Read Tears Online

Authors: Francine Pascal

Tears

Having a boyfriend is turning my brain to mush,
Gaia thought as she entered the hallway, the rose dangling by her side. It was true. She was becoming one of those shiny, happy people she so resented because she could never figure out. People like Heather and the FOHs (Friends of Heather), Megan and all the rest of them—

She froze. Thoughts of love and roses instantly vanished from her mind. A man dressed completely in black was kneeling by the door next to Sam's dorm room—picking the lock with the air of an experienced professional. Adrenaline shot through Gaia's veins. Somebody was trying to break into Sam's suite.
My boyfriend's suite.
Over her dead body. A smile crept across her face. Not only had she brought Sam a rose, she now had the opportunity to defend his honor.
Luck came in strange, unforeseen ways.

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TEARS

FRANCINE PASCAL

To Burt & Jeanne Rubin

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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Copyright © 2001 by Francine Pascal

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce
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ISBN: 0-7434-2262-7
eISBN-13: 978-0-7434-2262-8

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GAIA

I'm
seriously considering checking myself in for a battery of psychiatric tests. I'm talking inkblots, big colored blocks, electrodes taped to my head, the works.

Ever since my father and I moved back to New York, I've been exhibiting some very strange behavior. I guess it makes sense, considering that for the first time in five years, I actually have a home. I'm no longer a stranger. I'm no longer a guest in somebody else's domain. Okay: The apartment doesn't actually belong to me or to my father. It's a two-bedroom on Mercer Street that my dad is subletting from one of his Agency friends. But that's a minor detail.

The point is, I'm part of a family who actually lives under the same roof. And yes, it's a small family. A family of two. But who cares? Size doesn't matter. I saw that in a movie poster once. So the sentiment must be true. False advertising is a
major crime in this country.

Oh, yeah, that's another thing: My sense of humor is definitely suffering, too.

To complicate matters further, I've been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend, Sam Moon. There was a time (that being pretty much every waking moment until now) when the words
Gaia
and
boyfriend
would never have appeared in the same sentence unless also accompanied by words such as
joke, dream,
or
somebody else's.

So where I once had nobody, I now have a father and a boyfriend. It's a little overwhelming, like binging on very expensive chocolate and slipping into a food coma that doesn't end but somehow is never uncomfortable. So maybe that's why my behavior has been so erratic. Here are some examples:

Exhibit A: I was shopping for dinner last week, and one of those unlistenable songs by Celine Dion or somebody was
blaring over the loudspeakers—something about “the power of love.” And just as I reached into the freezer for some chocolate chocolate chip ice cream, I realized I was singing along. Right in the middle of the frozen food section. I didn't even realize I knew the words. They must have just crept into my subconscious somehow. Anyway, needless to say, it was a very disturbing moment. Luckily the aisle was empty.

Exhibit B: I was headed home along Sixth Avenue on Wednesday, and I stopped for a second to look at the puppies in the window of a pet store. This isn't weird per se. I mean, nobody is completely immune to staring at cute puppies. I'm sure Genghis Khan and the Marquis de Sade could even appreciate puppies. The weird part is that I stopped for ten minutes. The clerk at the store came out to ask me if everything was all right. I'd just been standing there, smiling
wistfully the entire time. I didn't even realize it.

Exhibit C: Sam and I were in Washington Square Park yesterday, playing chess. I don't know what came over me. The sun was setting, the slightest signs of spring were starting to show, and he was looking at me. So before I knew what was happening, we'd leaned across the chess table and
kissed
—a wet, sloppy kiss right in front of Zolov, Mr. Haq, Renny: the entire squad of my best chess-freak friends. I mean, do I even need to tell you my opinion of public displays of affection?

Three words:
Get a room.

But there I was, smooching away as if I was an actress in a bad romance movie and the violins had just come to a huge crescendo and the camera was spinning around us endlessly, giving the audience an unfortunate case of motion sickness.

And those are just a few examples
of the “new” Gaia. I'm either in need of some drastic and immediate psychiatric treatment, or else I'm unmistakably happy.

Happy.

There. I said the word. I didn't throw up or have a seizure.

So maybe this is just what happiness
is
—this kind of stupor that makes you smile at nothing, become hypnotized by puppies, kiss in public, walk around as if there's a sound track behind you, belt Celine Dion to a pint of ice cream in aisle five, et cetera. I wouldn't know. I haven't felt that emotion since I was little.

Anyway, I should probably be figuring out how and when this whole “happy” thing is going to fall apart. That's certainly what the “old” Gaia would do. Be careful what you wish for, right? That's a cliché with some truth to it.

I don't know, though. I ask
myself: Could I just relax and appreciate this new phenomenon? Maybe there's something to be said for basking in the warm melted cheese of happiness. Maybe it's time to give five years of absolute pessimism a well-earned rest. I am, after all, the new Gaia.

normal girlfriend

Sam was utterly powerless to defend himself. Strangely, though, he felt no pain. Once again, that familiar empty laughter echoed through the room. . . .

SAM'S MOUTH WAS DRY. HE TRIED
to swallow, but his lips felt as big as balloons, too thick to move.

Ghostly Souvenirs

“Cat got your tongue, boy?” a voice asked.

With his ear stuck to the cold floor, Sam couldn't move.

His entire body was strewn on its side, limp and lifeless, as a pair of dark shoes traveled in and out of his field of vision. He could barely hear the man's hollow laughter, but the footsteps on the polished wood were booming like gunfire.

I've been here before,
Sam thought.
I've heard that laugh before.

Sam's whole body was growing numb—his body, his mind. Everything was light and heavy at the same time. The voice was distant, more echo than actual sound.
It was saying something about. . . Gaia.


Do you love her, Sam?

Sam wanted to answer. He knew the answer as instinctively as he knew his own name. But he couldn't.
Cat. . . got. . . my. . . tongue,
he thought, disoriented, trying to swallow, trying to speak. The ringing in his head was louder now, piercing his skull.

And then the door swung open. A pair of bloody sneakers marched toward Sam, nothing more than a
crimson blur. Sam strained to focus on the face as the figure knelt down to him.

“Brendan?” Sam croaked.

Brendan Moss's face was covered with bruises and soaked in blood. The ringing was deafening now.
His features contorted into a mask of hatred.

“You killed Mike,” Brendan said, blood falling from his lips, “You tried to kill
me,
Sam.” With a sharp, vicious kick Brendan lashed out at Sam's stomach. And Sam was utterly powerless to defend himself. Strangely, though, he felt no pain. Once again, that familiar empty laughter echoed through the room. . .
the laughter of that man.

Suddenly the man came back into view, socking Brendan in the gut, sending him falling to the floor.

“No,” the man said with a horrid belly laugh. He leaned down toward Sam, grabbing him by the shoulders. “We
both
tried to kill him,right,Sam? Sam?...Sam?”

And then Sam could see the man's face. . . the man who kept shouting his name over and over again.