The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried(7)

“I invited you to do stuff with us.”

“Do I look like your third wheel?”

“You are so frustrating!” Dino bunches up his fists and glares at me like he’s got a million more words where that came from, but he keeps them to himself. As usual.

After a minute of silence, I say, “Did someone force you to wear those shorts? They’re too tight and no one needs to see that much of your fuzzy legs.”

Instead of getting feisty, Dino starts laughing. The loud, rumbling sound of it fills the mortuary. “God, I hate you, July. And I’ve missed you.”

“Feeling is and isn’t mutual,” I say. “In that order.”

“We have to figure out what’s going on.”

“I’m alive,” I say. “What more do you need to know?”

“You’re not alive!”

“Then what? You think I’m a zombie?”

“No. Maybe. Do you feel a feral desire to eat my brains?”

“Not wanting to eat Spam doesn’t mean I’m not hungry.”

“Are you comparing my brain to Spam?”

“Don’t get uptight about it,” I say. “I’m not the one who nearly buried his best friend alive.”

“You’re not my best friend. Not anymore. And you’re not alive.”

I sneer at him. “You know what I meant.”

Dino’s voice is quieter and his eyes have stopped darting toward the exits, but he’s still keeping his distance. “You should be grateful your parents decided not to have you embalmed.”


“Imagine waking up with spiked caps in your eyes or trying to scream with your mouth sewn shut. And that’s the least horrifying orifice they sew closed.”

A shiver runs through me even though I don’t feel cold. Or hot. It’s like the time I had a cavity filled and the doctor used laughing gas on me instead of novocaine. I felt the drilling, but it was like it was happening to someone else. Whatever, I don’t want to think about it. “How messed up was everyone when I died? And if they weren’t rending their shirts and sobbing into their pillows, lie to me.”

“Your parents were a wreck.” He bobs his shoulders, stalling for time. “It’s summer. I haven’t seen anyone else from school.”

“Too busy with your boyfriend and your little friends from the shelter?”

“It’s a community center,” he says. “And can we not talk about Rafi?”

“I’m sensing trouble. Spill it, Dino.”

“There’s no trouble.”

But I keep at him; I can’t help myself. “You find out you’re both bottoms? That seems like the sort of question you should’ve asked before blowing off your best friend for him.”

Dino pushes himself to his feet and stands over me like a summer storm, swift and furious. “That’s not funny, and it’s none of your business, so shut up about it, okay? Can you do that, or do I need to put you back in the freezer?”

My whole body tenses for a fight, but I keep still because—let’s face it—Dino would lose to a bulky sweater, but also because I remember that Dino was always the boy who got angry when he meant to get scared.

A few moments pass with neither of us talking, so I say, “As comfortable as this sheet is, I’d love some real clothes.”

Dino watches me suspiciously like he thinks I’m luring him into a trap. Like the moment he stands and turns around I’m going to lunge at him and bite off his nose for a tasty treat. When I don’t, he grabs the garment bag from the rack and unzips it, revealing a high-necked blue dress with an Amish collar.

“Over my dead body,” I say.

“On your dead body, specifically.”

I shake my head so hard I’m worried it’s going to fly off my neck. “My folks expected me to wear a blue sack to heaven?”

Dino snorts. “It’s hilarious that you expected you were going to heaven. Anyway, it’s not that bad, July.”

“Anyone ever ask you for fashion advice?” I motion at the tragic outfit Dino put together himself and wore thinking he looked good. “No? Then shut up.”

“How can you be worried about clothes when you literally rose from the dead?” Dino asks. I answer in the form of a middle finger; strike that, two middle fingers. “If you feel that strongly about it . . .”

“What?” I use the wall to help me stand.

First he looks constipated, then his jaw falls slack like he’s lost whatever conflict was raging in his brain. “You could probably borrow clothes from Dee. For however long . . . this lasts.” Then he adds, “You’re on your own for eternity.”


I STAND IN THE DOORWAY of Dee’s bedroom while July paws through the clothes in the closet.

“Seriously,” July says. “I forgot what a neat freak your sister is.”

July isn’t wrong. Dee organizes her hanging clothes by type and color, and her bed has sharp hospital corners. “It’s going to be a massive shock when she and Theo move in together.”

“That’s an understatement.” July throws an “are you kidding me” look my way. Then she pulls a zip-up University of Florida hoodie out and hangs it on the side of the dresser.

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