The raven boys, p.14

The Raven Boys, page 14

 part  #1 of  The Raven Cycle Series


The Raven Boys

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  Then Whelk’s mother had called and told Whelk that his father had been arrested for unethical business practices and income tax evasion. It turned out the company had been trading with war criminals, a fact his mother knew and Whelk had guessed, and the FBI had been watching for years. Overnight, the Whelks lost everything.

  It was in the papers the next day, the catastrophic crash of the Whelk family fortune. Both of Whelk’s girlfriends left him. Well, the second one was technically Czerny’s, so perhaps that didn’t count. The whole thing was all very public. The Virginia playboy, heir to the Whelk fortune, suddenly evicted from his Aglionby dorm, relieved of his social life, freed from any hope of his Ivy League future, watching his car being loaded onto a truck and his room emptied of speakers and furniture.

  The last time Whelk had looked at this map had been as he stood in his dorm room, realizing that the only thing he had left was the ten-dollar bill in his pocket. None of his credit cards meant anything anymore.

  Czerny had pulled up in his red Mustang. He hadn’t gotten out of the car.

  "Does this make you white trash now?" he’d asked. Czerny didn’t really have a sense of humor. He just sometimes said things that happened to be funny. Whelk, standing in the wreckage of his life, didn’t laugh this time.

  The ley line wasn’t a game anymore.

  "Unlock your door," Whelk had told him. "We’re doing the ritual. "

  Chapter 11

  One hour and twenty-three minutes before Blue’s alarm was supposed to go off for school, she was woken by the front door closing. Gray dawn light filtered in her bedroom window, making diffuse shadows of the leaves pressed against the glass. She tried not to resent her lost one hour and twenty-three minutes of sleep.

  Footsteps started up the staircase. Blue caught the sound of her mother’s voice.

  "… was up waiting for you. "

  "Some things are better done at night. " This was Neeve. Though her voice was smaller than Maura’s, it was crisper, somehow, and carried well. "Henrietta is quite a place, isn’t it?"

  "I didn’t ask you to look at Henrietta," Maura replied, in a stage whisper. She sounded — protective.

  "It is difficult not to. It shouts," Neeve said. Her next words were lost in the sound of a creaking stair.

  Maura’s reply was obscured as she, too, started to climb the stairs, but it sounded like, "I would prefer if you left Blue out of this. "

  Blue went very still.

  Neeve said, "I’m only telling you what I’m finding. If he vanished at the same time that … possible they’re linked. Do you not want her to know who he is?"

  Another stair groaned. Blue thought, Why can’t they talk without creaking up the stairs at the same time!

  Maura snapped, "I don’t see how that would be easier for anyone. "

  Neeve murmured a reply.

  "This is already getting out of hand," her mother said. "It was barely more than typing his name into a search engine, and now …"

  Blue strained her ears. It felt like she hadn’t heard her mother use a masculine pronoun for quite a long time, with the exception of Gansey.

  It was possible, Blue thought after a long moment, that Maura meant Blue’s father. None of the awkward conversations Blue had attempted with her mother had ever gotten her any information about him, just nonsensical humorous replies (He is Santa Claus. He was a bank robber. He’s currently in orbit. ) that changed every time she asked. In Blue’s head, he was a dashing heroic figure who’d had to vanish because of a tragic past. Possibly to a witness protection program. She liked to imagine him stealing a glimpse of her over the backyard fence, proudly watching his strange daughter daydream under the beech tree.

  Blue was awfully fond of her father, considering she’d never met him.

  Somewhere in the depths of the house, a door closed, and then there was once more the sort of night-silence that is hard to disturb. After a long moment, Blue reached over to the plastic bin that served as her nightstand and retrieved the journal. She rested a hand on the cool leather cover. The surface of it felt like the cool, smooth bark of the beech tree behind the house. As when she touched the beech tree, she felt at once comforted and anxious: reassured and driven to action.

  Henrietta is quite a place, Neeve had said. The journal seemed to agree. A place for what, she wasn’t sure.

  Blue didn’t mean to fall asleep, but she did, for another hour and twelve minutes. It wasn’t her alarm that woke her this time, either. It was a single thought shouted in her brain:

  Today is the day Gansey comes for his reading.

  Embroiled in the daily routine of getting ready for school, the conversation between Maura and Neeve seemed more commonplace than it had before. But the journal was still as magical. Sitting on the edge of her bed, Blue touched one of the quotes.

  The king sleeps still, under a mountain, and around him is assembled his warriors and his herds and his riches. By his right hand is his cup, filled with possibility. On his breast nestles his sword, waiting, too, to wake. Fortunate is the soul who finds the king and is brave enough to call him to wakefulness, for the king will grant him a favor, as wondrous as can be imagined by a mortal man.

  She closed the pages. It felt as if there were a larger, terribly curious Blue inside her that was about to bust out of the smaller, more sensible Blue that held her. For a long moment she let the journal rest on her legs, the cover cool against her palms.

  A favor.

  If she had a favor, what would she ask? To not have to worry about money? To know who her father had been? To travel the world? To see what her mother saw?

  The thought rang through her brain again:

  Today is the day Gansey comes for his reading.

  What will he be like?

  Maybe, if she was standing before that sleeping king, she’d ask the king to save Gansey’s life.

  "Blue, I hope you’re awake!" Orla screamed from downstairs. Blue needed to leave soon if she was to make the bike trip to school on time. In a few weeks, it would be an uncomfortably hot ride.

  Possibly, she would ask a sleeping king for a car.

  I wish I could just cut class today.

  It wasn’t that Blue dreaded high school; it just felt like … a holding pattern. And it wasn’t as if she was bullied; it hadn’t taken her very long to discover that the weirder she looked on the outside — the more she let other kids realize that she wasn’t like them, from the very beginning — the less likely she was to be picked on or ignored. The fact was, by the time she got to high school, being weird and proud of it was an asset. Suddenly cool, Blue could’ve happily had any number of friends. And she had tried. But the problem with being weird was that everyone else was normal.

  So her family remained her closest friends, school remained a chore, and Blue remained secretly hopeful that, somewhere out there in the world, there were other odd people like her. Even if they didn’t seem to be in Henrietta.

  It was possible, she thought, that Adam was also odd.

  "BLUE!" Orla bellowed again. "SCHOOL. "

  With the journal held fast to her chest, Blue headed toward the red-painted door at the end of the hall. On her way, she had to pass the frenzy of activity in the Phone/Sewing/Cat Room and the furious battle for the bathroom. The room behind the red door belonged to Persephone, one of Maura’s two best friends. The door was ajar, but still, Blue knocked softly. Persephone was a poor but energetic sleeper; her midnight shouting and nocturnal leg paddling ensured that she never had to share a room. It also meant that she grabbed sleep when she could; Blue didn’t want to wake her.

  Persephone’s tiny, breathy voice said, "It’s available. I mean, open. "

  Pushing open the door, Blue found Persephone sitting at the card table beside the window. When pressed, people often remembered Persephone’s hair: a long, wavy white-blond mane that fell to the back of her thighs. If they got past her hair, they sometimes recalled h
er dresses — elaborate, frothy creations or quizzical smocks. And if they made it past that, they were unsettled by her eyes, true mirror black, the pupils hidden in the darkness.

  Currently, Persephone held a pencil with a strangely childlike grip. When she saw Blue, she frowned in a pointy sort of way.

  "Good morning," Blue said.

  "Good morning," Persephone echoed. "It’s too early. My words aren’t working, so I’ll just use as many of the ones that work for you as possible. "

  She twirled a hand around in a vague sort of way. Blue took this as a sign to find a place to sit. Most of the bed was covered by strange, embroidered leggings and plaid tights running in place, but she found a place to lean her butt on the edge. The whole room smelled familiar, like oranges, or baby powder, or maybe like a new textbook.

  "Sleep badly?" Blue asked.

  "Badly," Persephone echoed again. Then, "Oh, well, that’s not quite true. I’ll have to use my own words after all. "

  "What are you working on?"

  Often, Persephone was working on her eternal PhD thesis, but because it was a process that seemed to require vexed music and frequent snacks, she rarely did it during the morning rush.

  "Just a little something," Persephone said sadly. Or perhaps thoughtfully. It was hard to tell the difference, and Blue didn’t like to ask. Persephone had a lover or a husband who was dead or overseas — it was always difficult to know details when it came to Persephone — and she seemed to miss him, or at least to notice that he was gone, which was notable for Persephone. Again, Blue didn’t like to ask. From Maura, Blue had inherited a dislike of watching people cry, so she never liked to steer the conversation in a way that might result in tears.

  Persephone tilted her paper up so Blue could see it. She’d just written the word three three times, in three different handwritings, and a few inches beneath it, she’d copied a recipe for banana cream pie.

  "Important things come in threes?" Blue suggested. It was one of Maura’s favorite sayings.

  Persephone underlined tablespoon next to the word vanilla in the recipe. Her voice was faraway and vague. "Or sevens. That is a lot of vanilla. One wonders if that is a typo. "

  "One wonders," repeated Blue.

  "Blue!" Maura shouted up. "Are you gone yet?"

  Blue didn’t reply, because Persephone disliked high-pitched sounds and shouting back seemed to qualify as one. Instead, she said, "I found something. If I show it to you, will you not tell anybody else about it?"

  But this was a silly question. Persephone barely told anybody anything even when it wasn’t a secret.

  When Blue handed over the journal, Persephone asked, "Should I open it?"

  Blue flapped a hand. Yes, and quickly. She fidgeted back and forth on the bed while Persephone paged through, her face betraying nothing.

  Finally, Blue asked, "Well?"

  "It’s very nice," Persephone said politely.

  "It’s not mine. "

  "Well, I can see that. "

  "It was left behind at Ni — wait, why do you say that?"

  Persephone paged back and forth. Her dainty, child’s voice was soft enough that Blue had to hold her breath to hear it. "This is clearly a boy’s journal. Also, it’s taking him forever to find this thing. You’d have already found it. "

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