Authors: Jeyn Roberts
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #General, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Drugs; Alcohol; Substance Abuse, #Science Fiction, #Thrillers & Suspense
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this is a borzoi book published by alfred a. knopf
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Jeyn Roberts
Jacket photograph (rain) copyright © 2014 by Aaron Foster/Getty Images
Jacket photograph (girl) copyright © 2014 by Andrey Arkusha/Shutterstock
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The bodies we wear / Jeyn Roberts. — First edition.
Summary: After a powerful new drug causes havoc and deadly addiction, seventeen-year-old Faye trains to take revenge on those who took her future and murdered the boy she loved.
ISBN 978-0-385-75412-5 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-385-75410-1 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-385-75411-8 (ebook)
[1. Revenge—Fiction. 2. Drug abuse—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction.
4. Science fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.R54317Bo 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013042352
Printed in the United States of America
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
To Kaliya, You know I’d do it all again.
Here’s to life.
I started writing The Bodies We Wear when I was still living in South Korea. My father had recently died and I was spending a lot of time thinking about life and death. I was questioning my own beliefs and searching for an answer to an impossible question. The idea grew out of my own questions about the great beyond. What if someone could see heaven? What effect would that have on humanity?
Basically, I’m saying this novel wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t been questioning my father’s death. So thank you, Dad, even if I can’t show you these words personally, I’m still inspired by your wisdom and love.
I’d also like to thank Melanie Cecka for having such wonderful advice and ideas. An author is lost without a good editor.
I’d also like to thank my agent, Sarah Davies. She’s a fantastic lady and a fellow animal lover.
Special thanks to Julia Churchill, the first to read Bodies and the first to give me a chance. No matter where she goes in the world, I’ll always keep in touch.
Thanks to my friend, Kari Brackenbury, who helped me with Faye’s workout routine. Her knowledge of personal training has been invaluable. She’s also good at torturing me on a regular basis.
And finally, thanks to Adam Fink. I should have thanked you for being you a long time ago.
People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven.
I was only eleven years old.
I saw something else.
I saw hell.
I like it when it’s dark. There’s not much light here. The city is constantly surrounded by clouds and shadows, even in the afternoon. But at night, there are no dusty streams of sunlight to try to warm my face. This is the way I prefer it. The light shows my flaws. My skin becomes translucent; the dark circles under my eyes grow darker.
Not all of my scars are visible.
These are easier to hide.
The soapbox preacher stands apart from the crowd. He must be well over six feet tall, which gives him an advantage, along with the packing crate beneath his shoes. Shoulders tower over heads, his long black jacket reaching past his knees, disappearing into the crowd. His collar is gray and crooked, but his hair is immaculately cut, short and close to the scalp.
“Heam is not the salvation of heaven, my children. It is not the proper path. Do not follow false gods.”
He speaks with passion and saliva, his mouth spewing a steady spray of words and liquid, forcing the few onlookers in the front row to step back several feet. They must be followers of his flock; no one else has the patience to stay out in the rain. The majority of people, always in a hurry and hidden under their umbrellas, step past him, keeping a safe distance, as if his enthusiasm might be catching.
It never stops raining here. Always moist and humid. My hair lies flat against my scalp; raindrop diamonds drip from my bangs. I barely notice it anymore. The long jacket I wear keeps my skin from growing too damp. Sometimes I believe I can see mold growing on the bodies of people who stand too still.
He is right. Heam is not salvation. But neither is he.
I don’t know what it is about me that catches his eye, but as I step away from the stragglers, he jumps down off his makeshift podium and moves through the crowd as they part like the Red Sea.
“You,” he says. “Yes. Stop. Tell me, child, have you been saved?”
Two people close in the gap, so I have no choice but to pause. Their eyes are gray, empty. One of them smiles, yellow teeth glowing dull under the streetlight. The faint smell of decay passes through his lips. They put their hands up to touch me, but hesitate. I’m wearing sunglasses and my jacket is pulled tight against my neck. They can’t see my markings, but still they know something isn’t quite right. Animals can sense when a human is sick—damaged. These people are no different, sheep being led to the slaughterhouse. Maybe they can smell me? Taste my aura? To them I might be the demon they’ve heard so much about.
I turn around just as the tall man reaches me. He stops a few feet away, face feverish and shiny.
“Young girl,” the preacher says. He’s ecstatic. Girls are drama queens, he’s thinking. They cry harder. Maybe he’ll get the show he desperately wants. He’s found the person he wants to exploit. He’s more confident than his flock. They shy away, but he stands his ground. The sheep are smarter than the wolf tonight.
I won’t make it easy on him.
“Jesus loves you, my child,” he begins. “He died for all your sins, and all he asks in return is your love. Your obedience.”
This is not a conversation I planned on having tonight. I shift from one foot to the other, shuffling my weight around, what little there is. Some days it feels like the entire planet’s shoved against the small of my back.
“You have the wrong person,” I say. It’s my one and only warning. If he’s smart, he’ll listen.
“Even the most troubled child can be turned in the right direction,” he says. “All you need is for someone to tell you the truth. Do you know the truth?”
He grabs my arm as I walk away, pulling me hard, determined to have his silly showdown.
I step forward, grabbing his fingers as they try to wrinkle my jacket. My grip is brutal and I see his eyelashes twitch as he tries not to flinch. I peel his hand away, pushing it back toward his own body. The whole episode takes only a few seconds; not even his followers notice or hear the sounds of his bones creaking as I squeeze harder. I lean in until I’m inches from his face. The decay on his breath is strong. With my free hand, I pull down the top of my shirt until part of my upper chest shows. His eyes come to rest on my scars, thin purple-and-red spiderweb patterns, covering the spot where the heart beats inside my chest.
His eyes widen and he steps backward, pulling hard, desperately trying to free himself from my grip. I let go at once. No one else sees what I revealed; they only watch as their pauper savior backs down from the fight.
I lean toward him, whispering so only he can hear. “I said you have the wrong person. As you can see, there is no saving me. My soul is gone.”
Turning, I walk away, leaving the congregation soaking in the rain as the sky opens up and tries to wash away their sins.
I don’t have to walk the alleys but I do it every night on the way home. It’s out of my way and I could easily take the train. Most people prefer not to walk these streets at night. You can’t see it beneath the streets but it’s there, the green-and-yellow subway, whisking people safely to their homes, keeping their eyes blind to the reality of this city.
Not everyone seeks revenge in the most obvious places.
I’d like to say that they recognize me in this neck of the woods. I’d like to brag and say my message has become adamantly clear and that they tremble in fear at my footsteps and run the second their eyes meet mine. If the police actually bothered to patrol this neighborhood, they’d bow to me in respect and buy me coffee. But that would be a lie. I am no more important to them than a discarded burger wrapper from the local fast-food restaurant.
Just the way I’ve planned it.
Okay, maybe not fully invisible.
I turn; a small girl with a red umbrella stares up at me. She’s ten, maybe eleven. I narrow my eyes, waiting for her to speak. She’s holding on to some papers, flyers, maybe. She could be bait, another religious group sending their tiny Congregational members to trick us sinners. But her eyes are wide and blue; she’s suddenly unsure why she bothered to stop me. What on earth possesses her to be out this late? Looking past her, I see a woman that’s probably her mother a ways down the block. She has flyers too and is talking to a man who doesn’t seem to care what she’s saying. He pulls out his phone and accepts a call, turning his back on her.
“Excuse me,” the girl says again, regaining my attention.
Her fingers are trembling. She takes a flyer from the top of her pile and thrusts it toward me. “Have you seen my brother?”
It catches me off guard and I reach out, taking the paper. A large
is stamped across the front. A boy, possibly my age, quiet-looking, with glasses and short blond hair. He looks bookish, the type of kid who shouldn’t be missing. Maybe he wandered away from the library one evening never to return.
But someone loves him—this little girl with her cold shivering hands and tiny voice. She looks at me, eyes sparkling with hope that I might be the one who will feed her a small bit of information.
“No, sorry,” I say.
“Okay, thanks,” she says. “Can you keep the flyer? Just in case? If you see him, please tell him to come home.”
I nod, fold up the paper, and stick it in my back pocket. The little girl turns and heads back down the street to meet her mother.
So many missing people in this city. If you took a picture of every single one and put it on a flyer, there would be enough to paper the galaxy.
There are bad people out here that make blond-haired, glasses-wearing boys go missing in the dead of night. No one bothers to stop them.
Am I after revenge? The short answer would be yes. The real answer takes longer.
I almost walk past without seeing them. A couple of Heam abusers, gutter rats, so to speak. The girl can’t be older than twelve, small, pale, and thin; her body looks translucent against the brick building. The boy might be older; it’s hard to tell, especially when he’s barely able to hold his head high enough for me to see his face.
If I hadn’t been looking, I would have missed them. Gutter rats learn to hide in the cracks so the dogs won’t find them. These kids have crawled between the metal Dumpster and the wall. The smell of rotten food and mold is overpowering; I have to cover my nose with my hand to get closer. The walls are sticky with slime and dirt. It rained earlier and both kids look wet. Wilted.
The girl is not breathing.
“How long has she been like this?” I ask.
The boy doesn’t answer. He’s wearing the dazed expression of someone who has just seen heaven.
Is she still under? It’s possible. There’s not much you can do at that point except wait for the few minutes for the cycle to end. To try to resurrect someone while they’re under is signing their death sentence. The shock is too much.
“Hey!” I grab the boy and shake him hard enough to get his attention. Blurred eyes switch from the sky to the walls before finally seeing me.
“When did you swallow? Did you drop at the same time?”
“The girl!” I shake him again. He needs to hear me.
“You’re hurting me.” He sounds surprised.
“Focus! Tell me about the girl. Did you swallow at the same time?”
He finally understands. “Yeah, I think so. She might have gone first. So beautiful. Have you been? My grandmother’s waiting for me. I saw her. She was dancing. The sky was so bright. Sun. It burned my eyes. So beautiful.”
I let go of the boy and he slumps against the wall. He won’t be moving for a while. Even if his legs did work, I doubt he has anywhere to go.
But the girl still isn’t breathing.
I stretch her out on the ground. Her hair drifts in the rainwater; long tangled swirls fan out from beneath her head. Tilting her head back, I pinch her nose and take a deep breath. Exhaling directly into her lungs, I watch her fragile chest rise slightly beneath her dirty clothing. I breathe into her a second time.
My hands find the front of her jacket and I yank it open, tearing at the buttons on her shirt at the same time. I can see the marks growing on her chest. Spiderweb veins, purple and red, spread out against her pale skin. Tiny cracks in a dam, starting at the center of her heart, creeping steadily across her chest and toward her shoulder.
She’s going to die.
No, she is dead.
I place my hands on her chest, palms down, and I begin the rhythmic compressions of CPR. One, two, one, two, one, two. Thirty times.
Breathe twice. Her lungs rise and fall.
Up and down.
The boy slumped against the wall starts humming softly to himself. An old song. Maybe his grandma used to sing it to him?
I go back to the compressions, counting under my breath. I can feel something pop and snap beneath her skin. I watch her face grow whiter with each passing second. I can almost see right through to her skull. Even her eyelashes look pale as raindrops pool in the corners of her eyes.
I change position and press my lips against hers, ignoring the hint of strawberries on her lips. That taste. The smell. It makes my heart slam against my chest. It makes me crave, yearn, desire. Memories flash behind my eyes. Colors. Silver. Black. Cold fingers creep along my neck. Suddenly I’m seeing stars and the edges of my vision start to darken. I’m going to scream but there’s no air in my lungs. Everything I had was transferred into her.