The Saints

Page 29

Lucy hated to admit it, but this party had lived up to the hype. There was a kind of joy and camaraderie in the air that dwarfed anything she’d seen at Geek shows. Even if she was wary of Gates’s tactics with the parents, what was happening here was good for everybody. Lucy looked up to the dark sky. She didn’t see any parents, but it was so dark. At least one of them had to be posted guard up there. They always were.

“Let’s go to the fire,” Lucy said, and pulled Bart toward the massive flames.

The fire was eating the tower of wooden pallets and lumber. It was pure destruction, but it was beautiful. Lucy walked two steps closer than everyone else. The heat pressed into her. Whipping, snaking, furious tongues of fire filled her field of vision.

“Can I get a sip?” Bart said.

He took the bottle from her and tipped it back. Orange light twinkled off the vodka that clung to the crevasses of his lips. A gust of wind blew clouds of sparks off the fire. The sparks spun past Bart. He handed the bottle to Lucy and smiled.

Diagonally across the fire from her, Lucy noticed a big crew of Sluts. Raunch was among them, hooking up with her boy. Lucy pictured herself cutting loose like that, just losing herself to the pleasure of the moment. It didn’t seem so farfetched.

“On a scale of one to ten,” Lucy said. “How lucky do you feel tonight?”

Bart’s eyes widened, clearly surprised by how forward she was being.

“Pretty lucky,” he said.

She laughed.

Movement in the crowd distracted her. The Saints were approaching. Kids from other gangs shook their hands and slapped them on the backs. They’d come a long way since their shaky start in the school. Now, they walked through the quad like they were a real part of McKinley. Like they’d always been there. They look excited, giddy even.

“Move back!” they shouted.

A really young-looking Saint girl, maybe thirteen years old, walked up and ushered the Sluts back. The Sluts complied since everyone else did, but they were surly about it. The Saints moved in two lines, pushing back at the crowd until the middle of the quad was cleared into one long strip, from one end to the other. The crowd had been split into two halves.

Gates came bursting out of the crowd, riding a wild hog. The animal was giant and muscular and ugly, and it didn’t like having Gates on its back. He held tight to a leash that was choking its neck and he smiled like he was on an amusement park ride.

“I love this guy,” Bart said.

Gates only made it about ten feet into the clearing before he fell off the snarling beast. The hog ran away, back into the crowd, squealing, and snorting. The crowd parted wherever the hog ran.

Gates got up, still grinning. From where Lucy stood, Gates was framed by the column of fire behind him. He wore a blue pinstripe suit with a crisp white shirt, although they were both stained with dirt now. He pushed back his long white hair.

“Welcome to the party, everybody. You guys like my new pet?” Gates hollered.

The cheering was immediate, and it hurt Lucy’s ears.

“That’s nothin’. Are you ready for the big surprise?” Gates said.

The party cheered again, but they were drowned out by a loud, nasty, echoing gargle that came from deep in the school.

“We got a special delivery last night. Top secret. And, it’s a good one,” Gates said.

The Saints laughed and nodded to each other.

The awful noise rattled like an angry chest cold, like a monster at the bottom of a well. It got louder. Closer. The crowd started to worry, and Lucy was right with them. The wretched, booming growl closed in on them. People backed up further, without urging from the Saints, making the gap in the middle of the quad wider.

Then Lucy saw it. A blur came ripping out of one of the hallways, and rocketed across the cleared dirt road, blowing a froth of dust into the air behind it. For a fragment of a second the speeding comet was right in front of Lucy, and she could see it clearly.

It was Will on a motorcycle.

The hallway was the barrel of a rifle, and Will was the bullet. He crushed his fingers around the Harley’s handle grips. He’d crossed the quad in a flash, and sped right into the opposite hallway. People scattered ahead. Terrified faces bolted past him, bodies leapt out of the way, kids flattened themselves to the lockers like they were standing on the slim ledge of a high building. The hallway ahead shook in his vision. The bike was alive, vibrating underneath him like a giant buzz saw.

The hall ended at a T-junction with another hallway, and the hard wall rocketed toward him. Will fumbled with the brake, but couldn’t get his fingers around it. He strained, hooked his fingers around the brake lever and the clutch, and squeezed, but he turned the bar a little as he did it, and the bike began to wobble underneath him. He suddenly wished his motorcycle-riding experience was more than playing with his cousin’s dirt bike one weekend. He painted squiggles of rubber across the linoleum floor. The tires shrieked like a hurt animal. Will shifted his weight to right it, but the motorcycle was too heavy.

The bike bucked, angry with him, and threw Will off. He crashed to the floor and the bike crashed on its side right behind him. Will and the bike skidded down the hall like air hockey pucks. His hoodie and T-shirt ripped away and the slide should have torn his skin up too, but Will had wrapped his entire upper body in duct tape, down to one inch strips around each of his fingers and fingertips.

The heavy bike wasn’t slowing down. It caught up with Will and pushed him forward. The back wheel spun in his face. At least they’d remember him when he was dead.

Will felt the drag of the floor as his body slowed down. The bike cruised to a stop, and pushed him gently into the wall. On the wall opposite Will was a photocopied party poster with his face on it.

Will started laughing, it was just too funny. Not only was this whole idea bat shit crazy, but he started to imagine what the look would have been on David’s face if he had been at this party. He would have had a heart attack.

“Buddy, that was amazing!” Gates said as he ran up. “Are you okay?”

“Think so,” Will said.

Will gave each limb a turn, twisting it or bending the joints. Nothing felt broken, torn, or sprained. Gates grabbed his arm and helped him up.

“You are a maniac!” Gates said and slapped him on top of the shoulders. “People are going nuts out there.”

“It was insane,” Will said, still laughing.

Will pulled off his tattered sweatshirt and shirt. Blood seeped out from tears in his duct tape skin. Together, he and Gates lifted the bike upright. It was scratched and scuffed, and the gas tank was dented, but the engine still started.

“I wanna ride the handlebars!” Gates shouted over the chugging motor.

Will mounted the bike, and Gates hoisted himself onto the handlebars.

“I can’t see,” Will shouted.

“I’ll be your eyes,” Gates said, glancing back at Will with a mischievous arch of his red-eyed eyebrow.

Will grinned. He eased into the acceleration. They cruised back down the hall. Gates held onto the steering bar and planted his feet on the front tire guard to keep his balance. The people they rode past in the hall were awestruck.

“FASTER!” Gates yelled.

Will cranked his wrist forward and poured on the throttle. Gates barely stayed on the bike as Will sped into the quad. When the crowd saw them, they lost their minds.

Will slowed the bike to a parade pace, he was going to milk every second of it. Gates was on front shaking his fists high for everyone. They cheered. Will revved the engine and they screamed louder.

Will’s smile dropped when he saw Lucy.

She was at the front of the crowd. She wore heavy eyeliner that swooped up in the corners of her eyes like a cat. Her hair was flame red. Her old blue dress was now black and cut to ribbons like she was in a swimsuit calendar. It was full of holes. More holes than dress. The neckline was a plunging V that nearly reached her belly button. The two sides were held together by paper clip chains. Will stared at her dress in disbelief. The word SLUT was hand embroidered on the dress’s bust, in haphazard, sloppily stitched red thread.

He brought the bike to a short stop right in front of Lucy and put his feet on the ground.

“Aw, come on, lets keep going,” Gates said.

Will ignored Gates. The sight of Lucy in her new threads had rocked his world. He had to play it cool.

“You, uh … I … What the fuck? You’re a Slut,” he said.

“Yup,” she said. Her eyes were cool and calm.

Gates whipped his head around to look at Lucy. His face cramped with irritation and his bad eye flickered.

“Who’s this?” Gates said.

“When were you going to tell me?”

She stayed cool. “Didn’t really see how it was any of your business considering the last thing you said to me. It was so … nice. It was such a really ‘good friend’ thing to say. What was it again?”

Will braced himself.

“Oh, yeah!” Lucy said, then she leveled her eyes at Will. “Fuck off.”

Will leaned the bike on its kickstand and stepped off it, causing Gates to have to jump off the handlebars. Gates dug his finger into his eye with a fierce rub. Perturbed, he looked around at the crowd that had quieted and was watching intently.

Will stepped to Lucy. She didn’t look happy with him, but even unhappy, she looked fantastic. He hadn’t seen her since the Stairs. Somehow, he had forgotten how perfectly her face fit together. He’d also forgotten the inescapable pull he felt toward her, the ache in his chest that used to oppress him when he was this close to her. All the duct tape and popularity in the school couldn’t protect him from that feeling.

“Look, about that night,” Will said, keeping his voice quiet. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said.”

“Funny, that doesn’t make it feel any less shitty.”

“I was just trying to do the right thing for both of us—”

“Are you guys done?” Gates said. “Come on, Will, let’s go. Don’t let this chick ruin our party.”

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