The Thousandth Floor

Page 29

Avery liked it down here, the way the buildings all felt unique, with their own scrolling ironwork and their own facades. Each structure caught the afternoon light in a different way. It reminded her of Istanbul, or Florence, anywhere that people still injected personality into their homes—a far cry from most neighborhoods upTower, where the streets were lined with bright white doors like fat, frosted slices of wedding cake.

Finally they pulled up to the Coles’. Leda pressed a button overhead, releasing the safety magnetron that held her in her seat. “Well, see you soon.” Her gaze turned to Atlas and her smile softened by an imperceptible degree. “Thanks for the ride, guys.”

The hover started up the remaining thirty-eight levels to the Fullers’ place. “Did you and Leda have fun?” Avery asked, hating herself for prying but unable to stop.

“We had a great time. Actually,” Atlas said, “Leda sort of asked me out.”

Avery stared out the window. She knew she would lose control if she so much as looked at Atlas.

“Is that weird?” he asked. She was being completely awkward, Avery realized; she needed to say something or she’d give herself away.

“No, of course not! I mean, you should definitely go out with her,” she managed.

“Right.” Atlas looked at her curiously. Funny how without Leda here, there was more space in the hover, yet now it felt small.

“It’s a great idea,” Avery added. It’s a terrible idea. Please don’t do it.

“Okay, then.”

Avery pinched her forearm to keep from tearing up. Her best friend and the boy she could never admit to loving. It was like the universe was playing a cruel joke on her.

Silence fell over the hover. Avery tried to say something, anything, but she was at a loss. Every time Atlas had pinged her during the past year, she’d felt like she had too much to tell him, stories tumbling out breathlessly, disorganized, until Atlas invariably had to go.

Now he was here in person, and Avery had nothing to say.

“Hey.” Atlas turned to her as if getting an idea. “Are you still dating that Zay guy? Would you two want to come?”

“We were never dating,” Avery said automatically. Zay hadn’t spoken to her since the party at the Aquarium, and besides, she’d seen him with Daniela last night. Whatever. She had no desire to double-date with Atlas and Leda.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t a bad idea.

“I could invite other people, though,” she said quickly.

“Who were you thinking?”

“Eris, of course. Risha and Ming and Jess. Ty, Maxton, Andrew, even Cord.”

“I’m not sure a big group thing is the best idea,” Atlas protested, but Avery had nodded as she said all the names, already composing a flicker.

“Leda won’t care, trust me. Come on,” Avery said. “It’ll be fun! We can all go out to dinner, or a movie—whatever you want!”

“That does sound fun,” Atlas admitted. “You know Leda better than anyone, I guess. If you say it’s fine, then you’re right.”

Avery ignored the guilt that reared its head at that comment. Really she was just doing her best friend a favor, helping Leda see that she and Atlas didn’t belong together before Leda got too invested and ended up hurt. She wished she could just talk to Leda about all of this. But Leda had shifted things between them, with all her secrets—about this summer, about liking Atlas. Avery wasn’t sure how she would even begin the conversation.

“Of course I’m right,” she said lightly. “Aren’t I always?”


ERIS LAY ON her stomach, head tilted to one side, eyes firmly shut as a children’s cartoon played across the back of her eyelids. This was the absolute laziest way to watch something, but right now she didn’t particularly care. She wasn’t even sure what time of day it was. She’d been lying there for hours, ever since her mom had knocked on her door that morning asking if she was okay. Eris had ignored her.

“Eris?” It was her mom again. Eris burrowed deeper into the covers like an animal hiding in its nest, pumping up the volume on her eartennas. She refused to see her mom right now. Much better to stay here, in bed, where last night seemed like nothing but a bad dream.

“Please, Eris. I need to talk to you.” The pounding persisted. Something in her mom’s tone made Eris lean over and, gritting her teeth, type into the touch screen by her bed to unlock her bedroom door.

“What do you want?” she snapped, still lying down. Eris was perversely pleased to see that Caroline looked terrible, her eyes lined with hollow circles.

“How are you feeling?” Her mom started to sit on the curved edge of Eris’s bed, but Eris glared at her, and she retreated a step.

“How do you think I’m feeling?” Eris knew she was being spiteful, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

Caroline let the question go. “There’s something I need to talk to you about,” she said, watching her daughter’s reaction. She wrung her hands and took a careful breath. “I know this is the last thing you want to deal with right now, but we can’t stay here.”

“What?” It was enough to make Eris sit straight up, hugging one of her hand-stitched pillows to her chest.

“It’s best that we leave. Your father should be able to come back here, without having to face … everything that’s going on.” Eris felt a rush of anger at the phrasing. It seemed cowardly to her somehow, as if Caroline were pretending she wasn’t the one responsible. “Your father needs some space right now, from us,” her mom finished.

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