The Saints

Page 38

“Ahhhhhh!” Belinda squealed at the top of her lungs, with her arms spread out like she was trying to catch a beach ball. Lucy squealed too, by automatic girl reflex.

They hugged and Belinda pulled her inside. “I can’t believe you’re here,” she said.

“Me neither. It’s so good to see you, Bel!”

“Look at your red hair! You are such a badass now.”

Lucy laughed. “No, I’m not. Come on.”

“No, but, you are. Have you looked in a mirror? I’m not the only one that thinks so either. I ran into Mort and Ritchie at the market, and, like, we were, like, all talking about how none of us ever saw this coming. You better watch out, I think Ritchie might ask you out.”

“What? No way. Ritchie?”

“Uh huh, he, like … couldn’t stop talking about how you look,” Belinda said, nodding.



They struggled through an awkward pause. Lucy had done so much living in the past few months that Belinda knew nothing about, and Lucy was sure the same was true of Belinda.

“I think about the Stairs sometimes,” Belinda said, her voice tinged with emotion. “But there’s nobody here that can relate, so I just keep it to myself.”

“Me too.” Lucy nodded. She understood. But she didn’t want to think about what they couldn’t get back. “So, where’s your guy?”

“I’ll introduce you.”

Belinda led Lucy down a long book-lined aisle where books were replaced by bedding on each double-wide shelf. She wondered what kind of Nerds slept in which section.

“He’s right there.” Belinda pointed to a boy standing in a circle of other Nerds. “Isn’t he so adorable?”

Lucy looked the boy over. He was a little chubby around the face. No hint of an ability to grow facial hair. While the other boys talked, he stared up and to the side, like he was lost in thought. His mouth kept flirting with a grin. His shirt was on inside out and his sneakers were so worn out, they looked like mummy feet. He stood with his hips forward and his stomach out, and let his arms hang straight down at his sides. His fingers fluttered like he was playing piano.

“Definitely adorable,” Lucy said, for Belinda’s benefit.

“Freddy-bear!” Belinda said.

Freddy came trotting over and planted a big clumsy kiss on Belinda’s cheek.

“Hi! I’m Freddy Golden,” he said with a friendly smile. He shoved his hand out, fingers splayed. Lucy shook his hand.

“Hi Freddy,” Lucy said. “I’m Lucy.”

“Cupcakes here talks about you all the time,” Freddy said.

Freddy went behind Belinda, put his arms around her, and slid his hands into her front pockets. He rested his chin on her shoulder. Lucy liked him immediately.

“Aw. Well, I miss her a lot too,” Lucy said to Belinda. “Cupcakes, huh?”

Belinda blushed. “He calls me that.”

Freddy blew gently on Belinda’s neck. He whispered something in her ear, and Belinda blushed and giggled.

“Do you want to do puzzles with us?” Freddy said to Lucy.

“No, she’s got other plans, Freddy,” Belinda said.

“Oh, right,” Freddy said, then flared his nostrils with an immense smile. “Bart’s waiting for you at the information desk.”

“I’ll walk you over there,” Belinda said.

“Don’t be gone too long, Cupcakes,” Freddy said.

Even as Belinda tried to walk away, they still held hands, like lovers at a train station. He pulled her close again, gave her a final squeeze and nuzzled her neck, before letting Belinda and Lucy walk away. It was beyond sweet.

“I think he’s great,” Lucy said as she hooked her arm through Belinda’s.

“I think we’re soul mates,” Belinda said.

Lucy placed her palm to her chest. She was genuinely touched by Belinda’s happiness. She’d never seen her friend look more uninhibited or comfortable in her own skin. And soul mate. No one in the Sluts even said words like soul mate. “You’re a lucky girl, Bel.”

“What about you?” Belinda said.


“Bart! He is sooo cute,” Belinda said.

“He is. I don’t know if he’s my soul mate though,” Lucy said. She was surprised by how gruff her own tone sounded, but Belinda was kind and smiled anyway.

They stepped into the expanse of the library’s main room. It was well-lit and quiet, like Lucy remembered it before everything went crazy last time. She couldn’t help but carry the tension of the old ambush with her in every step she took. Thankfully, she felt like she could handle herself more with every Nerd she passed. In her red, scoop-neck shirt, with slashes in it that showed peeks of her black bra, and her skin-tight black jeans, she was dressed more confidently and provocatively than anyone around her. Every Nerd watched her closely, some with curiosity, some with fear. It made her grin.

“Lucy?” Belinda said.


“I just wanted to say, maybe he’s not your soul mate, but I’m really glad you found someone that you care about with Bart. I know how hard it was for you to lose David. You more than anybody,” Belinda said, then paused. “Except Will, I guess.”

“Thanks,” Lucy said, but she felt that same queasy feeling in her stomach again at the sound of Will’s name. Why did people have to keep bringing up Will? She didn’t want to think about him right now. And hearing it out loud, she was even uncomfortable with the idea that she had “found someone” in Bart. Her thing with Bart was casual, just for fun, and that’s why she liked him. He was relaxed, and lightweight. She still thought of that moment where they stood by the bonfire that first night together. She had her girls around her, she was having fun, the heat of the fire was warming her body, and Bart was smiling at her. It was a moment where anything seemed possible, and everything seemed simple. Then Will tore across the quad in a motorcycle and complicated things. She’d been trying to get back to that bonfire moment with Bart ever since, but Will kept getting in the way.

Lucy saw Bart. He was sitting on top of the librarian’s circular information desk, sketching on graph paper. She felt more relaxed at the sight of him.

“Ding-dong,” Lucy said.

He looked up and smiled. “Check it out,” he said and held up his drawing. It was a scribbly ballpoint pen drawing of Bart driving a speedboat, with a bikini girl water-skiing behind it.

“Fun. Is that me?” Lucy said, pointing to the bikini girl.

“Let’s say yes,” he said.

“Jerk,” she said with a smile.

Belinda said good-bye, and Bart showed her more of his drawings. They were all of Bart, and he was always doing something impressive in them, like punching a hole through a wall, or turning into a werewolf. Her favorite was a drawing of a 747 jet with his smiling face where the cockpit should have been. He’d pulled some books for her as well, and he showed her some of his favorite jets of all time. He gave her a tour of the library, and it helped Lucy to see it as his home rather than a battleground. They joked around, flirted, and talked for a long time, until most of the Nerds were heading off to sleep.

“Wanna see something cool?” Bart said after a while.

Lucy nodded, and he led her to a quiet study room. He closed the door behind them, and locked it. There was a sheet pinned up over the window so they could have total privacy. Bart opened a laptop. He showed her bunches of videos that the Nerds had stolen off of people’s phones when they’d brought them to be serviced or loaded up with music at the Nerds’s trading post. Bart told her that most of the time they left people’s content alone, but every once and a while they’d come across something too good to pass up. And they’d have to save a copy.

He showed her a video compilation of people falling, tripping, and injuring themselves. It was pretty funny. He showed her a private video diary entry made by Bobby where he cried the whole time and talked about being misunderstood. He showed her a camera phone picture of P-Nut and a Skater girl in bed, P-Nut was smiling big with his arm around the girl. Then, Bart showed Lucy another photo of P-Nut in the same bed with a different girl. Then, about thirty more, all in the same bed, with a different girl each time and P-Nut always smiling the exact same way.

It was all funny stuff, but the whole time Lucy felt like she was working to get back to the energy she’d had at the Geek show. She didn’t feel as wild as that night or the night of the bonfire. Thankfully, she didn’t have to grapple with that too long before they finally started making out. That got her out of her head.

Bart took off Lucy’s shirt. He cupped her breast and held it like it was a rare and delicate artifact. He started to kiss her neck passionately. His warm lips and wet tongue were all over her now. She groaned. It felt so good, and it turned her on to feel how much he wanted her now. He craved her. He was heating up. This was a moment she’d been fantasizing about. It was about to happen.

Bart unbuttoned her jeans. He reached inside and slid his hand down between her legs. She clamped her thighs together; no one had ever touched her that close.

“It’s okay,” he said.

But it suddenly wasn’t. She felt queasy. She couldn’t relax. Something was off, and she didn’t know what.

She pulled away to look him in the eyes.

“Does this mean anything to you?” she said.

“Yeah, it feels so good,” he said in a low, smooth voice. His hand was still.

“No, I’m saying … do I mean anything to you?”

He blinked and furrowed his brow, like she had just asked him a riddle.

“I think you’re cool, and … I’ve been having fun hanging out.”

“But, do you have feelings for me?”

“Um …”

Lucy pulled his hand out of her pants.

“Bart, I don’t think I can do this.”

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