Other girls had come and gone. Hers was the only face that stayed before his eyes every time he closed them. His mother had kept telling her he’d find another girl. He just had to open his eyes. Why bother, when the one he wanted was right there.
Then congestive heart failure had crept up on her—crept up on her from behind while he stood before her, watching its slow progress, doing nothing. Just waiting. He could be patient. He could no longer hear the tremble in her voice as she pleaded for him to take her to the hospital. Time had washed that away, washed away his mother’s dreadful, whimpering voice.
But her face, Mary Cate’s face, remained.
It wasn’t just the face. It was the hair. Nothing like that hair, flames curling around his face, skin so pale he could watch her blood pulsing beneath it. It fluttered behind her while others flew past on the Cardinal-Neumann High track. He would watch her while she raced and lost, always lagging behind. Why was she there in the first place, when she so obviously couldn’t keep up the pace?
She was slow. Easy to catch. A flame he could hold in his hands. There would be no competition. Not for a few years, anyway, but how was he to have known that then? Just out of rehab, he’d been a seventeen year-old idiot sentenced to Catholic school.
“For the discipline,” his mother had said. “That public school special ed program has done all it’s gonna if you don’t get yourself some discipline.”
He’d been suspended once for smoking in the bathroom—just for smoking. One stipulation for being allowed to come back was to go to peer tutoring. The senior honors English student who’d walked into his peer tutoring session had been reason enough to straighten up and fly right—or at least look that way.
She had slipped away from his hands before. And now she was practically being handed to him. He’d tried to get her back once, twice before. It had been a fight he’d lost both times.
But this time? This time was going to be fun.