It's as if I've been shut out from the world. The sound of cars honking, people yelling, dogs barking, I no longer hear it. I feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing. The only thing I'm aware of is my bare feet trudging through the dirt, slow step by step. I almost believe that Levi has flipped the off switch on me. I can't go on without him.
Everything I pass reminds me of him. A jazz band playing outside my dead aunt's restaurant reminds me of how he brought music into my life. Any fountain I pass reminds me of our first kiss. I pass the very fountain where I truly fell for him and I can't take it anymore. I shove my fist into my mouth and scream, howling out some of the rage and pain I felt when he left me. Through my teary eyes, I look at the fountain and see something I didn't before, when all there was to see was Levi. A small golden plaque.
I crawl closer to it, trying to make out the small print, but the words are covered in dust and debris. I scrub it hard with my shirt and finally make out the words:
The Virgen Mary and the Child, Jesus.
The names seem familiar. I rack my brains, trying to remember where I've heard it before, but come up empty. Maybe Levi can tell me who they are. But then I remember he never will, because he's gone.
I trudge to the bus stop. It's pouring buckets, contributing to my melancholy. I sit there for hours, trying not to think about anything, but failing miserably. His cruel words replay in my head, over and over:
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I never loved you. Joe paid me good, and it was so easy to toy with your emotions, to make you do what I told you to. And now my job's done. Joe is nearby, and you can't hide from him. It's over Ara. You're over."
Which reminds me why I'm leaving Chicago, why I'm headed for Niles, Illinois, where my home used to be. Where I buried my sister. I feel terrible doing this, but there's no one left who cares about me, who would be crushed by my decision. No one loves me anymore.
Which is why I won't be missed when I'm dead.
I catch up to Ara just as she boards a bus headed for Niles. I climb on, too, but the driver stops me.
"Got money for bus fare?" he growls, blocking the entry. I look for a way around him, but it's no use.
"No, sir, but it's an emergen-"
"I don't care," he yells, "I don't give out free rides! No bus fare, no entry! Got it?"
I desparetely try to catch Ara's eye, but she either doesn't see me or ignores me. Probably the latter.
"Fine," I snarl, trying to sound tough but really, I'm scared to death. If I can't get to her, to tell her all of those ugly words weren't true, she'll kill herself, and I won't be able to live with myself if she does, knowing that it was my fault.
The bus speeds away, spraying exhaust in my face. I choke and cough on the polluted air, but don't stop to catch my breath. I run after the bus. I can't afford to lose it.
|Elle Fanning||as Ara Collins|
|William Miller||as Levi|
|Jane Fonda||as Linda Sue|
|George Clooney||as Joe Brond|