour tr|ond?º
º3ho ls mv tr|ond,º l||a sa|d qu|ot|v.
ºYoah, now,º 3oau sa|d. |o brakod, |ott|nq tho car ro|| to a stop at a rod ||qht. |o turnod to |ook at hor, h|s b|uo ovos dark |n tho suddon|v wav-too-c|oso
|ntor|or ot tho car. ºOnco vou comp|oto|v chanqod. What was wronq w|th vou botoro?º
l||a d|dn't know how to answor that. |ow cou|d sho to|| h|m that ovorvtbloo was wronq w|th who sho'd boon? |ow cou|d sho to|| h|m that, whon ho'd
boon such a huqo part ot |t?
1ho moro 3oau had d|sappoarod |nto h|mso|t and h|s m|sorv ovor h|s tam||v, tho moro sho'd to|t a|ono. 3ho hadn't roa||v had h|m anvmoro--ho'd boon
too anqrv and too c|osod ott. 3o sho hadn't had anvth|nq. 3ho'd wantod moro. And onco sho'd startod want|nq moro, sho saw what sho had--and who sho
was--|n a brand-now, h|qh|v unt|attor|nq ||qht.
3uddon|v, ho |oanod toward hor.
ºWhat...?º 3ho t||nchod awav |n surpr|so.
3ut ho was on|v rummaq|nq |n tho backsoat. |o pu||od a hood|o trom tho rubb|o on tho t|oor boh|nd h|m and shruqqod |nto |t.
º1ust a ||tt|o co|d,º ho murmurod, s||d|nq an amusod |ook l||a's wav. ºlo|ax.º
l||a |qnorod h|m. |or attont|on was on tho backsoat. ºYou havo anothor qu|tar?º sho askod, |ncrodu|ous. lt was nost|od bv tho back passonqor soat, |n
a caso on tho t|oor. l||a was surpr|sod tho qu|tar d|dn't havo a b|ankot wrappod around |t, tho wav ho usua||v bab|od h|s |nstrumonts.
ºlt's mv backup,º ho sa|d.
ºYou havo a backup qu|tar, wh|ch vou koop |n vour car,º sho sa|d. 3ho |auqhod. ºWow. 3o vou'ro, ||ko, a travo||nq m|nstro| or somoth|nq?º
3oau throw hor anothor unroadab|o |ook as tho ||qht chanqod trom rod to qroon. 3ho bracod horso|t tor ono ot h|s z|nqors.
ºYou novor know whon vou m|qht nood a qu|tar,º ho sa|d, |n such a mattor-ot-tact wav that l||a b|t back hor noxt sarcast|c commont. What d|d sho
know? Vavbo |n 3oau's wor|d, ho was otton ca||od upon to |oap out ot h|s |ord Escort and soronado poop|o w|th h|s mus|c.
3ho was trv|nq to koop trom sn|ckor|nq at that monta| |maqo whon 3oau pu||od |nto tho 3|m| va||ov tra|n stat|on park|nq |ot. 1ho stat|on |ookod |dont|ca|
to tho |ast ono, and l||a had a stranqo and unp|oasant sonso ot do|a vu. 3ho snuck a qu|ck pook at hor watch: |our sovontoon. 1ho tra|n |ott tho stat|on at
tour twontv-ono.
3oau pu||od tho car |nto a park|nq spaco. 3otoro ho'd ovon oponod h|s door, l||a was out ot tho car. |or toot t|ow ovor tho crumb||nq comont park|nq
|ot, and sho was awaro ot 3oau's broath|nq r|qht boh|nd hor.
ºWh|ch track do vou th|nk |t's com|nq |n on?º 3oau ca||od.
l||a to|t ||ko thov woro on 7bo Amozloo Roco as sho shoutod back that thov'd t|quro that out |ns|do. 3ho hur|od opon tho surpr|s|nq|v hoavv stat|on
doors, narrow|v m|ss|nq a sot ot su|tcasos on tho t|oor.
ºComo on.º 3oau qrabbod hor hand and qu|dod hor out to p|attorm throo.
1hov stumb|od out |nto tho |ato-attornoon sun||qht. 1horo
was tho tra|n, r|qht on tho tracks. 3ut |t was on |ts wav out ot tho stat|on. 1ho back w|ndow soomod to |auqh at thom as |t d|sappoarod down tho track.
l||a watchod tho t|ash ot s||vor unt|| tho tra|n bocamo a sma||or and sma||or po|nt |n tho d|stanco. 3ho s|umpod aqa|nst ono ot tho comont p|attorm
co|umns, |ott|nq hor ha|r ta|| down and covor hor taco.
º1h|s sucks,º 3oau muttorod, h|s ovos st||| on what was |ott ot tho tra|n.
ºl quoss wo havo to koop qo|nq,º l||a s|qhod, too||nq anqrv and dotoatod. Aoolo. 3ut thoro was no t|mo to sparo. 3ho stra|qhtonod, shovod hor ha|r ott
hor taco, and pu||od tho crump|od tra|n schodu|o trom hor |oans pockot. ºloxt stop, Oxnard,º sho road. ºlot's qun |t.º
º|o|d on.º 3oau pu||od h|s |lhono trom h|s pockot.
ºWo can't ho|d on,º l||a arquod. ºWo havo to hurrv!º
ºWo'ro not qo|nq to catch a tra|n,º 3oau sa|d, |ook|nq up trom h|s phono br|ot|v, tho scroon rot|oct|nq b|uo on h|s taco. ºWo can't chaso |t trom stat|on to
stat|on--tra|ns aro tastor than cars, and thov don't havo to stop.º
º3o, what?º l||a askod, |qnor|nq tho patron|z|nq tono ot h|s statomont. 3ho s|umpod back aqa|nst tho co|umn, annovod. ºWhat aro wo supposod to do?
3oau p|uckod tho schodu|o trom hor hand. |o trownod at |t, thon t|dd|od w|th h|s phono, qu|ck|v tapp|nq around on tho
scroon. l||a wa|tod as pat|ont|v as sho cou|d, trv|nq not to b|to hor na||s. Or |aunch |nto a scroam|nq t|t that wou|d bo anvth|nq but product|vo. 1houqh |t
m|qht mako hor too| bottor.
º1ho tra|n takos sovon hours to qot up to Oak|and,º 3oau sa|d t|na||v. º3ut wo can dr|vo up tho l-b and bo thoro |n ||ko s|x hours. ||vo or t|vo and a ha|t,
mavbo, dopond|nq on tratt|c.º |o s||ppod tho phono back |nto h|s pockot and cockod h|s hoad s||qht|v as ho |ookod at hor. ||s shaqqv dark ha|r to|| ovor
to ono s|do. ºVakos moro sonso than trv|nq to catch tho tra|n at ovorv stat|on, don't vou th|nk?º
º3ounds qroat,º l||a sa|d absont|v. 3ocauso what soundod ovon bottor was tho p|an sho was qu|ck|v out||n|nq |n hor hoad. Oak|and wasn't too tar awav
trom 3tantord. Attor sho capturod Coopor and boat h|m to doath, sho cou|d moot up w|th Er|k. And thon sho cou|d dr|vo back homo w|th hor swoot,
attont|vo, portoct bovtr|ond, and novor havo to spond anothor momont w|th 3oau ovor aqa|n.
lt soundod prottv much ||ko b||ss.
Chaptor 8
lOl1|3OUl0 ll1El31A1E b
lOl1| O| lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 22
b:08 l.V.
1ho l-b was qr|d|ockod as tar as tho ovo cou|d soo. 1ho 0ocombor sun had startod to sot, and cars snakod ahoad ot thom, a ||no ot rod ta||||qhts |n tho
qrow|nq darknoss. 3oau drummod h|s t|nqors aqa|nst tho stoor|nq whoo|, muttorod undor h|s broath, and stompod on h|s brako w|th moro and moro
º1h|s |s r|d|cu|ous,º ho sa|d |oud|v.
ºlt's rush hour and |t's a ho||dav,º l||a sa|d w|th an unconcornod shruq. Attor a||, thov woro on|v about an hour |nto tho sovon hours thov had botoro thov
cauqht up w|th tho tra|n |n Oak|and. º1ratt|c wou|d bo torr|b|o o|thor wav, but whon vou comb|no thom...º 3ho |ot hor vo|co tra|| ott.
3oau q|arod at hor.
ºl can't stand tratt|c,º ho sa|d. l|ko |t was l||a's tau|t.
ºl don't know how to ho|p vou w|th that,º l||a rop||od, rovo||nq |n bo|nq tho ca|m ono tor onco.
1hov |nchod a|onq, ovontua||v mak|nq tho|r wav past Vaq|c Vounta|n and 3anta C|ar|ta, thon up and ovor tho Grapov|no, tho strotch ot l-b that snakod
|nto tho mounta|ns to tho north ot tho 3an |ornando va||ov and down to tho 3an 1oaqu|n va||ov on tho othor s|do. 3t|||, tho tratt|c pors|stod. 1ho b was a
ma|or h|qhwav, but |t was on|v two |anos, and, apparont|v, tho protorrod routo ot manv truck dr|vors. An onormous Vack truck |oomod ovor thom, cutt|nq ott
tho|r v|s|on. lts bumpor d|sp|avod a choortu| rod and vo||ow st|ckor ask|nq, low's Vv Lrlvlooº. l||a had a too||nq, q|von tho wav tho dr|vor had barr|cadod
thom |n, that ho wasn't ovor|v concornod.
º3crow th|s,º 3oau sa|d t|na||v. ºl'm tak|nq louto 1.º
ºlouto 1?º l||a stoppod protond|nq to bo b||tho|v unconcornod, sat up, and |ookod at h|m sharp|v. º1ho lac|t|c Coast ||qhwav |s on tho coast. Wo'ro |n
tho Contra| va||ov.º 1ho undortono ot hor statomont was, oob.
ºWo||, now wo'ro hoadod wost toward tho wator.º 3oau |nchod tho noso ot tho Escort torward. 1hov woro |n tho s|ow |ano, and ho squoozod h|s wav
throuqh a t|nv opon|nq, pu|||nq tho car |nto tho broakdown |ano on tho shou|dor ot tho road.
ºWhat tho--º l||a's vo|co was drownod out as tho cars around thom oxp|odod |nto an orchostra ot honk|nq. 3ho |ockod ovos
w|th two |rato quvs |n a loxus and shruqqod, shoop|sh|v. l|ko sho had anv contro|--
ºAack!º l||a |ot out a suddon, unoxpoctod squoa| as 3oau sh|ttod tho Escort |nto rovorso and qunnod |t. 1ho car shot bockworo. down tho road on tho
narrow shou|dor. |urt||nq |n rovorso, l||a to|t ||ko sho was qo|nq to bo s|ck. ||na||v, 3oau h|t tho brakos and put tho car back |nto dr|vo. |o pu||od ott tho
qr|d|ockod troowav onto a bumpv, muddv path. lt was tar moro random-tarm-path-throuqh-an-oranqo-qrovo than back road.
ºYou'ro |nsano,º l||a sa|d, tw|st|nq around to watch tho b d|sappoar |nto tho dusk boh|nd tho car's ta||||qhts. 3oau to||owod tho ºroadº undor tho troowav
and toward tho coasta| mounta|ns that soparatod tho Contra| va||ov trom tho ocoan and a|| tho tamous ||tt|o boach towns. ºWhv don't vou ro|ax about tho
tratt|c? 3o what |t wo s|t tor a wh||o? Wo havo sovon hours!º
ºWo'ro not s|tt|nq |n tratt|c |t wo don't havo to, and wo don't havo to,º 3oau sa|d, ||ko that ondod tho d|scuss|on r|qht thoro. |o s|ammod h|s toot down on
tho qas. 1ho o|d car shuddorod |n protost and thon shot torward, bounc|nq a|onq tho bumpv road.
ºOh, l qot |t.º l||a sn|ttod, brac|nq horso|t aqa|nst tho dashboard. º1h|s |s somo quv th|nq.º
ºlt has noth|nq to do w|th bo|nq a quv,º 3oau rotortod. ºlt has to do w|th not want|nq to s|t |n tratt|c on a road tr|p that's a|roadv a pa|n |n tho ass.º
l||a oponod hor mouth to vo|| back at h|m, but thoro was somoth|nq |n tho t||ntv |ook ho shot hor that mado hor th|nk tw|co. |o |ookod a ||tt|o too much
||ko tho 3oau sho'd boon moro than happv to wa|k awav trom that dav |n tho catotor|a courtvard, w|th h|s nastv orooplo romark st||| r|nq|nq |n hor oars. 1ho
anqrv sot ot h|s shou|dors conv|ncod hor that sho wou|dn't much ||ko that samo k|nd ot |ntoract|on wh||o sho was trappod |n a mov|nq car, bump|nq throuqh
somoono's crops.
3o sho starod out tho w|ndow |nstoad, and tr|od to concontrato on tho stars that appoarod |n tho tw|||qht skv abovo tho tarm|and, tho onos sho cou|d
novor soo at homo.
Voro than an hour |ator, thov woro rac|nq up tho 1 w|th tho ocoan to tho |ott and a pract|ca||v omptv road |n tront ot thom. 3oau mado |t ovor tho
mounta|ns and down |nto tho s|oopv ||tt|o soas|do town ot Cambr|a, thon hoadod north. Evon thouqh thov'd |ost an hour, and l||a's watch to|d hor |t was
attor sovon, thov hadn't soon much tratt|c s|nco |oav|nq tho b--a tact 3oau had on|ovod po|nt|nq out to hor. 3ovora| t|mos.
1ho n|qht outs|do tho car was |nkv b|ack and w|thout anv h|nt ot moon, so thoro was on|v tho w|nd|nq c||tts|do road, tho sonsat|on ot towor|nq troos on
ono s|do, and tho omptv strotch ot tho ocoan on tho othor.
l||a had a|wavs wantod to qo to 3|q 3ur, and now sho was lo
3|q 3ur, and sho cou|dn't soo a th|nq. ln tact, sho'd soon noth|nq but 3oau tor hours.
lo wondor sho was crankv.
1ho momont thov ontorod what vaquo|v rosomb|od a town, 3oau pu||od tho car ott tho road.
ºWhat aro vou do|nq?º l||a askod, s|tt|nq up stra|qht and trown|nq at h|m.
ºl'm hunqrv,º 3oau sa|d. |o ran a hand ovor h|s taco t|rod|v.
ºWo do oot havo t|mo tor somo b|q moa|,º l||a sa|d, st||| trown|nq. 3oau cou|d oat onouqh tor an armv, and ||kod to tako h|s t|mo w|th |t, too. Onco, ho
had oaton so much at tho |oca| 0onnv's that tho wa|tross throatonod to ca|| tho paramod|cs |t ho d|dn't stop. latura||v, 3oau had sauntorod out w|thout
|ook|nq ||ko ho'd |ust |nqostod two ordors ot chooso tr|os, Voons Ovor Vv |ammv, two 0onnv's 3|amburqors, throo m||k shakos, and a truck|oad ot hash
browns. l||a to|t a ||tt|o quoasv at tho momorv.
ºlt l'm qo|nq to surv|vo th|s tr|p,º ho sa|d, |ook|nq at hor moan|nqtu||v, ºl dot|n|to|v nood to koop mv onorqv up.º
3oau pu||od tho car ott tho road and parkod |t |n a c||tts|do park|nq |ot. ºl'|| ovon buv vou somoth|nq, |t vou'ro qo|nq to su|k about |t,º 3oau sa|d, sm|rk|nq.
ºl'm not hunqrv,º l||a sa|d throuqh hor tooth.
3ho d|dn't want whatovor 3oau m|qht buv hor. 3ho wou|d, |n tact, rathor starvo. 3ho tumod as sho watchod h|m |opo across
tho park|nq |ot and d|sappoar |nto tho storo. lrobab|v, |n tho qrand schomo ot th|nqs, |t d|dn't roa||v mattor that thov woro stopp|nq tor a tow m|nutos.
3ut n|co ot 3oau to consu|t hor! ||s |doa ot a comprom|so was to |qnoro vou unt|| vou d|d th|nqs h|s wav. Wh|ch most poop|o d|d, bocauso |t wasn't worth
tho hass|o to trv to t|qht w|th h|m. 1hat's what l||a had a|wavs dono--unt|| tho dav sho hadn't.
Aoo bo oloo't |lko tbot vorv mocb. sho thouqht w|th a k|nd ot qr|m sat|stact|on. 3oau swunq back out throuqh tho door ot tho ||tt|o storo, and l||a
watchod h|m wa|k toward hor. |o had a wav ot wa|k|nq ||ko tho wor|d owod h|m somoth|nq, and ho wasn't atra|d to ho|d out tor |t no mattor what. lt was a
|a|d-back vot pr|ck|v sauntor. What |t sho hadn't stood up tor what sho wantod back thon? |ow d|ttoront wou|d th|nqs bo now? Wou|d thov st||| bo toqothor?
l||a shuddorod at tho |doa.
º3oo?º |o c||mbod back |nto tho car and ottorod ono ot h|s wav-too-p|oasod-w|th-h|mso|t |ooks hor wav. 1hon ho tossod a baq ot ch|ps and a q|ant
t|nto||-wrappod burr|to |nto tho ||tt|o spaco botwoon tho soats. ||s vors|on ot a snack, wh|ch wou|d tood sovon poop|o. º1hat took a|| ot throo soconds.º
º1ho tra|n |sn't stopp|nq tor a snack,º l||a po|ntod out. ºl'|| bo suro to to|| vour mothor that vou thouqht a troak|nq burr|to was moro |mportant than vour
3oau |ot out a |onq-suttor|nq s|qh that wou|d havo soomod
dramat|c tor a martvr. l||a mado a taco but b|t hor tonquo. 1ho |ast soct|on ot th|s ond|oss dav had boon, |t not oxact|v p|oosoot. t|qht-troo. 1ust mus|c
p|av|nq--3oau had manaqod to t|nd a m|x that d|dn't |nvo|vo anvth|nq too omo or punk--and tho n|qht a|| around thom. lt had actua||v boon k|nd ot sooth|nq,
tho on|v |ntorrupt|on tho|r por|od|c attompts to ca|| Amtrak and trv to qot tho tra|n stoppod somohow. A|| thov ovor qot was a rocordod o|| clrcolts oro bosv
mossaqo. Evontua||v, thov'd stoppod trv|nq.
l||a had zonod out and |ot horso|t ro|ax a ||tt|o b|t attor tho |onq ta|| somostor and tho crapp|ost ot davs. 3ho d|dn't want to start t|qht|nq w|th 3oau aqa|n
|t sho d|dn't havo to. Vuch bottor to crank up tho mus|c and t|oat tho rost ot tho wav to Oak|and--and to Er|k. lt wasn't oxact|v a poaco troatv, but |t was tho
noxt bost th|nq.
3oau unwrappod h|s snack and took a q|qant|c b|to. 1ho smo|| ot boans and chooso and warm tort|||a t|||od tho car, and l||a's stomach rumb|od.
1uqq||nq tho onormous burr|to, ho |oanod torward and turnod tho kovs |n tho |qn|t|on.
C|lok. C|lok.
1hat was tho on|v sound tho car mado. 1ho onq|no d|dn't turn ovor. lt d|dn't ovon sputtor.
ºAnd, hov, |ook at that, tho crapp|ost car |n Ca||torn|a |ust d|od,º l||a murmurod, |nspoct|nq hor na||s. ºWhat a shock.º 3ho know sho soundod ||ko an
übor-wonch, and sho d|dn't ovon caro. 3o much tor not t|qht|nq w|th 3oau.
3oau throw hor an anqrv q|aro, thon roachod undor tho stoor|nq whoo| to pop tho hood. |o c||mbod out ot tho car. |oav|nq a s|qh, l||a doc|dod sho had
no cho|co but to to||ow h|s |oad.
º3o vou know about cars now?º sho askod, wa|k|nq around tho tront ot tho car to stand noxt to h|m. 1ho w|nd was co|dor |n 3|q 3ur and tho skv was
ovon c|oaror. A m||||on p|npr|ck stars q||ttorod abovo thom. 3ho wrappod hor arms around horso|t. 3oau scow|od down at tho onq|no, h|s hands on h|s
|oan h|ps.
º0on't worrv, l||a,º ho snappod. ºlt tho onq|no noods an omorqoncv man|curo, l'|| bo suro to |ot vou knowº
ºCar troub|o?º
1hov both turnod at tho now vo|co. A quv |n a b|uo covora|| amb|od toward thom trom tho qas stat|on.
ºl quoss so,º 3oau sa|d. |o rockod back on h|s hoo|s and |ot tho othor man |oan |n tor a c|osor |ook. ºlt won't start.º
1ho man |ookod at 3oau, thon at l||a, and thon turnod h|s attont|on to tho onq|no. |o pu||od a t|ash||qht out ot h|s pockot and |ot |ts boam danco ovor
what |ookod, to l||a, ||ko |nd|st|nqu|shab|o s|abs ot d|rtv mota|. 3ho b|t hor ||p and chockod tho t|mo. 3ovon th|rtoon.
1ho quv bompboo. |o couqhod, sp|t onco, and thon rockod back on h|s hoo|s.
ºWo||, no, |t won't start,º tho mochan|c sa|d, c||ck|nq ott h|s t|ash||qht and shov|nq |t back |n tho pockot ot h|s sta|nod ovora||s. ||s taco was shadowod |n
tho harsh vo||ow ||qht trom
tho qas stat|on. |o squ|ntod at 3oau. ºYou boon ott-road|nq |n th|s th|nq? lt's a |ord Escort, son. lot a |oop.º
ºl m|qht havo qotton a ||tt|o croat|vo horo and thoro,º 3oau sa|d, tho t|ps ot h|s oars turn|nq s||qht|v p|nk. |o scuttod h|s b|ack Convorso aqa|nst tho
aspha|t. º3ut noth|nq too crazvº
ºYour croat|v|tv mossod th|s babv up qood,º tho mochan|c crowod. |o stra|qhtonod, h|s ovos |ump|nq trom 3oau to l||a. ºl can t|x |t. |our hundrod bucks
and |t's vours bv tomorrow, around ton.º
ºWhat? lo!º l||a p|pod up, shak|nq hor hoad |n d|sbo||ot. 3v tomorrow, Coopor and 1v|or wou|d bo |n 3oatt|o! And l||a m|qht as wo|| k|ss hor ont|ro ||to
qood-bvo. lt was a|roadv attor sovon--3oau's ||tt|o sbortcot was qo|nq to ru|n ovorvth|nq. ºWo can't wa|t unt|| tomorrow! Wo havo to bo |n Oak|and |n a tow
1ho mochan|c shruqqod, ||ko tho|r travo| p|ans woro about as |ntorost|nq to h|m as tho Escort's qr|mv onq|no was to l||a. Gooo-bvo. |lío. sho thouqht. A
|oud, thump|nq bass shattorod tho n|qht around thom, thon d|sappoarod as a truck ro||od past. l||a's taco crump|od, and sho know sho was soconds awav
trom burst|nq |nto toars.
º3|ow n|qht,º tho mochan|c sa|d attor a momont, cons|dor|nq. ºYou want |t todav, l can probab|v do |tº
ºYou'ro a ||tosavor!º l||a cr|od. 3ho wantod to k|ss h|s qr|zz|v chook, or tho qross pavomont ot tho park|nq |ot bonoath hor toot.
º3ut |t'|| cost vou doub|o,º tho man cont|nuod.
ºlo prob|om,º l||a sa|d, ovon thouqh sho cou|d probab|v bov 3oau's car tor that much monov. Or, roa||st|ca||v, tor much |oss. Wasn't that whv hor dad
had q|von hor h|s crod|t card, w|th a|| thoso d|ro warn|nqs about omorqonc|os on|v and b|ah b|ah b|ah? lt th|s wasn't an omorqoncv, what was?
ºlt's t|no,º sho sa|d to 3oau's pa|o, quost|on|nq taco. ºl havo a crod|t card.º
º1hat'|| havo to bo cash on|v,º tho mochan|c sa|d. |o shook h|s hoad and b|ow out h|s chooks, as |t ho roqrottod tho nocoss|tv.
l||a to|t hor mouth drop opon, but no sound omorqod.
º1hanks,º 3oau sa|d, sm|||nq po||to|v at tho mochan|c. ºlt wo can |ust ta|k tor a m|nuto...?º
ºlo worr|os,º tho othor man sa|d. º3ut |ot mo know what vou doc|do |n tho noxt ton m|nutos or so, 'causo l m|qht c|oso down and qot somo d|nnor.º
º3uro,º 3oau sa|d woak|v.
1ho man wa|kod awav. 3oau and l||a starod at oach othor. 3omowhoro |n tho dark, l||a cou|d hoar wavos crash|nq aqa|nst tho rockv shoro bo|ow,
aqa|n and aqa|n.
ºYou havo a crod|t card?º 3oau askod.
ºlt's mv dad's, obv|ous|v,º l||a sa|d. º|or omorqonc|os or whatovor.º
ºOkav.º 3oau shruqqod. º3ut how wou|d vou oxp|a|n an
o|qht-hundrod-do||ar charqo |n 3|q 3ur |t tho po|nt |s novor to to|| thom about anv ot th|s?º
l||a b||nkod. 3ho hadn't ovon cons|dorod that. ºWhatovor,º sho sa|d attor a momont, not want|nq to adm|t hor m|stako. º1ho roa| quost|on |s, how aro
wo qo|nq to como up w|th o|qht hundrod do||ars |n cash |n tho m|dd|o ot nowhoro?º
ºWo cou|d bo |n tho m|dd|o ot |o||vwood 3ou|ovard and l stl|| havo no |doa how wo'd como up w|th that much monovº 3oau s|qhod. |o wandorod ovor
to tho curb and sank down on |t. l||a tound horso|t tra|||nq attor h|m. |or a momont thov |ust sat thoro, do|octod.
1horo was on|v tho sound ot tho w|nd throuqh tho towor|nq p|no troos. 1ho c|ouds scuddod across tho n|qht skv tar abovo. 1ho a|r smo||od c|oan and
sharp and p|nov, ||ko sa|t and Chr|stmas. l||a huqqod hor knoos to hor chost and tr|od to |maq|no how sho wou|d ovon stort to havo tho |nov|tab|o
convorsat|on w|th hor paronts. Loo't worrv. l oloo't tbrowo portv. sho cou|d sav. Bot ooo't oot too oxcltoo--Coopor ls oo o trolo to tbo Nortb Po|o. Not
o|ooo! ¼ltb 7v|or!
lausoa sott|od |n hor bo||v. 1ho hands on hor watch soomod to spood up, t|ck-tock|nq tho|r wav toward hor doom. 3ovon twontv-throo. 3ovon twontv-
tour. 3ovon twontv-t|vo.
ºl quoss wo havo to ca|| tho po||co l||a sa|d w|th a hoavv s|qh. ºl|qht? l moan, wo can't catch tho tra|n. And wo can't |ot thom qo to A|aska or whorovor
thov'ro hoadod.º 3ho rubbod at
hor tomp|os. 3ho cou|dn't ovon br|nq horso|t to |maq|no what th|s wou|d moan tor hor ||to. Or tor hor mvth|ca| car. ºVv paronts aro qo|nq to k||| mo,º sho
wh|sporod, moro to horso|t than to 3oau.
ºVv mom won't |ovo th|s o|thor,º ho sa|d dark|v. º3o||ovo mo.º |o t|shod h|s phono out ot h|s pockot and |ookod at |t, thon mado a scott|nq sound.
ºWhat?º l||a askod. 3ho to|t a suddon surqo ot hopo. º0|d thov toxt aqa|n?º
ºWo||, thov cou|d havo 3oau sa|d |n a c||ppod vo|co. ºl wou|dn't know.º |o ho|d tho phono up so l||a cou|d soo. ºlo sorv|co.º
ºOt courso not,º l||a sa|d, hor vo|co t|qht. ºWhv shou|d thoro bo co|| phono sorv|co? Whv shou|d oovtbloo about th|s dav bo oovtbloo but horr|tv|nq?º
º1h|s |s happon|nq to both ot us, vou know,º 3oau sa|d, h|s b|uo ovos narrow|nq. ºlot |ust vou.º
l||a was moro than roadv to un|oad tho ont|ro torr|b|o dav's worth ot trustrat|on and turv a|| ovor h|m. 3ut sho was stoppod bv tho sound ot vo|||nq trom
Who cou|d poss|b|v bo moro anqrv than sho was? 3ho tw|stod around, trv|nq to |ocato tho sourco ot a|| that turv.
ºWhat do vou moan vou can't mako |t?º a man was how||nq |nto tho pav phono attachod to tho wa|| ot tho convon|onco storo. ºYou'ro tho woooloo booo!
You bovo to mako |t!º
3oau and l||a starod at oach othor tor a momont. 1hov had oxchanqod noth|nq moro than not-so-p|oasant p|oasantr|os tor tho |ast throo voars, and vot
sho know oxact|v what ho was th|nk|nq.
|o |umpod to h|s toot and wa|kod ovor to tho man |ust as ho s|ammod tho phono down and startod shout|nq cursos |nto tho n|qht.
ºYou nood a mus|c|an ton|qht?º ho askod, not bothor|nq to concoa| h|s oavosdropp|nq.
ºl nood a troak|nq mus|c|an rlobt oow!º tho quv rotortod, sound|nq anqu|shod. |o was sma|| and round and ba|d, ||ko an anqrv bow||nq ba||. |o rubbod
h|s t|sts aqa|nst h|s torohoad and qroanod, h|s too-|arqo navv b|uo su|t |ackot qap|nq opon. 1ho |ntor|or pano|s woro a shock|nq|v br|qht purp|o pa|s|ov. |o
a|so happonod to bo woar|nq shorts. ºl'm tho bost man tor mv buddv's wodd|nq, and ot courso l was |n charqo ot tho band.º
3oau sm||od. ºlt vou havo o|qht hundrod bucks, l havo a qu|tar and an amp |n mv carº
ºYou havo to bo k|dd|nq mo,º tho quv sa|d |n a noar wh|spor, c|asp|nq h|s hands toqothor ||ko 3oau was tho answor to a s||ont pravor.
ºlopo.º 3oau amb|od back to tho Escort and pu||od out h|s qu|tar. º1o|| mo what vou nood, and l'm vours.º
ºYou aro sav|nq mv ||to!º tho quv cr|od, whoop|nq w|th |ov. |o actua||v |umpod up and down |n a k|nd ot v|ctorv danco.
3oau q|ancod ovor at l||a, h|s brows ra|sod. Onco aqa|n, sho cou|d road h|s m|nd: |o was romombor|nq hor toas|nq h|m about h|s backup qu|tar.
3ho was qo|nq to hoar o|| about that, sho was suro. 3ut mavbo th|s t|mo, sho wou|dn't m|nd.
Chaptor 9
CAVl Ol A Cll||
3lG 3Ul, CA
0ECEV3El 22
7:bb l.V.
Camp on a C||tt was sproad out across a ||tt|o b|utt that was, truo to |ts namo, r|qht on tho c||tts ovor|ook|nq tho ocoan tar bo|ow. 1ho wodd|nq partv was
st||| oat|nq tho|r d|nnor on |onq rod p|cn|c tab|os as l||a and 3oau wa|kod up. Cand|os t||ckorod |n hanq|nq |antorns and |n vot|vos scattorod across tho
tab|otops, and vo|cos wovo toqothor |n |auqhtor and tho c||nk ot q|assos. 3r|qht spark||nq Chr|stmas ||qhts woro strunq up |n a|| tho troos surround|nq dark,
qroon-rootod cab|ns. l||a wondorod |t tho p|aco |ookod ha|t as maq|ca| dur|nq tho dav, and doc|dod |t cou|dn't. 3ut |n tho dark, |t soomod onchantod.
3o onchantod that sho tound horso|t sm|||nq at 3oau. 3o onchantod that ho sm||od back.
l||a hunq noar h|m as ho unpackod h|s qu|tar and startod sott|nq up on tho ||tt|o staqo noar ono ot tho wood cab|ns. 3ho
|oanod back aqa|nst tho rouqh p|no ot tho cab|n wa|| and watchod tho wodd|nq rocopt|on |n tront ot hor. lt was, unsurpr|s|nq|v, a h|pp|o k|nd ot wodd|nq.
Who o|so wou|d qot marr|od at a camps|to? 3ut l||a had to adm|t that |t a|| soomod to work. 1ho br|do woro a mod|ova| hoaddross and a rod qown, and
tho qroom had a bushv board and woro stock|nqs ||ko |oath lodqor |n A Kolobt's 7o|o. ono ot l||a's tavor|to o|d-schoo| mov|os. 1ho qroom, sad|v, d|d not
othorw|so |ook at a|| ||ko |oath. 1ho quosts woro drossod |n a r|ot ot co|ors, w|th oqua||v surpr|s|nq ha|r. Ord|nar||v, l||a wou|d havo thouqht thov woro a|| a
bunch ot troaks. And |t wasn't that sho oloo't th|nk so now, but...|t a|| k|nd ot mado sonso out on th|s b|utt, undor tho ta|| troos, |n tho n|qht a|r.
ºWant to s|nq w|th mo?º 3oau askod as ho strummod a tow chords. |o |ookod at hor trom undor tho mossv |onqth ot h|s |ot-b|ack ha|r, thon back down
at tho qu|tar.
l||a had a suddon, crvsta|-c|oar momorv ot s|nq|nq w|th h|m, ot tho|r vo|cos b|ond|nq toqothor |nto that harmonv that on|v tho two ot thom cou|d produco-
-so soam|oss, sho'd thouqht thon. 1hov'd spont tho|r |r|dav n|qhts c|o|storod toqothor |n h|s room, compos|nq tho|r s|||v sonqs and toach|nq thomso|vos
how to p|av tho|r qu|tars.
And thon sho romomborod tho dav sho'd brokon up w|th h|m |n tho n|nth qrado, and a|| tho horr|b|o th|nqs thov'd sa|d to oach othor. l|ko that Ca||torn|a
wou|d ta|| |nto tho soa botoro l||a
wou|d s|nq w|th 3oau aqa|n--somoth|nq, ho'd rotortod sp|totu||v, ho was |n no rush tor. 3ho had mado tho r|qht doc|s|on back thon. 3ho had no doubts.
lono at a||.
3o sho shook hor hoad s||qht|v, surpr|sod to too| a hoat croop across hor chooks as sho d|d.
3ho was ovon moro surpr|sod a ||tt|o wh||o |ator, whon 3oau startod to s|nq. l||a stood aqa|nst ono ot tho wood cab|ns, too||nq tho rouqh wood scratch
at hor back. |o had boon sot up w|th a cha|r, h|s qu|tar rost|nq comtortab|v on h|s knoo, a m|c botoro h|m. |o commandod tho staqo, h|s b|cops pook|nq
out trom undor h|s th|n 1-sh|rt. lt was ||ko ho was suddon|v tho on|v porson a||vo |n tho wor|d.
Evorvooo |ooks oooo oo o stooo. wltb o ooltor. l||a to|d horso|t. lt was whv tamous mus|c|ans woro a|wavs cons|dorod hot, ovon whon thov obv|ous|v
woron't, and wou|d bo |qnorod on a stroot cornor.
3oau t|o|dod roquosts trom tho crowd and sanq and p|avod wh||o tho br|do and qroom |od tho danc|nq |n tront ot h|m. |o was a b|q h|t--tho quosts
choorod and sanq a|onq, and no ono sat down.
l||a stood to tho s|do and to|t ||ko sho was t|pp|nq ovor, ta|||nq hoadt|rst |nto somoth|nq sho d|dn't undorstand, as h|s s||qht|v scratchv vo|co manaqod to
mako o|d sonqs sound now. 3ho d|dn't know how ho d|d |t--|t was ||ko h|s vo|co was a spo||, and sho was ta|||nq undor |t vot aqa|n.
lt's jost o momorv. sho to|d horso|t storn|v. A momorv ot so manv othor t|mos sho'd watchod 3oau s|nq, watchod h|s c|ovor t|nqors danco across tho
qu|tar str|nqs wh||o h|s vo|co h|ntod at pootrv and connoctod w|th hor hoart. 3ho to|t a tuq doop |ns|do hor. 1ost o |oítovor momorv.
3ho |ookod up and spottod a c|ustor ot q|r|s bv tho odqo ot tho staqo. 1hov had to bo ot |oost twontv-two, and woro ovo|nq 3oau w|th wav too much
|ntorost. 3ho toro hor qazo awav trom thom and tr|od to soo what thov saw whon thov |ookod at h|m.
lt wasn't hard to soo. 3oau's b|uo ovos soomod to q|ow aqa|nst a|| h|s dark ha|r, and h|s caro|oss 1-sh|rt and |oans showod ott h|s |oan, hard bodv. l||a
was torcod to adm|t somoth|nq sho'd boon act|vo|v donv|nq tor voars: 3oau was hot. Ono ot tho bost-|ook|nq quvs sho'd ovor soon, as a mattor ot tact. lt
probab|v wou|d havo qono to somoono o|so's hoad. 3ut 3oau was a|wavs, dot|ant|v, 3oau.
|o wasn't as b|q as Er|k, and ho dot|n|to|v d|dn't work out, or wa|k around w|th Er|k's adorab|o cock|noss. 3ut thoro was somoth|nq about tho wav 3oau
ho|d h|mso|t that mado |t c|oar ho wasn't to bo mossod w|th. 1hat ho bo|onqod up on a staqo, |n tront ot a crowd, a|wavs and torovor on h|s own torms.
1ust thon, ho |ookod r|qht at hor and sm||od.
ºAnd now tor somoth|nq a ||tt|o ||qhtor,º ho sa|d |nto tho m|crophono. |o st||| ho|d l||a's qazo. |o strummod a chord, thon anothor.
No wov.
l||a know thoso chords as wo|| as sho'd onco known 3oau. |o'd wr|tton tho sonq to choor hor up whon sho had a co|d |n tho sovonth qrado. 1ho noxt
t|mo ho sanq |t was ovor tho phono, wh||o sho was v|s|t|nq hor ro|at|vos |n V|ch|qan tho summor attor o|qhth qrado. 1hov'd dubbod |t tho|r |u||abv. 1hov'd
addod to tho sonq ovor tho voars, and sunq |t to and w|th oach othor ovor s|nco. Up unt|| n|nth qrado, anvwav. l||a romomborod ovorv s|nq|o word.
ºRosos oro roo. vlo|ots oro b|oo. oro voo o||orolc to í|owors. tooºº 3oau sanq now, up onstaqo. 1ho d|m ||qht trom abovo bouncod ott h|s chookbonos.
º¼bot lí l brooobt voo cooklos lostoooº Ooo solíí oí voor rosos ooo l coo|o bo oooo.º
l||a sm||od back at h|m. 3ut sho st||| d|dn't qot up to |o|n h|m at tho m|c.
lt was ono th|nq to approc|ato tho past. lt was somoth|nq o|so to ro||vo |t.
º1hat quv was |v|nq throuqh h|s tooth,º 3oau sa|d as ho oasod back |nto h|s |ord Escort a coup|o hours |ator. |o sott|od h|mso|t |n tho dr|vor's soat and
q|arod throuqh tho w|ndsh|o|d at tho b|uo-covora||od mochan|c, who had tho norvo to wavo at thom.
ºAbout what?º l||a askod qu|ot|v, suddon|v too||nq odd|v shv
|n 3oau's companv. lrobab|v bocauso sho was t|rod. lt had boon tho |onqost dav ot hor ||to.
º1ho car wasn't tbot |ackod up,º 3oau sa|d. º|o sa|d |t was dono hours aqo.º
º3ut l'm bott|nq ho took a|| tho monov anvwav.º l||a's dad had po|ntod out on manv occas|ons that mochan|cs woro a|| crooks--a|| tho moro roason sho
shou|d approc|ato not hav|nq a car.
ºl ta|kod h|m down, but |t was st||| s|x hundrod and t|ttv,º 3oau sa|d ruotu||v. ºVv bost-pav|nq q|q ovor, and l spont most ot tho monov on th|s damn car.º
Probob|v bls bost-rocolvoo olo. too. l||a thouqht as ho qu|dod tho Escort out ot tho qas stat|on park|nq |ot and back to tho w|nd|nq soas|do road. 1ho
quosts had crowdod around h|m at tho ond ot tho rocopt|on, and moro than ono had askod tor h|s phono numbor, c|a|m|nq thov had part|os thov wantod
h|m to p|av, a|| ovor tho stato ot Ca||torn|a. Ono woman c|a|mod sho wou|d t|v h|m to lowa. Coooor.
º|oro,º 3oau sa|d, snapp|nq l||a out ot hor thouqhts. 3ho had movod on to a happv tantasv whoro sho to|d a|| tho o|d womon oxact|v how ||tt|o chanco
thov had w|th 3oau. |o hatod ovorvbodv. |o corta|n|v wou|dn't qo tor tho o|dor|v!
|o tossod h|s |lhono at hor, and sho cauqht |t bv rot|ox. 3ho b||nkod down at |t.
ºChock to soo whon wo qot sorv|co,º ho sa|d. ºWo havo to
t|quro out how tar boh|nd tho tra|n wo aro. lt's qo|nq to suck |t thov mado |t to Canada or somoth|nq wh||o wo woro trv|nq to qot out ot 3|q 3ur.º
Oh, r|qht. Roo|ltv. l||a wasn't hanq|nq out w|th 3oau to hoar h|m s|nq or to romombor that t|mo back whon or to watch o|d |ad|os s|obbor a|| ovor h|m. Or
ovon to como to torms w|th h|s qood |ooks. 3ho was on a m|ss|on to rotr|ovo Coopor and savo horso|t trom a ||tot|mo qround|nq. 3ho scow|od down at tho
1on m|nutos out trom tho convon|onco storo, l||a squoa|od |n do||qht.
º3orv|co!º sho cr|od.
ºExco||ont,º 3oau sa|d w|th ro||ot. ºAnd about troak|nq t|mo.º
l||a |auqhod a ||tt|o as sho wont on||no and qu|ck|v |ookod up tho status ot tho tra|n on tho Amtrak wobs|to. 3ho drow |n a qu|ck broath.
ºlot mo quoss,º 3oau sa|d. ºlt turnod suporson|c and |s now |n vancouvor. 3ocauso whv not, attor ovorvth|nq o|so ton|qht?º
ºlo,º l||a sa|d, st||| not bo||ov|nq |t horso|t. 3ho wavod tho |lhono at h|m, as |t ho cou|d road |t wh||o nav|qat|nq tho dark, troachorous road. ºlt's boon
do|avod! lt's boon s|tt|nq on tho track outs|do 3an lu|s Ob|spo tor a coup|o ot hours a|roadv!º
ºlo wav,º 3oau sa|d, |auqh|nq. |o turnod toward l||a, a happv q||nt |n h|s ovos. ºYou moan wo'ro actua||v qott|nq somo qood |uck?º
º1horo's a schodu|od crow chanqo |n 3an 1oso,º l||a road ott tho Amtrak s|to as sho scro||od down turthor. ºWo can |ntorcopt thom thoro, |nstoad ot |n
ºlortoct,º ho sa|d |mmod|ato|v, and qr|nnod at hor.
3ho roturnod h|s sm||o and sott|od back |n hor soat. Vavbo |t wou|dn't bo tho worst th|nq |n tho wor|d to spond somo moro t|mo |n tho car w|th 3oau.
Chaptor 10
3Al 1O3E AV1lAK 31A1lOl
3Al 1O3E, CA
0ECEV3El 28
12:88 A.V.
Gr|ttv-ovod and |ackod up on wav too much roads|do cottoo--w|th a qonorous ho|p|nq ot 3woo1arts and Coo| lanch 0or|tos--l||a was moro than roadv
to co||ar Coopor and throw h|m |n tho back ot tho car whon 3oau pu||od |nto tho 3an 1oso tra|n stat|on.
º1ho tra|n |s st||| about sovon m|nutos out,º 3oau sa|d attor ho parkod tho car, q|anc|nq at h|s phono.
ºChock |t out.º l||a c||mbod out |nto tho ch|||v n|qht a|r, strotch|nq hor crampod ||mbs. ºWo can actua||v wo|k |nto tho stat|on and t|quro out wh|ch track tho
tra|n |s supposod to arr|vo on. lt's ||ko wo'ro on vacat|on or somoth|nq.º 3ho baro|v not|cod tho co|d, thanks to tho adrona||no pump|nq throuqh hor vo|ns.
3ho pu||od hor |oathor |ackot t|qhtor around hor and shovod hor hands |nto hor pockots. 1ho a|r smo||od ||ko qaso||no and somoth|nq
s|ck|v swoot and t|ora|--a tar crv trom tho c|oan soas|do a|r |n 3|q 3ur.
3oau qr|nnod across tho hood ot tho Escort and pu||od h|s huntor qroon swoatsh|rt up c|oso around h|s hoad. 1ho w|nd p|ckod up and soomod to b|ow
r|qht throuqh thom as thov stood thoro. lt had boon qott|nq stoad||v co|dor as thov travo|od north. lt a|most to|t tho wav l||a supposod 0ocombor sboo|o
ºlt's trooz|nq up horo,º 3oau sa|d, b|ow|nq on h|s hands. |o startod tor tho o|d tra|n stat|on's doors. As l||a to||owod, sho tound horso|t tocus|nq on tho
stranqost th|nqs: tho wav tho cutts ot 3oau's |oans woro travod and draqqod aqa|nst tho qround. 1ho wav ho |oanod s||qht|v aqa|nst tho co|d as ho wa|kod.
1ho wav h|s |oans huqqod h|s--3ho shook hor hoad a ||tt|o b|t and snuqq|od doopor |nto hor hot p|nk scart. 1ho catto|no and suqar had c|oar|v add|od hor
lns|do tho stat|on, tho ||qhts woro so br|qht thov woro a|most d|zzv|nq. l||a had to b||nk a tow t|mos to soo c|oar|v. 3ho trownod, |ook|nq up at tho board
and trv|nq to mako sonso ot a|| tho arr|va|s and doparturos.
º1h|s wav,º 3oau sa|d. |o mot|onod w|th h|s o|bow, h|s hands shovod |nto h|s pockots. l||a wa|kod bos|do h|m toward tho track, wondor|nq |d|v |t tho
poop|o who saw thom toqothor thouqht thov woro a coup|o.
As thov passod a q|ass w|ndow, sho |ookod at tho|r rot|oct|on. Wh||o 3oau's scrutt|noss was downp|avod bv h|s surpr|s|nq|v
n|co hood|o, hor own tradomarkod put-toqothor-noss had takon a sor|ous h|t. 3ho'd boon torcod to p||o tho ont|ro mass ot hor carotu||v b|own-out dark
ha|r on top ot hor hoad, us|nq an o|ast|c sho'd tound |n 3oau's q|ovo compartmont. 3ho choso not to wondor who tho o|ast|c m|qht havo bo|onqod to |n |ts
prov|ous ||to. 3ho |ookod bodraqq|od and crazv-ovod trom a|| tho cottoo and swoots. lt anvono olo th|nk sho and 3oau woro toqothor, thov wou|d no doubt
bo wondor|nq how such a hot moss had snaqqod such a soxv quv.
ºCrap,º 3oau muttorod.
ºCrap?º sho ochood.
ºl th|nk wo havo to havo t|ckots to board tho tra|n.º 3oau noddod toward tho ontranco to tho track, whoro a un|tormod omp|ovoo stood quard.
ºWhv can't wo |ust qot on, qrab thom, and qot ott?º l||a askod.
ºlt vou want to arquo w|th that quv, qo r|qht ahoad,º 3oau sa|d. l||a took a c|osor |ook at tho un|tormod quard. |o was rad|at|nq untr|ond||noss ovon trom
a d|stanco, ||ko 0w|qht on 7bo Oíílco. |o |ookod ||ko ho wou|d wo|como tho opportun|tv to ru|n somoono o|so's |r|dav n|qht. l||a s|qhod.
ºYoah,º 3oau sa|d. ºl'|| buv us t|ckots.º
ºYou'ro us|nq tho |ottovor monov trom 3|q 3ur, r|qht?º l||a askod, suddon|v atra|d that ho was us|nq h|s own monov. l||a was t|no w|th h|m us|nq tbot
monov, but sho d|dn't want h|m to
uso h|s own to tund a capor that had probab|v boon Coopor's |doa.
3oau shook h|s hoad at hor, h|s mouth curv|nq s||qht|v, ||ko ho had |ust trackod ovorv thouqht that crossod hor m|nd. º3tav r|qht horo,º ho sa|d qu|ot|v.
A tow m|nutos |ator ho was back, t|ckots |n hand. |o prosontod thom to Vr. 3ur|v at tho qato. l||a wa|kod boh|nd h|m, chock|nq hor watch. 1wo|vo th|rtv-
t|vo. 1ho tra|n was duo at 12:40.
º|ow shou|d wo do th|s?º l||a askod, poor|nq down tho track, hor stomach t|qhton|nq |n ant|c|pat|on as sho saw tho po|nt ot ||qht |n tho d|stanco that
hora|dod tho arr|va| ot tho |onq-ovorduo tra|n. º|ow do wo t|nd thom botoro tho tra|n |oavos aqa|n?º
ºl t|quro vou start at ono ond and l'|| start at tho othor,º 3oau sa|d. ºVoot |n tho m|dd|o whon wo'ro dono.º 1ho tra|n wh|st|o soundod, torc|nq h|m to ra|so
h|s vo|co as tho tra|n whooshod |nto tho stat|on and tho lA crack|od to ||to abovo thom. ºVako suro vou chock tho bathrooms!º |o took ott runn|nq,
chas|nq tho tront ot tho tra|n down tho track.
l||a movod |n tho oppos|to d|roct|on, hoadod tor tho |ast car. Onco tho tra|n stoppod, sho swunq aboard, not ovon wa|t|nq tor anv ot tho passonqors to
ºExcuso mo!º huttod ono attrontod |adv, but l||a had much b|qqor t|sh to trv. l|ko hor brothor, who sho'd happ||v trv tho socond sho qot hor hands on h|s
qr|mv qroon swoatsh|rt.
1ho tra|n was much |onqor than l||a had oxpoctod |t to bo--not that sho'd prov|ous|v q|von much thouqht to tho |onqth ot tra|ns, or tor that mattor tra|ns at
a||, un|oss |t was tor ono ot thoso bor|nq 3A1 math quost|ons. 3ho movod throuqh tho cars sw|tt|v, on a m|ss|on, scann|nq tho soats and |ook|nq |n oach
bathroom or pound|nq on tho |ockod door unt|| tho porson |ns|do anqr||v provod thov woron't Coopor. ln ono car, sho saw a t|ash ot qroon and mossv
brown ha|r pok|nq ovor a soat. Gotcbo. sho thouqht. 3ho throw horso|t at tho soat, on|v to t|nd horso|t taco-to-taco to w|th a start|od mothor and a ||tt|o q|r|
who dot|n|to|v wasn't Coopor.
ºUm, sorrv,º l||a mumb|od, and kopt mov|nq.
lt wasn't unt|| sho was a|most to tho m|dd|o ot tho tra|n that sho startod to pan|c.
¼boro ls boº
|or tho t|rst t|mo, hor own annovanco and anqor ovor hor to||od p|ans tadod awav, and l||a was controntod w|th tho tact that hor o|qht-voar-o|d brothor
was hours awav trom homo. And not whoro sho'd |maq|nod h|m to bo. |or hoart boqan to pound. |o was obnox|ous, suro, but ho was st||| hor brothor. |o
had tho stroot smarts ot a t|uttv bunnv. 3ho wantod to k||| h|m, but sho d|dn't actua||v want anvth|nq to boppoo to h|m.
º|o has to bo horo!º sho sa|d out |oud, dosporato|v, start||nq tho coup|o |n tho soats d|roct|v |n tront ot hor. 3ho torcod a sm||o and kopt qo|nq.
Abovo hor, tho |ntorcom crack|od, and tho conductor warnod that tho tra|n was propar|nq to |oavo tho stat|on. l||a pan|ckod. What |t somoth|nq roa||v
had happonod to Coopor? |or pan|c r|s|nq |n hor throat, sho movod ovon tastor, burst|nq throuqh tho doors |nto tho m|dd|o car--tho snack car.
ºA|| poop|o not travo||nq on th|s sorv|co, p|oaso ox|t tho tra|n |mmod|ato|v,º tho conductor dronod trom tho spoakors up abovo.
l||a |ookod around trant|ca||v at tho makosh|tt cato and |onq, omptv tab|os. 3ho q|ancod up to soo 3oau charq|nq |n throuqh tho doors at tho othor ond
ot tho car, h|s torohoad wr|nk|od |nto a t|orco trown, h|s hands omptv.
º|ow can th|s bo happon|nq?º l||a domandod, know|nq portoct|v wo|| ho d|dn't know anv bottor than sho d|d. º3oau--whoro aro thov?º
ºVavbo thov'ro ho|od up somowhoro,º ho sa|d, sound|nq dosporato. ºWo ran throuqh tho tra|n--mavbo wo d|dn't |ook as c|oso|v as wo cou|d havo.º
1horo was a |urch, and thon tho tra|n boqan to ro||.
ºGroat,º l||a sa|d |n dospa|r, tw|st|nq to |ook out tho w|ndow.
ºWo'|| |ook aqa|n,º 3oau sa|d qr|m|v. ºWo'||--º
|o stoppod ta|k|nq, and to||owod tho t|nqor sho po|ntod out tho w|ndows, to tho p|attorm bovond.
Coopor and 1v|or stood thoro, shou|dor to shou|dor, sport|nq |dont|ca| smuq qr|ns. 1ho two bovs wavod oxc|tod|v as tho tra|n p|ckod up spood. lt hurt|od
torward, tak|nq 3oau and l||a w|th |t, awav trom tho p|attorm.
And tarthor and tarthor awav trom tho|r brothors.
Chaptor 11
OAKlAl0 AV1lAK 31A1lOl
0ECEV3El 28
1:48 A.V.
||ttv-throo m|nutos |ator, tho|r tompors at a |ow vot cons|stont throb, l||a and 3oau c||mbod ott tho tra|n thov'd novor wantod to board |n tho t|rst p|aco
and tound thomso|vos |n Oak|and.
ln tho m|dd|o ot tho n|qht.
W|thout o|thor ot tho|r brothors, or 3oau's car.
l||a had spont tho tra|n r|do ca|||nq and toxt|nq Er|k trom 3oau's phono w|th zoro succoss. 3ho t|na||v qavo up and |ot 3oau trv to roach tho|r brothors.
3o much tor tho b|q qo-to-3tantord-and-abandon-3oau p|an. Or tor tho scrowvoor íloo| ooo oo cotcb mv brotbor ot tbo 5oo 1oso trolo stotloo ooo koop
blm lo o booo|ock add|t|on.
3oau |ookod up trom h|s phono, catch|nq l||a's qazo. ºWo'ro scrowod. 1hov st||| aron't p|ck|nq up.º
ºl soo vou'vo mastorod tho powor ot pos|t|vo th|nk|nq,º l||a
muttorod, ovon thouqh sho actua||v aqrood w|th h|m. 3ho pu||od tho o|ast|c out ot hor ha|r and attomptod to tamo hor |ocks |nto a noator ponvta||. 1hov
woro now an hour trom 3oau's car--and tho|r horr|b|o ||tt|o brothors. Assum|nq, ot courso, that Coopor and 1v|or had stavod put. |or a|| l||a know, thov
cou|d bo on tho|r wav to 1|mbuktu at th|s po|nt. 3v ratt.
ºAnd Er|k's a doad ond?º 3oau askod.
ºWhat's that supposod to moan?º sho domandod, a dotons|vo spark sk|ttor|nq up hor sp|no.
3oau b||nkod. ºl moan, ho d|dn't answor h|s phono whon vou ca||od, r|qht?º
||uoroscont ||qhts buzzod sott|v ovorhoad. 3omoono had scratchod tho |n|t|a|s KZ + 1V |nto ono ot tho stat|on's q|ass wa||s. l||a tuqqod on hor now
ponvta|| and scow|od at h|m. ºl|ko l to|d vou on tho tra|n, ho has a ma|or tako-homo t|na| duo tomorrow. 3o voah, |t'd bo awosomo |t ho cou|d como p|ck
us up, but tho truth |s, l'd bo shockod |t ho answorod h|s phono. |o's probab|v ho|od up |n tho ||brarv, work|nq h|s ass ott. |o's roa||v dotorm|nod to qot
qroat qrados th|s somostor, wh|ch takos a who|o |ot ot dod|cat|on and work--l moan, ho was obv|ous|v qo|nq to como to mv partv unt|| ho tound out about
th|s oxam....º
A man |n tho cornor w|th a qrav mustacho rust|od h|s copv ot tho Ook|ooo 7rlbooo. 3oau was star|nq at hor, h|s ovos b|uor than ovor |n tho canarv
vo||ow ||qht|nq. 1ho oxpross|on |n thom wasn't mock|nq or supor|or--|ust woarv.
Wh|ch tor somo roason mado hor too| ovon moro dotons|vo.
ºEvon |t ho has h|s phono w|th h|m at tho ||brarv,º l||a cont|nuod, know|nq sho was ramb||nq but unab|o to stop tho word vom|t, ºAnd ovon |t |t's turnod on
at th|s po|nt, whv wou|d ho answor? |o probab|v doosn't answor untam|||ar numbors, and obv|ous|v ho doosn't know vours. Whv wou|d ho? lt's not ||ko vou
and ho havo ovor ovon spokon a sontonco to oach othor, much |oss boon, ||ko, phono budd|os!º
3oau ho|d up a t|nqor to s||onco hor. ºl havo an |doa,º ho sa|d |n h|s carotu| tono, tho ono l||a had a|wavs hatod. |o handod hor h|s phono. ºYou stav
horo and koop trv|nq. l'm qo|nq to qo ovor thoroº--ho po|ntod across tho stat|on toward tho |ntormat|on booth--ºand soo about qott|nq a tra|n back to 3an
1oso, so wo can at |oast havo a car wh||o wo t|quro out our noxt movo. Okav?º
º||no, but l'm to|||nq vou, ho won't p|ck up,º l||a sa|d. Vustacho Van to|dod up tho papor and droppod |t |n a trash can, trown|nq at a straqq|or who was
passod out on a |onq wood bonch. º|o probab|v th|nks somobodv trom mv partv |s drunk-d|a||nq h|m.º
3ho onv|s|onod Er|k, hunchod ovor a tab|o |n tho ||brarv, surroundod bv towors ot dustv books. ln hor tantasv, ho was ovon woar|nq q|assos, |ook|nq
|ncrod|b|v scho|ar|v and cuto. |o wou|d q|anco at tho numbor that kopt t|ash|nq on h|s co|| phono
scroon, but ot courso ho was íor too busv to onqaqo |n a convorsat|on |n tho m|dd|o ot an oxam.
l||a |qnorod tho n|qq||nq vo|co |n tho back ot hor m|nd to|||nq that ho wasn't rospond|nq to hor toxts, o|thor. 3ut mavbo ho'd |ust t|n|shod h|s tako-homo
t|na| a ||tt|o oar|v and crashod. Whv stav up whon ho was t|n|shod? And whv |oavo tho r|nqor on whon ho was dosporato tor a qood n|qht's s|oop?
3ho oponod hor mouth to po|nt that out, but 3oau |ust shruqqod and startod tor tho booth. l||a q|arod at h|s rotroat|nq back and wrappod hor scart |n a
t|qhtor knot around hor nock, punch|nq |n Er|k's numbor onco aqa|n.
1ho phono ranq and ranq, unt|| Er|k's vo|co camo on tho ||no: lov. tbls ls Erlk. Loovo mo o mossooo ooo l'|| blt voo bock. l||a hunq up, too||nq ||ko
h|tt|nq somoth|nq horso|t. 3uro|v a tru|v portoct bovtr|ond wou|d bo ab|o to sonso, somohow, that sho was strandod a z||||on m||os trom homo, r|qht? 1hat
sho was hav|nq a s|b||nq omorqoncv ot tho worst k|nd. Evon |t ho was at tho ||brarv, or as|oop?
3ut Er|k's portoct-bovtr|ond sonsor was c|oar|v on tho tr|tz, bocauso ho ta||od to p|ck up tho noxt throo t|mos sho tr|od, ono r|qht attor tho othor--||ko tho
c||nqv, noodv, h|qh schoo| q|r|tr|ond sho had a|wavs pr|dod horso|t on novor bo|nq.
ºl to|d vou,º sho sa|d mattor-ot-tact|v whon 3oau wa|kod back to hor s|do and |ookod at hor oxpoctant|v. º|o's tak|nq an oxam.º
3oau rockod back a ||tt|o |n h|s Convorso snoakors and shruqqod. º1horo aro no moro tra|ns back to 3an 1oso ton|qht.º
ºCrap.º l||a rubbod at hor tomp|os. ºOkav, what do wo do?º
º1ho wav l soo |t, wo havo two opt|ons,º 3oau sa|d. |o stuttod h|s hands |n tho pockots ot h|s |oans and shook h|s shaqqv ha|r out ot h|s taco. ºlumbor
ono, wo s|oop horo, on tho t|oor.º
ºlass,º l||a sa|d |mmod|ato|v, wr|nk||nq hor noso at tho st|ckv ||no|oum t||os. 1hov woro covorod w|th susp|c|ous-|ook|nq brown sp|otchos.
ºl t|qurod as much.º |o stud|od hor taco tor a momont. ºOpt|on numbor two |s wo cab |t to 3tantord and t|nd Er|k. 3orrow|nq h|s car w||| bo tastor than
wa|t|nq unt|| tomorrow morn|nq tor tho noxt tra|n?º
º0ono.º l||a sa|d at onco. 3ho trownod at h|m. ºWa|t. Whv d|d vou prosont that ||ko |t was a bad opt|on?º
3oau hoavod a s|qh and noddod toward tho stat|on's doors. º0o vou want to t|nd a cab or stand horo ta|k|nq about how qroat vour m|ss|nq bovtr|ond
|um|nq, l||a brushod past h|m and hoadod tor tho doors. 3uddon|v, sho was dosporato to soo Er|k, to rom|nd horso|t what a qroat quv |ookod ||ko.
1ho cab roachod la|m 0r|vo, tho pa|m troo-||nod strotch that sorvod as tho ontranco to 3tantord, at oxact|v 2:12 a.m.
Evon thouqh sho was oxhaustod, l||a marvo|od at tho |ush ova| qroat |awn and tho qracotu| stono bu||d|nqs that stood sont|no| ovor |t.
3ho c||mbod out ot tho cab, |oav|nq 3oau to pav tho dr|vor, and took a momont to dr|nk |n hor droam campus. 3|nco sho was a ||tt|o k|d, tho word
co||ooo had ovokod |maqos ot 3tantord--tho rod-rootod bu||d|nqs, tho co|ortu| tacado ot Vomor|a| Church, tho ro|||nq tooth|||s that |oomod |n tho d|stanco.
1on|qht, studonts |n sma|| qroups wandorod across tho w|do |awns and wa|kwavs, hoad|nq to and trom part|os. 1ho|r |auqhtor and shouts cut throuqh tho
darknoss, mak|nq l||a's who|o bodv t|nq|o |n ant|c|pat|on. 3uddon|v, sho know that ovorvth|nq was qo|nq to bo okav.
º3o...whoro do wo |ook t|rst?º 3oau askod, com|nq up boh|nd hor. 1ho cab p|ckod up a pa|r ot drunk bovs drossod |n o|qht|os qoar and spod ott. ºAnv
|doa whoro ho'd bo?º
||s tono soundod tho oppos|to ot thr|||od, ||ko ot a|| tho m|shaps thov'd ondurod ton|qht, th|s was a part|cu|ar|v oxcruc|at|nq choro. |or h|m, |t probab|v
was. 3ho thouqht ot what ho'd sa|d back |n n|nth qrado, attor ho'd tound out l||a was dat|nq Er|k. l'm soro voo two wl|| bovo o |ot to to|k oboot. ho'd
snoorod. Llko Erlk. Erlk. ooo. ob voob. moro Erlk.
ºOt courso l know whoro ho'|| bo,º sho sa|d |ott||v, and qu|ck|v |od 3oau down tho path to tho Groon l|brarv. 1ho bu||d|nq soarod abovo tho quad, rod-
rootod and qracotu|, pract|ca||v dar|nq vou to como |ns|do and |oarn.
l||a oponod tho door to tho s|do ontranco Er|k had showod hor whon sho'd v|s|tod |n Octobor, thon wovo hor wav throuqh tho |abvr|nth ot booksho|vos
and studv carro|s. lt d|dn't tako |onq to t|nd Er|k's tavor|to studv spot, h|ddon awav |n a cornor ot a spoc|a| co||oct|ons room.
lt was omptv.
º1hat's wo|rd,º l||a sa|d, trown|nq at tho wood dosk.
ºVavbo ho's s|tt|nq somowhoro o|so,º 3oau suqqostod. º1h|s p|aco |s huqo.º |o turnod on h|s hoo| and startod down a d|ttoront a|s|o.
l||a tra||od attor 3oau, supposod|v soarch|nq tor Er|k, but hor hoart wasn't |n |t. |o had to|d l||a a m||||on t|mos that ho d|d a|| h|s work |n that nook, and
Er|k was a quv who ||kod h|s hab|ts. Voan|nq...|t ho wasn't |n h|s usua| spot, ho wasn't studv|nq.
ºVavbo ho's back |n h|s dorm room,º l||a sa|d, as much to horso|t as to 3oau, whon thov wa|kod back out ot tho ||brarv.
ºYoah, vou'ro probab|v r|qht.º 3oau noddod a|| too aqrooab|v.
l||a h|tchod hor purso h|qhor on hor shou|dor, not trust|nq tho casua|noss ot 3oau's words.
1hov wa|kod |n s||onco across tho ||brarv's |awn ovor to tho ma|n quad, whoro Er|k's a||-troshman ros|donco ha|| was |ocatod.
A bov |n a 3anta hat and boxors |ot thom |nto tho bu||d|nq.
l||a had to stop horso|t trom runn|nq up tho pourod concroto stops to Er|k's room on tho tourth t|oor.
Whon thov roachod 4C, l||a o|bowod 3oau out ot tho wav. ºlot mo do tho ta|k|nq.º 3ho poundod on h|s door tor a tu|| m|nuto, but thoro was no answor.
3oau cockod an ovobrow. º1rv tho door,º ho suqqostod.
ºAnd tota||v v|o|ato h|s pr|vacv?º l||a huttod, hands on h|ps. Coo| q|r|tr|onds d|d oot storm tho|r bovtr|onds' rooms |n tho m|dd|o ot tho n|qht. Wo||, un|oss
a mako-out soss|on was |nvo|vod.
3oau |ust tappod h|s watch, thon turnod tho mota| door hand|o.
1ho door swunq opon no|so|oss|v. 3oau |ounqod |n tho doorwav wh||o l||a wa|kod |ns|do and stood tor a momont, broath|nq |n tho ompt|noss. 1horo
was a ||qht on noxt to Er|k's bod, h|s |aptop c|osod up t|qht on h|s dosk. 1ho w|ndow was opon, and thoro was a dutto| baq on tho t|oor, but no c|uo as to
Er|k's whoroabouts. 3ho cou|d too| 3oau's ovos watch|nq hor.
|o wasn't |n tho ||brarv. |o wasn't |n h|s room.
l||a was torcod to contront tho poss|b|||tv that sho d|dn't know Er|k's ovorv |ast movo tho wav sho thouqht sho d|d. And sho cou|d to|| bv tho wav 3oau
was t|ar|nq h|s nostr||s that ho'd roachod tho samo conc|us|on. A rush ot |rrat|ona| anqor coursod throuqh hor vo|ns--at Er|k tor van|sh|nq |nto th|n a|r but,
ovon moro, at 3oau tor w|tnoss|nq |t.
ºWhat aro wo qo|nq to do?º sho askod, s|nk|nq down on tho bod as ca|m|v as poss|b|o. |or throat to|t t|qht, and hor |ott |oq was shak|nq tho wav |t
a|wavs d|d whon sho was on tho vorqo ot hvstor|a. ºl havo no |doa whoro ho |s.º
1ho stra|ns ot a Kanvo sonq t|oatod throuqh Er|k's w|ndow, to||owod bv a |oud crash and a h|qh-p|tchod q|qq|o.
º3ounds ||ko somoono |s hav|nq a sor|ous partv,º 3oau sa|d, |qnor|nq hor quost|on and--thanktu||v--hor q|assv ovos. |o crossod tho room and stuck h|s
hoad out tho w|ndow. ºl th|nk |t's |ust ono t|oor down.º
ºWo||, l'm q|ad somoono's hav|nq tun,º sho muttorod as tho now 11 h|t startod b|ar|nq. 3ho thouqht br|ot|v ot a|| hor tr|onds at Yoon's partv, tak|nq
p|cturos, p|av|nq 3o|rut, and probab|v |auqh|nq about how poor l||a qot qroundod bocauso ot hor |osor brothor.
ºComo on,º 3oau sa|d, stand|nq up and |ork|nq h|s ch|n toward tho door. |o was qr|nn|nq.
º|uh?º 3ho b||nkod up at h|m.
ºWoron't vou supposod to bo at a partv ton|qht?º ho askod. º3o what |t th|s ono |s throo hundrod and t|ttv m||os awav trom tho ono vou p|annod?º
l||a shook hor hoad but qot up. 3ho and 3oau to||owod tho no|so downsta|rs unt|| thov tound thomso|vos on tho odqo ot a
huqo partv sp||||nq out trom a sot ot rooms a|onq tho th|rd t|oor ha||wav. Evorvwhoro l||a |ookod, happv 3tantord studonts drank trom rod p|ast|c cups,
|auqhod w|th tho|r tr|onds, or dancod on. b|ond wood dosks.
latura||v, 3oau dovo r|qht |nto tho chaos.
l||a roachod out and qrabbod tho back ot h|s hood|o, wh|ch d|dn't oxact|v stop h|m |n h|s tracks. lnstoad, sho somohow tound horso|t mov|nq throuqh
tho thronqs to koop up w|th h|m.
ºWhat aro vou do|nq?º sho domandod.
º1h|s |s a partv, l||a.º |o q|ancod back at hor, sm|rk|nq a b|t. º3uro|v voo ot a|| poop|o know how to partv.º
ºvorv tunnv,º sho sa|d, hav|nq to |oan c|osor and ra|so hor vo|co ovor tho mus|c. ºWo aro not horo to partv. Wo aro horo to t|nd Er|k, qot h|s car, and
stop our moron|c brothors botoro thov actua||v mako |t to tho lorth lo|o!º
ºYos,º 3oau sa|d, turn|nq to taco hor. |or hand droppod awav trom h|s swoatsh|rt. 1ho sm|rk |ott h|s ||ps, h|s ovos suddon|v sor|ous as thov mot hors.
º3ut wo don't ovon know what tra|n thov'ro on at th|s po|ntº
º3oau, wo don't--º l||a boqan.
ºl||a.º 1ho wav ho sa|d hor namo mado hor qo qu|ot. Or mavbo |t was how tho ||qht bounc|nq ott tho haphazard|v strunq-up d|sco ba|| mado h|s ovos
soom odd|v hvpnot|c.
ºCoopor and 1v|or--º
--aro probab|v bo|nq tussod ovor bv somo swoot Amtrak
workor r|qht now,º 3oau sa|d. º1hov havo a phono. 1hov'|| ca|| |t thov nood us. And how tar can thov qot ton|qht?º
ºl don't know,º sho sa|d. A |ump |odqod |tso|t |n tho back ot hor throat. 3ho swa||owod hard. A qroup ot k|ds |n tho ha|| woro chant|nq, ºChuq, chuq,
º3roatho,º ho |nstructod. ºWo'vo had a vorv |onq, vorv strosstu| dav. Wo'vo boon h|tt|nq our hoads aqa|nst wa||s a|| n|qht. lot's ro|ax tor a tow m|nutos--
roqroup. Vavbo tak|nq a socond tor ourso|vos w||| ho|p.º
3ho |ot h|s words s|nk |n, and |ust ||ko that, tho |ump ovaporatod. Vavbo 3oau was r|qht. |ow much moro dotoat cou|d sho hand|o ton|qht anvwav?
Whv oot on|ov an ||||c|t 3tantord partv?
ºAtta q|r|º 3oau anq|od hor around a coup|o tar too busv craw||nq a|| ovor oach othor to movo as|do, and snaqqod thom two Cokos botoro t|nd|nq wa||
spaco to |oan aqa|nst.
ºlot oxact|v partv mator|a|,º l||a toasod h|m, wav|nq hor can ot Coko at h|m. A q|r| noxt to hor swavod on tour-|nch hoo|s. 1ho coup|o |n tho cornor
cont|nuod to qropo oach othor.
ºWo||, as much as l want to do a koq stand w|th a|| tho trat bovs,º 3oau rop||od w|th an oxaqqoratod s|qh, ºl do havo to dr|vo |ator, so--º
º3ummor.º 3ho |auqhod and crackod opon hor can. A|roadv sho cou|d too| tho tons|on |oav|nq hor bodv. ºl know how much vou |ovo koq standsº
ºlt's a sor|ous|v undorapproc|atod art torm,º 3oau doadpannod.
l||a took a |onq pu|| ot hor |ukowarm soda and watchod |n amazomont as a rod-tacod bov staqqorod down tho ha|| and tr|ppod ovor h|s own toot. |o
p|owod, taco-t|rst, |nto what was onco a cottoo tab|o, crump||nq |t bonoath h|s wo|qht as ho to||.
º3o th|s |s what vou wantod to do to vour paronts' houso?º 3oau |oanod back aqa|nst tho wa|| and sm||od s||qht|v, ||ko tho chaos pound|nq around thom
was a mov|o ho was watch|nq. l||a stud|od h|m tor a socond. |o |ookod out ot p|aco |n tho crowd ot propstors, but |t wasn't |ust h|s c|othos. 3oau stood
d|ttoront|v than tho othor quvs. Voro suro on h|s toot, somohow. And l||a had a too||nq |t wasn't |ust bocauso ho was sobor.
ºl|oaso,º l||a sa|d brooz||v. ºl wasn't throw|nq a írot partv!º
ºAh, vos. 3ocauso h|qh schoo| part|os aro wav moro rot|nod,º 3oau sa|d. 1oas|nq hor, sho roa||zod as ho qr|nnod down at hor. lot provok|nq. 1ust
ºVv part|os, bv dot|n|t|on, aro tho c|ass|ost h|qh schoo| part|os |n 3outhorn Ca||torn|a,º sho to|d h|m qrand|v. ºOr wou|d bo, |t l cou|d throw ono w|thout
Coopor ru|n|nq ovorvth|nqº
ºYou know, c|ossv and blob scboo| portv aro not torms vou otton t|nd |n tho samo sontonco.º
ºYou aro such a snob,º sho to|d h|m.
|o |ot out a bark ot |auqhtor. º|ow can vou ovon sav that w|th a stra|qht taco?º ho askod, qr|nn|nq at hor. º3or|ous|vº
l||a tr|od to trown, but hor ||ps curvod up |n a qr|n |nstoad. 3ho'd torqotton how wo|| thov d|d tho ||qht, tun bantor th|nq.
1ho room had qotton ovon moro crowdod, and now 3oau was stand|nq |ust |nchos trom l||a. ||s who|o bodv was anq|od toward hor, h|s arm brush|nq
aqa|nst hor shou|dor.
1ust thon, tho mako-out coup|o t|na||v broko apart tor somo a|r, and tho q|r| boqan danc|nq. ºl |ovo th|s sonq!º sho shr|okod, mov|nq hor h|ps to tho
dr|v|nq boat.
1ho q|r|'s mako-out partnor |ockod h|s arms around hor wa|st trom boh|nd. l||a saw tho sprav ot trock|os on h|s nock, t|rst--tho onos that a|most oxact|v
rop||catod tho 3|q 0|ppor. 1hon sho saw tho s|oppv, soxv sm||o ho d|roctod at tho q|r| who sh|mm|od |n tront ot h|m. ||na||v, sho saw tho wav ho cockod h|s
hoad so that h|s b|ond ha|r t|oppod a ||tt|o b|t to tho s|do, ||ko a ||tt|o bov's.
l||a's stomach droppod throuqh hor toot and smackod |nto tho t|oor. |or mouth to|| opon. 1|mo stoppod.
lt was Er|k.
Chaptor 12
31Al|Ol0 UllvEl3l1Y
lAlO Al1O, CA
0ECEV3El 28
2:81 A.V.
l||a staqqorod out ot tho hoavv dorm|torv doors. 3ho suckod |n a broath, thon anothor, but st||| to|t ||ko sho cou|dn't broatho. l|ko thoro was a q|ant hand
wrappod around hor r|bs, crush|nq hor. 3ho |ookod around w||d|v, unab|o to qot hor boar|nqs. 3ho cou|d hard|v bo||ovo what sho'd soon, ovon thouqh sho'd
soon |t w|th hor own ovos. Evos that sho wou|d q|ad|v r|p out ot hor hoad, |t |t moant sho cou|d oraso that v|s|on. |or bra|n kopt p|av|nq tho scono ovor and
ovor aqa|n--tho wav Er|k had k|ssod tho q|r|, how h|s hands had travo|od down hor bodv...
º3top |t!º sho h|ssod at horso|t. |or stomach ro||od, and hor broath camo tast and sha||ow. |oat pr|ck|od boh|nd hor ovos, and sho know that sho was
soconds awav trom burst|nq |nto toars, crump||nq to tho qround, and s|nk|nq |nto a qooov moss ot dospa|r
3oau dashod out ot tho dorm, tho door s|amm|nq |oud|v boh|nd h|m. lt was on|v thon that l||a roa||zod sho was mov|nq. lunn|nq, actua||v, putt|nq spaco
botwoon hor and that damn partv and tho s|ckon|nq roa||zat|on that Er|k wasn't tho quv sho'd thouqht ho was. 1hat sho d|dn't know h|m at a||--bocauso tho
Er|k sbo know novor wou|d havo had h|s tonquo down somo random q|r|'s throat at a partv ho was supposod to bo too busv to qo to |n tho t|rst p|aco. l||a
to|t a sob catch |n hor throat, and touqht |t back down. 3ho wou|d oot crv. Wou|d not broak. Wou|d not |ot hor quard down |n tront ot 3oau.
3ut sho d|d stop wa|k|nq. loan|nq aqa|nst a scratchv pa|m trunk, sho stoad|od hor broath|nq. 1ho dorm boh|nd thom was st||| pound|nq out tho mus|c. A
qroup ot co||oqo k|ds wa|kod bv, undoubtod|v t|psv, a|| ot thom |auqh|nq as tho quv |n tho m|dd|o to|d a storv that roqu|rod huqo hand qosturos.
ºl don't want to ta|k about |t,º l||a snappod at 3oau whon ho |oqqod to hor s|do. 3ho crossod hor arms t|qht|v ovor hor chost, ||ko |t wou|d ho|p hor koop
ovorvth|nq |ns|do.
º||no,º ho to|d hor.
3ut sho cou|d too| h|s roact|on, tho |udqmont v|brat|nq ott h|m ||ko an o|octr|c charqo, and sho hatod h|m tor |t. 3ho hatod Er|k tor do|nq th|s to hor, and
sho hatod horso|t tor bo|nq so stup|d, so qu|||b|o, so trostloo.
ºl'm sor|ous!º sho cr|od. A wavo ot hum|||at|on crashod ovor
hor. |or chooks burnod, but hor bodv to|t co|d and shakv. ºl|ko |t |sn't bad onouqh that mv bovtr|ond |s choat|nq on mo?º sho domandod, as |t 3oau
had sa|d somoth|nq |nstoad ot |ust qu|ot|v |udq|nq hor. ºlt has to bo |n tront ot vou, ot a|| poop|o?º |or vo|co crackod whon sho sa|d voo. 1orr|t|c.
ºWhat d|d vou oxpoct?º 3oau askod, |n a tono comp|oto|v dovo|d ot anvth|nq rosomb||nq svmpathv. ºEr|k |s a doucho.º
l||a's mouth to|| opon. ºExcuso mo?º
A norma| porson wou|d comtort a q|r| who had |ust w|tnossod hor bovtr|ond choat|nq on hor, no mattor how comp||catod h|s ro|at|onsh|p w|th tho q|r| and
tho bovtr|ond |n quost|on. A qont|o ooo't crv pat on tho back. A huq, ovon. 3ut 3oau was not norma|. |o was a sad|st. Whv ottor comtort whon ho cou|d
cr|t|c|zo |nstoad?
ºComo oo. l||a: 3oau sa|d, sound|nq a|most |mpat|ont. ºl'm not sav|nq anvth|nq vou don't a|roadv know. Aro vou roa||v that surpr|sod?º
|o pursod h|s ||ps, ||ko ho was phvs|ca||v rostra|n|nq h|mso|t trom sav|nq l to|o voo so. lnstant|v, sho was transportod back to that awtu| convorsat|on
outs|do tho catotor|a. 3ho cou|d soo h|s supor|or snoor, that d|sappo|ntod vot mock|nq q|oam |n h|s ovos. Cou|d too| hor stomach cramp at h|s contompt.
ºloa||v?º sho domandod. 1hov woro stand|nq |n tho m|dd|o ot tho crosswa|k, w|th dark qroon |awns a|| around thom. 3ho usod to droam about wa|k|nq
across thoso t|o|ds w|th Er|k.
ºRoo||v. 3oau? Wo catch mv bovtr|ond ot throo voars suck|nq taco w|th somo co||oqo s|ut at a trat partv and tho on|v th|nq vou can manaqo to sav |s
that ho's a ooocboºº
ºWhat o|so |s thoro to sav?º ho askod, push|nq h|s dark ha|r awav trom h|s b|uo ovos. ºlt's tho unavo|dab|o truth about Er|k |o||andor.º
l||a was so tur|ous hor oars woro r|nq|nq. ºWhat k|nd ot human bo|nq aro vou? Who sovs somoth|nq ||ko that?º
ºYou'ro vo|||nq at moºº 3oau rop||od, amazod. ºloa||tv chock, l||a. l'm not tho quv vou'ro mad at.º
1ho r|nq|nq |n hor oars qot ovon |oudor, and sho oponod hor mouth to toar |nto 3oau
3ut thon sho roa||zod tho r|nq|nq was not, |n tact, |n hor hoad. lt was |n hor pockot. 3omoono was ca|||nq 3oau's phono. l||a wasn't suro |t sho was
happv to bo |ntorruptod, but sho toro tho phono out ot hor pockot anvwav and b||nkod at tho damn th|nq unt|| |t mado sonso.
Ll|o. road tho d|sp|av.
ºCoopor!º l||a cr|od |nto tho phono. ºWhoro aro vou?º 3ho was annovod whon 3oau movod c|osor, push|nq h|s hoad noar hors so ho cou|d hoar too.
3ho wantod to h|t h|m, not cudd|o ovor a phono w|th h|m.
ºYou quvs |ookod so mad!º Coopor crowod. ºWo t|qurod whon tho tra|n qot do|avod that vou quvs m|qht catch up to us, but wo novor thouqht wo'd qot to
soo vou. |ow awosomo was that?º
ºYoah, awosomo l||a sa|d sarcast|ca||v. A un|vors|tv cop mado h|s wav down tho path, ov|nq l||a and 3oau susp|c|ous|v botoro mov|nq on. ºlt's tho
m|dd|o ot tho n|qht and vou'ro roam|nq around 3an 1oso bv vourso|t--vou, who havo n|qhtmaros attor watch|nq tota||v not scarv mov|os. loa||v awosomo,
ºWo'ro not |n 3an 1oso,º Coopor to|d hor, q|qq||nq. 1ho unm|stakab|o sound ot 1v|or's |auqhtor cou|d bo hoard |n tho backqround, oqq|nq h|m on. 3oau
|oanod |n ovon c|osor. l||a touqht tho urqo to o|bow h|m. |ard. ºl to|d vou, wo thouqht vou m|qht catch up w|th us. 3o whon wo saw vou qot on tho tra|n, wo
|umpod ott. And thon tho |ast tra|n ot tho n|qht camo throuqh ||ko ton m|nutos |ator! |a!º
º|a-ha,º l||a sa|d, m|sorab|v. ºl|oaso to|| mo vou'ro on tho |ast tra|n ot tho n|qht hoad|nq back to l.A.º
ºlopo.º Coopor |auqhod aqa|n. ºOh, and Vom ca||od.º l||a trozo.
ºWhat d|d sho sav?º l||a askod, trv|nq to sound ca|m. 3ho to|t 3oau sh|tt bos|do hor.
ºl to|d hor vou woro |n tho showor,º Coopor sa|d b||tho|v. º3ho sa|d thov woro hav|nq tun w|th Aunt lucv, and lhoon|x |s roa||v hot, and sho'd soo us
3undav n|qht.º
5oooov olobt. 1ho words ochood |n l||a's hoad ||ko a doath sontonco. ºGroat,º l||a sa|d, pross|nq hor troo hand aqa|nst hor torohoad and tho suddon
hoadacho that b|oomod thoro. ºAnd
what do vou th|nk sho's qo|nq to do whon sho qots homo and d|scovors vou'ro on vour wav to tho lorth lo|o, Coopor?º
ºOh, sho |ovos 3anta too,º Coopor sa|d happ||v, rom|nd|nq l||a that no mattor how annov|nq ho was, ho was st||| on|v o|qht voars o|d. And c|oar|v ||v|nq
|n a tantasv wor|d. A tantasv wor|d l||a cou|d shattor w|th tho s|mp|o truth about 3anta C|aus. 3ut somoth|nq ho|d hor back trom sav|nq |t. lorhaps |t was
tho v|s|on ot bo|nq qroundod tor tho noxt sovontoon voars.
º1o mo. Coopor!º sho cr|od, trustratod. ºWhat do vou th|nk sho's qo|nq to do to moºº
3ut Coopor on|v q|qq|od somo moro.
º3|oop t|qht!º 1v|or ca||od |n tho backqround, and thon tho ||no wont doad.
|or a momont l||a stood, tho phono st||| to hor oar, as |t m|d-convorsat|on w|th a roa||tv chock. |or partv had b|own up |n hor taco. |or m|ss|on to
rocovor Coopor had ta||od. |or ro|at|onsh|p w|th Er|k was noth|nq but a ||o. And ovorv t|ck ot hor watch brouqht hor c|osor to doom.
Wh|ch |ott hor w|th what, oxact|v?
ºUm, l||a.º 3oau snappod h|s t|nqors |n tront ot hor ovos. ºYou okav?º
ºOh, l'm qroat,º sho sa|d, q|ar|nq at 3oau tor a|| k|nds ot roasons, start|nq w|th tho tact that ho was r|qht thoro. º|an-tr|ck|nq-tast|c.º
3oau s|qhod, and tho sound |qn|tod somoth|nq |n l||a.
º1o|| vou what,º sho throw at h|m, so mad hor tooth snappod toqothor. ºYou stav r|qht horo and koop slobloo ||ko that. lt's so ho|ptu|. l'm qo|nq to tako a
cab to 3an 1oso and qot vour stup|d p|oco-ot-crap Escort. 1hon l'm qo|nq to koop dr|v|nq attor tho 3anta sta|kors.º
º||no,º 3oau sa|d, h|s b|uo ovos narrow. ºl can--º
ºA|ono!º l||a vo||od at h|m. ºl'm qo|nq o|ooo! |ow about vou |ust qo back homo and s|t |n vour basomont and bo as |udqv and nastv and anqrv at tho
who|o wor|d as vou want!º
3oau was star|nq at hor ||ko hor hoad had |ust oxp|odod. 3ho know sho was too |oud, and bordor|nq on hvstor|ca|.
ºWhoa,º ho sa|d, w|th |ntur|at|nq ca|mnoss, ho|d|nq h|s hands up |n surrondor.
1ho qosturo mado hor want to cur| |nto a ba||, watch roa||v dopross|nq mov|os ||ko 7ltoolc. and crv tor tho noxt throo wooks.
Wh|ch sho cou|dn't do ovon |t sho wantod to, bocauso sho had |oss than twontv-tour hours to t|nd Coopor and draq h|s boh|nd back to l.A. loss than
twontv-tour hours, |t sho was roa||st|c. |or paronts wou|d ||ko|v como homo botoro m|dn|qht on Chr|stmas Evo.
ºG|vo mo vour kovs,º sho snappod at 3oau.
ºYou can't bo sor|ous.º
3ho |ot out a |oud qroan ot trustrat|on. º3oau!º
|o roachod |nto h|s pockot, and pu||od out h|s kovs. ||s ovos
soarchod hor taco, ||ko thoro was somoth|nq ho was |ook|nq tor. l|ko thoro was somoth|nq obv|ous sho was m|ss|nq.
l||a snatchod tho kovs trom h|s hand. 1hon sho turnod awav and startod march|nq across tho campus. |or hoo|s drummod |nto tho qround as sho
wa|kod, tastor and tastor, ||ko sho cou|d somohow mako th|nqs bottor bv putt|nq d|stanco botwoon horso|t and tho |atost, worst prob|om.
3ut sho cou|dn't donv tho ompt|noss sho to|t whon sho |ookod boh|nd hor and saw that 3oau wasn't thoro, ||ko sho ha|t-oxpoctod h|m to bo. |o wasn't
to||ow|nq hor. |o d|dn't caro about hor.
|o was |ott|nq hor qo.
Chaptor 18
31Al|Ol0 UllvEl3l1Y
lAlO Al1O
0ECEV3El 28
2:4b A.V.
Ot courso, thoro woro no cabs. l||a d|dn't know what sho'd boon th|nk|nq. Whv wou|d tax|s cru|so a co||oqo campus? lt was hard onouqh to qot a tax| |n
los Anqo|os. As sho trudqod across tho campus, 3tantord soomod |oss |doa| w|th oach stop. 3|q stono bu||d|nqs |oanod toqothor ||ko wh|spor|nq tr|onds,
mock|nq hor |ono||noss. 0ark, omptv |awns m|rrorod what hor ||to had bocomo. And tho c|ock towor ovorhoad s|qna|od that w|th ovorv pass|nq socond,
Coopor was qott|nq tarthor awav--and w|th h|m anv hopo sho had ot roscu|nq what roma|nod ot hor ||to.
7lck tock. |t h|ssod. 7omorrowolobt ls oottloo c|osor ooo c|osor to ton|qht ovorv mlooto....
l|ko sho noodod tho rom|ndor.
1ust thon, a cab pu||od |nto v|ow and stoppod at tho curb |ust a tow vards ahoad ot l||a.
º1hank vou!º l||a murmurod, sond|nq a ||tt|o pravor ot thanks up to whatovor bonovo|ont sp|r|t was t|na||v |ook|nq out tor hor. Voro oí tbls. p|ooso! 3ho
ran toward tho cab wh||o two obv|ous|v drunk soror|tv q|r|s tr|od to c||mb out ot tho car, shr|ok|nq w|th |auqhtor.
A honk soundod trom boh|nd. |rown|nq, l||a tw|stod around, |ust as a tam|||ar b|ack Vax|ma s||d |nto v|ow. |or stomach tw|stod.
Erlk boo como íor borº
|ad ho soon hor at tho partv and roa||zod tho onorm|tv ot what ho'd dono? Was ho about to boq tor torq|vonoss? 3oq hor to tako h|m back?
And tho m||||on-do||ar quost|on: Wou|d sho?
As tho car pu||od to a stop, l||a poorod |ns|do, oxpoct|nq to soo Er|k's b|ond mop. 3ut tho dr|vor had |ot-b|ack ha|r and woro a hood|o.
º3oau?º Contus|on washod ovor hor.
ºGot |n,º ho sa|d, h|s qazo connoct|nq w|th hors.
ºl'|| qot |n, cut|o!º tho drunk q|r| on tho s|dowa|k ca||od. ºls ho cuto, Ash|ov? |o sounds cuto!º
º|o's cuto,º hor tr|ond rop||od. º3ut whv aro vou st||| |v|nq thoro?º sho askod tho q|r| co||apsod on tho s|dowa|k w|th hor c|utch bos|do hor.
l||a stoppod toward tho dr|vor's w|ndow ot Er|k's car.
ºlsn't th|s...?º 3ho dr|ttod c|osor. º1h|s ls Er|k's car, r|qht?º
3oau |ust |ookod at hor.
ºl saw h|s kovs whon wo |ookod |n h|s room oar||or,º 3oau sa|d, h|s ch|n st|ck|nq out a|most dot|ant|v.
º3o vou |ust...º 3ho qosturod word|oss|v at tho car.
ºl wont back and qrabbod thom,º ho sa|d. º|o dosorvos to |oso h|s car attor what ho d|d to vou.º
l||a to|t a warmth |n tho p|t ot hor stomach. ln a wav, ho was sav|nq ho'd sto|on Er|k's car tor hor. lt was tho swootost th|nq sho'd hoard a|| n|qht. 1ho |ronv
ot that mado hor want to |auqh, or mavbo crv.
3oau c|oar|v |ntorprotod hor s||onco as d|sapprova|, bocauso ho cont|nuod ta|k|nq, ||ko ho was |av|nq out h|s caso.
ºA|so, wo'vo a|roadv |ost t|mo,º ho sa|d. ºWo'|| |oso ovon moro t|mo |t wo havo to doub|o back to 3an 1oso to p|ck up mv car. 1ho tra|n |sn't qo|nq to
wa|t tor us.º
l||a sm||od. ºl ||ko tho wav vou th|nk,º sho sa|d and c||mbod |ns|do.
1horo was tho tam|||ar |oathor and p|no smo||. 1ho usua| tuzzv d|co hanq|nq trom tho roarv|ow m|rror, wh|ch Er|k had a|wavs c|a|mod woro a |oko. 1horo
was a stack ot C0s |n tho wo|| botwoon tho soats, probab|v c|ass|c rock ||ko 1ournov. lt was moro than a ||tt|o stranqo to bo |n Er|k's car w|thout Er|k--not to
mont|on wltb 3oau. 3ut thon l||a romomborod tho wav Er|k had |ammod h|s tonquo |n that q|r|'s mouth, and doc|dod |t wasn't so stranqo attor a||.
ºl don't know whv l'm surpr|sod,º sho sa|d as 3oau qu|dod tho Vax|ma toward tho campus ox|t. ºGrand thott auto k|nd ot qoos w|th tho who|o ant|soc|a|,
odqo-ot-soc|otv th|nq vou havo qo|nq on.º
|o shot hor a s||qht qr|n botoro roturn|nq h|s attont|on to tho road. 1hov woro tho on|v car on tho road, and a|| tho tratt|c ||qhts woro b||nk|nq vo||ow.
ºl |ovo that vou soo mo that wav,º ho sa|d. ºEspoc|a||v whon |t cou|dn't bo turthor trom tho truthº
ºAro vou c|a|m|nq vou'ro oot ant|soc|a|?º l||a shook hor hoad |n mock d|sbo||ot.
º1horo's a d|ttoronco botwoon bo|nq ant|soc|a| and |ust hav|nq othor stutt on mv m|nd,º ho po|ntod out. ºlt's poss|b|o to not caro about tho |atost lorth
va||ov ||qh scanda| w|thout |t bo|nq a statomont.º
ºlt vou sav so.º l||a |ookod down at hor |ap. ºAnvwav, thank vou tor stoa||nq a car tor mo.º
3oau |auqhod sott|v, hanq|nq a r|qht. ºlt wasn't |ust tor vou. l'm trv|nq to qot 1v|or back, too, vou know.º
º3uro,º l||a sa|d. Ot courso 3oau wantod to qot h|s ||tt|o brothor homo, sato and sound. º3ut vour mom |s so much coo|or than mv paronts. 3ho'|| torq|vo
1horo was s||onco tor a momont. 3oau qazod out tho w|ndsh|o|d |nto tho |nkv b|ack n|qht, to||ow|nq tho s|qns to tho h|qhwav. º1ho d|vorco has boon
roa||v hard on hor,º ho sa|d
attor a momont. º3ho's not oxact|v tho porson vou romombor. l th|nk |t sho t|nds out that 1v|or's ha|twav across tho countrv, sho'|| |oso |t.º
ºWhat do vou moan?º l||a askod, trown|nq. ºls sho okav?º
3oau shook h|s hoad, h|s hands c|onchod tho stoor|nq whoo|. l||a thouqht sho not|cod a smudqo ot rod on h|s r|qht hand, but doc|dod |t was |ust tho
q|ow ot tho brako ||qhts trom tho car |n tront ot thom. ºVv dad comp|oto|v ba||od,º ho sa|d mattor-ot-tact|v. ºlt turns out that a|| that crap ho usod to to|| mo
about how to bo a man and a 'rospons|b|o adu|t' was a ||o. Wo havon't soon h|m |n a|most two voars.º
ºOh, 3oau, l'm so sorrv...º l||a wh|sporod, stunnod.
ºl quoss |oav|nq mv mom tor somo modo|-s|ash-actross-s|ash-whatovor wasn't onouqh tor h|m,º 3oau cont|nuod. ||s vo|co d|dn't sound b|ttor, thouqh,
|ust ros|qnod. º|o hasn't pa|d a cont |n ch||d support, and mv mom doosn't havo onouqh monov to h|ro a |awvorº
l||a thouqht about tho t|mo Vr. |odqos had mado hor a bo|oqna sandw|ch attor sho'd ta||on ott tho monkov bars |n 3oau's backvard. |o'd q|von hor a
q|ow-|n-tho-dark 3and-A|d and ca||od hor scrapos batt|o scars. |or bra|n had troub|o roconc|||nq tbot Vr. |odqos w|th tho now absontoo ono. 3ho cou|dn't
|maq|no how 3oau p|ocod |t a|| toqothor.
º0|d ho movo tar awav?º sho askod.
3oau |auqhod, but |t was a ho||ow sound. º|o ||vos oxact|v
t|ttoon m||os awav |n 3horman Oaks. lt's not that ho's unroachab|o. |o |ust wants to protond ho's somo vounq quv w|th a hot trophv w|to and a tast car.
An ox-w|to and two k|ds wou|d k|nd ot ru|n a|| that.º
ºGod,º l||a sa|d. 3ho absont|v qrabbod tho tuzzv d|co ott tho m|rror and squoozod thom hard. º1hat's so d|squst|nq.º
ºVv mom |s a wrock,º 3oau sa|d s|mp|v as ho turnod onto tho ramp to tho h|qhwav. º3ho works a|| tho t|mo. 3ho's novor homo. 3ho tr|os to ho|d |t
toqothor tor 1v|or, bocauso ho's too vounq to know how touqh th|nqs aro. |o can baro|v doa| w|th tho tact that 0ad won't roturn h|s phono ca||s.º
º|o's |ust a k|d!º l||a cr|nqod at tho tam|||ar|tv ot hor words--|t was oxact|v what 3oau had sa|d whon sho'd throatonod Coopor w|th 3anta's dom|so. |or
chooks t|ushod w|th shamo.
ºl don't caro so much tor mo,º 3oau sa|d, shruqq|nq. º3ut |t k|||s 1v|or. |o th|nks |t's h|s tau|t. Wh|ch on|v makos mv mom worrv moro. 3o l'vo prottv much
takon ovor 1v|or dutv. lt's sor|ous|v tho |oast l can do, s|nco sho doosn't want mo to qot a |ob. 3ho th|nks l shou|d concontrato on schoo|, bo a k|d,
whatovor.º |o shook h|s hoad.
l||a squoozod tho d|co ovon hardor, not suro what to sav.
ºWo havo our svstom down,º 3oau sa|d, sound|nq br|qhtor. |o sw|tchod |anos, pass|nq a car qo|nq t|ttoon m||os undor tho ||m|t. ºl do tho who|o
broaktast th|nq, qot 1v|or to schoo|, p|ck h|m up, do a|| that attor-schoo| stutt. 3ho's work|nq two |obs
dur|nq tho wook, but st|||, |t was work|nq out okav--unt|| mv qrandmothor w|pod out on hor stops |ast wook and broko hor h|p.º
ºOh, no,º l||a murmurod.
º1hat's whoro mv mom |s r|qht now,º 3oau sa|d. |o strotchod h|s arm out a|onq tho car w|ndow and sm||od s||qht|v. º1h|s |s a|| a roa||v |onq-w|ndod wav
ot to|||nq vou whv l roa||v don't want tho po||co |nvo|vod |n th|s runawav-brothors th|nq o|thor. 3ho doosn't nood ono moro th|nq to worrv about.º
l||a's hoart panqod |n hor chost, and hor t|nqors |tchod to roach out and huq 3oau, to to|| h|m |t wou|d bo okav. 3ho |maq|nod h|m qott|nq broaktast
roadv |n tho morn|nq tor h|s mom and brothor, pack|nq 1v|or's |unch and mak|nq suro h|s shoos woro t|od and h|s socks matchod. lo wondor ho soomod
so much ca|mor, so much moro qrown-up. lt was what ho'd to|d hor back at h|s houso whon sho'd askod whon ho'd turnod |nto Vr. Vatur|tv--ho'd had no
ºOkav, so no po||co,º l||a sa|d. º|or now, at |oast. A|thouqh our brothors mav |oavo us no othor opt|on.º
A sm||o tw|tchod at tho cornor ot 3oau's mouth. º1v|or's prottv coo| tor a k|d. And l havo a snoak|nq susp|c|on that voor ||tt|o brothor m|qht qrow up to bo
a cr|m|na| mastorm|nd.º l||a |auqhod at tho |doa. º3ut l rotuso to bo||ovo that two o|qht-voar-o|ds who st||| bo||ovo |n 3anta can cons|stont|v outw|t tho both
ot us,º ho sa|d.
ºOh, voah?º l||a sa|d m||d|v, romombor|nq tho bovs' |mp|sh wavos trom tho 3an 1oso p|attorm.
º|or ono th|nq, wo havo an |lhono.º
l||a |auqhod.
ºAnd tor anothor, wo'ro actua||v work|nq toqothor now,º 3oau po|ntod out. l||a |ookod ovor at h|m. ||s ovos woro b|uo and br|qht. ºWh|ch moans wo
havo a shot.º
ºYoah,º sho aqrood, sm|||nq. ºl th|nk wo do.º
Chaptor 14
l-b lOl1|
OU13l0E O| 3EA11lE
0ECEV3El 28
4:02 l.V.
3ho was at hor tavor|to Va||bu boach, but |t was chanqod, somohow, so that tho wator ot tho spark||nq lac|t|c Ocoan was as warm as tho Ca||torn|a
sun ovorhoad. 3ho know that |t sho dovo |n, tho wator wou|d bo as wo|com|nq as a bath. 3ut sho wasn't noar tho wator--sho was |oan|nq back aqa|nst h|s
chost, happv and sato |n h|s arms. 3ho cou|d too| h|m boh|nd hor, h|s sk|n warm |n tho sun||qht, and warmor st||| aqa|nst hor own.
3ho s|qhod and sott|od back aqa|nst h|m. 3ho t|ppod hor hoad to tho s|do and to|t h|s mouth movo |n a boqu|||nq ||no down tho strotch ot hor nock. 3ho
d|dn't havo to soo h|m to soo h|m--thoso br|qht b|uo ovos, that |nkv b|ack ha|r, tho do||c|ous sm|rk ho a|wavs soomod to woar
¼olt o mlooto
l||a woko up w|th a start.
|or hoart hammorod aqa|nst hor chost, and sho |ookod around w||d|v, trv|nq to mako sonso ot tho tact that sho was |n a mov|nq car--not on a boach--
thouqh |t soomod a|most as br|qht. And much, much co|dor. Ou|ck|v, tho ovonts ot tho prov|ous dav camo back to hor. Coopor. 3anta C|aus. Erlk. 1ho
ond|oss road tr|p. 3oau.
3oau, who, |t sho c|osod hor ovos aqa|n, sho cou|d íoo| ho|d|nq hor ||ko ho had |n hor droam, h|s ||ps t|ck||nq hor sk|n, sond|nq sh|vors up and down hor
3ho turnod hor hoad to soo 3oau sm|||nq at hor trom boh|nd tho whoo|. 3amo br|qht b|uo ovos. 3amo |nkv b|ack ha|r. 3amo do||c|ous sm|rk.
º|ov,º ho sa|d.
ºUm. |ov.º 3ho to|t shv and s|||v. Loítovor oroom cooíosloo. sho to|d horso|t.
ºGood morn|nq,º ho sa|d. |o |auqhod. ºVoro ||ko qood attornoon.º
ºAttornoon?º l||a shook hor hoad and cou|dn't ho|p a vawn. 3ho roachod to covor hor mouth |ust |n t|mo. ºWhoro aro wo?º
º1ho |ast s|qn l saw sa|d wo woro on|v about twontv m||os outs|do 3oatt|o. Wo'ro mak|nq roa||v qood t|mo.º
º|ow |onq havo l boon as|oop?º l||a askod, b||nk|nq. A ||tt|o b|t ot rosoarch on 3oau's |lhono back at 3tantord had to|d thom tho |ast tra|n to |oavo 3an
1oso wou|d tako twontv hours to roach
3oatt|o, thanks to |ts var|ous stops a|onq tho wav north. 3ut |t wou|d on|v tako thom two|vo hours bv car. l||a had d|roctod 3oau to louto 101, hoadod
north, and takon tho whoo| |ust as soon as thov'd qotton throuqh 3an |ranc|sco. 1ho |ast th|nq sho romomborod was staqqor|nq |nto a bathroom |n
Ash|and, Oroqon, |n a comp|oto dazo. 3ho and 3oau must havo sw|tchod p|acos aqa|n attor that.
ºA wh||o,º 3oau sa|d. ºYou m|ssod lort|and.º
ºOh, bummor,º l||a sa|d. |o cockod an ovobrow quost|on|nq|v, and sho shruqqod. ºl a|wavs wantod to soo lort|and. What was |t ||ko?º
ºCo|d,º 3oau sa|d. ºl moan, |t |ookoo co|d. l d|dn't qot out and porsona||v |nvost|qato or anvth|nq.º
lt h|t l||a thon that 3oau had spont unto|d hours noxt to hor wh||o sho s|opt, and who know how qross sho was |n hor s|oop? 0|d sho snoro? 0roo|? Oh,
God--what |t sho'd droo|od a|| ovor horso|t? lot that 3oau wou|d caro. 3ho know ho wasn't that k|nd ot quv. Evon |t sho boo droo|od a|| ovor horso|t, ho'd
probab|v |ust th|nk |t was tunnv.
3ho sat up and t||ppod down tho passonqor m|rror. lood|oss to sav, attor an ont|ro n|qht and ha|t a dav coopod up |n tho car, sho d|d not |ook hor bost.
1horo woro |uqqaqo compartmonts bonoath hor woarv-|ook|nq brown ovos. |or 3oCa|-tannod sk|n |ookod pa|o and drv. And, oh God, hor ha|r. 3ho'd
mastorod tho art ot tho b|owout bocauso hor |onq, dark ha|r, |t not propor|v
tamod, oxp|odod |nto somoth|nq ono cou|d on|v ca|| wl|o oolmo|. What was star|nq back at hor trom tho m|rror was a soíorl ot w||d an|ma| ha|r.
l||a attomptod to m|n|m|zo tho damaqo. 3ho smoothod hor torr|tv|nq ha|r |nto somoth|nq moro ||ko w||d cur|s, and rummaqod around |n hor baq tor a
||tt|o b|t ot ||p q|oss.
ºl|oaso to|| mo vou havo qum,º 3oau sa|d. ºVv mouth tastos ||ko tho |ast truck stop.º
ºEw,º l||a sa|d, but sho tound hor pack ot Extra Vanqo 3mooth|o qum and handod |t to 3oau.
ºlow mv mouth tastos ||ko a troplco| truck stop,º ho sa|d a tow m|nutos |ator. l||a q|qq|od.
1ho dr|vo |nto 3oatt|o was prottv. 1ho w|ntor dav was co|d and sharp. 3oau had |ackod up tho hoat |ns|do tho car to componsato tor tho|r southorn
Ca||torn|a c|othos. 3ho starod out tho w|ndows as thov approachod tho c|tv. E|||ott 3av q|oamod |n tho attornoon ||qht, w|th tho snowcappod O|vmp|c
Vounta|ns r|s|nq |n tho d|stanco. 1ho 3paco lood|o pokod up ||ko somoth|nq trom 7bo 1otsoos. 1ho huqo rod cranos down on tho watortront qavo wav to
tho c|tv, and botoro l||a know |t 3oau was pu|||nq up |n tront ot tho 3oatt|o Amtrak stat|on. 1ho bu||d|nq was mado ot rod br|ck and boastod a qorqoous
towor that l||a thouqht |ookod out ot p|aco on a tra|n stat|on.
º0on't qo anvwhoro,º 3oau sa|d. |o put tho hazards on, and qr|nnod at l||a. ºl'|| bo r|qht back.º
l||a qaspod at tho s|ap ot co|d w|ntor a|r that rushod |nto tho car whon 3oau oponod h|s door. |o s|ammod tho door boh|nd h|m, but tho co|d roma|nod.
lt was sor|ous|v w|ntor |n 3oatt|o. Co|d that ovon hor dad wou|d acknow|odqo as truo w|ntor co|d. 1ho snow on tho qround was roa|, un||ko thoso taux-
w|ntor sconos that los Anqo|onos sot up on tho|r othorw|so qroon and hoa|thv |awns, bonoath tho|r pa|m troos. 3ho sh|vorod |nto hor |oathor |ackot, wh|ch
was not qo|nq to stand up wo|| to anv roa| k|nd ot ch|||.
A tow m|nutos |ator, 3oau |umpod back |nto tho car, rubb|nq h|s hands toqothor.
|o turnod tho hoat up h|qhor, tho a|r rush|nq at thom trom tho vonts. |o |ookod ovor at l||a, h|s b|uo ovos spark||nq and h|s chooks s||qht|v rod trom tho
outs|do a|r. º1ho|r tra|n |s on t|mo--wh|ch moans wo havo about s|x hours to sparo.º
º3|x hours?º l||a |auqhod. º3uro|v vou moan s|x soconds.º
ºlopo.º ||s mouth curvod |nto a sm||o. º3|x hours to k||| botoro tho ||tt|o monstors ro|| |n. Voro than onouqh t|mo to t|quro out how to murdor thom.º
ºl thouqht vou woro on tho|r s|do,º l||a rom|ndod h|m, ra|s|nq an ovobrow. ºA|| that stutt about how thov'ro |ust ||tt|o k|ds?º
º1hat was botoro l had to chaso thom up tho coast |nto tho lac|t|c lorthwost,º 3oau sa|d drv|v. ºlt's amaz|nq how a n|no-m||||on-hour dr|vo w||| chanqo
vour op|n|on on th|nqs.º
ºlt roa||v |s,º l||a sa|d, and thon to|t shv aqa|n whon tho|r
qazos mot and h|s ovos soomod so |mposs|b|v, broathtak|nq|v b|uo. 3omoth|nq warm b|oomod |ns|do ot hor and sproad. 3ho mado a taco to covor hor
ombarrassmont, and qosturod at 3oatt|o, sproad out |n tront ot thom ||ko a Chr|stmas card throuqh tho w|ndsh|o|d. º3o...,º sho sa|d awkward|v. ºWhat aro
wo qo|nq to do tor tho noxt s|x hours?º
Chaptor 15
3AlvA1lOl AlVY lE1All 31OlE
0ECEV3El 28
4:4b l.V.
ºl don't know,º l||a sa|d |n as sor|ous a vo|co as sho cou|d manaqo, koop|nq hor vo|co down so as not to r|sk anv moro d|rtv |ooks trom tho othor
shoppors. ºl th|nk |t's roa||v voo.º
3ut sho cou|dn't koop horso|t trom oxp|od|nq |nto q|qq|os at tho ond.
ºl|qht?º 3oau askod, qr|nn|nq. |o throw out h|s h|p and tossod h|s arms ovor h|s hoad ||ko a contostant on Projoct Roowov--o show l||a was pos|t|vo
ho had novor soon. Or had ho? At th|s po|nt, noth|nq wou|d surpr|so hor. 3oau t||ppod up tho hood ot tho parka. ºl'm not atra|d ot tash|on. l ombraco |t.º
1hov had doc|dod that thov woro wav too tar north to moss around w|th tho co|d |n tho|r southorn Ca||torn|a c|othos. 3oau had parkod tho car bv tho
Amtrak stat|on, and thov'd sh|vorod
tho|r wav to tho noarost 3a|vat|on Armv storo--wh|ch was, happ||v, not too tar a wa|k. 1hov had thon procoodod to trv on w|ntor c|othos.
3ut on|v tho most r|d|cu|ous w|ntor c|othos thov cou|d t|nd. l|ko tho down-stuttod sk| ovora||s that 3oau had t|rst tr|od on. Or tho t|anno| bodvsu|t that l||a
had worn tor a wh||o, unt|| tho smo|| ot m||dow ovorpoworod hor. Or tho br|qht purp|o and qroon, t|oor-|onqth parka 3oau was curront|v modo||nq, comp|oto
w|th tur-||nod hood.
ºl daro vou,º l||a sa|d, w|p|nq at hor ovos. ºl daro vou to wa|k around |n that.º
3oau took anothor thoatr|ca| turn. 1ho parka swunq out around h|m ||ko a capo. |o drow tho tur-||nod hood up around h|s taco ||ko an Esk|mo.
ºYou havo no |doa how warm th|s |s,º ho to|d hor. |o pottod tho th|ck down-t|||od mator|a|, ||ko ho was sor|ous|v cons|dor|nq buv|nq |t.
ºYou |ook ||ko a hoodod oqqp|ant,º l||a po|ntod out. 3oau ro||od h|s ovos and took ott tho coat.
º||no,º ho protondod to sn|tt. º3ut |ust bocauso vou havo no v|s|on, l don't soo whv l havo to suttor.º
l||a sn|ckorod and turnod awav trom h|m, toward a rack ot w|ntor coats. 3ho |ot hor t|nqors tra|| a|onq tho tops ot var|ous d|ttoront monstros|t|os. 1horo
was an assortmont ot p|a|d, uq|v br|qht co|ors, and tako tur. 1ho coats |ookod ||ko thov shou|d bo
worn bv vorv o|d poop|o. 1hov probab|v boo boon worn bv vorv o|d poop|o.
3ut thon sho saw |t. lt pract|ca||v o|oomoo |n |ts awtu|noss--a|| but domand|nq that sho stop and qawk. lt was nubbv and rova| b|uo, oxcopt tor tho parts
across tho chost whoro |t |ookod ||ko a 3hot|and ponv had d|od. 1o sav noth|nq ot tho m|||tarv opau|ots that swunq trom tho co||ar, or tho |oopard-pr|nt
tr|nqo that dancod trom tho s|oovos. lt was ha|t-capo, ha|t-coat, and boastod what |ookod ||ko a hanq|nq |aco tra|n |n tho back. 3m|||nq w|do|v, sho pu||od |t
ott tho rack, c|osod hor ovos as |t to qathor stronqth, and thon throw |t on.
º1a-da!º sho cr|od, |ump|nq out trom boh|nd tho rack and surpr|s|nq 3oau. ||s ovos w|donod and ho sot down tho uq|v p|a|d scart ho'd boon oxam|n|nq.
ºOh, wow,º ho sa|d. |o |oanod aqa|nst tho noarost rack and |nd|catod sho shou|d tw|r| tor h|m. l||a ob||qod, throw|nq a ||tt|o p|rouotto |n thoro at tho ond,
|ust tor tun.
ºYou ||ko?º sho askod, sashav|nq toward h|m ||ko sho was on a runwav.
º1hat...º 3oau shook h|s hoad, h|s ovos mov|nq trom 3hot|and ponv to opau|ots to capo. º1hat |s tho most tantast|c coat l havo ovor soon. lt comp|oto|v
b|ows tho hoodod oqqp|ant awav!º
l||a wa|kod down tho ovorstuttod a|s|o toward tho sad, |ops|dod sot ot m|rrors proppod up aqa|nst tho tar wa||. 3ho cauqht s|qht ot horso|t |n tho m|dd|o
ono, and was noar|v rondorod
broath|oss. 3oau wasn't k|dd|nq--tho coat was |nsano. And sbo |ookod |nsano woar|nq |t.
ºl th|nk th|s m|qht bo tho coat that ato 3oatt|o.º
ºYoah, ato |t and thon pukod |t back up, tboo mado a coat out ot |t,º 3oau sa|d.
l||a scrunchod up hor taco. º1hat's rovo|t|nq.º
ºAnd so |s vour coat,º 3oau sa|d, wa|k|nq up boh|nd hor. 3ho cou|d soo h|m |n tho m|rrors, and tor a momont sho to|t a|most trozon. 3ho watchod h|s
hands como to hor shou|dors, and smooth tho|r wav down hor arms. 3ho roa||zod sho was ho|d|nq hor broath, and |ot |t qo.
7bo coot. sho to|d horso|t, sound|nq broath|oss ovon |n hor own hoad. lo's jost omozoo bv tbls stoplo coot.
ºWho wou|d woar somoth|nq ||ko th|s?º l||a askod, sproad|nq hor arms out w|do, so tho var|ous hanq|nq parts had a chanco to wavo.
ºl th|nk tho bottor quost|on |s, who wou|d dos|qn somoth|nq ||ko th|s |n tho t|rst p|aco?º 3oau askod, |auqh|nq.
l||a shruqqod, and thon wont st||| as 3oau's t|nqors movod toward hor nock. 3ho cou|d too| tho rouqh odqos ot h|s t|nqort|ps aqa|nst hor smooth sk|n.
3ho to|t a hoat rush throuqh hor, and |t was d|tt|cu|t to broatho. |o roachod down and t||ppod out tho co||ar ot tho coat to |ook tor a taq. Evon throuqh tho
th|ck |avors ot tabr|c, |t was ||ko sho cou|d too| h|s touch a|| ovor hor bodv.
3ho |ookod up and mot 3oau's qazo |n tho m|rror. 3ho was
awaro ot hor hoartboat, ot h|s c|osonoss. ||s ovos borod |nto hors. l|ko thov cou|d soo throuqh hor, to that socrot, scarod part ot hor sho'd kopt h|ddon
awav tor voars. 3ho watchod hor own mouth ta|| opon s||qht|v and saw tho dazod |ook |n hor ovos.
3ut thon ho stoppod back, and whon sho turnod to |ook at h|m, ho was woar|nq that tam|||ar o|d sm|rk ot h|s, and h|s ovos woro quardod.
ºlt has a |abo|, l||a,º ho to|d hor. ºYou know what that moans.º
ºl havo no |doa what that moans,º sho to|d h|m, and thon bus|od horso|t w|th tak|nq tho h|doous coat ott and rop|ac|nq |t on |ts hanqor.
ºl||a, th|nk.º |o qr|nnod. ºlt moans thoro aro moro.º
1hov d|d not buv tho hoodod oqqp|ant coat, or ovon tho coat that ato 3oatt|o--thouqh 3oau mado l||a put |t on aqa|n and took a tow |lhono p|cturos ot
hor |n |t, tor proot.
ºlroot ot what?º sho askod, |auqh|nq.
º3omodav,º 3oau to|d hor, a|m|nq h|s phono at hor as sho posod ||ko v|ctor|a 3ockham, ono toot torward, pout on hor taco, ºvou'|| th|nk, 'Oh voah, thoro
was that roa||v uq|v coat |n tho 3a|vat|on Armv.' 3ut vou'|| to|| vourso|t that |t cou|dn't havo boon tbot uq|v. 1hat vou'ro ombo|||sh|nq |t |n vour momorv. Whon
that dav comosº--ho brand|shod h|s phono at hor--ºl w||| sond vou th|s p|cturo.º
3oau ondod up w|th a portoct|v unromarkab|o b|ack coat that a|most |ookod ||ko ho'd ownod |t a|| a|onq. A th|ck kn|t cap and a pa|r ot q|ovos, and ho
was roadv to qo. l||a choso comtort ovor couturo and wont w|th a dark brown qu||tod parka w|th a turrv hood. 3ho ovon tound a p|nk hat and q|ovos that
a|most matchod hor scart.
Outs|do, ||qht snow dustod tho s|dowa|ks, thouqh thoro was onouqh shovod to tho s|dos to |nd|cato a rocont, hoav|or storm. 3ut what l||a cou|dn't qot
ovor was that |t was snow|nq oow. t|akos danc|nq |n tho a|r as thov cascadod trom tho wh|to w|ntor skv.
ºlt's so prottv!º sho wh|sporod, charmod bv tho snowt|akos that sw|r|od around thom. 3ho cauqht a tow ot thom on hor tonquo.
ºlt's a |ot d|ttoront trom tho mar,º 3oau sa|d, sm|||nq at hor. l||a |auqhod, bocauso ho was r|qht. 3ack homo, sho and Car|v ||kod to tako at |oast ono tr|p
ovor tho h||| |nto Wost |o||vwood at th|s t|mo ot voar, to oxpor|onco tho Chr|stmas soason at tho Grovo, an outdoor shopp|nq ma||. lt sportod 3anta's
houso, ro|ndoor |n tho skv, Chr|stmas portormancos, and, ovorv hour or so, tako snow trom abovo. l||a had a|wavs |ovod |t. 3ut tho roa| th|nq was so much
1hov wa|kod a|onq a busv shopp|nq stroot, and sho d|dn't know what p|oasod hor moro--tho br|qht|v ||t shop w|ndows, a||vo w|th br|qht ||qhts and co|or,
or tho cr|spnoss ot tho a|r.
3ho |ovod tho wav tho snowt|akos stuck to hor coat, and tound horso|t q|qq||nq ||ko a ||tt|o k|d as an |doa camo to hor.
Wh||o 3oau poorod |nto tho w|ndows ot an art stud|o, l||a scoopod up somo ot tho snow w|th hor q|ovod hands and packod |t toqothor, |ust onouqh to
º|ov, 3oau?º 3ho wa|tod unt|| ho turnod around, thon |obbod tho |ooso snowba|| d|roct|v |nto h|s taco. ºVorrv Chr|stmas,º sho sa|d swoot|v.
3oau stood stock-st||| tor a momont and thon w|pod h|s chooks. |o mot hor qazo, and tho |ook |n h|s ovos mado l||a squoa| w|th do||qht and torror.
ºYou bottor run, l||a. 1h|s moans war.º
1hov dodqod |n and out ot storos and chasod oach othor down tho stroot, h|d|nq boh|nd a parkod car horo or a troo thoro.
ºGotcha!º 3oau cr|od, com|nq around a park bonch wav too tast and tack||nq l||a backward |nto a snowbank.
ºOomph!º l||a qruntod as hor back crunchod |nto tho snow. ºlt's not as sott as |t |ooks,º sho sa|d. 3ho narrowod hor ovos at 3oau as ho spraw|od on
top ot hor. ºAnd no|thor aro vou.º 3ho |unqod to tho s|do, scoopod up a handtu| ot snow, and tr|od to mash |t |nto h|s taco.
ºYoah, r|qht,º 3oau sa|d, |auqh|nq. |o swunq h|s |oq ovor and stradd|od hor, oas||v p|nn|nq hor arms down to tho qround w|th hor hands on o|thor s|do ot
hor hoad. l||a struqq|od to movo hor wr|sts out ot h|s contro|, but ho d|dn't budqo. 3ho stuck hor
tonquo out at h|m. ºWhat's vour p|an now?º ho tauntod hor.
l||a qazod up at h|m. 1ho c|tv soomod to tado awav around thom as sho qot |ost |n h|s b|uo ovos. |o |oanod c|osor, br|nq|nq h|s mouth c|oso to hors.
l||a's hoart stoppod boat|nq. 3oau movod c|osor. Was th|s roa||v happon|nq? |o qavo hor a crookod sm||o. l||a ho|d hor broath.
|rom tho cornor ot hor ovo, sho saw h|s hand como up. 1hon thoro was |co aqa|nst hor taco and snow |n hor mouth--and 3oau was whoop|nq w|th
ºl'm qo|nq to k||| vou,º sho vowod, scramb||nq to hor toot. |or sk|n was ch|||od throuqh and st|nq|nq s||qht|v. 3oau |auqhod |oudor and |umpod out ot
ranqo. 1hon ho took ott runn|nq.
l||a duckod hor hoad and charqod attor h|m.
º|a!º sho cr|od |n tr|umph a wh||o |ator, whon sho na||od h|m trom hor h|d|nq p|aco boh|nd a troo, trom a qood d|stanco. ºYou torqot--l usod to k|ck ass
|n l|tt|o loaquo!º
ºl d|dn't torqot,º 3oau sa|d, advanc|nq on hor. |o p|ckod hor up and hau|od hor ovor h|s shou|dor, protond|nq to hur| hor |nto oncom|nq tratt|c. 1hov
wrost|od tor a momont, and l||a had to prop horso|t up aqa|nst tho s|do ot a bu||d|nq onco sho wr|qq|od awav, |n ordor to catch hor broath. 3oau |oanod
down to pack a snowba|| and w|ncod. |o |ookod at h|s knuck|os, t|ox|nq thom. l||a |ookod too. ||s knuck|os woro raw and rod. A trosh cut |ott a stroak ot
b|ood on h|s snowba||.
º|ov,º sho sa|d, trown|nq. ºYou hurt vour hand!º
ºl'm t|no,º ho sa|d.
ºExcopt tor tho tact that vour hand |s b|ood|nq.º
3oau stra|qhtonod, pack|nq tho rod-stroakod snowba||. |o |ookod at hor as |t ho was cons|dor|nq somoth|nq.
ºWhat |s |t?º sho askod. 3uddon|v sho romomborod tho smudqo on h|s hand back at 3tantord. |ad h|s hand boon hurt a|| th|s t|mo? ºWhat happonod?
ºl d|dn't |ust tako Er|k's kovs trom h|s room,º 3oau sa|d, shruqq|nq, thouqh h|s ovos woro stoadv on l||a's.
3ho tr|od to mako sonso ot what sho was hoar|nq. º3o vou...what?º 3ho shook hor hoad.
ºl suqqostod that ono wav ho cou|d mako up tor tho tact ho was a|| ovor somo skank |n tront ot vou was to ho|p us out,º 3oau sa|d. |o sm|rkod a ||tt|o
b|t. ºlt turnod out ho was happv to ho|p.º
ºYou soooostoo th|s,º l||a sa|d, watch|nq 3oau carotu||v. 3ho q|ancod down at h|s hand. 1ho b|ood|nq had stoppod, but thoro was st||| a cut across tho
knuck|os and |t was dot|n|to|v swo||on. 3ho ra|sod hor brows. ºAnd how oxact|v d|d vou suqqost |t?º
3oau ra|sod h|s brows r|qht back. ºl punchod h|m.º
ºYou punchod Er|k.º
ºYup.º 3oau soundod dot|ant. Unashamod. º1hon l k|nd ot domandod h|s car kovs.º
l||a starod at h|m. |o stood thoro cha||onq|nq|v, |n h|s now
b|ack coat and hat, dar|nq hor to qot mad at h|m. 3ut sho wasn't mad. 3ho was...wo||, sho d|dn't know what sho was.
ºWo||, qood,º sho sa|d t|na||v. And thon sho sm||od. 3ho cou|d soo hor broath |n b|q putts |n tront ot hor. º|o dosorvod |t.º
ºYoah, ho d|d,º 3oau aqrood. 1ho |ook on h|s taco mado hor mouth qo drv. lt was sor|ous and swoot and protoct|vo, somohow, a|| at onco. 3ut sho
d|dn't havo t|mo to th|nk about |t, bocauso ho was pack|nq a trosh snowba|| botwoon h|s |onq t|nqors.
l||a ran.
As sho |auqhod and dodqod, sho know ono th|nq tor suro. 3oau wad|nq back |nto a 3tantord partv and punch|nq Er|k moant somoth|nq. 3oau wasn't
oxact|v tho anqrv, p|ck-a-t|qht tvpo. |o wou|dn't havo dono that |t ho d|dn't caro about hor.
1ho on|v quost|on was...how d|d sho too| about h|m?
Chaptor 10
lElK-O-lA1E CA|E
0ECEV3El 28
7:8b l.V.
1ho attornoon wont bv |n a sw|r| ot snow and Chr|stmas ||qhts, and soon n|qht to||. l||a roa||zod that sho was qott|nq co|d, dosp|to hor now w|ntor coat.
1hov'd boon runn|nq around outs|do a|| attornoon, p|av|nq ||ko domontod pupp|os |n tho snow.
ºl'm boq|nn|nq to undorstand tho appoa| ot soasons,º l||a sa|d as thov wa|kod down tho stroot, woav|nq tho|r wav botwoon |ast-m|nuto shoppors
carrv|nq co|ortu| packaqos. Evon tho tost|vo shop w|ndows, dockod out |n ho||dav sp|ondor, |ookod co|dor now that tho sun was down. 3ho hudd|od a ||tt|o
|nto hor coat. W|th tho dark camo a b|ttor w|nd that soomod to soop d|roct|v |nto hor bonos.
ºl don't know,º 3oau sa|d, h|s chooks rod trom tho |ast handtu| ot snow sho'd manaqod to smush |nto h|s taco. º3now |s coo|
and a|| tor, ||ko, a dav, but l ||ko tho tact that l can qo surt|nq |n 1anuarv.º
l||a trownod at h|m. ºYou don't surt.º 3ho tr|od to |maq|no 3oau |n a wot su|t, |ump|nq |nto tho back ot a |oop w|th Er|k and h|s surt|nq budd|os. 1ho
p|cturo d|dn't oxact|v como toqothor.
º|o||, no.º 3oau |auqhod, as |t ho was trv|nq out tho samo |maqo. º|avo vou ovor ta|kod to thoso dudos? l moan, not tho sharpost brobs |n tho too|shod.
3ut l coo|o. |t l wantod.º
|o dr|ttod to a stop outs|do ono ot tho manv |ndopondont cottoohousos thov'd passod dur|nq tho|r op|c snowba|| t|qht. 1h|s ono soomod br|qhtor than
tho storos around |t: lElK-O-lA1E, tho b|q rod s|qn ovor tho cottoo shop door road, w|th a draw|nq ot a cottoo muq w|th a t|ro ||t bonoath |t. 1ho b|q
w|ndow was stoamod up trom tho hoat |ns|do. l||a was suddon|v so|zod bv tho dos|ro tor a p|p|nq hot mocha |atto, w|th oxtra wh|ppod croam.
ºChock |t out,º 3oau sa|d, po|nt|nq at a hand-|ottorod s|qn |n tho tront w|ndow. ºOpon m|c n|qht.º
ºYou |ott vour qu|tar |n tho car,º l||a protostod.
3oau on|v sm||od and pushod opon tho door, wav|nq l||a |ndoors |n tront ot h|m.
3ho pausod tho momont sho crossod tho throsho|d, soak|nq |n tho rush ot cottoo-scontod hoat and backqround mus|c. 1ho wa||s woro pa|ntod br|qht
qo|d and b|uo, and ovorv sparo |nch was covorod w|th mov|o postors. 3ooths woro bu||t a|onq tho tar
wa||, and tho rost ot tho spaco was t|||od w|th comtv armcha|rs, upho|storod stoo|s, and squaro dark wood tab|os. 3oatt|o|tos |ounqod at tho tab|os,
b|ack swoators and r|ppod |oans m|xod w|th h|pp|o drossos and dvod-wh|to punk rock ha|r.
ºGrab us a tab|o, and l'|| qot vou a dr|nk,º 3oau sa|d.
l||a accoptod h|s ottor w|th a nod. 3ho thouqht back to |ast n|qht |n 3|q 3ur, whon sho'd boon starv|nq but hadn't wantod 3oau to buv hor so much as a
qas stat|on snack. God, had sho roa||v turnod down íoooº What was sho th|nk|nq?
3ho wovo hor wav throuqh tho tab|os, and tound a ||tt|o booth toward tho back. 3ho t|oppod down, happv to poo| ott hor hoavv outor |avors and ro|ax |n
tho warm atmosphoro ot tho cottoo shop. lt was a coo| spot. Cottoo shops |n l.A. woro t|||od w|th |orks w|th |aptops, trv|nq to bo ºscroonwr|torsº wh||o
hoqq|nq tho bost tab|os a|| dav |onq. 3ut lork-O-lato soomod to voor toward tho h|pstor crowd w|thout actua||v wa||ow|nq |n that scono. |or ovorv pa|r ot
sk|nnv |oans w|th a tac|a| p|orc|nq, thoro was somoono |n a lorth |aco |ackot and 1|mbor|ands. 1hov a|| |ookod ||ko coo| poop|o who m|qht spontanoous|v
qo on a h|ko. 1horo was a sma|| staqo sot up |n tront ot tho b|q w|ndow ovor|ook|nq tho stroot, and on |t stood a h|pp|o-ch|c q|r|, s|nq|nq somo k|nd ot
to|k/punk hvbr|d. |or b|uo-t|ntod ha|r swavod s||qht|v as sho p|avod hor qu|tar.
Booo ls mocb bottor. l||a notod.
3ho |umpod a ||tt|o b|t |n hor soat whon 3oau appoarod botoro
hor as |t summonod, sott|nq down two hoavv muqs p||od h|qh w|th wh|ppod croam. l||a to|t horso|t b|ush|nq, ||ko sho'd boon p|ctur|nq h|m nakod or
Wh|ch sho thon procoodod to do--and roo||v to|t hor chooks burst |nto t|amos.
|o oasod |nto tho booth. ºWhat's qo|nq on |n thoro?º ho askod m||d|v, h|s ovos |auqh|nq. l|ko ho a|roadv know.
l||a roachod tor tho muq c|osost to hor. ºYum,º sho sa|d, ombarrassod to hoar tho husk|noss |n hor own vo|co. ºA mocha |atto w|th a|most moro
wh|ppod croam than cottoo, l hopo.º 3uddon|v |t occurrod to hor that ho hadn't askod hor what sho wantod. 3ho ta|torod, hor qazo r|s|nq to h|s.
|o'd known. |o'd romomborod.
ºA|most,º 3oau sa|d. A sm||o p|avod around h|s mouth. º1horo's somo catto|no |n thoro, too. Wo st||| havo m||os to qo botoro wo s|oop.º
ºl |ovo that poom,º l||a sa|d |n a wh|spor.
3oau |oanod back |n h|s soat. ºl know.º
3ho had to |ook awav trom h|m thon, bocauso hor ovos to|t too hot and h|s saw too much. 3o sho p|ckod up a spoon and duq out a sor|ous chunk ot tho
wh|ppod croam. lt was tho qood stutt--homomado and th|ck and swoot. 3ho ||ckod up a mouthtu| ||ko |t was |co croam.
º1h|s m|qht bo tho bost th|nq l'vo ovor tastod,º sho sa|d |n a norma| vo|co, broak|nq tho spo|| botwoon thom.
3oau drank a ||tt|o b|t trom h|s own muq, but ho was pract|ca||v humm|nq w|th norvous onorqv. |o unz|ppod h|s coat and shruqqod out ot h|s hood|o. lt
to|t ||ko do|a vu to soo h|s rattv concort 1-sh|rt aqa|n. 3oau stand|nq |n h|s basomont, q|ar|nq at hor, to|t ||ko |t had happonod |n a d|ttoront ||tot|mo.
ºWant to qot up thoro?º ho askod, nodd|nq toward tho staqo as tho to|k/punk q|r| conc|udod hor sot and ovorvono around thom app|audod.
ºUp whoro?º l||a askod, protond|nq not to undorstand.
ºComo on.º |o qr|nnod at hor. ºWo'ro |n a d|ttoront stato, so l don't th|nk |t counts |t vou portorm w|th mo horo. lt won't attoct vour who|o tbo stoto oí
Co|líorolo wl|| ío|| loto tbo ocooo boíoro l sloo wltb voo ooolo mandato.º
ºOh, voah,º l||a sa|d, ombarrassod. 3ho stuck hor t|nqor |nto hor wh|ppod croam and pu||od out a b|q do||op. ºl d|d sav that, d|dn't l?º 3ho cou|dn't
bo||ovo ho romomborod |t, word tor word. 3ho ||ckod awav tho wh|ppod croam, tu|| ot c|nnamon and suqar and tho h|nt ot mocha bo|ow.
ºYo||od |t, actua||v. Voro than onco.º 3ut ho was sm|||nq. l||a shruqqod and b|ow on hor cottoo. 1ho ||qu|d was st||| burn|nq hot. And so woro hor chooks.
ºlmpross|vo momorv,º sho sa|d, doc|d|nq not to br|nq up what bo had sa|d: that |t sho wantod to hanq out w|th zomb|os ||ko Car|v |o||andor, sho cou|d
qo r|qht ahoad and do that. And
not to worrv about s|nq|nq w|th h|m, bocauso ho'd rathor novor s|nq aqa|n than s|nq w|th hor.
ºWo||,º 3oau sa|d qu|ot|v. ºAnv chanco vou'|| rocons|dor?º l||a shook hor hoad, |ook|nq awav trom h|m.
ºYou qo,º sho sa|d. ºlt vou want. l'm a roa||v qood aud|onco mombor.º
|o shruqqod, and sho had to b||nk a tow t|mos at hor mocha to c|oar tho suddon toq |n hor ovos. Whon sho |ookod up, 3oau had somohow ta|kod tho
prov|ous to|k/punk q|r| out ot hor qu|tar and was sott||nq onto tho staqo ||ko ho ownod |t.
l||a sat back |n hor cha|r and proparod to |oad tho choor|nq soct|on.
º||,º 3oau sa|d. ºl'm v|s|t|nq trom Ca||torn|a. 1houqht l'd p|av a tow sonqs.º |o strummod a chord, thon sm||od that k|||or, crowd-p|oas|nq sm||o ot h|s.
ºOh, voah,º ho sa|d. ºl'm 3oau.º
A tab|o ot q|r|s noar tho tront burst |nto app|auso. l||a shook hor hoad. 3ho shou|d havo known ho wou|dn't nood anv ho|p w|nn|nq ovor tho ont|ro cottoo
shop. 3oau ||vod and broathod tho staqo. And ho cou|d road a crowd bottor than anvono sho'd ovor mot. Wh|ch was no doubt whv ho took ono |ook at tho
h|pstor-but-not-too-h|p c||onto|o and boqan to p|av an acoust|c, mo||ow vors|on ot Gwon 3totan|'s º|o||aback G|r|.º 1ho crowd |ovod |t.
ºl a|n't no ho||aback q|r|,º 3oau sanq, |n h|s scratchv, sou|tu| vo|co. 1hroo quvs |n sk|nnv |oans |oapt up and startod choor|nq. 1hon thov sanq a|onq.
l||a |ookod on |n d|sbo||ot. 3o 3oau olo ||ston to pop mus|c! Enouqh to covor a Gwon 3totan| sonq, anvwav.
3ho d|dn't know |t sho wantod to h|t h|m or huq h|m. Vavbo both.
ºYou quvs aro qroat,º 3oau sa|d attor a tow sonqs. |o scrapod h|s th|ck dark ha|r back trom h|s taco, ca|||nq attont|on to how |mposs|b|v b|uo h|s ovos
woro. º3ut l too| ||ko somoth|nq's m|ss|nq.º |o tra||od ott and soarchod tho crowd. ºl nood a tront womanº
ºVo!º cr|od ono ot tho q|r|s |n tront, throw|nq hor hands |n tho a|r. 3ho |umpod up and down |n hor combat boots, hor qoth b|ack ha|r t|v|nq around hor
taco, hor purp|o t|qhts q|oam|nq.
ºl wou|d,º 3oau sa|d w|th h|s t||rt|ost qr|n, ºbut l havo a qood too||nq about that q|r| r|qht back thoro.º
|o po|ntod at l||a. 1ho ont|ro crowd sw|vo|od around to staro at hor. 3ho trozo m|d-s|p. Groat. 3ho probab|v had wh|ppod croam on hor noso.
º|or namo |s l||a,º 3oau to|d tho cottoo houso. ºAnd sho has a sonq sho wants to s|nq tor vou, but sho's shv.º
º0on't bo shv! 3o a warr|or woman!º cr|od tho to|k/punk ch|ck w|th b|uo-t|ntod ha|r.
l||a wantod to d|o. Actua||v, sho wantod to k||| 3oau, and tboo d|o.
ºLl-|o! Ll-|o! Ll-|o!º tho crowd chantod.
What o|so cou|d sho do but qot up and |o|n h|m on tho makosh|tt staqo?
ºYou'ro a doad man,º sho to|d 3oau whon sho qot thoro, tur|ous and ombarrassod a|| at onco. 3tar|nq out at a|| tho oaqor, wa|t|nq tacos, sho to|t hor
hoart start boat|nq doub|o-t|mo. ºl hato vou,º sho addod.
º1hat's codo tor 'l |ovo vou,º 3oau to|d tho aud|onco.
ºWhoo-hooooo!º thov choorod.
3otoro l||a cou|d rospond, ho startod p|av|nq tho opon|nq chords ot that o|d sonq ot tho|rs, tho ono that ho'd sunq |n 3|q 3ur. And |ust as sho had thon,
l||a to|t horso|t drawn back |n t|mo, back |nto tho sato cocoon ot thoso |r|dav n|qhts thov'd spont w|th tho|r qu|tars, spraw|od across 3oau's bod.
1hoso davs woro qono, but whon sho cauqht 3oau's ovo, nono ot that soomod to mattor. |o sm||od at hor. And sho sanq.
1ho words camo back to hor w|th oaso, but what shockod hor, attor voars ot novor do|nq moro than s|nq|nq |n tho showor, was how oasv |t was to s||p
back |nto s|nq|nq, ovon |n tront ot a crowd.
And how oasv |t was to s|nq w|th 3oau.
ºLot mo jost sov tbot olíts oro coo|. tbooob o||orolos moko mo íoo| o íoo|.º thov sanq toqothor. ºRosos oro roo ooo vlo|ots oro b|oo. ooo oolmo|s oro
bottor oíí lo tbo zoo.º
1hov oas||v p|ckod up tho|r tam|||ar harmonv, and l||a had to adm|t that sho |ovod |t. 3ho'd m|ssod tho |ov ot |t a||, tho wav hor vo|co and tho qu|tar and
3oau's vo|co a|| mo|dod toqothor and soundod so portoct, so ottort|oss. 3ho cou|dn't bo||ovo sho'd
torqotton how much sho'd |ovod |t. 3ho to|t happv and troo stra|qht down to hor toos.
ºVovbo tbls sprloo íovor wl|| poss. movbo l'm octloo |lko oo oss.º thov sanq to oach othor and to tho aud|onco. ºVovbo tbo í|o wl|| oo os lo. ooo
movbo voor boort's oot mloo to wlo.º
And whon tho sonq was dono, ovorvono |n tho cottoo houso |umpod to tho|r toot. l||a |auqhod |n do||qht and turnod toward 3oau.
3ut whatovor words sho'd boon about to sav d|od on hor tonquo tho socond sho saw h|s ovos. 1hov woro doop and b|uo and saw hor--a|| ot hor--trom
hor tuzzv sovonth-qrado ha|r to tho|r portoct harmonv, and ovorvth|nq |n botwoon. 1ho a|r around thom soomod th|ck and tho aud|onco tadod |nto noth|nq.
A|| l||a cou|d th|nk was how much sho wantod h|m to k|ss hor.
And thon ho d|d.
||s mouth to|t so tam|||ar--and so d|ttoront. Warm and swoot and w|th an undor|v|nq k|ck that mado hor who|o bodv shako. 3ho k|ssod h|m back, ||s mouth to|t so tam|||ar--and so d|ttoront. Warm and swoot and w|th an undor|v|nq k|ck that mado hor who|o bodv shako. 3ho k|ssod h|m back,
hood|oss and happv, ono hand cur||nq |nto h|s th|ck ha|r.
1ho aud|onco wont w||d.
ºEncoro!º thov shoutod.
Encoro, |ndood.
Chaptor 17
OU13l0E lElK-O-lA1E
0ECEV3El 28
0:80 l.V.
l||a cou|d too| tho co|d s|ap ot tho w|ntor w|nd tho momont thov stoppod back outs|do, |oav|nq tho warmth ot tho cottoo houso boh|nd thom. 1ho
d|ttoronco was, sho d|dn't caro anvmoro. 3ho to|t warmod trom tho |ns|do out. 3ho cou|dn't soom to |ook awav trom 3oau, and no|thor ot thom cou|d stop
sm|||nq. lt was ||ko thov woro ||qht|nq up tho 3oatt|o dusk w|th tho|r sm||os. 3oau k|ssod hor aqa|n, r|qht thoro on tho s|dowa|k.
|o took h|s t|mo, ||nqor|nq aqa|nst hor ||ps and ho|d|nq hor taco botwoon h|s hands. Whon ho pu||od back s||qht|v, ho sm||od ovon w|dor and thon k|ssod
hor aqa|n.
ºl |ust want to mako suro that wasn't, vou know, a tr|ck ot tho staqo ||qhts,º 3oau murmurod aqa|nst hor mouth.
º1horo woron't anv staqo ||qhts, vou |d|ot,º l||a rop||od attoct|onato|v, stand|nq on hor t|ptoos and k|ss|nq h|m as tho
snow sw|r|od around thom. 3ho to|t ||ko sho was |n ono ot thoso shako-up snow q|obos that hor mothor co||octod. l|ko thoro was a bubb|o around tho
two ot thom, and mavbo tho c|tv ot 3oatt|o had boon arranqod around thom |ust to onhanco tho portoct, Chr|stmassv momont.
3oau pu||od awav and s|unq an arm ovor l||a's shou|dors. lt was ||ko a puzz|o p|oco c||ck|nq |nto p|aco. lt was crazv how wo|| thov t|t toqothor--and l||a
romomborod, suddon|v, how wo|| thov a|wavs had.
º3ooms roa|,º 3oau draw|od. º3ut l m|qht havo to chock aqa|n...º
3ho stuck hor tonquo out at h|m and thon q|ancod at hor watch. |or stomach droppod to tho qround w|th a s|ckon|nq |urch, and sho stoppod doad.
ºWhat?º 3oau askod, h|s hand ||nqor|nq on hor nock.
ºOh mv God,º l||a manaqod to sav. 3ho wavod hor wr|st at 3oau ||ko a crazv porson. |o on|v starod back at hor, not comprohond|nq. º1ho trolo!º sho
pract|ca||v scroamod |n pan|c. ºlt's arr|v|nq |n ton m|nutos!º
3oau sworo, |oud|v and rudo|v onouqh to attract tho ottondod staros ot two noarbv |ad|os |n tako Uqqs. 3ut thon thov woro runn|nq aqa|n--s||pp|nq and
s||d|nq down tho w|ntrv 3oatt|o s|dowa|ks, woav|nq |n and out ot tho crowds ot podostr|ans qott|nq |n tho|r |ast-m|nuto Chr|stmas shopp|nq.
º|ow cou|d wo |ot th|s happon?º l||a shr|okod.
3oau d|dn't rospond unt|| thov camo to a sk|dd|nq ha|t at a tratt|c ||qht. |o bouncod up and down on h|s toot, |mpat|ont.
ºWo can't |ot thom qot past us horo,º ho sa|d |n a |ow vo|co. ºlt thov t|nd a wav to snoak across tho bordor...º
l||a's hands woro |n t|sts at hor s|dos, hor broath com|nq |n q|ant putts |n tho trozon a|r.
º1hov'|| bo |n Canada,º sho t|n|shod t|at|v. ºAnd wo don't havo passports.º
ºExact|v,º 3oau sa|d. ºWo'ro scrowodº
1ho tratt|c ||qht chanqod.
º3ottor run,º l||a sa|d.
3o thov d|d.
l||a was out ot broath, and ovon 3oau was broath|nq hard bv tho t|mo thov roachod tho Amtrak stat|on. 3oau throw opon tho doors, and l||a co|||dod
w|th h|s back as ho camo to a ha|t. 3oau muttorod somoth|nq and usod h|s arm to ushor l||a around tho p||o ot su|tcasos ho'd a|most tr|ppod ovor. lt
soomod ||ko tho ont|ro c|tv ot 3oatt|o was m||||nq around |n tho tra|n stat|on. lt was a|most Chr|stmas Evo 0av, attor a||. l||a sk|rtod tho odqo ot tho portor's
tro||ov, noar|v bru|s|nq hor sh|ns, on|v to narrow|v avo|d bo|nq knockod down bv a coup|o who rotusod to soparato tho|r c|aspod hands. 1hov wovo tho|r
wav throuqh tho crowd ot poop|o, t|qht|nq to qot |n tront ot tho b|q arr|va|s board.
l||a q||mpsod tho track numbor, noxt to tho br|qht d|q|ta| t|mo: 0:87. º1h|s wav!º sho shoutod, tak|nq ott. 1horo was no t|mo to th|nk about tho tact that,
accord|nq to tho board, tho tra|n was orrlvloo. 0|d that moan |n a tow m|nutos, or d|d that moan r|qht now? l||a pumpod hor arms and |oqs and tr|od to
mako hor t|rod bodv movo tastor than |t ovor had botoro. 3oau spr|ntod ahoad ot hor, vau|t|nq ovor anothor p||o ot |uqqaqo.
l||a qot hor answor momonts |ator as sho to||owod 3oau to tho r|qht track. 1hov sk|ddod to a stop at tho ond ot tho p|attorm and saw that tho tra|n was
st||| mov|nq, pu|||nq |nto tho stat|on at th|s vorv socond. 1ho moon||qht q|oamod on |ts sh|nv s||vor oxtor|or.
º1hank God.º l||a's who|o bodv s|qhod w|th ro||ot.
3oau vankod h|s hat down ovor h|s oars. ºWo don't havo thom vot.º
1ho qood nows was that tho tra|n ondod |ts run |n 3oatt|o, so ovorvbodv had to d|sombark. 1horo wou|d bo no qamos th|s t|mo, tho wav thoro had boon
|n 3an 1oso. 1ho bovs wou|d havo to transtor tra|ns |n ordor to qo north |nto Canada. Wh|ch, l||a know, d|dn't moan thoro wou|dn't bo otbor qamos. 3ho'd
bo an |d|ot to undorost|mato Coopor now.
l||a and 3oau movod down tho p|attorm as tho tra|n's doors oponod and tho passonqors boqan to pour out. 1hov travo|od |n packs, |uqq|nq su|tcasos
boh|nd thom, bott|onock|nq at tho tra|n
doors. 1horo woro so manv poop|o ox|t|nq trom so manv doors, |t was hard to |maq|no bo|nq ab|o to p|ck out |ust two. ºGroat,º 3oau muttorod.
º1ust |ook tor tho short poop|o.º l||a scannod tho crowd tor Coopor's brown cow||ckod hoad.
|or hoart sank. 1ho p|attorm was a zoo. 1horo woro so manv poop|o--tho passonqors trom tho tra|n and tho poop|o moot|nq thom. Who|o tam|||os
arr|v|nq and soarch|nq tor tho|r |ovod onos--bocauso, duh, |t was Chr|stmas.
3oau dovo to tho |ott and camo w|th|n |nchos ot attompt|nq to k|dnap a ||tt|o k|d who was dot|n|to|v oot h|s brothor.
º3orrv,º ho murmurod as tho ||tt|o bov's mothor q|arod at h|m and hust|od hor ch||d awav.
ºOops,º ho wh|sporod to l||a. 3ho w|ncod |n svmpathv but cou|dn't mustor tho onorqv to toaso h|m.
º0|d wo m|ss thom?º 3ho scannod tho now-th|nn|nq ||nos ot passonqors ox|t|nq tho tra|n doors. Woro thov h|d|nq somowhoro onboard? Cou|d thov
havo dono somoth|nq roo||v crazv, ||ko |ump ott tho tra|n botoro |t h|t tho stat|on? l||a's stomach tw|stod as sho troatod horso|t to an |maqo ot Coopor
|oap|nq trom a mov|nq tra|n, h|tt|nq tho trozon qround...
No. sho to|d horso|t. ¼o wl|| íloo blm. 7bot's lt. Notbloo o|so ls posslb|o.
1horo woro so manv poop|o, and wav too manv k|ds. lo ono soomod to not|co that thov woro |ost||nq and shov|nq l||a.
3ho tr|od to |qnoro tho scroam|nq roun|ons, tho |mpromptu Chr|stmas caro|s, tho no|so, and tho crush. 1oo manv bu|kv coats and shopp|nq baqs. 1oo
much no|so--|oudor than anv tootba|| ra||v l||a had ovor attondod. 3omoono ro||od a su|tcaso ovor hor toot, and sho baro|v sparod a momont to soo |t |t
l||a's pan|c sproad throuqh hor stomach and took up ros|donco as a |ump |n hor throat. 1ho bovs cou|d bo r|qht |n tront ot hor and sho wou|dn't
nocossar||v soo thom.
|or ovos snaqqod, suddon|v, on a patch ot qroon |n tho crowd.
3ho qrabbod 3oau's arm. º3oau. look. 3v tho bonch.º
|o |ookod. l||a cou|dn't movo tor a |onq momont, too busv tak|nq |n tho s|qht ot Coopor. ||s ovos woro w|do and worr|od, and ho |ookod a ||tt|o worso
tor woar--thouqh ho'd probab|v qotton a much bottor n|qht's s|oop than l||a had. |o and 1v|or hudd|od toqothor bv tho bonch. Coopor was ho|d|nq on to h|s
backpack ||ko |t was a toddv boar, chow|nq on h|s |owor ||p norvous|v.
Gooo. l||a thouqht, hor ovos narrow|nq. lo shou|d bo oorvoos.
ºComo on,º 3oau sa|d, h|s vo|co qravo||v and command|nq. |o soundod ||ko a qrown-up. A p|ssod-ott qrown-up, who had abso|uto|v no doubts about
tho outcomo ot th|s sconar|o.
l||a wasn't so suro. What |t Coopor bo|tod? What |t ho c|a|mod l||a and 3oau woro abduct|nq h|m? 3ho wou|dn't put anvth|nq past h|m at th|s po|nt.
l||a to||owod 3oau as ho cut throuqh tho crowd, |oop|nq around boh|nd tho bonch whoro tho|r brothors sat toqothor, |ook|nq sma||or and moro pathot|c
tho moro thov stood thoro, a|most swa||owod up bv tho chaos ot tho ho||dav crowd. Obv|ous|v worr|od that tho bovs m|qht run, 3oau |nd|catod w|th hand
qosturos that l||a shou|d qo around ono ond ot tho bonch wh||o ho took tho othor. Koop|nq tho|r ovos on oach othor, thov c|rc|od tho bovs, unt|| thov had
thom cornorod.
ºOh,º Coopor sa|d whon ho saw thom.
ºOh?º l||a ochood, a|| tho tons|on and pan|c |oak|nq out ot hor bodv. º1hat's a|| vou havo to sav?º
3ut sho wasn't as mad as sho oxpoctod to bo. ln tact, |ook|nq at h|s trock|os and h|s ||tt|o taco w|th a choco|ato smudqo on ono chook and h|s ha|r
stand|nq on ond, sho had tho comp|oto|v unoxpoctod urqo to huq h|m. lt was a|most as stronq as hor urqo to choko h|m w|th hor baro hands. |o was
maddon|nq, but ho was hor brothor, and sho cou|dn't donv that sho was q|ad to t|nd h|m a|| |n ono p|oco.
lot that sho p|annod to to|| h|m that.
ºl havo to roscuo 3anta!º Coopor cr|od, h|s ovos w|do and sor|ous. ºlt's an omorqoncv!º
º3anta can tako caro ot h|mso|t,º 3oau |ntor|octod, t||ck|nq a |ook at l||a. |o had ono hand on 1v|or's shou|dor, and l||a cou|dn't to|| |t ho was do|nq
somo k|nd ot quv a|most-huq th|nq, or |t ho was mak|nq suro h|s brothor d|dn't tako ott. Aqa|n.
º|o's boon around how |onq now?º l||a askod, to||ow|nq 3oau's |oad as ho startod to wa|k throuqh tho crowd, propo|||nq 1v|or botoro h|m. Coopor |ot
h|s snoakors scutt aqa|nst tho concroto t|oor a ||tt|o moro than was nocossarv, but ho to||owod too. l||a stavod |ust s||qht|v boh|nd h|m--proparod to tack|o
h|m to tho qround |t ho so much as tbooobt about runn|nq tor |t.
º1ho |co caps!º 1v|or cr|od. ºWhat about tho |co caps!º
3oau throw an oxasporatod |ook at l||a ovor h|s shou|dor. ||s moan|nq was c|oar: 7bls ls voor moss. C|ooo lt op.
3ho ro||od hor ovos but noddod.
ºGuvs,º sho sa|d, as thov stoppod out onto tho stroot |n tront ot tho stat|on. 1ho co|d 3oatt|o tw|||qht surroundod thom. ºAro wo ta|k|nq about 3anta
C|aus horo, or what?º
º3o?º Coopor domandod.
º0oos ho or doos ho not possoss í|vloo roloooorºº l||a askod |n hor bost oro voo oombor tboo Porls ll|tooº vo|co. ºAnd doos ho or doos ho not
havo an ont|ro workshop ot o|vos?º
1v|or |ookod hopotu| boh|nd h|s rap|d|v toqq|nq |arrv lottor q|assos. 3ut Coopor |ust scow|od.
º3o what?º Coopor askod. ºWhat doos that havo to do w|th q|oba| warm|nq?º
ºl th|nk 3anta can hand|o h|mso|t,º l||a sa|d w|th a sn|tt. º|o manaqos to mako Chr|stmas happon ovorv voar. |o t||os around tho wor|d and do||vors
prosonts to b||||ons ot housos. l|us ho
knows who's boon nauqhtv or n|co. What's a ||tt|o warm woathor comparod to that?º
1hov arr|vod at Er|k's car. Coopor and 1v|or starod at |t |n contus|on.
ºVv s|stor's bovtr|ond's car,º Coopor sa|d attor a momont, ro|||nq h|s ovos at 1v|or, ||ko that was a punch ||no. 1v|or s|qhod |n comm|sorat|on.
l||a wondorod |t 3oau br|st|od at tho word bovírlooo. but sho d|dn't daro |ook.
º1ust qot |n,º sho ordorod thom.
3oau turnod to |ook at hor as thov ushorod tho bovs |nto tho backsoat, h|s mouth qu|rk|nq up |n tho cornor ||ko ho was t|qht|nq a sm||o.
ºl |ovo that snottv vo|co ot vours,º ho to|d hor. ºEspoc|a||v whon vou uso |t tor qood |nstoad ot ov||.º
l||a wantod to c||mb |nto h|s arms aqa|n, but Coopor and 1v|or woro |n tho backsoat. Voro |mportant|v, thov had ont|ro statos--and about o|qhtoon
hours--to dr|vo throuqh |t thov wantod to boat hor paronts homo bv tomorrow n|qht. 3o sho on|v sm||od and c||mbod |nto tho passonqor soat. 1hon,
romombor|nq Coopor's oscapados, sho c||ckod tho ch||d satotv |ock.
ºYou d|dn't havo to do that,º Coopor sa|d su|k||v.
ºYou'ro |uckv vou'ro not bound and qaqqod |n tho trunk,º l||a to|d h|m w|thout turn|nq around. 3oau startod tho car.
º||no,º Coopor sa|d. º3ut l want Vc0ona|d's.º
ºWo||, l want vou |n tho trunk,º l||a sa|d, cran|nq hor hoad around to q|aro at h|m as 3oau pu||od out |nto tratt|c and startod tho |onq dr|vo toward homo.
Coopor's mouth tw|tchod, ||ko ho cou|dn't doc|do whothor to |auqh or pout.
ºlt vou ooo't put mo |n tho trunk,º ho sa|d, ºl'|| q|vo vou vour phono back.º
l||a roa||zod as soon as ho sa|d |t that sho'd comp|oto|v torqotton about |t. |ow wo|rd was that? Whon hor dad had so otton throatonod to surq|ca||v
romovo |t trom hor oar?
Evorvth|nq that sho'd torqotton about wh||o sho'd boon so cauqht up w|th 3oau rushod back to hor thon: hor partv that had boon h||ackod and no doubt
thrown boaut|tu||v--|t tra|torous|v--bv Yoon. Er|k's botrava|. |or ont|ro ||to at lorth va||ov ||qh, that sho'd stoppod th|nk|nq about somowhoro around Oroqon
tho n|qht botoro. Evon now, romombor|nq ovorvth|nq that had soomod so cr|t|ca| to hor, sho to|t an odd d|stanco trom |t a||.
3ho wasn't suro |t sho wantod tho phono back. lt was ||ko sho was atra|d to roconnoct w|th |t, w|th who sho was whon sho had |t.
3ut that was crazv. 3ho cou|d hand|o a co|| phono. 3ho starod hor brothor down, oxtondod hor hand, and wa|tod.
º||no.º Coopor s|qhod dramat|ca||v and s|appod tho phono |nto hor hand. º3ut |t vou put mo |n tho trunk, l'm to|||nq.º
ºGo ahoad,º l||a suqqostod. º1o||. 3o suro to oxp|a|n how vou happonod to bo |n 3oatt|o |n tho t|rst p|aco.º
ºYou'|| qot |n troub|o!º Coopor warnod hor.
º3uro.º l||a sa|d. |or ovobrows roso. º3ut so w||| vou.º Whon sho tacod torward aqa|n, 3oau was qr|nn|nq. ºWhat?º sho wh|sporod.
ºl to|d vou,º ho sa|d. |o |ookod at hor qu|ck|v, thon back at tho snow-covorod road. ºlt's that vo|co.º
l||a sott|od back |n hor soat and tr|od to qot comtortab|o tor tho |onq dr|vo ahoad ot thom. 3ho t|dd|od w|th hor phono tor a momont but wa|tod unt||
3oau was pu|||nq onto tho troowav to chock hor mossaqos. 3ho b||nkod as sho starod at tho scroon. 1horo had to bo ||ko a m||||on toxts and who know
how manv vo|co ma||s. A|| ot thom trom Er|k.
3ho oponod tho t|rst toxt, attor chock|nq to mako suro 3oau was st||| scow||nq at tho road. lt was datod tho n|qht botoro, r|qht about tho t|mo 3oau had
p|ckod hor up |n Er|k's car.
l 3UCK. 3O 3OllY. CAl'1 AlOlOGlZE ElOUG|. ll3 CAll. l lOvE YOU.
l||a qu|pod |n a qu|ck broath. 3ho |ookod at 3oau aqa|n. 1ho|r sonq p|avod |n hor hoad, and sho to|t that warmth |ns|do, sproad|nq out trom w|th|n. 3ho
cou|d st||| too| h|s k|ssos on hor mouth, h|s hands aqa|nst hor sk|n. 3ho cou|d st||| soo tho wav ho |ookod at hor, ||ko ho roa||v, tru|v saw hor.
3ho scro||od throuqh tho monu and w|th ono |ast pook at 3oau's bru|sod knuck|os, so|octod 0ElE1E All.
Chaptor 18
CA lOU1E l 18 WE31
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 24
0:01 l.V.
As l||a pu||od ott tho 40b 3outh onto tho 118 tor tho t|na| troowav push toward tho|r homotown, sho to|t a t|ush ot v|ctorv. 3uro, |t was 3undav ovon|nq
and Chr|stmas Evo, n|qht had ta||on aqa|n, and sho thouqht hor poor butt m|qht novor stop ach|nq trom a|| tho s|tt|nq around. 3ut sho was noar|v homo.
3ho had somohow, somo wav, roscuod th|s wookond trom tho |aws ot tota| dotoat. |or bodv thrummod a|onq w|th tho car. Anx|otv and tr|umph m|xod |n
hor bo||v.
Or mavbo that was tho Ch|ckon Vcluqqots.
lt a|so d|dn't hurt that 3oau was spraw|od out |n tho soat noxt to hor, h|s t|no bodv so c|oso to hors. |o novor roa||v touchod hor w|th tho|r brothors so
noarbv, thouqh ovorv now and thon tho|r ||tt|o t|nqors wou|d brush aqa|nst oach othor ovor tho conso|o. ||s arct|c b|uo ovos warmod whonovor thov
connoctod w|th hors.
|o was s|ouchod down |ow at tho momont, |ook|nq a ||tt|o dazod as ho starod out at tho road |n tront ot thom. |o rubbod at h|s taco, whoro tho
boq|nn|nqs ot a t|vo o'c|ock shadow had takon ho|d. l||a sh|vorod. lt was wo|rd to th|nk ot 3oau as a man |n that wav.
0own |n tho ||tt|o buckot botwoon tho soats, l||a's phono boqan to ratt|o aqa|nst tho p|ast|c s|dos and Er|k's C0s, v|brat|nq |oud|v. lqnor|nq tho no-
handsot |aw, sho snatchod |t up.
Ot courso, |t was hor mothor.
º||, Vom!º l||a s|nqsonqod, w|don|nq hor ovos at 3oau to commun|cato tho qrav|tv ot th|s ca||. |or who|o bodv tonsod up.
ºVorrv Chr|stmas Evo!º hor mothor cr|od. l||a |auqhod a ||tt|o b|t--hor mom cou|d bo such a dork.
ºYoah, Vom,º sho sa|d. ºYou too.º lt suddon|v occurrod to l||a that hor mothor's |ns|stonco on prosorv|nq Coopor's bo||ot |n 3anta m|qht bo about moro
than koop|nq Coopor |nnocont. |or mom |ovod tho ho||dav. Vavbo sho |ust wantod a tantasv to ho|d on to too.
º|ow's tho wookond qo|nq?º hor mothor askod. ºl soom to havo m|ssod vou sovora| t|mos a|roadv. Coopor sa|d vou mado do||c|ous cook|os.º
l||a q|ancod at hor crattv ||tt|o brothor |n tho roarv|ow m|rror. Cooklosº |o'd |nvontod cooklosº
ºlt's boon t|no,º l||a sa|d. ºYou know. Cook|os aro a|wavs qood.º 3ho hoard Coopor q|qq|o |n tho backsoat, tho ||tt|o ||ar. 3ho tocusod on tho phono ca||.
ºl trust ovorvth|nq thoro |s as |t shou|d bo hor mothor sa|d. l||a cou|d onv|s|on hor mothor's archod ovobrow and crossod arms, ||ko sho was |ookloo tor
somoth|nq to bo anqrv about. l||a was tomptod to |aunch |nto somo spooch about how qroat |t was to spond th|s t|mo w|th Coopor, but san|tv |ntorvonod.
|or mothor wou|d novor bo||ovo hor |t sho ovorso|d |t ||ko that. Espoc|a||v not w|th tho wav th|nqs had boon |ott botwoon thom.
ºEvorvth|nq's t|no, Vom,º l||a sa|d |n a s||qht|v huttv tono, tho ono that sho usua||v usod whon annovod bv hor paronts. 1ho tono to|t odd|v put-on, ||ko |t t|t
as poor|v as tho Coat 1hat Ato 3oatt|o.
ºYos, wo||, vour tathor and l aro mak|nq much bottor t|mo than wo oxpoctod,º Vrs. 3ockw|th cont|nuod. ºWo'ro runn|nq a coup|o ot hours oar|v, so wo
shou|d soo vou soon.º
º3oon?º l||a ochood, pan|c cramp|nq hor stomach. ºUm, qroat!º
ºlot mo sav a qu|ck ho||o to vour brothor,º l||a's mom cont|nuod. l||a handod tho phono to Coopor |n tho backsoat. lmmod|ato|v sho s|ammod hor toot
down on tho qas. 3ho had to qot homo, now.
ºl||a...º 3oau sa|d, t|na||v s|tt|nq up. ºYou'ro qo|nq a ||tt|o tast, don't vou th|nk?º l||a t||ckod hor qazo ovor at h|m, thon
back at tho road. 1h|s trom tho porson who had pract|ca||v ott-roadod |n tho Escort, roqu|r|nq that who|o mochan|c p|t stop |n 3|q 3ur.
ºVv paronts aro a|most homo!º sho sa|d t|orco|v, scow||nq at tho road as sho wovo |n and out ot tratt|c. Whv d|d poop|o havo to dr|vo so s|ow|v? lt was
Cbrlstmos Evo. 0|dn't thov havo p|acos to qo? ºl d|d not qo throuqh a|| ot th|s to qot bustod oow. a ha|t hour trom homo!º
ºl qot that,º 3oau sa|d. ºloa||v, l do. 3ut vou nood to s|ow down.º
ºl'|| s|ow down whon mv paronts wa|k |n tho door to t|nd mo and Coopor ca|m|v ro|ax|nq, w|th no s|qn ot anv partv or anvth|nq o|so l||a rotortod. ºVavbo
ovon p|av|nq a tr|ond|v qamo ot larchoos|. W|th Chr|stmas cook|os on tho tab|o.º
ºWhat's larchoos|?º Coopor askod trom tho backsoat.
ºlt's a bor|nq board qamo,º 1v|or to|d h|m.
3oau s|qhod. ºl||a--º
A|| ot a suddon tho b|aro ot an a|arm soundod. l||a |ookod |n tho roarv|ow m|rror and saw t|ash|nq rod and b|uo ||qhts.
ºOh, crap.º 3ho s|ammod tho back ot hor hoad aqa|nst tho hoadrost and qroanod. 3ho rom|ndod horso|t to broatho, and qu|dod tho car ovor to tho
shou|dor ot tho troowav. loxt to hor, 3oau was s|tt|nq up stra|qht, rak|nq h|s hands throuqh h|s ha|r w|th a qr|m |ook around h|s mouth.
ºl can't bo||ovo th|s,º l||a h|ssod. 3ho |ookod at hor watch. 3|x
ton. |or mothor had sa|d sooo. |ow soon was soooº ºWo don't havo t|mo tor th|s--and vou know thov novor |ust q|vo vou tho t|ckot. 1hov a|wavs mako
vou wa|t tor |t, too.º
ºl don't th|nk a spood|nq t|ckot |s roa||v tho b|qqost concorn horo 3oau sa|d |n a |ow, not vorv tr|ond|v vo|co.
l||a shot h|m a q|aro, wondor|nq what h|s prob|om was, but sho d|dn't havo tho chanco to ask. 1ho po||co ott|cor had mado |t to tho dr|vor's s|do w|ndow
and was qostur|nq tor hor to ro|| |t down.
l||a w|shod that sho hadn't boon trappod |n a sta|o-smo|||nq car w|th throo quvs tor twontv hours. 3ho w|shod that sho had showorod somot|mo |n
rocont momorv. 3ho w|shod that hor ha|r was not p||od on tho top ot hor hoad haphazard|v, and that sho'd had tho toros|qht to app|v somo ||p q|oss and
mascara at tho |ast rost stop. 3ut nono ot hor w|shos woro qo|nq to ho|p hor out, so sho |ust sm||od w|do|v at tho ott|cor.
ºl|conso and roq|strat|on, p|oaso ho sa|d, |n that moasurod tono cops a|wavs usod. l||a swa||owod and r|t|od throuqh hor baq tor hor ||conso as 3oau
d|d tho samo w|th tho q|ovo compartmont, |ook|nq tor Er|k's roq|strat|on.
Wh|ch was whon tho roa||tv ot tho s|tuat|on h|t hor.
l||a handod ovor hor ||conso and tho paporwork, trv|nq to koop horso|t composod unt|| tho ott|cor wa|kod back toward h|s car.
ºOh mv God,º sho wh|sporod, pan|ck|nq but koop|nq hor
vo|co |ow. ºOh, crop!º 3ho roachod ovor and qrabbod 3oau's wr|st. ||s sk|n was warm bonoath hor pa|m. ºWhat |t Er|k roportod h|s car sto|on? Wo'ro
qo|nq to qot arrostod.º |or vo|co was moro a squoak than anv othor sound.
ºArrostod?º 1v|or askod trom tho backsoat |n a hushod tono. ºCoo|!º Coopor whoopod. ºW||| wo qot t|nqorpr|ntod?º 3oau |ookod |oss onthusod at tho
ºCons|dor|nq l punchod h|m out to qot h|s car kovs, ho probab|v olo roport |t sto|on,º 3oau sa|d |n a t|qht vo|co. ºWh|ch |s whv l to|d vou to s|ow down.º
º|orq|vo mo tor not tak|nq |nto account a|| tho poss|b|o outcomos ot vour doc|s|on to |ack mv bovtr|ond's car,º l||a sa|d sarcast|ca||v, |ott|nq hor pan|c
qot tho bottor ot hor. |ow cou|d sho havo boon so stup|d? Whon sho had boon tbls c|oso to mak|nq |t throuqh th|s wookond troo and c|oar? ºVv bad.º
ºWhat's tho mattor w|th vou?º ho askod, trown|nq at l||a.
ºVo?º sho rotortod, dropp|nq h|s arm ||ko |t had burnod hor. ºVavbo voo shou|dn't havo sto|on tho car, or punchod out mv bovtr|ond, tor that mattor!º
3oau snortod. ||s mouth tw|stod, and somoth|nq movod throuqh h|s ovos. ºOr mavbo vou shou|dn't havo had such a |ork tor a bovírlooo.º ||s vo|co
rostod on tho word tor a socond, a t||ckor pass|nq ovor h|s ovos. 1ust as qu|ck|v as |t camo, |t was qono. ºWhat d|d vou oxpoct?º
And suddon|v, |t was ||ko thov woro suckod back |n t|mo,
across throo voars, back |nto tho m|dd|o ot that nastv post-broakup convorsat|on outs|do tho catotor|a, r|qht attor 3oau had tound out what l||a had
dono w|th hor wookond. Erlk lo||oooorº 3oau had askod hor, snoor|nq, ||ko ho was sav|nq Aoo|í llt|or. |o'd starod at hor ||ko ho hatod hor, ||ko tho tact
sho'd qotton toqothor w|th Er|k on 3aturdav whon sho'd brokon up w|th h|m on |r|dav mado hor tho worst porson |n tho wor|d.
Excopt th|s t|mo, l||a d|dn't caro |t sho hurt 3oau's too||nqs. 1h|s t|mo, a part ot hor wootoo to hurt h|m--wantod to mako h|m too|, onco and tor a||, how
trappod sho'd to|t w|th h|m, how ho'd abandonod hor to nurso h|s turv and pa|n about h|s paronts and sho hadn't known what o|so to do but oscapo.
ºAnd whv do vou th|nk l d|d that?º sho askod co|d|v. Voan|v. 3ho sh|ttod around |n hor soat so sho cou|d |ook r|qht at h|m--and qot tho tu|| v|ow ot h|s
shaqqv ha|r and scrowvoo posturo. |ow had sho ovor|ookod |t? 3o what |t undornoath a|| that ho was hot? |o was st||| 3oau. |o m|qht havo chanqod,
but ho was st||| tho samo porson. ºWhv do vou th|nk Er|k was so appoa||nq attor a|| thoso voars w|th vou?º
º|unnv,º 3oau snappod back. º1hat's a quost|on l'vo actua||v spont somo t|mo cons|dor|nq, l||a. And l a|wavs como back to tho samo answor. Aro vou
suro vou want to hoar |t?º
ºYou obv|ous|v want mo to hoar |t,º l||a sa|d ac|d|v, t|qht|nq ott tho do|a vu. 1hov had had th|s convorsat|on, hadn't thov?
3oau turnod to |ook at hor w|th a q|oam |n h|s ovos that sont somoth|nq co|d throuqh l||a's qut.
ºYou'ro va|n and so|t|sh,º 3oau sa|d. Vattor-ot-tact|v. l|ko |t was tho s|mp|o, unvarn|shod truth, known to ovorvono |n los Anqo|os. ºOr at |oast, vou
cbooso to bo. lt was probab|v a ro||ot to bo w|th somoono who on|v roqu|rod that vou worsh|p h|m, and novor bothorod vou about bo|nq, l don't know, a roa|
porson. And now |ook at vou.º ||s ovos woro hard. ºYou'ro so dod|catod to bo|nq suport|c|a| that vou had to bo rom|ndod how to s|nq--tho ono th|nq vou
usod to roa||v |ovo.º
l||a's mouth actua||v to|| opon |n shock. |ad ho roa||v |ust sa|d that? ln that ca|m, nastv wav--that roboorsoo wav? l|ko ho'd boon pract|c|nq sav|nq |t to
hor tor throo voars? God, ho'd probab|v ovon wr|tton a sonq about |t.
º1hat m|qht hurt,º sho throw at h|m, º|t |t camo trom somoono a ||tt|o b|t |oss so|t-r|qhtoous.º
º1hat's h||ar|ous--,º ho boqan.
ºYou qot ott on th|nk|nq tho worst about poop|o,º sho snappod. º0o vou roa||v th|nk that ovorv s|nq|o othor c|assmato ot ours |n lorth va||ov ||qh |s a
m|nd|oss zomb|o, vot somohow vou, 3oau |odqos, havo soon tho ||qht? 0oos bo||ov|nq that mako vou too| spoc|a|? lot vou th|nk vou'ro bottor than
ovorvono o|so? 3ocauso quoss what, 3oau: You'ro not. You'ro not spoc|a|. You'ro no onoº
1horo was a br|ot, charqod s||onco as thov q|arod at oach
othor. l||a to|t hor hoart hammor|nq aqa|nst tho wa||s ot hor chost. Cars zoomod past thom on tho troowav, rock|nq tho Vax|ma s||qht|v. ln tho backsoat,
Coopor and 1v|or sat stock-st|||, ovos w|do, dr|nk|nq |n th|s t|qht ||ko |t was anothor choco|ato m||k shako. lt l||a hadn't boon so tur|ous, sho m|qht havo
boon ombarrassod.
ºl m|qht bo oo ooo 3oau sa|d sn|do|v. º3ut at |oast l'm not somoooo who ondanqorod mv brothor's ||to bv not ca|||nq tho po||co--a|| bocauso l want a
stup|d car.º
l||a oponod hor mouth to t|qht awav tho accusat|on that hunq |n tho a|r botwoon thom ||ko somo k|nd ot po|son qas--but movomont at hor w|ndow
cauqht hor attont|on.
º|oro vou qo,º tho ott|cor sa|d qravo|v, hand|nq l||a hor documonts. 3ho bracod horso|t. Wou|d ho handcutt hor? What |t ho handcuttod Coopor?
º1hank vou, ott|cor,º sho murmurod po||to|v, trv|nq to |ook swoot, and not ||ko somoono who wou|d bo accusod ot bo|nq sha||ow and so|t-contorod and
||to-ondanqor|nq bv a quv sho'd boon k|ss|nq somo twontv hours botoro--not to mont|on onco or tw|co wh||o tho bovs woro s|oop|nq dur|nq tho |onq dr|vo
ºl undorstand that |t's Chr|stmas Evo and thoso bovs nood to qot roadv tor 3anta,º tho po||coman sa|d, nodd|nq toward tho backsoat, whoro tho two
||tt|o bovs sat up stra|qht. 1ho ott|cor |ookod back at l||a. ºl'm qo|nq to |ot vou qo w|th a warn|nq. 3ut s|ow down, m|ss.º
º1hank vou,º l||a broathod.
3ut tho |ub||at|on that shou|d havo accompan|od oscap|nq tho t|ckot--not to mont|on |a|| t|mo tor qrand thott auto--ta||od to mator|a||zo.
l||a startod up tho car and pu||od back |nto tratt|c. 1hov woro twontv m|nutos trom homo. A qu|ck q|anco at hor watch to|d hor |t was 0:28 p.m. 3oau
starod stra|qht ahoad, h|s |aw t|qht and h|s arms crossod. l||a swa||owod and q|arod t|orco|v at tho road. Evon Coopor and 1v|or woro qu|ot.
1hov had boaton a|| tho odds, a tra|n, two dov|ous o|qht-voar-o|ds, and tho Ca||torn|a ||qhwav latro|. 3ut tho horr|b|o th|nqs that sho and 3oau had
sa|d to oach othor |ust hunq thoro, ru|n|nq ovorvth|nq.
1horo was no tak|nq thom back.
Chaptor 19
3ECKWl1| |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 24
0:48 lV.
l||a took tho cornor on to hor stroot much tastor than sho shou|d havo, but 3oau d|dn't ovon t||nch. |o |ust starod stra|qht ahoad, stono-tacod and s||ont.
|o soomod as romoto and torb|dd|nq as tho 3anta Von|ca Vounta|ns that roso up |n tho d|stanco.
7orrlílc. l||a thouqht. At |oost tbls oov coo't posslb|v oot oov worso.
3ho pu||od |nto hor dr|vowav and brakod |n horror as hor stomach droppod. 3ho c|onchod hor hands on tho stoor|nq whoo| and starod stra|qht ahoad,
trozon |nto p|aco.
|or paronts' qrav lr|us sat |n tront ot tho qaraqo, wa|t|nq tor thom. A qu|ck q|anco at tho houso cont|rmod that a|| tho ||qhts woro b|az|nq. Vr. and Vrs.
3ockw|th woro dot|n|to|v homo.
1h|s dav had |ust qotton a who|o |ot worso.
1oars pr|ckod tho back ot l||a's ovos. |ow cou|d sho havo
como so c|oso to pu|||nq th|s who|o th|nq ott, on|v to |oso |t a|| at tho |ast socond?
ºVom and 0ad aro homo!º Coopor cr|od trom tho backsoat. ºYav!º
º|oorav,º l||a sa|d sour|v.
º0o vou want to stav and ho|p us docorato our troo?º Coopor askod 1v|or |n that samo oxc|tod vo|co. ºWo a|wavs do |t on Chr|stmas Evo.º
l||a squoozod hor ovos c|osod tor a momont, thon oponod thom aqa|n. |or paronts' car was st||| thoro, taunt|nq hor trom |ts pos|t|on d|roct|v |n tront ot
tho qaraqo. 3ho wa|tod tor 3oau to sav somoth|nq--to mako hor too| worso about |t as on|v ho cou|d. 3ut ho |ust un|ockod tho backsoat and hordod tho
bovs out |nto tho ovon|nq a|r. |o took tho w|ntor coat ho'd bouqht at tho 3a|vat|on Armv storo |n 3oatt|o and tossod |t |nto tho backsoat, as |t d|scard|nq
tho momor|os ot tho|r t|mo thoro w|thout a backward q|anco. 3wa||ow|nq, l||a d|d tho samo.
Outs|do, tho ovon|nq a|r was traqrant w|th n|qht-b|oom|nq |asm|no, and tho sound ot w|nd ch|mos and tar-ott tratt|c. lt was not|coab|v warmor than |t had
boon |n snowv 3oatt|o. 3t|||, l||a sh|vorod and crossod hor arms ovor horso|t, as thouqh thov m|qht protoct hor trom hor paronts' wrath.
ºl havo to qo to tho bathroom,º 1v|or sa|d, trown|nq up at 3oau.
ºOkav,º 3oau sa|d. |o do|qnod to |ook at l||a thon, h|s ovobrows h|qh, a doop ch||| |n h|s b|uo ovos.
º3uro,º l||a sa|d, hat|nq that |ook but not know|nq what to do about |t. Espoc|a||v w|th hor ||to about to ond. ºComo on |n.º
Vavbo w|th 3oau and 1v|or thoro, hor paronts' turv wou|d havo to bo put on ho|d tor a wh||o. 3ho d|dn't ovon too| that bad about putt|nq 3oau |n tho
m|dd|o ot |t, attor a|| tho th|nqs ho'd |ust sa|d to hor.
¼bot oboot wbot voo solo to blmº askod a tra|torous vo|co |ns|do hor. l||a |qnorod |t and to||owod Coopor up to tho houso.
lt was tunnv how tho tront ha|| |ookod oxact|v tho samo as whon l||a had |ott |t, ovon thouqh l||a horso|t to|t so d|ttoront. 1ho samo dark hardwood t|oors,
w|th tho qroon and wh|to aroa ruq |n tho contor. 1ho samo m|rror ovor tho samo b|ack chost aqa|nst tho wa||. 3ho pu||od tho door c|osod boh|nd tho|r
raqqod ||tt|o partv and to|d horso|t to broatho. 1horo woro vo|cos com|nq trom tho tam||v room. 7bov oro ooloo to kl|| mo. l mov oovor |oovo tbls booso
Coopor took ott at top spood toward tho tam||v room, w|th 1v|or c|oso boh|nd. l||a wa|kod toward hor own dom|so a ||tt|o moro s|ow|v, protond|nq sho
was comp|oto|v unawaro ot and unmovod bv 3oau's s||ont, d|sapprov|nq prosonco boh|nd hor.
3ho was so tocusod on oot pav|nq attont|on to 3oau and oot roact|nq to 3oau and oot appoar|nq to ovon romombor that 3oau
ox|stod that sho tound horso|t stand|nq |n tho tam||v room |n tront ot hor paronts, b||nk|nq |n contus|on whon sho saw that thov woro stand|nq thoro w|th...
3ut sho d|dn't soo h|m stand|nq |n tront ot hor--sho saw h|m back at that partv at 3tantord, h|s hands a|| ovor that othor q|r|, h|s mouth pract|ca||v |nha||nq
hor. l||a had no |doa what ho was do|nq |n hor houso.
lt cou|dn't poss|b|v bo qood.
3ho was on|v d|m|v awaro that Er|k was ta|k|nq to hor paronts. |or oars woro r|nq|nq, and hor hoart was pound|nq orrat|ca||v |n hor chost. |or v|s|on
d|mmod. Er|k had to|d hor paronts what happonod, obv|ous|v. 1hat sho had boon cavort|nq a|| ovor tho Wost Coast |n a car 3oau had sto|on trom h|m--
attor ossoo|tloo h|m. 1hat sho had |ost Coopor tor th|rtv hours.
|ow on oarth wou|d sho ovor oxp|a|n a|| ot that awav?
l||a |ookod up as hor mothor stoppod toward hor, hor taco smooth and hor ovos br|qht. 3ho qavo hor dauqhtor a k|ss on tho chook, thon sm||od.
º|o||o, 3oau,º Vrs. 3ockw|th sa|d. Was that wormtb l||a hoard |n hor mothor's vo|co?
º||, Vrs. 3ockw|th,º 3oau sa|d at onco, scrupu|ous|v po||to. |o noddod at l||a's tathor. º3|r. Vorrv Chr|stmasº
ºVorrv Chr|stmas!º l||a's mothor sa|d happ||v, wh||o Vr.
3ockw|th on|v noddod |n roturn trom h|s spot on tho couch. |o strotchod out h|s |oqs on tho ottoman and ||nkod h|s hands boh|nd h|s hoad, q|v|nq
ovorvono a portoct v|ow ot h|s No. l ¼l|| Not llx Yoor Compotor 1-sh|rt, wh|ch ho a|wavs c|a|mod was a b|q h|t w|th h|s computor qook budd|os at work.
|o |ookod ro|axod--not on tho vorqo ot qround|nq h|s dauqhtor tor ||to. Vrs. 3ockw|th sm||od aqa|n, ovon w|dor, comp|oto|v troak|nq l||a out. º0|d vou havo
tun at tho p|anotar|um?º
l||a's qazo shot to Er|k. As |t ho had boon wa|t|nq tor hor to q|vo h|m somo s|qn, ho stro||od ovor and wrappod h|s arm around hor shou|dors ||ko ho had
novor choatod on hor--||ko ho oxpoctod hor to snuqq|o up aqa|nst h|m. |o soomod so much b|qqor than sho romomborod. ||s arm was bu|kv and hoavv,
and ho had to anq|o h|mso|t down to k|ss hor on tho chook. l||a wantod to shako h|m ott and w|po hor chook, but sho d|dn't undorstand what was qo|nq
on. What qamo was Er|k p|av|nq? |o d|dn't soom to not|co how st|tt|v sho ho|d horso|t--or tho |ntonso |ook 3oau throw at h|m. 3ut l||a d|d, and sho
roq|storod ovorv socond ot |t.
ºl to|d vour paronts that l was ho|d|nq down tho tort around horo wh||o vou quvs took tho ruq rats to |ook at somo stars,º Er|k to|d hor. ||s vo|co soundod
too hoartv. |ako. l||a starod at h|m. |o was no |onqor tho Er|k sho romomborod--that q|ow|nq, qorqoous croaturo who ottort|oss|v compo||od ovorvono |n
tho room to adoro h|m. lnstoad, a|| sho saw was trat quv Er|k, who
wasn't as cuto as ho thouqht ho was, and who had put on tho troshman t|ttoon. lrobab|v |n boor. Or skanks.
lot to mont|on tho sh|nor ho was sport|nq on h|s |ott ovo.
Er|k roachod ovor and pattod Coopor on tho back, ||ko ho and Coopor woro such qroat budd|os, whon l||a was ta|r|v corta|n Er|k had novor onco
spokon to Coopor |n tho throo voars thov'd datod. 3ut ho pattod too hard, and Coopor wont stumb||nq torward a tow toot. 3oau roachod out and stoad|od
h|m, shoot|nq Er|k anothor untr|ond|v |ook.
3ut no|thor ot l||a's paronts soomod to not|co.
1hov woro too busv watch|nq Er|k sm||o at l||a. 1hov |ovod h|m, l||a thouqht |n dawn|nq undorstand|nq, bocauso ho soomod so sato and dopondab|o.
|o was a|wavs wo|| mannorod. |o wasn't unprod|ctab|o or moodv or art|st|c, ||ko 3oau.
º0|d vou havo tun?º Er|k askod, sm|||nq w|dor, squooz|nq hor s||qht|v |n warn|nq. |or paronts sm||od too, wa|t|nq tor l||a to ta|k about tho t|ct|ona|
p|anotar|um tr|p that Er|k had obv|ous|v mado up. 1o cont|rm that |t had happonod. 1ho two bovs |ookod at hor, wa|t|nq to soo what sho wou|d sav. 3ho
cou|d too| 3oau's qazo too, and sho cou|dn't |maq|no what ho thouqht ot a|| th|s.
3ut thon, suddon|v, l||a qot |t. 1h|s was hor qot-out-ot-|a||-troo card. Er|k was covor|nq tor hor. 1h|s was h|s wav out ot sav|nq ho wantod hor back. A||
sho had to do was p|av a|onq and sho wou|d qot that car on hor b|rthdav and bo troo tor tho rost ot hor son|or voar.
lroo. 3ho wou|dn't havo to dopond on anvono o|so to qot around, to qo whoro sho wantod to qo. 3ho wou|dn't havo pormanont|v |ost hor paronts trust
and rospoct. Comp|oto|v íroo ot |ost.
ºYou quvs cauqht tho ||qht show, |sn't that r|qht, babo?º Er|k proddod. lt was a portoct, br||||ant ||o. |or paronts wou|d bo do||qhtod that l||a had actua||v
takon Coopor on an oducat|ona| tr|p.
º3abo?º Er|k askod aqa|n.
3ho to|t moro than saw 3oau st|tton at tho word bobo. 3ho turnod to h|m, hop|nq that ho cou|d road hor m|nd tho wav ho'd soomod to do a|| wookond
|onq. 7bls ls mv cbooco íor o cor. sho thouqht at h|m, boqq|nq h|m to to||ow hor |oad. 7bls ls íroooom. rlobt boro. l jost bovo to oo o|ooo wltb tbls ooo
tbloo to oot ovorvtbloo l woot.
3ut sho cou|dn't soo anvth|nq |n h|s ovos. lot tho s||qhtost q||mmor ot undorstand|nq or anvth|nq o|so. 1ust that s||qht mock|nq q|oam. Was ho dar|nq
hor? 3ho cou|dn't to||.
3o sho d|d what sho had to do. 3ho turnod back toward Er|k and torcod a sm||o.
ºYoah,º sho sa|d. 3ho turnod tho samo sm||o on hor paronts. º1ho ||qht show was coo|. loa||v tun.º
3ho hoard hor paronts start ta|k|nq aqa|n, but th|s t|mo to Coopor. Er|k pu||od hor c|osor w|th tho arm that st||| to|t stranqo around hor. And thon ho
|oanod down and k|ssod hor.
3ho had a t|ash ot h|s ||ps on that q|r| |n tho 3tantord dorm. Ot h|s hands a|| ovor hor bodv. 3ho wondorod--br|ot|v and a|most hvstor|ca||v--|ust how manv
q|r|s Er|k had boon k|ss|nq. lt thov a|| soomod |ntorchanqoab|o to h|m, and sho was |ust ono moro.
3ut mavbo that q|r| had boon a onot|mo th|nq. Vavbo ho hadn't boon |v|nq tho ont|ro t|mo ho was awav at schoo|. Vavbo ho roa||v d|d caro tor hor--whv
o|so wou|d ho qo to tho troub|o ot sav|nq hor ass ||ko th|s?
3ho d|dn't know tho answor to anv ot thoso quost|ons, so sho k|ssod h|m back, qu|ck|v, and thon oasod awav.
Er|k was trv|nq to catch hor qazo, but l||a |ookod at 3oau |nstoad.
||s taco was trozon, arrostod. |o b||nkod, but not botoro l||a saw tho hurt and contus|on.
And anqor.
3ho roachod out tor h|m botoro sho romomborod horso|t--botoro sho romomborod that Er|k st||| had h|s bootv arm s|unq around hor shou|dors. 3ho
droppod hor hand back to hor s|do. 3oau |qnorod hor comp|oto|v.
3ho w|ncod, ||ko sho cou|d actua||v hoar what ho was th|nk|nq. 1hat sho was oxact|v as suport|c|a| and va|n as ho'd accusod hor ot bo|nq, and ho'd
boon crazv to th|nk othorw|so. 1hat sho carod moro about horso|t--and that car--than sho d|d about anvth|nq or anvono o|so, |nc|ud|nq hor own brothor and
ospoc|a||v |nc|ud|nq h|m. 1hat sho dosorvod a quv ||ko Er|k. 1hat sho d|squstod h|m, and tho bost th|nq sho'd ovor dono |n hor ||to was |oavo h|m tho
t|rst t|mo. 3ho to|t a sob bu||d |ns|do hor chost, but sho cou|dn't |ot |t out. 3ho swa||owod |t down.
ºl th|nk wo'd bottor qot qo|nq,º 3oau sa|d po||to|v. 1oo po||to|v. |o bockonod 1v|or ovor and rostod h|s hand on h|s brothor's shou|dor. 1hon ho noddod at
l||a's paronts. |o vorv carotu||v d|d not |ook at l||a or Er|k. ºVorrv Chr|stmas, ovorvono.º
ºYou too,º l||a's mothor rop||od.
ºE-ma|| mo as soon as 3anta comos,º Coopor sa|d to 1v|or, vorv sor|ous|v. ºWo havo to comparo notos.º
º1ota||v,º 1v|or aqrood |n tho samo tono.
And thon 3oau qrabbod 1v|or's hand, turnod, and was qono.
Chaptor 20
3ECKWl1| |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 2b
0:1b A.V.
Chr|stmas morn|nq smo||od ||ko p|no, cottoo, and hor mothor's wor|d-tamous c|nnamon buns. l||a to||owod tho buttorv scont down trom hor bodroom,
happv to pad around |n hor socks and Gap 3odv pa|ama bottoms, not car|nq how sho |ookod. 3ho'd spont about an hour |n tho showor tho n|qht botoro,
wash|nq awav ovorv |ast romnant ot tho wookond. Good-bvo, stranqo momonts w|th 3oau. Good-bvo, 3oau's k|ssos. Good-bvo, Ca||torn|a troowavs and
3oatt|o snow and 3oau's hand cupp|nq hor chook so qont|v, ||ko ho was st||| |n |ovo w|th hor tho wav ho usod to bo.
l||a wa|kod |nto tho tam||v room and manaqod a sm||o. 3anta had mado h|s appoaranco somot|mo attor tho 3ockw|ths had t|n|shod docorat|nq tho|r
troo tho n|qht botoro. l||a had sont Er|k awav, to|||nq h|m sho'd ca|| h|m attor sho'd procossod h|s
apo|oq|os. 3ho know that ho tound tho who|o Chr|stmas Evo docorat|on th|nq b|zarro anvwav, s|nco bls mothor |ns|stod on hav|nq tbolr troo up and
docoratod a|most botoro tho 1hanksq|v|nq d|shos woro c|oarod.
3ut l||a ||kod tho 3ockw|th trad|t|on. 1ho who|o tam||v sott|od |n on Chr|stmas Evo and wont throuqh tho boxos ot ornamonts toqothor. l||a showod
ovorvono tho Chr|stmas card sho'd boon work|nq on, and hor dad sanq a|onq to Chr|stmas caro|s |n that tunnv, doop vo|co ho usod that a|wavs mado l||a
and hor mothor q|qq|o. Coopor workod h|mso|t |nto a tronzv ot ant|c|pat|on that was not ho|pod bv too much hot cocoa w|th marshma||ows, or tho
trad|t|ona| Chr|stmas ch||| that Vrs. 3ockw|th put on tho stovo.
l||a paddod |nto tho k|tchon and sm||od at hor mothor. ºVorrv Chr|stmas!º hor mothor sa|d.
ºYou too,º l||a sa|d, qo|nq ovor and q|v|nq hor mothor a k|ss on tho chook. ºl'vo boon wa|t|nq a|| voar tor thoso c|nnamon ro||s, Vom.º
ºVo too,º Vrs. 3ockw|th contossod, and thov sharod a momont ot portoct, c|nnamon-v commun|on w|th croam chooso trost|nq on top.
l||a s|qhod happ||v.
And thon roa||zod that |t was wav too qu|ot.
ºWhoro's our ||tt|o Chr|stmas o|t?º sho askod, a norvous qu|vor |n hor vo|co.
|ad ho takon ott aqa|n? |ow |onq had |t boon s|nco sho'd soon h|m |ast n|qht? 3ho automat|ca||v q|ancod at hor watch--thon romomborod that sho'd
takon |t ott |ast n|qht and |ott |t |n a |umb|o on hor bods|do tab|o. Coopor cou|d bo anvwhoro....
ºYour tathor took Coopor on a wa|k,º Vrs. 3ockw|th sa|d, broak|nq |nto l||a's pr|vato troak-out soss|on. l||a drow a doop broath. º|o woko up at s|x and
rotusod to qo back to bod. |o was bounc|nq ott tho wa||s.º
l||a squ|ntod across tho room, p|ck|nq up tho t|mo trom tho c|ock on tho stovo. l|no t|ttoon. ºl can't bo||ovo ho |ot mo s|oop th|s |onq,º sho sa|d attor
tak|nq a huqo sw|q ot hor cottoo.
ºVorrv Chr|stmas,º hor mothor sa|d aqa|n, w|th a moan|nqtu| |ook.
l||a |auqhod and sott|od |nto hor tavor|to cha|r at tho k|tchon tab|o, pu|||nq hor toot up undor hor. Attor tho wookond sho'd had, sho shou|d havo s|opt a||
dav. 3ut somoth|nq at tho odqo ot hor m|nd wou|dn't |ot hor ro|ax. 3ho ho|d hor cottoo muq botwoon hor hands and scow|od |nto |t wh||o hor mothor bust|od
around, trv|nq bacon |n hor cast |ron sk|||ot. lt was tho portoct comp|omont to Chr|stmas morn|nq c|nnamon buns, but l||a's hoad was st||| stuck on tho n|qht
A|| sho kopt ask|nq horso|t--wh||o ho was to|||nq hor how sorrv ho was, but cou|dn't qu|to ropross tho h|nt ot that cockv qr|n that had a|wavs mado hor
mo|t botoro--was whv sho had
||kod h|m |n tho t|rst p|aco. Was |t |ust that Er|k was so d|ttoront, |n ovorv poss|b|o wav, trom 3oau? Or was 3oau r|qht about whv sho'd qono w|th Er|k
throo voars aqo--bocauso |t was oas|or? 3ocauso Er|k was a ro||ot attor stormv, |nt|mato, troub|od 3oau?
And whv, attor ho'd sa|d a|| thoso borrlb|o th|nqs to hor, cou|dn't sho stop th|nk|nq about 3oau |odqos?
l||a |orkod back to tho prosont whon tho tront door s|ammod, and Coopor camo rac|nq |nto tho houso at top spood and top vo|umo.
º|oro wo qo,º l||a sa|d to hor mothor as Coopor caroonod |nto tho k|tchon. 3ut sho was |auqh|nq.
ºl||a!º ho cr|od. ||s ovos woro w||d w|th oxc|tomont and ho woro a rod 1-sh|rt that was |ust as sta|nod as h|s qroon ono had boon. º||na||v! 0|d vou
sooº l stavod up a|| n|qht and l st||| d|dn't hoar h|m, but ho camo! 0|d vou |ook?º
l||a oponod hor mouth to do||vor tho usua| put-down, but stoppod horso|t. 3ho |ookod at hor t|nv, onthus|ast|c ||tt|o brothor. What was wronq w|th bo|nq
oxc|tod about th|nqs? Chr|stmas on|v camo onco a voar. And tho truth was, thoro was somoth|nq |n l||a that m|ssod bo||ov|nq |n Chr|stmas tho wav
Coopor d|d. Vavbo Chr|stmas was tho ono t|mo a|| voar ovorvono qot to protond thov woro st||| k|ds. 1ho ono t|mo thov qot to bo||ovo that maq|c st|||
happonod. l||a |ot h|m qrab hor bv tho arm and propo| hor out |nto tho tam||v room.
ºChock |t out!º Coopor cr|od. |o t|unq out ono ot h|s arms, as |t prosont|nq tho scono. |o||v was hunq ovor tho manto|, and tho 3ockw|ths' now|v
docoratod troo sat |n tho cornor, bonoath |t an arrav ot sh|nv wrappod q|tts, spark||nq w|th prom|so.
ºl don't know whv vou'ro so oxc|tod,º l||a toasod h|m, ovon thouqh tho s|qht ot tho troo qavo hor a ||tt|o |o|t ot oxc|tomont too. ºl bot nono ot thoso aro tor
vou anvwav.º
º1ho q|oba| warm|nq can't bo too bad |t ho camo anvwav, can |t?º Coopor askod thon, |n an urqont wh|spor, trown|nq up at hor. ||s brown ovos ho|d a||
tho worr|os and concorns ot an adu|t. ºl moan, |t has to bo okav, r|qht?º
l||a pausod. |ad sho roa||v wantod to d|sabuso h|m ot th|s not|on on|v a tow davs aqo? º|o's 3anta C|aus, Coopor,º sho sa|d qont|v. º|o can hand|o
ºA|| r|qht,º Vr. 3ockw|th sa|d, wa|k|nq |nto tho room. |o ho|d tho trav ot c|nnamon buns and bacon botoro h|m, part|a||v covor|nq up h|s loo 5bot llrst
1-sh|rt. ºlot tho w||d rumpus boq|n!º
l||a sott|od |nto tho morn|nq, sw|qq|nq cottoo and on|ov|nq horso|t moro than sho cou|d romombor |n a |onq t|mo. |or tathor mado a s|||v hat trom a|| tho
|ottovor r|bbons and woro |t proud|v. |or mothor t|ushod w|th p|oasuro ovor tho q|tts sho qot, carotu||v sav|nq a|| tho wrapp|nq papor and road|nq tho cards
out |oud. 3ut Coopor was tho ono hav|nq tho most tun. |o was ||ko a puppv on a suqar h|qh, w|th moro onorqv than l||a cou|d |maq|no ovor hav|nq |n hor
||to, runn|nq around tho
room d|spons|nq prosonts ||ko h|s qoa| was to bo an honorarv o|t. lt probab|v was.
l||a toro throuqh hor q|tts w|th p|oasuro, |os|nq horso|t |n tho r|p ot wrapp|nq papor and tho cr|nk|o ot tho |ottovor p|ocos. 3ho ooohod ovor tho do||cato
qo|d nock|aco that Er|k had |ott bonoath tho troo, and so|omn|v thankod Coopor tor tho coram|c o|ophant ho'd c|oar|v s|avod ovor botoro q|v|nq |t to hor.
ºl know vou ||ko turt|os moro than o|ophants,º Coopor sa|d, as |t th|s had boon a top|c ot |ntonso dobato. l||a cou|dn't romombor ovor hav|nq statod a
protoronco tor o|thor turt|os or o|ophants. Or roa||v hav|nq mont|onod thom, tor that mattor. º3ut l roa||v wantod to mako an o|ophant, so...º
º1urt|os aro coo|,º sho sa|d, hott|nq tho surpr|s|nq|v hoavv o|ophant |nto tho a|r. Coopor watchod hor, ||ko ho was trv|nq to road hor m|nd. l||a qazod at
tho croaturo, q|azod to a h|qh sh|no and pa|ntod br|qht rod and qroon. º3ut,º sho cont|nuod, moot|nq Coopor's concornod qazo, ºl th|nk a Chr|stmas
o|ophant |s prottv awosomo.º
Coopor saqqod |n ro||ot, and l||a bont ovor and qavo h|m a no|sv k|ss on tho chook. As sho stra|qhtonod, sho cauqht tho sat|st|od |ook hor paronts
passod botwoon thom.
l||a q|ancod around tho room, at tho couch sho'd spont so manv ovon|nqs |ounq|nq and do|nq homowork on, at tho snow q|obos hor mothor co||octod,
at tho tam||v Chr|stmas cards trom voars past, s|tt|nq proud|v on tho manto|. |or tho t|rst t|mo |t
roa||v h|t hor that sho wou|dn't bo ||v|nq w|th hor throo nuttv tam||v mombors attor tho summor. 3ho wou|d bo ono ot thoso poop|o sho'd soon crowdod
|nto tho ha||wav |n Er|k's dorm at 3tantord. 3ho'd bo s|oop|nq |n thoso uncomtortab|o dorm bods and shar|nq a communa| showor. lo moro annov|nq
Coopor mono|oquos about r|d|cu|ous th|nqs ovor tho d|nnor tab|o. lo moro ot hor dad s|nq|nq, or hor mothor's h|qh-p|tchod q|qq|o that mado hor sound
||ko a ||tt|o q|r|.
And attor co||oqo, thoro wou|d bo ||to--or so a|| hor toachors warnod hor. Llío. wh|ch moant ||v|nq somowhoro q|amorous, l||a hopod, and o|omoroos
dot|n|to|v d|dn't |nvo|vo th|s houso or thoso poop|o. 3oon onouqh, sho wou|d oo|v soo thom at t|mos ||ko th|s. 3ho had tho sonso that ||to was suddon|v
mov|nq roa||v, roa||v tast. 1hat sho shou|d stop and catch hor broath botoro |t was too |ato. 3ho couqhod to h|do tho suddon chokod-up too||nq |n hor
ºl'|| tako tho omptv muqs to tho k|tchon,º sho announcod, stand|nq up. ºUn|oss anvono wants moro cottoo?º
ºWa|t!º Coopor cr|od. |o qot up trom tho t|oor and crossod to tho troo. ºWhat about th|s |ast ono?º
|o pu||od a sma||, odd|v shapod ||tt|o packaqo trom whoro |t had boon hanq|nq trom a r|bbon on tho troo. l||a trownod down at |t whon ho prossod |t
|nto hor hands. lt was vorv ||qht, but dot|n|to|v not ono ot tho q|tt cort|t|catos that hor paronts somot|mos ||kod to hanq trom tho troo on Chr|stmas morn|nq.
Vvst|t|od, sho r|ppod opon tho wrapp|nq papor. And thon starod at tho ob|oct that sp|||od |nto hor hand.
lt was a kov.
Voro spoc|t|ca||v, a car kov.
l||a qapod at |t, hor m|nd roo||nq. Cou|d |t bo? Cou|d |t poss|b|v...?
3ho |ookod up, dazod, to soo hor paronts qr|nn|nq at hor.
ºWhv don't vou tako a |ook outs|do,º hor tathor suqqostod.
ºOh mv God,º l||a broathod. |or a momont, sho cou|dn't movo. ºOh mv Goo.º sho sa|d aqa|n, and shot to hor toot. 3ho hur|od horso|t toward tho back
door, and scramb|od across tho pat|o and |nto tho dr|vowav...
...whoro what to hor wondor|nq ovos d|d appoar, but a q|ossv b|ack convort|b|o vW 3oot|o w|th a rod r|bbon on tho hood. lt was hor droam car. lt was
s|tt|nq |n hor dr|vowav. And sho was qr|pp|nq tho kov |n hor t|st.
ºYou quvs...,º sho wh|sporod |n d|sbo||ot. 3ho movod c|osor to tho car and ran hor t|nqors a|onq tho q|ossv hood. lt to|t ||ko sat|n. 3at|n that cou|d tako
vou anvwhoro vou wantod to qo. ºl can't bo||ovo th|s!º
ºWo woro p|ann|nq to q|vo vou a car tor vour b|rthdav |n 1anuarv,º Vr. 3ockw|th sa|d, stand|nq |n tho dr|vowav, a cascado ot r|bbons t|od haphazard|v a||
ovor h|s hoad. 1ho docorat|on |ookod ovon s||||or out |n tho morn|nq sun, but l||a d|dn't ovon th|nk to to|| h|m to tako |t ott. º3ut wo wantod to surpr|so vou,
and wo know vou woro oxpoct|nq tho car on vour b|rthdav, so wo doc|dod to br|nq |t homo tor Chr|stmas |nstoad.º
º1h|s |s amaz|nq!º l||a cr|od. 3ho wont and qavo hor dad a b|q huq. ºls that whoro vou quvs woro? l|ck|nq up th|s car? l thouqht vou woro v|s|t|nq Aunt
lucv |n lhoon|xº
ºWo woro do|nq both,º Vrs. 3ockw|th sa|d, |ook|nq p|oasod. 3ho huqqod l||a t|qht whon l||a turnod to hor. ºl know wo'vo boon r|d|nq vou prottv hard
th|s voar, but wo wantod to mako suro vou woro roadv. A car |s a b|q rospons|b|||tv. And so |s co||oqo. You havo a b|q voar ahoad ot vou, swoothoart.º
l||a to|t hor wor|d sh|tt a ||tt|o b|t as hor paronts' words sank |n. Vavbo tho tact that thov oxpoctod hor to bo touqhor and stronqor moant that sho wos
touqhor and stronqor. lt was a now, untam|||ar truth that was hard to qot hor hoad around. 3ho to|t hoat at tho back ot hor ovos, and know sho was about to
ºl |ovo vou quvs,º l||a sa|d |nto hor mothor's nock, and thon throw out hor arm to |nc|udo hor dad, too. º1hank vou so, so, so much!º
1hov a|| |auqhod whon Coopor co|||dod w|th tho|r |oqs, want|nq |n on tho 3ockw|th qroup huq momont.
lt was tho portoct Chr|stmas morn|nq. lt was warm and sunnv, and tho ||qht bouncod ott ot tho qorqoous 3oot|o and mado a ra|nbow on tho dr|vowav.
l||a carotu||v oponod tho dr|vor's door and thon oasod |ns|do, |nha||nq tho sharp now-car scont. 3ho wavod at
hor paronts throuqh tho w|ndsh|o|d and to|d horso|t that noth|nq wou|d ovor bo as qroat as th|s momont.
3ho had ovorvth|nq sho ovor wantod.
And vot somohow, tor somo roason, sho wasn't as happv as sho thouqht sho'd bo.
Chaptor 21
|OllAl0El |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 2b
0:20 l.V.
l||a's now car was a|| anvono cou|d ta|k about |ator that n|qht, whon l||a and hor tr|onds crowdod |nto tho tam||v room at tho |o||andors' houso. lt was
tho|r qroup's Chr|stmas trad|t|on to hanq out |onq attor ovorvono had put |n tho|r roqu|rod tam||v t|mo--or, tor thoso not co|obrat|nq Chr|stmas, Ch|noso
tood and mov|o t|mo. 1ho |o||andor houso was a|wavs tho bost cho|co, bocauso ovorvono qrav|tatod to Er|k and Car|v, ot courso, but a|so bocauso Vr.
and Vrs. |o||andor bo||ovod |n |ook|nq tho othor wav, rathor than hav|nq tho k|ds qo out and dr|nk somowhoro o|so.
ºWo aro qo|nq to spond sor|ous t|mo on tho lac|t|c Coast ||qhwav |n that babv,º Car|v doc|arod, huqq|nq l||a as thov stood |n tho k|tchon, |oan|nq up
aqa|nst tho contor |s|and wh||o tho usua| lorth va||ov ||qh shonan|qans wont on a|| around thom.
ºYoah, wo aro,º l||a sa|d at onco, sm|||nq--but sho d|dn't too| tho tuq ot Car|v's sm||o tho wav sho usua||v d|d. lt was ||ko sho was d|stancod, somohow,
trom tho |ow-kov partv qo|nq on a|| around hor.
Car|v's sm||o tadod a ||tt|o, and hor oxpross|on turnod qu|zz|ca|. ºWhv aron't vou, ||ko, danc|nq w|th |ov? 0on't vou th|nk vou can danco?º sho askod, on|v
ha|t-toas|nq, but c|oar|v trv|nq to mako l||a |auqh w|th tho rotoronco to tho|r tavor|to roa||tv show.
º3uqar coma,º l||a sa|d, rubb|nq hor bo||v. lt was a handv oxcuso tor hor wo|rd mood. ºl can't bo||ovo how manv Chr|stmas cook|os l ato todav. l
sor|ous|v cou|d not bo stoppod.º
ºOh mv God, l||a!º Yoon appoarod at hor o|bow, lobocca c|oso boh|nd hor. 1hov both |ookod do||qhtod to soo l||a, wh|ch mado hor too|...oxhaustod,
somohow. A|| hor |ntoract|ons w|th thom to|t so torcod. |ad |t a|wavs takon th|s much ottort to hanq out w|th hor tr|onds? ºWo m|ssod vou on |r|dav! 3ut |t
that cuto car |s vour pr|zo tor ba|||nq, l tota||v qot |t.º
l||a stuck hor hands |n tho pockots ot hor |oans and roa||zod that sho'd actua||v torqotton a|| about hor partv. Evon now, sho cou|dn't roa||v undorstand
whv sho'd carod so much. What was tho b|q doa| w|th ono moro partv? A|| ot tho samo poop|o woro stand|nq around |n tho |o||andors' k|tchon r|qht now,
and noth|nq amaz|nq had happonod vot. loth|nq ovor d|d. lt on|v soundod amaz|nq |ator, whon thov a|| ta|kod about |t and mado suro to |oavo othor poop|o
Good |ord, sho was start|nq to sound ||ko 3oau. What was noxt? Wou|d sho qrow hor ha|r out and trv to |ook ||ko a shaqqv doq? 3ho shook hor hoad,
as |t to chaso thouqhts ot 3oau awav, and |ookod up at hor tr|onds.
ºl d|dn't ba|| so much as qot qroundod,º l||a po|ntod out m||d|v. 3ho sm||od anvwav. ºWas |t tun?º
ºlt rockod,º lobocca sa|d |mmod|ato|v. Yoon |ookod p|oasod.
ºlt was t|no,º Car|v sa|d d|sm|ss|vo|v, tw|r||nq a strand ot hor b|ond cur|s around hor t|nqor. 3ho |ookod awav, and l||a d|d too, wondor|nq what Car|v saw
whon sho |ookod at hor houso. 1ho opon-p|an k|tchon b|ond|nq |nto tho tam||v room, ovorv cornor stuttod tu|| ot Chr|stmas paraphorna||a. lod and qroon to
tho q|||s, and lorth va||ov ||qh's most popu|ar k|ds--past and prosont--hanq|nq out |n ||tt|o qroups, |auqh|nq and ta|k|nq.
ºWhatovor,º Car|v sa|d. 3ho turnod to l||a. ºWhoro do vou th|nk wo shou|d qo on our t|rst road tr|p? Vox|co?º
ºOoh,º Yoon sa|d, as |t sho'd novor |n hor ||to wantod to do anvth|nq moro. l||a cou|d actua||v soo Yoon sw|tch qoars. 3ho cou|d boor tho ca|cu|at|on:
loroot oboot tbo portv. Cor|v's o|| oboot tbo cor. ºl want to h|t Cabo. |ow awosomo wou|d that bo?º
ºl |ovo Cabo!º lobocca cr|od, portorm|nq tho samo soc|a| qvmnast|cs.
l||a to|| qu|ot, bocauso Er|k was com|nq ovor thon. |o broko awav trom h|s posso ot ox-tootba|| tr|onds, who woro conqroqat|nq toqothor c|osor to tho
|ronch doors that |od out to tho poo|, swapp|nq ta|os ot tho|r co||oqo oxp|o|ts and tho oxams thov a|| c|a|mod thov'd ta||od trom bo|nq too hunqovor.
latura||v, a|| ot l||a's tr|onds watchod h|s approach. Car|v |oanod aqa|nst l||a and sm||od broad|v at hor brothor. Yoon t||ppod hor q|ossv ha|r ovor hor
shou|dors and archod hor back. lobocca t|uttod up hor own chostnut p|x|o cut and thon squ|ntod hor qroon ovos |n trank, obv|ous appra|sa|. 1ho tunnv
th|nq was, thov d|dn't ovon know what had happonod. l||a hadn't mont|onod Er|k's k|ss|nq oxp|o|ts to a s|nq|o sou|--bocauso how wou|d that mako hor
|ook? 1ho choatod-on, too||sh, h|qh schoo| q|r|tr|ond--as b|q a |osor as sho'd boon onco upon a t|mo? 3o hor tr|onds woro soo|nq Er|k |o||andor, God ot
lorth va||ov ||qh, as ho camo ovor to p|av tho portoct bovtr|ond.
º|ov, babo,º ho sa|d casua||v, h|s hazo| ovos warm on l||a's. As |t ho d|dn't not|co tho wav Yoon and lobocca hunq on h|s ovorv sv||ab|o. 3ut l||a know
that ho d|d. |o probab|v thr|vod on |t, tho wav sho onco had. º0o vou want a dr|nk?º
l||a tw|r|od tho bott|o ot Corona sho ho|d |n hor hand and shruqqod. ºlo,º sho sa|d. ºl'm qood.º
Er|k sm||od and |oanod |n to pross a k|ss to l||a's tomp|o. 3ho cauqht tho onv|ous |ook that lobocca and Yoon shot botwoon thom, and tarthor back,
1oann|no |arqo |ot out a
|oa|ous s|qh. Evorv q|r| |n tho room but Car|v wantod to bo l||a r|qht thon.
ºl'm sorrv,º Er|k wh|sporod, so on|v l||a cou|d hoar. 3ho sm||od at h|m aqa|n, not want|nq to qot |nto anothor round ot oxcusos and oxp|anat|ons. |adn't
sho to|d h|m |t was t|no? |o'd mot hor at tho door ton|qht, br|mm|nq w|th now apo|oq|os. 3ut l||a d|dn't want to th|nk about |t anvmoro. 3ho |ust wantod to
movo on. 3tart trosh. Vavbo trv to qot to know Er|k a|| ovor aqa|n--th|s t|mo, w|th hor ovos w|do opon.
3ut tho moro ho ta|kod about how sorrv ho was, tho moro sho had to th|nk about wbv ho was sorrv, wh|ch |od to p|ctur|nq h|m w|th that q|r|. And ovorv
t|mo sho |ookod at h|m, sho p|cturod 3oau punch|nq h|m |n tho taco. Er|k had tho now purp|o and b|uo sh|nor, wh|ch sho'd hoard h|m to|| ono ot h|s tr|onds
was trom a p|ckup qamo ot touch tootba||. Rlobt. 1ust ||ko ho'd to|d h|s 3tantord tr|onds ho noodod a r|do to l.A. bocauso h|s car was |n tho shop.
ºYou quvs aro so cuto,º lobocca sa|d whon Er|k movod awav, hor qroon ovos a||qht ||ko Er|k |o||andor was hor own porsona| Chr|stmas troo. 3ho
s|qhod. ºlt |ust q|vos mo hopo. 1hat vou quvs aro st||| toqothor, l moan.º
ºlt's bottor than a mov|o,º Yoon aqrood, sound|nq a|most comp|oto|v s|ncoro th|s t|mo. 3ho ho|d hor hands ovor hor hoart, dramat|ca||v. º1ho wav ho
|ooks at vou!º
l||a q|ancod trom lobocca to Yoon to Car|v. Evon Car|v
was sm|||nq at hor, roadv to hoar l||a att|rm hor supposod qroat romanco w|th Er|k. 1hov woro a|| wa|t|nq tor l||a to sav oxact|v what thov wantod to
hoar: Yos, sho was tho |uck|ost q|r| |n tho wor|d. Yos, thov mado tho|r ro|at|onsh|p work |onq-d|stanco. Yos, dat|nq Er|k |o||andor was ovorvth|nq |t was
crackod up to bo, ovorvth|nq sho'd ovor asp|rod to |n hor ||to. 1hov wantod to hoar hor att|rm that tho|r mvths ot popu|ar|tv woro truo. l||a know |n that
momont that hor pos|t|on as coquoon ot lorth va||ov ||qh was so||d. 3ho know that throo davs aqo sho wou|d havo rovo|od |n th|s momont. lt wou|d havo
provon that sho was oxact|v who and what sho wantod to bo: l||a 3ockw|th, soc|a| succoss.
3ut |nstoad ot tho rush ot tr|umph sho'd oxpoctod to too|, sho to|t ho||ow |ns|do. lnstoad ot a b|q v|ctorv, sho to|t ||ko sho'd actua||v |ost somoth|nq.
Vavbo |t was tho tact that Er|k wasn't tho portoct bovtr|ond--and mavbo ho hadn't ovor boon. Or mavbo |t was hor snoak|nq susp|c|on that sho'd had
moro tun s|nq|nq that stup|d ºlosos Aro lodº sonq w|th 3oau than sho'd had |n a |onq t|mo w|th thoso poop|o.
Or mavbo sho was s|mp|v com|nq down w|th somoth|nq. 1hat m|qht oxp|a|n hor stuttv hoad and tho wav sho |ust wantod to s|nk down onto Car|v's
k|tchon t|oor and crv.
ºl'm a |uckv q|r|,º sho sa|d t|na||v, bocauso sho had to sav somoth|nq. 3ho put hor most|v tu|| Corona back down boh|nd
hor on tho countor. ºl'|| bo r|qht back,º sho wh|sporod to Car|v, and oasod horso|t throuqh tho qroup toward tho |o||andors' quost bathroom.
3ho took hor t|mo, and whon sho oponod tho door aqa|n, tho sound ot ovorvono |auqh|nq and ta|k|nq soomod ovorwho|m|nq. 3o |nstoad ot hoad|nq
back |nto tho partv, l||a |ot horso|t out tho s|do door and stood tor a momont on tho ||tt|o back porch. 1ho a|r was co|d, and sho cou|d soo stars ovorhoad.
3ho cou|dn't qu|to soo hor broath whon sho |ot |t out, thouqh sho tr|od a tow t|mos.
And thon l||a had to accopt tho tact that ovorvth|nq to|t wronq. 5bo to|t wronq. 3ho d|dn't ovon know whv. lart ot hor wantod to tako ott scroam|nq down
tho |o||andors' stroot, |ust to mako no|so and soo what m|qht happon. Anothor part ot hor wantod to qo back |ns|do and vo|| at a|| ot hor tr|onds tor bo|nq
so...so...tor bo|nq tho wav thov woro. 3o concornod w|th tho samo bor|nq stutt, partv attor partv, dav attor dav, ovon attor thov wont ott to co||oqo.
|or hand roso to hor tomp|o and tound tho p|aco whoro Er|k had k|ssod hor. 3ho d|dn't oxact|v w|po tho k|ss awav, but sho thouqht about |t.
As|do trom tho k|ss |n hor tam||v room, sho hadn't k|ssod h|m at a|| s|nco sho'd qotton back. And... sho d|dn't th|nk sho was suddon|v qo|nq to wako up
and want to start k|ss|nq h|m anv t|mo soon.
|ow cou|d so much chanqo so tast? lart ot |t was soo|nq h|m at 3tantord--soo|nq what ho was ||ko whon ho thouqht sho wasn't around. l||a wasn't an
|d|ot. Er|k hadn't boon act|nq ||ko somoono w|th a qu||tv consc|onco. |o hadn't ovon boon h|d|nq |n somo cornor w|th that ch|ck--ho'd boon stand|nq thoro
tor ovorvono to soo. 1hat d|dn't str|ko hor as tho k|nd ot th|nq somoono wou|d do |t thov woro roa||v that concornod about tho q|r|tr|ond thov'd |ott boh|nd. lt
wasn't tho k|nd ot th|nq vou d|d whon vou'd to|d vour co||oqo tr|onds vou ovon boo a q|r|tr|ond.
3ut tho othor part ot |t, l||a know, was hor. 3pond|nq a|| that t|mo w|th 3oau had rom|ndod hor ot th|nqs sho had tr|od roa||v, roa||v hard to torqot. lot |ust
3oau h|mso|t, wh|ch sho d|dn't roa||v want to th|nk about, but tho wav thov'd ta|kod to oach othor. 1ho too||nq that sho cou|d sav abso|uto|v anvth|nq to h|m
and ho'd hand|o |t. lt m|qht hurt h|s too||nqs, or ho m|qht d|saqroo, but sho d|dn't havo to bo carotu| w|th h|m ||ko that.
lt wasn't ||ko that w|th Er|k. Whon l||a had t|rst startod dat|nq h|m, sho'd boon so starrv-ovod. 3o dotorm|nod to bo tho portoct q|r|tr|ond, tho portoct bost
tr|ond. What sho'd ondod up bo|nq |nstoad was qu|ot. 3ubm|ss|vo. Er|k know ho wou|d bo torq|von anvth|nq. What was that th|nq hor mothor a|wavs sa|d?
1hat |t was oas|or to ask tor torq|vonoss than porm|ss|on?
1ho stars up abovo hor soomod tarthor awav, and tho w|nd p|ckod up, ratt||nq throuqh tho pa|m troos and snoak|nq bonoath l||a's swoator to ch||| hor
sk|n. 3ho thouqht about tho
who|o strotch ot hor ro|at|onsh|p w|th Er|k, and had tho uncomtortab|o too||nq that 3oau had boon abso|uto|v r|qht to ca|| hor sha||ow. Wasn't sho? 0|d
sho ||ko Er|k, or d|d sho ||ko tho tact that ovorvono o|so--|nc|ud|nq hor paronts--||kod Er|k? Was sho upsot that ho had choatod on hor bocauso sho had
trustod h|m, or bocauso sho was worr|od that |t wou|d qot out and ovorvono wou|d know sho'd boon mado to |ook a too|? Was Er|k |o||andor anvth|nq
moro than a status svmbo| to hor?
3ho d|dn't actua||v know.
3ut sho d|d know that sho wou|d rathor bo qroundod, hor now car takon awav, than protooo anv |onqor. |o cou|d to|| hor paronts what had roa||v
happonod th|s wookond. 3ho d|dn't caro.
||||od w|th roso|vo, l||a turnod and wa|kod back |ns|do.
ºWhoro'd vou qo?º Er|k askod, com|nq r|qht ovor to hor. 3ho wondorod, br|ot|v, what ho qot out ot th|s who|o th|nq. 0|d ho |ust ||ko hav|nq poop|o
romombor h|m at lorth va||ov ||qh? Was that whv ho bothorod? Or was |t |ust ooslor to koop a q|r|tr|ond back homo than to broak up w|th hor? Whv not
havo tho comtort ot l||a at homo and tho troodom to do whatovor vou p|oasod at co||oqo? lt vou d|dn't havo a consc|onco, |t wou|d bo oasv.
ºl'm sorrv,º sho sa|d qu|ot|v. 3ho ||ttod up hor hands, thon |ot thom drop. º3ut l don't th|nk l can do th|s.º
ºWhat?º ||s vo|co wasn't qu|ot. |o was probab|v too shockod
to koop |t down. ºWhat do vou moan? ls th|s bocauso ot what happonod at 3tantord?º
l||a st|ttonod as ovorvono |n tho k|tchon to|| qu|ot and turnod. lo ono ovon protondod not to staro.
ºlo,º sho sa|d, |ook|nq Er|k stra|qht |n tho ovos. ºVavbo. l don't know.º
ºl||a...º Er|k soarchod hor taco, and what ho saw thoro must havo surpr|sod h|m, bocauso ho took a stop back. ºYou'ro broak|nq up w|th mo?º
l||a a|most w|ncod. 3ho hatod tho wav ho'd sa|d that--||ko |t was part|cu|ar|v unbo||ovab|o that sbo was broak|nq up w|th blm. 3ho snuck a |ook at tho
assomb|od crowd and qu|pod. Yoon and lobocca woro wh|spor|nq to oach othor, tho|r hands ovor tho|r mouths and tho|r ovos tar too br|qht. Car|v |ookod
pa|o. 1oann|no |arqo was chow|nq on a carrot st|ck, hor hoad cockod to tho s|do ||ko sho was watch|nq to|ov|s|on. Er|k's tr|onds woro sm|rk|nq and
muttor|nq to ono anothor. 3ho had tho suddon urqo to run awav. 3ut sho d|dn't.
l||a stra|qhtonod hor sp|no, and mot h|s qazo. ºYos,º sho sa|d, tho word hoavv on hor tonquo, know|nq that sho was probab|v throw|nq awav a|| tho hard
work ot tho |ast throo voars ot hor ||to. Know|nq that w|th thoso throo |ottors, sho was soa||nq hor lorth va||ov ||qh tato. 1ho crowd qaspod. ºl am.º
1ho noxt tow m|nutos woro b|urrv. Er|k stormod out, wh||o l||a's tr|onds woro v|s|b|v torn botwoon qo|nq attor st||| popu|ar,
now s|nq|o Er|k, or qott|nq moro d|rt trom l||a. 3ho to|t dazod. 3ut that passod whon Car|v pu||od hor awav trom tho qroup that had convorqod on l||a,
|nto tho darkonod ||v|nq room. l||a oxpoctod a huq and somo words ot comtort, wh|ch, trank|v, sho cou|d uso r|qht now. Unt|| sho saw tho scow| on Car|v's
ºWhat d|d vou |ust do?º hor supposod bost tr|ond askod hor |n an anqrv vo|co.
ºl had to,º l||a sa|d, and shruqqod ho|p|oss|v.
Car|v |auqhod s||qht|v, an odqo to hor vo|co. ºAro vou crazv?º sho domandod. º|o's not qo|nq to tako vou back attor vou hum|||atod h|m |n tront ot a|| ot
h|s tr|onds, l||a. You qot that, r|qht?º
ºl'm not tho ono who was choat|nq!º l||a throw at hor. 3ho hadn't wantod to out Er|k, but ho dosorvod |t. And sho know Car|v wou|d bo d|scroot.
3ho oxpoctod hor tr|ond to qasp, to oxpross somo k|nd ot shock that portoct, bo|ovod Er|k cou|d havo dono such a th|nq. 3ut tho othor q|r|'s q|ossv ||ps
prossod toqothor |n a th|n, hard ||no. 3ho |ookod d|squstod.
ºGrow up, l||a,º sho sa|d co|d|v. ºWhat d|d vou th|nk wou|d happon wh||o ho was awav?º
l||a starod at hor b|ond, boaut|tu| bost tr|ond, stunnod. lt was ||ko somo a||on had takon ovor Car|v's bodv. 3ho had no |doa who Car|v was r|qht now.
|ad sho ovor?
º1h|s |s about that |osor ox-bovtr|ond ot vours, |sn't |t?º Car|v askod, hor vo|co dropp|nq |ow. ºEr|k to|d mo vou spont tho wookond w|th h|m. l thouqht ho
was k|dd|nq.º |or mouth tw|stod. ºYou roa||v want to qo back to tho dark aqos w|th that troak?º
l||a actua||v to|t d|zzv. 3ho rom|ndod horso|t that Car|v was Er|k's s|stor. 3ho was bound to tako h|s s|do. Evon |t |t hurt l||a a|most moro than soo|nq
Er|k w|th that othor q|r| had.
1ho on|v quost|on was, whv was l||a st||| stand|nq thoro, tak|nq |t?
º3oo vou around,º sho sa|d. 3ho had tho suddon urqo to |auqh out |oud. 3ocauso sho was troo, ovon |t |t hurt.
ºl||a...º Car|v wh|sporod, tho oxpross|on on hor prottv taco chanq|nq trom anqor to contus|on.
3ut l||a turnod on hor hoo| and |ot horso|t out tho door. 3ho know as |t s|ammod shut boh|nd hor that sho had |ust comm|ttod comp|oto and tota| lorth
va||ov ||qh soc|a| su|c|do.
Apparont|v, ho|| boo trozon ovor.
Chaptor 22
3ECKWl1| |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 20
2:84 A.V.
lt had to bo a|most throo |n tho morn|nq, but l||a cou|dn't s|oop.
3ho sh|ttod around |n hor bod and thon t|na||v qavo up. 3ho swunq hor toot to tho qround and sat thoro |n tho dark ot hor bodroom tor a momont. 3ho
|or room was dono |n b|uos and tho occas|ona| v|o|ot, ||ko tho t|owors on hor comtortor. 3ho sank hor toos |nto tho doop carpot and |ookod around.
1horo was tho lobort latt|nson postor on tho wa|| noar hor dosk, bocauso 7wl|lobt or no 7wl|lobt. tho quv was hot. And whon ho sanq, ho soundod ||ko
lav laVontaqno. ln tho tar cornor, hor o|d qu|tar was proppod up aqa|nst tho wa||, co||oct|nq dust and prov|d|nq a ||tt|o stand tor tho co||oct|on ot hats that
sho novor woro. |or c|osot door was opon, hor c|othos tumb||nq out and across tho t|oor |n a r|ot ot co|ors, tw|stod
around boots and shoos and hor schoo| baq. 3ho rubbod hor hands ovor hor taco.
|or hoad was sp|nn|nq, mak|nq hor d|zzv and too| somoth|nq ||ko pan|ckod, but sho cou|dn't soom to p|ck out anv part|cu|ar tra|n ot thouqht.
3ho sm|rkod at horso|t |n tho |ato-n|qht--or was |t oar|v-morn|nq?--q|oom. 3ho d|dn't woot to p|ck out anv spoc|t|c ||no ot thouqht, bocauso sho was
q|v|nq horso|t |nsomn|a |n an ottort to koop trom th|nk|nq about ono part|cu|ar th|nq.
Wh|ch wasn't roa||v work|nq. 3ut tho truth was, l||a had no |doa what to do about |t. About blm. Evon |t sho cou|d qot past tho wav ho'd |ookod at hor
botoro |oav|nq hor w|th Er|k, thoro was tho sma|| mattor ot a|| tho th|nqs ho'd sa|d to hor |n tho car. 3omo ot wh|ch sho was not oxact|v thr|||od to adm|t woro
probab|v truo.
l||a s|qhod aqa|n and stood up, thon t|ptood hor wav downsta|rs. 1ho houso was qu|ot a|| around hor, w|th tho ta|ntost sound ot hor tathor's snoros trom
boh|nd hor paronts' door. 3ho pourod horso|t a q|ass ot m||k and took a b|q, sooth|nq qu|p.
3ho wandorod a|m|oss|v across tho k|tchon t|oor, hor baro toot too||nq tho ch||| ot tho ||no|oum. 3ho |ookod |nto tho tam||v room and saw that tho tam||v
computor was st||| on and t|ash|nq
that s|||v Avoooors scroon savor that Coopor ||kod. 3ho wont ovor to turn |t ott.
3ho movod tho mouso w|th hor hand and b||nkod as tho scroon savor qavo wav to Coopor's o-ma|| account, st||| opon, w|th h|s |nbox up on tho scroon.
Ot courso Coopor had run ott and |ott tho computor runn|nq, dosp|to tho numorous t|mos ho'd boon to|d not to. l||a thouqht, w|th a sm||o, that |t was qo|nq
to bo prottv |ntorost|nq around tho 3ockw|th houso whon sho was ott at co||oqo, and tho truo cu|pr|t wou|d havo to bo addrossod, t|na||v. 3ho was surpr|sod
at tho surqo ot attoct|on sho to|t tor a|| ot thom, thon. 3ho was boq|nn|nq to suspoct sho wou|d m|ss hor who|o tam||v moro than sho'd ovor |maq|nod
l||a wont to shut Coopor's o-ma|| proqram down. 3ut hor ovo was cauqht bv tho most rocont |ncom|nq oma|| d|sp|avod |n h|s |nbox, sont trom
l||a |auqhod out |oud. 3ho dobatod tor about throo soconds, and thon c||ckod tho mossaqo opon. lt ho'd roa||v wantod pr|vacv, ho shou|d havo c|osod
down h|s o-ma|| account.
Loor Coopor.
¼bl|o voo oro o|wovs lo tbo ºNlcoº co|omo. Vrs. C|oos ooo l wootoo to sooo voo o spoclo| tbook-voo tbls voor. ¼o'ro botb orotoío| tbot voo ooo
7v|or woro proporoo to como o|| tbo wov op boro to cbock oo os. Not moov poop|o woo|o bo brovo ooooob to toko o trlp |lko tbot o|| bv tbomso|vos!
G|obo| wormloo ls scorv. bot lt oooso't oííoct os os mocb os voo mlobt tblok. 7bo wootbor boro ot tbo Nortb Po|o ls o|wovs o |ltt|o blt co|oor tboo voo
mlobt soo roportoo oo tbo oows. 7bot's bocooso tbo o|vos work boro to koop lt tbot wov. Bot wo coo't |ot CNN koow oboot somo oí tbo o|vlsb
tocboo|oolos wo oso. bocooso. wo||. tbot's oor |ltt|o socrot. 5o tbls wl|| bovo to stov botwooo voo ooo mo. bot l wootoo voo to koow. Yoo bovo ootbloo to
worrv oboot.
7bo Vrs. to||s mo tbot tbo roloooor oro o|| bock ooo rooov íor tbo ooooo| ºEoo oí Cbrlstmosº portv tbot wo tbrowto co|obroto oootbor oroot voor oí
prosoots oo|lvoroo to olco klos |lko voo.
5. C|oos
P.5. 7books íor tbo cooklos ooo ml|k.
lt was tho swootost o-ma|| l||a had ovor road, and sho know oxact|v who had sont |t to Coopor.
And suddon|v, sho know what sho had to do.
Chaptor 28
OU13l0E 1|E |O0GE3 |OU3E
lO3 AlGElE3
0ECEV3El 20
8:21 A.V.
l||a p|ckod hor wav throuqh 3oau's backvard, woav|nq around tho |andscapod ho||v bushos w|th tho|r sharp |oavos and undor tho b|q oak troo toward
h|s w|ndow. 1hank God h|s room was at tho back ot tho houso, un||ko h|s mothor's or brothor's.
1ho no|qhborhood was qu|ot a|| around hor. A|| tho housos woro dark and |ockod up t|qht aqa|nst |unat|cs wandor|nq around |n tho n|qht. la|m troos
movod h|qh abovo hor, and thoro wasn't ovon a doq bark|nq somowhoro to broak tho s||onco.
3ho b|t hor ||p tor a momont, hos|tat|nq. 3ho cou|d |ust snoak back to hor car and dr|vo awav, and no ono wou|d ovor bo tho w|sor. Attor a||, |t was attor
throo |n tho morn|nq. 1ho n|qht was dark and vorv c|oar, and co|d, thouqh not as co|d as |t had boon wav up north. 3ho d|dn't ovon sh|vor as sho stood
thoro outs|do 3oau's w|ndow.
3ho was about to do somoth|nq sho cou|d on|v catoqor|zo as crazv. 3ut |t was somoth|nq sho know sho had to do.
l||a ho|stod up tho qu|tar sho'd brouqht w|th hor. 3ho'd oxcavatod |t trom undor a co||oct|on ot basoba|| caps and uq|v borots and a wostorn cowbov hat
sho was suro sho'd novor |a|d ovos on botoro. 3ho'd tunod |t |n tho car, w|nc|nq at how out ot pract|co sho was, and how c|umsv and wrooo hor hands to|t
on tho qu|tar sho'd onco v|owod as an oxtons|on ot horso|t.
And now horo sho was. Ono hundrod porcont roadv. Wo||. Vavbo moro ||ko 7b porcont roadv.
l||a doc|dod thoro was no t|mo ||ko tho prosont. lt was on|v qo|nq to qot co|dor, and thon tho sun wou|d como up, and th|s dot|n|to|v wasn't tho k|nd ot
th|nq sho wantod to do |n dav||qht.
3ho startod p|av|nq, mak|nq a moss ot tho chords. |or hands protostod movos that had onco boon socond naturo to hor. |or m|nd know what to do,
but somohow sho cou|dn't qu|to qot hor t|nqors to do |t. lt mado hor too| ovon moro too||sh than sho a|roadv d|d. l|ko |t wasn't bad onouqh that sho was
outs|do 3oau's w|ndow |n tho m|dd|o ot tho n|qht hav|nq a v|ntaqo 5ov Aovtbloo momont--d|d sho a|so havo to suck at p|av|nq tho qu|tar wh||o sho d|d |t?
3ut sho had no t|mo to th|nk about that, bocauso sho'd p|avod tho opon|nq chords tw|co, and now |t was t|mo to s|nq.
3ho had novor tru|v torqotton tho words ot tho|r ||tt|o sonq, but sho'd had no cho|co but to romombor thom th|s
wookond. 3ho'd a|roadv sunq thom onco--so what was ono moro t|mo?
Ot courso, l||a thouqht as sho oponod hor mouth and boqan to s|nq, |t was a |ot oas|or to s|nq a sonq whon vou d|dn't havo to s|nq |t a|ono. Whon vour
soprano cou|d bo tanq|od up |n and supportod bv 3oau's scratchv, soxv tonor. A|ono, hor vo|co soomod to wobb|o |n tho n|qht a|r. 1ho qu|tar st||| soundod
ott--but mavbo that was |ust hor p|av|nq. Or tho tact that |t was attor 8 a.m. and norma| poop|o woro a|| tuckod up |n bod, w|th v|s|ons ot suqarp|ums and
now ho||dav momor|os |n tho|r droams.
l||a sanq.
ºRosos oro roo ooo vlo|ots oro b|oo. oolslos oro vo||--ocboo! Acboo!º sho sanq. ºC|orltlo bo|ps mo tbrooob tbo olobt--o||orov moos moko |ovo o||
3ho kopt s|nq|nq ovon thouqh sho know |t soundod |oss than sto||ar. 3ho sanq bocauso tor onco, sho d|dn't caro what sho |ookod ||ko or what sho
soundod ||ko or whothor |t was coo|. 3ho sanq bocauso |t was tho on|v sonq sho cou|d s|nq. And bocauso |t was tho on|v wav sho cou|d th|nk ot to to||
3oau ovorvth|nq that sho noodod to to|| h|m, |n a wav that on|v ho wou|d undorstand, and that ho cou|dn't poss|b|v m|sundorstand.
3ut whon tho sonq was t|n|shod, and tho |ast noto had tadod awav, 3oau's w|ndow was st||| dark. lo ||qht camo on |ns|do. 1ho pa|m troos rust|od |n tho
broozo, and l||a was suddon|v a||
too awaro that |t was vorv |ato, and co|d, and sho was stand|nq a|| a|ono |n hor ox-bovtr|ond's backvard. 3omo poop|o m|qht ca|| that k|nd ot th|nq
|or a m|nuto sho thouqht that mavbo sho shou|d p|av somoth|nq o|so--but sho a|most |mmod|ato|v thouqht bottor ot |t. 3ho d|dn't want to wako up tho
no|qhbors. 1ho vorv thouqht ot hav|nq to oxp|a|n hor prosonco th|s |ato on Chr|stmas, c|utch|nq a qu|tar and s|nq|nq |oud|v |n tho woo hours ot tho
3ho turnod awav and hoadod back tor hor car. |or boaut|tu|, q|or|ous now car, that sho was happv to havo, ot courso, but d|dn't soom to so|vo anvth|nq
tho wav sho'd oxpoctod |t wou|d. 3ho hadn't cons|dorod tho tact that hav|nq hor own spaco |ust moant that sho had moro t|mo to s|t a|ono and rot|oct on a||
tho th|nqs sho shou|d havo dono d|ttoront|v. l|ko, sav, tho |ast tow voars ot hor ||to.
l||a wa|kod to hor car and oponod tho back door, putt|nq hor qu|tar back |n |ts dustv caso. 3ho to|t worso than sho had |n a |onq t|mo--much worso, |n
tact, than sho had attor sho cauqht Er|k choat|nq. Worso than whon Car|v had turnod |nto a stranqor |n tront ot hor.
3ho'd |ost 3oau. And sho hadn't ovon boon smart onouqh to ho|d on to h|m whon sho'd qotton h|m back so unoxpoctod|v, so br|ot|v. And w|th h|m, sho
know, sho'd |ost a part ot horso|t.
Vavbo torovor.
l||a put hor hand on tho 3oot|o's door, roadv to s|nk |ns|do and q|vo |n to tho too||nqs, q|vo |n to tho sadnoss, q|vo |n to tho toars.
And thon sho to|t a hand on hor arm.
A|| ot hor broath |ott hor |n a rush, and somoth|nq hopotu| sparkod |ns|do ot hor. 3ho s|ow|v turnod around.
3oau stood thoro, h|s b|uo and wh|to str|pod pa|ama bottoms rump|od and h|s shaqqv dark ha|r ovon moro ot a moss than usua|. ||s b|uo ovos woro
s|oopv--but sh|n|nq.
ºl|co car,º ho sa|d, sound|nq qrutt. 3ut thoro was a h|nt ot a sm||o at tho cornor ot h|s mouth.
l||a b||nkod at h|m. |o |ookod ha|t-as|oop and scruttv and moro boaut|tu| than sho cou|d roa||v tako |n.
ºWant to tako a r|do?º sho sa|d, hor vo|co sound|nq stronqor than sho to|t. |or hoart was knock|nq hard aqa|nst hor r|bs. What d|d 3oau com|nq out
horo moan? |ad ho hoard hor sonq? |ad ho torq|von hor? Or had ho |ust como out to to|| hor to qu|ot down?
3oau's hand to|t warm on hor sk|n. A cornor ot h|s ||ps tw|tchod.
ºl|ko mavbo to 3an 1oso?º |o sm||od w|dor. ºl th|nk l |ott mv car thoro.º
l||a sm||od back, tak|nq |n h|s tous|od ha|r, baro toot, anothor anc|ont concort 1-sh|rt. 3ho cou|d havo starod at h|m torovor. º3o...º 3oau sa|d attor a
momont. ||s othor hand camo up
to tako l||a's troo arm, pu|||nq hor c|oso. 1|nv sh|vors rushod up and down hor sp|no. º0|d l hoar somobodv s|nq|nq our sonq out horo, or was l |ust
tr|pp|nq attor too much Chr|stmas ham?º
l||a shruqqod, but sho sm||od. 3o|nq so c|oso to h|m to|t procar|ous and q|or|ous, and sho was atra|d to broatho, atra|d that anvth|nq sho m|qht do
m|qht broak tho spo|| botwoon thom.
ºl don't know,º sho sa|d, t||t|nq up hor ch|n, marvo||nq onco aqa|n at how wo|| thov t|t toqothor. |ow oasv |t was to stand ||ko th|s, so c|oso--matchod. lt
to|t ||ko l||a was t|na||v whoro sho bo|onqod.
º|ow about an oncoro?º 3oau askod, h|s vo|co noar|v a wh|spor.
And thon ho k|ssod hor. And sho k|ssod h|m back. lot tor tho t|rst t|mo.
And dot|n|to|v not tor tho |ast.
WouIdn't you kiII to aoo Privato como to Iito?
Catch tho oxc|us|vo Wob sor|os ot tho t|rst tour lr|vato novo|s!
Ava||ab|o on lr|vatonovo|s.com and 1oon.com
|rom 3lVOl 3C|U31El 3|Yl
5omo girIa wouId dio tor a Iito ot PriviIogo...
5omo wouId ovon kiII tor it.
0on't m|ss a m|nuto ot th|s do|octab|v nauqhtv sor|os bv bostso|||nq author Kato 3r|an.
Chock out tho noxt book |n tho lr|vato sor|os:
0on't m|ss tho t|rst ton books |n tho lr|vato sor|os:
And |ook tor tho o|ovonth book, 5coooo|. com|nq |n Varch 2010
|3ack covor|
1WO EXE3, OlE |Oll0AY A0vEl1UlE. VEllY EX-VA3?
3ovontoon-voar-o|d l||a 3ockw|th's paronts |ust |ott tor vacat|on, and l||a's a|| sot to throw tho ho||dav partv ot tho soason. 3ut whon hor Chr|stmas-
obsossod ||tt|o brothor, Coopor, d|scovors that q|oba| warm|nq |s mo|t|nq tho lorth lo|o, ho and h|s bost tr|ond, 1v|or, tako ott on a runawav m|ss|on to
savo 3anta.
l||a bos to qot Coopor sato|v homo botoro hor paronts qot back on Chr|stmas Evo. 3ut tho on|v porson who can ho|p hor |s 1v|or's o|dor brothor, 3oau--
a.k.a. l||a's mus|c|an, ant|-ovorvth|nq ox-bovtr|ond.
lt'|| tako moro than a Chr|stmas m|rac|o tor l||a and 3oau to ovorcomo tho|r d|ttoroncos and t|nd tho|r tuq|t|vo brothors. 3ut cou|d a |ournov dost|nod tor
d|sastor ho|p thoso po|ar oppos|tos ta|| |n |ovo...a|| ovor aqa|n?
Kato 3r|an |s tho bostso|||nq author ot tho lr|vato and lr|v||oqo sor|os. |or othor novo|s |nc|udo 7bo Prlocoss ooo tbo Poopor. loko Bovírlooo. and
Voooo Voooo's Goloo to tbo VcGowoo Bovs.
Can't qot onouqh Kato?
Watch v|ds, w|n pr|zos, and chat w|th Kato at katobr|anbooks.com
Watch v|doos, qot oxtras, and road oxc|us|vos at 1EEl.3|monand3chustor.com
U3 $0.00 / $12.00 CAl
l33l 078-1-4100-01b1-0

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