Oh, wow, thank you so much!! I’m so ridiculously glad you like it so much :D
also: I’m completely in love with your book. Seriously, one of the...
To thank you guys for being so wonderfully supportive since I announced yesterday that there will be no sequel to ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, here’s a little scene that I think of as taking place about nine months after the end of AOY. I hope you like it!
“Back again?” the barista with the purple streaks in her hair asks me as she takes my order.
“Yeah,” I say, trying to smile. I hand her a couple of bills, and she hands me the bright red sticker with the smiley face for my loyalty card. I stick it to the side of my messenger bag instead, where I’m amassing quite the collection. I never bothered getting a loyalty card. I didn’t plan to spend so much time here.
As I take what is now my customary seat at a corner table by the window, I think to myself that today has to be the day. This can’t go on any longer, or I’m just some cliche from one of the rom-coms Mom makes me watch with her when she’s feeling particularly bad.
I refuse to be a cliche. I refuse to pine.
I will not be Tom Hanks.
I sigh. I really don’t know who I think I’m kidding.
My coffee sits cooling in front of me as I pretend to read my Intro to Sociology text. Really I’m watching the big red door of building down the street. The Spence School for Girls. It took me about ten minutes on the computer to find out where Marina Marchetti enrolled after her mother moved her to New York City last winter and another two weeks to decide to stake out the place. This is my sixth day of surveillance. Each day I’m convinced I’ll approach her, and each time I talk myself out of it in some creative new way, putting it off until tomorrow, and then tomorrow again. But today — I swear — I’ve finally gotten up to the courage to quit being so pathetic and creepy and actually speak to her.
I glance at my phone. Classes will let out any second.
Soon girls in gray skirts and blue sweaters are streaming from the doors of the elegant old building. I scan the faces, looking for the one with chocolate brown eyes and an empty, lost expression. She’s easy to spot, even in the sea of uniforms. She’s one of the few who leaves the school alone instead of in a group, who looks down at the sidewalk as she walks instead of laughing or running. Her long, dark hair — which she used to be so vain about, always making sure it fell around her shoulders just so — is swept back into a pony-tail, and her face is clean and colorless. The Marina I knew before — a word that feels like it should be capitalized, because there’s now and there was Before — was never without her lip-gloss. She seems naked without it.
…but I should definitely not be sitting here thinking of Marina naked. Metaphorically or otherwise.
I stuff my book into my bag and toss my forgotten coffee into the trash. The purple-haired barista waves to me as I leave. “See you tomorrow!” she says.
God I hope not.
Marina’s headed in the direction of Central Park, and I follow her. I stay back a safe distance, making sure to keep other people between us on the sidewalk in case she should look behind her, but she doesn’t seem to notice much of anything. Any moment now I’ll catch up to her and say something, but we walk two blocks and then five and still I hang back watching her.
So, basically, I’ve graduated from pining to full-on stalking.
“What do you want, Finn?”
I hear her voice in my head as clearly as I did the day she snapped those words at me nine months ago. We had just watched James Shaw’s body being lowered into the ground. He was my best friend and hers, but neither of us had any idea why he’d driven to his family’s abandoned house on the Chesapeake and put a gun to his head four days earlier. Marina had never liked me, but she held onto my hand so tightly as the casket dipped below the rim of the earth that my fingers went numb.
Then, less than a minute after arriving at the Shaw house for the wake, Marina turned and walked out. I saw it because my eyes hadn’t left her from the moment she’d entered. I handed my dad my plate of finger sandwiches and went after her. I knew it would only piss her off, but it was like I had no choice. Like there was an invisible string that ran from her to me, and when she walked away, she pulled me along after her.
“What do you want, Finn?” she said after spotting me over her shoulder. She walked straight past her house, next door to James’s, and continued down the street that was choked with cars and dirty gray snow.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Then stop following me.”
I tried to catch up to her, but she just walked faster. She moved like a person driven forward, with fearful momentum, up to her ankles in slush. I caught her arm just before she stepped into the cross street. A car horn wailed as it passed her by mere feet, and she spun, eyes on fire, and hit my chest with a loose fist.
“Leave me alone!” she cried.
“To walk into traffic? Forget it!”
“What do you care? You don’t even like me!”
I grabbed her shoulders and shook her. “Don’t be stupid!”
For some reason, that calmed her. Her fists fell to her sides and her chin dropped to her chest. After I moment, I let her go.
“I’m so furious at him,” she whispered.
“I know,” I said. “Me too.”
Tears clung heavily to the edges of her eyelids when she looked up at me. “I don’t think I can live without him. He’s the only person who really loved me.”
“That’s not true,” I said.
Slowly her head fell forward. I just stood there, unmoving, as it landed on my shoulder and she started to cry. I raised one careful hand, and then the other, to her back, like if I moved too fast I might startle her away. She turned her face into my neck, and I held her close, her breath and tears hot against my cold skin. At some point, I started to cry too.
Ahead of me, Marina crosses 97th Street at a diagonal, a little less reckless around cars than she was the day of the funeral but just barely. With a quick look both ways, I follow her. I swear I’m about to make my move when she suddenly stops walking, staring into a shop window. I look at it too and see my reflection there and her wide eyes looking at me. I freeze, standing in the gutter. She whips around to face me, and for a long moment we just stare at each other.
“What are you doing here?” she says. Her tone is accusatory, like my presence offends her. It’s not exactly the reception I was hoping for from the girl who actually hugged me, her slender hands curling into the fabric of my coat, the day she left DC.
Some insane part of my brain answers I came here for you, but thank God what I actually say is, “I — uh — I go to NYU now.” I can even live with how stupid it sounds, because at least it’s not completely nuts.
She crosses her arms across her chest. “Oh.”
“Is… um…” This is a disaster. I pray for spontaneous human combustion.
“How do you like Spence?”
She looks at me sharply. “Have you been spying on me?”
“You’re wearing the uniform,” I say.
“Oh.” She looks down at herself, like she had forgotten, and touches the gold crest on her sweater with her fingertips. “It’s okay, I guess. Whatever.”
“Right,” I say softly. She still has that After look, just like the one she had the day she moved away, only weeks after James died. “How are you doing?”
I can see her lips twisting to form some sarcastic retort, the kind we used to trade Before when she didn’t like me and we had James to fight over. But then the hard expression melts away, and I’m left looking at a Marina who just seems young and sad.
“Not too good,” she says. “I guess you’re one of the only ones who gets it, aren’t you?”
“I guess so.” I take a step towards her, wondering if our broken edges would match up if we stood really close.
That’s when it happens. She starts to look down at the pavement, but her gaze snags on the messenger bag resting against my side. The world moves in slow motion as I watch the crease form between her eyebrows and I remember — with total, gut-turning horror — the half-dozen red stickers from the coffee shop by Spence that are stuck there. She raises her eyes, which are suddenly wide, to mine, and I know I need to think up some explanation, no matter how far-fetched, but my mind is a blank.
“I…” I say, hoping words will follow, but none do.
Then the weirdest thing happens. She smiles. It’s just a tiny thing, weak and uncertain around the edges of her lips, but I swear it’s there.
“Walk me home?” she says.
“Yeah, okay,” I say. And I smile too, because I suddenly know that everything’s about to change. Tomorrow is finally here.