Authors: Juliana Romano
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Copyright Â© 2016 by Juliana Romano
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ebook ISBN: 9780698168831
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Romano, Juliana, author.
Title: Summer in the invisible city / Juliana Romano.
Description: New York, NY : Dial Books,  | Summary: “Sadie has always idealized her absentee dad and the popular girls in her school, but as she grows her photography skills and develops a crush on a guarded boy, she starts to see things as they really are”â Provided by publisher.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015034393 | ISBN 9780525429173 (hardback)
Subjects: | CYAC: Coming of age”âFiction. | Love”âFiction. | Fathers and daughters”âFiction. | Photography”âFiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Marriage & Divorce. | JUVENILE FICTION / Art & Architecture. | JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Friendship.
Classification: LCC PZ7.1.R668 Su 2016 | DDC [Fic]”âdc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015034393
Jacket photo Â© 2016 by Johannes Knuth
Jacket design by Samira Iravani
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Memories are like plants: if you care for them, they grow. I've relived this one night so many times that what was once just a sapling has now become a tree, its roots twisting deep into the dirt.
I was standing on the roof at a New Year's Eve party during winter break of tenth grade. It was below freezing, but we stayed outside anyway because up there we could be reckless and loud. And sometimes the cold feels good, the way it holds your heart in its claws.
Below me, the city spread out in all directions. Sparkling lights lined up in the neat rows of Manhattan, and the bridges to Queens and Brooklyn draped like beaded necklaces across the glassy East River. Looking at New York from above at night is like looking at a galaxy full of stars.
“This is the best.”
I turned and Noah Bearman was standing next to me. A lock of dark hair fell helplessly across his face, grazing the top of his sharp cheekbone and covering one of his dark eyes. He was wearing a sweatshirt that looked nowhere near warm enough. His hands were shoved into his pockets and
his shoulders were hiked up to his ears, like maybe his muscles were cramping from the cold.
“What is?” I asked, trying to act like it was normal that he would be talking to me.
“This,” he said, looking at the view. His breath froze when he spoke, making icy, geometric shapes in the night air.
I pulled a cigarette out of my pack and lit it. I hate smoking, but I thought it made me look cool. If Willa were there, she would have made me put it out. I sucked hard, hoping I seemed experienced.
He watched as I took a drag and then asked, “Can I get one of those?”
“Sure,” I said. I held the pack out to him.
He paused before taking a cigarette, and I willed myself not to stare at him. Still, I couldn't help notice the way the winter air had made his full lips even redder, and how it had turned his nose adorably pink.
“Which one do I want?” he murmured.
“What do you mean? They're all the same,” I replied, confused.
He looked at me and his eyes twinkled. “Are they?”
Noah kept his eyes glued to mine as he reached into the pack and pulled out all the cigarettes. Then, he stuffed them all in his mouth so that they stuck out in every direction like crazy teeth. The whole time he kept looking at me.
I said, “Those are my cigarettes. They're expensive. Don't waste them.”
Noah didn't answer me. He couldn't speak anyway, with
his mouth full of cigarettes. He held out his hand for my lighter and I gave it to him. He flicked it on and wiped the flame across the tips of the cigarettes, torching them all. They lit up at once.
I was aware that Noah was doing something so strange and twisted that it verged on being mean. But he was trying to tell me something. And anything Noah Bearman wanted to tell me, I wanted to know.
“What are you doing?” I asked, my voice tiny now.
He reached up and took the cigarettes out of his mouth, grabbing them with his full fist. Then he dropped them on the ground and stomped on them.
“I just did you a favor,” he said. “Don't be mad.”
I am mad.
” I pouted. But I wasn't.
” he said, as if I didn't know who he was.
” I told him.
“So the girl with the red jacket has a name.”
Noah Bearman wondered about my name?
An icy wind howled, licking across the roof and whipping against us so hard that I had to turn my back on it and cower.
“You're shivering,” he said, tapping my elbow with his own.
Even with the fabric of his sweatshirt and the thick wool of my coat between us, and even though it was just his elbow knocking against mine, Noah's touch made the cold night turn hot.
“Come on,” he said. “Let's go inside.”
So we did.
In some ways, it doesn't matter what happened next, or back at school, or in the year and a half since then. That night was perfect and I'll always have it. I'll hold on to the memory tight as I want, because it's mine.
Summer came suddenly this year. Last week, it was cold and rainy. But this morning, on the walk to school, the sky above the city was a bright, unblemished blue and the air felt bathwater warm on my skin. Around the edges of the asphalt basketball court, grass has been sprouting, winding its way through the chain-link fence that divides our school from the sidewalk.
I'm taking Photo 2 at my high school this summer, so I've spent every afternoon for the past two weeks in the photo lab: perfecting my technique, loading and unloading rolls of film, and soaking my prints in tubs of developer. These days, my hair smells like darkroom chemicals even after I shower.
“Sadie,” my photo teacher, Benji, calls out. “I'm ready for you.”
I hand Benji my photograph and watch as he inspects my latest print. He's made me reprint five times already, and from the expression on his face, I'm guessing he's about to make me do it again.
The old wall clock says it's only 10:30 a.m., which means Photo 2 is less than half over, but I'm already tired. I work harder in this class than I ever do during regular school.
“Hmmm. Okay,” Benji says. He grabs his Sharpie and starts making dots next to areas I need to fix, and my heart sinks. Benji has X-ray vision for photographs. Compared to him, the rest of us are basically blind.
“HereÂ .Â .Â . and hereÂ .Â .Â . and this.Â .Â .Â .”
Benji's punk-rock haircut, a long swatch of glossy hair, slips from side to side as he works. From far away, he looks like a teenager because he's so skinny and not even taller than me, but up close, you can see that he's older from the way his pale, thinning skin falls across his bones. Behind him, ribbons of long black negatives hang from a clothesline, gently twisting in the breeze of the ceiling fan.
Benji hands my picture back to me. “Try again. Lighten this area so you can find some more detail and texture in there. There's a shadow blocking this corner. Do you see what I mean?”
I strain my eyes to see what he's talking about.
The assignment was to take a picture of something no one had ever seen before, so I photographed the inside of one of my overstuffed drawers. It's a mess of thingsâan old set of photo booth pictures of me and Willa, some random markers and old gum wrappers, and an
with Allan on the cover. I like the drawer because everything is all mixed togetherâthe things I saved on purpose and the things I saved by accident.
“Nice work, though,” Benji says, after a minute. I look up at him and he smiles, revealing the crooked teeth of someone who never had braces. “It's interesting that you photographed such a small space. Very smart. Keep it up.”
“Okay, thank you,” I say, groping for the perfect words to show Benji how much I care about his class. “I'll try to fix that shadow. I think I get it now.”
The photo classroom is divided in two rooms: the lab where Benji helps us with our pictures and where we meet as a group, and the darkroom where we print. The rumor is that when our school raises enough money, they'll get rid of the whole thing and put in a digital lab with a bunch of computers and printers. But I love this creaky, old-fashioned equipment. All my best memories from eleventh grade are of afternoons spent down here, watching my pictures emerge in the chemical baths like hallucinations.
I go back into the darkroom and linger by the door while my eyes adjust. For the kind of photo we are doing, all of our materials are light sensitive, which means that if the film or the paper gets exposed in the wrong way, the pictures will be ruined. The darkroom isn't pitch-black, though. There is a special amber-colored safelight that glows an eerie red and that doesn't damage photos or film. Everything looks flat and strange in here, just a mess of black shadows and crimson shapes. People look like cardboard cutouts instead of real humans, with heartbeats and insides and skin.
I go to my favorite enlarger in the corner. There are ten enlargers, one for each student, and they are basically big mechanical cameras that expand your picture from the size of film to the size of a photo. Next to the enlargers is a row of chemical baths that make the image stick to the paper. The chemicals reek of something sour, but now that I'm
used to them, I kind of love the scent. They smell toxic and good at the same time, like gasoline or spray paint or nail polish remover.
I pull a piece of glossy photo paper out of my bag and set it carefully on the base of the enlarger. I crank the old, creaky lever to lower my negative down and watch the picture shrink on my page.
There are a lot of things about Benji's class that are more intense than in Photo 1. He's a stickler for technique, which means everything takes ten times as long as it normally would. But even harder is that Benji always comes up with open-ended assignments that you can solve a lot of ways. I always thought that kind of freedom would make things easier, but actually, it's the opposite. When there are no rules, you have to decide for yourself what's right and wrong.
,” Izzy whispers, snapping me out of my daze. Even in the murky safelight of the darkroom, I can see the bleached tips of her long curly hair.
“Why are we whispering?” I whisper back. Nobody whispers in here. The music and the vents are so loud you don't have to.
“It's more fun this way,” Izzy replies. “So, listen, tomorrow is my half birthday and I'm gonna do something. Do you want to come?”
Izzy's words zap me to attention. I've always admired Izzy from afar, like the way her eclectic mix of gold bangles and friendship bracelets seem to glow against her dark skin. But she has never invited me to hang out with her and her friends before.
I'm so flattered it takes me a minute to realize she's waiting for me to reply.
“Yes. Definitely. I'd love to come to your half-birthday party,” I gush.
“It's not really a party.” Izzy rolls her eyes. “A bunch of us are just gonna go to the beach.”
“That sounds really fun, I'll come, that sounds so great,” I blather, practically drooling with excitement.
“Good. You've got to get some sun in,” Izzy jokes, poking the bone-white skin of my forearm. “You're gonna be the palest person in the world from spending every stupid day in this dungeon.”
I smile and nod, too stunned to be able to form normal, complete sentences.
“I gotta go finish printing before Benji bites my head off,” she says. And then she turns and walks away, blending into the grainy red haze of the darkroom.
I turn back to my enlarger, but my mind is zinging too hard for me to think about photography. Izzy said a bunch of people were going to the beach. Does that mean Noah Bearman? They were friends before he graduated and he might be back for the summer, so it's possible. I know I shouldn't want to see Noah after everything that happened. I know the only thing I should try and do is not think about him. Willa tells me that all the time.
But Willa has never been left behind. She doesn't know it's impossible to make yourself forget about someone just because you want to. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes
it feels like the person who hurt you is also the only person who can heal you.
Another student pushes past me, and suddenly, I remember where I am and what I'm supposed to be doing. I adjust my paper and then flip the switch on my enlarger. The machine wheezes as the light grows bright for a fraction of a second before snapping back to black.
That night, Willa and I sprawl across her bed, doing this really stupid thing that we've been trying to perfect for years: painting each other's toenails simultaneously. Her bare feet are in my lap, and mine are in hers.
“Don't be mad if I mess up,” Willa says. “This is a hard color.”
I peer at my feet, which are stained purple.
“You're doing such a bad job! I'm doing a way,
way better job than you.” I laugh.
“That's because I'm staying so still, and you keep moving,” Willa replies. “And because I have no manual dexterity.”
“That's not true,” I say. But we both know it'
s true. I sigh.
“Willa. Seriously, is that the best you can do?”
Willa puts down the nail polish and makes a don'
t-be-mad-at-me puppy-dog face.
“I'll pay for you to get a pedicure. Will that make you happy?”
“Typical,” I tease. “Just throw money at the problem.”
Willa's thick glasses are wedged onto her face, etching pink imprints on the sides of her nose. Willa could be pretty if she tried, but she insists on not trying. I think it's because
she wants to be different from her older sister, Danielle, who is super social and gorgeous.
“How was lab? Did you cure Ebola yet?” I ask.
“Yes,” Willa deadpans. She is taking AP Bio with all the other geniuses at a high school near her apartment so she doesn't have to take it during the school year.
My phone beeps and Willa grabs it before I do. She reads the screen and scowls at me.
“What's wrong?” I ask.
“Are you stalking your dad again?” she asks, hurling the phone at me.
I catch it and read the screen. It'
s a Google alert:
Kaplan and White announced today that Allan Bell will be doing a walk-through of his exhibit on July 14th. Tickets will go on sale the week prior.
” Willa whines. “I thought you'
I put the phone down and concentrate on painting her teeny-tiny pinkie toenail. “I guess I forgot to turn off my Google alert,” I lie. “It's not a big deal.”
“Well, at least you've stopped stalking Noah,” Willa says. “We're making progress.”
It stings to hear Willa joke about him like that, but I push the feeling away.
“That reminds me,” I say, wanting to change the subject, “I'm going to the beach tomorrow with Izzy Tobias for her half-birthday party.”
“I'm sorryâdid you say
“Yeah, because her birthday is so close to Christmas she
celebrates it now,” I explain. “Anyway, I'm sure you can come if you want.”
Willa doesn't say anything and I see a ripple of something roll across her face, but it's gone before I can decipher it. “I can't tomorrow.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“I have to stay home and catch up on all the TV I missed.” She play kicks me so that I almost drop the nail polish.
“Don't do that. I'm gonna mess up!”
't care about my toes.” She laughs. Then she rolls away from me and stretches like a cat.
Willa's room could use a makeover. She still has the floral lavender wallpaper she picked out in third grade and a framed Dr. Seuss illustration on the wall. My mom and I have moved apartments every few years so my rooms have never had the chance to be really
. I don
't envy Willa's room, with its fading little girl decor, but sometimes I can't help wondering what it would feel like to have a room that was so completely your own.
“We hear the photography class you're taking is very competitive,” Annette, Willa's mom, says over dinner. It's just me and Willa and her parents because her sister is in Spain for two weeks with her roommate from Yale.
“I mean, yeah, I think a lot of people wanted to take it,” I say. “But that's just because everyone thinks it's an easy A.”
“Don't downplay it,” Willa says, kicking my shin under the table. “Sadie is the best artist in school.”
“It's not really like that,” I say. “There'
“The fact that you're saying that proves that you're the best,”
“Is there more rice?” Willa's dad asks, his watery blue eyes scanning the table.
“No, Gene, you've had enough carbs,” Annette snaps.
Gene is small and weak looking, and there's something about his shy, nervous demeanor that makes it seem like he's always dissolving.
“Gene's lost ten pounds. He looks great, right?” Annette asks me.
“Yeah, great,” I reply automatically.
“He looks exactly the same,”
“His whole diet is totally fake.”
For some reason, it's when Willa is mean to her dad that I feel the most jealous of their relationship.
Even though I've technically gone further than her, she is way less scared of boys than I am. She's really good friends with her downstairs neighbor, Miles, and she lets him see her in her pajamas and they eat gross food together, just like she and I would. Sure, Miles is a big nerd, but still, he's a
I was never friends with Noah. Not before everything happened. And not after, either.
I get home to an empty apartment. It's after eight, but the sun is still out, and the last strands of light that lie across our floor are threads of gold. I love this time of year. The way that sunlight stretches into the night, as if the day is yawning.
I get a glass of water from the kitchen and see that my mom left me a note on her “
Be Here Now
” stationery telling me she's teaching till late and not to wait up. Which I knew already because she told me that a million times earlier and texted it to me. My mom forgets everything.
In my room, the sounds of the cityâsirens, people shouting, music spiking from carsâleak in through my cracked window. I open my laptop and flip through some Tumblrs and music videos and watch five minutes of a movie on Netflix. It's the same restless cycle I always fall into when I'm home alone, and it's boring. I wonder what Izzy is doing now. And Noah. I even wonder what some of the other random people from my photo class are doing. Are they finishing dinner with their families, or walking their dogs, or hanging out at a party that I don't know about? Or are they by themselves, at their computers, like me?