Unearthly Page 58

“Come on, how am I different?” I ask Tucker again.

“It’s hard to explain.” He rubs the back of his neck. “There’s just so much to you that’s under the surface.”

“Hmm. How mysterious,” I say, trying hard to keep my voice light.

“Yep, you’re like an iceberg.”

“Gee, thanks. I think the problem is that you always underestimate me.”

We pull up to my house, which seems dark and empty, and I want to stay in the truck. I’m not ready for the night to be over.

“Nope,” he says. He puts the truck in park and turns to look at me with somber eyes. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you could fly to the moon.”

I suck in a breath.

“You want to pick huckleberries with me tomorrow?” he asks.

“Huckleberries?”

“They sell in town for fifty bucks a gallon. I know this spot where there are like a hundred bushes. I go out there a few times a summer. It’s early in the season, but there should be some berries because it’s been so hot lately. It’s good money.”

“Okay,” I say, surprising myself. “I’ll go.”

He jumps out and circles around to open the door for me. He holds out his hand and helps me climb down from the truck.

“Thanks,” I murmur.

“Night, Carrots.”

“Night, Tuck.”

He leans against the truck and waits as I go inside. I flip on the porch light and observe him from a corner of the living room window until the back of the rusty truck disappears in the trees. Then I run upstairs to my bedroom and watch the taillights as they move smoothly down our long driveway to the main road.

I look at myself in the full-length mirror on my closet door. The girl who stares back was tossed around by a wild river and her tangerine-colored hair dried in loose waves all around her face. She’s starting to tan, even though angel-bloods don’t burn or tan easily. And tomorrow she’ll be on the side of some mountain, hunting for huckleberries with a real-live rodeo cowboy.

“What are you doing?” I ask the girl in the mirror. She doesn’t answer. She gazes at me with bright eyes like she knows something I don’t.

I’m not totally cut off from the world. Angela emails me every now and then, tells me about Rome and says, in her own version of code, that she’s finding out amazing stuff about angels. She’ll write things like, It’s dark outside right now. I’m turning on the light, which I take to mean she’s getting a lot of good info on Black Wings. When she writes, It’s so hot I have to change my clothes all the time, I think she’s telling me she’s practicing changing the form of her wings. She doesn’t say much more. Nothing about the mysterious Italian lover, but she sounds happy. Like she’s having a suspiciously good time.

I also hear from Wendy occasionally, whenever she can make it to a pay phone. She sounds tired but content, spending her days with horses, learning from the best. She doesn’t mention Tucker, or the time I’ve been spending with him lately, but I suspect that she knows all about it.

When I get a text from Christian I realize it’s been a while since I’ve thought about him. I’ve been so busy running around with Tucker. I haven’t even had the vision lately. This week I almost forgot I was an angel-blood and simply let myself be a regular girl having a perfectly normal summer. Which is nice. And makes me feel guilty, because I’m supposed to be focusing on my purpose.

His text says:

Have you ever been to a place you’re supposed to love, but all you can think about is home?

Cryptic. And as usual when it comes to Christian, I don’t know how to respond.

I hear a car pulling into the driveway, and then the sound of the garage door. Mom’s home. I do a quick sweep around the house to make sure everything is in order, dishes washed, laundry folded, Jeffrey still in a food coma upstairs. All is right in the Gardner house. When she comes in, towing her huge suitcase, I’m sitting at the kitchen counter with two tall glasses of iced tea.

“Welcome home,” I say brightly.

She puts her suitcase down and holds out her arms. I jump off my stool and step sheepishly into her hug. She squeezes me tight, and it makes me feel like a kid again. Safe. Right. Like nothing was normal when she was gone.

She pulls back and looks me up and down. “You look older,” she says. “Seventeen suits you.”

“I feel older. And stronger lately, for whatever reason.”

“I know. You should be feeling stronger every day now, the closer we get to your purpose. Your power is growing.”

There’s an uncomfortable silence. What are my powers, exactly?

“I can fly now,” I blurt out suddenly. It’s been two weeks since Inspiration Point, a hundred crashes and scrapes, but I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. It feels like something she should know. I lift my pant leg to show her a scratch on my shin from the top of a pine tree I passed over too closely.

“Clara!” she exclaims, and she tries to act pleased but I can tell she’s disappointed that she hadn’t been there, like I’m a baby taking my first steps and she missed it.

“It’s easier for me when you’re not watching,” I explain. “Less pressure or something.”

“Well, I knew you’d get it.”

“I totally love the dress you gave me,” I say in an attempt to change the subject. “Maybe we could go out to dinner tonight and I’ll wear it.”

“Sounds like a plan.” She releases me, grabs her suitcase, and lugs it down the hall toward her bedroom. I follow.

“How was work?” I ask as she lays her suitcase on her bed, opens her top dresser drawer, and begins to stack her underwear and socks neatly inside. I have to shake my head at what a neat freak she is, all her panties folded, arranged by color in perfect little rows. It seems impossible that we’re related, she and I. “Did you get it all straightened out?”

“Yes. It’s better, anyway. I really needed to go out there.” She moves on to the next drawer. “But I’m sorry I missed your birthday.”

“It’s okay.”

“What did you do?”

For some reason I’ve been dreading telling her about Tucker, the Jumping Tree, and the time I’ve been spending with him all week, hiking, picking huckleberries, white-water rafting, speaking Korean to random people in front of him. Maybe I’m afraid that she’ll call Tucker what I know deep down that he is: a distraction. She’ll tell me to get back to work on the Saving Christian mission. Then I’ll have to tell her that, even though I’m feeling stronger lately, finally flying, I still can’t get that heavy duffel bag off the ground. And then she’ll give me that look, that speech about lightness and strength and how much I am capable of if only I put my mind to it. I just don’t want to go there. Not yet, anyway. But I have to give her something.

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