Authors: Francine Pascal
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Gaia had despised Tatiana for every one of her offensive assumptions and lofty judgments. And they had all been correct. All Tatiana's holier-than-thou, high-and-mighty presumptions had been disgustingly, embarrassingly right on the money. Bringing this low-level hustler into the house had been a terrible mistake. Terrible mistakeâthere was the understatement of the century.
Gaia's lousy judgment and reverse snobbery were about to get them both killed.
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To Avery Glize-Kane
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
First Simon Pulse edition March 2002
Text copyright Â© 2002 by Francine Pascal
Cover copyright Â© 2002 by 17th Street Productions, an Alloy, Inc. company.
Cover photography by St. Denis. Cover design by Russell Gordon.
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you ever looked in the mirror and started to wonder if the real you was the one in the mirror and you were actually the mirror image?
Or what about thisâhave you ever woken up from a dream and realized that you were actually still dreaming, and then kind of lost track for a while of what was reality and what was the dream?
No, I'm not high. I know that's what you're thinking already, but the fact is, I don't do drugs. I just think too much.
Okay, here's my point. Whether you've read the works of Plato or you've just warbled a couple of rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in the backseat of a car, you've still come across this theory: Life is but a dream. Rings a bell, yes?
Well, I have to say, I think that pretty succinctly describes my life at this point. After everything I've been through and
discovered in the last forty-eight hours or so, I'm honestly not sure I can tell the difference between reality and dreams. Nor am I sure I want to. Yes, sir, I am so deep through the looking glass at this point, I may just have to change my name to Alice.
Example: My uncle has informed me that I wasn't born fearless. He says my fear genes are totally intact and that in fact I've only been fearless because of some kind of serum that my father and the Agency injected into my bloodstream when I was a baby.
Follow me on this one.
So my uncle gives me this new injection. This serum that's supposed to
what my father did to me and make me feel fear again. (“Drink me.” “Eat me.” Are you with me on
And once I took the serum, let's just say, for the sake of brevity, that I went nuts. Real nuts.
Yeah â¦ there were delusions, paranoid freak-outs, the works. But after a few revelations,
What is the reality and what is the dream? Have I, unbeknownst to myself, been in love with Ed for the last year and only dreaming we were nothing more than friends? Or are we still only friends in reality, and this glorious perfect morning is only a dream? See, I've fallen asleep and awoken so many times in the last forty-eight hours, I'm honestly not sure anymore. I've coasted in and out of sanity so many times, I'm not altogether sure I'm not insane at this very moment.
But if I am insane, or if lying next to Ed is only a dream, then I'm begging you, whoever makes these kinds of decisions up there, please, please don't let me wake up. Please just let me sleep. Because this dream is so superior to any reality I've had in months. And as long as everything around us stays quiet, I think perhaps it just might last.
the most important of which was that Loki has created at least two Josh clones (yes, clonesâwelcome to my dream world), I think I've finally recovered from my very unfortunate experiment with fear.
But here's the thing. I honestly don't know if my uncle was lying or not. So which thing is real? Am I fearless, and I was just temporarily dreaming I could feel fear? Or am I actually capable of fear, and I've just been living a seventeen-year dream that I was fearless? I honestly do not have a clue.
Here's a much more immediate example: Around four-thirty this morning, I realized something that I think I already knew. I am in love with Ed Fargo. Not a temporary crush. Not any kind of teenage puppy love or romantic experimentation. Just love. Pure and simple.
But after the last forty-eight hours of madness, I can't help wonderingâ¦.
His lipsâ¦ what was it about his lips?
“DO YOU WANT ME TO CLOSE THE window?”
Ed had pulled his lips away from Gaia's and brought his head back just far enough to look her in the eyes. His hair was still hanging down on her forehead, keeping them connected, as he smiled at her with the most Ed-specific guileless adoration.
“Why?” Gaia whispered, doing her best to breathe regularly in spite of the fact that her heart was beating triplets.
“Aren't you freezing?” he whispered sweetly. “You're shivering like crazy.”
Gaia froze from sheer embarrassment, though she wasn't the least bit cold. Her eyes froze over as well, with a momentary attack of deer-in-headlights syndrome. “Ohâ¦ y-yeah,” she stammered. “The window. Good idea.”
Ed reached over Gaia in the bed and dragged his bedroom window shut, cutting off what was left of the city street noise at five in the morning.
She actually would have much preferred to keep it open, but what was she supposed to say? Was she supposed to tell him the truth? That she was shivering from his kisses, and his soft lips on her neck, and the feeling of his palms and his fingertips running along her waist? That the shivering was some kind of involuntary physical manifestation of how inconceivably
happy she was at this moment, on his bed, in his arms, in the abnormally bright mix of ocean blue moonlight and stark white New York streetlight?
No. That was unquestionably something to be felt and not to be said. Like a million other things she was feeling now, staring back into his eyes.
The brief window exchange had finally pulled their lips and bodies apart after twenty-eight minutes, and Ed leaned back to his pillow, running his finger along Gaia's cheek.
Just twenty-eight minutes. Gaia couldn't believe it. Twenty-eight minutes since she'd confessedâat least, in her own wayâthat she loved him. How could this version of them be only a half hour old?
But that really wasn't true, was it? Not if Gaia wanted to be completely honest with herself. Not if she wanted to dig past the paper-thin labels and relationship rules set up by the pre-
When Harry Met Sally
generation. The fact was, that movie wasn't just for liberal Upper West Side yuppie men and women over thirty. In truth, if all seventeen-year-olds could speak as honestly as Harry Burns and Sally Albright, then they, too, would have to confess that there was probably
else going on under their “best friendships” with members of the opposite sex.
“Friends” might once have been the label for Gaia and Ed, but given the particularly honest mood she was in at this moment, Gaia had to admit that in some
way, she and Ed had sort of been “courting” since the school year started. In spite of all the love and tragedies they'd experienced apart from each other. In spite of a million other things, Gaia and Ed were a constant.
Maybe that was why, once she'd admitted what she was feeling, it was suddenly so easy to be so close. Almost as if they'd been together this way the entire time. Twenty-eight minutes into this relationship, and Gaia was finding herself with a boyfriend whom she knew inside and out and trusted even more than she did herself.
Ed cocked his head and searched Gaia's eyes with a mildly bemused smile. “What are you thinking?”
“Nothing,” Gaia responded instantly. Man, did she need to work on the spoken-honesty thing.
“You're still working on the spoken-honesty thing, aren't you?” Ed asked. God, he was good.
“No.” Gaia squirmed. “I justâ¦”
Oh, Gaia, cut it out. You've got nothing left to hide now.
“Yeah,” she admitted. “Yeah, I'm having a little trouble in that category.”
“Okay,” Ed said purposefully, jamming his elbow into his pillow and leaning his head on his hand, “let's do a little exercise in spoken honestyâ”
“Oh, hell, no,” Gaia interrupted.
“Come on.” Ed laughed. “It's five in the morning. Who's going to know? What, are you afraid?”
Oh, he didn't want to go there. Gaia didn't want go
there. That was the question of the hour.
question. Was her uncle's injection a phony or not? Was fear now a part of her life, or was that all a hoax? Was her fearlessness genetic or part of some governmental excuse for a science project put together by her father and a bunch of freakazoid CIA doctors? No, sir, she would not be going there. Not on this beautiful dark morning in this safe bed with her glorious new “everything” looking into her eyes. Whether she was now capable of fear or not, in this bed, with this boy, she wasn't afraid of anything.
“No,” Gaia assured him. “I am most definitely not afraid.”
“Fine, then you just have to answer a few questions honestly.”
“Fine. Okay. Question one: Do you find meâ¦
“Okay, I quit,” Gaia said, turning toward the window.
“Kidding,” Ed laughed, pulling her back toward him.
“You've got one more shot,” she said, with a comical glare.