Read All We Know of Heaven Online

Authors: Jacquelyn Mitchard

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Death & Dying, #General, #Emotions & Feelings

All We Know of Heaven

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
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All We Know of Heaven

N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L I N G A U T H O R

JACQUELYN
MITCHARD

all we know of heaven

A N O V E L

for melanie donovan

My life closed twice before its close; It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive, As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven, And all we need of hell.

—Emily Dickinson

Contents

Epigraph
iii

Part
I
1

The First Valentine’s
Day
3

County Highway G, December 23 7
P.M.
16

The
Cross
28

Early
Next Morning
33

What
Child is This?
40

A
Slow Turning
55

Wonderland
64

A
Slow Storm Turning
74

Part
II
83

Beginning with the
End
85

Blog
Fight
113

The
Pipeline
129

Homecoming
141

Prom
Night
168

Part
III
191

Long
Winter
193

Joy
in the Morning
204

Corridors
210

Stone
Tears
223

Parting
240

Two
Again
259

Far and
Away
277

After
Life
289

A Place for Us

304

Acknowledgments
311

About the
Author Credits

Cover Copyright

About the Publisher

PA R T I

bridget and maureen

the first valentine’s day

Once she understood that she was dead, her first thought was that heaven was overrated.

Perhaps she wasn’t in heaven but in purgatory, sort of heaven’s mudroom. Either way, everything her grandmother and Father Genovese had taught her was a lie.

There were no streets of gold or a cappella singing, no elderly ancestors like little apple dolls gathered to welcome her, no mountain sunsets—not even Disney World without lines.

But it took such a long time to think of this that it made her wonder if she was alive—or if maybe being dead took getting used to, like cold

water or the dentist.

At first she could only think of the place where she was as PUH.

And even for that she had to sort of scale her way up her thoughts, as if thinking was a climbing rope in the gym.

Pee. Pie. Please. Tree. See.

Seats. Store.

NO! Nononono. NO. START OVER.

Story. Pie story. Pug hug.

Piggy hug. Pug.

It took her many times, as long as a carpet unrolling forever, to think of the word for . . . purgatory. Trying to wiggle into her own mind wore her out. She couldn’t even find the door.

And being an angel was supposed to be easy comparedwith life. But did angels think? Maybe she wasn’t an angel.

Maybe what she’d done with Danny had disqualified her.

4

Maybe only ghosts had these kinds of issues. How was it possible that she could think of words such as “disqualified” and “issues” but not ordinary words—and she knew that there were words—for the “lights” and “darks”? How could she remember Danny but not, half the

time, her own name?

Her mind was like her grandmother’s refrigerator: ajumbleof little things, somemoldy beyond recognition but still frugally saved—two brown coins of banana, a few spoonfuls of rice— all in little plastic-wrapped squares. And she couldn’t open the stuck-together little squares. She couldn’t get them unstuck any more than she could open her eyes. She couldn’t get her eyes to open, not even for a second.

She wasn’t sad.

You weren’t supposed to be sad at your death.

But she wasn’t joyous either.

Where was the bliss?

When they were tiny, adults called them the Pigtail Pals, as if they were a brand of doll. When they were bigger, they called them the Dyno Mites, as if they were a stomp team. Always together—two elfin blond things, tiny but shock ingly strong (Bridget could walk up thirteen stairs on her hands by the time she was eight). They took Tumbleweeds together at the Y and after that headed off to cheerleading

classes and camp, even though at their school it was the pom girls who had been revered as sex goddesses and the cheerleaders treated basically like scum. But now that they were sophomores there were cheerleading movies (and no pom-pom movies!); plus, the cheerleaders had the best bodies of anyone, thighs with strips of long, lean muscle that amazed even the girls themselves when they stood in front of a mirror in underpants.

Sometimes it seemed worth it.

As they had grown older—at least according to Maureen’s older brother Jack—they resembled each other even more. Sometimes they bought the same clothes in different col ors, if Maureen could afford them. If Maureen couldn’t, sometimes Bridget bought the clothes for both of them. On sale, but still.

They loved being seen as a pair.

Bridget and Maureen took pride in the marks on the Flannery garage door that showed, year after year, that they were exactly the same height—not one half inch taller or shorter. They had the same huge, almond-slanted gold-flecked green eyes; and they could charm anyone— usually out of anything. Well, Bridget was the one who did the charming, which was what Maureen both loved and feared about her.

“My older sister was a Girl Scout,” Bridget once told the lady who sold Girl Scout cookies outside the Shop-and- Save. “She’s in the . . . in an insane hospital now, and she can’t be a Girl Scout anymore. She still wears her outfit and her badges and pretends she is. She used to sell cookies.”

Bridget didn’t even
hav
e an older sister.

But her earnest sweetness as she lied was always good for a free box of Thin Mints. Somehow the lady at the Shop- and-Save never compared notes with the ladies at the Big elow Bank or the Coffee Clutch.

“Where did you get all those cookies?” Maureen’s mother had asked, when Maureen came home with a box stuffed nonchalantly inside her hoodie.

“Ladies gave us boxes of them,” Maury had told her hon estly.

“You’re not supposed to take things from strangers!” her mother snapped, examining the boxes as if they might contain razor blades or arsenic.

“They weren’t strangers,” Maury said. “It was Mrs. Hotchkiss and the lunch lady at Henry’s school, Miss Bliss. They were sitting inside the bank.”

“Why’d they give them to you for free?” “They like us,” Maury said.

That was a fact.

Itwasonlyoneoftheprivilegesofbeing Bridget’sfriend, as Bridget explained solemnly. By the time she was six she had understood the meaning of “privilege.” She knew it was good to be her. She understood her own charisma.

You didn’t dare to say no to Bridget—not if you wanted to stay friends with her.

And you
did
want to stay her friend. Everyone did.

She picked up friendships the way tape picked up lint from a sweater—effortlessly, easily, and with about as much

passion. Friends were a delight to Bridget but—with the ex ception of Maury—readily interchangeable. Maureen was proud to be the first friend Bridget collected when she came to Bigelow and the one she had kept. Aside from Maury, Bridget took you as a BFF for two weeks, gave you the whole Bridget treatment—the pool, gymnastics on the huge tramp, b-ball and tennis on the sport courts—but most of her best friends didn’t last a semester, let alone forever.

But then people at school were always recycling friend ships and stealing boyfriends, putting nasty things into one another’s backpacks and then telling the principal so that the innocent person got suspended. Maureen thought people treated betrayal and cruelty like a party game, though she did it, too. Still, it made her sick to hear some one say, “Here comes Em-ILL-EE. Must be Skanky Girl Day . . .” She made it a point to be sure that Bridget never had cause to put her down.

Maury treated Bridget’s house like an addition built onto her own. She didn’t even have to knock to go in.

Maury couldn’t imagine how she would live without Bridget.

Even when Bridget had fallen in love, if she was with Danny on a date, Bridget came to Maureen’s to sleep over afterward or Maureen would be waiting at Bridget’s for her when she got home.

The O’Malleys, with their many children, had lived in Bigelow forever. There was a trophy case where Bill O’Malley’s wrestling trophy (second in state, 1974) was

still displayed. He had carved his name in a heart with the name of Jeannie Forbes on the workbench in shop class— two years before she became Jean Marie O’Malley.

But Bridget’s family came to Bigelow the summer that Maureen was five.

From Chicago.

Mr. and Mrs. Flannery opened a business called Occa sions that planned weddings and graduations, anniver saries and card parties. People only had to make one call, and Bridget’s parents would handle everything from the food to the flowers to the tent to the deejay. The slogan was “Flannery’s Occasions: We Bring Everything Except the Memories.” Everyone said a business like that would last in Bigelow about as long as a French hairstylist, or a French restaurant. People were pretty set in their ways there.

Bigelow summers were short and brutally hot. People got married in the Lutheran church—even if they were Catholics—because the Lutherans had central air. Kids spent summer vacation underwater in Slipper Lake; they didn’t mind pulling the leeches off their legs or having ev erything they touched smell permanently of bug repellant. Unless they were wacko-committed backpackers or run ners, adults spent most days and nights inside with the air on after about the first two weeks of June. If they could bear the heat, they sat on screened porches because the mos quitoes got as big and hairy as Shih Tzus.

Winters lasted nine months, and the same rule held true: stay inside.

“Bigelow,” Bridget said. “The town where living human beings are sighted only during the month of October.”

Privately, she thought people in Minnesota were wimps. She only dimly remembered her life in Chicago, but there you were out no matter what the weather.

The Flannerys’ business didn’t fail (and neither did Euro-Cuts, which opened two years later).

Bridget was like her parents. She believed absolutely that there was nothing truly impossible for her. The bike jump at the end of the cul-de-sac was sort of for the boys; but Bridget, in her silver helmet, routinely sailed off it, and landed safely.

“I’m self-relying,” she told Maureen when they were nine or ten. “My parents let me stay home alone since I was seven. With the baby.”

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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