CHAPTER THE FIRST, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.
On the day we’re the last people to see indie kid Finn alive, we’re all sprawled together in the Field, talking about love and stomachs.
“I don’t believe that, though,” my sister says, and I look up at the slight tension in her voice. She gives me a half-annoyed nod of reassurance in the sunshine, then shakes her head again at Henna.
“You always have a choice. I don’t care if you think it’s love – and by the way, NOT a word you should throw around so easily – but even if that, even if that word, you can still choose to act right.”
“I said I loved the way he looked,” Henna says. “I didn’t say I loved him. You’re twisting my words.
And that’s not what I’m talking about anyway. I’m talking about … how your heart fills up. Actually, no, it’s not even your heart, it’s your stomach. You feel it and everything just goes.”
“No, it doesn’t,” my sister says, firmly. “No. It. Doesn’t.”
“You can feel it, and you can still do the right thing.”
Henna frowns. “Why is it a question of the ‘right thing’? I’m describing a totally normal human feeling. Nathan’s a hot guy.”
I look back down at my History textbook. I touch each of the four corners, counting silently to myself. I see Jared notice.
“You said you had no choice,” Mel pursues. “You said if you’d been able to kiss him, you would have done it right there, regardless of who saw. Or if he had a girlfriend already. Or if Tony was around–”
“I’m not going out with Tony any more–”
“Yeah, but you know how sensitive he is. You’d have hurt him and then you’d have said you had no choice and it would have been bullshit.”
Henna puts her hands over her face in frustration. “Melinda–”
“It’s something I feel strongly about.”
“I can see that–”
“And don’t call me Melinda.”
“Henna’s right, though,” Jared says, from where he’s lying back with his head on Henna’s butt. “It is in your stomach.”
“On a guy, you’d think it’d be lower,” Mel says.
“That’s different,” Jared says, sitting up. “Your dick or whatever, that’s just wanting. Animal stuff.
This is more.”
“Yeah,” Henna agrees.
“You feel it right here.” Jared puts his hand on his belly. It’s a biggish kind of belly and we know he doesn’t draw attention to it lightly. “And it’s like, for that moment, everything you believed is wrong.
Or doesn’t matter. And everything that was complicated is suddenly, like, yes-and-no simple, because your stomach is really the boss and it’s telling you that your desire is possible and that it’s not the answer to everything but it’s the one thing that’s going to make the questions more bearable.”
He stops, looking up into the sun. We all know what he means. He knows we all know what he means. He never really talks about it, though. We wish he did.
“Your stomach isn’t the boss of you,” Mel says, evenly.
“Oh,” Jared says, realizing. “Sorry–”
Mel shakes her head, brushing it off. “Not what I meant. Your heart isn’t the boss of you either.
Thinks it is. Isn’t. You can always choose. Always.”
“You can’t choose not to feel,” Henna says.
“But you can choose how to act.”
“Yeah,” Jared says. “Hard, though.”
“Early Christians thought your soul was in your stomach,” I say.