Stargazer Page 51

Neither of us knew quite what to say after that.

Balthazar, apparently too dazed to notice the tension between me and Lucas, opened the truck door. A gale of frigid air whipped into the cabin, blowing my hair in my eyes. Lucas already had turned his attention back to the road like a man plotting a getaway. When Balthazar held his hand out to steady me in the snow, I took it. “Good-bye, Lucas,” I said in a small voice.

Lucas leaned over to shut the truck door behind me. “See you one month from tonight. Amherst. Town square. Usual time. Okay?” Then he sighed once and gave me an uneven smile. “Love you.”

“I love you, too.” But for once, those words didn’t make everything okay.

Balthazar and I were both in such a terrible mood in the following days that I suggested we pretend that we were having an argument.

Walking around together pretending to be a happy couple—neither of us could do it. But after a week, we could pull ourselves together, pretend to make up.

That left me with more time on my own, though, and anxiety welled up to fill every spare second. Thinking about how Lucas and I had parted made me feel seasick inside, like the ground beneath my feet wasn’t steady any longer.

Vic noticed me brooding and tried to soothe my spirit by teaching me chess, but I was too fretful and distracted to keep the rules straight in my head, much less think about strategy.

“You are totally off your game these days,” he said to me one afternoon, as the two of us sorted through the weekly shipment of foodstuffs.

The human students apparently never noticed that a lot of their classmates didn’t ever show up for these; people were too busy gleefully grabbing the stuff they’d ordered—boxes of pasta, packages of cookies.

Vic put two bottles of orange soda in his canvas bag. “And I can’t help noticing that Balthazar is also one mopey dude right now.”

“Yeah. I guess.” Feeling awkward, I stared down at Raquel’s list. I’d volunteered to pick up her order along with mine.

“Balty came to our last classic film festival—Seven and The Usual Suspects. The theme was Kevin Spacey: Before the Fall. Awesome double feature, right? But Balthazar stared at the corner the whole time.”

“Vic, I know you mean well, but I don’t want to talk about it.” He shrugged as he selected a few cans of soup. “I was only wondering if this had anything to do with Lucas.”

“Maybe. Sort of. It’s complicated.”

“I guess Lucas is the kind of guy girls don’t get over. Stormy, broo-dy, all wild and stuff. Me, I can’t do that bad-boy thing,” Vic said.

“Mine is a more mellow path. Lucas, though—”

“He’s not doing a thing. He is who he is.”

Quietly he said, “I know that. And I know you two aren’t over.

Tough for Balthazar, but I gotta call it like I see it.” I hoped he was right, and that hope lifted my spirits. “You’re a lousy matchmaker, Vic.”

“Not as lousy as you. Seriously, me and Raquel?”

“That was more than a year ago!” Once we were done laughing, we went back to our “shopping” and stocked up. I wasn’t exactly in a good mood as I returned to my dorm room with my bags, but I felt better than I had in a long time.

Raquel turned out to be in the middle of one of her larger, messier art projects. This collage covered almost half our dorm room floor and smelled strongly of fresh glue and paint. “What is it?” I said, tiptoeing around damp newspaper and brushes.

“I call it Ode to Anarchy. See how the colors are in a constant state of collision?”

“Yeah, you can’t miss that.”

My halfhearted praise didn’t put a dent in Raquel’s enthusiasm. Paint striped her forearms, and she’d even gotten some orange in her hair, but she just kept grinning down at her work in progress while munching on a cookie. “You can walk around it, right?”

“Yeah, but I think tonight it might be better if I crashed with my parents.”

“Will they let you do that?”

“Not all the time, but I don’t think anybody will care about one night.”

My parents turned out to be excited to see me. They’d once been very careful about the amount of time they’d let me hang out with them, worried as they had been by my refusal to get to know the other vampires at Evernight Academy. Now they were confident that I was grow-205

ing up the way they wanted—and their door was open to me whenever I liked.

That had seemed natural to me before, but no longer.

“Dad?” I asked, as we changed the sheets on the bed in my upstairs room. “Did you always know I’d eventually be a vampire? A full vampire, I mean.”

“Of course.” He kept his eyes on his work, in this case a neat hospital corner. “Once you grow up and take a life—and you know we can find a decent way to handle that—then you’ll complete the change.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Honey, it’s going to be okay.” He put one hand on my shoulder, and even his crooked, oft-broken nose couldn’t disguise the gentleness in his expression. “You’re worried about it, I know. But if we find someone who’s already dying, not even conscious anymore—you’d be doing them a favor. Their last act will be giving you immortality. Don’t you think they’d want to do that for you?”

“I won’t know, because I won’t know them at all, will I?” How had I ever found that idea comforting? For the first time, it struck me how pre-sumptuous it was, and how callous it was to assume that I had the right to end a life, even one at its conclusion, for my own convenience. “But that’s not what I mean. You keep saying, when I kill. When I kill. What happens if I don’t?”

“You will.”

“But what happens if I don’t?” I’d never pressed for this answer before; I’d never felt like I had to. Now all those unasked questions were weighing down on me at once and getting heavier all the time. “I just want to know what the alternative is. Isn’t there somebody who would know? Mrs. Bethany, maybe?”

“Mrs. Bethany will tell you exactly what I’m about to tell you, which is that there’s really only one choice for you to make. I don’t want to hear you talking like this again. And don’t say anything to your mother—you’d upset her.” Dad took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself. “Besides, Bianca, how long can it be? You were eager enough for human blood last year.”

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