For an instant she looked up; and then sought to veil her luminous eyes by dropping her forehead on her hands. Again, stepping nearer, he besought her with another tremulous eager call upon her name.
Still lower went the head; more closely hidden was the face, almost resting on the table before her. He came close to her. He knelt by her side, to bring his face to a level with her ear; and whispered-panted out the words:
“Take care. — If you do not speak — I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way. — Send me away at once, if I must go. — Margaret! — ”
At that third call she turned her face, still covered with her small white hands, towards him, and laid it on his shoulder, hiding it even there; and it was too delicious to feel her soft cheek against his, for him to wish to see either deep blushes or loving eyes. He clasped her close. But they both kept silence. At length she murmured in a broken voice:
“Oh, Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough!”
“Not good enough! Don’t mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness.” ✿
Harriet and Robert are not your playthings, your dolls, to be told what to do and to marry under the table at your bidding. They’re flesh and blood! And one day, you will bitterly regret your meddling.
Noah sat in the middle of the floor, papers all around him, a mint plant spilling dirt by his hand. He was all hunched over and shadowless, his form slight and streaky, barely visible at all. He was crying again. In a very small voice, he told Blue, “You said I could use your energy.” She knelt in front of him. She wanted to hug him, but he wasn’t really there. Without her energy, he was a paper-thin boy, he was a skull, he was air in the shape of Noah. “Not like that.” He whispered, “I’m sorry.” “Me too.” He covered his face, and then he was gone.
Adam hadn’t even realized the ancient tape deck worked, but after a hissing few seconds, a tape inside jangled a tune. Noah began to sing along at once. “Squash one, squash two–––” Adam pawed for the radio at the same time as Blue. The tape ejected with enough force that Noah stretched a hand to catch it. “That song. What are you doing with that in your player?” demanded Blue. “Do you listen to that recreationally? How did that song escape from the Internet?” Noah cackled and showed them the casette. It boasted a handmade label marked with Ronan’s handwriting: PARRISH’S HONDAYOTA ALONE TIME. The other side was A SHITBOX SING-ALONG.
“Sometimes, it lasts all night. I lie here and I listen to the shovels and the picks against that wall there. And I pray the sun will come up at the curtains before they break through.” “No, I don’t pray. I hope. And sometimes, it happens. The sun beats them. But mostly… the shovels beat the sun.”
He had gotten the spreading, intricate tattoo only months before, a little to irritate Declan, a little to see if it was really as bad as everyone said, and definitely so everyone who glimpsed the hooks of it had fair warning. It was full of things from his head, beaks and claws and flowers and vines stuffed into screaming mouths.
It took him a long time to fall asleep that night, his thoughts crowded with the burning Mitsubishi, Gansey holding the Molotov cocktail, the enigmatic language on the puzzle box, the dark bags beneath Adam’s eyes.
And when he fell asleep, he dreamt of the tattoo. Ordinarily, Ronan only saw bits and pieces of it; he had not seen the full design since he’d gotten it. But tonight he saw the tattoo itself, from behind, as if he was outside of his own body, as if it was apart from his body. It was more complicated than he remembered. The road to the Barns was threaded through it, and Chainsaw peered out from a thicket of thorns. Adam was in the dream, too; he traced the tangled pattern of the ink with his finger. He said, “Scio quid hoc est.” As he traced it farther and farther down on the bare skin of Ronan’s back, Ronan himself disappeared entirely, and the tattoo got smaller and smaller. It was a Celtic knot the size of a wafer, and then Adam, who had become Kavinsky, said, “Scio quid estis vos.” He put the tattoo in his mouth and swallowed it.
Ronan woke with a start, ashamed and euphoric. The euphoria wore off long before the shame did.
❝ The stars winked through the beech leaves. She’d read that new stars tended to form in pairs. Binary stars, orbiting in close proximity, only becoming single stars when their partner was smashed off them by another pair of wildly spinning new stars. If she pretended hard enough, she could see the multitude of pairs clinging to each other in the destructive and creative gravity of their constellations. Impressive. Maybe she was a little impressed. Not by pulling the plug on a dead boy ––– that seemed sad, nothing to brag about. But because she’d learned something about herself today, and she’d thought there was nothing left there to discover. The stars moved slowly above her, an array of possibilities, and for the first time in a long time, she felt them mirrored in her heart. ❞