The Book of Ivy / Page 11

Page 11


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“Okay,” Bishop says. “Let me talk to my dad, see what’s available. I’m sure he can pull some strings.”

I hate the idea of owing President Lattimer anything, but I need access to the courthouse. I give a quick, closed-mouth smile. “Thanks.”

We sit in silence for a minute, the only sound the slight rustle of leaves in the big oak in the backyard. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to have a normal conversation or if, at least, this silence between us will someday feel less strained.

“Come on,” Bishop says, standing. “Let’s get out of here.”

I push myself upright. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

I

hesitate when I see where he’s headed, my footsteps slowing until I’m barely moving at all. Bishop pauses, one hand on the gate outside his parents’ house. The early evening light catches his eyes, and I notice for the first time that he has a darker green rim around each iris, the edges more emerald than lime.

“Why are we here?” I ask. I shove my hands into my back pockets. I’m trying to remain calm, like my heart isn’t thumping out of my chest, but I don’t think it’s working. “They might not like us dropping by unannounced.”

“They’re not even home,” Bishop says. “But they wouldn’t mind.” He pushes the gate, and it swings open on silent hinges. I don’t have any choice but to follow him.

Bishop punches a code into a keypad by the front door and lets us inside. The foyer is cool and quiet, our footsteps muffled by the thick rug that runs almost the full length and width of the space. In the center is an ornate round table, a huge arrangement of flowers in its center. The smell is cloying, as if the flowers are on the edge of rotting. Dust motes hang in the still air, lit up by the late afternoon sun flowing in from a window above the front door.

“What are we doing?” I ask, my voice a whisper.

Bishop gives me a quick grin. “It’s okay to talk,” he says at normal volume. “Trust me, I didn’t whisper my way through childhood.”

I look at the sweeping staircase leading upstairs, which is already bathed in shadows. A hallway unfurls on either side of the base of the stairs, leading to the back of the house. Everything is hushed and perfect, and I can’t imagine a child running through these halls with muddy hands or thundering feet. The house feels lonely to me, and it’s not because we are the only ones here. It has an emptiness at its heart. Growing up here an only child can’t have been easy.

“This way,” Bishop says, pointing to the right side of the staircase and leading me down the hall. As we walk, I glance to my left and catch a glimpse of a study through an open doorway—big wooden desk, a couple of chairs, the president’s seal framed on the wall. At the end of the hall, Bishop pushes open a thick walnut door and flips on the light switch with the flat of his hand.

It’s a library. Books fill three walls, floor to ceiling, and a small ladder leans against the far wall so the highest shelves can be reached. There are lamps positioned on two end tables near a pair of wide, cushioned armchairs. I don’t want to be impressed, I don’t want to be awed, but I can’t help it. We have a public library in town, but with too many people and not enough books, it can take months for something worth reading to become available. Often, when I am able to check out a book, I read it a dozen times before returning it, desperate to remain lost in the magic of someone else’s story.

“Why aren’t these in the library?” I ask, torn between anger that the president hoards these books for himself and selfish gratitude that I may be allowed to read them.

Bishop runs his hand along the spines of the books closest to him. “He did give a lot to the library. But he likes to have his own collection.” He turns to me. “You can take anything you want, for as long as you want. And I don’t need to be with you. I’ll write down the front door code for you. My father won’t mind you being here.”

I can’t imagine coming here alone, walking that hallway and spending time in this room knowing President Lattimer is somewhere in this house with me. But having the code will come in handy. And I’m not surprised Bishop offered it to me. No one worries too much about the president’s safety nowadays. The majority of Westfall is far too happy to have food on the table, medicine in the hospital, and peace outside their front door. No one is in a hurry to upset the status quo, and hurting the president would definitely do that. All the same, goose bumps break out on my arms at the thought of being alone in this house with President Lattimer.

“You don’t need to be afraid of him,” Bishop says, taking a step closer. “He’s not a monster.”

It is on the tip of my tongue to say, Maybe not, but he’s done monstrous things, until I remember Callie’s words, warning me not to bait him, and I force the words back down, where they burn in my throat. I spin away, pretending to be engrossed with the books in front of me.

“You said you liked to read,” Bishop says from right behind me. I never heard him move. “I thought this place might make you happy.”

I take a deep breath and turn to face him, my hands curled around the bottom edge of the shelf behind me. He is close to me, close enough to touch, although he keeps his hands at his sides. His eyes roam over my face.

“Thank you,” I manage. My fingers tighten on the shelf. I try to remember Callie’s words, manipulate don’t confront, but I am having trouble putting those words into practice. My way has always been straight through, even if the wiser course is the path around.

“Why are you being nice to me?” I ask him. Although nice isn’t really the word I want to use. He’s not nice the way boys in stories are, with poetic words and worshipful eyes, everything about them reverent and soft. There’s nothing soft about Bishop. But these books, the strawberries in the bag, the offer of a job, the way he hasn’t touched me—there is a kindness in those actions that makes no sense to me.

His head jerks back a little, his forehead furrowing. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

I think about our new neighbors, Dylan and Meredith, his hand on her arm squeezing too tight, the soft menace in his voice. Already I can’t imagine Bishop treating me that way, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of it. It doesn’t mean he won’t. I shrug, look down, trying to find a way to answer his question without sounding angry. “It’s just…a lot of times…with these arranged marriages, it doesn’t work that way.” I glance back up at him.

He doesn’t respond, looks at me like he’s waiting for me to finish my thought. He leans forward and I press back against the bookcase, but he only puts one arm above my head and leans sideways next to me, giving me his full attention. Already he’s upset my balance. I can’t remember the last time someone really listened to me. I’m usually the one doing the listening.

“When boys believe they’ve been given something, even if it’s another person, it’s easy to view the girl as a possession,” I say. “Something that belongs to them. If something belongs to you, you think you’re allowed to treat it any way you want.”

“But couldn’t you say that of any marriage?” Bishop asks. “Doesn’t it depend more on the people involved and not how the marriage came to be?” He’s not barking at me, doesn’t seem upset by my opinions. His brow is still furrowed, like he’s genuinely interested in the conversation, trying hard to understand my point of view.


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