Read A World Without You Online

Authors: Beth Revis

A World Without You

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Copyright © 2016 Beth Revis

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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-62784-6

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.

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Contents

For Luke, the reason I started writing this book,
and
For Jack, the reason I finished.
Dei gratia.

“No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

—Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

CHAPTER 1

“It's time, Bo,”
Ryan says, putting his hand on my shoulder.

I shrug him off.

“Come on, buddy.” He reaches for me again, but I step further away.
Buddy.
Ryan's not my friend, and it's pointless of him to pretend like he is. Ryan is no one's friend.

My feet make hollow sounds on the weathered planks of the old boardwalk, but I have to stop soon enough. The giant metal gate before me is painted green to blend into the environment, which is dumb because the environment's not really that green around here. But either way, it stops me from going forward. Not that I have anywhere to escape to anyway.

Berkshire Academy, where I live five days out of every week, is on an island. Not a tropical paradise—nope, nothing like that. It's in
Massachusetts
, of all places. Everything good about living on an island is twisted here. Islands have beaches and the ocean, yeah? Well, Pear Island has those, but good luck having fun under the sun around here. I mean, we have
the sun, obviously, but it's behind clouds. And rain. And sometimes snow. A lot of times snow. And wind. Wind so strong that it blows the sand in your face like it has a personal vendetta against you. And the short summer we do have, when there is actually sun, is interrupted by, like, a month of flies swarming around. Not buzz-buzz nice flies, but greenhead flies. They sting and bite and are basically the biggest jerks of the fly population, designed specifically to ruin the day of anyone who may dare think that living on an island means you should be able to, I don't know, lie on the beach or enjoy the sun.

We don't even have a decent boardwalk. Our boardwalk was built fifty years ago, so walking on it barefoot sucks. And oh, by the way, the boardwalk goes through a
marsh
, so the only people who actually
want
to use it are old farts who look at
birds
.

Oh, how I love my island life.

“Come on, man,” Ryan says again, this time with more impatience in his voice. “It's time to go.”

I turn, leaning my back against the green metal gate. “There's no point.”

Ryan shrugs.

I push off from the gate and follow him back toward Berkshire, the bricked mansion just visible beyond the trees in the distance.

The Doctor said Berkshire was placed here—at the end of a particularly non-paradise tropical island—because of a special grant from the government. Most of the island is a state park. The southern tip, where we are, is just the Berk and some old ruins from seventy years ago, when there was a “camp”
for people with polio. The top of the island is full of ice cream shops and tourists, but we hardly ever get to go there.

Ryan trudges ahead of me, keeping to himself. Good. I don't want to talk.

I'm
mad
.

This whole thing is meaningless. This whole day. There's no point to being here. To doing this.

“You have to understand,” Dr. Franklin told me this morning when I informed him I wouldn't be going to the assembly. “People need closure.”

“I don't,” I growled.

The Doctor had given me that smarmy sympathetic smile that people do when they think they know more than you. “Come anyway,” he said.

I'd hoped that if I ventured as far out into the island as I could go, he might forget about me. Or, if not forget, at least pretend to forget about me. Let
me
be the invisible one for once.

But no.

Berkshire Academy rises up from the ground before us as we round the path, all austere and formal. On paper, I guess my life is pretty sweet, living in a mansion on an island. But just like Pear Island is this twisted version of what an island should be, so is the giant brick building complete with pointy spires. It's not a Bruce Wayne palace; it's a boarding school. The Berkshire Academy for Children with Exceptional Needs.

I take a deep breath and pick up my pace so I'm walking beside Ryan instead of behind him. I'm being a jerk. I'm angry and I don't want to be here—and I don't mean on the island, I mean
here
. Now. I do want to be on this island. I want to be at the Berk. Don't get me wrong, all that stuff about the flies and
the cold and all, that part sucks. But Berkshire itself . . . this place is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

But I don't want to be . . . here. Not in this moment. Not in this way. I want to be here two weeks ago, when everything was fine. Or seven months ago, when I first drove up the gravel road to the academy's open doors. Or eight months ago, before I'd even come to Berkshire or learned that it would be my new home. I want it to be then.

Not now.

Black bunting hangs over the arched walnut doors at the top of the steps, where there are still a few students hanging out. A handful of cars are parked around the circular drive, and I recognize my dad's Buick. Great. So the families have been invited. Dr. Franklin, my unit leader, hurries outside and down the brick steps. His gaze falls on me, and something in his face eases; the lines around his eyes soften, and his jaw unclenches. “Come on,” he says to me, his voice gentle. Then he turns to the other students still lingering outside and gives them a stern look. “Everyone, it's time.”

Dr. Franklin leads the way down the hardwood halls of Berkshire's main floor. Hardly anyone ever uses the main floor—it's formal, reserved for Family Day, scholastic banquets, graduation ceremonies, and once, after a fund-raiser, a fancy ball hosted by the board for top contributors to the school. Sofía and I snuck down to the kitchen the morning after the ball and pilfered the remains of half-drunk bottles of flat champagne that were supposed to have been thrown out.

We follow the Doctor past the main living areas, our feet barely audible on the heavy rugs that line the floors. Everything on the first floor is dark and gloomy—I much prefer the
common room I share with my unit on the second floor. The cook staff is setting up a sort of buffet along one wall. I guess we're dining as a group today rather than in shifts, like we usually do. Why is it that whenever there's a hint of tragedy in life, all old people want to do is cook? It's not like a covered dish is going to solve anything. My hands clench in fists as the scent of melted cheese and roasted vegetables wafts around us.

A nice dinner isn't going to make any of this better.

The Doctor pushes open the wide doors at the back of the long hallway and holds them for us as we file into the courtyard. The rest of Berkshire's students are already waiting for us in the small arena that teachers sometimes use for outdoor lessons when the weather's not too cold. I scan the crowd quickly and notice my family standing at the back of the room, dressed in their Sunday best. My father must sense my gaze. He turns around and watches me as I follow Dr. Franklin down the steps toward the small stage at the bottom. Dad shakes his head at my ripped jeans and faded black T-shirt. Whatever—let him glare. There's a reason why I'm at boarding school and he's back at home—we're both happier when there are miles between us, and his presence does nothing but highlight just how sucky today is going to be.

The director of the school—an older, bald man whose eyebrows reach to the heavens—stands at the center of the stage in front of a table. He looks bored, but when Dr. Franklin signals to him, he nods, straightens his spine, and assumes a mask of benevolence.

“We are here today to remember the life of one of our own,” he intones. His voice is low, but nearly everyone is focused on him.

Not me, though. I don't need his lies. Instead, I watch as some of the staff arrange paper lanterns on the table. After a moment, the director raises his voice. “And now, I'd like to invite Sofía Muniz's closest friends—her unit and headmaster—to say a few words.”

He steps back, and for a moment he looks as if he's going to push past everyone and head back inside where the food is. But one of the teachers offers him a chair beside the table, and he sits down.

The Doctor nudges Ryan and me forward. Gwen and Harold, the other kids in our unit, are already stepping down the granite stairs toward the table with the paper lanterns. When I don't move, Dr. Franklin pushes me again.

Fine. I'll do this. Even if it's false.

The Doctor speaks first. He talks about Sofía like she was his star pupil, and I guess she kind of was.
Is.
I mean
is
. Out of all of us, Ryan has more power and control than Sofía ever did, but Sofía is the kind of quiet, attentive student that teachers like. She never causes trouble. She never messes up.

Not like me.

The Doctor's voice is tight, as if he's trying to hold back tears, and it's only now, watching as he tries to describe what Sofía meant to him—to all of us—that I feel a hard lump rising in my own throat. I blink rapidly and look away, trying to focus on the ivy clinging to the bricks on the side of the academy. I'm not the only one affected by Sofía's absence—I have to force myself to remember that. We all miss her.

When the Doctor finishes his speech, he turns to the rest of us. His eyes fall on me, and the expectation is clear: He wants me to talk. He wants me to say goodbye.

My teeth grind, and my eyes narrow, and I do not move.

Dr. Franklin sighs, and his gaze skims over the rest of us. Harold will never speak in public; he looks like he's about to throw up right now, just standing here. Since this has nothing to do with him, Ryan doesn't give a shit about being here. But Gwen trembles beside me, the words inside her boiling like water about to rattle the lid off a pot. She wants to speak, I know it. But she glances at me and then shakes her head just a little, and the Doctor nods, accepting our silence.

We move around the table that the staff set up for us. There are five paper lanterns, each a pale white. Gwen reaches forward first, her fingers sparking with light, but Dr. Franklin covers her hand with his, pulling her back. There are parents here, people not a part of the school. Can't let them see. The staff light the lanterns with the long matches they use for the fireplaces, then they hand one to each of us. Dr. Franklin looks like he's about to say something else, something poetic, but before he can break out into a full-on dirge, I let my lantern slip from my fingers, and it rises into the gray sky without any more ceremony. The others follow suit, Dr. Franklin releasing his lantern only after he mumbles something to himself, his eyes closed and his head bent. Everyone looks up. A gust of wind knocks Harold's lantern down, punching at the inflating paper balloon, but it staggers back, following the others as they drift in the direction of the ocean.

No one notices me as I leave.

That's something I learned from Sofía. Being invisible is easy.

I step further into the garden—which is basically just some stubby trees and scraggly bushes—and then round the academy
and head back out to the edges of the property. Not toward the ocean—not where the lanterns are fighting through the winds to float higher—but back toward the gate and the ruins on the edge of Berkshire's grounds.

Back to the last place I last saw her.

It's such bullshit, this memorial with its empty words and fragile lanterns. All of this mourning is totally pointless.

Because Sofía's not dead.

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