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All the Bright Places (Page 16)

All the Bright Places(16)
Author: Jennifer Niven

This goes to what Violet said about time filler and how none of it matters, but it’s also me exactly—buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then falling deep into mud, so deep I can’t breathe. The Asleeps and Awakes, no in-betweens.

It’s a damn good quote, so good it gives me chills. I study the hairs standing up on my arm, and by the time I look back at the screen, Violet has responded. “When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?”

I’m full-on cheating now, pulling up every Virginia Woolf site I can find. I wonder if she’s cheating too. I write: “I am rooted, but I flow.”

I nearly change my mind. I think about deleting the line, but then she writes back. I like that one. Where is it from?

The Waves. I cheat again and find the passage. Here’s more: “I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow. All gold, flowing …”

I decide to end there, mostly because I’m in a hurry to see if she’ll write back.

It takes her three minutes. I like: “This is the most exciting moment I have ever known. I flutter. I ripple. I stream like a plant in the river, flowing this way, flowing that way, but rooted, so that he may come to me. ‘Come,’ I say, ‘come.’ ”

My pulse isn’t the only part of my body stirring now. I adjust myself and think how weirdly, stupidly sexy this is.

I write, You make me feel gold, flowing. I post it without thinking. I can go on quoting Virginia Woolf—believe me, the passage gets even hotter—but I decide I want to quote myself instead.

I wait for her response. I wait for three minutes. Five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. I open up her website, the one she ran with her sister, and check the date of the last post, which hasn’t changed since the last time I looked.

I get it, I think. Not gold, not flowing. Standing still.

Then another message appears: I got your rules for wandering and I have an addition: We don’t travel in bad weather. We walk, jog, or ride bikes. No driving. We don’t go far from Bartlett.

She is all business now. I reply: If we’re walking, jogging, or riding bikes, that’s not going to be a problem. Thinking of her website sitting dead and empty, I add: We should write about our wanderings so we have something to show for them besides pictures. Actually, you should do the writing. I’ll just smile and look pretty.

I am still sitting there an hour later, but she’s gone. Like that, I’ve either irritated her or scared her away. So I make up song after song. Most nights, these are Songs That Will Change the World because they are that good and that deep and that damn amazing. But tonight I’m telling myself I don’t have anything in common with this Violet girl, no matter how much I want to, and asking myself if the words between us were really that hot or if maybe it was just me imagining, me in overdrive for a girl I barely know, all because she’s the first person I’ve met who seems to speak my language. A few words of it anyway.

I scoop up the sleeping pills and hold them in my palm. I can swallow them right now, lie down on my bed, close my eyes, drift away. But who’s going to check on Violet Markey to make sure she’s not back up on that ledge? I drop the pills into the toilet and flush them down. And then I go back to, search the archives till I get to the first post, and move forward through all of them until I’ve read every single one.

I stay up as long as I can, finally falling asleep sometime around four a.m. I dream that I’m naked and standing in the bell tower at school, in the cold and the rain. I look below me and everyone is there, teachers and students, and my dad eating a hamburger raw, holding it up to the sky like he’s toasting me. I hear a noise over my shoulder and turn to see Violet, on the opposite end of the ledge and naked too except for a pair of black boots. It’s stupefying—the very best thing I’ve ever seen with these two eyes—but before I can unhook myself from the stone railing and go to her, she opens her mouth, leaps into the air, and starts to scream.

It’s the alarm, of course, and I slam it once with my fist before throwing it against the wall, where it lies, bleating like a lost sheep.


151 days till graduation

Monday morning. First period.

Everyone is talking about the newest post in the Bartlett Dirt, the school gossip rag that not only has its own website but seems to be taking over the entire internet. “Senior Hero Saves Crazy Classmate from Bell Tower Jump.” We aren’t named, but there is a picture of my face, eyes startled behind Eleanor’s glasses, bangs crooked. I look like a makeover “before.” There’s also a picture of Theodore Finch.

Jordan Gripenwaldt, editor of our school paper, is reading the article to her friends Brittany and Priscilla in a low, disgusted voice. Now and then they glance in my direction and shake their heads, not at me but at this perfect example of journalism at its worst.

These are smart girls who speak their minds. I should be friends with them instead of Amanda. This time last year, I would have spoken up and agreed with them and then written a scathing blog post about high school gossip. Instead I pick up my bag and tell the teacher I have cramps. I bypass the nurse and climb the stairs to the top floor. I pick the lock to the bell tower. I go only as far as the stairs, where I sit down and, by the light of my phone, read two chapters of Wuthering Heights. I’ve given up on Anne Brontë and decided there’s only Emily—unruly Emily, angry at the world.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

“A mighty stranger,” I say to no one. “You got that right.”


Day 9

By Monday morning, it’s clear that ’80s Finch has to go. For one thing, the picture of him in the Bartlett Dirt is not flattering. He looks unnervingly wholesome—I suspect he’s a goody-good, what with all the not smoking and vegetarianism and turned-up collars. And, for two, he just doesn’t feel right to me. He’s the kind of guy who’s probably great with teachers and pop quizzes and who actually doesn’t mind driving his mom’s S****n, but I don’t trust him not to screw things up with girls. More specifically, I don’t trust him to get anywhere with Violet Markey.

I meet Charlie at Goodwill during third period. There’s one down by the train station, in an area that used to be nothing but abandoned, burned-out factories and graffiti. Now it’s been “regentrified,” which means it got a new coat of paint and someone decided to pay attention to it.

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