The Raven Boys(6)

By: Maggie Stiefvater

“Gansey,” he said. Though his voice was quiet, it wasn’t a whisper. It was a real voice spoken from someplace almost too far away to hear.

Blue couldn’t stop staring at his mussed hair, the suggestion of staring eyes, the raven on his sweater. His shoulders were soaked, she saw, and the rest of his clothing rain spattered, from a storm that hadn’t happened yet. This close, she could smell something minty that she wasn’t sure was unique to him or unique to spirits.

He was so real. When it finally happened, when she finally saw him, it didn’t feel like magic at all. It felt like looking into the grave and seeing it look back at her.

“Is that all?” she whispered.

Gansey closed his eyes. “That’s all there is.”

He fell to his knees — a soundless gesture for a boy with no real body. One hand splayed in the dirt, fingers pressed to the ground. Blue saw the blackness of the church more clearly than the curved shape of his shoulder.

“Neeve,” Blue said. “Neeve, he’s — dying.”

Neeve had come to stand just behind her. She replied, “Not yet.”

Gansey was nearly gone now, fading into the church, or the church fading into him.

Blue’s voice was breathier than she would have liked. “Why — why can I see him?”

Neeve glanced over her shoulder, either because there were more spirits coming or because there weren’t — Blue couldn’t tell. By the time she looked back, Gansey had vanished entirely. Already Blue felt warmth returning to her skin, but something behind her lungs felt icy. A dangerous, sucking sadness seemed to be opening up inside her: grief or regret.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love,” Neeve said, “or you killed him.”

It’s me,” said Gansey.

He turned around so that he was facing his car. The Camaro’s bright orange hood was up, more as a symbol of defeat than for any practical use. Adam, friend of cars everywhere, might have been able to determine what was wrong with it this time, but Gansey certainly couldn’t. He’d managed to roll to a stop about four feet off the interstate and now the car’s fat tires sat off-kilter on top of lumpy tufts of valley grass. A semitruck roared by without pause; the Camaro rocked in its wake.

On the other end of the phone, his roommate Ronan Lynch replied, “You missed World Hist. I thought you were dead in a ditch.”

Gansey flipped his wrist around to examine his watch. He had missed a lot more than World History. It was eleven o’clock, and already the chilliness of last night seemed improbable. A gnat was stuck in the perspiration on his skin next to the watch-band; he flicked it off. Gansey had camped, once, when he was younger. It had involved tents. Sleeping bags. An idling Range Rover parked nearby for when he and his father lost interest. As an experience, it had not been anything like last night.

He asked, “Did you get notes for me?”

“No,” Ronan replied. “I thought you were dead in a ditch.”

Gansey blew grit off his lips and readjusted the phone against his cheek. He would’ve gotten notes for Ronan. “The Pig stopped. Come get me.”

A sedan slowed as it passed, the occupants staring out the window. Gansey was not an unpleasant-looking boy and the Camaro was not too hard on the eyes, either, but this attention had less to do with comeliness and more to do with the novelty of an Aglionby boy broken down by the side of the road in an impudently orange car. Gansey was well aware that there was nothing little Henrietta, Virginia, preferred over seeing humiliating things happen to Aglionby boys, unless it was seeing humiliating things happen to their families.

Ronan said, “Come on, man.”

“It’s not like you’re going to class. You know what, it’ll be lunch break anyway.” Then he added, perfunctory, “Please.”

Ronan was silent for a long moment. He was good at silence; he knew it made people uncomfortable. But Gansey was immune from long exposure. He leaned into the car to see if he had any food in the glove box while he waited for Ronan to speak. Next to an EpiPen, there was a stick of beef jerky, but the jerky had expired two years ago. Possibly it had been there when he’d bought the car.

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