Home > Thirteen Reasons Why(4)

Thirteen Reasons Why(4)
Jay Asher

“No,” I say. “I’m heading to a friend’s house. For his project.”

Because our lies matched. It was a sign.

“That’s fine,” Mom says.

“I’ll keep some in the fridge and you can heat it up later.”

My mom asked what class we had and I said math, which wasn’t a total lie. We both had math. Just not together. And not the same type.

“Good,” Mom said. “That’s what he told me.”

I accused her of not trusting her own daughter, grabbed the slip of paper with your number from her hand, and ran upstairs.

I’ll go there. To the first star. But before that, when this side of the tape is over, I’ll go to Tony’s.

Tony never upgraded his car stereo so he still plays tapes.

That way, he says, he’s in control of the music. If he gives someone a ride and they bring their own music, too bad.

“The format’s not compatible,” he tells them.

When you answered the phone, I said, “Justin? It’s Hannah. My mom said you called with a math problem.”

Tony drives an old Mustang handed down from his brother, who got it from his dad, who probably got it from his dad. At school there are few loves that compare to the one between Tony and his car. More girls have dumped him out of car envy than my lips have even kissed.

You were confused, but eventually you remembered lying to my mom and, like a good boy, you apologized.

While Tony doesn’t classify as a close friend, we have worked on a couple of assignments together so I know where he lives. And most important of all, he owns an old Walkman that plays tapes. A yellow one with a skinny plastic headset that I’m sure he’ll let me borrow. I’ll take a few tapes with me and listen to them as I walk through Hannah’s old neighborhood, which is only a block or so from Tony’s.

“So, Justin, what’s the math problem?” I asked. You weren’t getting off that easy.

Or maybe I’ll take the tapes somewhere else. Somewhere private. Because I can’t listen here. Not that Mom or Dad will recognize the voice in the speakers, but I need room.

Room to breathe.

And you didn’t miss a beat.

You told me Train A was leaving your house at 3:45

PM . Train B was leaving my house ten minutes later.

You couldn’t see this, Justin, but I actually raised my hand like I was in school rather than sitting on the edge of my bed. “Pick me, Mr. Foley.

Pick me,” I said. “I know the answer.”

When you called my name, “Yes, Miss Baker?” I threw Mom’s hard-to-get rule right out the window. I told you the two trains met at Eisenhower Park at the bottom of the rocket slide.

What did Hannah see in him? I never got that. Even she admits she was unable to put her finger on it. But for an average-looking guy, so many girls are into Justin.

Sure, he is kind of tall. And maybe they find him intriguing.

He’s always looking out windows, contemplating something.

A long pause at your end of the line, Justin. And I mean a looooooong pause. “So, when do the trains meet?” you asked.

“Fifteen minutes,” I said.

You said fifteen minutes seemed awfully slow for two trains going full speed.

Whoa. Slow down, Hannah.

I know what you’re all thinking. Hannah Baker is a slut.

Oops. Did you catch that? I said, “Hannah Baker is.”

Can’t say that anymore.

She stops talking.

I drag the stool closer to the workbench. The two spindles in the tape deck, hidden behind a smoky plastic window, pull the tape from one side to the other. A gentle hiss comes through the speaker. A soft static hum.

What is she thinking? At that moment, are her eyes shut? Is she crying? Is her finger on the Stop button, hoping for the strength to press it? What is she doing? I can’t hear!

Wrong.

Her voice is angry. Almost trembling.

Hannah Baker is not, and never was, a slut. Which begs the question, What have you heard?

I simply wanted a kiss. I was a freshman girl who had never been kissed. Never. But I liked a boy, he liked me, and I was going to kiss him.

That’s the story—the whole story—right there.

What was the other story?

Because I did hear something.

The few nights leading up to our meeting in the park, I’d had the same dream. Exactly the same. From beginning to end. And for your listening pleasure, here it is.

But first, a little background.

My old town had a park similar to Eisenhower Park in one way. They both had that rocket ship. I’m sure it was made by the same company because they looked identical.

A red nose points to the sky.

Metal bars run from the nose all the way down to green fins holding the ship off the ground. Between the nose and the fins are three platforms, connected by three ladders.

On the top level is a steering wheel. On the mid level is a slide that leads down to the playground.

On many nights leading up to my first day of school here, I’d climb to the top of that rocket and let my head fall back against the steering wheel. The night breeze blowing through the bars calmed me. I’d just close my eyes and think of home.

I climbed up there once, only once, when I was five. I screamed and cried my head off and would not come down for anything. But Dad was too big to fit through the holes. So he called the fire department, and they sent a female firefighter up to get me. They must’ve had a lot of those rescues because, a few weeks ago, the city announced plans to tear the rocket slide down.

I think that’s the reason, in my dreams, my first kiss took place at the rocket ship. It reminded me of innocence.

And I wanted my first kiss to be just that. Innocent.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t red-star the park. The rocket might be gone before the tapes make it through the entire list.

So back to my dreams, which started the day you began waiting outside my classroom door. The day I knew you liked me.

Hannah took off her shirt and let Justin put his hands up her bra. That’s it. That’s what I heard happened in the park that night.

But wait. Why would she do that in the middle of a park?

The dream starts with me at the top of the rocket, holding on to the steering wheel. It’s still a playground rocket, not a real one, but every time I turn the wheel to the left, the trees in the park lift up their roots and sidestep it to the left. When I turn the wheel to the right, they sidestep it to the right.

Then I hear your voice calling up from the ground.

“Hannah!

Hannah!

Stop playing with the trees and come see me.”

So I leave the steering wheel and climb through the hole in the top platform. But when I reach the next platform, my feet have grown so huge they won’t fit through the next hole.

Big feet? Seriously? I’m not into dream analysis, but maybe she was wondering if Justin had a big one.

I poke my head through the bars and shout, “My feet are too big. Do you still want me to come down?”

“I love big feet,” you shout back. “Come down the slide and see me. I’ll catch you.”

So I sit on the slide and push off. But the wind resistance on my feet makes me go so slow. In the time it takes me to reach the bottom of the slide, I’ve noticed that your feet are extremely small.

Almost nonexistent.

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