The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried(8)

“She stays at his place on the weekends, but they only recently bought a house, so it’ll be their first time sharing a place full time.”

July lets out a low whistle. “She’s braver than me.”

“How do you figure?”

“Spending every hour with one person for the rest of my life? No way. Now, if I could marry someone but maybe still have my own place? I could be down with that.”

It’s surreal listening to July talk about her life like she’s got one to look forward to. I have no idea what’s going on—why she’s not dead, how any of this is possible, and how long it’s going to last—but July’s rolling with it like everything’s perfectly normal while I’m attempting to do my best impression of someone who’s not freaking out that his ex–best friend rose from the dead.

July finally pulls a pair of jeans out of the closet. She has more of a butt than my sister and is a little taller, but my mom’s clothes would fit even worse, so these will have to suffice.

I turn around to give July privacy to dress.

“So,” July says hesitantly. “You saw my folks?”




“How’re they holding up?”

“Your mom brought us a casserole,” I say. “Spinach and ham.”

July laughs. “Christ, Momma’s got a recipe for everything.”

“But she seemed to be keeping it together. Your mom’s pretty much—”

“Unbreakable?” I snort. “She got that from Granddaddy. Never let your feelings show in public.”

My mom and dad asked me to be there when the Coopers came in so they’d see a friendly face. Mrs. Cooper smiled her way through the details, like she could wear Death down with politeness. “Your dad doesn’t seem to have that problem. He was a wreck.”

“Damn!” July says. “Is Dee’s ass as flat as yours? I can barely get these things on.”

“Do you need help?”


“I could get some butter. Grease you up first.”

“Sure,” July says. “And when I’m done you can use it to see how much farther you can stick your head up your own ass.” She doesn’t speak for a few moments, and all I hear is some huffing and grunting, which I do my best to ignore. Thankfully, Mrs. Cooper brought July’s own bra and underwear so that she doesn’t have to borrow those from Dee too.

“Daddy can handle a crisis unless it involves his girls. Remember when I had my tonsils out? He had to leave the room when the nurse put in my IV. He can’t bear to see us in pain. But it was probably the first time they’ve been in the same room in a year without fighting.”

“It’s not like anyone blames him for grieving. He lost a daughter. That would mess any parent up.”

July clears her throat. “I’m done.”

Not being wrapped in a sheet helps July look less dead. If I squint just right, I can maybe fool my brain into believing she’s alive.

“Think Dee’d mind if I borrowed some of her makeup?”

“Yes,” I say, resisting the urge to tell her I already did her makeup and that she doesn’t need more. It’s likely unwise to anger her in case she does get hungry for brains. “But I won’t tell if you won’t.”

July stands in front of the mirror over Delilah’s dresser and rubs moisturizer into her arms and hands and face, and then sets to work applying foundation and blush and lipstick and eyeliner and mascara.

“How about Jo?” she asks.

“Do you really want to know?”

July glances at me through the mirror and purses her lips. “Of course. Why would you ask me a dumbass question like that?”

“Because what if this doesn’t last?” I ask. “Do you want to hear how badly your little sister is handling you being dead?”

“But I’m not dead anymore.”

“You’re not alive either,” I say. “You can’t go talk to her.”

“Why not?”

I don’t understand what’s going on, so I don’t know how to make July understand it either, but I have to try. “Pretend you go home and see Jo and tell her life’s peachy because you’ve risen from the dead. And then tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, you die again. How fair is it to give her or your parents hope and then yank it away?”

July’s working up an argument; I can tell by the way her jaw’s twitching. But all she says is, “She’s my sister. I’m worried about her.”

Jo?lle’s thirteen and soon to be a freshman at Palm Shores High, but where July’s larger than life, Jo barely registers sometimes.

“I know,” I say. “But she survived living with you; eventually she’ll figure out how to live without you.”

“Hey!” July lobs one of Dee’s lipsticks at me, and I duck to avoid it smacking me in the face.

I retrieve the lipstick and return it to the top of Dee’s dresser, trying to remember the exact position it was in.

“It’s weird talking to you, Dino.”

“You too.”

July finishes applying eyeliner, sets the pencil down, and faces me. My job was better, but if she wants to look like a circus clown, who am I to argue?

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