Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
I don’t sleep a single time throughout the entire night. I lie in bed with Elijah, who I can tell is asleep by his heavy breathing, but just stare at the wall next to me for who knows how long. So when Kai comes home sometime in the night, I silently slip over Elijah and out of the bed, tiptoeing to the hall to find out what exactly he did.
“Kai,” I whisper, pulling the door to.
He’s opening the door across from me, Marshall’s room, but stops when he hears me. It’s not until he turns around that I realize that there’s blood all over his shirt and jeans. Just completely covering him like he took a bath in someone’s blood. Splatters go up his arms, face, and neck as well.
“What did you do?”
He shakes his head, his eyes appearing more haunting than I remember them looking. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Did you-did you hurt someone?”
“No. This is Marshall’s blood. I made it look like another animal attack. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Then he goes into the bedroom and shuts the door on me, where I just stand for a second considering if I should go back to Elijah’s room or not. Instead, I head into the kitchen where I make myself a glass of water, then curl up in their recliner in the living room sipping it every so often.
After maybe fifteen minutes or so, footsteps come back down the hallway, and I look up to see Kai walking around the corner with a blanket in hand. He flinches when he sees me.
“Sorry,” I say. “Do you normally sleep here?”
He nods, and I move to get up, but instead he just hands me the blanket. “It’s fine. I’ll lay on the floor.”
He disappears back down the hall before I can object, reappearing with another blanket. I consider getting up and leaving anyway to leave him in peace, but he lies down on the carpet with the blanket on top of him before I do anything, so I just unfold the one he gave me and curl back up underneath it.
“I guess you didn’t want to sleep in Marshall’s room, huh?”
“Not particularly. But you can if you want to.”
“I’ll have to pass on that,” I say, sipping my water. “But thanks.”
We stay in silence for several minutes and I begin to think he’s fallen asleep until he speaks again.
“Elijah talked a lot about you over the phone when I was away. The way he described you….you’re different than I expected you to be.”
“Well, for one, you’re not in a wheelchair. And you also...don’t seem as nice as he views you as. Like he thinks you could do no wrong. Does that sound bad? Actually, I don’t really care if it sounds bad.”
I pull the blanket up to my chin after setting the empty glass down on the floor next to me. “No. It’s fine. I’m really not as good as he thinks I am. I used to think I was, but...I’m not. And as for the wheelchair, I only started walking again two days ago, so I’m not really used to that either.”
He pauses, then asks the question anyway. “What’s that like, anyway?”
I consider whether or not I should tell him how I actually feel, but wind up doing it anyway. I don't know why I tell him, and I don't know why I trust him, but I do on both parts. We just met today and yet I'm willing to tell him more than I've told my own mother recently.
“I’d never thought I’d say this, but...I miss my wheelchair. Having people hit me with their bags on accident was annoying and when people would talk to me like I was mentally handicapped just because I was in a wheelchair would make me want to run them over, but...it’s what I was used to. Even though I couldn’t do what everyone else could and I missed out on a lot, and I hated myself sometimes because of it, change is...hard. This may sound ridiculous, but my wheelchair was kind of like a barrier between me and the rest of the world. I feel more vulnerable now than I did with my wheelchair, which doesn’t make much sense, I know, but it gave me a sense of comfort. The comfort of familiarity, I guess. I’m not saying I would go back to being paralytic if I could, because I definitely wouldn’t, but...I miss my squeaky left wheel. Does that sound stupid?”
I laugh quietly at that. “Oh, shut up.”
“Hey, you asked.” He doesn’t laugh, but I can tell he’s smiling. “But seriously, it’s not that stupid. I can kind of get it. And you said it’s only been two days? So, what, did you get bit like three or four days ago? You seem pretty calm for someone who just turned that recently.”
“Calm? Kai, I’ve had two breakdowns and snapped your father’s neck. I don’t think that’s calm.”
“Yeah….I-I’m not even sure what I mean. I guess it’s just that I’ve been at this for months now and you seem to be at the same place I am when you’re so new. I could barely contain myself earlier. If you-if you hadn’t killed Marshall, I might have done it myself.”
“That almost makes me feel better.”
But it doesn’t change the fact that I am capable of much more than I ever thought myself to be, and I’m not as good of a person as I thought I was either. To kill someone and not regret it...that’s not the quality of a “good” person. That’s not even the quality of a “bad” person. It’s the quality of a murderer.
Is my being a new werewolf the cause of this? Or have I always had an animal inside me, even before my werewolf genes were activated by the bite? Maybe there’s always been a predatory side of me that craves to hurt those who hurt me. Maybe it used to only come out of me when I needed it, protection against the elements I couldn’t bear: my father’s death, my sudden paralysis, and events that I needed to stay calm during. But now with the nonstop chaos going on in my life, it’s more present than it has been before because I need it to be. Maybe it’s here to stay, and even after things go back to “normal,” I’m going to be like this. Haven’t I always been told I handle things well? Maybe too well?
You think too much.
“So, how long are you going to wait to ask me?”
“Ask you what?”
“Oh, c’mon,” I say. “I know you’re wondering about that stuff I said in the bathroom earlier.”
It’d be hard for me not to notice that elephant in the room right now, but with my brain going nonstop it seems even more likely to me that he's thinking about it too. He’s gotta be wondering just how fucked up my life is. Wondering just how fucked up I am and if I should be allowed back here with his brothers. Not that I blame him.
“Well, yeah, you told me a bunch of shit that I didn't need nor want to know, but now I'm too fucking curious about it to just let go of. Why hasn't everyone just packed up and moved out of this town by now anyway? I know I sure as hell would."
“I don't know. I'm surprised we don't have our own TV show at this point. The fake animal attacks, the murders, there was even a serial killer that was never caught here at one point about ten years ago. Of course, he, or she, killed people all over the state, not just here. But they were supposedly here at one point, so that counts. And...as for what I told you, that's a very long story, my friend."
“Yeah, how about you not refer to me as your friend?” he asks, though it’s less questioning and more factual. “You’re not exactly someone I would be associating with unless I had to.”
“I could say the same about you, you know." I sit up more so I can look at him, but I can't see his face either way. "I don’t blame you for leaving or staying gone like you did, but I still think you’re a dick for not calling Elijah back for the last four months. And you come off as the kind of guy that I’ve spent my life avoiding because you think you’re perfect and are always right.”
He shifts on the ground, turning some so he’s able to look up at me. “Well, that’s because I am. Have you seen me? I’m fucking gorgeous. And I’m smart. And I have good teeth. Did I mention I’m good-looking? Because I am. And besides, shouldn’t you be thanking me right now? I just covered up a murder for you.”
“My point exactly,” I mutter. “And yes, thank you very much, Kai, for doing something I didn’t ask you to do and expecting me to be grateful for it.”
“You’re welcome,” he says, laying his head back down. “See? Wasn’t that easy?”
Kill me. Kill me now.
Even though I am grateful for Kai doing everything he’s done tonight, my pride is preventing me from thanking someone this pretentious. I try to tell myself that it’s not his fault and I should just go ahead and actually thank him anyway, but I can’t.
However, with my being annoyed at him, it takes away my thoughts of self-reflection and of what has happened today, resulting in a beautiful moment of peace for me when he doesn’t say anything else. A few minutes of this sweet, merciful silence goes by before he speaks again and ruins the moment, though it wouldn’t have lasted for long anyway.
“What were you talking about earlier? You said something about your sister killing people and that there’s some man who’s been bothering you? What’s that about?”
I laugh a little bit to myself again because I knew he wouldn’t last long before asking. Even though I shouldn’t be because I really wasn’t supposed to say that to him, at all, but here I am.
“Well, I don’t want to talk about the first part, and it’s being taken care of anyway so you don’t need to know, but as for the man, I really have no clue what that’s about exactly. I know who he is now, and I know a little bit about him now, but I don’t know what he wants. And...there’s some other people I know involved with him and nothing makes sense at this point. So anything I tell you will just be a mess.”
“I’ve got nothing better to be doing right now.” He sits up, close enough now that I can actually see his face. “What’s his name?”
“I…” I trail for a second, looking away. “I don’t actually know his last name. I should find that out later.”
“Is he the local alpha around here?”
“You didn’t have to say both ‘local’ and ‘around here,’ but yes.”
Why? Does he know him?
Before I can ask it aloud, he answers it for me.
“Then I know who you’re talking about. When I left back in May, I left for...multiple reasons, but one of them was because I had just gotten bit around that time. It was my girlfriend, Jane, that bit me, and I lived with her a couple counties over while I learned what I needed to know and got myself together. But the point is I met her dad a few times while I was with her, and that’s who it was. Marcus Young. He was….something, to say the least. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with him anymore.”
I sit up while he’s telling me his short version of the story, resting my feet on the ground. His chocolate eyes sparkle in the darkness, reminding me of how Milton looks any time I’ve put him to bed, and I notice that his hair is still chaotic.
I swear to God I’m going to buy him a comb.
“Why? Was there something wrong with him? Did he ever do anything to hurt anyone?”
He blinks, making a face at me. “What? No. He was a pretty normal guy, he just had one hell of a temper. One second he’d be joking with you and the next he’d be threatening you. And he never hurt anyone whenever I was there. Other than being a bit of a fruitcake occasionally he was actually a pretty good guy. Just not my cup of tea.”
I groan and throw myself back into the chair, slowly sliding to the ground.
I was hoping he would tell me something new. Tell me that he wasn’t a good guy and that he was dangerous so I would have a reason not to trust him. Because considering all I’ve heard about him so far is good things, excluding his temper and what he did to Luke, I haven’t got a reason not to hear him out. That’s what Dad wanted me to do when he wrote that book for us, anyway, but if Kai had actually witnessed him doing something considerably wrong, then I’d have a good enough reason to disobey that wish.
“I guess that wasn’t the answer you were hoping for.”
“You guess correctly,” I say, rubbing my eyes.
“Well, I’d offer to help you except for that fact that I don’t want to.”
Agitation wells up in me again and I have to bite my tongue from saying something too harsh to him.
When I finally look up at him, with him being only a few feet away now that I’m on the floor, he wears a smile on his face. I guess my distress is entertaining for him.
“Why are you smiling?”
He shrugs. “You just seem very annoyed right now.”
“It’s hard not to be annoyed when you’re in the room,” I hiss, which only causes his smile to grow.
“That makes two of us.”
“I am a delight, okay, I don’t know know what you’re talking about.”
He says something back to me, but I don’t hear it. A sharp pain stabs at my skull for a split second, distracting me from what’s in front of me and bringing me back to reality.
Should you really be joking right now? After you killed someone?
I feel Kai’s hand touch my arm, then see his face peering at me. “Hey. You okay?”
I nod, though it’s probably not true. “Yeah. I’m great.”
He pulls his arm back, studies me for a moment, then smiles just a bit. “I hope everything works out for you, Julia. I’m not going to offer my help because I don’t want Elijah and Milton to wrapped up in any of this, not just because I’m a jerk. And I don’t want you to involve them either. Is that clear?”
“I would never purposefully involve them anyway. The last thing I want is to put them in danger.”
He nods, then turns like he’s about to lie back down on his side, but this time it’s my turn to grab his arm. He looks at me expectantly.
“I am in no way saying I’m ready to let them go–either of them, really–but...what you were saying earlier, about this town...if you think it’s safer somewhere else and want to move, I want you to do it. I will be devastated, but if it keeps them safe, then it’s worth it. Okay, Kai? Promise me you’ll do what you can to protect them.” My hand grips tighter around his arm, though not on purpose. “Promise me.”
His eyes flicker between mine for a second, then he gently nods at me once more. “I’m not sure if we’ll move or not yet, but I promise I’m going to keep them safe. That’s the only promise I’m willing to make, and I will do anything I have to to make sure I keep that promise. And I don’t care who gets in my way of doing that, Julia, even if it’s you.”
And I can see in his eyes that, even though he hasn’t been entirely serious during our conversation so far, he means what he says right now. If ever for any reason he would have to kill me to protect his brothers, he would. That’s the one thing we have in common, if nothing else.
I let go of his arm and he lies back down, covering himself up with the blanket. I get up, take my glass back to the kitchen, and go back to bed with Elijah. I don’t sleep, but the slightest bit of comfort helps to settle my worrying brain now that I know. Know that if anything happens to me, if I ever get too crazy and out of control, Kai will take care of me. That shouldn’t bring me comfort, but it does. Strange that I trust someone who’s mostly a stranger more than I do myself.
I walk back home early the next morning, still wearing Elijah’s baggy clothes with my jacket on over it and the previous day’s clothes in my hand. Kai was up so I told him where I was going so he’d let Elijah and Milton know, and though he offered to drive me home, I turned him down. The idea of someone spotting me leaving their house scares me, but the thought of riding in a car again scares me more.
Someone will find Marshall’s body near the woods today, I’m sure of it. Kai said he parked Marshall’s car nearby so it looks like he stopped there for something and got attacked, but what if his neighbors saw his car at home all evening? What if they saw me show up there, and then Kai driving his car away later and coming back on foot? Better yet, what if they saw Kai carrying Marshall’s body to the car? We have a clear story to tell the police if questioned, but it can all be broken apart if a witness tells on us.
I guess if worse comes to worse, I’ll tell the truth so they don’t get in trouble for it. It’s my fault we’re in this mess to begin with, and I’ll be the one to take the blame to fix that if I have to. My life would be ruined forever, but at least they’d get a chance at having one.
I’m nearly frozen solid by the time I reach my house, going straight into my room to change into warmer clothes. I spend a couple minutes just sitting on my bed and contemplating, then eventually standing up to see if Logan’s still asleep. The fact that I can stand up at all has yet to stop surprising me, and I’m not sure it ever will. I haven’t exactly had a lot of time to just stop and enjoy it, but I feel a quick burst of joy every time I get up and my legs still work. Even with everything that’s going on, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky every time I think about it.
Then something bad happens and I don’t feel so lucky anymore.
When I open Logan’s bedroom door, however, the last thing I expect to see is her lying on the floor at the foot of the bed, but there she is.
What the fuck?
Her crumpled figure has on a pair of pink and black pajama pants with a loose pink shirt above it and matching pink socks on her feet below it, which I find a bit funny for a split second. Of course she would continue to match her clothes perfectly in the midst of all our problems.
I walk over to her, confused by why she would choose to sleep on the floor instead of her bed, but stop short of waking her up. On her bed is a vial, like that from a lab or a hospital, filled with a fuschia liquid that jumps when I pick it up. I haven’t the slightest clue where it came from or what it is, but I begin to get worried when I see another vial on the floor next to her. This one is empty, a brown cork separate from it on the beige carpet.
I squat down beside her, gently shaking her body. “Logan. Logan.”
The first spark of panic rises in me, but a loud groan comes from her and I stop. She ever so slowly pushes herself into a sitting position, her eyes red from sleep.
“Are you okay? What was in the vial?”
She closes her eyes, tipping her head back and then forward again like she’s dizzy. “I’m fine. Do you-do you think you can get me some water please?”
“Yeah. Don’t move.”
I quickly get a glass of water from the kitchen and come back, where she still sits on the floor leaning against the bed. I hand it to her, then sit down next to her and watch her guzzle it down. She seems physically okay, albeit a bit pale, but more awake and clear-headed now.
“Where did you get the vials?”
She sets down the half-empty glass between us, resting her arms on her knees. “Marcus came over last night, and he pulled that...mind control thing with me. It kind of freaked me out, so I made what was in the vials. They’re supposed to keep you from being affected by him doing that. It was in Dad’s book, some research he did. He and Marcus had some deal with a guy named Matt to be able to use his greenhouse and lab and stuff, which is what that key you found goes to. So I drove over there, got the stuff I needed, made the liquid, and met Matt. Then I came home and drank it, which is the last thing I remember doing so I’m guessing I blacked out or something.”
I pause for a second to let that soak in, but then just let out what I’m thinking anyway. “What? I was gone for one night and all of this happens? What did Marcus want when he came over here? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No, no,” she says, shaking her head viciously. “He said he just wanted to talk, but since you weren’t here, he’s going to come back later today.”
I sit there watching her for a moment, seeing her hands fidgeting and her eyes flickering. Uncomfortable about something, but whereas I can normally tell, I’m unsure of whether it’s because of what I said to her last night or if it’s because she’s lying this time.
“How wonderful.” I lean back, letting my head fall against the mattress. “You should’ve waited on me to get back before you went to the greenhouse, Logan, but I guess it’s too late now. What happened when you got there?”
“Well, I looked around the place; there was a lab and this big metal room. I think Dad and Marcus used it during full moons to keep from getting out or something. But I, uh, I was going to make these vials myself, but then Matthew–or Matt–showed up. He...he said he wanted to meet you, too, since we’re probably going to be using his greenhouse and stuff more often, but...the way he said it–it seemed like he’s met you before. Do you remember ever meeting him before, with Dad or something?”
I think on it for a few seconds, but no matter how hard I focus, I can’t remember meeting anyone named Matt besides a kid from middle school. So, if I did meet this man, I’ve forgotten.
“No” is all I say.
“Hmm. I don’t know what that was about, then, but...there’s more.”
I turn to her to listen as she tells me the rest; tells me everything Matt said to her about Marcus. Tells me how dangerous Marcus is and how he might’ve been the one that killed Dad seven years ago. But instead of reacting by feeling angry or fearful, I feel....relieved. Now I finally have the reason I was searching for to kick him out of our lives completely. I start to laugh almost hysterically when she’s done, though I don’t at all feel joyful. It starts out from relief, but is soon taken over by the other many emotions in me and becomes uncontrollable.
“Julia, why the fuck are you laughing right now?”
“I-I don’t know,” I manage to get out. My inane giggles continue while she looks on with concern. I try to reign it it, but that only makes it worse. It’s not long before I realize that I’m no longer laughing, but sobbing. I feel the desire to hit myself again like I did last night to try to take my mind off of what happened, but I don’t do it since she’s here. Overwhelming guilt wells up in me from what I said to her yesterday, and for the fact that Elijah, Milton, and Kai now are caught up in the mess of their father’s death. It’ll be all over the news and they’ll be in the spotlight like I was with Dad and my accident. But mostly, my guilt of the moment is for how I’ve been with Logan; not just last night, but for months. How I haven’t been there for her like I should’ve, how I’ve felt toward her since finding out what she did, and how I went off on her last night. Yes, I wish she would shut up about it and stop getting angry with me over everything, but considering her mental state I should’ve held myself back.
“I’m so sorry,” I sob. “I’m so sorry for what I said to you last night. I get it now. I get it.”
“Julia, I’m not mad at you. You kind of scared me, but I understand.” She pauses, resting a hand on my shoulder in an attempt at comforting me, then narrows her eyes at me. “What do you mean you get it now?”
She pulls her hand back as I spin myself sideways to face her straight-on, breathing heavily. It’s probably hard for her to decipher what I’m saying considering my gasps.
“I-I was right about Elijah’s dad. He was abusing him. And Kai too. And...and when I was over there–when I was over there, he tried to come at me, but...Elijah got in the way, and…” I compose myself, my voice getting soft. “I was so angry, Logan. I’ve never felt like that before. When I saw Elijah hit the floor, I just...broke. And I killed him. I killed their dad, and I get it now. I thought I would feel guilty–or-or just something, anything, but I was just...empty. I get it.”
“You...you killed him?”
It takes my nodding before I can find my voice, but I eventually do. “Yeah. But...you don’t understand, Logan. He-he deserved it. For what he’s done to Elijah and his brothers all these years, he deserves what he got and more. And I don’t feel bad about it. I feel guilty for not feeling guilty, and I feel guilty for the trouble it’s causing Kai, Elijah, and Milton, but not for killing him. And I’m kind of afraid of what that makes me.”
It’s a long time before she responds back to me, but when she does, I’m surprised by how sad she sounds.
“It makes you the same as you’ve always been.”
“Is that a good thing?”
She shrugs while pushing herself into a squatting position. “I don’t know. But I want to go see Mom again and you can tell me about everything that happened on the way. Give me ten minutes please.”
She stands up all the way, and I just sit there for a second confused by how fast this is all happening.
“Oh. Okay.” I get up myself, then look at the full vial still on the bed. “I guess that’s for me to take later, isn’t it?”
She nods, crossing her arms and not really meeting my eyes for long. I bite back the emotions attempting to overtake me again and grab the glass container before heading out the door. But instead of walking away like she expects me to, I stop outside the door and listen in.
I’m not quite sure what she’s doing at first, but after a few more seconds, there’s no denying it.