Beautiful Darkness

Page 25


"Just so long as I'm not invited to either."
"Dude. You need some sugar. I'm gonna get in line. You want somethin'?"
"No, thanks. You need some money?" Link never had any money.
"Naw, I'm gonna get Charlotte to hook me up."
Link could talk his way into and out of almost anything. I pushed my way through the crowd, as far away from Emily and Savannah as I could get. I slumped down at the bad corner table, beneath the shelves of soda cans and bottles from around the country. Some of the sodas had been there since my dad was little, and you could see the different levels of brown and orange and red syrup, disappearing to the bottom of the bottles from years of evaporation. It was pretty disgusting, I guess, that and the fifties soda bottle wal paper and the flies. After a while, you didn't even notice it anymore.
I sat down and looked at the disappearing dark syrup, my mood in a bottle. What happened to Lena back at the lake? One minute we were kissing, the next she was running away from me. Al that gold in her eyes. I wasn't stupid. I knew what it meant. Light Casters had green eyes. Dark Casters had gold. Lena's weren't completely gold, but what I'd seen at the lake was enough to make me wonder.
A fly landed on the shiny red table, and I stared at it. I recognized the familiar churning in my stomach. Dread and panic, al turning into a dul anger. I was so mad at Lena, I wanted to kick out the glass window next to our booth. But at the same time, I wanted to know what was going on and who that guy on the Harley was. Then I'd have to kick his ass.
Link slid into the booth across from me with the biggest freeze I'd ever seen. The ice cream rose about four inches above where the plastic cup ended. "Charlotte has some real potential." Link licked the straw.
Even the sugary smel of the freeze was making me sick. I felt like the sweat and the grease and the flies and the Emorys and Emilys were closing in on me.
"Lena's not here. We should go." I couldn't sit around like everything was normal. Link, on the other hand, could. Rain or shine.
"Chil ax. I'l suck it down in five."
Eden walked by on her way to refil her Diet Coke. She smiled down at us, as fake as ever. "What a cute couple. See, Ethan, you didn't need to be wastin' time with that lil' tire slasher window basher. You and Link, y'al lovebirds were meant for each other."
"She didn't slash your tires, Eden." I knew how this was going to look for Lena. I had to shut them down before their mothers got involved.
"Yeah. I did," Link said, his mouth ful of ice cream. "Lena's just bummed she didn't think of it first." He could never resist the chance to harass the cheer squad. To them, Lena was an old joke that wasn't funny anymore but nobody could drop. That was the thing about smal towns. No one ever changed their opinion of you, even if you changed. As far as they were concerned, even when Lena was a great-grandmother, she would stil be the crazy girl who busted out the window in English class. Considering most of our English class would stil be living in Gatlin.
Not me. Not if things were going to stay like this. It was the first time I had real y thought about leaving since Lena came to Gatlin. The box of col ege brochures under my bed had stayed under my bed until now. As long as I had Lena, I wasn't counting the days until I could get out of Gatlin.
"Hel -o. Who is that?" Eden's voice was a little too loud.
I heard the bel on the door of the Dar-ee Keen chime as it closed. It was like some kind of Clint Eastwood movie, where the hero steps into the saloon after he's just shot up the whole town. The neck of every girl sitting near us snapped toward the door, greasy blond ponytails flying.
"I don't know, but I'd sure like to find out," Emily purred, coming up behind Eden.
"I've never seen him before. Have you?" I could see Savannah filing through the yearbook in her mind.
"No way. I'd remember him." Poor guy. Emily had him in her crosshairs, target locked and loaded. He didn't stand a chance, whoever he was. I turned around to get a look at the guy Earl and Emory would be kicking the crap out of when they realized their girlfriends were drooling over him.
He was standing in the doorway in a faded black T-shirt, jeans, and scuffed black army boots. I couldn't see the scuffs from where I was sitting, but I knew they were there. Because he was wearing exactly the same thing the last time I saw him, when he ripped out of Macon's funeral.
It was the stranger, the Incubus who wasn't an Incubus. The sunlight Incubus. I remembered the silver sparrow in Lena's hand when she was sleeping in my bed.
What was he doing here?
A black tattoo wound around his arm, sort of tribal-looking, like something I'd seen before. I felt a knife in my gut, and touched my scar. It was throbbing.
Savannah and Emily walked up to the counter, trying to act like they were going to order something, as if they touched anything here other than Diet Coke.
"Who is that?" Link wasn't one for competition, not that he was in the running these days.
"I don't know, but he showed up at Macon's funeral."
Link was staring at him. "Is he one of Lena's weird relatives?"
"I don't know what he is, but he isn't related to Lena." Then again, he did come to the funeral to pay his respects to Macon. Stil , there was something wrong about him. I'd sensed it since the first time I saw him.
I heard the bel chime again as the door closed.
"Hey, Angel Face, wait up."