Last Night at the Circle Cinema (22 page)

BOOK: Last Night at the Circle Cinema
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Livvy took the rungs right after me until we were both almost all the way up to the roof. We both gripped hard onto the flimsy ladder but hung our bodies out enough to read the sign. Memories. Tears stung my eyes, and I didn't wipe them away. I was fixed on the sign until Livvy suddenly shrieked.

“Oh my God! Look!” She let go with one hand to point at the other sign, but then wobbled and nudged me forward. “Go. Go!”

I took the last rung and leaped to the roof, taking Livvy's hand after I'd landed. The black circles that had read C-I-R-C-L-E now read C-O-D-M-A-N.

“He did it,” Livvy said, and for the first time she didn't look teary. She looked happy. “Your name in lights.” She paused. “Of course, the lights are rusted and about to get knocked down, but ...”

“Doesn't matter,” I said. “Nothing can ruin this glory.”

As I looked at the transformed letters and at Livvy, all wrinkled and beautiful in her dirty clothing and tangled hair, as I pictured speaking at graduation, I knew Bertucci was right. Only he'd seen it when I wasn't able to. I saw Livvy reach for her phone but once she'd taken it out, she didn't actually text. Instead, she took a picture and slipped it back into her pocket.

“We should head out,” I said and offered Livvy my hand.



In the parking lot, the rain had mainly dried up, but the few puddles that remained reflected the bright blue morning sky. Codman held the skull, the painting of Bob, and shook that last bits of candy out from his shirt. I took Schrödinger from my backpack, unwrapped Bertucci's sweater from my waist, and shoved it inside the bag. Would I wear it again? Yes. I would keep it and wear until it was nothing but a collection of old threads. I knew it would pain me when it finally disintegrated, but perhaps that was why I had it in the first place.

I side-stepped puddles and the cat followed, nosing the water and then padding silently next to me. My car was right where I'd left it, smack dab in the middle of the parking lot.

“Oh, shit,” Codman said as he looked at the rear driveway.

I heard the siren before I turned around and saw the police car. “If I go to jail because of this, you owe me.”

“I owe you? Hey, I've already worked off my hours of debt,” Codman—Alex—insisted.

“Your debt to him, yeah, but what about me?” I clenched my fist as the police car slowed right near the door where we'd clipped the chains. “What about the hours I spent waiting to hear from you after your great absentia?”

“Well, I believe I've proven myself tonight ....” He paused. “I mean, I hope I have. But maybe we could do something else next time? Go to lunch. Collect seashells.”

I smiled. “Can we?”

“Collect seashells?” he asked as the cop's siren stopped and the car door slammed. “Yes.”

“Good.” The night we'd spent together, Codman had picked up a single shell—not a sand dollar or anything particularly poetic but a clear, apricot-tinted one the size of my thumbnail. I'd kept it on my bedside table since, unable to pick it up or to throw it away. For the first time, I could picture accumulating more shells, collecting them with him, saving them.

“If I go to jail, take care of Bob,” he said.

“And if I go, feed Schrödinger.” I looked at the Circle. In the daytime, it wasn't exactly horror movie material. More just run down, ruined, and sad.

“You kids here for a reason?” the cop asked.

“Danny, you know perfectly well why we're here,” Codman said, rolling his eyes at his stepbrother.

“You told him?” I asked. “All this time I'm panicked about getting caught, about my parents disowning me and spending my life in juvie or licking stamps for a living and you knew?”

Dan nodded. “I always check up on you guys. Part of the job.” He hooked his thumbs through his uniform belt loops. “How'd it go, anyway?”

Codman shrugged. “Good as it could've, right Livvy?”

Livvy. He would call me Livvy now. “It was okay.”

“You need a ride to graduation?” Dan asked. “I could put the lights on, maybe speed through town?” He grinned. “Nah—you're fine. I know you'll be there. Right?”

We nodded. We watched him walk back to the cruiser, and I wondered if he'd been by in the night, if he'd checked on us or hung out in the back lot in case we'd caused trouble or something had gone wrong. He'd been the second responder after the ambulance, and maybe he felt he owed us one, too.


My car was heating up from the June sun, but I put my pack on the hood and climbed up, leaning back onto the windshield. The wipers made it slightly uncomfortable, but I needed to breathe for a minute. Schrödinger leapt onto the very front of the hood and curled into a ball.

Alex climbed up next to me, leaning back into a puddle that half-soaked his shirt.

“What are you going to do with the skull?” I asked.

“I don't know.” Codman held it out on his palm. The sun shone on it, making it look both toylike and gruesome. “I mean, presumably it runs out of batteries at some point, right?” But he didn't check for a slot.

“And if not?”

“I guess I just have a skull, you know?”

I nodded. We had the ugly flamingo painting taking up most of the back seat of my car, the skull in Alex's hand, a cat, and a dead friend's sweater. “It's like that song, the one at his house that time?”

“You'll have to be more specific.”

“You can never leave the past behind, only accumulate more of it.” I sang it and then paused. “I mean, cats live for like eighteen years or something.”

“And paintings live forever.”

“And I guess that's what Bertucci wanted, right?” I asked, but I didn't need Alex to answer. We'd accumulated stuff that night, but nothing compared to the mass of memories we had tucked away. We'd have to carry all of it around with us, to graduation, college, anything that lay ahead.

“Livvy? What are you doing later?” Alex asked me.

“Um, graduating, I hope. Listening to your speech. Flinging my hat up in the air.”

“Cap,” he said. “It's a cap. You're really going whole-hog with a movie-style fling?”

I nodded into his chest. “Why? What else is on the agenda?”

Alex cleared his throat. “Well, it's Saturday. So ... we kind of have to feed that person's meter—if we leave the ceremony early we probably could.”

I thought about it. We could carry on Bertucci's angelic meter word. “Or we could let it go.”

I knew that was the real point of the night. We needed to leave it: the maze, being trapped in the darkness. I looked at Codman and, before I could edit myself, I touched his hair, his face, his real and alive self.

“Well, even if we don't feed meters, maybe we could just take a walk or something, just us?”

I nodded. “Definitely.”

I could see it: the shocking new summer sun, the scar on my shin and the deeper ones inside, my sweaty fist clenching my diploma, my parents watching, how Alex Codman's parents would hug me perhaps too hard and my parents possibly not enough, and that Alex and I would kiss, hard and deep after the closing remarks. And that somehow, Bertucci would be with us.

“We should make a move,” Alex said, but he didn't move yet.

“Yeah,” I said, and I looked up.

I could see Codman's name up there on display for all to see. I could see the glory of what once was a state-of-the-art cinema. Maybe they'd knock it down and build useless offices or maybe a park. Urban green space that would brighten the town, or maybe the building would just stay here and rot, a sorry reminder. There was this continuous knocking down and rebuilding—malls, libraries, liquor stores. It was possible that every memory we had would be bulldozed so that we couldn't even point to any places we had all been together. Eventually, maybe every place-specific memory would disappear, a different thing in its place. Our elementary school was already rebuilt, so there'd be no way of driving by with future kids or grandkids and saying, See that? That was where we played, where we met. I looked up at the Circle's exterior billboard. “Thanks for the memories,” the sign read, and I let a few tears slip down my face.

The sky was painfully blue, the sun the brightest white. Above the crumbling exterior, I could see the large gallery windows. There, inside, I could see something. It was clear. There was Bertucci, looking out at us. I couldn't make out his face, but I could see his hand. It was raised in a special wave, the same one he'd given me way back when we'd first met, only this time it wasn't hello. It was good-bye.

I lifted my own hand in response.

And then, just like that, it was time to go.


Thank you: Adam, N, S, E, and A for support, inspiration, snoozles, talks, laughs, and band names. Faye, Brendan, and Dan for reads and help early on. Kim Witherspoon, Monika Woods, and the team at Inkwell Management for soup to nuts (AKA contracts to covers). Andrew Karre for believing in the dark-weird-funny-sad and everyone at Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab. To Heather for Mahfouz, Snazbags, and the best friend and reader I could ever wish for. To JC Smith for introducing me to
, to the well-made play, and to Joan Didion so long ago.

This book was written as I was crawling out of the darkest time in my life. For anyone still slumping through or treading, this is also for you.

About the Author

Emily Franklin is the author of more than sixteen young adult books, including
The Half-Life of Planets
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom,
named to the 2013 Rainbow List. She is also the author of novels, short stories, and a cookbook memoir for adults. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared on National Public Radio and in the
New York Times
and the
Boston Globe
. She lives with her husband, four kids, and enormous dog outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

BOOK: Last Night at the Circle Cinema
3.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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