The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles 1) - Page 26

I am still filled with the sound of the boys’ clear voices. I don’t want to let it go. I don’t want to let Lily go. She is already walking away. ‘I heard you,’ I say. She stops and turns around. ‘Crying,’ I add. ‘When I was in a coma. I heard you cry out to Jesus. For me. I thought you should know. That people in a coma can hear.’ Her fingers tighten around the bag in her hands. Her eyes are fixed on me, but she doesn’t speak. ‘Did you know I heard you?’ I ask.

She opens her mouth, but her words seem to be stuck in her throat. ‘No,’ she finally says. ‘I didn’t know.’ She swipes a strand of hair from her cheek. ‘I need to go,’ she says. ‘I need to go.’

Ethan is not in the courtyard as promised, but after several misdirected attempts, I eventually find him at the lavanderia, the ancient washing basins next to the gardens. I don’t even know what I will be doing for my community project. Rae just seemed to be satisfied that I could work with Ethan until I found a project of my own. We must devote eight hours per week to it.

‘Finally,’ he says when I arrive. But before he spits out his cold greeting, I catch something. A smile? Not so much around the mouth but in the eyes. I’m learning amazingly fast. He probably doesn’t even know I saw.

‘I got a lecture this morning, thanks to you,’ I tell him.

‘How so?’

‘Apparently dickhead means more than annoying.’

‘You called someone that?’

‘My grandmother.’

He winces. ‘You didn’t know what it meant?’

‘I told you, I’ve forgotten a lot—that’s assuming I ever even had that lovely word in my vocabulary.’

He grunts and runs his eyes over me. ‘I’m guessing you did.’

He wastes no more time on chat and shows me what is to occupy me for the next four hours. Dirt. I will be shoveling dirt spoonful by spoonful. The lavanderia is undergoing restoration to remove a thick layer of dirt that covers its northern end, brought about by some long-ago mudslide. The dirt must be removed carefully so as not to damage the ancient stones beneath it. We work side by side, using flat-bottomed trowels and occasionally shears to cut the vines and roots that weave through the blanket of dirt. I notice he works close by my side, even though there is a long wall of dirt to remove.

‘So why is your grandmother a dickhead—I mean, annoying?’ he asks.

I’m relieved that he breaks our silence first. ‘Because she said we shouldn’t be dating—’ Oh, my God, Jenna. Stupid. Stupid.

‘We’re dating?’

‘No. I mean, my mother thought—’

‘Your mother thinks we’re dating? Just because I’m giving you a ride home?’

‘No. Well, yes. I mean, never mind.’ Help. Every word seems to bury me further. Was I always this inept?

‘Hm,’ he says. He grins and stabs his trowel in for another load of dirt. We work for another silent few minutes shoulder to shoulder on our hands and knees, being careful not to dig too deeply, and then he sits back, resting one arm on his knee. ‘So why doesn’t your grandmother like me dating you, other than because I teach you bad words?’

I drop my trowel. ‘We’re not dating! And it’s not you. It’s me.’

‘She doesn’t like you? I thought grandmothers had to like you. It’s a law or something.’

He’s right. It should be a law. Or maybe it is for most people. Hearing him say it out loud makes it more painful. So obvious. Of course a grandmother should like you, and I wonder once again if Lily has good reason not to. Somehow, down deep, I think she does. I think of Kara and Locke. I ache for them. Does it have something to do with them? Hurry, Jenna. I hear their voices like they are whispering into my ear right now. I don’t have a good response for Ethan. I feel like I should cry, but there are no tears. Not even a lump in my throat. I try to shrug off our conversation like it doesn’t matter. ‘I can’t explain it. I guess I’m just special.’

Ethan looks at me like he is trying to decide something. His brown eyes make everything inside of me shift. He finally flicks some dirt from his fingers at me and smiles. ‘Nah, Jenna. You’re nothing special.’

In an instant, my insides swell, and I can’t do anything but stand there returning his stare, and even though I should be embarrassed—I am embarrassed—I can’t look away either. He moves first, awkwardly returning to his knees, and I join him, shoulder to shoulder, snipping, clearing, and scooping a spoonful of dirt at a time.

The sun is warm on my back. From time to time, I think I hear the chanting echoes from the church float on the breeze all the way down to the gardens, but Ethan says that is impossible. We are too far away. But I am sure I hear it. Or maybe the angelic tune is simply stuck in my head.

I decide I like shoveling dirt. I like the garden sounds and the mindless repetition. It is like it is the first time in weeks that my brain truly has been able to rest from trying to remember. For hours we work. Ethan stands now and then, stretching his back, rubbing his knees, but I don’t tire.

‘You’re a horse,’ he says.

‘And you’—I want to find the right word—‘are not.’ Not much of a word, but the emphasis seems to have hit him nonetheless. He makes a show of rubbing his knees one last time and returns to my side. I smile, glad that my hair conceals my face.

Long stretches of time go by where we don’t talk as we work. I listen to the birds in the garden, the chink of our trowels, the trickling of water from a nearby hose, and mostly to the voices in my own head. You’re fitting in, Jenna. You’re loved, Jenna. You’re normal, Jenna. You are almost whole, Jenna. And mostly, I believe them.

Tags: Mary E. Pearson Jenna Fox Chronicles Science Fiction
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