Saint Anything Page 65

“I still can’t believe that was you in the pictures I saw,” I said. “Did you really just lose the weight with diet and exercise?”

“A strict diet,” he said. “You tried those Kwackers. They were my dessert. And lots of exercise.”

“Like wandering in the woods.”

He shot me a look, then smiled, stretching his fingers over the wheel. “It was a free workout and right outside the back door. No excuses. Whenever I had time, I just went into the woods. I brought my GPS and tracked the route, so I knew how far I’d gone.”

I thought of the map I’d seen on his bedroom wall, the pencil marks. Tracing his way, out and back. “And you found the carousel.”

“That was a good day. I just rounded a corner, and there it was. For a long time I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even Layla. But eventually, it was too good a secret to keep.”

Good secrets, I thought. What a novel idea. “I miss exploring the woods. My brother and I used to do it so much.”

“It’s not like it’s gone anywhere,” he pointed out.

“True.” I thought of Peyton, ahead of me, leaves crunching beneath our feet. “It just feels different now. Scarier.”

“Really?”

I nodded, then looked at his pendant. “Maybe I need a patron saint. Of wanderers. Or woods.”

“I’m sure they exist,” he told me. “They have them for everything. Boilermakers, accountants. Divorce. You name it.”

“You’re an expert, huh?”

“My mom is.” He sat back as we hit another light. “She always liked the idea of protection, but especially since she got sick. I’m not wholly convinced. But I figure it can’t hurt, you know?”

Sometimes, this was the best you could hope for. Not an advantage or a penalty, but the space between. “Yeah,” I said. “I do.”

Back at our meeting spot, Layla had still not shown up, so we parked by the curb to wait, Mac undoing the pliers to kill the engine.

“Thanks, by the way,” I said to him after a minute. “For bringing me along.”

“You like running deliveries?”

I turned to face him. “I do, actually.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” I paused, looking down at my hands. “It’s something about seeing all these people in their separate places. Like little snapshots of the whole world as it’s happening, simultaneously. Is that weird, to think of it like that?”

Straight-faced, he said, “Yes. Very.”

“Nice,” I told him.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” He reached over, touching my wrist, his fingers the slightest weight there. “I get what you’re saying.”

“But you think it’s crazy, drawing some deep symbolism from pizza delivery.”

“A little,” he admitted. I made a face. “But I kind of like it. Makes the job seem more noble, or important, or something.”

“I’m such a moron,” I said, yet again speaking aloud a thought I had so much, it had worn a groove in my brain.

“Nah,” he said, tightening his fingers on my wrist. “You’re not.”

For a moment, we just looked at each other. It was late afternoon in the fall, the sky the pretty pink you only see right before sunset, like the day is taking a bow. I was in a new place, with someone I didn’t know that well, and yet it felt like the most natural thing in the world, another groove already worn, to lean forward as he did until we were face to face, his fingers still gripping my arm. Then Spence and Layla pulled up beside us.

We jerked back from each other, just as she lowered her window. Immediately, I felt guilty, not knowing what she’d seen. But it was Layla who said, “Hey. I’m sorry.”

Spence smiled. “You must be Mac.”

“Yep.”

Silence. Except for my heart, which was pounding in my chest and ears. But nobody else could hear that. I hoped.

“Isn’t his car awesome? It’s just like that one you’ve had your eye on,” Layla said to Mac, a bit too eagerly. When he didn’t reply, she sighed. “Look, it’s not his fault I didn’t tell you about him. I was just worried about how Daddy would react.”

“To keeping secrets and lying?” Mac asked. “I’m guessing not well.”

“Fine,” she said, throwing up her hands. “I’ll bring him to Seaside tomorrow, okay? Will that make you happy?”

“It’s not about me,” Mac said. Then, “We should go. Mom’s waiting.”

Layla looked back at Spence, then at us. “Let me just say good-bye, okay?”

Before he could respond, they’d pulled up and parked alongside the curb in front of us. As time passed, I could only imagine what was happening behind the tinted windows. Mac, looking equally uncomfortable, picked at a loose stitch on the steering wheel. Had I really just almost kissed him? It seemed unreal now, like something I’d dreamed. Or, if not, the best secret of all.

“Well,” I said finally, “I should get home, too, I guess.”

“You want a ride?”

“Nah. It’s only a block or so.” I opened the door. “Thanks for taking me along, seriously. It was fun.”

“Anytime,” he said. I smiled, then hopped out. As I shut the door and started to walk away, I heard him say, “Hey. Sydney.”

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