The Saints

Page 6

The fire dwindled in the blackened sink. Will sat by his sleeping gang mates, around the fire, watching its flames shrink, and die. When the fire went out completely, it took the light with it. Will had never been afraid of the dark, but in this darkness, this cold void, he began to panic. He needed to restart the fire immediately. He needed the light. There were some matches in his backpack.

Will stumbled up the stairs, feeling his way with his hand on the handrail. He rounded the corner, waving his other hand out in front of him like a blind man. The stair he slept on, his stair bed, was six steps up the next flight. He counted until he was standing on the fifth step, then he crouched and patted his hands around until he felt the canvas material of his backpack. He picked it up. The matches were in the front pocket.

When Will’s fingers touched the cool metal tab of the front pocket’s zipper, his mind flashed back to the first day of school, when David drove him to McKinley in his Jeep, and Will couldn’t stop nervously zipping and unzipping his bag. He remembered being scared of going to high school, but excited at the same time to be in the same school as his brother. He remembered the breeze whipping through David’s messy brown hair. The ratty black hooded sweatshirt he always wore. Pale Ridge rushing past as they cruised through green lights. David teasing him, giving him advice. They had no idea that a catastrophe awaited them that morning. The brutal world they would have to endure. They had no idea that David, the depressed quarterback who had quit the team, would rise to be the savior and protector of the rejected, defenseless kids without gangs.

David could have done something great if he’d had a normal life. If none of this had ever happened, or if he had survived whatever killed him. He could have helped people. He would have been a success, Will knew it. He had more potential than Will ever would. But David would never get any of that. He’d never get to be in his twenties, or his thirties. He’d never have a wife, or kids, or a career. He’d never grow into an old man. He’d never know anything but the struggle that started that day they walked into this school, the same struggle that eventually robbed him of his life.

The grief that Will had been running from all night took hold of him, and he crumpled down onto the steps. Tears gushed from him. He couldn’t control himself anymore. He sobbed, and moaned, and let the sadness pull him under.

He felt soft hands on his back, rubbing in an easy circle.

“Shhhh,” Lucy said. “It’s all right.”

He reached out for her and they embraced. Lucy began to cry as well. She must have been holding her feelings back all night, like he had. They sat there, crying and hugging each other in the dark, for what must have been hours, before they lay down on the hard stairs and fell asleep.


THERE WAS A MACHETE IN LUCY’S HANDS. David’s machete. He’d made it out of a radiator shell that he hammered until it was sharp. She’d found it dangling by a shoe string, in the furthest corner of the armory. She pulled out the blade and ran her fingers down the cardboard sheath. Originally, David had simply folded a piece of cardboard into a long rectangle and sealed it with duct tape. Lucy had removed the tape and cut the rectangular sheath into the shape of the machete. With great care, she’d sewn the edges back together with spiral notebook wire.

She was nearly finished now. She twisted the excess of the two wires together, until they were a little loop at the sheath’s tip. She took a leather cord that she’d cut from a belt and laced it through the loop. She ran the cord to the other end and fastened it to make a strap.

Lucy sat on David’s bed, legs folded under her to the side. She held the sheath out before her and admired it. The words “THE LONERS” were spelled across the face of it in silver thumbtacks. It was an impressive design. It would have looked great slung across David’s back. That could never happen now. She sheathed the blade and set it down on the floor.

She had been spending a lot of time in David’s room since the last drop, hiding away behind those heavy curtains that still hung, separating the top landing from the rest of the Stairs. It was the only place she felt safe. So many people were sure that the parents were fixing to quit after how horribly the drop had ended. And even if they stuck around and followed through on their big promises, life inside McKinley wasn’t any less dismal.

David’s room remained a shrine that no one felt they had the right to disturb. She was surprised there weren’t bunches of flowers piled all over the floor, like a highway memorial. A single lantern was the only light source. It was a glass applejuice bottle in the shape of an apple, filled with cooking oil. A plastic gallon jug shielded the flaming wick and gave off a frosted yellow light.

The sheets of David’s bed were still rumpled and thrown about, like he had only crawled out of his bed this morning. Lucy held up his bed sheets and drew their scent in. They smelled vaguely like campfire smoke, like the rest of the room. But they still smelled like David’s sheets. Detergent smell. No one had cleaner sheets than him. Still, there was more. She thought she smelled a pinch of his sweat, the pink bathroom hand soap he’d used to wash his hair, and some of the vanilla extract she used to wear as perfume. But the sum of all those ingredients would never compare to smelling the real thing, David in the flesh, holding her in his arms. Lucy felt tears warm her eyes.

Their time together, really together, had been too brief. They had kissed for the very first time at the Geek show, but that same night he’d been attacked by Hilary. After his eye had healed, they only had a few weeks before he phased out of the virus and needed to leave. The food drops had stopped in that time, and their world was falling apart, but in this room, in this bed, wrapped in these sheets, they shared a couple of peaceful mornings together, where nothing past those curtains existed. When the school was still asleep, and the day hadn’t started, they had their time alone to talk, to learn about each other, or to just lay there, in the quiet, with his heavy arm laid over her, and not say anything at all. She still fantasized about going further with David. She’d wanted to lose her virginity to him, but he’d held back as if somehow he knew he wouldn’t be around too long.

The lights came on.

Lucy looked up. The fluorescent ceiling panel overhead flickered back and forth from dim to bright until it finally settled on bright. Cheers echoed up the Stairs, followed by applause. Lucy stood in disbelief. The power was back on. After a month of living in the dark. The parents had come through after all. That didn’t change the fact that they were still holding McKinley prisoner.

Will popped his head through the curtains. He wore a big smile, and it was a pleasant surprise. His dirty-gray hair was swooped to the side. He held his hands out, splayed like he’d just done a magic trick.

“Eh?” he said.

“What do you mean ‘eh’? You’re taking credit for this?”

“I mean, I can’t say it wasn’t me. I have been putting out some pretty positive vibes.”

Lucy laughed. “Well, now you are, at least. What’s with the sunny attitude?”

“I realized we had way more weapons than we could ever use, so I traded the extra ones and got a bunch more food. And then with the lights coming on like this? I think things are going to be okay.”

Lucy smiled. She wasn’t going to tell Will this, but he sounded like David.

“Nice smile,” Will said.

Lucy blushed and smiled wider. “Oh, you like?”

“Oh, not that one though, that one looks terrible.”

She burst out laughing and hugged him. She wasn’t expecting to laugh today. It blew away the gloom for a moment.

“Hey, guess what?” Will said when they separated. “You know how the Nerds have been working on getting graduation going again? They got it working. Kemper’s graduating right now in the quad. Wanna go check it out?”

“Sure,” Lucy said. “That sounds good.”

He took her hand and they walked down all three floors of the Stairs. It was dirty and dusty and there was still a lot of work to be done, but the stairs felt positively cheerful now that the lights were on. They stepped out into the bright hallway.

“Look at it all lit up!” Lucy said. “It actually feels like daytime again.”

“No more torches!” Will said at the top of his lungs. “Thank God.”

Lucy laughed. “Let me never see another torch again.”

They moseyed toward the quad at a pleasant pace. It was nice to just walk with Will, without any crisis hanging over their heads, without the tragedies of their lives on the front of their minds. She was able to push that all away for a bit and savor the normality of merely strolling down a hall with someone she trusted.

As they stepped around the corner into the last hall before the quad, Will held his arm out in front of Lucy and stopped her.

“Do you hear that?” Will said.

Lucy strained. She could hear something that sounded like muffled voices. They were coming from a classroom ahead.

“Is somebody arguing?” Lucy said.

“I don’t think so.”

Will walked ahead of her to the classroom where the noises were coming from. Lucy stayed close behind him. The door was closed, but not all the way. Will pressed his face up to the crack between the door and the frame and eased the door open a few inches.

“Holy shit,” Will said.


Will stood there, staring, seemingly unable to speak.

“Is this another joke?” she whispered, and she got her face right up next to Will’s. She peered inside. Lucy’s breath caught in her throat.

A boy and a girl were having sex on a teacher’s desk.

The girl was a Freak and she had her legs wrapped around a bare-assed Varsity boy who lay on top of her. They were forehead to forehead, staring deep into each other’s eyes. The two of them were so lost in each other that nothing else existed. The girl dragged her nails across the skin of the boy’s back. His fingers were dug through the tangles of her blue hair, and he held her head with both hands as he kissed her deeply. They clung to each other. They craved each other.

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