- Pages: 272 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Philomel Books
- ISBN: 9780698171435
An Excerpt From
It’s starting again.
There’s a sound like an airplane descending loudly in my ear. I can’t quite place it. The sweat is cold down my back. I feel my heart beat faster. My hands shake.
God, I can’t take it.
If it happens again . . .
I hold my breath, waiting.
The sound fades in and out—high-pitched, whining.
Preston and Jackie don’t seem to notice.
They’re on his bed together, which is really just like a futon on the floor, watching this old Billy Wilder movie.
Preston’s arm is around her, and her arm is around him.
They are tangled together . . . intertwined.
Two separate people joined together into someone new and different, but still the same.
Not that I don’t like Jackie. I mean, she’s great. She’s super great. And super nice.
They both are.
That’s why they let me hang out with them.
Cause, believe me, I bring nothing to the table.
I’m totally what you’d call a charity case.
They let me hang out and watch movies and play video games until finally Preston’ll give me a look like, Yo, me’n my girl need to have some sex right now. And so then I’ll leave.
And go home—back to my family’s little three-bedroom house on the avenues, the opposite of Preston’s palatial mansion up here near the Palace of Legion of Honor. The house is like an old Gothic castle, paid for by the network TV show both his parents were on in the nineties. They played a couple on the show—a pair of married lawyers.
They’re retired and they spend most of their time traveling.
Leaving Preston alone with no one but Olivia, the housekeeper.
And Jackie, of course.
Sometimes I like to think that Preston and Jackie are my parents. Except that Preston is such a big pothead. He has basically his own floor in his parents’ house with a grow room set up in the closet.
I used to smoke, too, before it made me go crazy.
But that was more than two years ago.
I’m sixteen now, and it’s been over a year since my last episode.
Only there’s this shrill, piercing scream coming in and out of auditory focus.
It’s happening again.
Preston picks up his intricately blown glass bong from the carpeted floor in front of him and takes a big hit, exhaling away from me and Jackie—being polite and all.
The thick gray smoke from his lungs smells sweet and pungent, and Preston says, “Goddamn.” And then he coughs.
Jackie looks over at me and rolls her eyes, but in a sweet way.
Her eyes are this intense green color, so if I look into them when I’m talking, I get distracted and lose my train of thought. She has a long, angular nose and is tall and thin with dark black skin. She could be, like, a high-fashion model doing runway shows or whatever. She is lovely. If I weren’t crazy maybe I could have a girl like her.
But it’s not just that.
Preston is . . .
I don’t even know.
He is everything.
And he has everything.
If she’s like a high-fashion model, then he’s like some kinda rock star. He has long hair parted down the middle and a scruffy beard and square jaw. He’s tall and naturally muscular, and it’s just the way he carries himself, like he doesn’t care at all.
He’s been this way ever since I can remember—calm and collected and unconcerned.
Preston and I met back when we were both ten years old going to this summer camp up in Watsonville right after his grandmother died. He used to stay up nights talking to me about her. Preston still makes, like, this big deal about it. I didn’t think I did anything that special, but I guess it meant a lot to him.
We’ve been best friends ever since—even though I didn’t start actually going to school with him until my mom got the job working in the library at Stanyan Hill my seventh grade year. It’s a private school, so otherwise we’d never have been able to afford it. My mom and dad kept talking about how much better an education I’d get at Stanyan, but all I cared about was being able to hang out with Preston.
I watch him on the bed watching the movie. His arm is around Jackie, and he’s resting his head absently on her shoulder. He’s wearing a ripped hoodie over a vintage David Bowie T-shirt, sitting cross-legged, staring at the TV with a stoned innocence—smiling.
Jackie absently strokes his hair and then kisses him on the forehead.
They are so effortless together.
And then there is that noise again—buzzing, screaming—darting in and out.
I look around.
I am sure somehow that this noise is not a real noise at all. This noise is my disease—nothing but corroded synapses and misfiring chemical reactions.
Just when I’d started to think things were getting back to normal again, the medication must’ve stopped working.
The air is thick and greasy-feeling from the pot smoke and the incense and our collective breathing.
I fumble to get a cigarette out of my pack.
“Miles, you all right?” Jackie whispers—staring like she wants to see inside of me to figure out the answer to her question.
I space out into her eyes for a second.
“W . . . what? No. I mean, yeah, I’m fine.”
“Yeah,” I tell her. “Totally.”
But Preston’s room is suddenly hot and claustrophobic-feeling, and the sweat on my skin is itching fucking bad. The shades are drawn and the windows are closed, and the only light is coming from the TV. I’m sitting on the carpeted floor next to Preston’s bed, wanting to scratch my back, my arms, everywhere, but not doing it ’cause Jackie is still trying to figure out if I’m all right.
“You wanna go smoke a cigarette?” she asks me.
I pause, listening for that sound.
And that’s when I see it.
Right there, on Jackie’s bare shoulder, a giant mosquito. I watch as it hovers and lands and then sticks her and she calls out, “Ow, fuck!”
She slaps at her shoulder, squishing the thing against her so it kind of pops, leaving behind some blackish-looking guts and whatever amount of her blood it had managed to extract before getting dead.
“What?” Preston asks her, his voice hoarse. “What is it, baby?”
She wipes the blood and bits of splattered insect away with her hand. “Aw, gross, a mosquito.”
Preston leans over to look. “In here?”
She laughs a little. “Uh, yeah . . . duh.”
She grabs some Kleenex out of a box near the bed and wipes her hand clean, throwing the wadded-up tissue in the small black plastic trash bin.
And that’s when she notices me—smiling big, rocking back and forth.
“What?” she asks, crossing her arms.
“It was a mosquito,” I tell her.
She stares blankly. “And?”
I laugh and shake my head.
She keeps on staring at me.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
I go on and laugh some more.
Because, I mean, that’s the fucking question, isn’t it?
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