Page 19


It’s not Luke.
And yet, when I flip through my spiral-bound substitute for a proper memory again, one truth becomes clear: the darkest memory showed up when he did.
Exhausted from the day and the weight of what’s coming, I gather the photos and cards before me into a neat stack and ease them back inside the manila envelope. I fold down the clasp to hold it shut, replace it inside the desk drawer, and set my notes on my nightstand.
After scooting under the covers, I reread the note I left myself, just to make sure everything’s there. I add a few details about the memory, and a question: How is Luke involved?
The garage door begins to open; my mom is home. Instead of waiting to say good night, I put the note on my nightstand, click off the lamp, and roll to my side, facing the wall.
Two questions volley back and forth in my mind:
Why can’t I remember Luke?
Whose funeral is it?
I’m watching the tennis match with my eyes closed when my mom eeks open my door and whispers, barely audibly, “Good night, sweet London.”
Her words are like a sleeping pill; they instantly relax me.
Soon, the tennis match is over.
It’s love–love.
No resolution.
Walking alone from the locker room to the gymnasium, I am lamenting the fact that it’s Thursday. Thursdays are odd-block days: ninety minutes each of my least favorite classes.
No Luke to enjoy.
Then again, no Jamie, either.
I am pondering what to do about Jamie as I lean into the bar across the middle of the massive gym door and set foot onto the gleaming court. It’s loud and alive with squeaking sneakers and shouts and pants, and the sensory overload distracts me to the point that I don’t see it coming.
Before I have time to jump, duck, or even flinch, my thoughts are obliterated by the weight of a massive rubber ball slamming into the right side of my face. The momentum knocks me sideways and then off balance. I trip over my own feet and fall, without even a smidgen of grace, to the ground.
A loud, embarrassing “oof” comes out of my mouth as my hip hits the floor first, followed by my ribs, and then my head. My right ear rings and my cheek tingles and burns at the same time; hand to cheek, I realize that the rubber ball left a pattern on my skin.
I brush the hair that I haven’t had the chance to pull back into a ponytail from my face, then blink once to clear the water from my eyes. With one good ear and only partial vision, I experience the fallout.
Everyone in first-period PE is laughing at me. Some try to hide it; others are actually pointing in my direction. Jerks. I struggle to get back on my feet, but my senses are still off, and it’s a lot more difficult than it should be. I feel a little drunk, and, yes, I know what that feels like. I remember it.
Once I finally make it to my feet and the crowd begins to scatter, my eyes catch Page Thomas’s. There’s a nasty smirk on her face as she quickly looks away. Before I have too much time to dwell on it, a shrill whistle blows. Ms. Martinez commands the room, and I grudgingly join one of two teams.
For the rest of the period, I try to defend myself as best I can through an excruciating “game” that should be banned from high school and general play forever.
It is nothing but pain and humiliation.
It should be avoided at all costs.
It is the reason this morning’s note warned: stay alert first period.
It is hell on earth.
It is dodgeball.
Hours later, during Ms. Harris’s lecture on the hippocampus in Human Anatomy, Ryan Greene keeps glancing at me from across the aisle. My face and ego still sting from this morning, but I’m smiling and I can’t stop. It hurts my cheeks, and Ryan is gawking—probably because the hippocampus isn’t that exciting—but I don’t care.
I saw Luke before class.
“Something funny, London?” Ms. Harris interrupts. She’s stopped writing midsentence and is holding the blue dry-erase marker in midair. One of her perfectly curvy hips is popped to the side, and a manicured hand rests there, waiting.
She looks a little like one of the cheerleaders did earlier today. That’s concerning, seeing as how Ms. Harris is a teacher and all. Shouldn’t she reserve judgment?
Though I’m fairly certain that the majority of them are as bored by the anatomy of the brain as I am, the students in my line of sight now look annoyed at the interruption. More likely, they’re just annoyed Ms. Harris turned around.
“London? Is there a joke?” she asks again when I don’t speak. She tosses her dyed red hair and I wonder if she’s jealous that mine is real.
“No, Ms. Harris,” I say quietly. I try to think of something depressing, but the smile hangs on.
Ms. Harris stares at me, unblinking, for what feels like days. When she seems convinced that I’m either a bad seed or insane, she sighs and turns back to the whiteboard.
The rest of the students right themselves on their stools, and I relax, too. I take a deep breath of stale science-wing air and loosen my grip on the metal table.
My happy moment ruined, I focus on what Ms. Harris is saying, most of it completely snore-inducing. But then, she says something that grabs my interest.
“… possible that we store different types of memories in different parts of our brains.”
Intrigued, I sit up a little straighter. I need to hear what she’ll say next.
She turns and writes “Types of memories” on the whiteboard. Just as she’s underlining her header, the bell rings.
“Class dismissed.”
A little over an hour later, Mom is driving in the opposite direction of home, looking determined.
“Where are we going?”
“Out for a snack,” she says.
“I’m not hungry,” I protest.
“I don’t care,” she says. “You don’t have to eat. But I think we need to spend some time together.”
Mom pulls into a diner and parks, and we walk inside and seat ourselves as the sign instructs. Once the waitress has taken our drink orders—diet for Mom, regular for me—Mom strikes up a conversation.
“Good day?” she asks.
“No,” I answer.
“Why not?”
The waitress delivers our drinks, and my mom unwraps our straws and puts them in the glasses. She takes a sip as she waits for me to respond.
“I got hit in the face with a ball in gym,” I answer.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Good,” she says. Another sip. “Anything else?”
“Carley Lynch.”
“What did she do this time?” Mom asks.
“She just made some comment about my outfit.”
“I love that outfit.”
“Me, too,” I say.
“You know she’s just jealous of you, London.”
“No, I don’t know, Mom. I don’t remember.”
“Was Jamie there?” my mom asks casually.
“No, of course not,” I mutter.
“Still fighting?”
“Obviously,” I say, rolling my eyes.
A family scoots into the next booth over, and I watch them settle themselves as my mom speaks in a quieter tone. For that I’m grateful.
“There’s no need to get snippy, sweetie. Jamie will come around; she always does. And Carley is jealous because of a boy. Christopher something. They went out for a while and broke up, then you asked him to a dance.”