parents are both dead, and my dad doesn’t talk to his parents at al , and they only ever mention where they’re from once in a while.

Tess used to love to look at pictures of them from back when they first started dating, and even before, from when they were in high school together. She asked al sorts of questions that neither of my parents ever real y answered. It’s like they didn’t exist until they met each other and moved here.

Tess used to say our parents had secrets, and lots of them, but that was back when she was stressing out over going to col ege, and had also stopped talking to her best friend just because she got pregnant. And that made her into someone I had no desire to listen to.

I figure there won’t be any fol ow-up questions to the nonquestion I got about the ferry, but just when I’m feeling almost relaxed for the first time al day, Mom comes up and knocks on my door.

“Abby, what are you doing?”


I’m not. I don’t need to, because Ferrisvil e High is a joke, but I need to be alone right now. Try to figure out what to do about Tess.

“I wanted to tel you that your uncles sent Tess flowers again,” she says. “Did you see them?”

“I must have missed them. Sorry.” I’d seen them, and read the cards. Get Well Soon on each of them, and nothing more. My mom’s brothers, Harold and Gerald, seem nice enough, but they don’t come to visit often.

Mom’s not that much older than they are, but it’s like—wel , the couple of times they’ve been here, they treat Mom like she’s way older than they are. They treat her like she’s their mother, with a weird sort of respect and anger. I don’t know what they have to be mad about. They don’t live here.

“I’m going to go and make something to eat for your father and me,” Mom says. “Maybe heat up the leftover pancakes from this morning. Do you want to join us?”

I want to, but I don’t. If I do, I wil see Tess’s chair. I wil think about it.

I wil know we are al thinking about it.

“I’d better finish my homework,” I say.

“Al right then, good night,” she says, with a little sigh, and I listen to her footsteps fade away.

ferry dock (amazing how no one took it, right?) and head to the hospital. I weave through the ground floor, past the waiting room ful of people doing just what the room wants them to, down the hal past the gift shop (run by cheery old Milford ladies who chat about their prize-winning dogs or flowers while they sel gum for the outrageous price of two bucks a pack), and around to the elevators.

Everything about Milford Hospital is depressing.

Wel , not everything. I like the cafeteria. It looks out over the river, and Ferrisvil e is far enough away that you can’t real y see it. You just get an impression of houses on careful y laid out streets, a factory nestled at one end, and a rocky strip of beach dotted with the weathered ferry station.

Plus the cafeteria is the one place in the hospital that doesn’t smel bad. Everywhere else smel s like chemicals, like the kind of clean that can strip away your skin if you get too close. And underneath that chemical smel there’s always another one, fainter but never ever gone.

Underneath, you can smel unwashed flesh and fear and how off everything is. How everyone who’s in here, al the patients lying in al their beds, aren’t here because they want to be. They’re here because they have to be. Or because this is the last place they’l ever see.

The elevator comes and I step inside, prepare to see Tess.

After I’m buzzed in to her unit, I walk to her room. She looks the same; thin, pale, somehow gone but yet stil here. Her hair’s been washed, though, and it shines, golden against the white of her pil ow. A nurse is fixing one of her IVs, and sighs when she sees me.

Tess was—is—always good at getting people to like her.

I suck at it.

“I’m going to change her sheets,” the nurse says, and I nod, sit down to wait even though the nurse sighs again, and then Claire walks by like I’ve somehow summoned her. I start to wave, but she isn’t looking at me. She’s looking at the unit entrance, and I realize everyone else is too, that al the nurses are turned toward it like something’s going to happen. Weird.

Then the buzzer sounds and a guy comes in.

“Tess,” I say, leaning over and whispering in her ear. “You’re missing your big chance. Everyone’s staring just because some guy’s come in here, and you know what that means. He must be cute.”


“I’m not kidding,” I say. “One guy, and al the nurses are looking at him. That means very cute. Just like when you walk into a room.”

Then, weirdly, the guy is actual y coming toward the room, toward Tess, the nurse who was babbling at me about sheets before hurrying over to him.

“Thank you so much for doing this,” she says, al giddy-voiced. “I can’t tel you how nice it is of you to help out, and—”

And then she stops talking because she walks right into the door.

I shouldn’t laugh, but I do because it’s impossible not to—she walked into a door, after al —and she glares at me as she ushers the guy in. I get an impression of dark hair and eyes, but not much more because the nurse is fluttering al around him. And also because I just don’t care.

“Now, I thought you could help me lift the patient up,” the nurse says to him. “Then I’l —oh, I didn’t get the

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