“Thanks for the ride,” I said. “And … thanks. Again. Like I said, you’re always rescuing me.”
“Maybe I think you’re worth saving.” Bianca wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes were turned to the open window. The words sounded simple, but they weren’t. They lay across the seat between us, pulsing in shades of pink and red.
“Thanks?” The word felt awkward in my mouth. Would she still think I was worth saving if she knew I was thinking of ways to kill my sister? I shoved the thought away as I climbed out of the car. “See you in school.”
“Yeah. See you.” Bianca turned, her eyes glittering under the streetlights. “Hey, Livvie?”
“Yeah?” I ducked my head back through the door.
“I really like your painting.”
I jerked back in surprise, knocking the back of my head on the door. “My painting? You mean the still life?”
She nodded. “Yeah. It’s really good. It’s like everyone else is painting the surface of the things, but you’re painting what’s underneath. The real apple. The real flowers. It’s got—” She stopped, searching around as if she’d find the word she was looking for hanging in the air, ripe for plucking. “Well, it sounds totally corny, but it’s got soul.”
My face grew warm. “Thanks,” I mumbled. “But yours is way better.”
She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “No. Mine’s clever. It’s thought out. But there’s no passion in it. Yours has that.”
I giggled. “Passion? For a bunch of fruit and flowers? I hope not.”
She smiled, too, the flicker of movement so small I could have missed it. “Well, yeah. It’s not the most exciting subject. But if you can inject that much life into something so stupid, just think what you could do with something you really care about. Like that thing you did with the song. That’s something special.”
I sank back into the seat, the springs wheezing beneath me. My ears blazed, and I knew my cheeks were just as red. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Even Mrs. DeWinter dismissed my music pictures as irrelevant swirls of color, while Mom considered all painting and drawing to be a frivolous waste of time.
“Thanks.” I stammered again.
“No, thank you.” Bianca lit another cigarette, the fiery end punching a hole in the darkness.
“What for?” Smoke burned my eyes, making them tear. At least, I thought it was the smoke. I couldn’t remember the last time someone complimented me or made me feel special. I brushed at a wet spot on my cheek.
She took a long drag and turned to her open window before exhaling into the night. “I’ve always been the best at art. I never had to work hard to be the best either. Now I have something to work for.”
“Oh.” I admired the ease with which she admitted to being the best. “Okay.”
Silence filled the car, but it was a warm, comforting silence.
“I have to go.” The reluctance in my voice surprised me, and I realized I didn’t want to leave. And not just because Bianca’s words flattered me. I recognized the truth in them. “I have a curfew. And I’m late.”
“Sure. Wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.” She turned the key and let the engine struggle to life again.
I watched the way the light gleamed off her shiny red lips. Surprised, I realized I wanted to lean over and kiss them, wanted to see if she tasted of the raspberries I always tasted while in her presence. I scrambled out of the car, putting distance between us as fast as I could. My heart raced in my chest.