Winter Townby Stephen Emond
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's… See more details below
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.
* "Comic artist Emond (Emo Boy) pens an endearing and self-deprecatingly witty debut novel à la illustrated diary... Whimsical, thoughtful, boyishly sarcastic, off-the-cuff... achingly beautiful."Publishers Weekly, starred review
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
By Emond, Stephen
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2011 Emond, Stephen
All right reserved.
A DAY IN THE LIFE TODAY
Back home if you’re free. Evan looked at Lucy’s text message as he sat in the bathroom. It was the only quiet place in the house. The last text from her had been in April, about eight months ago, and read qwerty texting is a bitch! Before that had been Will be busy for the newlxt few days. He also had a text message from his friend Marshall: So where is this girl already? That one was from yesterday.
“Where’s the box with the wires?” Evan’s dad yelled from the living room. “I need the box with the wires and lights,” he repeated louder, though no one seemed to be listening. Evan’s dad liked to be heard, a trait Evan had never fully picked up. Evan walked to the sink and washed his hands. Just twenty minutes ago, Evan had been enjoying himself, drawing at the kitchen table and talking with his grandmother, but those five words, Back home if you’re free, had turned his day around. Now he felt stuck here, trapped in his own home.
The house was overrun with guests, which made it a Sunday. Family Sunday, to be exact. Meaning stay home with your family, not go out with your friend you haven’t seen in twelve months. It was also mid-December, which meant his dad’s winter town was being put on display. His dad was constantly fiddling with it, trying to make it just right.
“There’s still a few boxes we haven’t opened, hon,” Evan’s mom said. “It could be in one of those.”
Evan stepped into the living room, where his neighbor Ben immediately began to follow him. Evan was used to being followed around the house, if not by Ben then by one of the children. Followed, talked about, or called from across the room in loud fashion. He had a close family, and that’s what close families did.
There were twenty-three people in the house at the moment and one dog. The kitchen was full and the living room was full, and the couch and all the chairs were taken, with some family members watching the game, while others were talking and eating. Evan hugged the living room wall as he navigated his way toward the front of the house. The scene was especially active here as an assortment of Evan’s family members were helping his dad get all the town pieces up and running in their proper places. Evan made his way into the dining room, where several unopened boxes were stacked, and he and Ben each brought one back to Evan’s dad. Evan sat his box down by the large window display his dad was working on. Maybe he could get out early on good behavior.
“Thanks, son,” Dad said in his baritone voice. His voice and his brow were his two most impressive features. He had the appearance of a deep-thinking philosopher. Even on Sunday Fun-day he wore a tie.
Conversation over the next few minutes quickly turned to Dad’s topic du jour, Evan’s upcoming excommunication to college. Evan was over it. He’d already spent his fall applying to ten different colleges with his dad looming over him for every minor decision. The problem was that Evan still didn’t know what he wanted to do, or where he wanted to go. For all his effort and for all his good grades, Evan Owens was a man without a plan.
“What do you think about trying for an Ivy League or two?” Dad asked. “We still have a couple of weeks.” He dropped and picked up a tiny Christmas tree. “You’ve got the grades and the extracurricular activities. If you took up a sport, you could mention it during interviews.” He lined the trees up on a shelf in a perfect row around a small pond. There was a handful of boys and girls skating on the ceramic ice.
“I haven’t played a sport since sixth grade, Dad. Why bother if it’s not going to make the application anyway?” Evan said. The part he didn’t say was that he hadn’t enjoyed sports even then. Taking a baseball to the side of the head had something to do with it. Since then, he’d participated chiefly in what he called anti-sports. Invisibility was an admired trait in anti-sports. The trick was to make it look like he was having a good time, while avoiding the ball, the goal, and his teammates.
“You’re in good shape,” Dad said, looking Evan over as if to fact-check. “You’ll pick it up fast.”
Evan tried to center his eyes, which wanted so badly to roll in their sockets. His dad had to focus on sports, and not, say, Evan’s advanced classes, homework, set-building for the theater department, tutoring, debate club, and Wednesday afternoons volunteering at SARAH, a community that helps disabled people. He had friends, he had girlfriends, he did everything right. But he didn’t play sports.
“There’s no time, Dad,” Evan said, wondering how soon he could get to Lucy’s. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He hoped his father didn’t realize he still had Saturdays and Mondays free.
“It’ll really add another layer to your transcript.” Dad stood up and scratched his head. “You’ve got Saturdays and Monday afternoons open still,” he said, and Evan wondered if he was thinking too loudly. Would he need one of those tinfoil hats?
“Dad, you’re gonna kill me.” Evan plotted a quick escape to the kitchen to avoid further college talk, but his mom cut him off with a plate of cheese and crackers in hand.
“I was just looking for you,” she said.
“Thanks, Mom.” Evan relented and took the plate.
She gave an isn’t-he-the-sweetest? smile and patted his head. Now he had to take the time to eat. Evan’s mom had medium-length brown hair and red-framed glasses and what Evan would call a soccer-mom-lite look. She thought Evan was the most wonderful person to ever walk the earth and let him know it every day. With her, Evan was rocketing over the moon, and with his dad, he couldn’t get off the ground. Evan imagined himself somewhere in the middle, floating along the troposphere, airplane-level. Moms coddle their children. It was nice, it was fine.
“Barb,” Dad said, “what do you think about Evan taking on a sport?”
“Dad…” Evan groaned. “Enough with the sports.”
“It’s for school, Ev.”
“Oh, you’re going to suffocate him, Charlie. Let him go out with his friends every now and again. He hasn’t met a girl in months, not since that awful Jessica,” Mom lamented, exaggerating her frown. If Evan’s dad was predictable in his speeches on education, then his mother brought up his social life like it was a soap opera. Not that it was salacious or even interesting; she just had a need to get her daily fix of it. Jessica was Evan’s late-spring girlfriend. It had been, in all fairness, a disaster. She was the pretty, redheaded version of the baseball that had hit him on the side of the head. That was spring, though. Two seasons had passed entirely. He was over it.
Evan fidgeted some more. This talk, too, had run its course, and being the center of attention wasn’t going to help Evan get out of the house.
“She could have been a lot more tactful in breaking up with you. She didn’t realize how lucky she was to have you in the first place.” Mom adjusted Evan’s collar and brushed his sweater, as if the act of talking about relationships would lead to a date for him in the next four minutes.
“That’s not that important right now anyway,” Dad said with his hands raised. He’d heard enough of this gang-up on his son, or at least enough without his participation. “You can go out and have fun when the opportunity arises, but—”
“What does that mean?” Mom asked in sort of an accusing whine.
“Well.” Dad collected his thoughts and firmed his stance. “It means he should date. He’s a normal teenage boy, but maybe don’t go falling in love, necessarily.”
College and girls. At least Dad was about to pull some of the heat off him now. Evan wondered if he needed to be present for this conversation at all and decided he did not. There were two crackers left on his plate.
“And why shouldn’t he fall in love?” Mom asked, drawing the interest of others nearby. Evan’s family made a habit of talking about him as if he weren’t there. “What if he meets the right girl?”
“He’s not going to meet the right girl; he’s seventeen,” Dad said, giving seventeen all the appeal of a cockroach.
“Oh, that’s silly,” Evan’s mom replied.
“We met in college,” Dad said, and now he and Mom had themselves an audience in the living room. He picked a string of Christmas lights out of a box and began to unknot it. Dad spoke deliberately, like a professor, in a manner that made you want to take notes. “We were both on our feet. Confident in who we were. We were adults and capable of making rational adult decisions. What I’m saying is that it’s just a better time to look at a relationship, when you can clearly and objectively evaluate what it is that you want to find in someone.”
“Mr. Romantic,” Mom said, fanning herself and getting laughs from the women.
“I think he needs to sow his oats,” Evan’s grandmother added, turning around in her chair across the room. “Seventeen’s a little old to be a virgin.”
“Aww, Gram…!” Evan said, and swung his head down in defeat. Ben burst out in laughter and hid his face with a couch pillow. Some conversations have a built-in stopping point, and this was one.
“Well, these days, I mean.”
“That’s absolutely not true!” Mom objected.
“You take it too far, Mom,” Dad said to Gram. “This is a serious discussion.”
“Who’s not serious? If I’m okay with it, you should be, coming from your generation. And his generation,” Gram said. She got out of her chair and walked to Evan and rubbed his shoulders. “Even if he was gay, I’d be okay with that.”
College, love life, sexuality questioning. Check. Evan should be able to get out soon. “Are you guys even aware that I have to remind everyone I’m not gay every few weeks?” Evan asked. “Who started this, anyway?”
“Oh, Evan, no one’s judging,” Gram said. “Be young! That’s all I’m saying. You should be proud you have a family so open and who cares about you. You could date a man who’s a different color and turn your willy into a hoo-hoo for all I care. I’ll love you just the same!” Evan imagined that last part, though it didn’t sound out of place.
“He’s not gay, Mom. He just doesn’t play sports,” Dad said, and put his hand on Evan’s other shoulder. “And he can be young after college.”
This was met with family boos. Evan was on daytime talk TV. Bizarre speculations were flinging into each ear as if no one thought he was listening. Evan surveyed the other family members, his eyes pleading for help. Nothing. He’d ceased to exist in a conversation he was the centerpiece of.
“Well, I agree that it would be okay if he was,” Mom added, “but he’s too girl-crazed.”
The living room was in stitches. Evan thought of the Woody Allen short film Oedipus Wrecks, in which the main character’s mother disappears during a magic show and reappears as a giant face floating in the sky. She talks all day to strangers about the main character’s most embarrassing life moments. Sundays for Evan often felt a lot like Oedipus Wrecks.
“Well,” Gram continued, in a manner that proved she’d given this some thought, “he’s an artist, he’s single, he’s polite, which are all wonderful things, and his friends—”
“Gram.” Evan cut her off. “I have close friends who happen to be gay, but that has nothing to do with me.” Evan had made the mistake of inviting Tim and Marshall over to work on a project, and his grandma had spent the entire afternoon like an elderly Encyclopedia Brown, sniffing for clues and starting anything-but-subtle discussions on the attractiveness of Robert Redford.
“Well, you do spend a lot of time with them, and I read about something called latent homosexuality,” said Gram. Everyone laughed again.
“So you’re implying that I’m not only gay, but the gay third wheel to my friends?” Evan asked, afraid of the answer.
“I’m not implying anything, Evan!” she said, taking her hand off his shoulder. Evan smiled to let her know he wasn’t upset. He’d always had a very close bond with his grandmother, which only strengthened when she moved in after his grandfather died.
Before the conversation continued, Dad leaned into the shelf, and a ceramic storefront building fell to the ground and broke with a tinkle.
“Oh, you see—” Dad started, and then was on the ground picking up pieces.
The room was silent for a long second before everyone huddled around to clean up the mess. They all knew how he hated to lose a piece of the town.
“I’m sorry, Charlie,” Gram said. “I didn’t mean to distract you.”
“It’s all right, Mom,” Dad said, putting on a strained smile. “This just gives me an excuse to go buy a new one.”
The relatives relaxed and went back to their non-Evan-centered activities.
Evan’s pocket vibrated, and he took out his phone. A text read, You home? The text glowed like a beacon to a ship lost at sea. It’s safe here, it said. Come to land. It was going to be hours before all of the Owenses’ company had left, and Evan could no longer wait for hours. It was possible he could even sneak back in before they’d left. He never knew with Lucy, though. Hours could pass by completely unnoticed. This was going to be his chance. With his family members crowded around the porcelain mess or back in front of the TV, Evan grabbed his hat and coat and slipped out the door with as little noise as he could make.
The door clicked quietly shut. The sky was a pale blue as the winter sun was already starting to lower, and there were three inches of snow on the ground, from the second snowstorm of the season. Evan squinted until his eyes adjusted to all the white, reflecting the sun like a lumpy mirror covering the earth. The trees were like intricate glass sculptures, shining in the sunlight, dripping water to the ground. Evan took a deep breath of sharp, cold air, which considerably cooled down his overheated body. He felt calmer almost immediately. He took his iPod out of his coat pocket and put in his earbuds. He pulled his knit hat down over his messy hair and started walking.
The driveway was full of cars half-covered in snow or littered with the leaky remains from a quick dust-off. Evan waved to Mr. Jacobsen, who was almost through shoveling next door. He looked down the street and observed what was left of a man-versus-nature war—trails of snow blasted out of driveways and onto the road. A car at the end of the road was stuck, trying its best to drive over the stuff.
The walk to Lucy’s house took about fifteen minutes, or four and a half songs shuffled through his iPod. A greatest-hits of Evan’s Nerd Rock, as Lucy called it, played. Weezer, Ben Folds, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton. Evan enjoyed what was left of the afternoon sun and the open air. He liked being the only one out walking. He walked fast down the long roads, in big, wide steps, burning off his nervous energy, watching the tops of trees.
Evan walked up the front steps of Lucy’s dad’s house and knocked. A balding Englishman in a loose robe opened the door. He looked surprised, but pleased. “Evan, how are you?”
“I’m good, Mr. Brown. Is Lucy around?”
“Evan.” Doug frowned. “Call me Doug.” He turned around and called, “Lucy? It’s still Lucy, right?” He bantered with Evan, asking how his parents were doing. Then the hurricane blew by.
“Jesus, Dad, embarrass me, why don’t you?” Lucy said as she grabbed her coat and walked outside.
“You want a hat?”
“No, bye, back later,” Lucy said, and Evan was caught in the draft, following her out of the yard and up the street.
Evan said nothing as he looked Lucy over—studied her, even, like some odd artifact. She was different. Really different. Her hair was cut short—not cut but chopped off, making a statement as much as hair makes statements. Dyed black. Her eyes were covered in makeup, and her nose was pierced. The leather jacket was new, too, but otherwise it was Lucy, all right. Evan’s eyebrows climbed a quarter inch. Is it dress-up day? Evan thought, amused. Dress-down day?
“Hi,” she said, almost hesitantly, almost angrily, as they slowed down and walked along the dirt-and-ice-covered road.
“Hi,” Evan said, his smile barely covering his surprise.
“So…”—Lucy’s eyes rolled around—“you wanna go for a walk?”
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
“The happy wanderers,” an elderly neighbor had called Evan and Lucy when Lucy still lived there. The two would walk up and down the street and around the block for hours after school, until it got dark. They’d walk and talk about Evan-couldn’t-remember-what, as if there were that many things to talk about.
The routine should have been easy enough to pick up when she visited, but for Evan, it always felt a little awkward. Conversation was always stifled at first, and this year was no different.
They walked quietly down the hill. Evan looked around at the homes spaced unevenly off the street. He always thought the houses in this area looked like they could have each come from a different part of the country. Likewise for the streets, he thought, as they walked through a “New England” intersection that looked more like a flattened X than a cross.
“This is good,” Evan said. “I needed to get out of there.”
“Oh, family Sunday,” Lucy said, shaking her head. “Sorry, I forgot. You would think I’d remember Brady Bunch Sundays.”
“No, it’s fine, trust me, please,” he said with increasing exaggeration. “The Brady Bunch can discuss me more openly if I’m not there anyway.”
“Can I ask?” Evan went ahead and asked. “What’s with the—” Evan made a hand-waving gesture over his face and body, unable to find the words he was looking for.
“You like?” Lucy tilted her head as if she were being photographed.
“It’s—it’s different. I’m just used—you’re just normally, I don’t know what. Less…”
“You don’t like. Pout.”
“I didn’t say that,” Evan said promptly. The thought bubble floating over his head was filled with images of dragon tattoos, Hot Topic, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.
“I just thought I’d try something different.”
“Well, mission accomplished, then. Congratulations.” Evan held out his arms. Voilà.
They walked in silence for a bit. Evan kept glancing over at her. Where’d you come from? Her look wasn’t helping them ease into normalcy. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Lucy to change her appearance (preppy Lucy, chic Lucy), and Evan did know her to develop new interests every few months (dessert baking, marathon biking). It just felt drastic. In fact, it was the complete silence, the indifference to the subject, that really fueled his curiosity. Normally Lucy couldn’t stop talking about her latest obsessions. This one was a mystery. Evan knew that if he kept bringing it up, he wouldn’t get any answers. But what else could he talk about? It was the Goth elephant in the room.
They turned left at the intersection and walked past the apartments and town houses, heading toward Evan’s.
“I think I might be valedictorian for my class,” Evan said, not bragging, but just looking for something to say.
“That’s awesome. Congratulations,” Lucy said with disconnect. Evan thought she was making an effort to sound happy. “I’m proud of you.”
He hadn’t really felt like talking about himself anyway, after the lengthy examination at his house. He was more interested in Lucy now. “You look like someone,” Evan said. “I’m not sure who. Like maybe a punked-out Miley Cyrus or something.” Lucy was just going to have to forgive him; she must have known this was coming.
“Yeah, right. Like if she ate a thousand pies a day for the rest of her life.”
“Please,” Evan said, and laughed at the image. “So your stylist, does she do any of the stars or anything…?”
Lucy punched his arm hard enough for him to feel it through layers of sweater and coat. Evan wondered for the first time if this transformation was deeper than the clothes and makeup.
“I’m sorry,” Evan said. “I’m just curious, that’s all. I mean it’s different. Should we be having some kind of discussion? What’s the protocol?”
Lucy smiled and rolled her eyes. “You’re like the guy who takes you to prom but has to ask if he can kiss you at the end of the night.”
“So we should be discussing this.”
“No. There’s nothing to discuss. It would be an empty discussion. We’d be saying nothing at all.”
Past the apartments was the long straight road with the cemetery on both sides. It was large and sprawling, and fences lined the entire length of it. The sky and the snow were almost the same shade of light purple-blue at this time in the afternoon. Evan and Lucy opened the cold gate and entered the cemetery without acknowledging a set course at any point, because this was just part of the walk, as it always had been. A few cars slowly passed by, their tires making a crunchy noise over the messy roads. Evan took a sharp, cold breath and sighed, and watched his icy sigh drift away.
Welcome to the Evan Owens Show. Our guest tonight is Lucy Brown, longtime show visitor. Haven’t seen you in twelve months, so tell us, Lucy, what’s going on in your world? Nothing? Well, the look is something, am I right, folks? What inspired this getup? No? All right, I’m on my own tonight. Surely there’s something going on you’d like to discuss. School? Family? Boys?
Now there was something that could explain the silence—she had met some new boy, he was on her mind, and she felt weird talking about it because when had they ever talked about relationships, especially about her and relationships? As far as Evan knew, she’d never been in one. Of course she’s shy.
“Are you dating anyone?” Evan asked.
Lucy looked like she’d been woken up from a nap with a splash of cold water. “Why would you ask that?”
Evan was surprised. So she was seeing someone—he’d nailed it. If she wasn’t, she’d have said no or laughed the idea off. To ask Evan why he would ask that was pretty much admitting the whole thing.
“No, are you kidding me? Boys are gross,” she followed up. Was it a cover-up?
“You’re dating someone,” Evan said, a teasing tone in his voice, like a playground bully. “Who is he? What’s going on? Is he tall, dark, and handsome? Is he, like, some Goth kid or something? That’s it, isn’t it?”
“I told you. Boys are gross. Come on, when do I date anyone?”
“So, what? Is it a crush or something?”
“Ev, God. No, there’s no one. There’s nothing.”
The puzzle pieces really fit together, but she wasn’t budging on this. Evan was still curious, though. “Why not?” he asked. “You should. Date someone, I mean. I’m sure guys ask you out. You’re not unattractive or anything.”
“Gee, thanks,” Lucy said, clearly weirded out. Wide-eyed and with restless arms, she looked as if she were covered with spiders. “Boys are gross, end of story. Sorry to disappoint.”
Lucy Brown, ladies and gentlemen, not promoting anything today. Still single, fellas. We’ll be right back! They walked slowly by rows of varied tombstones, tall and sturdy, low and crooked, some barely more than rocks. Evan didn’t want to walk another five minutes not saying anything and had just opened his mouth, unsure what was going to come out, when Lucy spoke.
“Have you been drawing anything?” she asked. The first thing she always did when she visited in the winter was pore over Evan’s sketchbooks and art pads.
“I guess. Just stuff.” Evan had been blocked creatively lately. He added art to the pile of college and sports as touchy subjects. “I tried writing. Just this idea I had, a comic-strip kinda thing, but it didn’t go so well. Turned me into a frustrated, self-loathing artiste.”
“Well, the brain’s a dark place to visit,” Lucy said nonchalantly.
Evan rolled through his mental Rolodex, but the cards were blank. He decided on trivial conversation. “You into any cool stuff lately?”
“I don’t know,” Lucy said, as if Evan had asked her for the square root of pi.
Evan wondered since when had talking to Lucy been so difficult. He’d logged hundreds of hours looping these streets with Lucy and could count the number of stifled conversations they had had on one hand.
“Sorry,” Lucy offered. “I just can’t—brain. Coffee. What about you?” She shrugged.
“Yeah, sure, a lot of stuff. I’ve gotten really into Harmony Korine. He wrote the movie Kids for Larry Clark to direct, but the stuff he writes and directs himself is way cooler.”
“Like, the first one I saw was this movie Julien Donkey-Boy.” Evan was animated now, his hands waving, his face coming to life. “It’s about this kid who has undiagnosed schizophrenia, and it’s just like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s not even a movie so much as a collection of scenes. It’s tonal. There’s this creepiness to it, and you keep cringing as he’s playing with these little kids, and just hoping he doesn’t do anything messed up, which he doesn’t, but you just never know. And Werner Herzog plays his dad, and you just have to see it. He keeps asking the kid to put on his dead wife’s dress.” Evan was rambling, but by now he was fine with it. He’d talk until she joined him, if that’s what it was going to take.
“Jesus,” Lucy said, still not looking up.
“And he started this other movie that he didn’t finish, with David Blaine—”
“The magician guy?” Lucy was letting him go on with this.
“Yeah, but forget about that—so he does this movie, and the whole concept is he’s going to go around starting fights with random people, and he won’t stop fighting without a threat of death. So he gets into six of these fights before he ends up in the hospital and calls it off. But still. He’s nuts. But, like, awesome nuts.”
If conversation were volleyball and Evan were volleying, then right now the sun was in his eyes and the ball had disappeared completely. Lucy was barely paying attention. He wanted her to take his hand. It felt empty. He had been so sure the works of Harmony Korine would get a conversation going.
“That’s really cool.” She looked lost in thought, but she wasn’t sharing any of those thoughts with Art-House Evan, who was bombing, and before he could shake Lucy and demand that she say anything, anything at all!!!—
“Look who it is,” Lucy coolly stated, raising her chin toward her and Evan’s right.
They had come upon a tombstone belonging to one Abraham Meriwether, 1871–1936. Evan had never been so happy to see a dead guy.
“Abe,” Evan said with a telling amount of relief and a quick glance at Lucy. “Still here.”
They stopped, and Evan dusted some snow off the tombstone. “You know, I looked up his Wikipedia page,” Evan said, picking up their old tradition. Even New Lucy™ couldn’t resist the History of Abraham Meriwether game.
“Really? Abe has a Wikipedia?” Lucy played along. She looked briefly at Evan for the first time since they’d left her father’s house. Her cheeks were flushed, and her lips were pale. They stood out from the wildly cut black hair that seemed chiseled from the sides of her face.
“Oh yeah,” Evan said, pulling for a last-quarter comeback from Old Lucy. “Turns out he’s a pretty famous guy. For instance, did you know he invented a prototype of the DVD-R?”
“Really?” Lucy asked, the designated skeptic. “Way back in the eighteen hundreds?”
“It was made out of stone.”
“Oh, well, that makes sense, then,” Lucy said, part of a comedy duo now, playing to the world’s most captive audience. “I’d heard he took part in some unsavory honey-based exploits in Hong Kong. He spent the latter years of his life harassed by angry bees.”
“This is true. It was the cause of his death, in fact.” Evan was relishing the familiarity of the conversation. They’d been discussing Mr. Meriwether for years, his story always changing. He’d been a real-life Sherlock Holmes, a blind championship fighter, and part red fox. At times the entire cemetery had been a ruse to cover up Abraham’s underground headquarters.
“Anything else on his Wikipedia?” Lucy asked, and flashes of previous years passed in front of Evan: when they were thirteen and first found Abe; when they were inventing stories for everyone buried there. But Abe was special. Abraham Meriwether, come on. “Sure, yeah, of course,” Evan said, trying to think up something witty. “Let’s see. Abe was very well-known for his activity in the Julien Donkey-Boy fandom.” Lucy and Evan both laughed at this. “He beat Steve Wiebe’s high score in Donkey Kong,” he added.
“See, again, that seems unlikely,” Lucy said with a smile. It was a slight smile, but it was genuine, and Evan knew it from the way her eyes squinted. Lucy fake-smiled often, but Evan knew the real smile was in her eyes.
“Stone tablet Donkey Kong,” Evan said, looking away from Lucy before she noticed his glances. “That’s why the council wouldn’t accept his high score.”
“Sad.” Lucy shook her head.
“A broken heart and hundreds of bee stings, they all led him right here,” Evan said. Lucy’s smile was forced now. The game was over. The moment had come and gone like a passing breeze.
Lucy let out a sigh as they walked, once again in silence, aside from the crunching of leaves and branches under the snow. Evan noticed the sigh and couldn’t help but think that for someone who had texted him earlier, Lucy did not seem all that interested in actually being there. He’d tried to keep her talking, but now he was thinking he should have stayed home. Maybe she’s just in a mood right now. Maybe meeting up later would have been better. Or earlier. Or any other time than right now.
They continued trudging through snow that spilled onto the path leading uphill. At the top of the hill, they turned to follow a line of trees. The icy branches crossed above them like a spiderweb against the sky.
“How long have you been in town, anyway? Did you just get here?” Evan didn’t want to seem pushy, but Lucy usually called him or texted the second she landed.
“Huh?” Lucy asked, like she’d just woken up from a nap.
“Well, it’s Sunday now. Usually you get here on a Friday or a Saturday, right?”
“Oh. Yeah, no, I got here yesterday. My dad just wanted to spend a little time with me.”
Excerpted from Winter Town by Emond, Stephen Copyright © 2011 by Emond, Stephen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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