Authors: Laurie Halse Anderson
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Depression & Mental Illness, #Love & Romance, #Historical, #Military & Wars
“Can’t escape pain, kiddo. Battle through it and you get stronger. Cry all you want, but you’re going to bend that knee five more times. And then we will celebrate with pie.”
Dad called his version of Happily Ever After, “Good Enough for Today.” Some days were better than others. He got fired from a pizza place and the bowling alley before the post office rehired him, but he got along great with his therapist and was starting to talk about grad school again. He walked Spock every morning and every afternoon, coming home in the gloaming, just before dark.
Swevenbury let Finnegan Trouble Ramos in (of course) and threw a scholarship at him so big that it made him burst into tears and, after that, hug me so hard I thought I’d broken my ribs again.
The original plan was for me to take the spring and summer off and finish up the classes I missed next fall, but as my knee got stronger, I got restless and badgered Benedetti until she helped me cobble together classes and an independent study to get enough credits to graduate on time. I even took the godforsaken SATs and did a halfway decent job on them.
The summer days slipped through my fingers. The nights were never long enough. I showed Finn how to change his oil and his tires. He drove me to a half-dozen state schools and helped me find the one that combined flexible admission dates, scholarship money, and a relatively low percentage of zombies in the student population.
And then it was August, and time flew by even faster until it was our last night. We picked up a pizza at ten and drove to the hill that looked over the football stadium. We spread out a big blanket on the wet grass and ate pizza and drank cheap champagne out of paper cups before we lay on our backs to watch the stars parade overhead. Crickets sang. Bats chirped. Mosquitoes feasted. We talked for hours, dancing around the fact that we were leaving in the morning. He was going to travel north by northeast, one hundred eighty miles. I was headed southwest, seventy-four miles. When we didn’t talk, we kissed. We held each and listened to the owl hooting from far away, and the ragged ends of songs that came from the cars driving on the road in front of school. We were determined not to sleep, but it crept up on us when we weren’t watching.
We woke at the same time, in the morning gloaming, when the birds started to sing. The sky was light enough that we could look into each other’s eyes. I never wanted to look away.
“Why is everything happening so fast?” I whispered. “It’s a conspiracy,” Finn said. “Communists. Or maybe
“That’s got to be it.” He stretched with a groan. “You
haven’t changed your mind, have you?”
“I change it every other minute.” I sighed. “What if Dad
loses it again? What if he starts drinking or stops seeing the
therapist or gets fired or—”
Finn rolled on his side and gently put his finger on my
I batted his hand away. “And what about me? What if
my roommate snores and I snap one night and kill her in
her sleep or my professors are stupid or you stop calling me
or I get bubonic plague or something?”
“Your dad is going to be fine and I’ll call you so much
it’ll drive you crazy and there are no bubonic plague outbreaks anywhere. You’re just scared.”
“Am not and I’ll punch you in the kidneys if you don’t
“You sure know how to turn a guy on, Miss Blue.” He
kissed my cheek.
“I might be a little scared.”
“No, it’s not,” I said.
“Yes, it is, because you can only be brave if you’re scared.
Being brave in the face of your freshman year of college will
add to your already impressive superhero résumé.” “What if I do it again, the not-remembering? What if I
get so scared I crawl into a hole?”
“You mean, what if you turn into a zombie again?” I sat up. “What did you just call me?”
“Oh, come on.” He leaned forward and kissed a mosquito bite on my knee. “You were totally a zombie for a while;
you wouldn’t let yourself remember the past, you had no
future, and you were just getting by, minute to minute.
You talked a good game about being a freak, about ‘owning
your soul’ and ‘following your path,’ but the truth . . .” The truth was that it hurt too much to think about how
nice it had been when Gramma braided my hair, or when
Trish taught me how to ride a bike, or when Dad read me
a book. I had shut the door on my memories because they
hurt. Without my memories, I’d turned into one of the living dead.
“What if it happens again?” I asked.
He gently pulled me back down next to him. “That’s
not merely improbable, you goof, that’s impossible.” “You can’t say that, you can’t know what’s going to
“As soon as you get a higher security clearance, I’ll show you the crystal ball that I keep hidden in the bottom of my closet, but until then . . .” He kissed me. “Until then we’re going to keep making memories like this, moments when we’re the only two people in the whole world. And when we get scared or lonely or confused, we’ll pull out these memories and wrap them around us and they’ll make us
feel safe.” He kissed me again. “And strong.”
The stars folded themselves away as the sun peeked
above the horizon and cracked open the sky and I kissed
him and we laughed and it was good.