Page 54

    I told Owen all this on the ride over, explaining how since then, I'd been convinced that anything sounded good at the car wash. He looked dubious, however, as he pushed quarters into the cashier station, an...ad to wonder if my theory was about to debunked.

    "So what now?" he asked as the machine spit out his receipt and the red light beside the bay dropped to green. "We just drive in?"

    "You've never done this?"...sked him.

    "I'm not much for car upkeep simply for aesthetics' sake," he said. "Plus...hink there'...ole in my roof."

    I motioned for him to drive forward and he did, over the slight bump and up to the yellow line, faded over time, that said stop her...hen he cut the engine. "Okay," he said. "I'm ready to be impressed."

    I shot hi...ook. "You know,"...aid, "this is your first time, so for full effect, you really need to recline."

    "Recline."

    "It adds to the experience,"...old him. "Trust me."

    We both eased back our seats, settling in. His arm was resting against mine, an...hought of being at his house the other night, and how I'd come so close to kissing him, twice. As the machine began to whir behind us...eached forward and turned on the CD again. "All right,"...aid as the jets came on overhead. "Here we go."

    The water was pattering at first, then began to move down the glass in front of us i...ave. Owen shifted in his seat a...rop fell from over his head, landing on his shirt. "Oh, great," he said. "There i...ole in the roof."

    He grew quiet, though, as the next cut on the CD began wit...oft murmuring, followed by some plucking of strings. There was als...it of buzzing, but with the water moving over us, the inside of the car seeming smaller, then smaller still, it seemed to dissipate, fading out behind us...ould hear the hum of the brushes as they moved in closer to the car, intermixed with the sad, sloping chords o...iolin. Alread...ould feel it happening, that slowing of time, everything stopping for this one moment, here, now.

    I turned my head to look over at Owen. He was lying there, watching as the brushes drew big, soapy circles across the windshield in front of us, his gaze intent. Listening...losed my eyes, focusing on doing the same. But al...ould think was that it felt like my whole life had changed-again-in just the few weeks I'd known Owen; and not for the first time...anted to tell him so. Find the right words, string them together in the ideal way, knowing that here they would have the best chance of sounding perfect.

    I turned toward him again, thinking this, and opened my eyes. He was looking right at me.

    "You were right," he told me, his voice low. "This is great. Seriously."

    "Yeah,"...aid. "It is."

    Then he shifted, moving closer to me, an...elt his arm press against mine, his skin warm. And then, finally, Owen kissed me-really kissed me-an...ouldn't hear anything: not the water, the music, or even my own heart, which had to be pounding. Instead, it was just silence, the very best kind, stretching out forever, or onl...oment, and then it was over.

    Suddenly, the car wash was quiet, the music finished. Above me...ould see one big drop, dangling precariously over our heads...ept my eyes on it until dropped, landing wit...lunk on my arm just a...orn beeped behind us.

    "Whoops," Owen said, and we both sat up. He cranked the engine a...lanced back a...uy i...ustang who was waiting, windows already up, by the entrance. "Hold on."

    When we pulled out of the bay, the sun was bright, catching the pools of water as they broke up, sliding off the hood. With the kiss, and the dark...elt lik...as still underwater, the brightness startling.

    


    "Man," Owen said, blinking as he pulled over by the curb, "that was really something."

    "Told you. Everything sounds better in the car wash."

    "Everything, huh?"

    He was looking at me as he said this, an...a...lash of his face just moments earlier, staring up at the windshield, listening so carefully. Maybe sometime...ould be able to say everything I'd thought at that moment. And even more.

    "I wonder," he said now, runnin...and through his hair, "if it works for techno."

    "Nope,"...aid flatly.

    "You're sure."

    "Oh, yeah."...odded. "Positive."

    He raised an eyebrow at me. "Yeah, well," he said, pulling away from the curb and starting around the building again. "We'll see."

    "Did you hear?"

    It was six o'clock on the Saturday of the fashion show, an...as sitting in the makeshift dressing room at Kopf's, waiting. For the last few hours, while getting my hair and makeup done and my outfit fitted and tweaked, I'd managed to ignore the chatter around me. Instead...ocused on getting through this show s...ould move on to the on...eally cared about, at

    Bendo, with Owen. It had been working just fine. Until now.

    I looked to my left, where Hillary Prescott had just sat down besid...irl named Mamie. Like me, they were already done with hair and makeup, which left them with nothing to do but drink bottled water, examine their reflections, and gossip.

    "Hear about what?" Mamie asked. She wa...hin girl wit...ong face and high cheekbones. When I'd first seen he...hought she looked like Whitney, somewhat, although she was more pretty than beautiful.

    Hillary glanced over one shoulder, then another, the classic double-check. "What went down last night at Becca Durham's party," she said.

    "No," Mamie said, dabbin...inger over the gloss on her lips. "What happened?"

    Hillary leaned i...ittle closer. "Well," she said, "from wha...eard, there was total drama. Louise told me that about halfway through the party-"

    She stopped talking, suddenly, staring at the mirror facing us just as Emily Shuster walked in. She had her arms crossed over her chest, her head ducked down slightly, and her mom was with her...nly got one quick glance, but that was all it took to see Emily looked terrible: Her face was puffy, her eyes red, rimmed with dark circles.

    Hillary, Mamie, an...ll watched as she and her mom passed, continuing toward Mrs. McMurty, who was on the other side of the room. Then Hillary said, "I can't believe she showed up here."

    "Why?" Mamie asked. "What happened?"

    Not my problem...hought, turning my attention back to the history notebook I'd brought with me to get some studying in during the downtime. A...id so, though...el...iece of hair stick to my cheek...ooked up at the mirror to brush it away just as Hillary leaned i...ittle closer.

    ......
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