"I still feel like there's something you're not telling me," she said.
All of this couldn't be explained away by one bad heartbreak, Luce knew. She had experience in that department.
His back was to her and he was looking toward the path they'd taken to the lake. After a while, he laughed bitterly. "Of course there are things I'm not telling you. I barely know you. I'm not sure why you think I owe you anything." He got to his feet.
"Where are you going?"
"I've got to get back," he said.
"Don't go," she whispered, but he didn't seem to hear.
She watched, chest heaving, as Daniel dove into the water.
He came up far away and began swimming toward shore. He glanced back at her once, about midway, and gave her a definitive wave goodbye.
Then her heart swelled as he circled his arms over his head in a perfect butterfly stroke. As empty as she felt inside, she couldn't help admiring it. So clean, so effortless, it hardly looked like swimming at all.
In no time he had reached the shore, making the distance between them seem much shorter than it looked to Luce. He'd appeared so leisurely as he swam, but there was no way he could have reached the other side that quickly unless he'd really been tearing though the water.
How urgent was it for him to get away from her?
She watched - feeling a confusing mix of deep embarrassment and even deeper temptation - as Daniel hoisted himself back up onto the shore. A shaft of sunlight bit through the trees and framed his silhouette with a glowing radiance, and Luce had to squint at the sight before her eyes.
She wondered whether the soccer ball to her head had shaken up her vision. Or whether what she thought she was seeing was a mirage. A trick of the late-afternoon sunlight.
She stood up on the rock to get a better look.
STATE OF INNOCENCE
On Monday evening, Miss Sophia stood behind a podium at the head of the largest classroom in Augustine, attempting to make shadow puppets with her hands. She'd called a last-minute study session for the students in her religion class before the next day's midterm, and since Luce had already missed a full month of the class, she figured she had a lot to catch up on.
Which explained why she was the only one even pretending to take notes. None of the other students even noticed that the evening sun trickling in through the narrow western windows was undermining Miss Sophia's handcrafted light-box stage. And Luce didn't want to call attention to the fact that she was paying attention by standing up to draw the dusty blinds.
When the sun brushed the back of Luce's neck, it struck her just how long she'd been sitting in this room.
She'd watched the eastern sun glow like a mane around Mr. Cole's thinning hair that morning during world history. She'd suffered the sweltering midafternoon heat during biology with the Albatross. It was nearly evening now. The sun had looped the entire campus, and Luce had barely left this desk. Her body felt as stiff as the metal chair she was sitting in, her mind as dull as the pencil she'd given up using to take notes.
What was up with these shadow puppets? Were she and the other students, like, five years old?
But then she felt guilty. Of all the faculty here, Miss Sophia was by far the nicest, even gently pulling Luce aside the other day to discuss how far behind Luce was in the writing of her family tree paper. Luce had to feign astonished gratitude when Miss Sophia walked her through an hour's worth of database instructions yet again. She felt a little ashamed, but playing dumb was far superior to admitting she'd been too busy obsessing over a certain male classmate to devote any time to her research.
Now Miss Sophia stood in her long black crepe dress, elegantly interlocking her thumbs and raising her hands in the air, preparing for her next pose. Outside the window, a cloud crossed over the sun. Luce zoned back in on the lecture when she noticed there was suddenly an actual shadow visible on the wall behind Miss Sophia.
"As you all remember from your reading of Paradise Lost last year, when God gave his angels their own will," Miss Sophia said, breathing into the microphone clipped to her ivory lapel and flapping her thin fingers like a perfect angel's wings, "there was one who crossed the line." Miss Sophia's voice dropped dramatically, and Luce watched as she twisted up her index fingers so the angel's wings transformed into devil's horns.
Behind Luce, someone muttered, "Big deal, that's the oldest trick in the book."
From the moment Miss Sophia had kicked off her lecture, it seemed like at least one person in the room took issue with every word that came out of her mouth. Maybe it was because Luce hadn't had a religious upbringing like the rest of them, or maybe it was because she felt sorry for Miss Sophia, but she felt a growing urge to turn around and shush the hecklers.
She was cranky. Tired, Hungry. Instead of filing down to dinner with the rest of the school, the twenty students enrolled in Miss Sophia's religion class had been informed that if they were attending the
"optional" - a sad misnomer, Penn informed her - study session, their meal would be served in the classroom where the session was being held, to save time.
The meal - not dinner, not even lunch, just a generic late-afternoon fill-up - had been a strange experience for Luce, who had a hard enough time finding anything she could eat in the meat-centric cafeteria. Randy had just wheeled in a cart of depressing sandwiches and some pitchers of lukewarm water.
The sandwiches had all been mystery cold cuts, mayo, and cheese, and Luce had watched enviously as Penn chomped through one after another, leaving tooth-marked rings of crust as she ate. Luce had been on the verge of de-bologna-ing a sandwich when Cam shouldered up next to her. He'd opened his fist to expose a small cluster of fresh figs. Their deep purple skins looked like jewels in his hand.
"What's this?" she'd asked, sucking in a smile.
"Can't live on bread alone, can you?" he'd said.
"Don't eat those." Gabbe had swooped in, lifting the figs out of Luce's fingers and tossing them in the trash. She'd interrupted yet another private conversation and replaced the empty space in Luce's palm with a handful of peanut M&M's from a vending machine sack. Gabbe wore a rainbow-colored headband. Luce imagined yanking the thing from her head and pitching it in the trash.
"She's right, Luce." Arriane had appeared, glowering at Cam. "Who knows what he drugged these with?"
Luce had laughed, because of course Arriane was joking, but when no one else smiled, she shut up and slipped the M&M's into her pocket just as Miss Sophia called for them all to take their seats.
What felt like hours later, they were all still trapped in the classroom and Miss Sophia had only gotten from the Dawn of Creation to the war in Heaven. They weren't even at Adam and Eve. Luce's stomach rumbled in protest.
"And do we all know who the wicked angel was who battled God?" Miss Sophia asked, like she was reading a picture book to a bunch of children at the library. Luce half expected the room to sing out a juvenile Yes, Miss Sophia.
"Anyone?" Miss Sophia asked again.
"Roland!" Arriane hooted under her breath.
"That's right," Miss Sophia said, head bobbing in a saintly nod. She was just left of hard of hearing. "We call him Satan now, but over the years he's worked under many guises - Mephistopheles, or Belial, even Lucifer to some."
Molly, who'd been sitting in front of Luce, rocking the back of her chair against Luce's desk for the past hour with the express purpose of driving Luce insane, promptly dropped a slip of paper over her shoulder onto Luce's desk.
Luce ... Lucifer ... any relation?
Her handwriting was dark and angry and frenetic. Luce could see her high cheekbones rise up in a sneer.
In a moment of hungry weakness, Luce started furiously scribbling an answer on the back of Molly's note. That she had been named for Lucinda Williams, the greatest living female singer-songwriter whose almost-rained-out concert was the site of her parents' first encounter. That after her mom slipped on a plastic cup, tumbled down a mudslide, and landed in her father's arms, she hadn't left those arms for twenty years. That her name stood for something romantic and what did muckle-mouthed Molly have to show for herself? And anyway, that if there was anyone in this entire school who came close to resembling Satan, it wasn't the receiver of the note, it was the sender.
Her eyes drilled into the back of Molly's newly scarlet-dyed pixie cut. Luce was ready to pelt her with the folded-up piece of paper and take her chances with Molly's temper when Miss Sophia pulled her attention to the light box.
She had both hands raised over her head, palms up and cupping the air. As she lowered them, the shadows of her fingers on the wall looked miraculously like flailing arms and legs, like someone jumping off a bridge or out of a building. The sight was so bizarre, so dark and yet so well rendered, it unnerved Luce.
She couldn't turn away.
"For nine days and nine nights," Miss Sophia said, "Satan and his angels fell, further and further from Heaven."
Her words jogged something in Luce's memory. She looked two rows over at Daniel, who met her eyes for half a second before burying his face in his notebook. But that second's glance had been enough, and all at once it came back to her: the dream she'd had the night before.
It had been a revisionist history of her and Daniel at the lake. But in the dream, when Daniel said goodbye and dove back into the water, Luce had the courage to go after him. The water was warm, so comfortable that she hadn't even felt wet, and schools of violet fish swarmed all around her. She was swimming as fast as she could, and at first she thought the fish were helping push her toward Daniel and the shore. But soon the masses of fish began to darken and cloud her vision, and she couldn't see him anymore. The fish became shadowy and vicious-looking, and drew closer and closer till she couldn't see anything, and she'd felt herself sinking, slipping away, down into the silty depths of the lake. It wasn't a question of not being able to breathe, it was a question of never being able to rise back up. It was a question of losing Daniel forever.
Then, from below, Daniel had appeared, his arms spread out like sails. They scattered the shadow fish and enveloped Luce, and together the two of them soared back to the surface. They broke through the water, higher, higher, passing the rock and the magnolia tree where they'd left their shoes. A second later, they were so high Luce couldn't even see the ground.
"And they landed," Miss Sophia said, resting her hands on the podium, "in the blazing pits of Hell."
Luce closed her eyes and exhaled. It had only been a dream. Unfortunately, this was her reality.
She sighed and rested her chin on her hands, remembering her forgotten response to Molly's note. It was folded in her hands. It seemed stupid now and rash. Better not to answer, for Molly not to know she'd even affected Luce.
A paper airplane came to rest on her left forearm. She looked to the far left corner of the class, where Arriane sat holding an exaggerated winking pose.
I take it you're not daydreaming about Satan. Where'd you and DG scurry off to Saturday afternoon?
Luce hadn't had a chance to talk to Arriane alone all day. But how would Arriane have known that Luce went off with Daniel? While Miss Sophia busied herself with a shadow- puppet- focused representation of the nine circles of Hell, Luce watched Arriane sail another perfectly aimed plane at her desk.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com