The Thousandth Floor

Page 70

Her tablet buzzed with a message from Cord. Dinner tonight?

I can’t, Rylin replied, with a glance at Lux, whose eyes were fixed on the game. She needed this time with her friend. We’re doing breakfast for dinner. You know how it is.

Breakfast for dinner is only worth having if it’s breakfast in bed, Cord replied. Rylin bit back an exasperated smile, and slid the tablet back into her pocket—but not before Lux caught the expression on her face.

“Good news?” Lux asked.

Rylin wished desperately that she could tell Lux everything. But she wasn’t sure Lux would understand. How could she, when Rylin didn’t even really understand it all herself? “Not really,” she said, hoping Lux would drop it.

When the game was over and the buzzer sounded, Rylin dragged the cooler down to where Chrissa’s team was all gathered, Lux following behind. Their faces were flush with victory, and they were all high-fiving one another. “Rylin! I didn’t know you were coming! And Lux!” Chrissa exclaimed, pulling Rylin into a sweaty hug. There was a small red patch stuck on her lower arm—a VitalsMonitor, Rylin realized, to track Chrissa’s heart rate and metabolism, and the contents of her sweat.

“When did you get that?” she asked.

Chrissa shrugged. “They’re making everyone who’s early recruiting wear them,” she said, and Rylin had a sudden flashback to the night in the steel forest, the last time she’d worn a patch of her own. It felt like ages ago.

“You brought snacks?” Chrissa went on, catching sight of the cooler and grinning in delight.

“I know, I’m totally the coolest older sister here.” Rylin wheeled it forward and opened the top, and the girls began eagerly reaching for drinks.

Chrissa grabbed an electrolyte drink and took a long, slow sip. Then she lowered the bottle and stared at Rylin. “You look different,” she said. “Is it your hair?”

“You’re confusing me with Lux,” Rylin said lightly, and Chrissa laughed.

“You’re right. It’s probably just that you’re wearing a dress,” Chrissa replied. But Rylin knew what Chrissa was seeing, even if Chrissa hadn’t figured it out yet.

Somehow, despite everything that was going on, Rylin was happy.


“MOM? ARE YOU here?” Leda called out as she walked inside. She shivered a little, damp with sweat, still wearing the white nausea-blocking wristbands from antigrav yoga. It had only been Leda and Ming in class today. Avery hadn’t come to yoga with them for over a week now. She claimed she was trying to run more often, but Leda knew Avery was avoiding her—and Ming, whom Avery still hadn’t forgiven for what she’d done at Eris’s party.

Leda and Avery had barely spoken since that weird interaction the next morning, when Leda had shown up with Atlas’s jacket. They didn’t even sit next to each other at lunch anymore. One day Avery had just walked up and taken the seat on the end, next to Eris, leaving Leda to slide in between Risha and Jess. No one said anything about the shift, yet Leda felt they were all watching her, waiting for a reaction that she refused to give.

And then there was Atlas. Nadia insisted that he hadn’t seen anyone else that night: she’d even hacked the centralized hover records, found the one that picked him up, and proved that he went straight home after dropping off Leda. She saw it herself, right there in the hover’s tracked itinerary. He didn’t go back to the party, or to any other girl’s house. And yet … Leda still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going on, if she could only figure it out.

Leda wished she could stop obsessing about the Fullers. But they were everywhere—hell, just now when she’d headed to the Altitude juice bar after yoga, she’d almost run into Avery and her family leaving brunch. She’d ducked instinctively into a corner as they passed, just to avoid talking with them. She knew she was acting insane, but she couldn’t face Avery or Atlas. At least not until she felt a little more in control of everything.

“Leda?” Her mom’s voice came from her office. “What do you need, hon?”

Leda went into the kitchen and began punching buttons on the liquifuser, making herself the cashew smoothie that she’d wanted before she had to flee the juice bar. What did she need? To fix things between her and Avery. To have sex with Atlas again. Anything except what she was doing right now, because her current strategy clearly sucked.

“Nothing, I guess,” she replied, not really sure why she’d yelled for her mom. The smoothie poured itself into a chilled glass. Leda sprinkled it with cinnamon before taking a sip. She couldn’t shake the image of Avery and Atlas and their parents walking through Altitude all together, something proud and fierce and tawny about all of them.

“How was the workout class?” Ilara Cole appeared in the doorway.

“It was fine,” Leda said impatiently.

“Your father and I have the Hollenbrands’ party tonight,” her mom reminded her. “I’m not sure what Jamie’s doing. Do you and Avery have plans?”

“I think I’m staying in tonight. I’m kind of tired, actually,” Leda hurried to say.

She was annoyed by the flash of relief in her mom’s eyes. Ilara hadn’t been too pleased that Leda had gone to Eris’s birthday last weekend, but Leda had promised she would be fine, that she wouldn’t drink. She hadn’t really broken the promise all that much, she told herself. Though it was hard to keep track of, drinking from those absurd bubbles.

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