"Damned?" Luce repeated. Only, she didn't want to hear any more. All she wanted was to find him.
Miss Sophia snapped her fingers in front of Luce's face. Luce met her eyes, slowly, languidly, smiling dopily.
"You're still not awake," Miss Sophia murmured. She closed the book with a smack, catching Luce's attention, and laid her hands down on the table. "Has he told you anything? After the kiss, maybe?"
"He told me ...," Luce started. "It sounds crazy."
"These things often do."
"He said the two of us ... we're some kind of star-crossed lovers." Luce closed her eyes, remembering his long catalog of past lives. At first the idea had felt so foreign, but now that she was getting used to it, she thought it might just be the most romantic thing that had ever happened in the history of the world. "He talked about all the times we've fallen in love, in Rio, and Jerusalem, Tahiti - "
"That does sound rather crazy," Miss Sophia said. "So, of course, you don't believe him?"
"I didn't at first," Luce said, thinking back to their heated disagreement under the peach tree. "He started out by bringing up the Bible, which my instinct is to tune out - " She bit her tongue. "No offense. I mean, I think your class is really interesting."
"None taken. People often shy away from their religious upbringings around your age. You're nothing new, Lucinda."
"Oh." Luce cracked her knuckles. "But I didn't have a religious upbringing. My parents didn't believe in it, so - "
"Everyone believes in something. Surely you were baptized?"
"Not if you don't count the swimming pool built under the church pews over there," Luce said timidly, jerking her thumb toward Sword & Cross's gym.
Yeah, she celebrated Christmas, she'd been to church a handful of times, and even when her life made her and everyone around her miserable, she still had faith that there was someone or something up there worth believing in. That had always been enough for her.
Across the room, she heard a loud clatter. She looked up to see that Roland had fallen out of his chair.
The last time she'd glanced at him, he'd been leaning back on two legs, and now it looked like gravity had finally won.
As he stumbled to his feet, Arriane went to help him. She glanced over and offered a hurried wave. "He's okay!" she called cheerily. "Get up!" she whispered loudly to Roland.
Miss Sophia was sitting very still, with her hands in her lap under the table. She cleared her throat a few times, flipped back to the front cover of the book and ran her fingers over the photograph, then said, "Did he reveal anything more? Do you know who Daniel is?"
Slowly, sitting up very straight in her chair, Luce asked, "Do you?"
The librarian stiffened. "I study these things. I'm an academic. I don't get tangled up in trivial matters of the heart."
Those were the words she used - but everything from the pulsing vein along her neck, to the almost un-noticeably light sheen of sweat dotting her brow told Luce that the answer to her question was yes.
Over their heads, the giant black antique clock struck eleven. The minute hand trembled with the effort of snapping into its place, and the whole contraption gonged for so long it interrupted their conversation.
Luce had never noticed how loud the clock was. Now, each chime made her ache. She'd been away from Daniel for too long.
"Daniel thought ...," Luce started to say. "Last night, when we first kissed, he thought I was going to die."
Miss Sophia didn't look as surprised as Luce would have liked her to look. Luce cracked her knuckles.
"But that's crazy, isn't it? I'm not going anywhere."
Miss Sophia took off her bifocals and rubbed her tiny eyes. "For now."
"Oh God," Luce whispered, feeling the same wash of fear that had made her leave Daniel in the cemetery.
But why? There was something he still wasn't telling her - something she knew had the power to make her either much more or much less afraid. Something she knew already on her own but couldn't believe.
Not until she saw his face again.
The book was still open to the photograph. Upside down, Daniel's smile looked worried, like he knew -
as he said he always did - what was coming around the next corner. She couldn't imagine what he must be going through right now. To have opened up about the uncanny history they shared - only to have her dismiss him so completely. She had to find him.
She shut the book and tucked it back under her elbow. Then she stood up and pushed in her chair.
"Where are you going?" Miss Sophia asked nervously.
"To find Daniel."
"I'll go with you."
"No." Luce shook her head, imagining showing up to throw her arms around Daniel with the school librarian in tow. "You don't have to come. Really." Miss Sophia was all business when she bent down to double-knot the laces of her sensible shoes. She stood up and laid a hand on Luce's shoulder.
"Trust me," she said, "I do. Sword & Cross has a reputation to uphold. You don't think we just let students run around willy-nilly in the night, do you?"
Luce resisted filling Miss Sophia in on her recent escapade outside the school gates. She groaned inwardly, Why not bring along the whole student body so everyone could enjoy the drama? Molly could take pictures, Cam could pick another fight. Why not start right here, and pick up Arriane and Roland -
who, she realized with a start, had already disappeared.
Miss Sophia, book in hand, had already taken off for the front entrance. Luce had to jog to catch up to her, speeding past the card catalog, the singed Persian carpet at the front desk, and the glass cases full of Civil War relics in the east wing special collections, where she'd seen Daniel sketching the cemetery the very first night she was here.
They stepped outside into the humid night. A cloud passed over the moon and the campus fell into inky blackness. Then, as if a compass had been placed in her hand, Luce felt guided toward the shadows. She knew exactly where they were. Not at the library, but not far away, either.
She couldn't see them yet, but she could feel them, which was so much worse. An awful, consuming itch coated her skin, seeping into her bones and blood like acid. Pooling, clotting, making the cemetery - and beyond - reek with their sulfur stink. They were so much bigger now. It seemed like all the air on campus was foul with their wretched stench of decay.
"Where is Daniel?" Miss Sophia asked. Luce realized that though the librarian might know quite a bit about the past, she seemed oblivious to the shadows. It made Luce feel terrified and alone, responsible for whatever was about to happen.
"I don't know," she said, feeling as if she couldn't get enough oxygen in the thick, swampy night air. She didn't want to say the words she knew would bring them closer - far too close - to everything that was making her so afraid. But she had to go to Daniel. "I left him in the cemetery."
They hurried across campus, dodging patches of mud left over from the downpour the other day. Only a few lights were on in the dormitory to their right. Through one of the barred windows, Luce saw a girl she barely knew poring over a book. They were in the same morning block of classes. She was a tough-looking girl with a pierced septum and the tiniest sneeze - but Luce had never heard her speak. She had no idea if she was miserable or if she enjoyed her life. Luce wondered at that moment: If she could trade places with this girl - who never had to worry about past lives, or apocalyptic shadows, or the deaths of two innocent boys on her hands - would she do it?
Daniel's face - the way it had been bathed in violet light when he'd carried her home this morning -
appeared before her eyes. His gleaming golden hair. His tender, knowing eyes. The way one touch of his lips transported her far away from any darkness. For him, she'd suffer all of this, and more.
If only she knew how much more there was.
She and Miss Sophia jogged forward, past the creaking bleachers framing the commons, then past the soccer field, Miss Sophia really kept in shape. Luce would have worried about their pace if the woman hadn't been a few steps ahead of her.
Luce was dragging. Her fear of facing the shadows was like a hurricane-force headwind slowing her down. And yet she pressed on. An overwhelming nausea told her that she'd barely glimpsed what the dark things could accomplish.
At the cemetery gates, they stopped. Luce was trembling, hugging herself in a failed attempt to hide it. A girl was standing with her back to them, gazing into the graveyard below.
"Penn!" Luce called, so glad to see her friend.
When Penn turned to them, her face was ashen. She wore a black Windbreaker, despite the heat, and her glasses were fogging up from the humidity. She was trembling just as much as Luce was.
Luce gasped. "What happened?"
"I was coming to look for you," Penn said, "and then a bunch of the other kids ran this way. They went down there," She pointed toward the gates. "But I c-c-couldn't."
"What is it?" Luce asked. "What's down there?"
But even as she asked, she knew one thing that was down there, one thing that Penn would never be able to see. The curdling black shadow was coaxing Luce toward it, Luce alone.
Penn was blinking rapidly. She looked terrified. "Dunno," she said finally. "At first I thought fireworks.
But nothing ever made it to the sky." She shuddered. "Something bad's about to happen. I don't know what."
THE BURIED WAR
Luce took one look at the shuddering light at the base of the cemetery and started racing toward it. She hurtled down past the broken headstones, leaving Penn and Miss Sophia far behind. She didn't care that the sharp, twisting limbs of the live oak trees scratched her arms and face as she ran, or that clumps of thick-rooted weeds tripped up her feet.
She had to get down there.
The waning sliver of moon offered little light, but there was another source - coming from the bottom of the cemetery. Her destination. It looked like a monstrous, cloud- ridden lightning storm. Only it was happening on the ground.
The shadows had been warning her, she realized, for days. Now their dark show had turned into something even Penn could see. And the other students who'd run ahead must have noticed it, too. Luce didn't know what it could possibly mean. Only that if Daniel was down there with that sinister flickering
... it was all her fault.
Her lungs burned, but she was driven forward by the image of him standing under the peach trees. She wouldn't stop until she found him - because she'd been coming to find him anyway, to shove the book under his nose and cry out that she believed him, that part of her had believed him all along, but she'd been too scared to accept their unfathomable history. She would tell him that she wasn't going to let fear drive her away, not this time, not anymore. Because she knew something, understood something that had taken her far too long to piece together. Something wild and strange that made their past experiences together both more and less believable. She knew who - no, what Daniel was. Part of her had come to this realization on her own - that she might have lived before and loved him before. Only, she hadn't understood what it meant, what it all added up to - the pull she felt toward him, her dreams - until now.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com