My mom is there now, and I say to my dad, “It’s not his fault.”
But my dad isn’t listening. He’s still looking over my head at Finch. “I’d get out of here if I were you, son.” When Finch doesn’t move, my father pushes forward a little, and I have to block him.
“James!” My mom tugs at my dad’s arm so he can’t go through me and after Finch, and then we are pushing my dad into the house, and now my mom is the one practically strangling me as she hugs me too tightly and cries into my hair. I can’t see anything because once again I’m being smothered, and eventually I hear Finch drive away.
Inside, after my parents and I have all (somewhat) calmed down, I sit facing them. My dad does most of the talking as my mom stares at the floor, her hands resting limply on her knees.
“The boy is troubled, Violet. The boy is unpredictable. He’s dealt with anger issues since he was little. This is not the kind of person you need to be spending time with.”
“How did you—” But then I remember the numbers Finch gave him, written so neatly, so carefully. “Did you call his mother?”
My mom says, “What were we supposed to do?”
My dad shakes his head. “He lied to us about his father. The parents divorced last year. Finch sees him once a week.”
I am trying to remember what Finch said about lies not being lies if they feel true. My mother says, “She called his father.”
“Mrs. Finch. She said he would know what to do, that maybe he would know where Finch was.”
My brain is trying to keep up with everything, to put out fires, to think of ways to tell my parents that Finch is not this lying, deceitful boy they seem to think he is. That that in itself is a lie. But then my dad says, “Why didn’t you tell us he was the one in the bell tower?”
“How did—Did his dad tell you that too?” Maybe I don’t have a right to, but my face is going hot and my palms are burning the way they do when I get angry.
“When you weren’t home by one a.m. and you didn’t answer your phone, we called Amanda to see if you were at her house, or if she’d seen you. She said you were probably with Finch, the boy whose life you saved.”
Mom’s face is wet, her eyes red. “Violet, we’re not trying to be the bad guys here. We’re just trying to do what’s best.”
Best for who, I want to say.
“You don’t trust me.”
“You know better than that.” She looks hurt and also angry. “We think we’ve been pretty damn cool, all things considered. But you need to take a minute to understand where we’re coming from. We’re not being overprotective and we’re not trying to suffocate you. We’re trying to make sure you’re okay.”
“And that nothing happens to me like it did to Eleanor. Why don’t you just keep me locked up in the house forever so you never have to worry again?”
Mom shakes her head at me. My father repeats, “No more seeing him. No more of this driving around. I’ll speak to your teacher on Monday if I need to. You can write a report or do something else to make up for the work. Are we understood?”
“Extenuating circumstances.” Here I am again.
“Yes. We’re understood.”
From my bedroom window I watch the street outside, as if Finch might reappear. If he does, I will climb out of my window and tell him to drive, just drive, as fast and far as he can. I sit there a long time and he doesn’t come. My parents’ voices rumble from the first floor, and I know that they will never trust me again.
I see his SUV before I see him. I almost drive on past my house and just keep going who knows where, but something makes me stop the car and walk on in.
“I’m here,” I yell. “Come and get me.”
My dad barrels out of the living room like a battering ram, Mom and Rosemarie fluttering behind him. My mom is apologizing to me or to him, it’s hard to tell. “What was I supposed to do?… The phone rings at two a.m., there must be some emergency.… Kate wasn’t home.… I didn’t have a choice.…”
My father doesn’t say a word to me, just sends me flying across the kitchen and into the door. I stand up, shake it off, and the next time he raises his arm, I laugh. This throws him so much that the arm stops in midair, and I can see him thinking, He’s crazier than I thought he was.
I say, “Here’s the thing. You can spend the next five hours or five days beating me to dust, but I don’t feel it. Not anymore.” I let him try to get in one last whack, but as his hand moves toward me, I grab it by the wrist. “Just so you know, you will never do that again.”
I don’t expect it to work, but there must be something in my voice, because he suddenly drops his arm. I say to Mom, “Sorry we worried everyone. Violet’s home and she’s safe, and I’m going to my room.”
I wait for my father to come after me. Instead of locking the door and pushing the dresser in front of it, I leave it open. I wait for my mother to check on me. But no one comes because, in the end, this is my house, which means you don’t go out of your way to engage.
I write Violet an apology. I hope you’re okay. I hope they’re not too hard on you. I wish that hadn’t happened, but I don’t regret anything that came before.
She writes back: I’m okay. Are you okay? Did you see your dad? I don’t regret it either, even though I wish we could go back and get me home on time. My parents don’t want me seeing you anymore.
I write: We’ll just have to convince them to change their minds. By the way? For what it’s worth, you showed me something, Ultraviolet—there is such a thing as a perfect day.
The next morning I’m at Violet’s, ringing the bell. Mrs. Markey answers, but instead of letting me in, she stands in the doorway, the door pulled close around her. She smiles apologetically. “I’m sorry, Theodore.” She shakes her head, and that one gesture says it all. I’m sorry that you will never be allowed near our daughter again because you are different and strange and a person who cannot be trusted.
I can hear Mr. Markey from inside. “Is that him?”
She doesn’t answer. Instead, her eyes run over my face, as if she’s been told to check for bruises or maybe something deeper and even more broken. It’s a kind gesture, but something about it makes me feel like I’m not really there. “Are you all right?”