“Maddy, Maddy,” he whispers against my ear. “What have you done?”
I can’t answer. My throat is blocked like I’ve swallowed a stone.
“Try not to breathe,” he says, and starts guiding me back to my house.
I let him pull me for a second, maybe two, but then I stop moving.
“What is it? Can you walk? Do you need me to carry you?”
I shake my head and pull my hand from his.
I take a sip of night air. “I said I’m running away.”
He makes a sound like a growl. “What are you talking about? Do you have a death wish?”
“Opposite,” I say. “Will you help me?”
“I don’t have a car. I don’t know how to drive. I don’t know anything about the world.”
He makes another sound halfway between a growl and a laugh. I wish I could see his eyes in the dark.
Something slams. A door? I grab his hands and pull us both flat against the side of his house. “What was that?”
“Jesus. A door. From my house.”
I press myself flatter against the wall, trying to disappear. I peek over to the path leading from my house, fully expecting to see my mother coming down it. But she’s not there.
I close my eyes. “Take me to the roof.”
“I’ll explain everything.”
My entire plan hangs on him helping me. I didn’t really consider what would happen if he refused.
We are quiet for one breath. And then two. And then three.
He takes my hand and guides me around to the side of his house furthest from mine. There’s a tall ladder leading to the roof.
“Are you afraid of heights?” he asks.
“I don’t know.” I start climbing.
I duck down as soon as we get to the roof, but Olly says there’s no need.
“Most people don’t look up anyway,” he says.
It takes a few minutes for my heart to return to normal.
Olly folds himself down with his usual unusual grace. I’m happy to watch him move.
“So, what now?” he asks after a time.
I look around. I’d always wanted to know what he did up here. The roof is gabled in parts, but we’re sitting in a flat section toward the back. I make out shapes: a small wooden table with a mug, a lamp, and some crumpled papers. Maybe he writes up here, composes bad poetry. Limericks.
“Does that lamp work?” I ask.
He wordlessly turns it on, and it casts a diffuse circle of light around us. I’m almost afraid to look at him.
The crumpled papers on the table are fast-food wrappers. Not a secret poet, then. Next to the table there’s a dusty gray tarp covering something, or somethings. The ground is littered with tools—wrenches, wire cutters in various sizes, hammers, and a few others that I don’t recognize. There’s even a blowtorch.
I finally look over at him.
His elbows are on his knees and he’s staring out at the slowly brightening sky.
“What do you do up here?” I ask.
“That can’t possibly matter right now.” His voice is hard and he doesn’t look at me. There’s no trace of the boy who kissed me so desperately a few minutes ago. His fear for me has crowded everything else out.
Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.
“I have pills,” I say.
He’s barely moving as it is, but now he grows completely still. “What pills?”
“They’re experimental, not FDA-approved. I ordered them online. From Canada.” The lie is easy, effortless. “Online? How do you know they’re even safe?”
“I did a lot of research.”
“But still, you can’t be sure—“
“I’m not reckless.” I hold his eyes. These lies are for his own protection. Already he looks relieved.
I press on. “They should give me a few days outside. I didn’t tell my mom because she wouldn’t want to risk it, but I—”
“Because it’s risky. You just said they’re not FDA—”
“They’re safe enough for a few days.” My tone holds no doubt. I wait, hoping that he will swallow the lie.
“Jesus.” He drops his face into his hands and holds it there. When he looks up, it’s a less obstinate Olly staring back at me. Even his voice softens. “You could have told me this five minutes ago.”
I make my best effort to lighten the mood. “We were kissing! And then you were getting angry with me.” I’m blushing from the talk of kissing and from my easy lying. “I was going to tell you. I am telling you. I just did.”