Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

Subject: Re: (no subject)

 

Sender: Hannah Catalano

 

Date: Monday, April 28, 2014

 

Time: 10:21 PM

 

Matt—

 

You’re so poetic when you want to be. Are you manipulating me, or are you a hopeless romantic? I can never tell. This is what I get for falling in love with an artist. You don’t see the difference between fiction and reality. Everything is your story.

 

I need a few days to think.

 

Hannah

 

“A few days to think” turned into a week, which passed in a colorless procession.

 

May arrived with warm, blustery mornings and the sort of cool spring evenings that would have been heaven with Hannah—and that were hollow without her.

 

I wrote and read and ran.

 

I seemed to fantasize nonstop.

 

When I slept, I dreamed I was still in the mountains—surrounded by silence and thin air—and the search parties called for me in the dark. Matthew Sky! M. Pierce!

 

Unfamiliar voices ringing through the woods.

 

I ran, of course, and they never found me.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 43

 

 

HANNAH

 

 

On May 7, I turned twenty-eight.

 

I drove to my parents’ house, where Mom, Dad, Chrissy, and Jay threw a party for me. I felt like a kid. A kid with no friends.

 

Still, I could see that it made Mom happy, so I went through the motions. They all pitched in on an Amazon gift card, and we ate sushi and drank Red Stripe.

 

After the cake, Chrissy and I sat on the deck. I stargazed and she smoked a cigarette.

 

“So,” I said. “You and Wiley.”

 

“Me and Wiley.” She sighed dreamily.

 

“Be careful, Chris. Those guys are into some serious stuff.”

 

“You mean coke?” My sister smiled at me. Chrissy probably came into contact with drugs all the time, but I felt obligated to warn her. Older sister habits die hard.

 

“Yeah,” I said, “and who knows what else? Just—”

 

“I’ll be careful. Don’t worry.”

 

We sat in silence for a while. Chrissy smoked a second cigarette, and when she finished it, she said, “Han, I gotta show you something.”

 

She led me into the house and down to my old room in the basement, which now served as a storage room for junk. How depressing.

 

“Here.” She toed a large box. It had been opened. “Dad was going to throw it out, because … he honestly thinks Matt is insane and dangerous, but…”

 

Matt? I knelt by the box. It was addressed to me at my parents’ house. He must have assumed I moved home. I glanced at the return address. PoshTots…?

 

“Hey, isn’t this like … a high-end kids’ store?”

 

“Pretty much,” Chrissy said.

 

She perched on a stool while I peered into the box. A gift note lay on top of a mountain of Styrofoam peanuts.

 

Sweet Bird—Happy birthday. I didn’t know where to send this. I hope you get it. Just a little something. I love you. Matt I sifted through the packing material. My fingertips bumped into velvety fabric, and I withdrew a … plush rabbit?

 

Button eyes dimpled its small face.

 

“There’s like twenty of them in there,” Chrissy murmured.

 

She was right. I found more rabbits in the box, each made with unique fabric, as well as ducks, elephants, squirrels, pigs, owls, and turtles. “Over two-freaking-thousand dollars in stuffed animals,” Chrissy informed me. “I Googled that shit.”

 

I sat cross-legged on the carpet with my little menagerie surrounding me.

 

“Chris, I better give him a call.”

 

She nodded and slipped out, closing the door behind her.

 

I found Matt in my contacts—we were back to using our real phones—and hit send.

 

He answered a few seconds into the first ring.

 

“Birds,” he said. “Happy birthday.”

 

“Hey. Thanks.”

 

“Twenty-eight, huh?”

 

“That’s right.” I picked at one of the plush owls.

 

“Did you get the animal friends I sent?”

 

He was in a good mood, I could tell. Sweet warm voice, no cynicism in it, probably smiling, probably because I’d called. My toes curled instinctively. I loved happy Matt …

 

And the last Matt I saw was definitely not happy.

 

“Yeah,” I said. Yeah, leave it to you to give me the most ridiculously cute and whimsical birthday gift ever and make me feel like a child in the best possible way. Damn it. “They’re … great. Adorable. I don’t know what to say, I mean … thank you.”

 

“You could invite me over.”

 

“Hm?” I sat up straighter. “Uh, it’s pretty late.”

 

“So what? I’m a night owl, remember?”

 

“How could I forget. Matt, I just … don’t think you should come over. It’s my first time home in a while. And my father might castrate you.”

 

“Dang…”

 

“Yeah. He thinks you’re crazy. You can probably see his point of view, right? The stuff last year in Geneva, now faking your death. You’re not every father’s ideal—”

 

“I won’t knock,” Matt said. “I’ll park down the street and walk.”

 

“No, Matt. I don’t think—”

 

“Great. I’ll meet you out back. By the hammock? Gimme ten minutes.”

 

“Hello? Matt? I am saying don’t come over. Are you—”

 

Click.

 

“Matt? Hello?”

 

I blinked at my phone. That son of a bitch …

 

I wrote a text.

 

Stubborn night owl. I’ll meet you in the backyard.