When he walks me to my door, I let him kiss me, and when he calls me the next morning, I answer.
On Saturday afternoon, Amanda shows up at my house and asks if I want to hang out. We end up playing tennis in the street, like we did when I first moved here, and afterward we walk up to the Dairy Queen and order Blizzards. That night, we go to the Quarry, just Amanda and me, and then I text Brenda and Shelby and Lara and the three Brianas, and they meet us there. An hour later, Jordan Gripenwaldt and some of the other Germ girls have joined us. We dance till it’s time to go home.
Friday, April 24, Brenda and I go to the movies, and when she invites me to sleep over, I do. She wants to talk about Finch, but I tell her I’m trying to put him behind me. She hasn’t heard from him either, so she lets me be, but not before she says, “Just so you know, it’s not you. Whatever reason he had for leaving, it must have been a good one.”
We stay up till four a.m. working on Germ, me on my laptop, Brenda flat on her back on the floor, legs up the wall. She says, “We can help guide our readers into adulthood like Sherpas on Mount Everest. We give them the truth about sex, the truth about college life, the truth about love.” She sighs. “Or at least the truth about what to do when boys are complete and total prats.”
“Do we even know what to do when that happens?”
“Not at all.”
I have fifteen emails from girls at school wanting to be contributors, because Violet Markey, bell tower hero and creator of EleanorandViolet.com (Gemma Sterling’s favorite blog site), has started another magazine. I read them aloud, and Brenda says, “So this is what it’s like to be popular.”
By now, she’s pretty much my closest friend.
On Sunday, around ten thirty in the morning, Kate Finch shows up at our door. She looks as if she hasn’t slept in weeks. When I invite her in, she shakes her head. “Do you have any idea where Theo might be?”
“I don’t hear from him anymore.”
She starts nodding. “Okay.” She nods and nods. “Okay. Okay. It’s just that he’s been checking in every Saturday with Mom or me, either by email or voicemail when he knows he won’t get us live. I mean, every Saturday. We didn’t hear from him yesterday, and then this morning we get this weird email.”
I try not to feel jealous of the fact that he’s been checking in with them but not me. After all, they’re his family. I’m only me, the most important person in his life, for a while at least. But okay. I get it. He’s moved on. I’ve moved on too.
She hands me a piece of paper. It’s the email, sent at 9:43 a.m. I’m remembering the time we went to Indianapolis to eat at that pizza place, the one with the organ that came up out of the floor. Kate must have been eleven, I was ten, Decca was a baby. Mom was there. Dad too. When the organ started playing—so loud the tables shook—the light show started. Remember? It was like the aurora borealis. But what stays with me most is all of you. We were happy. We were good. Each and every one of us. The happy times went away for a while, but they’re coming back. Mom, forty-one’s not old. Decca, sometimes there’s beauty in the tough words—it’s all in how you read them. Kate, be careful with your own heart, and remember that you’re better than some guy. You’re one of the best there is. You all are.
“I thought you might know why he wrote this, or maybe you might have heard from him.”
“I don’t, and I haven’t. I’m sorry.” I hand her the email and promise to let her know if by some miracle he gets in touch with me, and then she goes away, and I shut the door. I lean against it because for some reason I feel the need to catch my breath.
My mom appears, the skin between her eyebrows pinched. “Are you okay?”
I almost say sure, yes, great, but I feel myself folding in two, and I just hug her and rest my head on her shoulder and let her momness surround me for a few minutes. Then I go upstairs and turn on the computer and sign onto Facebook.
There’s a new message, as of 9:47 a.m., four minutes after he sent the email to his family.
The words are written in The Waves: “If that blue could stay for ever; if that hole could remain for ever; if this moment could stay for ever.… I feel myself shining in the dark.… I am arrayed. I am prepared. This is the momentary pause; the dark moment. The fiddlers have lifted their bows.… This is my calling. This is my world. All is decided and ready.… I am rooted, but I flow.… ‘Come,’ I say, ‘come.’ ”
I write the only thing I can think of: “Stay,” I say, “stay.”
I check every five minutes, but he doesn’t reply. I call him again, but the voicemail is still full. I hang up and call Brenda. She answers on the first ring. “Hey, I was getting ready to call you. I got this weird email from Finch this morning.”
Brenda’s was sent at 9:41 and said simply, Some guy will definitely love you for who you are. Don’t settle.
The one to Charlie was sent at 9:45 and read, Peace, you todger.
Something is wrong.
I tell myself it’s only the heartbreak at being left, the fact that he disappeared without saying good-bye.
I pick up the phone to call Kate and realize I don’t have her number, so I tell my mom I’ll be back, and I drive to Finch’s house.
Kate, Decca, and Mrs. Finch are there. When she sees me, Mrs. Finch starts to cry, and then before I can stop her, she’s hugging me too hard and saying, “Violet, we’re so glad you’re here. Maybe you can figure this out. I told Kate maybe Violet will know where he is.”
Through Mrs. Finch’s hair, I look at Kate: Please help me.
She says, “Mom,” and touches her once, on the shoulder. Mrs. Finch moves away from me, dabbing at her eyes and apologizing for being so emotional.
I ask Kate if I can speak with her alone. She leads me through sliding glass doors, outside to the patio, where she lights a cigarette. I wonder if this is the same patio where Finch found the cardinal.
She frowns at me. “What’s going on?”
“He just wrote me. Today. Minutes after the email he sent you. He also sent emails to Brenda Shank-Kravitz and Charlie Donahue.” I don’t want to share his message with her, but I know I have to. I pull out my phone, and we stand in the shade of a tree as I show her the lines he wrote.
“I didn’t even know he was on Facebook,” she says, and then goes quiet as she reads. When she’s finished, she looks at me, lost. “Okay, what does all that mean?”