The Rising(10)

One of the figures walking alongside the gurney was a woman with long hair the same color as his and he wanted to tell her how pretty she was. But a dark figure standing at the head of the hall leading to the emergency room’s exam area claimed his attention before he could grope for the words. The figure was crazy tall and ridiculously thin, draped in black everywhere except his flesh, which was sallow and sickly pale. A patient, surely, the pallor of his skin due perhaps to the effects of chemotherapy or treatment for some other lingering disease.

The gurney squeaked against the tile and spun round the corner at the head of the hall, seeming to pass straight through the tall man. Alex tried to raise his head to see if he was still standing there, forgetting all about the headboard strapping him in place. That point of the hallway came into view again when they turned the gurney toward an empty examination room and eased Alex toward it.

But the tall man was gone.



“YOU DON’T HAVE TO stay,” Cara said in the hospital waiting room.

Sam kept the biology textbook cradled in her lap. “I want to.”

She felt Cara reach over and squeeze her arm.

“You’re a good friend, Sam, I don’t deserve you.”

You don’t deserve Alex, either.

“What was that?”


“I thought you said something.”

Sam shuffled her legs and tucked the textbook under her arm. “Nah. Just clearing my throat.”

“’Cause the thing is, I feel really bad.”

Sam hoped Cara was going to tell her to forget about supplying answers for the science exam still tucked inside her backpack, that it had been a mistake and she should shred the pages, burn them, maybe.

“I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be dating Alex,” Cara said instead.


Cara gazed about the hospital waiting room, as if to make sure nobody had heard the exchange. “Shhhhhh! And don’t you say a word. Swear you won’t say a word. I haven’t decided yet,” Cara said.

“What do you mean you haven’t decided?”

“You know Ian Sandler, right?” Cara asked.

Ian had graduated the year before them. Sam wasn’t sure what he was doing now.

“What about him?” she asked Cara.

“His dad has an in with the Warriors.”

“With who?”

“The Golden State Warriors. You know, local pro basketball team.”

“No, I don’t. You’re kidding, right?”

“Kidding about watching my dream come true? No way, girl. Hey, we’re seniors now and things change. Alex is going off to do his thing and I’ve got to do mine.” Then, after a pause, “You’ll see.”

“What’s that mean?”

“You know.”

“I do?”

Cara frowned, as if it were obvious. “Things will get better. As soon as you get to college. High school’s not worth the stuff that gets stuck to the bottom of my boots. That’s why Ian’s so important to me.”

“You mean his dad is.”

Cara rolled her eyes. “Whatever, girl, whatever.” Her stare tightened. “So can you keep it secret?”

“Haven’t I always kept your secrets?”

“I thought it might be different with Alex.”


“You know.”

“There you go again telling me what I know.”

“Well, I know you’re crushing mad on the boy. I can see it every time you look at him. Hey, I don’t blame you. All those tutoring sessions, all those hours spent looking at him. How can you help yourself? The kid’s totally gorgeous.”

“Not gorgeous enough, apparently.”

Cara shook her head, as if Sam were just a dumb kid who didn’t understand. “Grow up, girl. Graduation is all about change. I’m just starting the process earlier.”

“With Ian.”

“And the Warriors, maybe; yeah, you bet.” Cara drew a little closer. “And look at the bright side.”


“You know.”

“Again telling me what I know?”

“Yeah, that you’d like Alex to ask you out. And once I tell him we’re done, he’ll be able to.”

Sam looked down. “He doesn’t look at me that way. I’m just his tutor.”

“How do you know how he looks at you?”

“Because I keep him looking down at his books, that’s how.”


Sam could tell Cara knew she was lying, at least not telling all of the truth. She’d had crushes since she’d been around eight and had never acted on a single one of them. Preferred instead to stare wantonly and longingly at her chosen object of desire, secure in the notion that the relationship would stretch no further.

And here she was a senior in high school and she’d never had a boyfriend, not even close.

Unless you counted Phillip Steeg and you couldn’t really count Phillip Steeg because their date had consisted of eating cookies in his tree house when they were both twelve years old. He’d leaned over to kiss her and ended up slicing her lip with his braces. Sam kissed him back anyway, following the taut look in his eyes as he pulled away.

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