The Dark Divine Page 37

"Do you think they're right? That the Markham

Street Monster is responsible for what happened to Mr. Day's granddaughter? That it tried to take James?" He shook his head.

"But you're the one who said James couldn't have gone that far on his own. And how did his slipper get down in that ravine?"

Daniel just stared at the palms of his hands, like he was hoping the answer would somehow he written there.

"Monsters are real," I said. "They still exist right here in Minnesota, and in Iowa, and in Utah. Don't they?"

Daniel scratched behind his ear. "Yes, Gracie. My people wouldn't still exist if monsters didn't." 1 suddenly shivered, even though we were sitting in the sun. I'm not sure I wanted to be right.

"That's just too weird to wrap my head around. To think that for nearly seventeen years I've been walking around completely oblivious to what the world is really like. I mean, I could have walked right past a monster without even knowing it."

"You've met one," Daniel said. "The other night."

"I did?" Then my mind drifted back to the party at Daniel's apartment. "Mishka," I said, thinking of her black, black eyes and how I'd felt so fuzzy in the head around her. "And you're friends with her?"

"It's complicated," Daniel said. "But she's only dangerous when she doesn't get what she wants. That's why I went with her. I didn't just abandon you for a haircut.

I knew if I chose you over her, she might decide to ... target you." My heart felt like it was twisting into a knot. "You don't think that's what happened, do you?

Maybe she followed you here and decided to go after my little brother--"

"No. That's not what happened."

"Then what did?"

"I don't know," he mumbled. He was quiet for a moment, and then he looked at the drawing I held on my lap. "I can help you with that."

"You're doing it again," I grumbled.


"Dodging my questions, like everybody else. I'm not stupid or fragile or weak, you know."

"I know, Grace. You're anything but." He blew his floppy bangs off his forehead. "I'm not dodging your questions. I just don't have any more answers to give you." He tapped my sketch pad with one of his long fingers. "Now, do you want help with your assignment, or not?"

"No, thanks. I'm in enough trouble over the last time you 'fixed' one of my drawings."

"That's not really what I meant," he said. "I'll be staying after school every day to work in the art room. I could use your company. Help keep that Barlow guy off my back. But we could start today. I could show you some new techniques I've picked up over the years."

"I bet you could." I sighed, realizing that our discussion about monsters was over--for now. "But this drawing is totally hopeless." I tore the page out of my sketch pad and was about to crumple it up.

"Don't." Daniel grabbed it from me. He studied it for a moment. "Why are you drawing this?" He pointed at my skeleton of a tree.

I shrugged. "Because Barlow wants us to draw something that reminds us of our childhood. This is all I could think of."

"But why?" Daniel asked. "What exactly about this tree are you trying to capture? What does it make you feel? What does it make you want?"

I gazed at the real tree in the yard. Memories trickled into my mind. You, I thought. It makes me want you. I looked down at my drawing pad and hoped mind reading wasn't one of Daniel's many hidden, demon-hunter talents.

"Remember when we used to race up that tree--see who could go the highest the fastest?" I asked. "And then we'd perch up there, and we could see the whole neighborhood? It felt like if we could just climb a little bit farther into the thin branches, we could stretch up and brush the clouds with our fingers." I rolled the charcoal pencil between my hands. "I guess that's what I want to feel again."

"Then why are we down here?" Daniel grabbed my pencil and tucked my pad under his arm.

"Come on."

He pulled me up from the swing and down the porch to the base of the walnut tree. Before I could blink, he'd kicked off his shoes and was halfway up the tree. "You coming?" he goaded from his perch.

"You're crazy," I shouted up to him.

"You're losing!" He jumped from his branch to a higher one above.

"You're cheating!" I grabbed the lowest branch and tried to swing myself up. My stiff legs groaned, I grabbed a different branch and climbed up a few feet. This was a lot less scary than the ravine, but a lot harder than the stone pillar in the Garden of Angels. My injured hand didn't make it any easier.

"Pick up the pace, slowpoke!" Daniel shouted down at me like we were kids all over again. He was higher in the branches than I'd ever climbed.

"Zip it, or you're going to lose an appendage."

My feet scraped against the ashy-white bark as I pushed and pulled myself up through the tree. I was a few feet below Daniel when the branches felt too thin and wavering to support me. I stretched to reach him--to reach the sky, like I tried when I was kid. I slipped a bit and hugged the closest branch. Daniel swung down to meet me. The tree shuddered when he landed. I hugged my branch tighter. Daniel didn't even blink. He sat in a crook of the tree, his legs swinging in the open air.

"So what do you see now?" he asked.

I willed myself to look down. I gazed out across the neighborhood--a bird's-eye view of the world. Through the branches, I could see the tops of houses, smoke coming out of the Headrickses' chimney. Kids playing street hockey in the cul-de-sac where Jude, Daniel, and I used to run with our light sabers. Where Daniel, after much bossing on my part, taught me how to skateboard. I looked up. Tree branches swayed above me, dancing in the blue, cloud-spotted sky.

"I see everything," I said. "I see--"

"Don't tell me. Show me." He pulled my sketch pad out of his shirt. "Draw what you see." He tried to hand me my things.

"From up here?" I was still hugging my tree branch. How did he expect me to be able to draw without falling? "I can't."

"Stop worrying." He leaned against the trunk. "Come here." I slowly edged over to him. He helped me sit in front of him and then handed me my things. I leaned my back against his chest, and he wrapped his arms around my waist.

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