And then, yesterday, when she waved at him outside the school . . .
Something had passed between them. Something he couldn't explain, and it had made him forget that he didn't believe in souls. Anyway, who was he kidding? He didn't believe in love, either, but this he knew: He loved Wren Gray. He'd loved her forever, it seemed.
The router jumped beneath his hands. Ah, shit. He'd turned it up slightly, so that the bit was pointing toward the left rather than straight down, and the webbing between his left thumb and forefinger moved directly into it. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. He clamped his T-shirt over the wound, and his foster dad, Chris, glanced over.
"Wassup, Chahlie?" Chris said in his rough Boston accent. He took in the blood soaking through Charlie's T-shirt and put down his rag and can of varnish. He came over and gave Charlie's wound a close, careful look. He whistled. "C'mon, son. Let's get you stitched up."
Grady Hospital was the largest hospital in Atlanta, as well as the fifth-largest public hospital in the United States. It smelled like shit, piss, and body odor. Patients on gurneys lined the ER hallway, since, with more than three hundred patients walking, stumbling, or rolling in each day, there were never enough rooms to go around.
"Just fill this out," a brown-skinned woman told the elderly white woman ahead of them in the long line.
"I'm fine," Charlie told Chris for the fiftieth time. He wasn't, but finances for Chris and Pamela were hard enough without adding on a couple hundred bucks for a drop-in visit to the emergency room. "Really. Let's go."
Chris ignored him, just as he'd ignored him the first forty-nine times.
Charlie sighed and searched fruitlessly for an escape route. At the next desk over, a girl tapped into a computer, head down, as a frizzy-haired woman standing before her complained about a crackling sound when she breathed.
"Don't worry," the girl said. "We'll get you taken care of." She looked up from the computer, and Charlie's blood froze in his veins. Not really; it oozed relentlessly through the towel his foster mom had given him, just as it had since he'd nearly sliced his thumb off. But it felt as if his blood froze, as well as his brain, his heart, and every last muscle in his body.
"Charlie?" ?Wren said, her expression registering equal shock.
Wren. Behind the desk. At the hospital. Why?
The frizzy-haired woman took her paperwork with a harrumph.
"Charlie," ?Wren said, beckoning him forward.
Chris approached the desk, relieved. "You know my boy?" he said. "Great, because Chahlie here got into a fight with a router, and if you've ever gotten into a fight with a router, you know who won."
Wren smiled uncertainly. "Ouch," she said. "Well, let me get you into the system. Can I see your driver's license and insurance card?"
Charlie had his license. That was no problem. But he had to look away as Chris patted his pockets and put on a show that they both knew would lead nowhere.
"Insurance card," Chris said. "Sure thing." He pulled out his wallet, a battered and bruised thing that was perhaps once made of leather. "Just give me a minute here . . ."
Wren watched. She bit her lip. She looked at the clock behind her and said, "Oh crap, Rhondelle's going to need her desk back. Her break's just about over." She stood up and came around to Charlie. "But, uh, come with me."
Chris frowned. "'Scuse me?"
Wren grabbed a clipboard. To Chris, she said, "Do you want to have a seat in the waiting room? I'll help Charlie with the paperwork, and I can come get you when we need you."
Charlie knew his face was a fiery red, but he followed Wren to a tucked-away corner of the reception area. He glanced over his shoulder. Chris looked confused, but he turned and walked toward the waiting room.
Excerpted from The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. Copyright © 2013 by Lauren Myracle. Excerpted by permission of Amulet Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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