A World Without You - Beth Revis Page 0,1

that’s ever happened to me.

But I don’t want to be . . . here. Not in this moment. Not in this way. I want to be here two weeks ago, when everything was fine. Or seven months ago, when I first drove up the gravel road to the academy’s open doors. Or eight months ago, before I’d even come to Berkshire or learned that it would be my new home. I want it to be then.

Not now.

Black bunting hangs over the arched walnut doors at the top of the steps, where there are still a few students hanging out. A handful of cars are parked around the circular drive, and I recognize my dad’s Buick. Great. So the families have been invited. Dr. Franklin, my unit leader, hurries outside and down the brick steps. His gaze falls on me, and something in his face eases; the lines around his eyes soften, and his jaw unclenches. “Come on,” he says to me, his voice gentle. Then he turns to the other students still lingering outside and gives them a stern look. “Everyone, it’s time.”

Dr. Franklin leads the way down the hardwood halls of Berkshire’s main floor. Hardly anyone ever uses the main floor—it’s formal, reserved for Family Day, scholastic banquets, graduation ceremonies, and once, after a fund-raiser, a fancy ball hosted by the board for top contributors to the school. Sofía and I snuck down to the kitchen the morning after the ball and pilfered the remains of half-drunk bottles of flat champagne that were supposed to have been thrown out.

We follow the Doctor past the main living areas, our feet barely audible on the heavy rugs that line the floors. Everything on the first floor is dark and gloomy—I much prefer the common room I share with my unit on the second floor. The cook staff is setting up a sort of buffet along one wall. I guess we’re dining as a group today rather than in shifts, like we usually do. Why is it that whenever there’s a hint of tragedy in life, all old people want to do is cook? It’s not like a covered dish is going to solve anything. My hands clench in fists as the scent of melted cheese and roasted vegetables wafts around us.

A nice dinner isn’t going to make any of this better.

The Doctor pushes open the wide doors at the back of the long hallway and holds them for us as we file into the courtyard. The rest of Berkshire’s students are already waiting for us in the small arena that teachers sometimes use for outdoor lessons when the weather’s not too cold. I scan the crowd quickly and notice my family standing at the back of the room, dressed in their Sunday best. My father must sense my gaze. He turns around and watches me as I follow Dr. Franklin down the steps toward the small stage at the bottom. Dad shakes his head at my ripped jeans and faded black T-shirt. Whatever—let him glare. There’s a reason why I’m at boarding school and he’s back at home—we’re both happier when there are miles between us, and his presence does nothing but highlight just how sucky today is going to be.

The director of the school—an older, bald man whose eyebrows reach to the heavens—stands at the center of the stage in front of a table. He looks bored, but when Dr. Franklin signals to him, he nods, straightens his spine, and assumes a mask of benevolence.

“We are here today to remember the life of one of our own,” he intones. His voice is low, but nearly everyone is focused on him.

Not me, though. I don’t need his lies. Instead, I watch as some of the staff arrange paper lanterns on the table. After a moment, the director raises his voice. “And now, I’d like to invite Sofía Muniz’s closest friends—her unit and headmaster—to say a few words.”

He steps back, and for a moment he looks as if he’s going to push past everyone and head back inside where the food is. But one of the teachers offers him a chair beside the table, and he sits down.

The Doctor nudges Ryan and me forward. Gwen and Harold, the other kids in our unit, are already stepping down the granite stairs toward the table with the paper lanterns. When I don’t move, Dr. Franklin pushes me again.

Fine. I’ll do this. Even if it’s false.

The Doctor speaks first. He talks about Sofía like she