Lies My Girlfriend Told Me Page 24

As soon as the words are out, I wish I could take them back. She has the right to believe whatever she wants.

’’You\ e right,’’ she says. ’’It\s hard to rationalize how a person can buy into some of the teachings of a religion and not others. All I know is that I love God, and believing there\s a higher power and a heaven to go to when you die gives me comfort. There are a lot of teachings I don\ believe. Like you can\ practice birth control;you can only go to a Catholic church;you can\ wear polyester.’’

’’What? Seriously?’’

’’For me, though, God is love, pure and simple. And God would never ask me to choose between my truth and my faith.’’

That makes sense to me. I could build a personal spirituality based on love.

’’Did I answer your question?’’ Liana asks.

’’Yes. Thanks.’’

’’You\ e welcome.’’ She runs the backs of her fingers down my face and kisses me. We don\ go any further than kissing. Touching. She\s soft and warm and safe. I think safe is what we both need right now.

Bright sunshine streaks through the curtains and my bleary eyes drift across the bed. She\s still here, spooning against me.

I glance at my clock and gasp. Ten thirty? ’’Liana.’’ I shake her shoulder a little.

She murmurs.

’’You have to go back to the guest room.’’ If Mom or Dad finds us here...

’’But I don\ want to.’’ She links a leg in mine and rolls me over. She rakes her fingers through my hair.

Liana must hear the footsteps on the stairs at the same time I do. She scrambles to untangle herself from the sheet.

At that moment, a knock sounds and my door opens. Mom sticks her head in. ’’I need you to run some errands for me, if you don\ mind.’’

’’I don\ mind.’’ Glancing sideways across the bed, I notice Liana\s not visible. She must\ve leapt off the mattress just in time.

Mom adds, ’’Good morning, Liana. Maybe on the way Alix can fill a gas can so you can get your car to a station.’’

’’Okay,’’ this tiny voice squeaks from the floor. ’’Thanks.’’

Mom leaves and I sprawl across the bed. Liana\s flat on her stomach, her butt cheeks fully exposed around her thong.

’’Hold on.’’ I grab my iPad. ’’Let me get a shot of this for Facebook.’’

Epilogue

I see Joss a few times at school, but whenever our eyes meet she turns and bolts. I get the message. Maybe I\m her worst memory of her dead sister, since I\m the one who told her the truth. One day I drive by her cul-de-sac and there\s a FOR SALE sign stuck in the Durbins\ front yard with a SOLD banner slapped across it. My first thought is, I hope wherever Joss lands, she\ll make a new beginning for herself.

The distance between Arvada and Greeley is still a pain, but school\s out for both of us, so Liana and I have more time to spend together. Our girls\ track team went to the state finals, even without Swanee, and it was a blast cheering them on and hanging out with Betheny again. I\m pretty sure Swan wouldn\ be pleased to know she wasn\ as pivotal to the team as she thought. But in her short life, she did find her passion.

Liana suggested I set up a website to sell my jewelry. Her brother is studying to become a Web designer, and he agreed to help. ’’For a nominal fee,’’ he told Liana. Liana told him, ’’ \Nominal\ meaning \free.\ ’’ She threatened to rat him out about his speeding tickets, and now I\ve got a very cool website called Bejeweled by Alixandra. In the first week, I actually sold two sets of earrings. It\s awesome imagining my jewelry being worn by people who find it beautiful or funky. I\m applying to CU to study art. Or premed. Or both. Liana\s going to need a roommate. Right?

Liana and I are meeting at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the July 4 concert and fireworks display. Even though we\ e officially a couple now, prior to the concert, we wanted to finalize one aspect of our lives so it wouldn\ always be hanging over us.

As I turn into the entrance for Red Rocks, I see that Liana\s car is already in the lot. She\s nowhere to be seen.

The sky is a dazzling blue against the white helium-filled balloon I bought at Party City on my way here. The balloon bobs in the breeze as I make my way up the trail to the auditorium. I don\ want to lose my balloon in the wind, so I wrap the ribbons three times around my wrist.

Liana\s sitting on the top riser with her white balloon, and when she sees me she stands and waves. I hurry to her and we embrace. ’’You\ e late,’’ she says. ’’Did you have trouble finding it?’’

’’Yeah. My GPS is permanently set on Greeley.’’ We laugh. If you live in Colorado, you know where Red Rocks Amphitheatre is. Not to mention I\m fifteen minutes early.

’’Are you ready?’’ she asks me.

’’In a minute. I wrote something.’’ I fish in the front pocket of my shorts and pull out a sheet of paper folded in fourths. If there\s one thing I\ve learned through all of this, thanks to both Swanee and Liana, it\s that we have so little control over what happens to us in life. But we do have the power to forgive, both ourselves and others.

’’It\s not that good,’’ I say to Liana.

’’If you wrote it, it\s Pulitzer Prize material.’’

I snort. ’’Hold this.’’ I hand her my white balloon.

We sit, both of us gazing down at the empty stage. We considered doing this at Jeffco Stadium, where Swan died, but agreed that would be morbid. And melancholy is not our intent today.

’’Ready?’’ I say.

’’Could you be any more dramatic?’’

’’Shut up.’’

She grins. Her hair glistens in the sun and a curly tendril blows into her mouth. I reach over and brush it away.

Unfolding the paper, I take a deep breath and recite:

’’Maybe you knew

how short your time would be

how your love

could be potent

possessive

poison.

We loved the person

we knew

or thought we did.

That\ll never change.

Love can give you life

or take it away

you can pass it on

or stop it in its tracks.’’

I hesitate. ’’Is it awful?’’

’’No. But it feels unfinished.’’

’’Duh. Because there\s more.’’ I continue:

’’We want you to know

we forgive you

and we thank you

for bringing us together.’’

I refold the paper. ’’That\s it.’’

Liana takes my hand and squeezes. ’’It\s perfect. Now are you ready?’’

I nod.

She hands me back my balloon. We discussed buying a bunch of multicolored balloons, but decided in the end on the two white ones, symbolizing doves. Peace and serenity. We couldn\ abandon the rainbow completely, so we each got a variety of colored ribbons tied to the ends of the balloons. We knot all the ribbons together and stand up.

Our fingers curl together around the knot and I say, ’’On the count of three.’’

We count, ’’One, two, three,’’ and then release both balloons. They rise into the air, the ribbons fluttering like kite tails. Liana and I shade our eyes and watch as a gust of wind whips the balloons down the auditorium, between the red granite towers, over the stage, and out of sight.

Liana and I snake our arms around each other, resting our temples together. Then we kiss. Liana breaks free and points straight up in the sky. I catch a final glimpse of our balloons, sailing high into the heavens.

Good-bye, Swanee, I say to myself. You were my first, and that\ll never change. But life goes on, and so do survivors. Liana and I are joining their ranks.


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