Authors: Amy Saia
Salt Lake City, Utah
Copyright © 2014 by Amy Saia
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by Steven Novak
Book Design by Marny K. Parkin
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014950455
Printed in the United States of America
“What color am I thinking of?”
My mind filled with a wash of various shades, like an artist’s palette being tipped over and dabbles of paint running into psychedelic threads. One stuck out stronger than the others—an orangey-gold. I was about to say it out loud, but it faded, and another, much more defined color appeared in its place. “It’s like a sea-green, but more bluish. Turquoise.” I turned to William. “Right?”
“Mm-hmm. That’s right. You’re good at colors.”
“But not numbers, which technically should be easier.”
“You’ll learn.” He tapped at his lips with a row of fluttery fingertips.
I frowned at him. “Hey, did you change your mind halfway through or something?”
His mouth twisted before he broke out in raucous laughter.
“You cheat!” I tried to sock him in the arm, but he ducked away in time. “No wonder I was having trouble!”
It took a few minutes before his laughing stopped. He had to catch his breath and compose himself back to his normal, sparkly-eyed William Bennett. My husband. “Okay, it’s my turn. Think of a place. We haven’t done that in a while.”
“Place, like on Earth? Or some other kind of place, like imaginary realms or something?”
“A place that’s
Emma. Don’t give me some Disney world that’s impossible to guess.”
I smiled and closed my eyes. At first I was going to think of something easy, like the hamburger joint down the street from our house, because it would be so obvious I figured he wouldn’t get it—he always tried too hard. But when I heard him make a sound of confirmation, I flipped around through streets and buildings, towns, states, mountains, plains. An image of Springvale seared behind my eyes, and I scrambled hard to erase it. Smells, faces, voices. Jesse’s voice. His beautiful voice singing to me on the way to the eclipse. Oh, God.
The bed shifted, and a pair of hands fished me out of the vision with a gentle shake.
In a faded, yellow Victorian two-story with flower boxes under the windows and wooden lace under the eaves, William and I began our new life together in Penn Peak, Colorado. It turned out to be the perfect place to live. Penn Peak was quiet and unassuming; it asked no questions, and we gave no answers. It was a college town—one reason we chose to live there. But the real reason, the one neither of us said out loud, was if the Seeker cult ever came for us, they’d have to make it through the Rocky Mountains first. Nevertheless, we still found ourselves watching the high peaks with fear and concern. It was the fall of 1980. I was nineteen, William was nineteen-going-on-forty, and we were both
much in love.
“Wake up,” he whispered, kissing each of my fluttering eyelids. “It’s Friday.”
Despite how grumpy I was because of the early hour, I lay there in his arms enjoying every second. “A human calendar, just what I need.” Me being coy.
He chuckled. “I mean, it’s Friday, only one more day of work and school. Then there’ll be no distractions for us. No books, no teachers, no leaving the house.”
“No need to talk,” I reminded, putting a finger against his mouth.
He chuckled again, leaning down to capture my lips in a soft kiss.
I slid my hand up to touch one of the thick black curls which always hung over his forehead, and then with a sigh rolled away from my greatest reason to escape the world. We both sat up in bed.
“They all seem to run together now, don’t they?” I asked.
“Days. Ever since we took on this crazy schedule of work and school, I just can’t seem to keep them straight anymore.”
William’s voice filled with concern. “Just say the word. I don’t mind getting a second job if it means you can stay home.”
I turned to him. “No thanks.”
He sat up, stretched, and reached to grab his morning garb: a sweatshirt and pants. I made a move to get off the bed and was knocked in the head by one of his elbows.
“Permanent objects,” I teased, letting him check the damage.
“Always in my way.” He pursed his lips. “Nearly got you in the eye that time. I’m not used to this whole ‘solid human’ thing.”
“A whole year later, and you still think you’re a ghost. But you’re not.”
We didn’t talk about those days—when he’d lived two decades half-alive, but still existing, breathing, thinking. I came along, not realizing the beautiful young man in the library was a real-life Invisible Man. I helped him escape the cult, though barely. I’d had to escape, too.
William eyed the satin shoulder strap of my nightgown, the one Grandmother Carrie had sent as a wedding gift, and smiled. “Ghost.” He really disliked me calling him that. “Huh.”
Next thing I knew, I was being pushed down into the bed with a mountain of kisses. “Can a ghost do that?” His hands held me down, tickled me, and soon I was laughing.
“Get off! No, no, I admit, a ghost probably can’t do that.” I struggled to get away, even though I wanted to stay with him on the bed. He let go, but only after we’d shared a long kiss that made my heart melt all over.
I sat up, still laughing. A small pain radiated above my left eye. “Oof, actually, you did hit me pretty hard.”
I’m sorry, Emma.
I gave a gentle smile.
It’s okay, William. Really. “
I’ll get the coffee going.”
Most of the time we turned off our ability to read each other’s mind to allow a little privacy. My idea. When we weren’t playing mind games for fun and throwing out little shared messages, a wall would form inside my head, like a blind being lowered. I often sensed he was waiting for me to reveal more of myself to him, that he wanted me to be open all the time—every day, every hour. But doing so left me vulnerable and scared. Maybe someday there would be no blinds, no wall, no cover. But for now, there was.
I yanked a sweater over my head and pulled on a pair of jeans. “Coffee,” I repeated, heading downstairs.
¤ ¤ ¤
Hot liquid dripped down into a chipped glass pot, one droplet after the other, filling a void with swirling black. I stood there lamenting how weak I was to need coffee so bad that I couldn’t wait to fill my jade-colored mug and begin sipping away. Through the bubbling churns of steam I yawned, turning my head in time to see William stroll into the kitchen. Fresh from outside with the morning paper, he passed behind me smelling of crisp air and dying leaves.
“Anything exciting happening in the world today?” I asked.
“Well, let’s see.” He claimed one of our old wooden dinette chairs and unfolded the rectangle of paper to scan its contents for a moment. “In the world, no. In Penn Peak, Colorado, well, there’s a job fair down at the marketplace. Should be some wild times associated with that. Cookies, tea. Hmm. A flower show! Very exciting stuff.” He dropped the paper and leaned back with his hands behind his head. “You always wait for that poor old coffeemaker like it’s going to work faster just by your pure will.”
“It’s on its last leg. I’m not so sure it was even sellable the day we found it in that thrift store.”
“But I needed coffee.”
“Yes, and now we’re stuck with it. Forever?” He asked this with a smile to soften the tease.
“No, not forever. But yes, I do have an emotional attachment to it since we bought it on our honeymoon. Hey, the thing still works. Slowly, yes, but look.” I grabbed the almost quarter-filled pot and emptied every drop into my mug. “Coffee.”
“That’s a beautiful thing, Emma. If only I could have a cup the same time as you.”
“Oh.” He’d gotten me there. It was true, only one cup at a time. Stupid coffeemaker. I loved the old scrap, but Will was right, time to get a new one. Perhaps I could have it bronzed and put on a shelf.
With a smile of apology, I headed to the table with the mug held out. “Here, you can have mine. I’m trying to learn patience, so, you take my coffee, and I’ll wait for the next one, okay?”
He shook his head and stood up. “Nice gesture, but we’re running late.”
I glanced at the clock. A quarter to eight. He was right. “Where does the time go?” I gulped down the hot liquid, then rushed to find my shoes and bag.
“It goes where it always goes, into the past. Gone forever.”
“Well, I don’t like
Gone forever sucks.”
¤ ¤ ¤
The TRS-80 sat reflecting our faces with a black screen and a blinking green cursor. My face was pure concentration, Will’s scrunched up with impatience. Ignoring it, I told him to enter the student ID number from the checkout slip I’d given him.
“How do I get into that screen?” he asked, voice on edge.
“The same way you did before. You type in the code, and then the prompt comes up.”
Will hit a few keys, and a loud beep ensued. “I must have typed it wrong. What’s that code again?”
I had to dig it out of my pocket. My login was Vinylover and his was Hemingwy56. I handed it to him, and he entered the code with chicken pecks of his index fingers.
The TRS-80 beeped pleasantly this time, and the library’s entry screen flashed on. “See? You did it.” I put a hand on his shoulder and gave a nice squeeze. “Welcome to the twentieth century, Will.”
He appeared sick. “What were all those commands you punched in to get us here? I don’t even understand how you started the thing. Emma, I’m in way over my head.” He leaned back and let out a long groan.
“You’re freaking out, is what you’re doing. Relax already. The only reason I understand my way around this hunk of junk is because I had a computer to play with in high school. You grew up in the fifties, for God’s sake.” Will and I both turned to a student who’d passed by. I lowered my voice. “I don’t expect you to understand all this right away. But,” I gave him another squeeze of encouragement, “you’ll get it. I swear you will.”
He lowered his head and nodded, but it didn’t look like he believed a word I’d said.
“All I did was insert the floppy, turn this little latch, and viola, it turned on.”
“Maybe I should just switch jobs and go work in the science lab, or maybe in the automotive shop. I heard they need an extra hand down there.”
My heart sank. It had been too perfect, us getting to work together. But I was happy, so blissfully happy, getting to spend every day of my life next to Will in the college library. True, I woke up tired every day, and sometimes my slowly churned cup of coffee was the only thing I had to help me make it through another long stretch of work and evening classes. But Will didn’t have to find out. And, dammit, I would teach him how to work the stupid TRS-80 if it took me a million years.
“Listen,” I said, “if you go work in the shop, I’ll end up there too. And I’ll be a lot more trouble around a welding torch than you are around a stupid old computer. You’ll get it, Will. I know you will. Here, let’s just enter these checkouts so we can get to returns.”
Someone stepped up to the desk. Will sprinted to help them, more than willing to leave the TRS-80, and me, alone.
I entered the codes and tried not to admit the whole process was faster without him in the way. The numbers flew, and with the finish of each one, I placed the corresponding card into a clear plastic file. Will chuckled about something, and I glanced up to see a female student, eyes in wonder at the gorgeous species called my husband.
I’d never get used to the idea.
“So,” Will said, “that will be two weeks on your books. You can recheck them if you want. Just make sure you have your student ID next time, all right?”
She nodded, mouth set in coy anticipation. “Yeah, sorry about that. Um . . . hey, can I ask you something?”
William flipped through the index of checkout cards, barely listening to her. “Go ahead.”
“Do you like movies?”
Shoving the card into the file and snapping the lid shut, William viewed the student with fresh eyes. I could hear him in my head.
“Sure. I like movies,” he said.
“Well, I was just wondering if you’d ever consider going out with me. Maybe tonight? It is Friday, and there’s a great show at the mall.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s swell of you to ask, but I am already spoken for.”
She laughed at his old-fashioned choice of words. “You mean . . . you’re dating someone?”
“More than that. I’m—”
Here was my cue. I hopped from the computer and took my place at Will’s side. “Married.”
Cool eyes set target on my face.
“Like, in a permanent relationship. Vows and all that. He does, I do. Till death do us part.”
That was a bit much, Emma.
Yeah, I know.
She glanced at our hands, now clutched together.
“Well, anyway,” she said, avoiding my glare to smile at Will. “Maybe you should buy each other some rings, so the world will know.” She grabbed her books.
After we watched her leave through the library doors, I wiggled my fingers free in sudden guilt. “I wish we could afford rings.”
“Believe me, I get it.” William sounded frustrated. He grabbed and stacked returns with a little too much force.
I watched him work, taken aback by the first signs of his reaction to our financial situation. The money Je—oh God, I still couldn’t say his name—the money
left had only been enough to pay for a house and tuition. We were both grateful for it, but being stripped to the bone meant every penny we earned disappeared into things like utilities and food. I guess Will thought about our finances more than he let on. It meant he was mentally blocking things, and I wasn’t the only one with secrets.
“Just don’t be so cute or something,” I teased, running a hand up his back. “I mean, we wouldn’t have this problem if you weren’t so darn irresistible.”
“That’s ridiculous, Emma.” He turned with a cocky upturn of his left eyebrow.
You really think I’m cute?
We had a rule. Never show affection at work. But it was a stupid rule, so stupid and wrong, wrong . . .
Yes, you’re cute. Don’t pretend you don’t know.
His lips touched mine, and I could barely keep from melting.
Behind us a finger tapped an impatient rhythm on the returns counter. A hard stare was there to greet us, cold gray under a sheath of snow-white hair. Mr. Haskell, professional librarian. “Ahem, you two. I need a volunteer to help tidy the reference shelves. So if you’re not too busy . . .”
William held me one second longer, and I savored the sweet thud of his heart against mine. Then he let go. He left me. “I can do it, Mr. Haskell. Emma loves working on the computer and, quite frankly, I’d hate to deprive her of that opportunity.”
I love you.
¤ ¤ ¤
Ms. Jacomber, a forty-something redhead about six feet tall (but who was counting?) was William’s American Lit professor. Each day when we stood outside his classroom on the south side of campus, I noticed something strange about her. It was the way she stared at Will. With longing, or maybe it was lust. It really made the green-eyed monster in me come out. William said not to worry about it, but I couldn’t help think she wanted something—something more than a well-written report.
Today she had the same stare, leather briefcase in hand, as he and I came around the corner. Impatient, she opened the classroom door and ushered her students inside. “A few months in, and everyone’s arriving later and later. I think that’s the reverse of progress, am I not correct? Oh, I do understand it’s still crisp and beautiful outside, and the days are only getting shorter.” She glanced at me with a critical eye, but she spoke to Will with a nod of the head and a softening of the voice. “Coming, Bennett?”
“I’d better go,” I said. “I’ll be late for art class.”
“Not so fast,” Will said. He pulled me back, and an electric sizzle zapped through our skin, something we hadn’t felt since the eclipse. We both jumped. “I thought those were gone,” he said, shaking out his hand in pain.