Boundless Page 44

I guess that’s still to come.

Things between Christian and me are strained, but we’re back to meeting every morning on a path that circles Lake Lag and running up to the Dish, an enormous radio telescope that juts out from the foothills. It’s a nice trail, pretty, through small wooded glades and rolling green hills, up to a spot where on clear days we can see all the way to San Francisco Bay. We understand that there is something going on that is larger than us, and we talk, all business at first, about Angela and our visions, but slowly our conversations give way to our thoughts on the freshman scavenger hunt or articles in the Stanford paper, my medicine and his building designs. And things get better between us.

One morning we cross paths with a mountain lion on the trail. It stops and stares at us with wide golden eyes, a deep rumble coming from somewhere inside, a surprise and anger I can feel from ten feet away.

“Go away,” I tell it sternly in Angelic, like Shoo! and it turns right around and disappears into the high grass.

“How’d you know to do that?” Christian asks me, astonished, laughing, and I tell him how I happened upon a grizzly bear with two cubs once, and all it took was Angelic and a little bit of glory to turn her away. I don’t tell him that I was with Tucker when it happened, and that it was the incident that convinced Tucker that I was indeed something supernatural. Which led to our moment in the barn, and the first time we ever kissed.

I like you, Clara, Tucker said. I really like you…. I just wanted you to know…. I don’t think you want to be with Christian Prescott…. He’s not your type.

Oh, and I suppose you’re my type, right?

I suppose I am.

I clamp down on the memory, the words and the way he said them, all rough-edged and cocky, reeling me in like a fish on his line. I close myself off so that Christian doesn’t look into my head and see Tucker. I put him out of my mind.

“That’s amazing,” Christian says. “You’re an animal whisperer.”

I nod, smiling. I can tell by looking at his face that he didn’t catch me thinking about Tucker.

It feels like a small victory in the war between me and myself.

In March I go to see my brother. I haven’t seen him since that first day back from winter break. I miss him. I stand for five minutes sneaking peeks at him through the window of the pizza place on Castro. He looks unhappy, I decide, watching him move between tables, stack the dirty plates, slide a dishcloth over the tables, and reset the silverware. He hardly seems awake, shuffling from one table to the next, not looking up, just: stack the dishes, put them in a tub, carry the tub back to the kitchen, wipe the table, reset.

I might have sneaked back to Palo Alto right then, content to know where he is and that at least he isn’t in the clutches of a Black Wing, when a girl with long dark hair brushes by me on the street and goes into the restaurant, and something about her makes me pause. She says Jeffrey’s name, and he looks up at her and smiles—holy crap, really smiles, something I haven’t seen him do since the day Mom admitted she was dying.

This must be Lucy, the girl who’s stolen my little brother’s wounded heart.

Of course now I have to stay and watch them.

She slides into an empty booth in the far corner, puts her back against the wall, and tucks her legs under her like this is her preordained spot. She’s pretty, maybe part Asian or Polynesian, with straight black hair that falls down her back in a single shiny sheet, delicate eyebrows, and dark, heavily lined eyes. Jeffrey immediately picks up the pace and finishes the remaining tables. Then he disappears into the kitchen for a minute and returns with a tall dark glass of what looks to be iced tea. She smiles at him. He wipes his hand on his white apron and slides into the booth across from her.

I wish I could hear what they are saying. But I can’t, so I make it up.

“Oh, Jeffrey,” I say out loud for Lucy as I watch them talk. “You look so strong when you lift those dish tubs. Your muscles are so spectacular.”

“Well, thank you, little lady. I do have fantastic muscles.”

She reaches across the table and touches his arm. “Can I feel your bicep? Ooh. So manly.”

“I also happen to think you’re hot. And cool. You’re a walking contradiction, baby,” I say for him. A man passes behind me on the sidewalk, and I clear my throat and step away from the window. When I look up again, they’re holding hands across the table. Jeffrey’s laughing, really laughing, his face all flushed, his silver eyes bright.

Aw. She makes him happy. The job might make him miserable, but this girl makes him smile.

He’s all right. I should go.

But as luck would have it, right at that very moment a family in the restaurant gets up to leave, and Jeffrey glances over, past them, and those bright eyes spot me before I can duck out of the way. His mouth opens, and then Lucy turns to look at me, too, and through the glass I catch the word sister, and the word annoying, and he jumps to his feet.

I take off down the sidewalk toward my car.

“Hey, Clara!” Jeffrey calls before I get there. “What are you doing?”

I spin back around. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. You haven’t called in months.”

He stops a few feet away from me and crosses his arms over his chest like he’s cold.

“I keep telling you, I’m fine.” Something flickers in his eyes: a decision, albeit a reluctant one. “Do you want to come back with me? I can scrounge you up some free pizza.”

“Well, you know I can’t say no to free pizza.”

“My girlfriend’s in there,” he tells me as we walk back to the restaurant together.

“She is? I didn’t notice,” I say with mock innocence.

He rolls his eyes. “Don’t humiliate me, okay? No stories about me as a kid. Promise.”

“All right,” I say, with a little pout. “No stories about how when you were three you pooped on the neighbor’s lawn.”

“Clara!”

“I’ll be good.”

He opens the door for me. Lucy is still sitting where she was, her eyes curious. She smiles as we approach the table.

“Luce, this is my sister, Clara,” Jeffrey mumbles by means of a formal introduction. “Clara, Luce.”

“Hi,” I say, and give her a little wave, which makes Jeffrey give me a warning look like I’m already making him look bad.

“Jeffrey’s told me a lot about you,” Lucy says as I slide into the booth and Jeffrey gets in beside me.

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