“Leave the Window Open” — A Wesley Ayer’s Story

[To celebrate the paperback release of THE UNBOUND–out today!!!–I wrote a short story. It takes place about four hours after the end of THE UNBOUND, and it’s told from Wesley’s POV. Enjoy!]

 

Hospitals make horrible music.

I don’t mean the literal kind they pipe into elevators or play at background levels in waiting rooms (with the TVs and the magazines and all the other stimuli because apparently if you give people any actual quiet they’ll think about the fact they’re in a hospital). No, I mean the hum and buzz and beep, the ringing phones and squeaking stretcher wheels and distant coughs that layer together to make up a hospital’s soundtrack, the way slivers of thought and memory make up a person’s noise. It sets my teeth on edge, which sends a dull pain through my head, which reminds me of the pain flickering in my shoulder and ribs, and it’s a slippery slope from calm to pain to panic so I stop myself right there.

I hate hospitals.

I don’t even have a good reason, like I spent too much time in them as a kid because my grandma was sick (she was already dead) or my dad worked on the ER—if anyone needed medical attention it was me, and nobody noticed. I just hate the way they sound. They’re everything the Archive isn’t. Well, everything it wasn’t, when I still thought it was everything.

But I’m here, and I’m staring at the x-rays the doctor’s left tacked up on the light board. The screen’s dark now but the image is still ghosted behind my eyes. Strange thing, to see your body from the inside out. People are made of so many fragile pieces.

I tick past the trouble in my mind. A few broken ribs. A cracked shoulder. A little internal bleeding (nothing serious). And behind those things, the older scars. Hairline fractures and fused bones. Only so much you can blame on a collapsing tent in a festival fire. And yet, no burns. Because I wasn’t really trapped beneath a tent in a festival fire. I was fighting for my life. For Mackenzie’s.

But I can’t say that, of course, just like I can’t say that those old wounds came from fighting Histories—an old man with a hunting knife, a kid with sharp teeth, Owen Chris Clarke—so they bring in a social worker, to make sure I’m not being hurt at home. And for a moment I’m pretty tempted to say yeah, yeah I am being hurt, because my father’s a prick and my stepmother—shudder—is an evil money-grubbing bitch, but in the end I just shrug and say it must have been soccer because dad may be a horrible person but the marks he’s left are more absences than injuries, and Izzy is only an evil money-grubbing bitch in context. I probably wouldn’t hate her if she was gold-digging someone else’s family.

I don’t think the doctors really believed me in the end, but then Dallas showed up and said something and they let the matter drop, which I owe her for, but lying here surrounding by hospital music I’m almost wishing I’d drawn it out, let them take the fall so someone else could suffer. Maybe I’m just mad because I told them to go home and they listened. Didn’t even put up a fight. They were dressed like I’d pulled them away from some important function—that’s what they call it when you’re too rich and important for words like dinner or party. Everything becomes a function, an event, a gala.

So here I am. Alone. Which is fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, but it’s not.

An IV drips cloudy fluid into a tube running into a needle running into the back of my hand. I hate needles, almost as much as hospitals. Mac would probably make fun of me if she knew, which means I’ll probably end up telling her. That’s a form of masochism, I’m sure, but if it will make her smile, she’s worth the bruised ego. She’s worth the real bruises, too. She’s even worth the needles.

I picture telling her, and in my mind I’m still on my back but I’m no longer in this hospital bed. No, I’m lying with my head in her lap, looking up through her waves of auburn hair. It’s just getting dark, and we’re stretched on the worn stone steps of the Court at Hyde. No fire. No explosions. No Owen. Just us.

Just Mackenzie, really, and that small, hard-won smile.

“Honestly, Wes?” she’ll tease, brushing her fingers across my forehead so she can see my eyes. “Not monsters or serial killers or the dark?”

I reach up and tuck a strand of copper behind her ears. No IV. No bruises. Just my hand on her skin.

“Hey look,” I’ll say. “There are rational and irrational fears in this world, and last time I checked, it’s not irrational to be afraid of sharp, pointy things.” Especially not after being stabbed, I’ll think, but I won’t say that, because I’m not supposed to remember that day. It would be easier not to remember that day.

Mac will give me that skeptical look. “You sure have a lot of piercings for a guy with a needle phobia.”

“I am the master of my fears,” I’ll say. Even though the truth is I made Cash go with me every time, and you know he’s a good friend because he never gave me hell, never did anything but turn through the tattoo catalogs along the wall and wonder which design would piss his father off the most.

Fake/future/alternate world Mackenzie bends down and kisses my forehead. My head spins.

They’ve got me pumped full of god-knows-what, and it’s dulling the world in all the wrong places. It’s like standing at the very edge of a dream and you can’t seem to wake up but you can’t forget you’re dreaming either.

And then, just as panic starts to really dig its fingers in, my cell starts buzzing on the side table. When I reach for it, pain blossoms across my stomach, but it’s worth the trek. It’s Mac.

I left the window open, she says.

And just like that, the world pulls back into focus. I stop spinning and something in me cracks—not something literal like bones, thank god, but something just as deep—and I’m so ready for this damn night to end, but I don’t want it to end here.

I take a bracing breath, knowing this is going to hurt, then sit up, and sure enough the pain makes light dance behind my eyes. I didn’t feel it during the fight–I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even feel it after, when Mac and I were back on campus. It wasn’t until the EMTs pulled us apart that the pain hit me in a wave.

I perch on the edge of the hospital bed, waiting for the room to stop spinning. It hurts to breathe, but I have this trick, where I try and focus on the good, so I remind myself that things only hurt because I’m still alive to feel them. Silver linings, kids. I’m full of them.

Getting dressed takes a painful—and painfully long—time and I alternate between cursing and holding my breath in case a nurse chooses this moment—trying to balance with one leg in my pants—to come in.

But no one does.

I find a mirror in the cubicle of a bathroom, and my reflection stares back. I’ve looked better. My face has found a way to look pale and bruised at the same time, my eyeliner smudged into a messy shadow; my father assured the doctors it must be smoke, or face paint from the festival. Because the idea of me wearing makeup bothered him more than seeing me in a hospital bed.

I run a hand through my hair, trying to smooth away the hospital bed head, which is even worse than normal bedhead, but I give up. There’s a cut above my eyebrow held closed by two strips of white tape, and I wonder if it will leave a scar, because scars are rather dashing, and then I hear Mac in my head again.

“Get over yourself, Wes,” she says and I smile and it hurts.

 

It’s late, and hospital wings really do get quiet at night, so it’s easy enough to slip out. I find my key in the front pocket of my jeans, but I don’t know where the nearest Narrows door is, and the grim fact is I’m in no shape for handling Histories, so I take a cab across town.

I’ve never been so glad to see the Coronado’s creepy face, the gargoyles perched like ravens on the roof. I never told Mac but I have names for them all. Governor. Socrates. Headless. Malcolm…

I stand on the curb, staring up at the three floors that stand between me and Mac’s room. Or more accurately, I stare at the fourth floor window above Mac’s room, the one I used to climb down through her window, and realize there’s no way I can make that descent tonight.

And then, the universe takes pity on my predicament. My phone buzzes again. Another note from Mac.

I left the door open, too.

My heart skips a little as I head into the lobby, and think about taking the stairs but decide it won’t be very charming if I pass out halfway up and someone finds my body in the morning, so I take the death trap of an elevator to the third floor.

3F is waiting at the end. I could kiss it.

I press my ear to the wood, and then turn the handle as softly as I can manage and step inside. The apartment’s dark and I find my way by feel and memory through the living room and down the hall to Mackenzie’s bedroom.

Inside, it’s cloaked in moonlight and shadow. At first I think she’s asleep, but as I slide the door shut behind me, she rolls over.

“You came,” she whispers, her voice as tight as my chest.

“No place I’d rather be,” I say softly. “I wish the entrance had been grander. The door doesn’t have nearly as much style as the window and—” but I don’t get any farther because she’s on her feet, crossing the space between us, and then her mouth on mine, her noise thundering through my head where she grips me.

I gasp under her touch, and she pulls back, but that’s the last thing I want, so I pull her close again and let my body scream. She tangles her fingers with mine and leads me to the bed, and when we get there she climbs onto the covers and makes a Wesley-size space for me beside her, and suddenly the pain means nothing because this moment it perfect.

We lie there for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling instead of each other, only our hands tangled together. And then I her turn toward me, her storm eyes narrowed on my wrist.

“What’s this?” she asks, fingering the hospital bracelet. I’d forgotten all about it, and now she’s looking at it way too hard, as if it’s the most fascinating thing in the world and not an infernal piece of plastic. And then I see what she sees, and I can feel the blood drain out of my face. Can feel my stomach sink through my feet.

She squints at the writing on the bracelet, at my legal name printed on the label, and I cover it with my fingers but it’s too late. I can tell she’s read the name. My first name.

Templeton.

Templeton Wesley Ayers the II, also known as reason #45 why I hate my father. Because what kind of sadistic asshole passes on a name like that?

“Mac,” I start, but it’s too late. She doesn’t just smile, she starts laughing, and I want to be angry but god, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world, even better than that storm going inside her head. I would slay monsters and run through fire and jump off cliffs just to hear that sound. Which is why it takes all my strength to stifle it, and press my hand over her mouth. The laugh becomes a muffled chuckle in her chest. And then her fingers drift up to mine, and pry them gently free.

“Don’t say it,” I hiss, as her lips form the word. “Don’t mouth it. Don’t even think about it.”

“Okay,” she whispers. “…Templeton.”

I groan, but she cuts off the sound with a kiss. We’re gentler now, moving carefully over each other’s bruised and broken bodies, the crackle of pain swallowed up by the fact that Mackenzie Bishop is letting me kiss her. Mackenzie Bishop is kissing me.

“I’m glad you told me,” she says, breathlessly.

“I didn’t tell you,” I point out.

“Well I’m glad I found out.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because now I won’t laugh when we become Crew.”

I go still. Not because I don’t want to hear those words. But because I do. I want them to be true.

“Do you mean it?” I ask, rolling gingerly to face her.

She mirrors me, rolling onto her side so I’m looking straight into her eyes. “Yes,” she says.

I can tell I’m smiling like an idiot. I don’t care. “I don’t suppose you have any hidden and mortifying names? Habits? Secrets?”

“Only one.”

“And what’s that?”

“I’m in love with a boy named Templeton.”

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67 thoughts on ““Leave the Window Open” — A Wesley Ayer’s Story

  1. Dani Johns says:

    Omg yes!!! Love this! Thanks so much for this extra scene!

  2. Meagan says:

    Amazing!!! Thank you for giving us a little more of Mac and Wes! 🙂

  3. Taylor says:

    Just what I needed today! Thank you!

  4. Eeeeee! Oh so perfect! We need book three!

  5. OMGOSH PERFECT!!! MEEP!!! Book #3! Book #3! Book #3!!!! MEEP! Oh and I love Wes, Templeton, whatever….LOVE *swoons* *sighs*

  6. gaar3 says:

    Apart from marveling at the wide range of emotions this story actually made me feel despite it’s lenght, all things considered I just really needed to say I always pictured Mac with auburn hair.
    Once more, perfect work, Miss Schwab! :3

  7. […] Leave the Window Open (The Archived #2.5) by Victoria Schwab: A free story from Wesley’s POV, set a few hours after the end of The Unbound. (Read it here) […]

  8. Mia G. says:

    *sigh* This was perfect<3 I can't even… Templeton! this was everything I wanted. Thank you so much for writing this!! I can't wait for book 3!!!

  9. Maggi says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this, this was just too perfect.

  10. Ahh we find out his real name. Thank you Victoria! ❤

  11. aemarachlian says:

    Did I cry? Yes.
    Did I cry more when I realized Book 3 is still not in sight? YES.

    Thank you so much for the short story! This was perfect ❤

  12. Bloody beautiful :’) ❤ :3

  13. Perco says:

    AWESOME!!!! We want book 3 now!!!

  14. livlovclark says:

    Thanks so much for the extra scene , loved it but still need more #ArchivedBook3 xx

  15. […] guys! Victoria Schwab just posted a short story about Wesley: Leave the Window Open: A Wesley Ayers Story in celebration for the  release of paperback version of The Unbound today! It’s freaking […]

  16. We need a name for this ship! Anyone?

  17. It’s CUTE and LOVELY and… just OMG!!! Thank you so much Victoria! I just love that scene! :3

  18. tessanovak says:

    SWOON.

    Also: Bwa ha ha ha Templeton.

  19. Eileen says:

    I love this! Thank you so much 😀

  20. This completely made my day! And now I’m desperate for the next installment. You’re good, Schwab. It’s such a treat to get a glimpse into Wes’s head and find out a tiny more about him. More eyeliner, please!

  21. Cindi Jocson says:

    If this is hinting at the next book when Mac and Wes finally becomes Crew, I’m going to faint. This was perfection…need more now!

  22. Mithila says:

    i understand Mackenzie here so much. I’m in love with a boy named Templeton too now oops :^)

  23. Adelinne Chang says:

    I’m in love with this short story.

  24. starryeyedjen29 says:

    Oh, wow. That was the best extra ever! You’ve given us such a gift, but now all I want is more, more, MORE! I’m greedy like that when it comes to Wesley. 😀 Thank you for sharing this! I had to wait all day to read it when I knew I wouldn’t be interrupted. 😉

  25. lezaheerf says:

    Yes! Unbound! I CANNOT wait. Ive missed guyliner.

  26. Gemma says:

    This. Is. Beautiful. 💕

  27. Margo Berendsen says:

    Oh this makes me so happy. Please more Wesley soon! And I like Mac a lot better seen through his eyes too 🙂

  28. Sarah says:

    Oh my god, that’s so sweet ♥ I can’t wait to 3rd book come out 🙂 I was unsatisfied when The Archived came out, because the translation to my mother language made the story sounds awkward and I actually didn’t know what to think about it. But now? With The Unbound it got under my skin and they’re one of the books I must think about very often. I’ll probably read it again to refresh my mind when the 3rd book will come out 🙂 And I usually don’t re-read the books 🙂

  29. Isabel says:

    That was the best ever!

  30. Venezia says:

    Arghhhh…. Just AMAZING!!! We learn his first name!!! And hinting that he remembers something he shouldn’t? I now want the Book 3 so bad!!! Seeing Mac and everything from Wesley’s point of view is refreshing. I really hoped Book 3 would be from Mac and Wesley’s perspective too.

  31. gwenkate says:

    Oh this is beautiful and perfect thank you so so much but book 3…..!!! When?? ~Gwen

  32. […] highly recommend it! You can read it here on Victoria Schwab’s website, along with finding information about all of her other […]

  33. […] Leave the Window Open (The Archived #2.5) by Victoria Schwab A free The Archived short story from Wesley’s point of view, set a few hours after the end of The Unbound. To read the short story, click here. […]

  34. […] can read the short story here and check out what THE ARCHIVED series is about […]

  35. […] The reason the page numbers are so low is that Leave the Window Open is a very short story that Victoria Schwab published on her blog. Based on the word count, it's about ten pages […]

  36. […] Leave the Window Open by Victoria Schwab This short story set after The Unbound is perfect for fans of The Archived series itching to learn a certain someone’s name. […]

  37. Neil says:

    Hospitals are where we go to “not die” but people we don’t know die there all the time. We just don’t know them but we know they do, we can sense it. That’s why we don’t like hospitals. They are supposed to be a safe haven but death scratches at the edges of our conscious,without us even being aware, reminding us we are going to die one day and not even hospitals are safe.

  38. Loved it! I really hope there’s a book 3…can’t get enough of Mac and Wes. The last line…*sigh*

  39. I’m sorry but I just can’t think of Wesley as Templeton…
    Doesn’t mean I love him any less, though.

  40. Leela Hartnett says:

    Is there gonna be a book 3? Does anyone know?

  41. Kika says:

    Hey Victoria. I love The Archived, so freaking much oh ma gosh!!! <3333 Can you write a 3rd book FOR ALL OF US? it would be amazing. omg *_* we need more Wesley Ayers and Mac. Really much. Hahah

  42. undarkens says:

    OHMIGAWD! that was so perfect! and i finally know wesley’s first name 🙂 TEMPLETON!

  43. Naomi says:

    Thank you so much! As a teen, I can honestly say The Archived series is one of the best young adult series I’ve read, as well as one of my personal favorites. Can’t wait for book 3!

  44. Janet says:

    OMG LOVE LOVE! That’s absolutely hilarious, where did you even come up with that name? Can’t wait for book 3!!

  45. […] that takes place after The Unbound, Leave The Window Open which is from Wes’s point of view, here. And, really, it’s too short to […]

  46. Anndrea says:

    Now THIS is how you write a short story following a novel. Bravo. Excellent. I loved it. I love it.

  47. Ayra Bianca Magpili says:

    OH MY GOD I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF WESLEY AYERS ANS MACKENZIE BISHOP. Thank you soooo much for this, Victoria! ❤️ IT’S WONDERFUL. I can’t wait for Book 3!!!!!! GAAAAAAH 😍😍😍😍😍😍

  48. Jennifer N. says:

    I read this a while back but didn’t realize about the comment thing *facepalm* But reading this, REreading it makes me have all these FEELS!!! It makes me want to scream and cry and stop breathing because that is seriously how much this series and Mac and Wes mean to me. Like this story, the people, the ideas, have literally taken over my life, in the good way of course! I need to know what Mac does with that paper, and what happens if (NO. WHEN.) she and Wes make it to Crew. Ahhh WES. *dreamy smile* Please Book 3, come soon!!!

  49. Amedori says:

    Loved the ending.

  50. Maria says:

    ZOMG YASSSSS I NEED A THIRD BOOK PLEASE 😭😭😭😭

  51. […] much free for any spoilers there may be for her short story! On her blog, Schwab posted a little short story from Wesley’s POV that takes place a few hours after the end of The Unbound. I found it […]

  52. Anne says:

    Oh my. Templeton Wesley Ayers just made my day 😀 Thanks!

  53. Hannah Edge says:

    BEAUITFUL. Can I just say Im painstakingly waiting for book#3? Seriously…I CAN NOT WAIT!

  54. […] Leave the Window Open – A Wesley Ayer’s Story by Victoria Schwab ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ The only reason I didn’t rate it 5 stars is because it’s too short! I want a whole book of Wesley Ayers’ POV! […]

  55. aaaaAAAAAAAH I FINISHED WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO WITH MY LIFE NOW
    I love it so much and that ending my goshhhh

  56. Kelly says:

    I’m so ready for more! Thank you for this, now to wait. Guess I will read book one and two again

  57. Brittany Blechle says:

    I screamed, you had me teary eyed. There needs to be a THIRD BOOK and I’m extremely happy I know his full name now. Make a book about their tales becoming Crew, and have THIS scene in it. I would buy all of them just to read them over again.

  58. Kharla says:

    This is so perfect!! Wes and Mac are in my top few favourites 😍

  59. […] another one coming! And this book didn’t end on a cliffhanger (or well, it was one that was resolved by a wonderful short story later […]

  60. […] If you want to read this short story for yourself, you can do that here. […]

  61. Msque says:

    I’m literally just. Oh my god. The feels. Oh, god. Bless this piece. Ugh. I’m actually going to cry now. Wesley, you damn sweetheart! Thank you for writing this.

  62. I literally just finished The Unbound and was scouring the internet for any news of book 3 when I found this. Literally squealing with joy over this story, this was so awesome!!! Thank you for writing this!!

  63. Valerie Rogers says:

    I loved this!! Thank you for Wesley’s POV.

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