Other Breakable Things

Other Breakable Things

by Kelley York, Rowan Altwood

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Overview

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633755994
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 306
File size: 669 KB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Read an Excerpt

Other Breakable Things


By Kelley York, Rowan Altwood, Stacy Abrams, Tara Whitaker

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Kelley York and Rowan Altwood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-599-4


CHAPTER 1

Evelyn

Mom says falling in love is the most incredible thing in the world. She would know; she's done it as many times as I am years old. Sometimes they're weeklong whirlwind romances, flings with soldiers who come into town during an off-duty stint, who promise to write after they leave and never do. Sometimes they're a married firefighter who calls things off after he decides he and his wife really need to work it out. Mom takes every one of these relationships — and breakups — very seriously.

To be fair, for a while even I was pretty convinced Robert was the one who would last. It started out as many of Mom's relationships did, and I thought it would end the same as all the others, too. Except this time, Mom came home to Grandma Jane's late one night, gently shook me awake, and said in an excited whisper, "C'mon, Evelyn. We're getting out of here." This was new. This was different. I went into it thinking, hoping, that Robert might be some missing piece to our family dynamic.

Oh God, how wrong I was.

Three years. That's a long time for a woman who normally doesn't have a relationship beyond three months. Yet here we are back at square one, with our suitcases in hand in Grandma Jane's living room, and she's sighing as she shakes her head. "Go on, then. Get unpacked."

That's that. Three years in a podunk town in Arizona, and now we're back in California. Back in Fresno. It's like no time has passed at all.

Grandma wanted me to go back to public school. "A seventeen-year-old girl should be making friends," she insists. "Going to prom and all that."

A few years ago I might have agreed with her. But it's not like I have any friends here, and I really don't think I'm going to be making any. Online independent study has gotten me through the last three years just fine, and I don't see why I can't let it carry me the rest of the way.

Besides, back then, I'd always thought when I went to prom, Luc would be the boy at my side.

There are things I missed about this stupid town, though. The movie theater where Luc and I spent a lot of our weekends, for instance. We'd start out bright and early in the morning, hitting up whatever movie was playing first. When it ended, we slipped into our respective bathrooms, gave it fifteen minutes, and met back up to sneak with the crowds into the next movie. We never did get caught.

There's also the mall, the park, Emperor's Pizza Palace that does karaoke every Tuesday night. We always went but never sang. It was more fun to sit in the back with a pizza between us and watch everyone else, laughing to each other over the horrible singers and commending the occasional decent one. We were both good at that. At watching.

All the things I missed about California are Luc-centric. Which makes sense, I guess. I mean, it wasn't like I really had any other friends. Neither did he. The difference being ... I think Luc could have made friends if he'd ever wanted to, but I was awkward and shy and no girls — or guys, for that matter — my age really took any notice of me.

Our second day back in Fresno, just for kicks, I drive by the high school. I was only there for six months before we moved, but obviously it's fresher in my memory than middle school. Students are running laps out on the track, so school must be in session. If the bell schedule hasn't changed, they'll be going to lunch in about fifteen minutes.

I see the bleachers Luc and I used to hide behind when we ditched classes, when I got overwhelmed and just wanted to be away from everyone. It didn't matter what class Luc was supposed to be in; he always went with me.

As I'm heading home, I take a detour into one of the much nicer neighborhoods, only a few blocks from mine. I stop at the curb in front of a large, beautiful two-story house that might be a different color than I remember. Maybe they had it painted.

Luc's house.

Unless he's moved. Which is a possibility. Or his parents still live here and Luc himself is off on his own somewhere. His family has the money for things like that, and Luc would've turned nineteen two months ago, old enough to have his own place.

I'm psyching myself out, I realize. Trying to come up with excuses to not approach and knock. The driveway is empty, but that doesn't mean anything; they could park in the garage for all I know.

What would I say to Luc if he answered, anyway? Hey, thanks for being a shitty friend when I left! Somehow I don't think that would end well, and it wouldn't make me feel any better.

But there's no denying how much I've missed him. How much I want to hear his voice, see his face ...

I also don't want to be the one to initiate it. It feels like I've chased after Luc for the last three years, trying to get him to talk to me, to keep in touch. The number of nights I spent crying myself to sleep over it borders on ridiculous.

After sitting and debating for a while, I twist around to rummage in the backseat, which still contains a few boxes Mom and I haven't unpacked yet. I find a scrap of paper and begin folding. When I was little, Mom took me to a bookstore and let me pick out a book of my choice. I found myself drawn to one on origami, and it started a lifelong love of creating life out of a single piece of paper. I leave the crane I create on Luc's doorstep. When — if — he sees it, he'll know that it's me. And if he wants to see me, really wants to see me, he'll do it.

As I'm driving home, I can't shake the looming sense of hopelessness that he won't.


* * *

Mom hasn't left her room all day, Grandma says. Go figure. She takes a casserole out of the oven and I bring a plate of it upstairs. Mom has not, in fact, gotten out of bed, and her eyes are bleary as she stares at the old TV with its fuzzy picture of basic cable. Grandma would never invest in anything more than that.

She lifts her head to look at me and manages a smile. "Hey, baby girl."

I wish I could tell Mom that we dodged a bullet with Robert. That I'm glad we left. That I don't know how much longer I could have handled living under the same roof as him, and that even the thought of him makes my stomach twist into unbearable knots. I bite the thoughts back, though, because the last thing I need to try to explain to her are my own issues and how badly I want to leave Arizona and Robert as a distant memory.

"Hungry?" I set the plate on her nightstand even as she's waving it off.

"Bah, I can smell the onions. Mama likes to make that crap to spite me. She knows I won't eat it." Mom sighs, rolling onto her back. "C'mon over and sit with me a bit. You were gone for a while. Have a good day?"

I crawl into bed beside her, drawing my knees up to my chest. "It was fine." My default answer for everything. Mom was always so stressed or unhappy that I never wanted to tell her when school was hard, or when I was lonely because I didn't know how to make friendships last, or when I fell in love with a boy named Luc and she made me leave him behind so she could chase after Robert.

So ... fine. It's a safe word. Not good, not great, but things could be worse and therefore it isn't a lie.

"You're always good." She chuckles, lifting a cool hand to brush the dark hair back from my face. "I swear. One day you were my baby, and then I turned around and you had grown up. When did that happen?"

I just smile. I settle down with her to watch TV in silence and wonder what it means that when I say fine, she always hears the words I'm specifically not saying. Like good.

Is she really listening?


Luc

Grocery day is Dad's favorite day. Or at least, it would be if I didn't usually go with him.

Dad's been in immaculate shape for as long as I can remember. Broad-shouldered, solid but not overweight. He isn't some muscle-head but he does work out, keeps himself healthy. Exercises enough that he can grab a bag of chips and a quart of ice cream with a big, cheesy smile on his face. His diet consists of whatever I want so long as I burn offthe calories later.

My diet consists of caloric restrictions, low sodium, low cholesterol, low carbs, low salt, and low fat. Basically, low everything that tastes good.

Going shopping together means Dad picking out foods he loves, while I'm reading over labels to make sure I'm getting things I'm supposed to actually be eating. When we're shopping together, though, I see him hesitate with his choices, stealing glances at me as though he feels guilty. Half the time, he puts his food back. Which makes me feel like crap. Other people shouldn't have to suffer just because my body is stupid.

I've stuck rigorously to the diet the nutritionists suggested. For all the fucking good it's done.

When we get home, Dad hoists all but two small bags into his arms. I grab the remaining two, shut the tailgate to his pickup, and follow. I find him standing on the porch, stepping back a few inches to look at something at his feet. "What's that?"

I unlock the door for him before stooping down to pick it up. The moment I'm close enough, I instantly recognize it.

An origami bird.

Only one person in all the world would leave something like this on my doorstep. Seeing it, holding it, might be the first time I've felt like I could breathe freely in months, while constricting my chest painfully at the same time.

Evelyn's back in town.

When she moved to Arizona, she wrote me damned near every day at first. I wrote back once a week. Her emails tapered off to once a week, mine went biweekly. As of this exact moment, I haven't written to her in nearly four months and I have four emails sitting read and not responded to in my inbox.

It had nothing to do with her.

That is, it isn't because I didn't want to keep in better contact. It wasn't that I didn't want to talk to her. I liked getting every email she sent — at the time, she didn't have her own cell phone so we were restricted to writing — but I never knew what to write back. With her gone, I did a whole lot of nothing. When you cut out my transplant and the extensive recovery process that followed, I really didn't have a lot to talk about.

Besides, what sense would it have made? I was sick. I am sick. A new heart didn't change that. Evelyn didn't need that kind of shit in her life. I never should have let her get close in the first place because it made her leaving all that much harder. My hopes for Evelyn after she moved had been for her to live a happy family life and meet some nice guy who could give her everything and treat her the way she deserved. She was smart, she was beautiful, she was kind; if she would realize that, she'd have no problems meeting people who would love her the way I do. And I — well. I might be six feet under by that point.

Who knows? I'm already halfway there.

CHAPTER 2

Luc

Three days should be enough time to let the whole thing go. Some girl I hung out with when I was younger is back in town. Big deal. Nothing has changed. Or rather, maybe everything has changed.

So I don't know why I'm standing on Evelyn's doorstep. It's been years, after all, and I don't think I'm the same person anymore. Various family members tell me I've changed ... and not for the better. Too much time spent in hospitals, too much pity, too much of the unknown. It doesn't help that I went through that stupid transplant and I'm still on a leash when it comes to what I can and can't do. I feel like an old car that constantly needs attention and oil and coolant to avoid breaking down on the side of the road.

I wonder if Evelyn has changed, too. Maybe she's grown out of her awkwardness, her loneliness. For all I know, she's morphed into the stereotypical blonde cheerleader with a clique always in tow. (I can't picture that, though. Evelyn? Not if her life depended on it.) Writing the occasional email is way different than seeing someone in person, so I really have no idea what she's like anymore.

Regardless of whether or not I understand the reason, here I am. I spent the drive trying to play out what to say, how to stand, how to act, anticipating what to expect when I see her.

Thankfully, it isn't her mom or grandma who answers the door. It's Evelyn herself. For every inch of her that's changed in some way, I would have instantly recognized her anywhere without a second glance. She's ... grown into herself, almost. Taller, sure. Curvy. But she looks less like the awkward, frizzy-haired outcast and more like — I don't know. Soft and beautiful in her pajamas with a hole in her sock and I can't look away because holy hell, it strikes me just how gorgeous she is and how much I've missed her.

Her brown eyes widen the instant they land on me, and I can only imagine what she's thinking. I look different, too. Taller, skinnier. Unhealthily so. Without thinking, I nervously say, "Looks like you took all my weight."

That ... probably could've come out better.

Evelyn's face twists into an expression that is all too familiar. Unimpressed and unamused, and yet ... unsurprised. She purses her lips. "Mm-hmm. I'm going to close the door and let you try that again."

"Fair enough."

She shuts the door. I exhale heavily through my nose and roll my gaze skyward. This was a terrible idea. But I'm here, so ... I knock again. This time when Evelyn answers, I try a simple, "Hello."

Now her expression is torn somewhere between pained and sad and hopeful. I kind of want to grab her cheeks and pull them into a smile. Suits her better. But we just stand there, staring at each other, at a loss for what to say, like three years has robbed us of all our words.

Evelyn finally steps outside, shuts the door behind her, and folds her arms, trying to look more relaxed than I suspect she really is as her gaze roams over me. "I did take all your weight."

Not that I was ever well built or that Evelyn has turned into a whale, but ... "You look good."

"Good to see you, too," she says. "What are you doing here?"

I mirror her posture of crossing my arms over my chest. It's a defensive stance, but whatever. "You left me a bird. And I could ask you the same thing." Probably could've sounded less accusing there.

"I live here."

"You used to."

"I used to, and I do now." Her shoulders lift and fall, head dipping so she can stare at her feet. "Is that why you came over? To find out why I'm back?" "Maybe," I respond, because I don't know what else to say. Admit I have no idea what I expected when I showed up here? I'd prefer to at least pretend to know what I'm doing.

She squints. More awkward silence. "I haven't heard from you in a while."

"No, you haven't." Guilt edges into my voice. I could tell her why I didn't write — awkwardness, health issues, uncertainty — but again, that's not my style. It opens the floodgates for too many questions I don't know how to answer.

The tension that slides across her shoulders is visible. "Did I do something wrong?"

Ah, typical Evelyn. Blaming herself. I'd hoped she'd skip that route this time, but I should have known better. "What? No. I've just been busy." Yeah, good job, great answer.

Her voice is tight. "Too busy to drop an email once a week? Or even a text, maybe a phone call? I gave you my number as soon as I got a phone."

My eyes close. "I was ... really busy." What a lame excuse. But it's partially the truth. Both before and after the operation, I've been in and out of hospitals. Tests. Therapy. Never mind the number of times I looked at the phone or sat at my computer to contact her and never knew what to say.

"You were too busy for three years," she says, incredulous. "Why are you here, Luc? Really?"

Why am I here? The whole point of avoiding close contact with Evelyn was to prevent hurting her in the long run, and showing up at her front door isn't helping things any. Being here is a selfish move on my part; I so badly wanted to see her. Guilt starts to settle in fast. "I can leave if you want."

"Don't you do that," she says quietly. "I waited for you. I waited for everylittle scrap you would throw me while I was out there." She breathes in deep, and it's obvious she's trying not to cry. "If you hadn't wanted to talk to me, you could have said so. I would have understood."

I stare at her for a long moment, trying to adjust to an Evelyn who would stick up for herself. Evelyn was always a quiet presence, not afraid to defend others but still reserved and careful with her words. It's a good change. A great one, even. I used to worry about how she let everyone walk all over her.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Other Breakable Things by Kelley York, Rowan Altwood, Stacy Abrams, Tara Whitaker. Copyright © 2017 Kelley York and Rowan Altwood. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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