“You’ll see.” He slid his arm around my waist, pulling me closer, and I felt his warm lips on my neck. Right as I turned my head to kiss him, there was a loud whooshing noise and the world suddenly lit up bright all around us. It was blinding at first, and frightening, like a camera flash going off right in my face and turning the world starry. I pulled back from Macon and saw that I was sitting on a thin strip of white concrete, surrounded by DANGER DO NOT ENTER signs, my feet dangling over the edge into the air. Macon grabbed my waist as I leaned forward, still dazed and blinking, to peer over the edge and finally see the water I’d been hearing gushing past a full mile below. It was like opening your eyes and finding yourself suddenly in midair, falling. The dam was groaning, opening, as I twisted in Macon’s arms, suddenly terrified, all the noise and light and the world so far below us.
“Macon,” I said, trying to pull away, back toward the path. “I should—”
But then he pulled me back in, kissing me hard, his hands smoothing my hair, and I closed my eyes to the light, the noise, the water so far below, and I felt it for the first time. That exhilaration, the whooshing feeling of being on the edge and holding, the world spinning madly around me. And I kissed him back hard, letting loose that girl from the early summer and the Grand Canyon. At that moment, suspended and free-falling, I could feel her leaving me.
“Okay, let’s see.... Food cravings.”
“Moodiness,” I said. “Oh, I’ll answer that one. Check.”
“Shut up,” Scarlett said, grabbing the book out of my hands and flopping back in her seat. We were in her car, before first bell; since I’d gotten my license, she let me drive every day. She was eating saltines and juice, the only things she could keep down, while I tried to eat my potato chips quietly and unobtrusively.
“Just wait,” I said, popping another one in my mouth. “The book says morning sickness should end by the beginning of Month Four.”
“Oh, well, isn’t that special,” she snapped. She had been moodier than hell lately. “I swear those chips smell so bad, they’re going to make me puke.”
“Sorry,” I said, rolling down my window and making a big show of holding them outside, my head stuck sideways to eat free and clear of the confines of the car. “You know the doctor said it’s normal to feel sick a lot of the time.”
“I know what she said.” She stuck another saltine in her mouth, swigging some juice to wash it down. “This is just crazy. I’ve never even had heartburn before and now I do, like, all the time, my clothes look terrible on me, I’m sweating constantly for some weird reason and even when I’m starving, everything I look at makes me feel sick. It’s ridiculous.”
“You’ll feel better at Month Five,” I said, picking up the book, which was called So You’re Pregnant-What Now? It was our Bible, consulted constantly, and my job was usually to quote from it to rally and strengthen both of us.
“I wish,” she said in a low voice, turning to glower at me with a face I hadn’t even seen before Month Two, ever, “that you would shut up about Month Four.”
I shut up.
Macon was waiting for me outside my homeroom, leaning against the fire extinguisher. Since my birthday, things had changed between us, almost imperceptibly; everything was a little bit more serious. Now just the sight of him gave me a sense of looking down and finding myself in midair, dangling lost above the world.
“Hey,” he said as I came closer, “where have you been?”
“Arguing with Scarlett,” I said. “She’s so cranky lately.”
“Oh, come on. Cut her some slack. She’s pregnant.” I’d told him the night of my birthday. He was the only one besides my parents, Marion, and us who knew.
“I know. It’s just hard, that’s all.” I stepped a little closer to him, lowering my voice. “And keep quiet about that, okay? She doesn’t want anyone to know yet.”
“I didn’t tell anyone,” he said. Behind me people were crowding into my homeroom, bumping backpacks and elbows against me. “Sheesh, what kind of a jerk do you think I am, anyway?”
“A big one,” I said. He wasn’t laughing. “She just wants to wait until she has to tell people. That’s all.”
“No problem,” he said.
“Faulkner!” someone yelled from behind us. “Get over here, I gotta talk to you.”
“In a second,” Macon yelled back.
“You said you were going to homeroom today,” I reminded him. “Remember?”
“Right. I gotta go.” He kissed me on the forehead, quickly, and started to walk off before I could stop him. “I’ll see you third period.”
“Wait,” I said, but he had vanished in the shifting bodies and voices of the hallway. I only saw the top of his head, the red flash of his shirt, before he was gone. Later, when I was hunting for a pencil in my backpack pocket and found a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, I wondered again how he did so much without my noticing.
Later that morning I was in Commercial Design, the only class I had with Scarlett, looking for some purple paper in the supply room. I heard someone behind me and turned around to see Elizabeth Gunderson shuffling through a stack of orange paper. She’d been slumming since Michael’s death, quitting the cheerleading team, chain-smoking, and taking up with the lead singer for some college band who had a pierced tongue and a goatee. All of her copycat friends were following suit, casting off their J. Crew tweeds for ripped jeans and black clothes, trying to look morose and morbid in their BMWs and Mercedes.
“So, Halley,” she said, moving closer to me, a sheaf of orange tucked under one arm. “I heard you’re going out with Macon Faulkner.”
I glanced out to the classroom, to Scarlett, who was bent over the table, cutting and pasting letters for our alphabet project. “Yeah,” I said, concentrating on the purple paper in my hand, “I guess I am.”
“He’s a nice guy.” She reached across me for some bright red paper. “But just between us, as your friend, I think I should warn you to watch out.”
I looked up at her. Even with her ripped jeans and styled-to-look-stringy hair, Elizabeth Gunderson was still the former head cheerleader, the homecoming queen, the girl with the effortless looks and perfect skin, straight out of Seventeen magazine. She was not like me, not at all. She didn’t even know me.