Boundless Page 2

“I had some of your stuff,” she says. “I’m headed to school tomorrow, and I—I thought you might want it.”

“Thanks. I’m leaving tomorrow, too,” I tell her.

Once, when her brother and I first got together, Wendy told me that if I hurt Tucker, she’d bury me in horse manure. Ever since we broke up, some part of me has been expecting her to show up here with a shovel and bean me over the head with it. Some part of me thinks that maybe I’d deserve it. Yet here she is looking all fragile and hopeful, like she missed me this summer. Like she still wants to be my friend.

“Thanks,” I say again. I smile, reach for the box. She smiles shyly back and hands it over. Inside there are a couple DVDs, magazines, my dog-eared copy of Vampire Academy and a few other books, a pair of dress shoes I loaned her for prom.

“How was Italy?” she asks as I set the box down next to the door. “I got your postcard.”

“It was beautiful.”

“I bet,” she says with an envious sigh. “I’ve always wanted to backpack around Europe. I want to see London, Paris, Vienna….” She smiles. “Hey, how about you show me your pictures? I’d love to see them. If you have time.”

“Um, sure.” I run upstairs to get my laptop, then sit down with her on the living room sofa and cruise through my photos of this summer, her shoulder pressing into mine as we look at pictures of the Coliseum, the Roman arches, the catacombs, Tuscany with its vineyards and rolling hills, Florence, me making that dumb “I’m holding it up” pose at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

And then up flashes a picture of Angela and Phen at the top of St. Peter’s.

“Wait, go back,” Wendy says as I click past it.

I reluctantly press the back button.

“Who’s that?” she breathes.

I get it. Phen is hot. There’s something magnetic about those brown eyes of his, the manly perfection of his face and all that, but sheesh. Not Wendy, too.

“Just a guy we met in Rome,” I tell Wendy. That’s about as close to the truth as I can come without going into the gory details of Angela and her secret, “swear you won’t tell anybody, Clara” boyfriend. Who is, according to her, a summer thing only. She’s been all “Phen who?” ever since we returned to Wyoming, like she never even met the guy.

“Did I mention that I want to go to Italy?” Wendy says, raising her eyebrows. “Wow.”

“Yeah, there are a lot of hot guys there,” I admit. “Of course, then they become beer-bellied middle-aged men in Armani suits with slicked-back hair who look at you like ‘How you doing?’” I give her my best pervy Italian grin, tilt my chin up, blow an air kiss at her.

She laughs. “Ew.”

I close my laptop, glad to get the subject off Phen. “So, that was Italy.” I pat my stomach. “I gained like five pounds in pasta.”

“Well, you were too skinny before, anyway,” Wendy says.

“Gee, thanks.”

“I hate to be the party pooper, but I should go,” she says. “I’ve got loads to do at home before tomorrow.”

We stand, and I turn to her, instantly choked up at the idea of saying good-bye. “You’re going to do awesome at Washington State and have all kinds of fun and become the best vet ever, but I am so going to miss you,” I say.

Her eyes are misty, too. “We’ll see each other on breaks, right? You can always email me, you know. Don’t be a stranger.”

“I won’t. Promise.”

She hugs me. “Bye, Clara,” she whispers. “Take care.”

When she’s gone, I gather up the box, take it to my room, and close the door. I dump the box out on my bed. There, among the things I loaned Wendy, I find some items from Tucker: a fishing lure that I bought him at a tackle shop in Jackson—his lucky Carrots lure, he called it—a pressed wildflower from one of the wreaths he used to make for my hair, a mixed CD I made him last year, full of songs about cowboys and songs about flying and songs about love, which he listened to a bunch of times even though he must have thought it was corny. He’s giving it all back. I hate how much this hurts me, how much I’m clearly still hanging on to what we had, so I put the stuff all carefully back in the box, and I seal the box with tape and slide it into the shadows at the back of my closet. And say good-bye.

Clara.

I hear the voice in my head, calling my name, before I hear it out loud. I’m standing in the quad at Stanford University, in the midst of more than fifteen hundred teeming freshmen and their parents, but I hear him loud and clear. I push through the crowd, looking for his wavy dark hair, the flash of his green eyes. Then suddenly there’s a break in the people around me and I see him, about twenty feet away, standing with his back to me. As usual. And as usual, it’s like a bell chimes inside me in a kind of recognition.

I cup my hands around my mouth and call, “Christian!”

He turns. We weave toward each other through the crowd. In a flash I’m by his side, grinning up at him, almost laughing because it feels so good to be together again after so long.

“Hey,” he says. He has to talk loudly to be heard over the people around us. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yes, fancy that.”

It doesn’t occur to me until right this minute how much I’ve missed him. I was so busy missing other people—my mom, Jeffrey, Tucker, Dad—caught up in all that I was leaving behind. But now … it’s like when part of you stops hurting and suddenly you’re yourself again, healthy and whole, and only then do you understand that you’ve been in pain for a while. I missed his voice in my head, in my ears. I missed his face. His smile.

“I missed you, too,” he says bemusedly, bending to say it next to my ear so I can hear him over the noise.

His warm breath against my neck makes me shiver. I step back awkwardly, suddenly self-conscious. “How was the boonies?” is all I can think to say.

His uncle always takes him into the mountains during the summers, spends the whole time hard-core training, away from the internet and television and any other distractions, and makes him practice calling glory and flying and all other angel-related skills. Christian calls it his “summer internship,” acts like it’s only a step up from army boot camp.

“Same old routine,” he reports. “Walter was even more intense this year, if you can believe that. He had me up at the crack of dawn most days. Worked me like a dog.”

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