Loopholes, Chapter 35

(Start here.) (Or just go backwards.)

We huddled around a bench outside the bus station. Jacob had started crying, and everyone was looking away to give him time to get it together. But not me.

“You’d better be hallucinating,” I said. “Or lying. Or something.”

“Ease off,” Emily said, and put her arm out to hold me away from him. She sounded nicer than she’d ever sounded to me.

“OK,” I said. “What are you talking about?”

Jacob tried to stop crying, but it was hard. He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve, and kept trying to breathe in. Then he looked at me, furious! Furious at me?

What?” I said.

You threw the phone through the window.” I blushed. “You were acting like a totally crazy person, and everyone knows you get too emotional, and everyone knows you make bad decisions. It was crazy to have Phoebe come down here with some stupid paper from Mom!”

“Except it wasn’t, was it?” I said. “It was right, and you’re an idiot.”

“I know!” he said, and he started to cry again. I felt a surge of sick lightheadedness, and had to sit down next to the bench. My stomach felt weird and my skin was like tissue paper. “I know, I know, I’m sorry,” he choked out. He took a deep breath, and then another, and then he could breathe. He wiped his face with his shirt, took a deep breath, and started to talk again. “I told Phoebe I thought you were going crazy, and that you were overreacting like you always do, and that she shouldn’t bother to come because you were just freaking out. And I was totally wrong, OK? I did everything wrong.” He sounded almost calm. His face was all red and his eyes were wet but he’d stopped crying.

And looking at him I knew how he felt. Because I’m always the one who does everything wrong. “Jacob. It’s OK.” Emily opened her mouth to say something, then Adam gave her a look, his brown eyes as serious as I ever saw them, and she shut it. Then she tried again and just said, “Nobody’s perfect.” She choked on it a little, but she said it.

“That’s right,” Adam said, and he smiled at Jacob, the first actual smile I ever saw on his face. He looked completely different, like he could almost be another person.

I sat up a little straighter, and felt a tiny bit less sick. “We’ll just—we’ll have a backup plan.”

Emily nodded. “Yeah, well I guess we have to. We have five minutes left.”

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