fifteen

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On Sunday, Justin and I drove up to Lowell's Cemetery. I tried not to think about Nora or any other girl. Right then, it was just him and me.

Justin collected handfuls of blue-and-white lupines as we wandered through the maze of gravestones. I waited for him to give me the bouquet, but instead, he stopped in the middle of our walk and hurled them onto the sunken roof of a squat mausoleum.

"Why'd you tell them, Ari?" His voice was low, like a warning growl of a mountain lion. "Why'd you tell Nora and Zoe about us?"

His fury sucked the excuses right out of my brain. "I ... I don't know."

Damn Zoe and her big mouth. She'd probably speed-dialed Justin the second I'd left her house. For the tenth time, I cursed myself for saying anything to anyone.

I reached for Justin's hand, which hung like an anchor at his side. "I couldn't keep the good news to myself," I told him.

His dark eyes turned cold. Glacier cold. "I asked you not to tell them."

"It's not that big of a deal," I said. "We're all friends. They should be happy for us. It had to come out sometime, right?" Whatever logic I tried to summon froze under his glare.

"You're wrong." Justin's words were like a snap of a dog and I pulled back. "Did you consider what I wanted, Ari? Or were you incapable of thinking of anyone but yourself? Did you consider, for one second, what this might do to the League?"

"It doesn't bother anyone but Nora," I said defiantly, "and for all the wrong reasons."

Justin leaned against a tombstone. His fingers dangled over the etched design of a winged skull. A century of wind, rain, and snow had erased the person's name from the moss-covered slab.

"What do you mean?" he finally asked.

Was it possible that he didn't know about Nora? And if not, was it smart for me to tell him?

"What do you mean?" he repeated, slower this time.

I stirred a pile of leaves with my foot, avoiding his eyes. "I think she has a crush on you."

"Bullshit." He swung his boot over the dirt. A rock shot out, chipping a tiny gravestone. "Nora and I have nothing in common. You don't have to be jealous."

"I'm not," I said. "She's the one acting weird about the whole thing."

I waited for him to say something. He didn't.

"I'm sorry," I said, though I wasn't really clear why I should be. "Nora seemed really upset," I added.

"Don't worry about her. I'll smooth things over."

He moved toward me. Too close. I stiffened, closing my eyes out of instinct. I almost fell over when his lips made contact with my eyelid. I snapped them open.

"I guess it's not the end of the world," he said, his mouth parting into a smile. "You're right. It had to come out sometime."

His anger had evaporated as quickly as it had come, leaving my mind in free fall.

He started walking, his long legs carrying him twice as fast as me. "This place makes me feel like nothing in the world can touch me," he said. Our conversation seemed to fade like the names in the graveyard.

I tried to change gears, too, but it wasn't so easy. "Not even me?"

He slowed down, giving me a chance to catch up. "Present company excluded." He kneeled down in front of a tombstone and yanked out a weed that obscured a quote: ONE WHO WALKS IN ANOTHER'S TRACKS LEAVES NO FOOTPRINTS—PROVERB.

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