“You didn’t miss out on anything,” I tell him. “People are mostly just assholes in high school.”
Judah laughs. “Don’t swear in front of the baby,” he says.
“Sorry, Mo,” I say dutifully.
“Miles,” he corrects.
“Sorry, Miles,” I say. “Mo Miles, Mo Miles…”
All three of us are smiling. So rare, I think. But I am happy. I feel it all the way to my toes, even though yesterday I killed someone.
JUDAH KNOWS SOMETHING. I realize this one day as I am hanging clothes on hangers, and arranging them around the store, the musty smell filling my nostrils and making me feel sick. He’s been different with me ever since that afternoon with Mo. At first I told myself it was in my head—the assessing looks, the silence, the strange questions, but they come too frequently. He’s on to me. He’s been spending more and more time with his father. I don’t like the look of him, or maybe I’m jealous. He comes to get Judah, patiently lifting him into the passenger seat before carefully loading his wheelchair into the back. I wonder how he and Delaney met, as I watch him climb into the driver’s seat, his russet hair lifting in the wind. He isn’t the type to shoot the breeze and smoke a joint on someone’s front porch. He is a serious man; you can tell by the way he hardly smiles, the pristine condition in which he keeps his truck. Even the care with which he handles Judah’s wheelchair says something of the way he lives. Judah is like him. It is strange to realize that the boy I feel most connected to doesn’t really belong here. His only tie being Delaney, probably the only reason he hadn’t left. My eyes follow the truck and the boy out of Wessex, until they burn from brine.
I wait for him to come back, checking out the window, looking for his dad’s car. But he doesn’t come home until three days later, and he looks different. When I see him after that, he is distant. He locks eyes with strangers more than he does me. He peels the skin off oranges, and does not eat them. He picks up a joint and does not light it. He smiles at Mo, and it does not reach his eyes. Where has Judah gone?
At first, I wonder if it’s because of how much I’ve changed. I’ve lost almost fifty pounds. I’m not the girl he met in either shape or mental form. Perhaps my ability to make this change bothers him. While he is stuck in his wheelchair, I am free to walk off my weight. But, no. That’s not Judah. The fortune of others does not turn him melancholy. He doesn’t wish for what he cannot have. That’s what drew me to him in the first place. So I move on. When did it start? I think. When did he start pulling away?
Was it after I killed Vola? Lyndee? I remember the way he looked at me that day after I came back smelling of smoke, with dirt smeared across my knuckles.
I must have reeked of it that night—death and smoke. I hurried back to the eating house and sat at the kitchen table, staring down at the scars on the wood until I eventually climbed the stairs to my bedroom. The next day it all felt like a dream. Sometimes, I almost forget it happened.
The following week Judah tells me that he’s moving to California. I feel all the blood rush to my head.
“My dad is going.” He hands me the bowl of popcorn and wheels himself into the living room. “He said I can live with him while I go to school.”
I trip on the rug by the front door, and popcorn goes flying everywhere.
“Jeez, you okay?” Judah bends down to grab my hands. I pull them away from him, my face burning. “You can live with your mom and go to college, too.” I try to say it casually as I scoop kernels from the floor, but there is a slight tremor in my voice. The idea of the Bone without Judah is unbearable. Some days I’m not even sure how I made it through eighteen years of my life without him.
“My doctor thinks it will be good for me to be there. I’ll be in Los Angeles,” he says. “Everything will be easier, even getting from one place to the next without getting soaked.”
“It’s just a little rain,” I say limply. I make to eat a piece of popcorn I find on the floor, and Judah knocks it out of my hand.
“Stop it,” he says. “We can make another bag.” I watch as he goes back to the kitchen. I want to cry. I want to beg him to stay. I eat the rest of the popcorn I find on the floor. When he comes back, I am slipping on my coat to leave.
“What are you doing, Margo?”
“I’m going home.” I reach to open the door, but he throws an un-popped kernel at my head. It bounces off my forehead, and I glare at him.
“We had plans!” I yell at him, and then I cover my mouth with my hand, hoping Delaney didn’t hear my outburst from her bedroom.
“To get out of the Bone,” Judah says.
“Together,” I insist. “I can’t do it alone.”
He stares at the blank TV screen, absently pushing pieces of popcorn into his mouth. I want to confess about eating the popcorn on the floor, but I know he’ll be really upset with me.
“You have legs,” he says finally. “I have to go where I have an extra pair of legs to help me. At least for now … until I’m done with school.”
“I can be your legs.”
“You need to be your own legs, Margo. Look, I don’t want to be a burden on anyone’s life. I want to be able to do things for myself. My dad has money. He said that if I come out to California with him, he’ll pay for my school. He wants to buy me one of those custom cars that I can drive. A cripple’s car.”
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