Beautiful Darkness

Page 19


My dad smiled and stifled a laugh. I bet Amma had said exactly the same thing to him when he was my age.
"Yes, ma'am."
I heard a car honk, and the sound of way too much Beater bass, and grabbed my backpack. Al I saw was the blur of the spoon behind me.
I slid into the Beater and rol ed down the window. Gramma had gotten her way, and Lena had come back to school a week ago, for the end of the year. I had driven al the way out to Ravenwood to take her to school on her first day back, even stopping at the Stop & Steal to get her one of their famous sticky buns, but by the time I got there Lena was already gone. Ever since then, she had been driving herself to school, so Link and I were back in the Beater.
Link turned down the music, which was blasting through the car, out the windows, and down the block.
"Don't you embarrass me over at that school a yours, Ethan Wate. And you turn down that music, Wesley Jefferson Lincoln! You're goin' to knock over my whole row a rutabagas with that ruckus." Link honked back at her. Amma knocked her spoon against the post, put her hands on her hips, and then softened. "You do wel on those tests a yours, and maybe I'l bake you a pie."
"That wouldn't be Gatlin peach, would it, ma'am?"
Amma sniffed and nodded her head. "Just might be."
She would never admit it, but Amma had final y developed a soft spot for Link, after al these years. Link thought it was because Amma felt sorry for his mom after her invasion-of-the- body-snatchers experience with Sarafine, but that wasn't it. She felt bad for Link. "Can't believe that boy has to live in the house with that woman. He'd be better off if he was bein' raised by wolves." That's what she'd said last week before she packed up a pecan pie for him.
Link looked at me and grinned. "Best thing that ever happened to me, Lena's mom gettin' mixed up with my mom. Never had so much a Amma's pie in my life." It was about as much as he ever said about Lena's nightmare of a birthday anymore. He floored it, and the Beater went skidding down the road. It almost wasn't worth mentioning that we were late, as usual.
"Did you study for English?" It wasn't real y a question. I knew Link hadn't cracked a book since seventh grade.
"Nah. I'm gonna copy offa someone."
"What do you care? Somebody smarter than you."
"Yeah? Last time you copied off Jenny Masterson, and you both got D's."
"I didn't have time to study. I was writin' a song. We might play it at the county fair. Check it out." Link sang along with the song, which sounded weird because he was singing along to a recording of his own voice. "Lol ipop Girl, took off without a word, was cal in' out your name, but you never heard."
Great. Another song about Ridley. Which shouldn't have surprised me, since he hadn't written a song about anything but Ridley for four months now. I was beginning to think he would always be hung up on Lena's cousin, who was nothing like her. Ridley was a Siren, who used her Power of Persuasion to get what she wanted with one lick of a lol ipop. Which, for a while, was Link. Even though she had used him and disappeared, he hadn't forgotten her. But I couldn't blame him. It was probably tough being in love with a Dark Caster. It was pretty tough sometimes with a Light one, too.
I was stil thinking about Lena, despite the deafening roar in my ears, until Link's voice was drowned out altogether, and I heard Seventeen Moons. Only now the words had changed.
Seventeen moons, seventeen turns,
Eyes so dark and bright it burns,
Time is high but one is higher,
Draws the moon into the fire ...
Time is high? What did that even mean? It wasn't going to be Lena's Seventeenth Moon for eight more months. Why was time high now? And who was the one, and what was the fire?
I felt Link smack the side of my head, and the song disappeared. He was shouting over his demo tape. "If I can get the backbeat down, it'l be a pretty rockin' tune." I stared at him, and he knocked me in the head again. "Shake it off, man.
It's just an exam. You look as crazy as Miss Luney, the hot-lunch lady."
Thing is, he wasn't that far off.
When the Beater pul ed into the Jackson High parking lot, it stil didn't feel like the last day of school. For the seniors, it wasn't. They would have graduation tomorrow, and a party that lasted al night and usual y gave more than a few people a
brush with alcohol poisoning. But for us sophomores and juniors, we had one more exam until we were free.
Savannah and Emily walked past Link and me, ignoring us. Their short skirts were even shorter than usual, and we could see bikini strings hanging out from under their tank tops. Tie-dye and pink gingham.
"Check it out. Bikini season." Link grinned.
I had almost forgotten. We were only an exam away from an afternoon at the lake. Everyone who was anyone was wearing bathing suits under their clothes today, since summer didn't official y start until you had taken your first swim off the shores of Lake Moultrie. Kids from Jackson had a place we hung out, up past Monck's Corner, where the lake opened deep and wide into what felt like an ocean when you were swimming in it. Except for al the catfish and the swamp weeds, you could be out to sea. This time last year, I rode to the lake in the back of Emory's brother's truck with Emily, Savannah, Link, and half the basketbal team. But that was last year.
"You goin'?"
"I've got an extra suit in the Beater, but it's not as cool as these puppies." Link pul ed up his shirt so I could see his bathing suit, which was bright orange and yel ow plaid. About as low-key as Link was.