The Saints

Page 10

They’d failed at the drop again. They weren’t gelling as a team. Will hadn’t gone because he said he had a cold, but Lucy thought that maybe he was too embarrassed to show his face in the quad. She understood, they all were embarrassed. Without Will, there were only six of them remaining, and they felt stupid standing with all the huge gangs, fully aware that everyone had seen them get trashed by Sam two weeks before. By the time this drop had started, almost every gang had sent a representative over to pitch joining their gang to the Loners. They all talked like it was an inevitability, like Violent had said, that the Loners were finished and now was the time to pick a new gang. Once the drop started, none of the Loners took the lead. Ritchie did well on his own, but all together they’d barely gathered enough stuff to trade for the eight rolls of toilet paper, two boxes of tampons, five packets of instant oatmeal, and the twelve-pack of ramen noodles that they held in their hands now.

Ritchie dropped the toilet paper rolls on the market floor.

“I’m going Skaters,” Ritchie said.

“What?” Lucy said.

“You heard me.”

Lucy began to panic.

“No, don’t. Ritchie, we need you. You’re our best fighter.”

“I gotta look out for myself.”

Mort stepped forward. “Lucy? Uh … I’m really sorry, but, I’m joining the Freaks.”

“So am I,” Colin said.

“Guys, come on. We’re just down on our luck right now,” Lucy said, but she barely believed it herself. She could understand why they wanted to leave. She still felt the sting of Sam’s palm on her cheek. She didn’t honestly know how they would survive as a gang, but she felt an overpowering need to stop them from going.

“They said we could have our own rooms,” Colin said.

“But, we’re the Loners. You guys don’t want to walk away from that. That means something,” Lucy said.

“David was the Loners,” Ritchie said, “and whatever we are right now, whatever this is? I’m not into it.”

“But …,” Lucy said.

“See you guys around,” Ritchie said, unwilling or unable to look anyone in the eye. He turned and walked off.

“I guess we should …,” Mort said, pointing his thumb toward the Freak trading post. He attempted a smile, but it was eighty percent cringe.

Lucy couldn’t summon words. What else could she say to get them to stay? She thought of Will back in the Stairs. He’d be devastated when he heard they’d lost three more. He’d never stop blaming himself.

“I’m sorry,” Mort said. “I’m bad at good-byes. Take care of yourselves.”

“You … too,” Lucy said.

Mort and Colin walked off, leaving Lucy with only Leonard and Belinda on either side of her. She turned to Belinda, hoping to see the shock Lucy felt, but instead, tears were pouring down Belinda’s cheek. She was trying desperately to keep from breaking apart.

“It’s just—it’s just that, you have somewhere to go, right Lucy?” Belinda said.

“Oh, Belinda …,” Lucy said. “Why?”

“Freddy. He pulled some strings. The Nerds weren’t looking for new members, but he got me in. He said he’ll take care of me, Lucy. I think he really loves me. You understand, don’t you?”

Lucy took deep breaths, to stave off her sudden dizziness.

“I understand, Bel,” Lucy said. And she did understand. She understood all the reasons the other Loners wanted to leave, and she certainly understood Belinda being unable to turn down an opportunity for love and safety.

“But I need to know you’ll be okay, Lucy. I need to know that or I can’t go.”

“Don’t worry about me, Bel,” Lucy said softly. She felt the tears coming, but she fought them back. “Go find that boy and hug him tight for me. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.”

“Yeah, real soon,” Belinda said.

“Leonard, we should head back,” Lucy said. She had to get away from Belinda; she was going to cry.

“Geeks,” Leonard said. His shoulders were slumped and he kept his eyes on the ground.


“I want to learn to sing.”



Will sat on the stairs, alone in the dark. He’d traded all the lightbulbs in the Stairs for two salamis and an old matchbook. It hadn’t been a popular decision with the Loners who had stuck around in the weeks since the Sam incident. Will couldn’t bring himself to care though. He preferred the dark.


Lucy’s voice below made him sit up, but he didn’t answer.

“Is anybody here?”

He couldn’t see Lucy, only the white rectangle of her cell phone’s screen, moving through the black. Will coughed. The white rectangle turned toward him and shined a weak, milky light in his direction.

“Hi,” she said. Lucy tilted her phone’s light back at her own face. She forced a slight smile, but he could tell she was sad. Join the club.

“Might want to stay back. I don’t want to get you sick,” Will said.

It had been going around, clogged nose, pulsing pain behind the eyeballs, exhaustion, and a sore throat. The Saints must have brought it in, because it was all over the school now.

“Here,” Lucy said, and handed him her phone. He shined it on her as she put down the water jugs she’d been lugging.

“How much water have you had?” she asked.

“Not enough, probably.”

She nodded and knelt down. As she poured some water into a tall thermos, she stared off at an empty wall, her brow bunched up, and her eyes too far open.

“I’ll start a fire,” he said.

Will rocked forward; he needed the momentum to stand. He drew the crinkled metallic fabric of an emergency fire blanket tighter around his shoulders. There was wood already piled up in the disembodied sink on the floor. He put the phone on the floor, faceup, and lit a match. Will tossed it into the sink and the book pages under the wood caught fire right away. The flames grew into a respectable campfire. Lucy hadn’t said a word the whole time.

Will sat down, out of breath from the strain. Lucy walked over and handed him the thermos. He drank half of it in one gulp. Lucy sat near him. Still silent.

“Are you doing all right?” Will asked.

She nodded. He knew she was lying. She leaned toward the flame, eyes closed. Will watched ribbons of golden light flutter across her face. Her cheekbones were round like twin scoops of butterscotch ice cream. A tear spilled from her eye. It drew a gleaming string of light down her cheek.


“They’re all gone,” she said.

“Who’s all gone?”

“The only ones who were left. Belinda went Nerds. Ritchie went Skaters. And Mort and Colin—” She let out a breath. “… Leonard. All gone.”

Will slumped. “Matter of time, I guess,” he was barely able to say.

It was just the two of them.

Will’s headache tightened like a fist inside his head. Nausea bubbled in his belly. He had failed David. The Loners had fallen apart. He took deep breaths. Lucy was staring at him, clearly concerned. He didn’t want that.

“It’ll be all right,” Will said.

It was the most he could muster. He wanted to promise her that he’d protect her and provide for her, that was what she wanted. But, he couldn’t promise what he couldn’t deliver. He couldn’t even protect himself. He’d proved that when Sam dug a trench in the quad with his face.

“What do you think we’d be doing right now if none of this ever happened?” Lucy said.

“For real?” he said.


“You want to talk about this now.”

“I see you as really fat,” Lucy said.

It made Will smile.

“Out of all the possible scenarios of being outside, you’re fantasizing about me gaining weight?”

She bounced as she laughed.

“I’ve seen you scarf cans of clam chowder with no spoon,” she said. “I’m just saying. You’re going to balloon. It’s gonna be scary.”

“Okay, you want to play like that?” he said. “Have you watched yourself chug fruit punch? You’re like a pelican.”

“A pelican!” Lucy said with mock outrage. “That’s not the kind of thing you just make up! You’ve actually thought that before, haven’t you!”

That made Will laugh even harder. “See, this is great. Maybe the Loners fell apart for a good reason,” Will said, excited. “Who needs all them? We have each other. It can be just the two of us. We could go back to the elevator. We could be happy.”

Lucy twisted her lips from side to side. Her silence made the crackling fire sound loud, like crumpling cellophane in his ear.

“Will, I’m worried about you.”

Ouch. The scenario of the two of them in the elevator had just spilled directly out of Will’s heart, and it clearly did nothing for her. He felt like an idiot for blurting out his feelings.

“I’m fine,” he said.

“You haven’t seemed fine lately.”

God, why was she saying this? She could just turn him down instead of keep reminding him that he was a broken person.

“Same as always,” he said, working hard to keep a lid on any angry tone.

“Will, I think … We need to get realistic—”

“I am being realistic. David and me had a whole business before the Loners. We did fine as just two people.”

“You barely pulled it off, and that’s when things were stable. Who knows how reliable these parents will be?”

That was a bullshit excuse. If it were David asking her to go live in the elevator, just the two of them, she’d be there in a second.

“Are you joining another gang?” Will said.

Lucy opened her mouth. It hung open for a moment and then she closed it.

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