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Lucy heard Gus coming up the stairs that connected her room in the attic to the third floor, where his was, and knew she’d overslept. Again. Her mother thought she did it on purpose, as if she sat around twenty-four hours a day thinking up Ways to Piss Off Mom. The truth was simple: she stayed up too late. All the time.
She scrambled out of bed, and by the time Gus came in had on school khakis and sneakers plus the sweatshirt she’d slept in. “Give me two minutes.” She dug through a pile in her walk-in closet, in search of a sweater. Or maybe not a sweater. Maybe a polo. “What’s it like out?”
Gus went to one of the little windows under the eaves and squeakily twisted open the blind. “It looks…beige.”
Sweater. Lucy finished dressing in the closet, grabbed her book bag and a hair clip, and followed
Gus downstairs. She kept him between her and her mother, who stood waiting in the hall, in the exact
spot recently occupied by Temnikova’s body on a gurney. Lucy almost said something about it: They
covered her face. The wheels got caught on the hallway table. I had to move it a little to the left,
But her mother already had her hand on the doorknob; no time to acknowledge death. “I’m not even going to say it, Lucy.”
“You could leave without me, you know.”
“Sure. Then you could skip school entirely.”
Her mother walked out, and Lucy said to Gus, “When we get in the car, ask if we can stop for
You ask her.”
It was one thing to live on an average of four hours of sleep a connight; quite another to do it without caffeine. She’d have to make a dash for CC’s - the closest coffee shop to school - after her mom dropped her off.
Outside the house a gust of wind blew up the hill, carrying the smell of some bacony breakfast cooking nearby - maybe at one of the restaurants on Union Street. Last year she and Allison would sometimes have their tutoring sessions at Rose’s or Ella’s; Rose’s for the smoked-salmon breakfast pizza, Ella’s for the chicken hash.
Lucy’s stomach growled. Chalk one up in the “pro” column for being a semi-famous pianist: leisurely breakfasts. After a few years off of a normal school schedule, and only recently back on, she didn’t get why first period had to be so early.
Gus sat in the front seat, and Lucy brushed her hair and put it back in the clip.

At the junction at the bottom of the hill, she allowed herself one red light’s worth of guilt. Being late so often actually was kind of rude, she knew that. But she had to be careful with guilt. Once she went off that edge, the downwards slide might never stop.
It would start with feeling bad for being the kind of person who made people wait and for not showing her mom more basic courtesy. That would lead to guilt over not being grateful for the life she had and for not making good use of her privilege. Grandpa Beck had a lot to say about Making Good Use of Privilege; it was the family religion. Then there was what happened in Prague after all that time and money spent. Or invested. Thrown away? However you wanted to put it.
Time and money her parents would never get back. That Lucy would never get back. Time, that was the main thing. Years of it.
Aka: her childhood. Gone.
But what was the point of going there? Nothing could be done about it. Except maybe for Gus, who now bore the sole responsibility for achieving something really special in the family name. All that pressure, a weight they used to share, was his alone, thanks to her. Which brought her back to…
So she tried to stop herself at mild remorse over hitting the snooze button a few too many times. When they pulled up to Gus’s school, the other kids were already going inside.
“Hurry,” their mother said. “I’m sorry Lucy couldn’t be on time.”
Lucy leaned her head on the seat back and sighed.

Speare Academy was generally known to be the second-best private high school in San                                                                                                                                   Francisco, where you went if you came from a family that could afford it, and if you couldn’t get into Parker Day, which only had like eighty spots.
Other than having to be somewhere so early in the morning, Lucy liked it. She’d gone there for the
last quarter of sophomore year, which involved a lot of time in the library, doing independent study to
catch up with her classmates, the majority of whom she still didn’t really know. She had her best
friend, Reyna, and sometimes Carson Lin, and that was fine by her; being part of huge groups was
never her thing.
This year what she most loved about Speare was Mr. Charles.
Today he wore the shirt-and-tie combination she especially liked. The shirt: your basic Brooks Brothers pinstripe, blue. The tie: silver, with tiny purple shapes that she’d once stared at long enough to believe were otters. He also had some good stubble going on, blond and darker blond.
They stood together at the front of the classroom, the rest of the class already in critique groups. In a whisper she told him the story of Temnikova dying in her arms, how it had upset Gus, the family in shock. And that’s why she was late.
But her coffee cup from CC’s told the real truth.
The pleasant flow of caffeine working through her system, the sharpening of her mind that came with it, the comfort of the warm cup in her hand - it all left her suddenly as she realized Mr. Charles was over it. This being-late thing.
At the start of term, he’d been patient. He understood that the school routine was relatively new to
her, and that she was used to functioning independently, more like an adult. Plus she’d been teacher’s
pet since the first week of school, when he’d taught some obscure Dylan Thomas poem no one got,
and Lucy had made a comment she could not now remember and he’d walked over to her desk to hand

her  his  personal  copy  of  the  Thomas  book.   “In  thanks  for  saving  this  hour  from  complete pointlessness,” he’d said.
After that she started hanging around his room an extra minute or two after class and, once in a while, at lunch. Working with Bennett and Allison and Marnie had made her see teachers less like extra parents and more like older, smarter friends, and that’s how she treated Mr. Charles.
It had become a crush. And she could be the tiniest bit obsessive about him. He didn’t seem to mind; the gift of the Thomas book proved he thought she was special.
She also knew that she’d been taking advantage of that.
“I’m sorry for your family’s loss,” he said. “And I know you’re still adjusting to the schedule. But Lucy, this…no more, okay?”
“I’m sorry.” She ran her thumb around the sharp under-edge of the coffee lid. “I’m working on it.”
     “Really?” He sounded sceptical, and gestured with his head for her to follow him out into the hall and its ever-present smell of floor wax.
Lucy caught a glimpse of herself in the glass door of the classroom across the hall. Coffee cup, Italian leather messenger bag, sunglasses she didn’t need in this weather atop her head. Entitled brat. Words her grandfather had used to describe her, just one day after the moment in the elevator when he’d expressed his pride.
“I’m sorry,” she said again.
“What’s the deal?” he asked. “I mean it. Teachers are trained to worry that this kind of stuff is a symptom of drug use or major problems at home. But I know you better than that. You’re not doing drugs. You’re not drinking. Your problems at home are normal, even if they don’t always feel like it. I know you like school, and I know you like my class especially.”
“I do.”
“So be on time.”
“I will.” She couldn’t stand how disappointed he was. She wanted their usual friendly talk. “What are those things on your tie, anyway?”
“What?” He glanced down, picked up the end of his tie, then dropped it. “I had to put my dog to
sleep last weekend, Lucy. She was fourteen. My dad got her for me as a high school graduation
present. She lived with me in Boston, all through college. She rode across the country in the
passenger seat of my car. And I’m on time.” He didn’t sound angry. More like Cry.leg he was about to
cry. “Okay?”
Miserable, Lucy nodded, finding a sliver of comfort in the fact that he’d confided in her about the dog. She could only repeat, “I’m sorry. About your dog, and…” She stared at her shoes. Custom saddle oxfords her mom had bought for her sixteenth birthday. She didn’t know how much they’d cost, but one time a computer file with the teachers’ salaries got leaked among students, and she had a feeling Mr. Charles wouldn’t be able to afford these shoes. She could at least be on time.
“We’re still friends,” Mr. Charles said. “But I know you can do better.”
Still friends. The words restored her a little. But she hated that she had to add him to the list of people she’d let down.

She met Reyna at their usual spot for lunch - a small, round cafe table in the second-floor lounge, far
from the cafeteria. If Reyna made other friends during the time Lucy had private tutors, they weren’t

close friends, because she seemed to have dumped them all upon Lucy’s return. It was always either only the two of them at their table, or them plus Carson if he was tired of his guy friends. Today they had their privacy.
“Here’s the latest divorce newsflash,” Reyna said. “One of my dad’s girlfriends or whatever was
- wait for it—”
Lucy slid down in her chair. “I’m scared to know.”
Reyna’s parents were in the midst of an epically brutal divorce involving adultery and hiding
money and people basically at their worst. Also a house in Pacific Heights, a cottage in Stinson
Beach, and Reyna’s little sister, Abigail. To add to the awkwardness, Reyna’s dad was Lucy’s
“You should be scared. Soon-Yi Pak’s mom.”
“Oh. God.” Soon-Yi was a sophomore and a tennis star, sweet but kind of boring off the court. “How did they meet?”
“How do you think? Have you seen Soon-Yi’s teeth? Here.” Reyna passed Lucy half the turkey wrap they were sharing.
“Speaking of teeth,” Lucy said, “I have an appointment with your dad next Saturday. I’ll come over after.” Dr. Bauman’s office was in the lower level of Reyna’s house, which added yet another complication to the divorce.
“You’re still seeing him?” Reyna made a face and pushed her half of the wrap away. “Only a few more times. Then I’m officially finished with the retainer.”
Then Lucy told her about Temnikova. She made it into a story, because if she thought too hard about the idea of death, as in not being alive, as in being done, she might lose it. So she lingered on the CPR details Reyna would appreciate. “Mouth. To. Mouth.”
Reyna shuddered. “Ew. I can’t believe you came to school today. That seems like a totally believable reason for skipping.”
“Because staying home is so much fun?”
“Yeah, maybe not. You guys need to move out of your grandfather’s house.”
“Never going to happen,” Lucy said. “And anyway, it’s half my mom’s, too.” She finished her food and ran her tongue over her teeth, checking for lettuce. She pictured the back of her mother’s head in the car that mornin Cr t and g. Blonde chignon. No stray hairs allowed. Competent and in charge; someone who would have executed CPR perfectly. Temnikova wouldn’t have dared die. “I think my mom blames me for not being able to resurrect Temnikova.”
“Your mom has issues.”
“Understatement,” Lucy said. They’d never been the “best friends” kind of mother and daughter, but the last year, especially, had been…tense.
“Well, it’s better than living with a cheater and embezzler.” “At least your dad smiles more than once a week.”
“He’s an orthodontist.” Reyna squashed what was left of her lunch into a ball. “That’s not a smile. That’s advertising.”

After school Lucy fast-walked back to CC’s and got coffee for her and a piece of chocolate-chip
pumpkin bread for Mr. Charles. She wanted to talk to him one more time, to be double sure he wasn’t
mad. In the CC’s bathroom, she redid her hair clip and tried to see herself through Mr. Charles’s eyes.

He liked her. She knew he did. But how did he see her? Older than sixteen, the way the paramedic had? The way practically everyone in the music world had? Which…not that it mattered. As long as he didn’t lump her in with all the other students.
She wrinkled her nose at her reflection, and against the overpowering lemonesque smell of the bathroom’s plug-in air freshener.
So what.
Crushing on a teacher. Sort of pathetic.
When she returned to his room, he wasn’t even there. The lights were out. She tried the door; it was still unlocked. What an eerie, dead thing an empty classroom was. Lucy quickly found a Post-it on Mr. Charles’s desk and jotted:
Good morning. I bet you this pumpkin bread I’m on time today.
- Lucy
She stuck the note to the bread and put it in his in tray.

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