Me: I can’t.
I throw rocks at her window but she doesn’t come down. I think about ringing the doorbell, but that would only wake the parents. I try waiting her out, but the curtain doesn’t move, and the door doesn’t open, and it is really f*****g cold, so finally I climb into Little B*****d and go home.
I’m up the rest of the night making a list called “How to Stay Awake.” There’s the obvious—Red Bull, caffeine, NoDoz and other drugs—but this isn’t about skipping a couple hours’ sleep, it’s about staying up and staying here for the long haul.
2. Write (this includes any thoughts I don’t want to have—write them out fast so they’re out of me and on the paper).
3. Along those lines, accept any and all thoughts (don’t be afraid of them no matter what they are).
4. Surround myself with water.
6. Drive anywhere and everywhere, even when there’s nowhere to go. (Note: There’s always somewhere to go.)
7. Play guitar.
8. Organize room, notes, thoughts. (This is different from planning.)
9. Do whatever it takes to remind myself that I’m still here and have a say.
147–146 days till freedom
The next morning. My house. I walk out the door to find Finch lying on the front lawn, eyes closed, black boots crossed at the ankle. His bike rests on its side, half in and half off the street.
I kick the sole of his shoe. “Were you out here all night?”
He opens his eyes. “So you did know I was here. Hard to tell when a person’s being ignored while standing, I may add, in the freezing arctic cold.” He pulls himself to his feet, shoulders his backpack, picks up his bike. “Any more nightmares?”
While I get Leroy from the garage, Finch rides up and down the driveway. “So where are we headed?”
“I mean tomorrow when we wander. Unless you’ve got big plans.”
He says this as if he knows I don’t. I think about Ryan and the drive-in. I still haven’t told him yes or no. “I’m not sure I’m free tomorrow.” We push off toward school, Finch sprinting forward, doubling back, sprinting forward, doubling back.
The ride is almost peaceful, until he says, “I was thinking that, as your partner and the guy who saved your life, I should know what happened the night of the accident.”
Leroy wobbles and Finch reaches out and steadies the bike and me. The electric currents start shooting through me, just like before, and there goes my balance again. We ride for a minute with his hand on the back of the seat. I keep my eyes open for Amanda or Suze because I know exactly how this will look.
“So what happened?” I hate the way he brings up the accident just like that, like it’s okay to talk about. “I’ll tell you how I got my scar if you tell me about that night.”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because I like you. Not in a romantic, let’s-get-it-on way, but as a fellow student of U.S. geography. And because it might help you to talk about it.”
“I was playing this show over in Chicago with these guys I met at a bar. They were like, ‘Hey, man, our guitar player just walked out, and you look like you know your way around a stage.’ I got up there, no clue what I was doing, what they were doing, but we threw it down. I mean, threw. It. Down. I was hotter than Hendrix—they knew it, and the original guitar player knew it. So the sonuvabitch climbed up after me and cut me open with his guitar pick.”
“Did that really happen?” The school’s in sight. Kids are getting out of their cars and hanging around on the lawn.
“There may have also been a girl involved.” I can’t tell by the look on his face if he’s bullshitting me or not, but I’m pretty sure he is. “Your turn.”
“Only after you tell me what really happened.” I take off and fly toward the parking lot and the bike rack. When I come to a stop, Finch is right behind me, laughing his head off. In my pocket, my phone is buzzing and buzzing. I pull it out and there are five texts from Suze, all with the same message: Theodore Freak?!! WTF?! I look around but she isn’t anywhere.
“See you tomorrow,” he’s saying.
“Actually, I’ve got plans.”
He glances at my phone and then at me, giving me a look that’s hard to read. “All right. That’s cool. Later then, Ultraviolet.”
“What did you call me?”
“You heard me.”
“School’s that way.” I point toward the building.
“I know.” And away he goes in the other direction.
Saturday. My house. I am on the phone with Jerri Sparks, the reporter from the local paper, who wants to send someone out to take my picture. She says, “How does it feel to know you’ve saved someone’s life? I know, of course, about the terrible tragedy you suffered last year. Does this in any way give you closure?”
“How would this give me closure?”
“The fact that you couldn’t save your sister’s life, but you were able to save the life of this boy, Theodore Finch …”
I hang up on her. As if they are one and the same, and besides, I’m not the one who saved a life. Finch is the hero, not me. I’m just a girl pretending to be a hero.
I am still seething by the time Ryan shows up, five minutes early. We walk to the drive-in because it’s only a mile from my house. I keep my hands in the pockets of my coat, but we walk with our arms bumping. It’s like a first date all over again.
At the drive-in, we find Amanda and Roamer, who are parked in Roamer’s car. He drives an enormous old Chevy Impala, which is as large as a city block. He calls it the Party Car because it can fit about sixty-five people at once.
Ryan opens the back door for me and I get in. Because the Impala is parked, I’m fine being in there, even though it smells like smoke and old fast food and, faintly, of pot. I’m probably incurring years of secondhand smoke damage just sitting here.
The movie is a Japanese monster movie double feature, and before it starts, Ryan, Roamer, and Amanda talk about how awesome college will be—they’re all going to Indiana University. I sit thinking about Jerri Sparks and New York and spring break and how bad I feel about blowing off Finch and for being rude to him when he saved my life. Wandering with him would be more fun than this. Anything would be more fun than this.