But none of that mattered if she couldn't get down there in time to find some way to fend off the shadows.
None of it mattered if they got to Daniel before she could. She tore down the steep tiers of graves, but the basin at the center of the cemetery was still so far away.
Behind her, a thumping of footsteps. Then a shrill voice.
"Pennyweather!" It was Miss Sophia. She was gaining on Luce, calling back over her shoulder, where Luce could see Penn carefully working her way over a fallen tombstone. "You're slower than Christmas coming!"
"No!" Luce yelled. "Penn, Miss Sophia, don't come down here!" She wouldn't be responsible for putting anyone else in the shadows' path.
Miss Sophia froze on a toppled white tombstone and stared up at the sky like she hadn't heard Luce at all.
She raised her thin arms up in the air, as if to shield herself. Luce squinted into the night and sucked in her breath. Something was moving toward them, blowing in with the chill wind.
At first she thought it was the shadows, but this was something different and scarier, like a jagged, irregular veil full of dark pockets, letting flecks of sky filter through. This shadow was made of a million tiny black pieces. A rioting, fluttering storm of darkness stretching out in all directions.
"Locusts?" Penn cried.
Luce shuddered. The thick swarm was still at a distance, but its deep percussion grew louder with every passing second. Like the beating of a thousand birds' wings. Like a hostile sweeping darkness scouring the earth. It was coming. It was going to lash out at her, maybe at all of them, tonight.
"This is not good!" Miss Sophia ranted at the sky. "There's supposed to be an order to things!"
Penn came to a panting stop next to Luce and the two of them exchanged a bewildered look. Sweat beaded Penn's upper lip, and her purple glasses kept slipping down in the moist heat.
"She's losing it," Penn whispered, jerking her thumb at Miss Sophia.
"No." Luce shook her head. "She knows things. And if Miss Sophia's scared, you shouldn't be here, Penn."
"Me?" Penn asked, bewildered, probably because ever since the first day of school, she had been the one guiding Luce. "I don't think either of us should be here."
Luce's chest stung with a pain similar to what she'd felt when she had to say goodbye to Callie. She looked away from Penn. There was a split between them now, a deep pision cutting them apart, because of Luce's past. She hated to own up to it, to call Penn's attention to it, too, but she knew it would be better, safer, if they parted ways.
"I have to stay," she said, taking a deep breath, "I have to find Daniel, You should go back to the dorm, Penn. Please."
"But you and me," Penn said hoarsely. "We were the only ones - "
Before Luce could hear the end of the sentence, she took off toward the cemetery's center. Toward the mausoleum where she'd seen Daniel brooding on the evening of Parents' Day. She bounded over the last of the tombstones, then skidded down a slope of dank, rotting mulch until the ground finally evened out.
She came to a stop in front of the giant oak in the basin at the cemetery's center.
Hot and frustrated and terrified all at once, she leaned against the tree trunk.
Then, through the branches of the tree, she saw him.
She let out all the air in her lungs and felt weak in the knees. One look at his distant, dark profile, so beautiful and majestic, told her that everything Daniel had hinted at - even the one big thing she'd figured out on her own - everything was true.
He was standing atop the mausoleum, arms crossed, looking up where the roiling cloud of locusts had just passed overhead. The thin moonlight threw his shadow in a crescent of darkness that dipped off the crypt's wide, fiat roof. She ran toward him, weaving through the dangling Spanish moss and the tilted old statues.
"Luce!" He spied her as she neared the base of the mausoleum. "What are you doing here?" His voice showed no happiness to see her - more like shock and horror.
It's my fault, she wanted to cry as she approached the base of the mausoleum. And I believe it, I believe our story. Forgive me for ever leaving you, I never will again. There was one more thing she wanted to tell him. But he was far above her, and the shadows' horrible din was too loud, and the air was too soupy to try to make him hear her from where she stood below him.
The tomb was solid marble. But there was a big chip in one of the bas-relief sculptures of a peacock, and Luce used it as a toehold. The usually cool stone was warm to the touch. Her sweaty palms slipped a few times as she strained to reach the top. To reach Daniel, who had to forgive her.
She'd only scaled a few feet of the wall when someone tapped her shoulder. She spun around and gasped when she saw that it was Daniel, and lost her grip. He caught her, his arms circling her waist, before she could slide to the ground. But he'd just been a full story overhead a second earlier.
She buried her face in his shoulder. And while the truth still scared her, being in his arms made her feel like the sea finding its shore, like a traveler returning after a long, hard, distant trip - finally returning home.
"You picked a fine time to come back," he said. He smiled, but his smile was weighed down with worry.
His eyes kept looking beyond her, into the sky.
"You see it, too?" she asked.
Daniel just looked at her, unable to respond. His lip quivered.
"Of course you do," she whispered, because everything was coming together. The shadows, his story, their past. A choking cry welled up inside her. "How can you love me?" she sobbed. "How can you even stand me?"
He took her face in his hand. "What are you talking about? How can you say that?"
Her heart burned from racing so fast.
"Because ..." she swallowed. "You're an angel."
His arms went slack. "What did you say?"
"You're an angel, Daniel, I know it," she said, feeling floodgates open within her, wider and wider until it all just tumbled out. "Don't tell me I'm crazy. I have dreams about you, dreams that are too real to forget, dreams that made me love you before you ever said one nice thing to me." Daniel's eyes didn't change at all. "Dreams where you have wings and you hold me high up in a sky I don't recognize, and yet I know I've been there, just like that, in your arms a thousand times before." She touched her forehead to his. "It explains so much - how graceful you are when you move, and the book your ancestor wrote. Why no one came to visit you on Parents' Day. The way your body seems to float when you swim. And why, when you kiss me, I feel like I've gone to Heaven." She stopped to catch her breath. "And why you can live forever. The only thing it doesn't explain is what on earth you're doing with me. Because I'm just ... me."
She looked up at the sky again, feeling the black spell of the shadows. "And I'm guilty of so much."
The color was gone from his face. And Luce could draw only one conclusion. "You don't understand why, either," she said.
"I don't understand what you're still doing here."
She blinked and nodded miserably, then began to turn away.
"No!" He pulled her back. "Don't leave. It's just that you've never - we've never ... gotten this far." He closed his eyes. "Will you say it again?" he asked, almost shyly. "Will you tell me ... what I am?"
"You're an angel," she repeated slowly, surprised to see Daniel close his eyes and moan in pleasure, almost as if they were kissing. "I'm in love with an angel." Now she was the one who wanted to close her eyes and moan. She tilted her head. "But in my dreams, your wings - "
A hot, howling wind swept sideways over them, practically swatting Luce out of Daniel's arms. He shielded her body with his. The cloud of shadow-locusts had settled in the canopy of a tree beyond the cemetery and had been making sizzling noises in the branches. Now they rose up in one great mass.
"Oh God," Luce whispered. "I have to do something. I have to stop it - "
"Luce." Daniel stroked her cheek. "Look at me. You have done nothing wrong. And there's nothing you can do about" - he pointed - "that." He shook his head. "Why would you ever think you were guilty?"
"Because," she said, "my whole life, I've been seeing these shadows - "
"I should have done something when I realized that, last week at the lake. It's the first lifetime when you've seen them - and it scared me."
"How can you know it's not my fault?" she asked, thinking of Todd and of Trevor. The shadows always came to her just before something awful happened.
He kissed her hair. "The shadows you see are called Announcers. They look bad, but they can't hurt you.
All they do is scope out a situation and report back to someone else. Gossips. The demonic version of a clique of high school girls."
"But what about those?" She pointed at the trees that lined the perimeter of the cemetery. Their branches were waving, weighed down by the thick, oozing blackness. Daniel looked out with a calm stare. "Those are the shadows the Announcers have summoned. To battle."
Luce's arms and legs went cold with fear. "What ... um ... what kind of battle is that?"
"The big one," he said simply, raising his chin. "But they're just showing off right now. We still have time."
Behind them a tiny cough made Luce jump. Daniel bowed in greeting to Miss Sophia, who was standing in the shadow of the mausoleum. Her hair had come loose from its pins and looked wild and unruly, like her eyes. Then someone else stepped forward from behind Miss Sophia. Penn. Her hands were stuffed into the pockets of her jacket. Her face was still red, and her hairline was damp with sweat. She shrugged at Luce as if to say I don't know what the heck is going on, but I couldn't just abandon you.
Despite herself, Luce smiled.
Miss Sophia stepped forward and raised the book. "Our Lucinda has been doing her research."
Daniel rubbed his jaw. "You've been reading that old thing? Never should have written it." He sounded almost bashful - but Luce slid one more piece of their puzzle into place.
"You wrote that," she said. "And sketched in the margins. And pasted in that photograph of us."
"You found the photograph," Daniel said, smiling, holding her closer as if the mention of the picture brought back a rush of memories. "Of course."
"It took me a while to understand, but when I saw how happy we were, something opened up inside me.
And I knew."
She wrapped a hand around his neck and pulled his face to hers, not even caring that Miss Sophia and Penn were right there. When Daniel's lips touched hers, the whole dark, horrid cemetery disappeared -
the worn graves, too, and the pockets of shadows rooting around in the trees; even the moon and the stars above.
The first time she'd seen the Helston picture, it had scared her. The idea of all those past versions of herself existing - it was just too much to take in. But now, in Daniel's arms, she could feel all of them somehow working together, a vast consortium of Luces who'd loved the same Daniel over and over and over again. So much love - it spilled out of her heart and her soul, pouring off her body and filling the space between them.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com