Atalanta sobs. Startled by her violent reaction, she claps her hands over her mouth. I want to reassure her. What can I say? Rory is dead.
“Bathroom,” says Julian. His voice is clipped and cold. Atalanta goes into the bathroom. She pulls the door shut. Her sobs are almost muffled by the whirring of the fan. Almost, but not quite. They tear me up inside in a way I’m not expecting.
“Hold on,” Julian says. He goes into the bathroom and closes the door again. I hear the two of them talking. I can’t make out what they were saying. Atalanta’s still crying. When Julian comes back out, he’s wearing pants and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He missed a button. I tell him so.
He fixes the problem. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I had no idea. I never would’ve said…” He lets his voice trail off. “Rory and I were close.”
“Why didn’t he ever mention you?” My question rings more like an accusation–maybe even an insult. Julian pales. He takes a step backward.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean–“
“It’s fine,” he says. “It’s all right, really. I don’t know what I expected.” He tries to smile, but his face refuses to take it. I know he’s in pain. I feel terrible. Rory hadn’t said anything about Julian. I already said so. I can’t go back on my word. As silly as it seems, I feel like Rory will know if I lie–that he’ll come down from wherever he is and give me a lecture.
“We didn’t talk much,” I try. The explanation is weak. “I mean, about personal issues.” That’s not right, either. Heat rises in my cheeks. I know he can see right through me. I feel pathetic. “He never bothered me with anything too serious. He always worried about upsetting me. Whenever I asked him about his day, he’d hit the highlights. I never got the gritty stuff.”
My brother worked at a funeral home. It bothered me when I was younger, but as time passed, the job became an extension of my brother, another part of him to love. I learned a lot about the industry. Death, like everything else, is a business. I wonder what Rory would think about whatever they do to his body. I wonder if he has a will. I’m not holding out hope.
“He didn’t want you to know about me,” Julian says.
I can’t figure out why. If we have a sky eyed lawyer like him on our side, why didn’t we take full advantage of his status? The more I think about the situation, the less I understand.
“It was for your own good,” he continues. “For your protection. Don’t you understand?”
I do understand. I don’t like understanding.
“Eye color,” I say. “Contacts. It all makes sense now.”
They plotted something together. Why else would a sky eyes become friends with my brother? Rory didn’t want me to meet Julian because he knew it was dangerous. If I recognized Julian in public, people would get suspicious. Silver might hear something. Rory had really been looking out for everyone.