Sublime - Christina Lauren

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book feels like it’s been in this secret corner of our hearts for so long and now it’s out in the world! (We can only hope it behaves itself and doesn’t eat crackers in your bed.)

Our agent, Holly Root, has been along for this entire journey, and no doubt all three of us are doing a ridiculous happy dance seeing this labor of love in print for the first time. Our editor, Zareen Jaffery, wanted to acquire this story long before any of our other books saw the light of day, and we have a special throne in Christina Lauren Wonderland reserved for her for loving Colin and Lucy so long ago, and for making them so much stronger with every edit. Thank you, Lizzy Bromley, for our beautiful cover. It still takes our breath away. Thank you to everyone at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers—especially Katy Hershberger, Chrissy Noh, and Julia Maguire—for welcoming us with so much enthusiasm! Let’s go get matching ring pops.

Our prereaders have seen this book so many times, I’m sure they don’t even really know which version is final, and so sorry for that! But on the upside, we love you endlessly: Alison Cherry, Martha Henley, Erin Billings Service, and Anne Jamison. Thanks as well to the kindly critical eyes of Myra McEntire, Gretchen Kopmanis, and Tonya Irving. Thank you: Lauren Suero for being the most fabulous assistant, Nathan Bransford for giving a world of writers a clear road map and a set of tools, and always to Tahereh Mafi for the assurance that the only thing in our way was time. We adore you.

Thanks to John Donello for the mentoring, the friendship, the endless giggles, and of course, for the spark of an idea that turned into a book.

Finally, thank you to our husbands and kiddos for keeping up the enthusiasm from the day we wrote the first word of Sublime to this very moment. Right now.

Lo, there’s only a thirteen-minute wait for the Tower of Terror.

C, then let’s skip over there together and outline as we go.

sublime

1. (adjective) transcendent; complete, absolute

2. (transitive verb) to cause to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state

A slumber did my spirit seal

I had no human fears:

She seem’d a thing that could not feel

The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;

She neither hears nor sees;

Roll’d round in earth’s diurnal course,

With rocks, and stones, and trees.

—SIR WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Chapter 1 • HER

THE GIRL IS BENT INTO odd angles when she wakes. It doesn’t seem possible that she could have been sleeping here, alone on a dirt path, surrounded by leaves and grass and clouds. She feels like she might have fallen from the sky.

She sits up, dusty and disoriented. Behind her, a narrow trail turns and disappears, crowded with trees flaming garishly with fall colors. In front of her is a lake. It is calm and blue, its surface rippling only at the edges where shallow water meets rock. On instinct, she crawls to it and peers in, feeling a tug of instinctive pity for the confused girl staring back at her.

Only when she stands does she see the hulking buildings looming at the perimeter of the park. Made of gray stone, they stand tall over the tips of fiery red trees, staring down at where she’s landed. The buildings strike her as both welcoming and threatening, as if she’s at that in-between stage of awake and asleep when it’s possible for dreams and reality to coexist.

Instead of being afraid, she feels a surge of excitement tear through her. Excitement, like the sound of a gunshot to a sprinter.

Go.

She slips down the trail and across the dirt road to where the sidewalk abruptly begins. She doesn’t remember putting on the silk dress she’s wearing, printed with a delicate floral calico and falling in wispy folds to her knees. She stares at her unfamiliar feet, wrapped in stiff new sandals. Although she isn’t cold, uniformed students walk past, wrapped in thick wool, navy and gray. Personality lies in the small additions: boots, earrings, the flash of a red scarf. But few bother to notice the wisp of a girl shuffling and hunched over, fighting against the weight of the wind.

The smell of damp earth is familiar, as is the way the stone buildings capture the echoes of the quad and hold them tight, making time slow down and conversations last longer. From the way the wind whips all around her, and from her precious