Chapter Two: When Wren Meets Charlie
Wren Gray was the most beautiful girl Charlie Parker had ever seen, and the most brilliant. She didn't seem to realize she was either, which was crazy. But Charlie had eyes. Charlie knew the truth.
When she smiled, Charlie wanted in on the joke. When she pushed her dark hair behind her ears, Charlie thought, Yes, that is how you do it. When she walked down the halls in her collared shirts and knee-length skirts, he saw with absolute clarity how much classier she was than the other girls in their tight jeans and peekaboo thongs. Charlie had had some experience with girls in tight jeans and peekaboo thongs, or with one particular girl in tight jeans and a thong. She hadn't left a great impression.
But Wren wasn't like that girl, or any girl, even though she was clearly and definitely a girl. Once, on the senior patio during lunch, she'd lifted her arm to call over her friend Tessa, and her blouse hugged her curves. He drank her in for as long as he decently could.
On Wednesday, Charlie drifted through the last day of classes as if he were in a fog. Everyone else was wired at the prospect of summer, but Charlie didn't want summer. He wanted Wren. But unless he manned up and took actionlike exchanging more than half a dozen words with herhe was doomed. Wren would go her own way after Saturday's graduation ceremony, and Charlie might never see her again.
On Thursday, which was his first official day of no school, Charlie worked alongside his foster dad at the woodworking shop his foster dad owned. He clamped a slab of cream-colored birch onto the workbench and switched on the router, shaping the wood to fit an oddly shaped nook in a client's bathroom. His thoughts stayed on Wren as he rounded the corner of the plank. Her sweet smile. Her shiny hair. The way her brown eyes grew pensive when the end of her pen found its way to the corner of her mouth, suggesting that she was contemplating something important.
One day in AP biology, Wren had argued with Ms. Atkinson about free will in the face of cellular determinism. It was at the beginning of the semester, but already most of the seniors were starting to tune out their teachers' lectures, and Charlie wondered if that was why Ms. Atkinson had tossed out the sensationally termed "parasite gene," a gene that supposedly triggered a propensity toward exploitive behavior in those who carried it. She encouraged the class to consider what the existence of such a gene might imply"Is that what drives the president of a company to embezzle funds, or an addict to steal from a family member?"and while Charlie drew into himself, Wren shook her head in frustration.
"Humans are too complicated to be explained by unraveling their DNA," ?Wren said. "Aren't they? Otherwise wouldn't our lives have no meaning?"
"Why do you say that?" Ms. Atkinson said.
"Because, okay, say a kid is born with the'parasite gene,' if there is such a thing. Are you saying he has no choice but to grow up and mooch off others? He'll never contribute anything to society?"
"Nice job of assuming it's a guy," ?Thad Lundeen had said.
Wren had blushed. "Fine. Sorry. But what if a boy or a girl is born with . . . whatever. A fear-of-flying gene. Does that mean he or she can't grow up to be a pilot? No matter what, end of story?"
Different kids jumped in. The conversation grew loud and off-track, and Charlie wondered if he was the only one to hear her last comment.
"And what about souls?" she said, bowing her head and addressing her desk. "Don't souls count for anything?"
Her downcast eyes, her pink cheekshe saw them in his mind still. He held in his brain an entire store of the amazing things she'd done and said. He loved the whole package.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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