5: Arriane’s Day Out
“Wide load! Coming through!”
Arriane wheeled a large red shopping cart down the housewares aisle of the Savannah Salvation Army thrift store. Her thin arms gripped the handlebar as she heaved the heavy cart forward. She’d already loaded it up with two polka-dotted lamp shades, a sofa’s worth of tacky pillows, nine plastic Halloween lanterns filled with long-expired candy, half a dozen cheap patterned dresses, a few shoe boxes full of bumper stickers, and a pair of neon-colored roller skates. So by this point it was difficult for Arriane, who stood scarcely five feet tall, to see where she was steering.
“Step aside, toots, unless you have no need for your toes. That’s right, I’m talking to you. And your toddler.”
“Arriane,” Roland said calmly. He was one aisle over, flipping through a milk crate crammed with dusty vinyl records. His pin-striped blazer was unbuttoned, showing a Pink Floyd T-shirt underneath. His thick dreadlocks hung down slightly over his dark eyes. “You really know how to keep a low profile, don’t you?”
“Hey!” Arriane sounded wounded as she tried to maneuver her shopping cart in a hairpin turn and wheeled down Roland’s aisle. She stopped in front of him and jabbed an electric-blue-painted fingernail into his chest. “I take my work here seriously, pal. We have a lot of goods to procure in just two days.”
Arriane’s words seemed to remind her of something that filled her with sudden joy. Her pastel blue eyes ignited and a wide grin spread across her face. She gripped Roland’s arm and shook him, causing her long black hair to tumble from its messy bun. It flowed down to her waist and shimmered as she cried, “Two days! Two days! Our Lucy’s coming back to us in two freaking days!”
Roland chuckled. “You’re cute when you’re excited.”
“Then I must be the mayor of Adorableville right now!” Arriane leaned against a rack of old stereo equipment and sighed a happy little sigh. “I live for her arrivals. I mean, not in the same way Daniel does, obviously. But I do feel a certain speck of delight at the prospect of seeing her again.” She rested her head on Roland’s shoulder. “Do you think she’ll have changed?”
Roland was back to flipping through the box of records. Every third or fourth one he tossed into Arriane’s shopping cart. “She’s had a whole other life, Arri. Of course she’ll have changed a little bit.”
Arriane threw down the Sly and the Family Stone album she’d been examining. “But she’ll still be our Lucinda—”
“That does seem to be the pattern,” Roland said, giving Arriane the are-you-crazy look she got from most people—including everyone else at the thrift store—but not usually from Roland. “At least, it’s been that way for the past several thousand years. Why would you even have to ask?”
“Dunno.” Arriane shrugged. “I passed Miss Sophia in the office at Sword and Cross. She was hauling around all these boxes of files, muttering about ‘preparations.’ Like everything had to be perfect or something. I don’t want Luce to show up and be disappointed. Maybe she’ll be different, really different this time. You know how I feel about change.”
She peered into her shopping cart. The tacky pillows she’d thrown into it in case this Luce, like the last Luce, could be cheered up with a raging pillow fight—suddenly, they just looked ugly and childish to Arriane. And the roller skates? When were they ever going to use roller skates at a reform school? What was she thinking? She’d gotten carried away. Again.
Roland tweaked Arriane’s nose. “At the risk of sounding banal, I say just be yourself. Luce will love you. She always does. And if all else fails,” he said, sifting though the booty Arriane had tossed into the cart, “there’s always your secret weapon.” He held up the small plastic bag of drinking straws with paper umbrellas glued onto them. “You should definitely bust out these guys.”
“You’re right. As usual.” Arriane smiled, patting Roland on the head. “I do throw a mean happy hour.” She slung her arm around his waist as the two of them wheeled the heavy cart down the aisle.
As they walked, Roland looked down at the shopping list he’d made on his BlackBerry. “We got the party music. We got the decorations for your room, and the duct tape—”
“How you go through so much duct tape is one of the great mysteries of the universe.”
“Anything else we need here before we go to the gourmet store?”
Arriane wrinkled her nose. “Gourmet store? But . . . Luce likes junk food.”
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” Roland said. “Cam asked me to pick him up some caviar, a pound of figs, a few other things.”
“Caviar? First of all, gag me. Second of all, what would Cam want with caviar? Wait a minute—”
She stopped short in the middle of the aisle, causing another shopper with a cartful of discount Christmas decorations to rear-end them. Arriane let the woman pass, then lowered her voice. “Cam’s not going to try to seduce Luce again, is he?”
Roland went back to pushing the cart. He was excellent at keeping mum when he needed to, and it always pissed Arriane off.
“Roland.” She wedged her black boot under the wheel of the shopping cart to stop it in its tracks. “Need I remind you of the disaster that was 1684? Not to mention the calamity Cam caused in 1515? And I know you remember what happened when he tried to hit on her in the year eleven-twent—”
“You also know I try to stay out of all the drama.”
“Yeah.” Arriane muttered. “And yet you’re always there in the heart of it.”
He rolled his eyes and tried to push past Arriane. She held her ground. “I’m sorry, but courtly Cam is my nightmare. I much prefer him snarling and foaming at the mouth like the devil dog he is.” Arriane panted like a rabid dog for a moment, but when it didn’t get a laugh out of Roland, she crossed her arms over her chest. “And speaking of how utterly horrible your numero uno cohort is over there on the dark side, when are you going to come back to us, Ro?”
Roland didn’t miss a beat. “When I can believe in the cause.”
“Okay, Monsieur Anarchy. So that’s like . . . never?”
“No,” he said, “that’s like, wait and see. We just have to wait and see.”
They were passing the thrift store’s gardening aisle, whose wares included a tangled green hose, a stack of chipped terra-cotta pots, some used doormats, and a generic late-model leaf blower. But it was the large vase of white silk peonies that made both Arriane and Roland stop.
Arriane sighed. She didn’t like to get too sentimental—there were angels like Gabbe to do that—but this was one of those things about Daniel and Luce that always kind of touched her.
At least once in every lifetime, Daniel gave Luce a huge bouquet of flowers. They were always, without fail, white peonies. There must have been a story behind it: Why peonies instead of tulips or gladiolas? Why white instead of red or pink? But even though some of the other angels speculated, Arriane realized that the specifics behind this tradition were not for her to know. She didn’t know from love, other than what she saw in Luce and Daniel, but she enjoyed the ceremony. And the way Luce always seemed more touched by this gesture than by anything else Daniel did.
Arriane and Roland looked at each other. Like they were thinking the same thing.
Or were they?
Why was Roland’s face twitching?
“Don’t buy those for him, Arri.”
“I would never buy those for him,” Arriane said. “They’re fake. It would totally defeat the purpose of the gesture. We have to get real ones, big huge beautiful real ones, in a crystal vase with a ribbon, and then only when the time is right. We never know if it’s going to come quickly or not. It could be weeks, months, before they get to that point—” She froze, eyeing Roland skeptically. “But you know all this. So why would you tell me not to get them? Roland—what do you know?”
“Nothing.” His face twitched again.
“Roland Jebediah Sparks the Third.”
“Nothing.” He put up his hands in supplication.
“Nothing to tell.”
“Do you want another Indian wingburn?” she threatened, grabbing on to the back of his neck and feeling around for his shoulder blade.
“Look,” Roland said, flicking her away. “You worry about Luce and I worry about Daniel. That’s the drill, that’s always been the drill—”
“Screw your drill,” she pouted, turning away from him to face a checkout attendant.
Arriane looked genuinely hurt, and if there was one thing Roland couldn’t stand, it was hurting her. He let out a long, deep breath. “Thing is, I just don’t know if Daniel’s going to go for all the same patterns this time around. Maybe he doesn’t want to do the peonies.”
“Why not?” Arriane asked, and Roland started to answer, but her expression changed into something sad. She held up a hand for him to stop. “It’s wearing Daniel out, isn’t it?”
Arriane rarely felt stupid, but she did now, standing in the middle of the thrift store with her cart overflowing with goofy props and practical jokes. It wasn’t that the whole thing was a game to her—but it was different for the rest of them than it was for Daniel.
Arriane had started thinking about when Luce . . . went away each lifetime like her friend was just trucking off to summer camp while Arriane had to stay home. Luce would be back. Things would be boring in the meantime without her, but she would always come back.
But for Daniel—
His heart broke. It must have broken a little more every time. How could he stand it? Maybe, she realized, he couldn’t. And he had been abnormally low in this life. Had Daniel’s punishment finally gotten to a point where it had broken not just his heart, but him?
What if it had? The really sad part was, it wouldn’t matter. Everyone knew that Daniel still had to go on living. Still had to fall in love with Luce. Just like the rest of them still had to watch, gently nudging the lovebirds toward their inevitable climax.
It wasn’t like Daniel could do anything about it, so why not keep up with the good and sweet and loving parts of their story? Why not give Luce the peonies?
“He doesn’t want to love her this time,” Roland finally said.
“That’s Daniel,” they both said at the same time.
“Well, what are we supposed to do?” Arriane asked.
“Stick within our territory. Provide the earthly goods they need when they need them. And you provide the comic relief.”
Arriane shot him a look, but Roland shook his head. “I’m serious.”
“Serious about joking?”
“Serious that you have a role to play.”
He tossed her a pink tutu from the clearance bin near the checkout line. Arriane fingered the thick tulle. She was still thinking about what it might mean for all of them if Daniel really resisted falling for Luce. If he somehow broke the cycle and they didn’t get together. But it gave her a really heavy feeling inside, like her heart was being dragged down to her feet.
In a matter of seconds, Arriane was tugging the tutu up over her jeans and pirouetting through the store. She bounded into a pair of sisters in matching muumuus, crashed into an easel advertising new linens, and nearly took out a display of candlesticks before Roland caught her in his arms. He twirled her around so the tutu flowed out around her tiny waist.
“You’re crazy,” he said.
“You love it,” Arriane responded dizzily.
“You know I do.” He smiled. “Come on, let’s pay for this stuff and get out of here. We have a lot to do before she gets here.”
Arriane nodded. A lot to do to make sure things were as they should be: Luce and Daniel, falling in love. With everyone around them holding out the hope that somehow, someday, she’d live through it.
Text © 2010 by Tinderbox Books, LLC and Lauren Kate.
Also, for those of you who haven't seen it yet have a look below to see the gorgeous new trailer for Passion. Eeee so exciting!
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