Jamie glanced at the menu. “I’m starving. I want everything.”
“Co-signed,” Stella said. “Maybe the key shrimp pizza?”
“Treif,” Jamie said, not looking up.
Stella raised an eyebrow. “Gesundheit?”
“It’s not kosher, I mean. No shrimp.”
“Oh,” Stella said. “The Hawaiian pizza, then?”
Jamie shook his head, still looking at the menu. “Nope. Ham.”
“Okay, you’re impossible.”
“Vegetarian and plain cheese. That’s what I can have.”
The waitress returned, and we placed an order for two pies with extra cheese. Before she left, Jamie asked her, “Is there, like, any way to get a cab or anything from here?”
She laughed heartily. We guess that meant no.
“Can’t go back the way you came?”
“Not exactly,” Jamie mumbled.
“How’d you get out here?”
“We came with . . . friends. On a . . . boat. We took a ride out to an island to . . .” He was floundering.
“Camp out under the stars,” Stella said. She was good at this game. It would come in handy.
Charlotte tucked her pencil behind her ear. “That’s romantic.”
“It was supposed to be,” I said, lying smoothly, “but then they stole away in the night with our things.”
“Practical joke,” Stella added.
“Some joke.” Charlotte shook her head. “I’ve got a phone. You can call your parents to come and pick you up, and you’re welcome to stay here until then, as long as you need to. Sodas on the house.”
“That’s the thing—we’re not from here,” Stella said.
“Where are you from?”
“New York,” Jamie said. I raised an eyebrow at him. What was that about?
“Well, you’re a long way from home,” Charlotte said.
She had no idea.
The waitress left us and I thought we might eat each other in the time it took her to bring our order. The three of us reached for the pizzas at once; the slice in my hand was steaming, but I was so hungry, I didn’t care. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d tasted food. I had no memory of eating at all in Horizons, and I didn’t know if it was because the drugs were messing with my memory or because I actually hadn’t eaten at all.
Jamie held a slice in each hand and was looking back and forth between them. “I want to double-fist the shit out of this pizza.”
Stella paused from blowing on her slice. “That’s not going to work out the way you think it will.”
I didn’t even bother blowing on mine. I just took a huge bite, burning my tongue and throat in the process. But that wasn’t what made me gag.
“Mara?” Stella looked worried.
“I’m okay,” I said after I caught my breath. The aftertaste was like cement. “I can’t—I can’t taste it or something? It tastes weird. Doesn’t it taste weird?”
Two pairs of eyes stared at me.
“It doesn’t taste weird to you?”
They shook their heads.
“You should try to eat,” Stella said gently.
“Yeah, you look pretty terrible,” Jamie added, not at all gently.
Stella’s brown eyes were warm. “You’ve been through a lot. More than us, probably.”
Jamie took alternating bites of pizza. “I’m reserving judgment until I hear your story.”
I supposed it was time to tell it.
I looked over my shoulder, eyeing the other people in the pub. There was a woman wearing a fanny pack, and her husband in a golf shirt. A man with a handlebar mustache wearing a Hawaiian shirt sat at the bar, following the fishing channel with an abnormal amount of interest. It didn’t look like anyone was listening to us, but even if they were, no one in their right mind would believe what I was about to say.
I TOLD JAMIE AND STELLA everything, from the Ouija board to the asylum, from Rachel to Jude and Claire. From Mabel’s shitty owner to Morales. Jamie’s brows drew together as the words left my mouth.
And then I told them about Noah. Why he couldn’t be dead.
“Because he can heal,” Jamie said.
“Himself or other people?” Stella asked.
“Both.” I told them about Joseph, and how he’d been taken by Jude and rescued by Noah, and about my father, and how he’d been shot because of me but had survived because of Noah. I didn’t mention the “love him to ruins” thing. That wouldn’t exactly help my case. And it felt too private to share.
“But you’re not saying he could survive a gun to his head, right?” Jamie asked.
Stella elbowed him sharply. “Jamie.”
“I’m not trying to be insensitive—”
“No, you’re not trying,” I said.
“I’m just saying—”
I leaned forward, elbows on the table, hands flat against it. “I know what you’re just saying. I know. But there’s too much we don’t know to just decide that he’s—” I didn’t want to say the word. “Have you guys even seen proof that Horizons collapsed?”
They shook their heads.
“But there was still the fire,” Jaime said.
I clenched my jaw. “He wasn’t there when it happened.”
“Then where is he?”
That was what I was going to find out.
Stella shared her tale of woe next. Once upon a time she was a gymnast and a swimmer. Then puberty hit, and her hips and breasts grew, and when she was sixteen, she stopped eating—because of her coach and her mother, her psychologists said. But they didn’t know about the voices.
To her they sounded like other people’s thoughts. But that was impossible, obviously. She grew more and more panicked, and the voices grew louder and louder in response—keeping her awake at night and distracted during the day. She couldn’t swim or train or eat, but then she noticed something curious. The longer she went without eating, the weaker the voices became. She was down to ninety pounds and losing her hair by the time her father finally overrode her mother (who had insisted Stella was just “watching calories”) and forced Stella to get help. And she got it. After months of therapy and several stints in rehab, her doctors finally seemed to settle on a wonder drug that helped her—until it was suddenly recalled by the FDA. She backslid fast, but Dr. Kells contacted her parents just in time.