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Sunday, July 5th, day 25
When I saw what was on my bed, I screamed.
Sam came running in, and then Carl, and then my mom and dad. Monica and Steven were the last to arrive. She fell into his arms with a limp cry. No one but the two of us seemed to understand the horrible meaning of the hat that sat perched in the direct centre.
It was the same smoky grey fedora Adam had worn on the night of our last dance.
“Oh, my gosh,” Monica gagged.
“Why? Why would he do that?” I shouted, terrified out of my wits. After explaining why we were freaking out, Mom told Carl to take the hat. None of us wanted to touch it. when he picked it up, a piece of paper fell to the ground.
“A souvenir from your past,” he read. “A place you shall be visiting very, very soon.”
Fighting to stay up right, I blocked the words from the most central part of me, but looked at them objectively. I couldn’t think of a meaning for them, and neither could anyone else. But why did he choose my room? Why did his things pop up with me?
Suddenly a cold sweat broke out on my forehead, as a realization hit home.
The thing with the cross finally made sense. I sank on the bed, surprised that I could be surprised by anything at this point. The certainty that the Poet had been watching me when I threw it in the river was like a cold kiss from a snowman. How easy would it have been to fish it out while I was distracted by the woman in white? I paled as I realized I had not thought that the killer might still be lurking. But the thought was pushed away. Nothing had happened, there was no point in dwelling. Obviously, he had a lot of patience. He had probably just been biding his time, waiting for a way to use it against us. Somehow, he had planted the necklace in my dress in the changing room before I had gotten to it, which is how he knew that I would be wearing a red dress for my date. He was stalking us, which didn’t bother me as much as it should had, because it made everything make a little more sense. That was all I was asking for at this point.
One mystery down, a billion left to go.
While I was still being objective about the whole thing, I snuck out Adam’s file again after supper. Inside was the same picture of his footprints leading up to the bank where his body was found, the same gory picture of his body, the same synopsis of the murder done by my mother. For some reason, the way the footprints were aligned really bugged me. there was just something about them that looked…odd. not quite familiar, but sort of like déja vu. they were not straight footprints, they were sort of scattered all over the place. There was one that was backwards, and the toe was smudgy and deformed. Three in a row were just toe prints. A couple in the midst were handprints. What on earth had Adam been doing? Holding the picture in front of me, I looked to the first print (they had all been numbered clearly) and put my feet in the same way. I think he must have jumped forward, because the next ones were way ahead. Then the numbers told me to jump back again. I figured the smudged toe marks were because he had spun around, and then he hopped on one foot three steps in a row. I did the handstand like he had, and with every move, the sense of déja vu grew until I was certain this particular pattern of prints were significant. When they ended, I did them over again, and again and again.
Until I was sure that they matched up with the choreography of his part of our dance.
So, the Poet had been right. I had visited the specific past that the hat represented. I felt guilty for what I had done all over again. angry, I realized that he was beginning to know me better than I knew myself.
But I was not quite sure what to make of the fact that Adam died dancing, the very thing he lived to do.
Monday, July 5th, day 35
Lee took me to the playground at the public school in North-West Central. “Do you want to play on the swings?” he asked me, holding one out. Figuring I would find out soon enough what this was about, and knowing better than to ask, I climbed on. He reached a peak altitude of eight feet before I had got the hang of pushing off. I had never been on a swing before, but it looked easy on TV. The seat was so shaky I wondered how anyone managed to stay on. it was a private victory when I managed three swings without feeling like I was going to throw up or fall off.
My curiosity grew to the point where I almost asked what we were supposed to be doing, but then we were back in the truck and cruising to the movie theatre. We bought tickets to see Inception, and I almost asked then, too, but I was so caught up in the movie I forgot.
“Lee, where are we going?”
“To the gym.”
“Can I ask why?”
Perplexed, I sat back in the leather seat of the truck. I did the two-hour exercise program I bought willingly enough, and of course Lee hardly broke a sweat. My feeble little muscles hardly twitched next to the smooth contraction and relaxation of his. I wondered if the only reason he had taken me here had been to wordlessly brag.
“Where are we going now, Lee?”
Trying not to groan in frustration, I followed him into the school. Araunah and another girl were lounging by their lockers, and she waved. We came to room 655, the room Jada had been painting. It was done now, the sunset forest scene completed, and it took my breath away. On shelves, sticks of weak incense burned. The room was lighted dimly, and the people sitting on the floor in various positions with their eyes closed were cast in an eerie but really cool light. Lee took a seat, legs crossed in an effortless lotus position, and ordered me silently to sit beside him and meditate. The room was too silent and peaceful to interrupt with my arguing, so I did what I was told. The incense was just the right strength, enough to lull me to a dreamy state of half-sleep, and the next thing I knew Lee was shaking me awake.
“Where are we going now?”
“To the fountain park in East Northern. Don’t ask why. I won’t answer.”
The fountain park was a relic of Tianam. It had every kind of fountain you could imagine, all made out of marble or some other kind of stone. Most of them were angels and other heavenly beings. There were swans and dolphins and butterflies. It was almost as silent as the meditation room, but definitely more lively. At the monumental Crucifix Fountain, Lee tossed in a twenty kensel coin, the custom.
“Notice how every statue except this one has something in pairs,” Lee said, turning to me with a smile.
“Well, what’s the lesson in that?”
He shrugged. “Whatever you want it to be. Art is interpretable in many ways.” Given the fact that up to this point any “art is____” was usually filled in with an abstract noun and never an adjective, I decided he hadn’t meant what he said to mean anything. after we had visited the zoo, and the aquarium, and the solar observatory, and a short seminar on modern Chinese medicine, I was so confused I was ready to burst.
“Lee!” I said when we left the exhibit on rock stars of the sixties. “What on earth is going on?” It wasn’t even twilight yet, and I felt like he had taken me on a tour of the entire city. “Don’t tell me something vague and subject to change. Give a solid answer!”
With a look of amusement that set my teeth on edge, he leaned against the hood of his truck. “Art is patience.” His voice had a distinct “I know something you don’t know” quality to it. “That was a test. I’m not sure if you passed or not.”
“Well, I should hope I did. As a matter of fact, I think I deserve an A plus. I put up with you all day. That took patience even I didn’t know I had.”
“True,” he said thoughtfully. “But you did complain a lot. And you couldn’t seem to just relax and enjoy all the things we did. That would show true patience.”
“Lee, come on. I didn’t even know that was a pop quiz. I thought you were just trying to be annoying in that way you have.”
“You find me annoying?” His lips twitched.
“At times, yes. Very much so.”
“But now that you know why I did it, are you still annoyed?”
“Yes. Because it sounds like you’re going to fail me.”
“And what if I give you an A, like you want?”
“Then I wouldn’t be annoyed anymore.” I crossed my arms and tried to stare him down, wondering why I cared so much about a grade that didn’t even count for anything. but I guess it did sort of count for something. I was the student and he was the teacher, after all.
“Well, in that case… I give you an F minus.”
“Because you failed.”
“Yeah, but why?”
“Because, you have the patience of a fly on the wall.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He smiled wisely. “In time, you will know. Do you think you can wait that long?”
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