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keep up. I wasn t stupid; she wasn t my friend because she
just couldn t stay away from my optimism and sunshiney
personality. She was my friend because Danny always had
extra pot after a deal.
And I didn t even care.
By the time I reached the top of the steps, Willow was
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bouncing on the balls of her purple Converse shoes and
flapping her hands.  Let s go, let s go, let s go.
 Chill, I said as I walked past her.  He s usually right
here, up on this corner. I weaved through the bustling
streets, leading Willow to her ultimate destination.
 There he is. Hey, Danny! Willow yelled straight into
the lens of a bald guy s video camera.  Hey, we re right
here!
Danny turned and gave us a half-smile before cocking
his head toward a massive building across the street.  My
parents are working. We ll go to my place.
Danny bolted across the street, his red hair glinting
under the watery sun like a lit matchstick. When a taxi
almost smashed into him, he just calmly held up the bag
full of pot in his fist and thrust it toward the driver like
some kind of brown paper stop sign. He was definitely a
true New Yorker.
Willow was the same way. One time the traffic lining
Times Square was so thick that it blanketed the streets in
rubber and metal tired business men on their way home
from work. Willow just bounced between the cars, hum-
ming the Harry Potter theme song to herself, even when
the traffic lights flicked to green.
I preferred to wait at crosswalks until the blinking man
told me it was safe to go. And even then I still scrabbled
across the street like a jittery little rodent scurrying from
under a trash can lid.
I let out a breath as we stepped onto the sidewalk and
a delivery truck bumbled behind us. Danny led us up the
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marble steps of his apartment building, past the doorman,
and into a gilded elevator that had sparrows painted on its
ceiling.
Every time I saw the sparrows, I imagined Ella say-
ing,  Why are there birds in the elevator? Birds don t go in
elevators, duh. And then suggesting rainbows or thunder
clouds or fuzzy bear cubs or something else just as likely to
not ever end up in an elevator.
Willow grabbed the bag out of Danny s hand the sec-
ond he unlocked the door and squealed.  I ve been waiting
for this all day. Where s a lighter?
I curled into the corner of a leather chair sidled up to
a window almost as big as the wall. Willow and Danny sat
on chairs at either side of me, passing the joint back and
forth. They didn t even bother to ask me anymore. Danny
had spent the better part of the fall trying to convince me
that pot was ten million times better than alcohol, and that
it was the best for making out and eating Cheetos and tak-
ing naps in a chair. And you didn t even feel sick in the
morning. But it smelled like the family of skunks that had
nested behind Dad s shed back in Amble, and it made
them both look like they were one IQ point away from
drooling on the carpet.
They finished that joint, and started working on the
next, and by the time they were done with that one, my
eyes were taking longer to open after every blink. And
instead of seeing darkness when I closed my eyes, I saw
splotches of color, like bubbles filled with reds and yellows
that popped when they reached my eyelashes.
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 You feelin it, Claire? All of a sudden Danny was
standing over me. And the edges around his ears were
blurry and wobbly.
I shrugged. I didn t know what  feelin it felt like, but
if it meant that the lights flickered on and off like dying
stars and the walls didn t stand straight anymore, then I
guess I was.
Willow s eyes scanned my face, big and round like a
cat s.  Stare-Claire is totally feelin it. I blinked, and her
eyes were gone and there was only the window.
Something flickered in the shadows of the kitchen.
Something so dark it was almost black.
And something big. Really, really big.
I think if it could have, my heart would have crawled
up into my head and pounded in my ears. But it was too
tired, too high. It was reclining on the Lazy-Boy, eating
leftover Cheetos. So it stayed.
But the wheels slowly churning in my mind told me to
freak out anyway. It s just my mouth wouldn t really move
to scream like it should. I imagined a pile of drool pool-
ing on the carpet, and I burst into a giggle instead. All of
a sudden I was standing up and still kind of half-giggling
and my tongue felt thick and heavy in my mouth.
 Where re you goin ? Danny asked. He was laying
down with his mouth hanging open, and patterns and col-
ors from the TV splashed across his teeth.
 Bathroom, I mumbled. And then I used the crooked
walls to lead me there.
As soon as I stepped through the door, I couldn t
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unglue my eyes from this big silver dish, shaped like a sea-
shell and tucked into the corner of the countertop. The
string of bulbs that hung over the sink were reflected over
and over again in the smooth crevices, like strings of tiny
pearls laid out to dry. It was filled with a tangle of jewelry,
necklaces and hooped earrings and rings that all glittered
with fat stones.
And I giggled again as I poked my finger through
Danny s mom s jewelry. Because it was kind of funny that
pot made you notice every little thing and alcohol made
you notice nothing at all.
Then my fingers were on a two round yellow stones
the color of melted butter. I held them in my hand, the
posts sticking into my palm.
They stared at me.
They stared at me like big, jeweled wolf eyes.
Glued into the cover of a journal that came from the
new stationary shop on Main.
And then they swiveled on their posts and blinked
into my palm, blinked into the pink scar that still slithered
across my skin. And I swore they were whispering, whis-
pering so loud they were almost yelling: You didn t keep
Rae s promise. You didn t keep her secret. Now you have your
own.
My secret. I had hugged it so tightly to my chest for
so long that my heart had been almost crushed under its
weight. But now, here, I was alone in this ridiculously
ornate bathroom, and my secret wanted to be spoken. Just
once. I could do it. No one would hear me.
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I looked at my reflection in the mirror and tried to
ignore the purple bags under my eyes.  The wolves are
here, in this city, I whispered. And then I slapped my
palm over my mouth, even though it was true. The wolves
were in the city, the same ones that sliced up Ella s face and
most likely plucked Sarah Dunnard from her backyard like
a spindly little weed.
Everyone said it wasn t possible, that the wolves
couldn t be in Manhattan. But it also didn t seem possible
that  rabid raccoons, as the Amble Observer reported, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]