The next day I waited.
I waited in my room, in the dark, for the sun to come up. I waited for homemade waffles for breakfast. I waited while David claimed his leg hurt, limping to the front door, and Dad said, “David, no one has time for this. Please stop acting like your leg is going to fall off and go wait for the bus. I need to take Meggie to school.”
“Everything’s always about Megan,” David said, then glared at me and slammed the front door as he left.
At school, I waited while Dad checked my car to make sure it was running okay.
“It’s fine,” he said, and I waited while he hugged me goodbye and drove off.
In school, I waited for every class to end. I drew squares and circles in my notebook. I took a test in French, leaving blank spaces for my answers and flipping the paper over instead. I drew a map of the school, the cafeteria at the center with four enclosed hallways branching off at each corner, one outside hallway connecting them all. A square within a square, I thought, and drew in all the doors. I knew where every exit was.
I erased the map before I turned the test in.
On the drive home I waited to float up out of my body or for Walter or Carl or Sandra or Henry to show up in the passenger seat.
At home, I ate fish-shaped cheese crackers while lying on the kitchen floor. From where I was, the happy ducks on Mom’s dish towels were upside down, their dancing feet looking more like they were flailing, trying to find somewhere to land.
When I got tired of looking at them I sat at the kitchen table and waited for David to come home. I left the kitchen when he came in. We didn’t say anything to each other. I’d waited for that too.
At night, David ran into the bathroom just when I was getting ready to go in and brush my teeth, laughing as he locked the door.
I opened it—the door only had a button lock, and it would pop if you pushed the handle down hard enough.
He glared at me when I walked in. I ignored him and picked up my toothbrush.
“Give me the toothpaste,” I said.
“No. I’m using it.” He was loud, and we both heard Mom get up, heard her footsteps on the stairs.
He grinned at me, all teeth, and then yelled, “Ow! Meggie, don’t hit me!”
I stared at him, at his open mouth, his angry eyes, and then leaned toward him, putting my free hand on the back of his neck. I could see both of us in the mirror over the sink.
“Shut up,” I said quietly, not moving, but what I really wanted to do was smash his face into the sink, have Mom walk in and see me doing it, see my face as it looked right now.
David stared at me in the mirror, his eyes wide and afraid, and then broke away from me and ran out of the room, his toothbrush and the toothpaste hitting the floor.
“David Jacob,” I heard Mom say out in the hallway, and then, “David, come back here!”
“What happened?” she said to me, coming into the bathroom. “Did you two fight?”
I shrugged and she turned away, went into David’s room. I could hear him crying when she opened his door.
She came back into the bathroom when I was rinsing my mouth out. “He says you told him to shut up.”
I spit into the sink and waited. Now something would happen. I knew David would tell Mom what I’d done.
I knew he’d tell her what he’d seen when he looked at me.
“Meggie, I know he wants attention and that it can be hard, but no matter how much he tries to upset you, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t . . . you shouldn’t say things like ‘shut up.’ It’s just not nice.”
I stared at her in the mirror. She was fiddling with the ends of my hair, tucking them under so the lengths matched. “We should drive up to Derrytown and get your hair trimmed. Would you like that?”
She didn’t look at me as she said it, and I knew she wasn’t going to say anything else. She knew something had happened, that David had seen something in me, something messed up, broken, and she didn’t want to know what it was. She didn’t want to see it.
She wouldn’t see it.
I had to get away from her then. I put my toothbrush down and moved past her, walking downstairs. I yanked open the front door, the night air warm on my face.
“Sweetie,” she said, running after me, and for a second I felt something hopeful flare inside me. I turned toward her.
“Here,” she said, and handed me my sneakers and a pair of socks. “You can’t go out barefoot. And don’t come home too late, okay? You know how your father worries.”
That was it. That was all she said. It was night, I was going running again, and she—I yanked the shoes away from her and left.
I ran. I put on my shoes in the driveway and then flew down it. The trees were nothing to me now, just dark shadows, and what was a shadow?
Nothing; it was nothing and I’d known my parents wanted the crash to have left me whole, wanted to believe I was fine. That it had even somehow made me special.
I’d never thought that if they knew something was definitely wrong with me, in me, they’d pretend it away.
But that’s what had happened. What was happening.
I ran all the way to the center of town and then out past it, pushing one hand against my side to try and stop the stitch that had formed there.
It didn’t work and I ended up having to stop, panting. My side hurt bad, and my lungs felt like they were on fire. Reardon didn’t have much in the way of streetlights, and there were only faint pools of light coming from people’s houses, tiny half-moons on their lawns that didn’t quite reach me. I kept waiting for the dark to bother me, for the sound of the wind blowing softly through the trees to break me.
It didn’t happen. I liked being in the dark. I liked not being seen. I walked and walked, ended up on the edge of the road that circled around town, running from the hills behind Reardon Logging’s offices into town and then back up into the hills on the other side, leading to the Park Service offices. And the airport.
I kicked at some loose gravel on the side of the road, and then moved to avoid a truck coming around the corner. It was Mr. Reynolds’s. I could tell just by the sound. When he got a job driving tractor trailers, the first thing he did was buy a new truck and fiddle with the muffler so that every time he turned the engine over you could hear it all the way down the street. Supposedly he spent a lot of time driving by his ex-wife’s boyfriend’s place for a while.
After he passed, I started jogging back toward town. Mr. Reynolds must have been to see Beth because he only ever did two things when he was home. He either sat in his house and drank, or he drove up to Beth’s grave and drank. Her grave was in the town cemetery, which was up the road from where I was when the truck had passed me.
It was like death was everywhere I went. I shivered and stopped jogging. I wasn’t even back in town yet, but I just—I didn’t feel like going anywhere. I was standing in what everyone called the fire zone, a gap that circled Reardon, serving as a buffer between the town and the forest. Reardon had been built that way because the settlers that first came here were from another logging community, and they’d lost everything when a fire set to clear some of the forest ended up destroying their town. It had been called Reardon too.
I would have sat down, but the road out here was just gravel and there was no grass beside it, nothing but dirt and prickly weeds. It was a nowhere place and I liked that, stood there because it felt like it was where I belonged.