The Thousandth Floor

Page 49

“I know.” But everything isn’t fine, she thought. Now Leda liked Atlas, and meanwhile, she, Avery, was caught in some impossible place, loving him more than ever. She never imagined she’d say this, but she almost missed the days when he was halfway across the world. At least then he’d been all hers.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your closet. Looks like you have a lot to clean out,” he said, sensing the subtle change in her mood, as he always did.

“Wait,” Avery called out. Atlas paused in the doorway. “Um, thanks. For the necklace,” she said, not totally sure why she’d stopped him, just wanting to delay his leaving her. “It means a lot, that you were thinking of me.”

“I’m always thinking of you, Aves.” Atlas shut the door behind him.

Avery reached up to feel the cold glass of her necklace. The silence of her room felt suddenly deafening. She needed to get out.

“Ping to Eris,” she said aloud, but Eris didn’t pick up. Avery flickered her too, stepping out of the tangerine gown—which of course she had to keep now—and into white jeans and a navy top. She started to take off the necklace, but hesitated, and let it fall back onto her throat.

Why wasn’t Eris answering? Avery knew her family was renovating, but that didn’t explain how absent she’d been lately.

Maybe she should just go to the Nuage and surprise Eris. Actually, Avery realized on second thought, that was a fantastic idea. They could get dinner at the sashimi bar there, or go to the steam room; anything to keep her from being alone in this closet, thinking of Atlas.

Fifteen minutes later she was getting off on the 940th floor and walking into the massive lobby of the Nuage, the most expensive—and highest—luxury hotel in the Tower. Tourists and businesspeople sat on the plush couches, which were incredibly soft despite the carbon polymers woven into each thread, which changed the color of the couches to match the color of the sky. Through the Nuage’s full-length windows, Avery saw that the sun was just sinking below the horizon. The couches matched: the same deep cobalt blue, shot through with glowing tendrils of red.

She and Leda used to come here to take sunset vids, back in eighth grade when they went through their hopeful-models phase. They would wear white dresses and pose on the couches for the half hour that they changed color, then edit the vid to a thirty-second speed frame and post it to the feeds. It had been silly and embarrassing and a ton of fun.

Avery sighed and made her way to the front desk, a slab of white Tuscan granite suspended in midair by powerful microhovers. “Can I help you?” the guy behind the desk asked. He wore a crisp white shirt and trousers, and his name tag read Pierre, which meant that he was probably a lower-floor kid named Peter.

“I’m looking for Eris Dodd-Radson,” Avery said. “She and her family have been staying here for a week or so.”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t give out guests’ room numbers, for privacy reasons.”

“Of course.” Avery flashed him her most dazzling smile, the one she held in reserve for occasions like this, and saw him waver. “I understand. I was just wondering if you could call up to their room for me, pass along a message? She’s my best friend, and I haven’t heard from her in a while. I’m getting worried.”

Pierre bit his lip, then began waving in the air in front of him, studying a holoscreen visible only to him. “I don’t see an Eris Dodd-Radson in our system,” he said. “Are you sure she’s staying here?”

“She’s with her parents, Caroline Dodd and Everett Radson.”

“I see an Everett Radson—”

“That’s it!” Avery interrupted. “Can you call up?”

Pierre scowled, looking down his nose at her. “Mr. Radson is registered alone. You must be mistaken about your friend. Perhaps she’s at a different hotel?”

Avery paused. “Okay. Thanks,” she said, hiding her confusion, and stepped away.

She sank onto one of the couches, whose few remaining red-orange threads were rapidly turning a dusky blue, and ordered a lemonade from the touch screen in front of her. She didn’t want to go home just yet. She needed a minute to think. The drink arrived almost instantly, and Avery took a long sip, wondering why Eris would have lied about renovating their apartment, and why her dad would be staying here at the Nuage alone.

Mr. Radson had been divorced twice before. Was he doing it again, leaving Eris’s mom? And if so, where was Eris?

“Drinking alone?” Cord settled onto the couch opposite her and leaned back into the cushions.

“It’s lemonade,” Avery said wearily.

“How disappointing.” He smiled, showing his perfect white teeth. “You used to be more fun, you know, Fuller.”

“And you used to actually be tolerable,” Avery answered, though they both knew she didn’t mean it. She’d known Cord too long not to forgive him almost anything. “Are you looking for Eris too?” she went on, wondering if he had any answers for her.

“You didn’t know? Eris and I aren’t … anymore.”

“Oh, I—she didn’t tell me.” Avery’s worry flared up stronger than before; why hadn’t Eris called her? She always came to Avery after her breakups, and then they commiserated and ate ice cream and plotted Eris’s next conquest. Something was really wrong.

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