The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried(10)

At least, I hope she doesn’t bite.

I park the car on the side of the road. “Then let’s talk about it. How do you think this happened? Why did it happen? Do you remember anything about being dead?”

“Stop assuming I was dead,” she says.

“And . . . what? The paramedics who came to your house, the coroner who pronounced you dead, the medical examiner who performed your autopsy, and my parents were too stupid to notice that you were alive?”

July shrugs. “You said it, not me.”

I choose to ignore that. “You had to have done something.”

“Why do you figure it’s gotta be my fault?” July asks. “How could I resurrect myself if I was dead?”

“You think I’m responsible?”

July holds up her hands. “Sorry, I forgot. You’re never responsible for anything.”

“I take the blame for my mistakes,” I say.

“Like how you totally owned up to broadcasting to anyone who’d listen that I did it with Manny Silvas?”

I sputter while I try to think of what she’s talking about, and then I remember. “First, that was months ago. Second, I didn’t do that. If I was going to start a rumor about you having sex with someone, it wouldn’t have been with a guy as hot as Manny.”

“Ew! Manny’s a creep!”

“A ridiculously hot creep.”

July can’t argue with that because, while Manny is a dick who thrives on making other people’s lives miserable, he’s so damn pretty. “Well, if you didn’t spread it around, who did?”

“Probably Manny,” I say. “The same way he told everyone sophomore year that he got a hand job from Mrs. Kaufman.”

July rolls her eyes. “Yeah, but no one believed that.”

I spread my hands. “So Manny learned from his mistakes.”

“But they believed I did it with him? Why? Because I’m such a big slut?”

“You’re not a slut, July. Even if you had slept with him, it wouldn’t make you a slut.” I wait a second to give her a chance to breathe, and then I remember that she doesn’t need to. “My point is that I didn’t do it, and you’ve been mad at me about it for months. Maybe there are other things you’re pissed off at me for that aren’t my fault.”

July’s face softens, but then it goes hard again almost instantly. “And maybe there are things you did do that I’m not pissed off about but should be.”

I groan and slam my fist on the steering wheel. “Can we please focus on why you’re undead?”

“I’m not dead. But you’re making me wish I were.”

“Me too,” I mutter. “You can’t keep denying the truth. You might not be dead, but you’re not alive either. This could last another hour or a year or forever, and we need to figure it out so we can decide what to do with you.”

“Who cares?” July asks. “I’m alive or not-dead or whatever right now. I don’t know why. Could be a strange quirk of science or that I was exposed to some new radiation. Or it could be that the Ghost of Friendships Past saw deep down in your charcoal heart that what you wanted most was one last night with me.”

I cough “Doubtful,” but July ignores me.

“You can tell me I’m dead until the words lose their meaning, but it won’t change that I’m not, and I don’t want to waste the time I have.”

The thing is, I can’t argue with her logic. The nerd in me that needs to understand everything is dying to drive July to a lab and cut off pieces of her to look at under a microscope to see if I can figure out what’s keeping her alive, and the poet in me wants to ask her a million questions about being dead so that I can understand how she sees the world and what the stars look like through eyes that once saw what’s on the other side of life. But July doesn’t need a nerd or a poet. She needs a friend, and I suppose that unenviable job has fallen to me.

“Then tell me, July. What do you want?”

“To go home,” she says. “I want to go home?”


DINO THINKS HE’S BEING SUBTLE when he rolls down the window, so I smack him in the arm. Maybe I don’t know much—I don’t know why I woke up in the DeLuca’s chop shop; I don’t know why I can’t feel my heart beating; I don’t know what happened after I blacked out at home; I don’t even know if I’m dead or alive or not-dead—but I do know I don’t smell. July Cooper is not the smelly girl.

I live in a subdevelopment called Liberation Dunes, which is stupid seeing as there are no dunes and it definitely isn’t liberated. All the houses are painted one of seven approved colors and each is landscaped using the same selection of native Florida plants and bushes. The first time Momma and Daddy brought me and Jo here to show us—this was before the divorce—I said it reminded me of the scene from A Wrinkle in Time where Meg winds up in that neighborhood with the identical houses and the cloned kids bouncing the same red ball. But we’ve been here six years now, so it’s home whether I like it or not.

Dino drives past the house, loops around at the end of the road, and parks in front of the sidewalk near enough so that we can see the house but far enough that the shadows do a decent job hiding us. His phone keeps buzzing in his pocket and he keeps mashing the buttons to quiet it.

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