Outside, it was windy. An owl crooned in its palmetto tree. When they passed under the oaks alongside the building, straggly tendrils of Spanish moss brushed them like tangled strands of hair.
"Maybe next time?" Penn mimicked Luce's voice. "What was that about?"
"Nothing ... I don't know." Luce wanted to change the subject. "You make us sound very posh, Penn," she said, laughing as they trudged along the commons. "Other plans ... I thought you had fun at the party last week."
"If you'd ever get around to reading my recent correspondence, you'd see why we have more important things on our plate."
Luce emptied her pockets, rediscovered the five uneaten M&M's, and shared them with Penn, who expressed a very Penn-like sentiment that she hoped they had come from a sanitary place, but ate them anyway.
Luce unfolded the first of Penn's notes, which looked like a photocopied page from one of the files in the underground archive:
All in the Northeast, except for T. Hammond
Mary Margaret Zane
Los Angeles, California
Lucinda's group was noted as arriving at Sword & Cross on September 15 of this year. The second group had arrived March 15, three years earlier.
"Who's Mary Margaret Zane?" Luce asked, pointing.
"Only the very virtuous Molly," Penn said.
Molly's name was Mary Margaret? "No wonder she's so pissed off at the world," Luce said. "So where'd you get all this?"
"I dug it out from one of the boxes Miss Sophia brought down the other day," Penn said. "That's Miss Sophia's handwriting."
Luce looked up at her. "What does it mean? Why would she need to record this? I thought they had all our arrival dates separately in our files."
"They do. I can't figure it out, either," Penn said. "And I mean, even though you showed up at the same time as those other kids, it's not like you have anything in common with them."
"I couldn't have less in common with them," Luce said, envisioning the coy look Gabbe always had glued to her face.
Penn scratched her chin. "But when Arriane, Molly, and Daniel showed up, they already knew each other.
I think they came from the same halfway house in L.A."
Somewhere there was a key to Daniel's story. There had to be more to him than a halfway house in California. But thinking back to his reaction - that washed-out horror that Luce might take an interest in knowing anything about him - well, it made her feel like everything she and Penn were doing was futile and immature.
"What's the point of all of this?" Luce asked, suddenly annoyed.
"Why Miss Sophia would be collating all that information I can't figure out. Though Miss Sophia arrived at Sword & Cross the same day as Arriane, Daniel, and Molly ..." Penn trailed off. "Who knows? Maybe it doesn't mean anything. There's just so little mention of Daniel in the archives, I figured I'd show you everything I came up with. Hence exhibit B."
She pointed toward the second note in Luce's hand.
Luce sighed. Part of her wanted to quit the search and stop feeling embarrassed about Daniel. The pushier part of her still yearned to get to know him better ... which, strangely, was far easier to do when he wasn't technically present to give her new reasons to feel embarrassed.
She looked down at the note, a photocopy of an old-fashioned card from a library catalog.
Grigori, D. The Watchers: Myth in Medieval
Europe. Seraphim Press, Rome, 1755.
Call no: R999.318 CR!
"Sounds like one of Daniel's ancestors was a scholar," Penn said, reading over Luce's shoulder.
"This must have been what he meant," Luce said under her breath. She looked at Penn. "He told me studying religion was in his family. This must be what he meant."
"I thought he was an orphan - "
"Don't ask," Luce said, waving her off. "Touchy subject with him." She ran her finger over the book's title. "What's a watcher?"
"Only one way to find out," Penn said. "Though we may live to regret it. 'Cause this sounds like possibly the most boring book ever. Still," she added, dusting her knuckles on her shirt, "I took the liberty of checking the catalog. The book should be in the stacks. You can thank me later."
"You're good." Luce grinned. She was eager to get up to the library. If someone in Daniel's family had written a book, it couldn't possibly be boring. Or not to Luce, anyway. But then she looked down at the other thing still in her hand. The velvet jewelry box from Cam.
"What do you think this means?" she asked Penn as they started walking up the mosaic-tiled stairs to the library.
Penn shrugged. "Your feelings on snakes are - "
"Hatred, agony, extreme paranoia, and disgust," Luce listed.
"Maybe it's like ... okay, I used to be scared of cactus. Couldn't go near 'em - don't laugh, have you ever pricked yourself on one of those things? They stay in your skin for days. Anyway, one year, for my birthday, my dad bought me like eleven cactus plants. At first I wanted to chuck them at him. But then, you know, I got used to them. I stopped flipping out anytime I was near one. In the end, it totally worked."
"So you're saying Cam's gift," Luce said, "is actually really sweet,"
"I guess," Penn said. "But if I'd known he had the hots for you, I would not have trusted him with our private correspondence. Sorry about that."
"He does not have the hots for me," Luce started to say, fingering the gold chain inside the box, imagining how it would look on her skin, She hadn't told Penn anything about her picnic with Cam because - well, she didn't really know why. It had to do with Daniel, and how Luce still couldn't figure out where she stood - or wanted to stand - with either of them.
"Ha." Penn cackled. "Which means you kinda like him! Cheating on Daniel. I can't keep up with you and your men."
"As if anything is going on with either of them," Luce said glumly. "Do you think Cam read the notes?"
"If he did, and he still gave you that necklace," Penn said, "then he's really into you."
They stepped inside the library, and the heavy double doors thudded behind them. The sound echoed through the room. Miss Sophia looked up from the mounds of paper covering her lamplit desk.
"Oh, hello, girls," she said, beaming so broadly that Luce felt guilty all over again for zoning out during her lecture. "I hope you enjoyed my brief review session!" she practically sang.
"Very much." Luce nodded, though there had been nothing brief about it. "We came here to review a few more things before the exam."
"That's right," Penn chimed in. "You inspired us."
"How wonderful!" Miss Sophia rustled through her paperwork. "I've got a further reading list somewhere. I'd be happy to make you a copy."
"Great," Penn lied, giving Luce a small push toward the stacks. "We'll let you know if we need it!"
Beyond Miss Sophia's desk, the library was quiet. Luce and Penn eyed the call numbers as they passed shelf after shelf toward the books on religion. The energy-saving lights had motion detectors and were supposed to turn on as they crossed each aisle, but only about half of them worked. Luce realized that Penn was still holding on to her arm, then realized she didn't want her to let go.
The girls came to the usually crowded study section, where only one table lamp burned. Everyone else must have been at Gabbe's party. Everyone except for Todd. He had his feet kicked up on the chair across from him and seemed to be reading a coffee-table-sized world atlas. When the girls walked by him, he looked up with a wan expression that was either very lonely or slightly annoyed at being disturbed.
"You guys are here late," he said flatly.
"So are you," Penn retorted, sticking out her tongue dramatically.
When they'd put a few shelves between them and Todd, Luce raised an eyebrow at Penn. "What was that?"
"What?" Penn sulked. "He flirts with me." She crossed her arms over her chest and blew a brown curlicue of hair out of her eyes. "As if."
"Are you in fourth grade?" Luce teased.
Penn stuck her pointer finger up at Luce with an intensity that would have made Luce jump if she hadn't been giggling so much. "Do you know anyone else who would delve into Daniel Grigori's family history with you? Didn't think so. Leave me alone."
By then, they had reached the far back corner of the library, where all the 999 books were arranged along a single pewter-colored bookshelf. Penn crouched down and traced the books' spines with her finger, Luce felt a tremor, like someone was running a finger along her neck. She craned her head around and saw a wisp of gray. Not black, like the shadows usually were, but lighter, thinner. Just as unwelcome.
She watched, wide-eyed, as the shadow stretched out in a long, curling strand directly over Penn's head.
It came down slowly, like a threaded needle, and Luce didn't want to think about what might happen if it touched her friend. The other day at the gym had been the first time the shadows had touched her - and she still felt violated, almost dirty from it. She didn't know what else they could do.
Nervous, unsteady, Luce stretched her arm out like a baseball bat. She took a deep breath and swung forward. She bristled at the icy contact as she knocked the shadow away - and clocked Penn upside the head.
Penn pressed her hands against her skull and looked back at Luce in shock. "What is wrong with you?"
Luce sank down next to her and smoothed the top of Penn's hair, "I'm so sorry. There was ... I thought I saw a bee ... land on your head. I panicked. I didn't want it to sting you."
She could feel how utterly, utterly lame this excuse was and waited for her friend to tell her she was crazy - what would a bee be doing in a library? She waited for Penn to walk out.
But Penn's round face softened. She took Luce's hand in both of hers and shook it. "Bees terrify me, too,"
she said. "I'm deathly allergic. You basically just saved my life."
It was like they were having a huge bonding moment - only they weren't, because Luce was wholly consumed by the shadows. If only there were a way to push them from her mind, to shrug the shadow thing off, without shrugging off Penn.
Luce had a strong, uneasy feeling about this light gray shadow. The uniformity of the shadows had never been comforting, but these latest variations were a new level of disconcerting. Did it mean more kinds of shadows were finding their way to her? Or was she just getting better at distinguishing them? And what about that weird moment during Miss Sophia's lecture, when she'd actually pinched a shadow back before it could enter her pocket? She'd done it without thinking, and had had no reason to expect that her two fingers would be any match for a shadow, but they had been - she glanced around the stacks - at least temporarily.
She wondered whether she had set some kind of precedent for interacting with the shadows. Except that to call what she'd done to the shadow hovering over Penn's head "interacting" - even Luce knew that was a euphemism. A cold, sick feeling grew in her gut when she realized that what she'd started doing to the shadows was more like ... fighting them off.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com