The Thousandth Floor

Page 64


LEDA STOOD AT the Fullers’ entryway, debating whether to ring the doorbell or just let herself in. If she were here to see Avery, she would already be inside by now; Avery had added her retinal scan to the instant access list years ago. But Leda wanted to see Atlas.

She decided to push the button, shifting Atlas’s coat onto one elbow. He’d put it over her shoulders last night, when she shivered in the hover home from Bubble Lounge. It had seemed like a good sign. Until the hover pulled up to her place, and he wished her good night before she had a chance to invite him inside. He hadn’t even tried to kiss her at all.

Maybe he didn’t like her, a doubtful voice in her mind whispered. Maybe he liked someone else. After all, she had been the one to initiate their kiss at Eris’s party. Yet he’d kissed her back easily enough.

Still, she was glad he’d forgotten to ask for his jacket back at the end of the night. It was the perfect excuse to drop by and see him.

No one was answering her entrance comm. Leda looked up into the retinal scanner with a sigh, and the door obediently swung open for her. “Atlas?” she called out, walking into the enormous entryway. She gave an involuntary glance at the mirrored walls, where her reflection—looking almost slinky in a casual wrap dress and gladiator sandals, her hair carefully styled, her makeup flawless—danced alongside her.

“Leda?” Avery walked in from the kitchen, wearing a monogrammed knit robe and alpaca slippers, her hair a wild blond cloud around her perfect face. Leda felt a flash of irritation that she’d worked so hard to get dressed up this morning, yet Avery looked better without even trying.

“Hey,” she said cautiously. She wasn’t sure what the protocol was anymore, between her and Avery.

“You’re up early.” Avery gave a self-conscious shrug, looking down at her robe and slippers. “Or maybe I’m just moving a little slow.”

“It was a great party,” Leda said lamely.

Avery shuffled one fluffy slipper against the floor. “Thanks. I meant to tell you, by the way, I loved your dress. Was it new?”

“Yeah.” Oh my god, Leda thought, we sound like complete strangers. Is this what it was going to be like now, this weird stilted politeness? It was worse than not talking at all.

They stood looking at each other in some weird kind of détente. Leda realized that she hadn’t even set foot in this apartment since school started. Normally she was here all the time, treating the space like her own home, eating from the fridge without asking. Now she wouldn’t have even taken a seat on the couch without being invited first.

“Do you want to sit down?” Avery asked, as if reading her mind. Her eyes darted to Atlas’s jacket.

“It’s okay,” Leda hurried to say. “I was just looking for Atlas.”

“I can give that to him for you.” Avery reached for the jacket, but Leda took a step back, clutching it tight.

“Actually I was—”

“Leda?” Atlas appeared in the hallway, looking even more hungover than Avery. His eyes were bloodshot, his face pale under a shadow of stubble, and he was still wearing his crumpled white dress shirt from the night before, though he’d managed to put on red mesh athletic shorts. Leda felt a strange sense of relief. Surely this was the reason he hadn’t tried anything with her at the end of the night: he’d gotten so drunk he needed to send himself home.

“Hey,” she said, ignoring Avery. “Crazy night last night, huh?”

“Tell me about it.” As Atlas stepped forward, Leda saw something on his collar—the unmistakable glint of glo-makeup, just barely visible in the morning light.

The entire world began spinning. Atlas kissed someone last night. Someone who had been at the party. How else could that horrible makeup have ended up there?

“Anyway. I just wanted to give you this.” She tossed Atlas the jacket, pleased at how cool her voice sounded.

“Thanks.” He snatched it from the air, seeming caught off guard. “So, um—”

“I have to go,” Leda said quickly. “See you guys later.”

They both called out good-bye, but Leda was already in the hall. She kept her eyes forward, avoiding the incriminating glances of all the mirror Ledas moving alongside her, reminding her of her pathetic attempt to look cute for a boy who didn’t even care, who had another girl’s makeup smeared all over his shirt.

“To Nadia,” she muttered as she got in the elevator, composing a new message. “I think Atlas was with someone last night. I need to know who.”

As you wish, the hacker replied. A moment later there was an additional line of text. But if I need to hack someone else aside from Atlas, it’ll cost extra.

“Tell you what. You find this out for me, I’ll quadruple your usual fee,” she snapped in reply.

The elevator doors opened and Leda walked briskly out, already feeling a bit better. There had never been a problem she couldn’t solve, once she set her mind to it.

Except Atlas.

Well, she wasn’t giving up yet. Not without a fight.


AVERY WATCHED HER best friend walk away. She knew she should say something, shouldn’t let things end on this note, but she was too focused on Atlas to think clearly. She’d been waiting all morning for him to wake up, her whole body tingling with a heady, delirious sense of anticipation. She’d barely kept herself from running into his room and jumping on his bed the way she used to every Christmas.

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