The Saints

Page 21

Will shook his head. “I’m not.” He didn’t think he was. But right now, he couldn’t help but hear David’s voice in his head telling him to understand all the angles. Be sure, David might have said.

“So, do me a favor,” Gates said, “and start enjoying yourself.”

The crowd sounded like a chorus, letting a harmonious OH! fly when Sam tripped over his own feet and went trash can-first into the floor. Gates clapped at the pratfall and ran to Sam to jerk him back up and milk the crowd for laughs.

Gates had a true talent with people. Will could see why he was a legend at St. Patrick’s. His moves were big, he knew what people liked to see, and he made them feel like they were a part of his one-man show. Kids looked at Gates the way Will had always hoped people would look at him, back before all this, when he’d had daydreams about walking the halls of McKinley High, being on top like his star quarterback brother.

“How’re you holding up, Sleepy?”

Will looked over to see the baby chick girl arching her eyebrow at him. She looked like a little elf next to the biggest kid in the Saints, Pruitt, and he was a giant. He walked beside her, pensively twisting the bottom of his white beard between his huge thumb and forefinger. She looked eternally comfy in her cashmere sweater, and he looked the opposite in his tattered corduroy blazer and wool slacks tucked into unlaced duck boots. But Pruitt seemed like the kind of guy who didn’t give a shit whether he was comfortable or not. Maybe it was the way his beard hid his mouth, but none of this seemed to impress him much.

“You look lost,” the baby chick girl said to Will.

“I, uh, I know this sounds bad,” Will said, “but tell me your name again?”

“Classy,” Pruitt said in a flat tone.

The baby chick girl shoved Pruitt; it had zero impact on his cinderblock frame. She smiled at Will and extended her hand.

“Lark,” she said. “Nice to meet you. Officially.”

“I’m Will,” he said to both of them.

“Yeah,” Pruitt said. “Got that. You talked to me for, like, a half hour last night.”

“Right,” Will said, and they walked without talking for a little bit. The silence between them unsettled Will. He’d just played a key role in something massive. Sam Howard was somebody’s prisoner, it was a McKinley first. Gangs on the quad and now in the hall looked at the Saints the way they had looked at the Loners that first day they rose up and defied Varsity. Will could see awe at the Saints’ boldness in every face he passed. He sometimes saw a note of respect, but at the same time there was always a hint of skepticism. Nobody knew these new kids really. Nobody knew if this was one in a series of victories, or if they wouldn’t fumble the ball the next time they tried something this big again. When it had been the Loners, Will had held on to a naive confidence that everything would turn out all right, but he didn’t feel that now. Gates wasn’t his brother, whom he’d known all his life; Will hadn’t lived in the dump with these kids for weeks, he’d only partied with them for one night. Sure, he’d had a good time, but who knew if he actually got along with them without liquor to lubricate things? Will didn’t know the Saints any better than the rest of the school did. And yet, as far as McKinley and the parents and Sam could see, Will was one of them.

Ahead of them, Gates had taken to shaking people’s hands after they sucker punched Sam.

“He’s always on like this, huh?” Will said.

“Pretty much,” Pruitt said.

“You don’t seem impressed.”

“Pruitt always looks like that,” Lark said.

Pruitt didn’t say anything. He stayed unreadable. Lark shrugged.

“Here’s what you need to know about Gates,” she said. “You can count on him. He’s always found a way for us to be happy. Look at him, he’s fun! And he’s got so much love to give.”

“Until he crashes,” Pruitt said.

Will homed in on Pruitt. “What do you mean?” Will said.

Lark rolled her eyes and waved Pruitt off. “Sometimes, Gates gets in these moods, and he just has to be alone and kind of refuel. I mean, he’s only human. You’d need some downtime too if you gave two hundred percent all the time, right?”

Will nodded. Not being in control of your brain was something he could understand.

“If that’s what it takes for him to do the amazing stuff he does, then that’s fine by me. I know I might not be alive right now if it wasn’t for him,” Lark said.

Will studied Lark. She believed what she said. Her love for Gates seemed irrepressible. Will looked over at Pruitt for one last try at spotting some emotion in the guy.

“Did Gates know he was going to pull this move today?” Will said. “Did he actually have a plan?”

Pruitt glanced Will’s way.

“Gates doesn’t like people telling him what to do,” Pruitt said. “Especially adults.”

The crowd ahead began to dissipate as they neared the graduation doors and the white room beyond it.

“I don’t know if he had a plan today or not,” Pruitt said.

“Of course he had a plan,” Lark said. “Pru’s just a stick-in-the-mud.”

Pruitt didn’t answer, he only lumbered on.

When the Saints entered the white room, someone behind the observation window high on the right wall waved to them. A moment later, the door to the containment cell hall slid open. The gang started to enter the processing facility, and Gates pushed Sam inside. Will slowed the closer he got to the door, forcing Saints behind him to go around him in order to enter.

This was it. If Will walked away, back to the elevator, he knew Gates wouldn’t welcome him back.

“Will!” Gates said, standing just inside the doorway of the containment cell hall. “Come on.”

Will looked back in the direction of the school. Beyond the glaring brightness of the white room, the gangs in the foyer were turning away, all going back home. Will turned to Gates, who put up his hands and looked at Will like “what gives?”

Will walked to the door and stepped inside the processing facility.


A RACK OF GEEKS PARTED FOR THE SLUTS AS they walked out of the market. Lucy looked each one in the eye as she passed, and each of them looked away. They didn’t want a piece of her or the girls that walked with her. She could honestly say that had never happened to her before. The feeling was exhilarating. But she kept her face steeled, like the rest of her gang.

“Yeah, that’s right,” a spiky-hair Slut named Raunch said to one of the Geeks, then raised her voice for the whole market to hear. “You steal from us? You got a whuppin’ coming your way!”

Blood streamed down Lucy’s forearm; it matched the color of her hair. It flowed from a three inch gash she’d gotten from a Skater girl, who’d tried to shoplift from the Slut trading post. Lucy had gone after her, and then everything escalated quickly between the Sluts and the Skaters. Lucy couldn’t have been prouder of her wound. It was proof that she wasn’t afraid to fight, and that she had done her part for the gang. She had Naked Week to thank for her newfound confidence.

As soon as the Sluts got some distance from the market and turned the next corner, conversation in the group loosened up. Now that the eyes of the school weren’t on them, the girls started cracking jokes about Skaters and feeling free to let their guard down and laugh. Lucy wasn’t sure she should though. Even if she was officially one of them now, she was still the new one, which, to her, meant she had to play it cooler than the rest.

Raunch grabbed Lucy’s bleeding arm and pushed her protective, prescription basketball glasses up onto her forehead to get a good look.

“Look who turned into a little badass!” she said to Lucy.

“No big deal,” Lucy said, straining not to smile.

“No big deal, shit,” Raunch said, laughing. “You laid that Skater out. She hit the ground like, PWAP!”

Raunch threw herself against the lockers and flailed her arms for effect. She banged her elbow, then grabbed it like she’d really hurt it.

“Ow, shit.”

Lucy covered her smile with her hand. She was still trying to act like kicking a Skater’s ass wasn’t a big deal, but it kind of was. She’d chased that Skater girl and cold cocked her. It was nothing the old Lucy would have done.

Lucy wasn’t the only one who had changed. In the quad, when everyone was waiting for the food drop that didn’t happen, she’d witnessed Ritchie with the Skaters, in his new black mohawk, nod to Leonard by the Geeks, who looked like a genie in parachute pants and a vest, with no shirt, and a purple mini-ponytail. She’d seen Leonard then wave across the quad to Colin and Mort, who looked like blue-haired, undead versions of themselves. They’d given subtle waves back. But none of them even looked Lucy’s way. Not even Will. Without knowing she was in the Sluts, they had no reason to look for her there, because she knew the idea of Lucy being a Slut was unimaginable to them. She wondered what they’d say when they found out.

“You made us look good out there,” Raunch said.


“So, hey … You think if this Gates guy pulls this move off, maybe you can get Will to get you some stuff? You’re tight with him, right?”

Lucy stopped walking, and Raunch raised her eyebrows like she’d said the most innocent thing in the world.

“Hold on,” Lucy said. “Is that why you’re being nice to me?”

Raunch fell against Lucy like a pleading toddler. “Girl, you got no idea how bad I want some footie pajamas. The real soft ones.”

Lucy smiled; she liked that Raunch didn’t even bother to deny her motive.

“Footie pajamas,” Lucy said. “Like what little kids wear?”

“They are soooo comfy, you don’t even know. In fact, get yourself a pair. On me. Also, hook me up with a massage chair.”

“A massage chair? Are you crazy?” Lucy laughed.

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