فصل 10

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فصل 10

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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151 days till graduation

Three thirty. School parking lot.

I stand in the sun, shading my eyes. At first I don’t see him. Maybe he left without me. Or maybe I went out the wrong door. Our town is small but our school is large. We have over two thousand students because we’re the only high school for miles. He could be anywhere.

I am holding on to the handles of my bike, an old orange ten-speed inherited from Eleanor. She named it Leroy because she liked being able to say to our parents, “I was out riding Leroy,” and “I’m just going to ride Leroy for a while.”

Brenda Shank-Kravitz stalks by, a bright-pink storm cloud. Charlie Donahue saunters behind. “He’s over there,” Brenda says. She points a blue-nailed finger at me. “If you break his heart, I will kick that skinny ass all the way to Kentucky. I mean it. The last thing he needs is you playing with his head. Understood?”


“And I’m sorry. You know. About your sister.”

I look in the direction Brenda pointed and there he is. Theodore Finch leans against an SUV, hands in pockets, like he has all the time in the world and he expects me. I think of the Virginia Woolf lines, the ones from The Waves: “Pale, with dark hair, the one who is coming is melancholy, romantic. And I am arch and fluent and capricious; for he is melancholy, he is romantic. He is here.”

I wheel the bike over to him. His dark hair is kind of wild and messy like he’s been at the beach, even though there’s no beach in Bartlett, and shines blue-black in the light. His pale skin is so white, I can see the veins in his arms.

He opens the passenger door to his car. “After you.”

“I told you no driving.”

“I forgot my bike, so we’ll have to go to my house and get it.”

“Then I’ll follow you.”

He drives slower than he needs to, and ten minutes later we reach his house. It’s a two-story brick colonial with shrubs crowding under the windows, black shutters, and a red door. There’s a matching red mailbox that says FINCH. I wait in the driveway while he sorts through the mess of a garage, searching for a bicycle. Finally he lifts it up and out, and I watch the muscles in his arms flex.

“You can leave your bag in my room.” He’s wiping the dust off the bike seat with his shirt.

“But my stuff’s in there.…” A book on the history of Indiana, checked out from the library after last period, and plastic bags of various sizes—courtesy of one of the lunch ladies—for any souvenirs we might collect.

“I’ve got it covered.” He unlocks the door and holds it open for me. Inside, it looks like a regular, ordinary house, not one I’d expect Theodore Finch to live in. I follow him upstairs. The walls are lined with framed school photos. Finch in kindergarten. Finch in middle school. He looks different every year, not just agewise but personwise. Class-clown Finch. Awkward Finch. Cocky Finch. Jock Finch. At the end of the hall, he pushes open a door.

The walls are a dark, deep red, and everything else is black—desk, chair, bookcase, bedspread, guitars. One entire wall is covered in pictures and Post-it notes and napkins and torn pieces of paper. On the other walls there are concert posters and a large black-and-white photo of him onstage somewhere, guitar in hand.

I stand in front of the wall of notes and say, “What’s all this?”

“Plans,” he says. “Songs. Ideas. Visions.” He throws my bag onto his bed and digs something out of a drawer.

Most look like fragments of things, single words or phrases that don’t make sense on their own: Night flowers. I do it so it feels real. Let us fall. My decision totally. Obelisk. Is today a good day to?

Is today a good day to what? I want to ask. But instead I say, “Obelisk?”

“It’s my favorite word.”


“One of them, at least. Look at it.” I look. “That is one straight-up, upstanding, powerful word. Unique, original, and kind of stealthy because it doesn’t really sound like what it is. It’s a word that surprises you and makes you think, Oh. All right then. It commands respect, but it’s also modest. Not like ‘monument’ or ‘tower.’ ” He shakes his head. “Pretentious bastards.”

I don’t say anything because I used to love words. I loved them and was good at arranging them. Because of this, I felt protective of all the best ones. But now all of them, good and bad, frustrate me.

He says, “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘get back on the camel’ before?”

“Not until Mr. Black used it.”

He leans over his desk, tears a piece of paper in half, and writes it down. He slaps it on the wall as we leave.

Outside, I climb onto Leroy, resting one foot on the ground. Theodore Finch pulls on a backpack, his T-shirt riding up across his stomach where an ugly red scar cuts across the middle.

I push Eleanor’s glasses up onto my head. “Where did you get the scar?”

“I drew it on. It’s been my experience that girls like scars even better than tattoos.” He straddles the bike, resting back on the seat, both feet firmly planted. “Have you been in a car since the accident?”


“That’s gotta be some sort of record. We’re talking, what, eight, nine months? How do you get to school?”

“I ride my bike or walk. We don’t live that far.”

“What about when it rains or snows?”

“I ride my bike or walk.”

“So you’re afraid to ride in a car but you’ll climb up on a bell tower ledge?”

“I’m going home.”

He laughs and reaches out for my bike, holding on to it before I can take off. “I won’t bring it up again.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Look, you’re already here, and we’re already committed to this project, so the way I see it, the faster we get to Hoosier Hill, the faster you get this over with.”

We pass cornfield after cornfield. Hoosier Hill is only eleven miles from town, so we don’t have far to go. The day is cold but bright, and it feels good to be out. I close my eyes and tip my head upward. It’s a remnant of the Violet who came Before. Normal teenage Violet. Violet Unremarkey-able.

Finch rides along beside me. “You know what I like about driving? The forward motion of it, the propulsion of it, like you might go anywhere.”

I open my eyes and frown at him. “This isn’t driving.”

“You’re telling me.” He weaves across the road in figure eights, then around me in circles, then rides beside me again. “I’m surprised you don’t wear a helmet or full-on body armor, just to be extra safe. What if the apocalypse happened and everyone but you turned into zombies, and the only way you could save yourself was to get the hell out of town? No airplanes, no trains, no buses. Public transportation is completely broken down. The bike’s too exposed, too dangerous. What then?”

“How do I know I’ll be safe out of town?”

“Bartlett’s the only place that’s been affected.”

“And I know this for sure?”

“It’s public knowledge. The government has confirmed it.”

I don’t answer.

He figure-eights around me. “Where would you go if you could go anywhere?”

“Is it still the apocalypse?”


New York, I think.

“Back to California,” I say. What I mean is the California of four years ago, before we moved here, when Eleanor was a sophomore and I was going into ninth grade.

“But you’ve already been there. Don’t you want to see places you’ve never been?” He pedals along, hands in his armpits now.

“It’s warm there and it never snows.” I hate snow and will always hate snow. And then I hear Mrs. Kresney and my parents telling me to make an effort. So I say, “I might go to Argentina or Singapore for school. I’m not applying any place less than two thousand miles away.” Or any place with an annual snowfall greater than one inch, which is why NYU is out. “I might stay here though. I haven’t decided.”

“Don’t you want to know where I’d go if I could?”

Not really, I think. “Where would you go if you could go anywhere?” It comes out bitchier than I mean for it to.

He leans forward over the handlebars, eyes on me. “I’d go to Hoosier Hill with a beautiful girl.”

A grove of trees stands on one side. Flat farmland spreads out on the other, dusted with snow. Finch says, “I think it’s down that way.”

We leave our bikes by the tree line, and then we cross the road and follow this dirt path, only a few yards long. My legs are aching from the ride. I feel strangely breathless.

There are some kids hanging out in the field, swaying back and forth on the fence. When they see us coming, one of them bumps another and straightens. “You can go on ahead,” he says. “People come from all over the world to see it and you ain’t the first.”

“There used to be a paper sign,” one of the other kids adds. She sounds bored.

With an Australian accent Finch tells them, “We’re here from Perth. We’ve come all this way to see the highest peak in Indiana. Is it all right if we scale the summit?”

They don’t ask where Perth is. They just shrug.

We turn off into the grove of brown winter trees, brushing branches out of our faces. We duck onto a narrower dirt path and keep going, no longer side by side. Finch is in front, and I pay more attention to the shine of his hair and the way he ambles, loose-jointed and fluid, than I do to the scenery.

Suddenly we’re there, in the middle of a brown circle. A wooden bench sits underneath a tree, a picnic table just past it. The sign is to our right—INDIANA HIGHPOINT, HOOSIER HILL, ELEV. 1257 FT. The marker is straight ahead—a wooden stake poking up out of the ground in the middle of a pile of stones, no wider or higher than a pitcher’s mound.

“This is it?” I can’t help saying.

Some high point. It’s amazingly underwhelming. But then what did I expect?

He takes my hand and pulls me up after him so that we’re standing on the stones.

In that instant his skin touches mine, I feel a little shock.

I tell myself it’s nothing more than the understandable jolt of actual physical contact when you aren’t used to it from someone new. But then these electric currents start shooting up my arm, and he is rubbing my palm with his thumb, which makes the currents go shooting through the rest of me. Uh-oh.

In the Australian accent he says, “What do we think?” His hand is firm and warm, and somehow, big as it is, it fits with mine.

“If we’re here from Perth?” I’m distracted by the electric currents and trying not to show it. If I do, I know he will never let me hear the end of it.

“Or maybe we’ve come from Moscow.” He has a good Russian accent too.

“We are seriously pissed.”

In his own voice he says, “Not as pissed as the folks over at Sand Hill, the second-highest spot in Indiana. It’s only 1,076 feet, and they don’t even have a picnic area.”

“If they’re second, they don’t really need one.”

“An excellent point. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even worth looking at. Not when you’ve got Hoosier Hill.” He smiles at me, and for the first time I notice how blue his eyes are—like, bright-sky blue. “At least it feels that way standing here with you.” He closes his blue eyes and breathes in. When he opens them again, he says, “Actually, standing next to you makes it feel as high as Everest.”

I yank my hand back. Even after I let go, I can feel the stupid current. “Shouldn’t we be collecting things? Writing stuff down? Shooting video? How do we organize this?”

“We don’t. When we’re in the act of wandering, we need to be present, not watching it through a lens.”

Together, we look out over the circle of brown and the bench and the trees and the flat, white landscape beyond. Ten months ago, I would have stood here writing this place in my head. There is this sign, which is a good thing, because otherwise you would never know you’re looking at the highest point in Indiana.… I would have thought up an entire backstory for the kids, something epic and exciting. Now they’re just Indiana farm kids hanging on a fence.

I say, “I think this is the ugliest place I’ve ever seen. Not just here. The whole state.” I hear my parents telling me not to be negative, which is funny because I’ve always been the happy one. It’s Eleanor who was moody.

“I used to think that. But then I realized, believe it or not, it’s actually beautiful to some people. It must be, because enough people live here, and they can’t all think it’s ugly.” He smiles out at the ugly trees and the ugly farmland and the ugly kids as if he can see Oz. As if he can really, truly see the beauty that’s there. In that moment I wish I could see it through his eyes. I wish he had glasses to give me. “Also, I figure while I’m here, I might as well get to know it, you know—see what there is to see.”

“Wander Indiana?”


“You look different than you did the other day.”

He glances at me sideways, eyes half closed. “It’s the altitude.”

I laugh and then stop myself.

“It’s okay to laugh, you know. The earth’s not going to split open. You’re not going to hell. Believe me. If there’s a hell, I’ll be there ahead of you, and they’ll be too busy with me to even check you in.”

I want to ask what happened to him. Is it true he had a breakdown? Is it true he OD’d? Where was he at the end of last semester?

“I’ve heard a lot of stories.”

“About me?”

“Are they true?”


He shakes the hair out of his eyes and stares at me good and hard. His gaze trails slowly down my face to my mouth. For a second, I think he’s going to kiss me. For a second, I want him to.

“So we can cross this one off, right? One down, one to go. Where to next?” I sound like my dad’s secretary.

“I’ve got a map in my backpack.” He doesn’t make a move to get it. Instead he stands there, breathing it in, looking all around. I want to get to the map because that’s how I am, or used to be, ready for the next thing once I’ve got it in my mind. But he’s not going anywhere, and then his hand finds mine again. Instead of snatching it back, I make myself stand here too, and actually it’s nice. The electric currents are racing. My body is humming. The breeze is blowing, rustling the leaves on the trees. It’s almost like music. We stand side by side, looking out and up and around.

And then he says, “Let’s jump.”

“Are you sure? It is the high point of Indiana.”

“I’m sure. It’s now or never, but I need to know if you’re with me.”




“On three.”

We jump just as the kids ramble up. We land, dusty and laughing. In the Australian accent Finch says to them, “We’re professionals. Whatever you do, don’t try this at home.”

The things we leave behind are some British coins, a red guitar pick, and a Bartlett High keychain. We store them in this hide-a-key fake rock that Finch found in his garage. He wedges it in among the stones that surround the high point. He brushes the dirt off his hands as he stands. “Whether you want to or not, now we’ll always be a part of here. Unless those kids get in there and rob us blind.”

My hand feels cold without his. I pull out my phone and say, “We need to document this somehow.” I start taking pictures before he nods okay, and we take turns posing on the high point.

Then he gets the map out of his backpack along with a college-ruled notebook. He hands me the notebook and a pen, and when I say, “That’s okay,” he tells me his handwriting is like chicken scratch and it’s up to me to keep the notes. The thing I can’t say is I’d rather drive all the way to Indianapolis than write in this notebook.

But because he’s watching me, I scrawl down a few things—location, date, time, a brief description of the place itself and the kids by the fence—and afterward, we spread the map out on the picnic table.

Finch traces the red highway lines with his index finger. “I know Black mentioned picking two wonders and running with them, but I don’t think that’s enough. I think we need to see all of them.”

“All of what?”

“Every place of interest in the state. As many as we can cram into the semester.”

“Only two. That’s the deal.”

He studies the map, shakes his head. His hand moves over the paper. By the time he’s done, he’s made pen marks across the entire state, circling every town he knows of where there’s a wonder—Dune State Park, the World’s Largest Egg, Home of Dan Patch the racehorse, the Market Street Catacombs, and the Seven Pillars, which are a series of enormous limestone columns, carved by nature, that overlook the Mississinewa River. Some of the circles are close to Bartlett, some are far away.

“That’s too many,” I say.

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

Early evening. Finch’s driveway. I stand with Leroy as Finch shoves his bike into the garage. He opens the door to go inside, and when I don’t move, he says, “We have to get your bag.”

“I’ll wait here.”

He just laughs and goes away. While he’s gone, I text my mom to tell her I’ll be heading home soon. I picture her waiting at the window, watching for me, even though she would never let me catch her at it.

In a few minutes, Finch is back and standing too close, looking down at me with blue-blue eyes. With one hand, he brushes the hair out of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this close to a boy other than Ryan, and I suddenly remember what Suze said about Finch knowing what to do with a girl. Theodore “Freak” or no freak, he is lean and good-looking and trouble.

Like that, I feel myself pulling back in. I drop Eleanor’s glasses onto my face so that Finch looks warped and strange, like I’m seeing him in a fun-house mirror.

“Because you smiled at me.”


“You asked why I wanted to do this with you. It’s not because you were up on the ledge too, even though, okay, that’s part of it. It’s not because I feel this weird responsibility to keep an eye on you, which is also part of it. It’s because you smiled at me that day in class. A real smile, not the bullshit one I see you give everyone all the time where your eyes are doing one thing and your mouth is doing another.”

“It was just a smile.”

“Maybe to you.”

“You know I’m going out with Ryan Cross.”

“I thought you said he wasn’t your boyfriend.” Before I can recover, he laughs. “Relax. I don’t like you like that.”

Dinnertime. My house. My father makes chicken piccata, which means the kitchen is a mess. I set the table as Mom ties her hair back and takes the plates from Dad. In my house, eating is an event accompanied by the right music and the right wine.

My mom takes a bite of chicken, gives my dad a thumbs-up, and looks at me. “So tell me more about this project.”

“We’re supposed to wander Indiana, as if there’s anything interesting to see. We have to have partners, so I’m working with this boy in my class.”

My dad raises an eyebrow at my mother and then me. “You know, I was terrific at geography back in the day. If you need any help with that project—”

Mom and I cut him off at the same time, telling him how good the food is, asking if we can have more. He gets up, pleased and distracted, and my mother mouths to me, “Close one.” My dad lives to help with school projects. The problem is he ends up taking them over completely.

He comes back in saying, “So, this project …” just as my mom is saying, “So this boy …”

Except for wanting to know my every move, my parents act pretty much like they always did. It throws me when they’re the parents of Before, because nothing about me is like it used to be.

“Dad, I was just wondering,” I begin, my mouth full of chicken. “Where did this dish begin? I mean, how did they come up with it?”

If there’s anything my dad likes more than projects, it’s explaining the history of things. For the rest of the meal, he talks nonstop about ancient Italy and the Italians’ love for clean, simple cooking, which means my project and this boy are forgotten.

Upstairs, I scroll around Finch’s Facebook page. I’m still his only friend. Suddenly a new message appears. I feel like I just walked through the back of the wardrobe and into Narnia.

I immediately research Narnia quotes. The one that stands out is: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.… Come further up, come further in!”

But instead of copying it down and sending it, I get up and mark the day off on the calendar. I stand looking at the word “Graduation,” all the way in June, as I think about Hoosier Hill, Finch’s blue-blue eyes, and the way he made me feel. Like everything else that doesn’t last, today is gone now, but it was a pretty good day. The best I’ve had in months.

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