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Sunday, June 28th, day 28
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
“I’m walking on sunshine, ooooh, I’m walking on sunshine, oh, oh, oh.” blushing like a fool, I pretended to look at my phone screen, and then pressed ignore.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” asked Mom, cutting into her prime rib.
“No, its just telemarketers.”
What with my lessons, visiting Blair, taking trips to Diana’s, and visiting Monica, I felt as though I was neglecting my parents. I probably wouldn’t have cared, had the circumstances been different. But they hadn’t turned me, I felt I owed them some sort of thank you, so I took them for supper at La Baton Rouge. It seemed like the perfect solution, except that Julius had called me three times now.
I asked my mother how the case(s) was coming, and she said she had people out gathering evidence that Watson didn’t do it, but it was scanty. She wished for just one more clue, a big one, at least so that Watson wouldn’t spend his life in prison. I half-heartedly agreed.
Dad was working on a new book called The Adventures of Teddy Bear. He won’t say what it’s about, but knowing him, it probably had something to do with a secret agent of some sort finding a teddy bear, and going for some adventure trying to get it back to its owner.
It surprised me how normally we could talk and eat supper when everything was obviously not okay. The restaurant had low lighting and soft music was playing, just the way I liked it, but I had no time to bask in it. I was thinking about Julius, and Blair, and Monica, and Watson, and anything else connected to the whole dang mess. My heart was a spider web of tangled emotion that even I couldn’t figure out. I was happy that Blair was talking to me again, but fearful that he was so clumsy. Happy that Monica had a year to live but despairing that she had to die. Happy for my lessons with Lee but annoyed every time I had to see Sophia. And realizing how this whole thing could have been avoided if Adam had not been killed. We never would have come here, and everybody would be happy.
Except that you never would have met Julius, or Blair, or Jada, or Araunah, or Lee or—
Okay, okay! But at least I wouldn’t have to drag them into this, too. Blair was the only one who was oblivious, and I planned to keep it that way.
But then there was Julius.
I knew he would probably hide from my mom and dad, and since I was no longer willing to see him on the sly, we wouldn’t see each other at all. I hadn’t answered his calls because I just couldn’t bring myself to. Call me chicken, but I was afraid of what my boyfriend would say. I had to find some way to make this work. Losing him would be like killing the very last piece of my heart I had left. And last time I checked, I needed my heart.
“Hey, mom? Dad?”
“Yes, honey?” my dad looked at me.
“Umm, you’re not mad at me, are you?” I fiddled with the stitching on my dress.
“Mad at you? No, just disappointed, that’s all.” My father shrugged, but I could see he was hurt.
I bit my lip. Arguing would do me no good. “Are you mad at Julius?”
They didn’t say anything; for a moment the only sound to be heard were that of the other people, and the clinking of forks and knives. I looked from one face to the other, wondering what they were thinking about so deeply.
“No,” Mom said finally. “We’re not mad at him, either. I suppose your next question is whether you can see him again?” She raised a blond eyebrow.
“Well, as long as you can promise me you two won’t get too serious”—I blushed like crazy— “Then yes, I’m sure that would be fine. Right, Non?”
Nearly glaring at her, he nodded. “Okay, fine, whatever.”
Giddy with happiness and relief, I grinned down at my plate of food.
My phone rang.
This time it was just a regular ring, a number that I hadn’t set a specific ring tone to. The screen read Katherine Cooper.
“Hanuara? Hey, its Kate Cooper.”
With wide eyes I looked at Mom as I said, “Kate Cooper? As in, Lady Kate Cooper? Hi! What can I do for you?”
“Well, I was just wondering if you were okay and all. As a model, I tend to express concern toward my sisters.” She chuckled.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I lied breezily. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, Hanuara. Say, do you want to get together some time? my daughter would really like to meet you.”
I blinked in shock and agreed, feeling faint. We scheduled it for the same day I was having Love Cabbage meet Lee. this was going to be a big acquainting get-together. Why not make it a party? I thought suddenly. Yes, that is what I would do.
“Mom? Dad? Who do you want to meet most in the world?”
“God,” they both answered.
“Okay, but I mean, like, in the very near future?” I linked my hands together and leaned forward.
“Well,” said my mother thoughtfully. “I’ve always wanted to meet Yolanda Westwick. They tell me she’s the second richest lawyer next to me, but I can’t see that.” she tucked a strand of hair behind her ears.
“Jennifer Sturman,” said Dad. “is absolutely revolutionary. I could hardly put down And Then Everything Unravelled. Actually, it was the inspiration for The Adventures of Teddy Bear.”
Mom elbowed him. “Last week it was Fern Michaels, and just a few days before that it was Judy Blume.”
Earlier that day, when Lee told me to climb to the top of the ruined model of the great wall of China in the dilapidated city of Gether, I went along with it. but when he told me to jump, all I could do was stare at him in horror. Art, he yelled up at me, is trust. Did I trust him to catch me?
I got the feeling he could just as soon let me fall as catch me, and the easy, relaxed way he regarded the three-story drop made me want to trust him even less. My stomach rolled as I realized how far it was, with nothing but empty air between me and the hard ground. Remember when I told you heights made me feel powerful? Now I understood why humans were meant to stay on the earth.
He asked me why I didn’t want to trust him, momentarily stalling me from running back.
“Because. I’m quite heavy for my delicate size and stature. Add that on to the velocity of me falling through the air, and that is quite a bit.”
“I think I can handle it. I’m pretty strong.” He flexed his arm, and the huge bulge of his bicep looked the size of a ripe orange from where I was standing. “And anyway, you only weigh one-sixty. The heaviest person I’ve tried this with was one-seventy-five.”
But did he survive, I almost asked, but didn’t. “Okay, fine, so you could catch me if you wanted to. But honestly, the thought of freefalling twenty feet is simply not that appealing to me. thank you.” I turned to go but he stopped me, again.
“Why? What’s wrong with falling through the air if you know I’m going to catch you? Which, by the way, I will.”
“Well, would you get up here and jump just because I asked you to?”
“No, because I know for a fact that you couldn’t catch me. I’d smush you.”
“What?” I said mockingly, “don’t you trust me?”
“No. but we’re not talking about me. why don’t you want to jump?”
I was getting irritated. “Because, that’s a really long way down.” Duh.
He crossed his arms. “It will pass very quickly when you’re plummeting to the ground. Less than ten seconds, I’m sure.”
What an ingenious way to make me feel better. “Give me one good reason why I should do it.”
“There is never a good reason for doing something crazy. I just want to see how afraid you are.” He shrugged, thoughtfully examining his thumbnail.
My entire body tensed up. That was a dare he had just put forward. Of course I wasn’t scared. I was just sane.
Which is what made me sane, I snapped at the stupid voice. But deep down, I knew I didn’t have a fear of heights, I knew I didn’t really distrust Lee. but falling was so uncontrollable. In my world right then, I craved control, I needed to be able to make my own decisions. I wanted to be independent. Doing what I was told was a symbol of weakness to me. but then again, so was inadvertently being called a coward.
“Here I come!” I screamed, running back a few steps and then running forward. With a triumphant smile, Lee held out his arms.
The air rushed by me so fast I could hardly breathe. I had expected some form of exhilaration, or excitement, but I just felt like I was going to throw up. My eyes were squeezed shut, which was a mistake. Falling blindly through the dark is enough to make you want to scream. But my eyes were glued shut with the force of the wind. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t. I knew I was going to die. And just like that, it was all over.
“Hanuara!” Lee said in my ear. “Open your eyes, it’s over. Are you okay?” he didn’t sound concerned as much as polite.
Groggily, I forced my eyes open. The way the sun shone on Lee’s white-blond hair, and cast his face in shadow, I couldn’t help but think he was an angel. “Am I dead?” I asked in awe. It hadn’t hurt at all, no crushing impact, no shattering bones.
But the angel just smirked and set me down on my feet. “No, you’re not dead. But for a second there I thought you might’ve been.” he frowned.
“That. Was. Awful.”
“Why? You did it. that’s the only thing that matters.” He let his accent out a little. “As I said, art is trust. Not only trust in others, but trust in yourself. For example, Sophia has to trust that I won’t drop her when she stands on my one hand, and I have to trust that she’ll keep her balance so she doesn’t fall. But, I also have to trust that I can hold her up, and she has to trust that she can keep her balance. Its a two-way street.”
We started back. “Lee, so far you’ve mostly been giving me dancing parables. I thought you said art is more than just dance.”
“Singers have to trust that they know how to sing before they go up on stage. Chef’s have to trust that their dishes don’t contain some rare poisonous substance, painters and drawers have to trust somebody isn’t going to vandalize the masterpiece they’ve been working on for half a century.”
Carl opened the door for me, and then jumped in the back of the pickup. By the time I was home, my heart had stopped pounding like I had just run a marathon.
The house was empty, and for a while I just sat at the dining room table, thinking. Then, I got up and went to my parents’ bedroom.
The item I searched for was exactly where I knew it would be; in Mom’s humongous filing cabinet. She hadn’t quite made the transition over to modern technology, so pass codes wouldn’t be a problem. . she didn’t even bother to lock it. I flipped a few folders, and then extracted Adam’s case file.
I held it in my hands, feeling its weight. Uncertain what to do now that I had accomplished my useless mission, I took a seat on the bed and just stared at it. surely I had not meant to read it. in it was probably a more detailed rendition and hypothesis of what happened that night, a night which I definitely did not want to relive in my mother’s box printing.
Jumping from a twenty-five foot wall had definitely given me more courage. I closed my eyes. Trust that you can handle this. Trust that you won’t freak out. Gritting my teeth, I opened the file.
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