The Thousandth Floor

Page 44

“Oh. That’s nice.”

“We need to hang it.” Chrissa pointed to a spot on the wall. “Right here, in the middle of the room.”

“Yes.” Rylin nodded enthusiastically. She went over to the cabinet and rummaged through drawers until she unearthed a package of adhesive dots. “Hiral, can you reach?”

He shrugged and stuck the dots onto the back of the photo, then mounted it where Chrissa directed, sticking it to the wall with a slap.

“I have to get some air,” Chrissa said suddenly, and stepped outside. Rylin wondered if she’d started crying again.

“I have something for you, by the way,” Rylin said to Hiral, pulling the Spokes out of her pocket.

His eyes widened. “You stole those from Anderton? Nice.”

“He had so many, he’ll never miss them,” Rylin said, feeling suddenly uneasy. She hoped she was right. “How soon can you clear them for me?”

“I’ll move them as fast as I can.” Hiral held one of the Spokes up to the light and studied it from various angles, emitting a low whistle. “We should hit one of these, though, before we unload the others.”

“No!” Rylin almost shouted. She took a breath to calm herself. “I need that cash. I’m behind on rent.”

“You’re always behind on rent,” Hiral said easily. “Come on, they’re Cord Anderton’s Spokes, they have to be powerful stuff! I mean, isn’t he totally messed up?”

“What, because his parents are dead?”

Hiral flushed a sudden bright red. “You know that’s not what I meant. I’m just saying, it would be one hell of a ride. And then …” His hand dropped lower on her waist.

“I’m serious,” Rylin snapped, shoving him away.

“Fine, fine.” Hiral threw up his hands, trying to laugh it off. “You snagged ’em, you decide what to do with ’em. I’ll take them to V when I make my next drop.”

“Thank you,” Rylin said quietly.

“Maybe we can take one of the next round.” Hiral tucked the Spokes quickly into his pocket.

Rylin frowned. “There’s not going to be a next round. I won’t steal from him again.”

“Why not? You said it yourself, that douche bag won’t even notice.”

“He’s not a douche bag. He gave me that photo,” Rylin replied, though she wasn’t sure why she was defending Cord Anderton. For some reason her mind jumped to the kiss, and she flushed a little, hoping her thoughts weren’t written there on her face.

“Whatever.” Hiral made a dismissive gesture.

“What’s going on with you?” Rylin asked sharply, just as Chrissa walked back in the door, her eyes red. Rylin made eye contact with her sister, then looked back at Hiral, wondering what had set him off. Unless … her gaze drifted to the instaphoto. Could he be jealous?

“Nothing. I’m sorry.” Hiral passed a hand over his face, and his features settled back into their usual indifference. “I’ll give these to V tonight. Speaking of which, do you want to change? We should probably get going.”

Oh, right. They were all supposed to go to some party for one of Indigo’s friends. But for the first Saturday in a year, Rylin wasn’t desperate to get out and get high. She felt exhausted, and she missed her sister.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m kind of tired. Why don’t you go without me this time?”

“Whatever you want, babe.” Hiral gave her a quick kiss. “We’ll miss you, though. See you tomorrow?”

The moment the door shut behind him, Rylin turned to Chrissa. “So,” she said, as if it were totally normal for her to be staying in, “I’m gonna put on sweatpants and set the table. Are there any good vids you’ve been wanting to watch?”

Her sister looked at her in disbelief, then up at the instaphoto, and it seemed to Rylin that they were both doing the same thing—trying to rewind to before Hiral walked in. After a moment, Chrissa broke out into a smile.

“Mais oui,” she said, in the terrible French accent that Rylin had missed more than she realized. “Café Paris is open for business.”


ERIS STEPPED UP to 2704 Baneberry Lane and opened the front door as quietly as she could. The last thing she wanted right now was for her mom to hear her coming in and try to start a conversation. Eris had barely spoken to her all week. Her feelings were still too raw and tender, like a bruise that she kept pressing on.

As the door swung inward, Eris threw a hand up to cover her mouth, trying not to gag. Their apartment had that smell again, the gross sewage-y one that occasionally wafted from the upstairs neighbors’. She pushed the front door all the way open, which usually helped ventilate a little, and wedged one of her shiny black stilettos to hold it in place. Then she sailed through the entire apartment spraying her jasmine perfume, dousing the vents in it until her eyes watered. But at least now she could breathe again.

Eris heard a noise coming from her mom’s room and stepped a little closer, only to realize that what she heard were muffled sobs. She felt a sudden flush of guilt, and shame. Her mom had been acting so optimistic all week, telling Eris about jobs she’d applied for, and trying to spruce up this awful apartment in whatever little ways she could. Caroline hadn’t once cried around Eris. Now here she was, clearly letting out her grief only because she didn’t realize that Eris was home.

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