The Raven Boys(4)

By: Maggie Stiefvater

“It’s an all-boys school. For politicians’ sons and oil barons’ sons and for” — Blue struggled the think of who else might be rich enough to send their kids to Aglionby — “the sons of mistresses living off hush money.”

Neeve raised an eyebrow without looking up.

“No, really, they’re awful,” Blue said. April was a bad time for the Aglionby boys; as it warmed up, the convertibles appeared, bearing boys in shorts so tacky that only the rich would dare to wear them. During the school week, they all wore the Aglionby uniform: khaki pants and a V-neck sweater with a raven emblem. It was an easy way to identify the advancing army. Raven boys.

Blue continued. “They think they’re better than us and that we’re all falling all over ourselves for them, and they drink themselves senseless every weekend and spray paint the Henrietta exit sign.”

Aglionby Academy was the number one reason Blue had developed her two rules: One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble. And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.

“You seem like a very sensible teen,” Neeve said, which annoyed Blue, because she already knew she was a very sensible teen. When you had as little money as the Sargents did, sensibility in all matters was ingrained young.

In the ambient light from the nearly full moon, Blue caught sight of what Neeve had drawn in the dirt. She asked, “What is that? Mom drew that.”

“Did she?” Neeve asked. They studied the pattern. It was three curving, intersecting lines, making a long sort of triangle. “Did she say what it was?”

“She was drawing it on the shower door. I didn’t ask.”

“I dreamt it,” Neeve said, in a flat voice that sent an unpleasant shudder along the back of Blue’s neck. “I wanted to see what it looked like drawn out.” She rubbed her palm through the pattern, then abruptly held up a beautiful hand.

She said, “I think they’re coming.”

This was why Blue and Neeve were here. Every year, Maura sat on the wall, knees pulled up to her chin, staring at nothing, and recited names to Blue. To Blue, the churchyard remained empty, but to Maura, it was full of the dead. Not the currently dead, but the spirits of those who would die in the next twelve months. For Blue, it had always been like hearing one half of a conversation. Sometimes her mother would recognize the spirits, but often she would have to lean forward to ask them their names. Maura had once explained that if Blue wasn’t there, she couldn’t convince them to answer her — the dead couldn’t see Maura without Blue’s presence.

Blue never grew tired of feeling particularly needed, but sometimes she wished needed felt less like a synonym for useful.

The church watch was critical for one of Maura’s most unusual services. So long as clients lived in the area, she guaranteed to let them know if they or a local loved one was bound to die in the next twelve months. Who wouldn’t pay for that? Well, the true answer was: most of the world, as most people didn’t believe in psychics.

“Can you see anything?” Blue asked. She gave her numb hands a bracing rub before snatching up a notebook and pen from the wall.

Neeve was very still. “Something just touched my hair.”

Again, a shiver thrilled up Blue’s arms. “One of them?”

In a husky voice, Neeve said, “The future dead have to follow the corpse road through the gate. This is probably another … spirit called by your energy. I didn’t realize what an effect you would have.”

Maura had never mentioned other dead people being attracted by Blue. Perhaps she hadn’t wanted to scare her. Or maybe Maura just hadn’t seen them — maybe she was as blind to these other spirits as Blue was.

Blue became uncomfortably aware of the slightest breeze touching her face, lifting Neeve’s curly hair. Invisible, orderly spirits of not yet truly dead people were one thing. Ghosts that weren’t compelled to stay on the path were another.

“Are they —” Blue started.

“Who are you? Robert Neuhmann,” Neeve interrupted. “What’s your name? Ruth Vert. What’s your name? Frances Powell.”

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