The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel

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I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her-her identity, her spirit, her will to live-pay.

All Josh Bennett wants is to be left alone, and everyone allows it because they all know his story: each person he loved was taken from his life until at seventeen years old there was no one left. When your name is synonymous with death, people tend to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, a new girl in town who won't go away until she's insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she's been hiding--or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances. For fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower.

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ISBN-13: 9781476730943
ISBN-10: 1476730946
Pagini: 448
Dimensiuni: 135 x 210 x 33 mm
Greutate: 0.34 kg
Ediția: Original.
Editura: ATRIA
Colecția Atria Books


The Sea of Tranquility

Chapter 2


Monday, 7:02 AM. Pointless. That’s what today is going to be, along with the 179 school days that come after it. I’d contemplate the waste of it all now if I had the time, but I don’t. I’m gonna be late as it is. I head to the laundry room and yank some clothes out of the still-running dryer. I forgot to turn it on last night, but I don’t have time to wait; so now I’m stuck pulling on a pair of damp jeans while I walk and trying not to trip over myself. Whatever. It’s not like I’m surprised.

I grab a coffee mug out of the cabinet and attempt to fill it without spilling it all over the counter and burning myself in the process. I put it on the kitchen table, next to a shoe box full of prescription bottles, in time to see my grandfather coming out of his room. His white hair is so disheveled that he momentarily reminds me of a mad scientist. He walks alarmingly slow, but I know better than to offer to help him. He hates that. He used to be so badass and now he’s not, and he feels every bit of that loss.

“Coffee’s on the table,” I say, grabbing my keys and heading for the door. “I laid out your pills and logged them already. Bill’s coming in an hour. You sure you’ll be okay until then?”

“I’m not an invalid, Josh,” he practically growls at me. I try not to smile. He’s pissed. Pissed is good. It makes things seem a little bit normal.

I’m in my truck and down the driveway in seconds, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough. I don’t live far from school, but the backup to get into the parking lot on the first day is always a bitch. Most teachers will look the other way today, but I wouldn’t have to worry about it anyway; no one’s going to give me a detention, late or not. I floor it, and a couple of minutes later I’m waiting to get into the lot. The line of cars snakes out onto the road, but at least it’s moving periodically.

I’m running on four hours of sleep and only one cup of coffee. I wish I had had time to grab another one for myself, but I didn’t, and it probably would have ended up in my lap by the time I got to school anyway.

I pull out my schedule while I’m idling and check it again. Shop isn’t until fourth period, but at least it’s not all the way at the end of the day. The rest of it I don’t give a shit about.

When I finally make it onto campus, Drew is out front with his usual followers, regaling them with any number of BS stories about his summer. I know they’re all BS because he spent most of the summer hanging out with me, and I know for a fact that we didn’t do crap. Apart from the time he spent disappearing with whatever girl he was hooking up with, he was on my couch.

Looking at him now, I don’t think there’s anyone happier to be back at school. I’d roll my eyes if it didn’t seem such a chick thing to do, so instead, I just stare blankly ahead and keep walking. He nods in my direction as I pass, and I return the gesture. I’ll talk to him later. He knows I won’t go near him when he’s surrounded. No one else acknowledges me, and I pass through the rest of the crowd into the main courtyard, just as the first bell rings.

My first three classes could all be the same. All I do is listen to rules, pick up syllabi, and try to stay awake. My grandfather was up five times last night, which means I was up five times last night, too. I really have to start getting more sleep. In a week you will, I think bitterly, but I won’t dwell on that now.

10:45 AM. First lunch. I’d rather just head straight to shop. Eating this early sucks. I make my way to the courtyard and park myself on the back of the bench farthest from the center, the same one I’ve sat at for the past two years. No one bothers me because it’s easier to pretend I don’t exist. I’d rather spend the half hour sweeping sawdust than sitting here, but there isn’t any sawdust to sweep yet. At least it’s early enough that the metal benches aren’t scorching under the sun. Now I just have to wait out the next thirty minutes, which will probably be the longest of the day.


Surviving. That’s what I’m doing now, and it hasn’t been quite as horrible as I expected. I get a lot of sideways looks, probably because of the way I’m dressed, but other than that no one really talks to me. Except for Drew, the Ken doll. I did run into him this morning, but mostly it was a nonevent. He talked. I walked. He gave up. I’ve made it to lunch and this is the test. No one’s really had much of an opportunity for socializing yet, so I’ve been able to skate below the surface, but lunch is just a highly unsupervised hell dimension. Avoidance seems the best option at first, but I have to face the looks and the comments at some point. Personally, I’d rather shove a cactus up my ass, but apparently that option isn’t on the table, so I might as well just rip the Band-Aid off now and get it over with. Then, I’ll find an empty restroom and check my hair and fix my lipstick, or as we cowards like to call it, hide.

I try to surreptitiously check out my clothes and make sure nothing’s where it shouldn’t be and that I’m not flashing more than I’d originally planned. I’ve got on the same stilettos as Friday, but this time I went with a low-cut black tank top and a nearly nonexistent skirt that my ass doesn’t look half bad in. I left my hair down so it falls past my shoulders and covers the scar on my forehead. My eyes are rimmed with thick black eyeliner. It’s slutty and probably only attractive to the basest of human creatures. Drew. I smile to myself as I recall him looking me up and down in the hallway this morning. Barbie would be pissed.

I don’t dress this way because I like it so much or because I want people to stare at me in general. But people are going to stare at me for the wrong reasons anyway, and if they are going to stare at me for the wrong reasons, then at least I should get to pick them. Plus, a little unwelcome staring is a small price to pay for scaring everyone off. I don’t think there’s a girl in this school who will want to talk to me, and any boy who’s interested probably won’t be much for conversation. And so what? If I’m going to get unwanted attention, better it be for my ass than for my psychosis and my effed-up hand.

Margot hadn’t gotten home by the time I left for school this morning or she might have tried to talk me out of it. I wouldn’t have blamed her. I think my first period teacher wanted to nail me on a dress code violation when I first walked in, but once he checked my name on his roster, he ushered me to a seat and didn’t look at me again for the rest of the class.

Three years ago, my mother would have had a fit, cried, lamented her shortcomings as a parent, or possibly just locked me in my room if she saw me at school like this. Today, she’d look disappointed but would ask if it made me happy and I’d nod my head and lie so we could pretend it wasn’t a problem. The clothes probably wouldn’t even be the biggest issue, because I’m not sure she would mind the streetwalker uniform nearly as much as the makeup.

My mother loves her face. It’s not out of arrogance or conceit; it’s out of respect. She’s grateful for what she was born with. She should be. It’s an awesome face, a perfect face, an ethereal face. The kind people write songs and poems and suicide notes about. It’s that exotic kind of beauty that men in romance novels obsess over, even if they have no idea who you are, because they must possess you. That kind of beauty. That’s my mom. I grew up wanting to look just like her. Some people tell me I do, and maybe it’s true, under there somewhere. If you scrape off the makeup and dress me to look like a girl as opposed to what I look like now—a profanity-spewing guttersnipe being dragged out of a crack house on Cops.

I imagine my mother shaking her head and giving me the disappointed look, but she chooses her battles these days and I’m not sure this one would make the cut. Mom’s beginning to believe I may be a lost cause and that’s a good thing, because I am, and I left her house so she could accept it. I was a lost cause a long time ago. That thought makes me sad for my mother, because she didn’t ask for any of this. She thought she’d gotten her miracle, and I was the only one who knew she hadn’t, no matter how much I wanted to give it to her. Maybe I was the one who took it away.

Which brings me back to the courtyard where I am still waiting on the outskirts like a guest on an episode of Extreme Avoidance: High School Edition. I planned to get here early enough to make it across before lunch was in full swing, but I got sidelined by my history teacher, and that three minutes meant the difference between a half-empty courtyard and the one teeming with students that I’m staring at right now. I’m focused, at the moment, on the brick pavers covering the entirety of said courtyard and seriously questioning the wisdom of my four-and-a-half-inch stilettos. I’m gauging my odds of making it across with both my ankles and my dignity intact when I hear a voice to my right call out.

I turn instinctively, but I know immediately that it’s the wrong thing to do. Sitting on a bench, a couple feet away, is the owner of that voice, and he’s looking right at me. He’s leaning back casually with his legs spread farther apart than they need to be in a blatant display of wishful thinking. He smiles, and I can’t deny that he knows he’s good-looking. If self-adoration were cologne, he would be the boy you couldn’t stand next to without choking. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Like me. We could be brother and sister or one of those really creepy couples who look like they should be brother and sister.

I’m pissed at myself for looking. Now, when I turn and ignore him to make my way across the battlefield, I can be certain that his eyes—as well as every other set of eyes on that bench with him—are going to be trained on my back. And when I say my back, I mean my ass.

I recontemplate the unstable surface of the pavers. No pressure or anything. I avert my eyes back to the task at hand in time to hear him add, “If you’re looking for someplace to sit, my lap is free.” And there it is. It’s not even clever or original, but his equally wit-free friends laugh anyway. There go my hopes for our bourgeoning sibling kinship. I step off the ledge and start walking, keeping my eyes trained straight ahead as if I have some purpose outside of simply surviving this walk.

I’m not even halfway through the day. I still have four of the seven classes left on the schedule that shit gave birth to.

* *

I got to school early enough this morning to stop in the office and pick up my schedule. Of course, if I’d known at the time what I’d find on it, I might have put off the inevitable. It was crazy in there again, but Ms. Marsh, the guidance counselor, had given instructions for me to go to her office and pick up my schedule from her personally—just another one of the many perks of being me.

“Good morning, Nastya, Nastya,” she said, repeating my name with two different pronunciations and absentmindedly looking to me for confirmation, which I didn’t give her. She was far too cheery for the first day of school or for seven o’clock in the morning in general. It was definitely unnatural. There’s probably a class for guidance counselors only—How to Emit Inappropriate Joy in the Face of Adolescent Horror. I’m fairly certain they don’t make teachers take it, because they don’t even bother to pretend. Half of them are as miserable as I am.

She motioned for me to sit. I didn’t. My skirt was way too short for sitting in a chair that didn’t have a desk obscuring it. She handed me a map of campus and my schedule. I scanned it, mostly looking for the electives, because I knew what all the required courses were going to be. You’ve got to be kidding me. For a minute I was convinced that she must have handed me the wrong schedule, so I checked the top of the paper. No, that’s me. I wasn’t sure what the right reaction was in that situation. You know the one, where the universe decides to put its steel-toed boot up your ass yet again. Crying was out of the question and a screaming hissy-fit laced with maniacal laughter and profanity was, most definitely, off the table, which left me with my only other option: stunned silence.

Ms. Marsh must have caught the look on my face, and I’m betting it was pretty expressive, because she immediately launched into a detailed explanation involving graduation requirements and overfilled electives. She sounded almost like she was apologizing to me, and maybe she should have been, because it seriously sucked, but I almost wished I could have told her it was okay so she’d stop feeling bad. I’d survive it. It would take more than a few shitty classes to break me. I took my schedule, my map, and my abject horror and made my way to class, reading it again and again as I went. Unfortunately, it stayed the same every time.

* *

At this point, I’ve made it almost to the halfway mark. It hasn’t been so bad, relatively speaking, and everything in my life is relative. My teachers aren’t horrible. My English teacher, Ms. McAllister, actually looks me in the eye like she’s daring me to expect her to treat me differently. I like her. But the worst is yet to come, so I won’t start pouring the champagne just yet.

Plus, I still have to navigate the trail of tears that is this courtyard. I’m nothing if not a coward, but I can’t put it off much longer. I’m about six feet in and not doing so badly. I’m focused on my goal—the beacon that is the double-door entrance to the English wing—on the opposite side of my brick-lined square nemesis.

I take in everything I can with my peripheral vision. It’s packed out here. And loud. So unbearably loud. I try to let all of the separate conversations and voices melt together into what I imagine is one continuous hum.

There are small groups around all of the benches, piled on top of them and standing next to them. Some students sit on the outer edges of the garden boxes that are placed incrementally throughout. Then there are the smart ones who sit on the ground in the shade of the walkway that runs around the perimeter. There aren’t enough places to sit, there’s barely any reprieve from the sun, and it’s hotter than hell out here. I can’t imagine the utter craphole the cafeteria must be that this many people would rather sweat their asses off out here to avoid it. My old high school was the same way, but I never had to deal with the lunch period madness or any of the decisions that came along with it, like where to sit and who to sit with. I spent every lunch period practicing in the music room and that was the only place I wanted to be.

By now, I’m almost there. So far I’ve only seen a few faces I recognize: a boy who was in my history class, sitting by himself reading a book, and a couple of girls from math, who are giggling with angry Barbie of front office tirade fame. I can feel some of the looks I’m getting, but other than the ego-addled asshole with the free lap seating, no one else has spoken to me.

There are two more benches I have to pass to get to the doors, and it’s the one on the left that catches my attention. It’s empty, save for one boy, sitting right in the middle. It might not seem strange except for the fact that every other bench in this place—in truth every other place where a person could justifiably put their ass—is filled. Yet there is no one sitting on that bench, except him. When I look more closely, there’s no one even hanging around in the immediate vicinity. It’s like there’s an invisible force field surrounding this space and he’s the only one inside it.

Curiosity claims me, and I momentarily forget my purpose. I can’t help but look at the boy. He’s perched on top of the backrest, his worn-out brown work boots planted firmly on the seat. He’s leaning over with his elbows resting on his knees in a pair of faded jeans. I can’t see his face very well. His light brown hair hangs tousled over his forehead, and his eyes are cast downward at his hands. He’s not eating; he’s not reading; he’s not looking at anyone. Until he is. And then he’s looking at me. Crap.

I turn away instantly, but it’s still too late. It wasn’t like I just glanced at him. I was at a dead stop, in the middle of the courtyard, full-on staring. I’m only steps away from the asylum beyond those double doors and I take the risk of quickening my walk as much as I can without drawing attention. I make it to the relative obscurity of the building’s overhang and reach for the door handle and pull. Nothing. It doesn’t give. And I repeat, crap. It’s locked. It’s the middle of the day. Why would they lock the doors from the outside?

“It’s locked,” a voice from below me says. No shit. I look down. I hadn’t even noticed the boy with the sketchbook, sitting on the ground right next to the doors. Where he’s positioned, he’s blocked by a large planter box, invisible from the main courtyard. Smart kid. His clothes are a mess, and his hair looks like it hasn’t seen a brush in a week. He’s sitting shoulder to shoulder with a brown-haired girl wearing sunglasses in the shade and holding a camera. She looks up at me briefly before turning her attention back to her camera. Other than the sunglasses, she’s entirely nondescript. I wonder if I should have gone that route, but it’s too late to second guess now.

“They don’t want anyone sneaking in to smoke in the bathrooms during lunch,” sketchbook boy with holes in his concert T-shirt tells me.

Oh. I wonder what happens if you’re late to class. I guess you’re just SOL. I glance across to the swarm of girls hovering around the courtyard restroom door. No thanks. I’m trying to figure out some other escape route, when I notice he’s still craning his neck up and looking at me. It’s a good thing I’m not a couple of steps closer or I’m quite sure he could see right up my almost imaginary skirt. At least I’m wearing cute underwear; they’re the only thing on me that isn’t black.

I glance at the sketchbook he’s holding. His arm is draped over the top so I can’t see what he’s drawing. I wonder if he’s any good. I can’t draw for crap. I nod my head in thanks to him and turn to see if I can find somewhere else to go. Before I can walk away, two girls come barreling out of the door, almost running me down and knocking me off my awesome shoes. They’re talking a mile a minute and don’t even notice me there, which is fine, because I’m able to slip through the doors just past them. I wander into the cool, empty reprieve of the English building and remember how to breathe.


"This is the kind of story that stays with you because you can’t stop thinking about it."
“A heart-stopping, emotional journey from the first word to the last. Hands down my favorite book of the year...and quite possibly all of infinity.”
"Alternating first-person narratives allow Millay to delve into the minds of both of her main characters, and she keeps readers on the edge of their seats...Populated with perfectly realized teen characters–not a stereotype in sight–this is the ideal crossover novel."
"A stunning debut. The Sea of Tranquility stole my heart, broke it, robbed me of breath, and made me ache. Read it and fall in love with Katja Millay's raw, lyrical writing."
“Equally heartbreaking and uplifting—a riveting, unforgettable read. Absolutely brilliant.”
“Everyone should read this book at some point in their lives. It was GORGEOUS and unforgettable. A must-read!!”
“I am finding it difficult to express with mere words just how much I adore this book. It touched me in a way that only a few books before it have. It left my heart aching, filled with sadness and despair, love and hope. So much hope.”
The Sea of Tranquility reminded me that books aren't just entertaining; they're more than that. This was more than that. It caused me to feel, invaded my thoughts, my became a part of me.”
“One of the most AMAZINGLY written books I have read to date! Simply BEAUTIFUL! I was so connected to the story and it’s characters, I completely tuned out everyone and everything around me while reading. I felt like I was there and I never wanted to leave.”
“The best advice that I can give readers who are considering reading The Sea of Tranquility is BUY IT NOW! The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay is one of the best books of 2012. It definitely earned its spot on my MUST READS list.”
"This is the kind of story that stays with you because you can’t stop thinking about it."