I'll Give You the Sun

By: Jandy Nelson

THE INVISIBLE MUSEUM


Noah

Age 13



This is how it all begins.

With Zephyr and Fry—reigning neighborhood sociopaths—torpedoing after me and the whole forest floor shaking under my feet as I blast through air, trees, this white-hot panic.

“You’re going over, you pussy!” Fry shouts.

Then Zephyr’s on me, has one, both of my arms behind my back, and Fry’s grabbed my sketchpad. I lunge for it but I’m armless, helpless. I try to wriggle out of Zephyr’s grasp. Can’t. Try to blink them into moths. No. They’re still themselves: fifteen-foot-tall, tenth-grade asshats who toss living, breathing thirteen-year-old people like me over cliffs for kicks.

Zephyr’s got me in a headlock from behind and his chest’s heaving into my back, my back into his chest. We’re swimming in sweat. Fry starts leafing through the pad. “Whatcha been drawing, Bubble?” I imagine him getting run over by a truck. He holds up a page of sketches. “Zeph, look at all these naked dudes.”

The blood in my body stops moving.

“They’re not dudes. They’re David,” I get out, praying I won’t sound like a gerbil, praying he won’t turn to later drawings in the pad, drawings done today, when I was spying, drawings of them, rising out of the water, with their surfboards under arm, no wetsuits, no nothing, totally glistening, and, uh: holding hands. I might have taken some artistic license. So they’re going to think . . . They’re going to kill me even before they kill me is what they’re going to do. The world starts somersaulting. I fling words at Fry: “You know? Michelangelo? Ever heard of him?” I’m not going to act like me. Act tough and you are tough, as Dad has said and said and said—like I’m some kind of broken umbrella.

“Yeah, I’ve heard of him,” Fry says out of the big bulgy mouth that clumps with the rest of his big bulgy features under the world’s most massive forehead, making it very easy to mistake him for a hippopotamus. He rips the page out of the sketchpad. “Heard he was gay.”

He was—my mom wrote a whole book about it—not that Fry knows. He calls everyone gay when he’s not calling them homo and pussy. And me: homo and pussy and Bubble.

Zephyr laughs a dark demon laugh. It vibrates through me.

Fry holds up the next sketch. More David. The bottom half of him. A study in detail. I go cold.

They’re both laughing now. It’s echoing through the forest. It’s coming out of birds.

Again, I try to break free of the lock Zephyr has me in so I can snatch the pad out of Fry’s hands, but it only tightens Zephyr’s hold. Zephyr, who’s freaking Thor. One of his arms is choked around my neck, the other braced across my torso like a seat belt. He’s bare-chested, straight off the beach, and the heat of him is seeping through my T-shirt. His coconut suntan lotion’s filling my nose, my whole head—the strong smell of the ocean too, like he’s carrying it on his back . . . Zephyr dragging the tide along like a blanket behind him . . . That would be good, that would be it (PORTRAIT: The Boy Who Walked Off with the Sea)—but not now, Noah, so not the time to mind-paint this cretin. I snap back, taste the salt on my lips, remind myself I’m about to die—

Zephyr’s long seaweedy hair is wet and dripping down my neck and shoulders. I notice we’re breathing in synch, heavy, bulky breaths. I try to unsynch with him. I try to unsynch with the law of gravity and float up. Can’t do either. Can’t do anything. The wind’s whipping pieces of my drawings—mostly family portraits now—out of Fry’s hands as he tears up one, then another. He rips one of Jude and me down the middle, cuts me right out of it.

I watch myself blow away.

I watch him getting closer and closer to the drawings that are going to get me murdered.

My pulse is thundering in my ears.

Then Zephyr says, “Don’t rip ’em up, Fry. His sister says he’s good.” Because he likes Jude? They mostly all do now because she can surf harder than any of them, likes to jump off cliffs, and isn’t afraid of anything, not even great white sharks or Dad. And because of her hair—I use up all my yellows drawing it. It’s hundreds of miles long and everyone in Northern California has to worry about getting tangled up in it, especially little kids and poodles and now asshat surfers.

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