Author’s Note 9 страница

“How about Kendra?” Brian said. “You said it has to be a girl’s name.”

Alex rubbed his knuckles on his chin. “Tempting, but I was thinking –” He slapped his hands down on the center table. “Guys! Seriously! Why do we always have to play this Stone Age music?” He pulled his own iPod from his bag and went toward the speakers.

Max shook his head. “Just leave it! We always listen to what you want to hear. We do whatever you want to, just because you think you know what’s cool. What makes your stuff so great? So Author’s Note 9 страница superior? Just because it came out in the last two weeks! And what will happen two weeks from now?” Alex opened his mouth to speak, but Max held his hand up. “I’ll tell you! In two weeks the song you’re about to play right now will be old and everyone will say it’s crap. Why? Because it really is crap!”

Nobody moved for a moment. Brian caught Alex’s glance. Alex put his iPod down. “Wow. Dude, chill. It’s okay. We can listen to–”

“He’s right,” Brian said.

In the silence, the song on the Author’s Note 9 страница White Album changed to “Blackbird.”

“I know you guys are upset about whatever Frankie did tonight, but don’t take it out on me. What did I–”

“This is it!” Brian said.

“What is?” Alex asked.

Brian smiled. “Oh, it’s perfect. ‘Blackbird.’” He restarted the song so they could listen to the words.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment Author’s Note 9 страница to be free.

Brian looked at Alex. “You said the flyer needs a new name. It’s right in this song. All that stuff about waiting for this moment. About being free. About flying! Don’t you see?”

“About fixing broken wings.” Max took off his glasses and chewed on the earpiece.

Brian nodded. “We’ll call her Blackbird .”

Alex patted the wing. “There’s nothing black about it. It’s bright white.”

“I believe that’s what they call irony,” Max said.

“And the song is on the White Album , get it?” Brian said.

“No,” Alex said Author’s Note 9 страница. “I don’t get it.”

“Who votes to call her Blackbird ?” Brian said. He raised his hand. Max raised his too.

Alex shrugged. “Okay. You win. Blackbird it is. It’ll fly soon enough.”

They worked for a long time that night, listening to some more Beatles for Brian, and even some Weird Al after Max asked for it. They drank soda until the twenty‑four pack was nearly empty. By the time they were done, the engine was perfectly clean and reassembled.

“Well,” Max said. “Blackbird is restored. It’s ready for another trial run.”

Brian thought late into Author’s Note 9 страница the night. Ever since Frankie had messed up Brian’s first day on the half‑pipe here in Riverside, he had been trying to fly, but crashing. With the flyer, with the guys at school, or with Wendy, as soon as things were looking up, everything went right back down. Grandpa’s advice to fight Frankie had resulted not only in Brian breaking his promise to Wendy, but also a complete disaster. Now Brian, like Blackbird , needed a new plan.

The next morning at school, he stowed his things in his locker and went into homeroom. Wendy Author’s Note 9 страница sat at her desk, with Abbie, Jess, Heather, and Rowena circled around her as usual. Brian sighed. Maybe he could talk to Wendy later. He started down the row to his desk, but he stopped when he heard Frankie’s loud voice from out in the hallway.

No. He had to do this before he chickened out.

He put his books down on his desk and turned around. Maybe talking to a girl was a lot like flying a plane. The toughest part was getting started in the first place. And there was only one way to take off successfully. Fast.

Brian Author’s Note 9 страница marched right up to the Wolf Pack. “Wendy Heller.”

Heather leaned in to whisper something in Jess’s ear. They both giggled.

“Hey, Brian,” Wendy said.

“Let’s talk,” Brian said. “Maybe in the hallway?”

Wendy stood up. “Sure.” People in the room went “oooh” or made kissing noises as he led her to the hallway, checking first to make sure Frankie had moved on.

“What’s up?” she said when they were outside the classroom door.

Brian’s hands were damp and his heartbeat heavy. He faced this most beautiful girl. “Yesterday you asked if we Author’s Note 9 страница should… er… if it would be cool if… you know.” He stopped and took a breath. Captain Kirk was never nervous around the ladies on Star Trek . He put on his best Captain Kirk smile. “Would you like to meet me at the skate park after school?”

“Really?”

Brian nodded. “Really. It’ll be fun. I’ll teach you some moves.”

Wendy dropped her gaze to the floor. “No, Brian. I don’t think so.”

He instantly wanted to run all the way home – his old home in Seattle. “Oh,” he said. “Sure. I get it. No problem Author’s Note 9 страница. I just thought–”

“Because I’m the one who’s going to teach you tricks.” Wendy’s grin was big and beautiful. She laughed a little. “Got you! The skate park at four thirty, then.” She did the whole teeny‑tiny wave thing and spun around to go back into the room.

Brian found it difficult to focus on his schoolwork that morning. He couldn’t stop thinking about his upcoming time with Wendy. During group work in language arts, Alex had to tell him to stop smiling so much.

He was feeling so good that by lunchtime, he figured Author’s Note 9 страница he’d try to sit at the cool table again. When they were dismissed for lunch, Max started to ask Brian if he wanted to eat with him, but Brian pretended he hadn’t heard. He didn’t stall with Ms. Gilbert as he often did, but darted out of his seat and slipped around two people in his own row to get out the door first. In the cafeteria, he was near the front of the line for a change, and he took his tray with chicken nuggets, green beans, a stale cookie, and milk straight to the table where Author’s Note 9 страница Alex, Red, David, and the other cool guys usually sat. He sat down, trying to act natural, like this was no big deal.



Red and David took seats across from him. Red looked at Brian for a moment and then opened his mouth and let out a long rippling belch. Brian and David laughed.

“That’s how he says hello,” said David.

Alex slid onto the bench next to Brian. “I heard that burp, dude,” he said to Red. “That was a long one.” Timmy Hale and Kevin Stein from the other sixth grade class joined them. Dakota Smith Author’s Note 9 страница and Travis Jacobs were next.

The table was full, and no Frankie.

“Yeah? You think that’s a long belch?” Red pointed at Alex with one of his chicken nuggets. “When my dad was in the Air Force–”

“Was that before he worked for the CIA?” David asked.

“And before he worked for the county like he does now?” said Kevin.

If Red picked up on the disbelief, he didn’t act like it. “Yeah, before he worked for the county. Anyway, when he was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, he used to get this Author’s Note 9 страница special soda that they only give to pilots. You know, scientific stuff that helps keep them awake on long flights. Well, I drank, like, a whole can of it in about thirty seconds, even though the warning label said not to drink it that fast. I let out this one burp and it lasted over two minutes straight.” Red looked around the table. “I’m serious. I almost passed out.”

“Red said!” David shouted. Everybody burst out laughing. Some milk shot out of Timmy’s nose.

“Red said!” Alex yelled.

“Reeeeeed said!” Travis joined them.

Brian couldn’t resist. “Red Author’s Note 9 страница said!”

Red finally put the chicken nugget in his mouth. He talked while chewing. “Why don you guysh ever belee me?”

“Better question,” a voice said right behind Brian. “What is this loser doing in my seat?”

Brian sat up straight. How did this guy always manage to sneak up and ruin everybody’s good time?

Frankie tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey. You’re in my seat.”

Everybody at the table went quiet. Brian looked around for any adults. Mrs. Valentine had been on lunch‑monitor duty, but she must have stepped out, and the lunch ladies Author’s Note 9 страница were busy.

“So are you gonna get up and go sit with that dork Mad Max,” Frankie said, “or am I going to have to force you to move?”

“What difference does it make?” Brian couldn’t make himself face Frankie, but he could still talk to him. “It’s just a seat.”

Frankie didn’t say anything for a minute. Alex, Red, David, and the others kept their eyes locked on their trays. “Come on, guys. I been sitting here all year. You can’t just let this freak take my place,” Frankie said. Nobody said a word Author’s Note 9 страница. “Come on, Red. Tell him to move.”

“Well, I don’t know…” Red said.

“Alex,” said Frankie. “Buddy. We go way back. We used to build snow forts together on the playground during kindergarten recess. Now you’re letting this guy sit in my seat? You’re not actually friends with this idiot, are you?”

“What?” Alex said. “I, uh…”

Brian felt something cold and wet on the back of his neck. He reached back and touched it, then looked at his fingers. They were dark red and dripping.

“What difference does it make?” Frankie said. “It’s just barbecue sauce Author’s Note 9 страница. Alex, check it out, the dork looks like he was shot in the back of the head. He’s got barbecue‑sauce blood oozing down his neck.”

Alex actually made a little half laugh sound, but a couple of the other guys at the table shook their heads.

“See you around, Brian.” Frankie stormed off. When Brian dared to look, he spotted Frankie sitting at a table with B.A. Pineeda, Chris Miller, and Jason Cooper.

Brian felt the barbecue sauce running down inside his shirt. He looked at Alex. Frankie had put him on the spot, and Author’s Note 9 страница he had just stammered around, as helpless as Brian had been all the times before. Brian had thought Alex was so cool, that he always knew how to handle any situation. But how could a guy be even close to cool when he just abandoned a friend like that? What kind of guy let his friend get picked on?

Brian froze. Max sat alone, facing away from him at the other end of the cafeteria.

Yeah, what kind of guy?

He wanted to go to the bathroom to clean up, but then it would look like he was just Author’s Note 9 страница running away. While the guys started a halfhearted discussion about football, he finished his chicken nuggets and took a bite out of his dried‑out cookie. Then he got up from the table with his tray.

After school, Brian spotted Frankie in the crowd heading for the back door, maybe going to see if Brian was taking the old secret way. No problem. He hopped on Spitfire and rolled away from the front of the school.

He went home to drop off his books. A note on the fridge said he was supposed to be home by Author’s Note 9 страница six for supper. He was about to head out again, but stopped just short of the front door. Wendy said to meet her at four thirty. It was just three thirty now, and it wouldn’t do any good to be at the skate park too early.

More important, what if Wendy was thinking this whole skating thing was a date? How did anyone know they were on a date? Mom sometimes watched these terrible movies where a guy would ask a girl to dinner and then the girl would say yes. Then the guy would say “Great. It Author’s Note 9 страница’s a date.” Brian had just said something like, “Do you want to go to the skate park?”

Maybe he should have said it was a date. Unless she didn’t think this meeting was a big deal and would have laughed at him for thinking a girl like her would ever go out with someone like him. Brian sighed, pressed his hands to the sides of his head, and paced the kitchen.

He went to his room. The first thing he knew he had to do was get a clean shirt. He looked in his closet and pulled out Author’s Note 9 страница his two best shirts, a white button‑up and his cool Beatles T‑shirt with the Magical Mystery Tour album cover printed on the front. How was he supposed to know what to wear?

The phone rang. It was probably Wendy calling to tell him she didn’t want to meet with him, or Frankie saying he wasn’t allowed to see her. Brian ran to the nearest handset. “Hello?”

“Brian?” It was Alex.

“Oh, hey.” He wasn’t at the top of the list of people Brian wanted to talk to.

“I’m sorry for what happened at lunch Author’s Note 9 страница today. That was just stupid. I don’t even know why I hang around with Frankie at all. I mean, I don’t outside of school anymore, but in school… it’s like I don’t even choose who I get to hang around with.”

Brian appreciated the apology, but he didn’t really have time for what Alex was saying. “Yeah, well, I don’t care about that right now.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I said I was sorry. I don’t–”

“No, no. That’s all fine.” Brian leaned against the Author’s Note 9 страница wall in the hallway. As much as he needed help, part of him also felt like he needed to keep this whole skating event or date thing a secret. On the other hand, Alex had been so smooth with Kendra…. Maybe he could help Brian out here.

“Then what, man?” Alex said. Brian didn’t answer. “I was just about to head out to the Eagle’s Nest. See you there?” Brian should just tell him. It was probably no big deal anyway. Nobody said anything for a moment. “Hello? You there?”

“No,” Brian said.

“Wait. You’re not Author’s Note 9 страница there, or you’re not going to the Eagle’s Nest?”

“I need some advice.” He told Alex about the skating plans with Wendy.

“Whoa… You’re a legend. I wondered what you two were talking about this morning before school. And I’ve heard that Wendy might kind of like you.”

“Might kind of like”? What did that mean? Still, Brian was happy to hear it. “So what should I do?”

“First,” Alex said. “You don’t have to say ‘It’s a date’ for it to actually be a date.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Brian said.

“My older cousin Author’s Note 9 страница in Lone Tree goes on dates with girls all the time and he just calls it ‘watching movies.’ You know what I mean?” Alex laughed.

Brian had no clue. “Yeah.” He forced a little chuckle.

“Like he’ll go down to the family room in the basement with a girl and they’ll just say they’re going to watch movies, but they don’t do much watching.”

What was Alex talking about? “So this thing tonight–”

“This is basically a date. You better not mess it up.” Alex paused for a moment. “Oh! Do you have any cologne?”

“No,” Brian Author’s Note 9 страница said.

“Dude. Seriously.”

“I mean, yeah, I have some. Or I used to have some.” He’d never had any cologne. Why would he possibly want cologne? “A big bottle. But I think I might have used it all up back in Seattle.”

“Oh, man. I bet Seattle girls rock.”

“Yeah.” Brian paced to the other end of his bedroom. “Plus, you know, it’s a big city, so… there’s lots of them.”

“Okay, you need to hurry up and get ready for this. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Use some mouthwash too. Then see if Author’s Note 9 страница your dad has some cologne.”

“This sounds really complicated,” Brian said.

“Dude, I know! When you go on a date with a girl, it is complicated, believe me. You have to buy her something. Ice cream, or maybe some flowers.”

“Really?”

“You didn’t know that?” Alex said. “Seattle girls must be a lot different. You don’t have much time, so listen. Have you heard of the yawn maneuver?”

“The what?”

Alex sighed. “Seriously. Okay, all you have to do to get things started is when you’re sitting by her, you yawn and stretch your arms Author’s Note 9 страница straight up. Then when you’re done, instead of putting your arms back like normal, you slip your arm over her shoulder. She won’t even realize your arm is around her. From there you can move on to other things.”

What other things? They were just supposed to be meeting to skateboard.

“And watch for her signals.”

“Signals?” Brian asked.

“Girls put out certain signals. Like, if she keeps looking down or away, that’s because she’s nervous about what she wore. She’s wondering if she looks fat or whatever. If she does this, you have to compliment Author’s Note 9 страница her. Tell her she smells good or something. If she’s quiet for a real long time, like for almost a minute, if she kind of looks at you during that time, that means she wants you to kiss her. Then you know what to do.”

“Yeah, I know,” Brian said. He didn’t know anything. Why couldn’t two people just skate? Why did this have to be so complicated?

“Good luck,” said Alex. “I expect a full report. I’m off to the Eagle’s Nest.”

They hung up. Brian showered, washing his hair Author’s Note 9 страница twice with both shampoo and that conditioner stuff that was exactly like shampoo. When he was dressed in jeans and his white shirt with buttons and the annoying collar, he went back to the bathroom.

After brushing his teeth, he looked in the cabinet until he found the mouthwash that his father used. In the commercials, a guy always swished this stuff around in his mouth, and then some beautiful girl would put her arms around his shoulders and smile because his breath was so fresh. Brian poured some into the cap and then tipped it back.

It burned Author’s Note 9 страница! His eyes watered while his mouth was on fire. Brian spat the mouthwash into the sink, turned on the water, and put his mouth under the faucet. He spat again. How could the guys on TV look so happy while they used this crap? He had to rinse and spit again and again to get the sick chemical taste out of his mouth. It was a battle to keep from throwing up.

When the mouthwash ordeal was finally over, Brian searched the bathroom cupboards for cologne. He thought he remembered Dad having some, but he hadn’t ever paid too close Author’s Note 9 страница attention to his father’s bathroom stuff. Finally, he found it on the top shelf of a side cupboard, a small green bottle with a gold‑colored cap and Old World Fire written in fancy gold letters on the front.

Brian took the cap off the bottle and sniffed the cologne. It was strong stuff. He’d just pour some on his hand and then put it on his neck. When he tipped the bottle, though, a lot of it poured out way too fast. He didn’t need anywhere near that much. Dumping most of it out into the Author’s Note 9 страница sink, he dabbed a little on his neck.

He sneezed. The smell was powerful. He put the cap back on the bottle and put the cologne away. That didn’t make a difference. The smell was still everywhere .

Even with the bathroom fan on and the door open, the fragrance nearly made his eyes water. He scrubbed his hands with a ton of soap and the water as hot as he could stand it, but the cologne only backed off a little bit. He washed his hands again and then a third time.

Finally, Brian gave Author’s Note 9 страница up. If he didn’t get down to the skate park soon, he’d be late, and then all of this preparation would be for nothing. He looked himself over in the mirror one last time, then took a deep breath and spoke to his reflection. “Ready as you’ll ever be.”

When he rolled into the skate park, Wendy was perched with her board on the lip at the top of the half‑pipe. She didn’t seem to hear him coming, and Brian didn’t call out to her. Her purple helmet caught a glint of sunlight as she Author’s Note 9 страница looked at the ramp in front of her.

Then she put her foot on the raised front end of her board and rolled, skating smoothly all the way to the other lip where, after a kickturn, she rolled back down. The next part of the run was a little wobbly, and Wendy stomped the tail to bring her front trucks up, scraping to a stop on the flat. She took her helmet off and brushed her fingers through her long dark hair.

Wendy Heller was the most perfect girl in the universe, Brian thought. And now he Author’s Note 9 страница might be on a date with her.

“Nice trick,” he said. Wendy jumped, dropping her helmet. It hit the metal ramp with a clang. He held his hands up. “Sorry.”

Wendy shook her head. “I can’t get it right. I could go back and forth probably all day if I rode back fakie, but I’m never going to get air in reverse.”

“Your kickturn was good,” he said. “But you’re leaning the wrong way coming back down the ramp. You were sort of off to the side, and you need to get repositioned to lean into Author’s Note 9 страница the roll on the way down.”

Wendy folded her arms. “Can you show me?”

“I’ll give it a try.” He took Spitfire up on the platform of the half‑pipe. “It’s not just in how you move the board. You have to make sure your body is positioned right too.” He launched himself down the ramp and skated back and forth from one platform to the other, building speed. Finally, when he rolled up on the other side and shot into the air, he reached back to grab Spitfire and yanked the board around in a good spin Author’s Note 9 страница – too long maybe? He bent his knees to bring the board tighter to him.

He made the 360! The wheels slapped the ramp just in time to roll back down to the flat bottom. He jumped off and ran to a stop, spreading his arms wide in triumph. He’d totally just nailed the Ultimate Trick!

“Have you done that before?” Wendy clapped. “That was amazing.”

“Yeah, I’ve…” His heart was pounding through his whole body. He took a deep breath to steady himself. “Done it all the time.”

“You liar!” She laughed. “That was totally your first time Author’s Note 9 страница. You’re lucky you didn’t fall on your butt.”

“Okay,” Brian said. “I’ve been trying to carve that trick for years. This was the first time I did it.”

“What did you do different?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re my good‑luck charm.”

“Maybe I would be…” Wendy said, “if you didn’t use such terrible lines!” She put her finger in her mouth, pretending like she was gagging.

Brian laughed. “Maybe we should try something easier for a while.”

“Deal.” She frowned and sniffed, then her eyes widened. “Brian Author’s Note 9 страница, are you wearing cologne?” She tried to hide her giggle behind her hand.

“Um, no.” He kicked Spitfire forward to hide his blush, heading toward a small ramp off to the side. “Just soap.”

“You lie again!” Wendy laughed and skated after him. They skated all sorts of tricks, hitting some smaller ramps and jumping their boards up to grind on some low rails. Brian didn’t worry about Frankie, or the Wolf Pack, or dates, or anything. He just skated and had fun. It was a lot like hanging out with Alex and Max in the Eagle’s Author’s Note 9 страница Nest, he thought. Only Wendy was beautiful, and she didn’t belch like Alex or spout off super‑complicated science stuff like Max. She was different. Special. She was… she was Wendy Heller.

When they were both pretty tired, they sat on a bench to rest for a minute. Brian wondered if Wendy’s silence was one of the signals Alex had talked about. Then she stood up. “Come on,” she said. “I want to show you something.”

Brian would have followed her anywhere, but after they walked a couple blocks up to the square, he became curious. “Where are Author’s Note 9 страница we going?”

She led him through the square and past the fountain in the middle of Carl Jacobs Park. They stopped outside a two‑story red brick building. The year 1912 had been carved into a large stone block up near the roof in the middle of the storefront. A round sign painted to look like a clock swung in the breeze, squeaking on its rusted chains, with the words Time Remembered in fading letters at the center.

Wendy put her hand on the doorknob and glanced at Brian, but then quickly looked away. After a moment she opened Author’s Note 9 страница the door. A bell jangled over their heads as they entered.

They stood in a crowded antique shop with almost too much to look at right at first. A blue glass ball lamp hung from a chain in the store window. Next to that stood a bird‑cage with chipped white paint. Shelves filled with old glasses and bottles lined the brick walls to the right and left. Some antique farm tools were mounted on the wall in one corner. A few ancient‑looking painted wood tables in the center held a jumble of other items.

“Hey, babe. Who’s your Author’s Note 9 страница friend?” A woman with brown curly hair pulled back into a ponytail came through a door at the back. She went behind a glass display case near the cash register.

“This is Brian Roberts,” Wendy said.

“Roberts. Roberts. Hmm.” The woman leaned over the counter and looked closely at him. “What’s your mother’s name?”

“Diane,” said Brian.

“Diane Davis?” she asked. Brian nodded. She smiled. “Wow. I’d heard she was back in town! I’m Gwen Smith – Dakota’s mom. I was in school with your mother. How do you like Riverside so far?”

Most of the Author’s Note 9 страница time when adults asked how he liked something, they really just wanted him to say how good it was. Brian decided to be polite. “I really like it,” he said. He looked at Wendy. Why had she brought him here? To introduce him to Dakota’s mother?

“I know you’re closing soon,” Wendy said. “But I wanted to show Brian the book room.”

“You want to take this boy upstairs?” The woman grinned.

Wendy’s cheeks flared red. “Gwen!”

Gwen laughed and motioned toward the stairway. “I’m just kidding. Go ahead, and don’t worry Author’s Note 9 страница about closing time. Stay as long as you like. I have some paperwork to catch up on anyway.”

Brian followed Wendy up the wooden stairs to the second floor. Clothes racks displayed suits, dresses, jackets, and old shirts. Hats and ties dangled from hooks on the back wall. A few antique chandeliers hung from the ceiling, but Wendy switched them off. Plenty of light spilled across the floorboards through the three tall windows in the front. More shelves lined the brick walls on both sides, but these were packed with books.

“Gwen used to babysit Frankie and me sometimes,” Wendy said Author’s Note 9 страница. She went to stand by the windows, so Brian could only make out her silhouette against the bright sunlight. “When we were younger. A long time ago.” From somewhere in the store came the sound of a ticking clock. She came away from the window and gave him a sad smile. “I used to play up here while Frankie would play in the courtyard or with some of the toys downstairs. I’d put on the dresses and pretend I was a princess locked away in a tower.” She smiled. “One time Dakota tried to be a prince and Author’s Note 9 страница rescue me. He found a metal helmet downstairs, and he came charging up with a yardstick for a sword and the lid from a skillet as his shield.”

Brian sat down on a small cushioned wooden couch. “How did that go?”

“Frankie decided he’d play too. Only he was a robot, I think.” She laughed. “He had one of those old‑fashioned hand‑crank mixer things and walked around saying ‘Frank‑O‑Tron‑5000‑will‑grind‑your‑face‑off.’ He kind of ruined it.”

“He’s good at that.” Brian said the words before he realized that Author’s Note 9 страница was probably a bad idea. Wendy froze. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean–”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I know. I know he’s been mean. He wasn’t always this way, you know. He used to be really nice. He still is nice to me, but… he’s changed.” She pulled a book from the shelf and flipped through its pages without seeming to look at it. “These last few years, I feel like I hardly know him sometimes. Now I come up here to hide out.” She made a sweeping gesture with her arm. “All Author’s Note 9 страница these old things. They weren’t always forgotten junk. They used to belong to people, you know. They were Christmas and birthday presents. Wedding gifts.”

Brian waited for her to go on. She was silent for a long time, but somehow he knew this wasn’t one of the signals Alex had talked about. Finally, the quiet was uncomfortable. “Frankie’s not that bad,” he said.

Wendy nodded, but tears were in her eyes. She put the book back on the shelf. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You don’t want to hear about all this.”

“No,” he said Author’s Note 9 страница. He couldn’t stand to see her cry. How could he fix this? “I mean, whatever. It’s cool.”

She wiped her eyes. “Frankie was a really nice guy. Then, about two years ago, there was a bad snowstorm. Mom was on her way home from Iowa City.” She breathed deeply. “It wasn’t anybody’s fault. Nobody to blame or anything. Just ice and snow and… a crash.” She shrugged. “Mom was dead.”

Brian had never known a kid his age with a parent who was dead. He wanted to help her, to do something or say something Author’s Note 9 страница to make her less sad, but there was nothing he could do. “I’m sorry,” he said. The words felt useless. He couldn’t help her. Not really.

“It’s a little easier to deal with now,” she said. “Still, it’s like the guys, the other girls, even the teachers just want me to move on and forget it.” She wiped her eyes again. “Forget her. And at home it’s just… Here in the store…” She pointed at the clothes in the back. “Where some of Mom’s old things are for sale… I come up here and Author’s Note 9 страница read or write in the quiet, and I feel like I don’t have to forget. Time remembered, right?”

Neither of them spoke. The clock ticked.

“You’re different than the others, Brian,” Wendy said.

What did she mean by that? “Different bad or diff–”


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