Boundless Page 43

But then the control over his human form slips, and I catch a flash of that gray soul of his. He looks wildly around, like it’s not safe to be seen in public with her. His gaze glances off me with only a flicker of recognition. I wouldn’t have to be an empath to pick up on the naked fear in his eyes, pure and undiluted. He’s terrified.

“Phen, say something,” Angela says urgently.

He looks up into her face. “You shouldn’t have told me,” he murmurs without emotion. “I shouldn’t be here.”

“Phen,” she says, alarmed, her fingers gripping his suit jacket. “I know it’s a shock. It was a shock for me too, trust me. But it was supposed to happen, don’t you see? This is my vision, my purpose. I’ve been seeing this moment since I was eight years old. It’s you, Phen. We’re allowed to be together. We’re supposed to be together.”

“No,” he says. “We’re not.”

“But I love you.” Her voice breaks on the word love. “My heart’s been yours ever since I first saw you in the church. You love me, too. I know you do.”

“I can’t love you,” he says firmly, and she flinches. “I can’t protect you, Angela. You should not have told me. You shouldn’t tell anyone else.”

“Phen,” she pleads. She reaches into her pocket to pull out the ultrasound, like a picture of the baby might make him change his mind, but he catches her hand in his and closes her fingers around the paper before she can open it. He gazes up into her eyes, lifts his other hand to her face, his fingers brushing her cheek, and for a split second he looks torn.

Then he disappears. No good-bye. No Sorry, but you’re on your own, honey. He’s just gone.

I rush up the stairs as Angela sinks to her knees.

“It’s okay,” I’m saying over and over again, like saying it will make it true.

She gazes at me with unshed tears in her eyes. Her hands are shaking when I help her to her feet, but she won’t let me support her. She’s acutely aware of other students watching us, so she lifts her head and starts to walk in her awkward way back the way we came. I try to put my arm around her, to help take some of the weight, but she shakes me off.

“I’m fine,” she says then, in almost a monotone. “Let’s go.”

Back at Roble she moves around like a zombie, taking her clothes off and dropping them on the floor until she’s only wearing her camisole and panties.

Amy comes in, bearing an armload of books. I grab her by the arm and turn her around, push her back out into the hall. “You should come back later,” I tell her.

“But I have to—”

“Like maybe tomorrow. Get out.”

Amy looks horribly offended. I shut the door and turn to Angela.

Suddenly she laughs as if this whole thing is terribly funny, like Phen has played some hilarious trick on her. She brushes her bangs out of her face, smiles the most awful, heartbroken smile. “Well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would.”

“Oh, Ange.”

“Let’s not talk about it. I’m fine.”

She gets into bed and pulls the covers up to her chin. Outside, the birds are still singing, the sun is still shining, but inside her I feel everything go dark. I sit at the edge of her bed. I don’t say anything, because everything I think of sounds completely stupid.

“We agreed from the beginning that we weren’t going to talk about love.” She rolls over and puts her back to me, to the wall. “I should have remembered that,” she adds, her voice thin, straining with the force of acting like this isn’t killing her. “It’s fine. I’m fine with it. I understand.”

If she says the word fine any more, I think my head will explode. I stare at her back, where her shoulders are all tensed up.

“No. It’s not fine,” I say. “This is his responsibility too. He should be there for you. He should have stepped up.”

“He’s an angel,” she says, already making excuses for him. “It’s the same thing as what happened with your dad. I see that now. He can’t be with you all the time. He can’t protect you. It’s the same.”

It is so not the same, I think. My dad married my mother. He was there for my birth, my first steps, my first words. He took care of us, even if it was only for a little while. But I don’t say that.

“Ange.” I put my hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” she says sharply. “Please … I don’t want you to read me right now.”

She starts to cry. There’s no shutting it out. Her humiliation hits me like a punch to the gut. Her embarrassment. Her fear. Her misery. Of course he doesn’t love me, she thinks. Of course he doesn’t.

I lie down beside her and put my arms around her, hug her awkwardly from the back as she sobs. Tears run down my face as I feel it with her. For a minute I can’t breathe, I can’t think—I just hang on.

“It will be okay,” I tell her shakily, and I mean it. It hurts her now, but it’s better this way, I think. “You’re better off without him.”

She sits up, pulling away from me, and takes a deep, shuddering breath, then uses the sheet to wipe her eyes. As quickly as she lost it, she collects herself.

“I know,” she says. “It’ll be fine.”

After a while she lies back down. My heart aches for her, but I don’t dare reach out again. I listen to her breathing become steadier, deeper, until I think she’s fallen asleep. But then she speaks.

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” she says. “I want to go home.”

12

THE RIGHT ROAD LOST

The next day Angela Zerbino officially drops out of Stanford University. Her mom shows up two days later and packs her stuff in boxes, which I help load in the car, and I stand on the sidewalk watching them drive off. Angela rests her head against the window, closes her eyes, and rides away. She doesn’t look back.

The visions start coming more often after this, all through February and the beginning of March, at least once or twice a week. I split my time between studying for school and preparing myself, in whatever capacity I can, to go into the dark room and whatever fate awaits me there. I buy a notebook and start to document each vision when I see it, trying to get the details down, but I don’t get much other than the shock and the terror, the juxtaposition of dark and light, the silhouette of Christian ablaze with glory, shouting at me, “Get down!” and fighting off the black shapes that mean to kill us, and almost every time now I run up against the moment where I know I should help him, I must draw my own sword and fight my own fight. That’s my moment of truth, my purpose, but I never stay in the vision long enough to know how I handle it.

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