“Hey, Julia,” Elijah calls. I hear him and pause on the sidewalk to let him catch up. It brings me both pain and joy to have him by my side again, considering that I refuse to let myself fall for him again. I still love him, I will always love him, but . . it’s different now. I’m different now. And I know that, even though Elijah doesn’t think so, if we were to get back together it would just be too forced. It wouldn’t be the same, and I don’t want to do it either way because I know that it would put him in even more danger than he’s already in by just being friends with me. So no matter what happens, I’m not going to let myself get roped back in for his own good.
“Hey, Elijah,” I say. I shove my hands into the pockets of my jacket to get them out of the cold.
“You going to work?” he asks.
I shake my head, staring at the lines as they pass underneath me on the sidewalk. “No, not until five. You?”
“I’m off today.” He kicks a rock and it goes tumbling out in front of us. We walk in silence for a few minutes, which is a nice release from the usual constant sound that goes on around me.
“Um,” he starts. I glance over at him, admiring the way he never seems to notice how his hair is sticking out in several directions, which I then remind myself not be thinking about. “I’m not sure how to put this really, but . . I think Sarah and Luke have been hanging out with each other.”
I stop in my tracks. “What?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I, um, I saw them talking in the hallway by his locker after school ended. They–they hugged before they left.” Behind him in the road, I see a bright red corvette stopped. It looks to be the 1962 model, with white streaks down the side. Although, the windows seem to be tinted awfully dark, so it’s practically impossible to see inside of it. It strikes me as odd, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the fact that they have no reason to be stopped right now, yet there they are. Stopped in the road next to us. Jesus Christ, think about this later, I tell myself.
“They left together?” I ask, pushing the car out of my mind like I told myself to.
“Yeah.” I clench my jaw, along with my fists, then turn and calmly start walking again.
“She told me she was going to be with Parker,” I say. “I don’t know why she would lie to me.” I feel like storming back there and trying to hunt them down to keep Luke away from Sarah, but I don’t. It’s not going to be beneficial. I don’t know what Luke could’ve possibly said to her to make her trust him again after what happened. And it was not just once, but twice that he betrayed us. I don’t know how anyone could be so manipulative to be able to trick someone like that. Trick Sarah like that. She’s probably the smartest out of all of us, and she definitely knows that he’s not someone she should trust.
“Well, I hate to break it to you, Juliana,” Elijah says, “but you’re not exactly shy about how you feel about him. We all know you hate him. And sure, it’s for good reason, but . .”
“But the Luke I knew before all this was not a bad person.” I want to interrupt him, but when I look at his eyes–the beautiful as ever mismatched eyes–the words get stuck in my throat. “Remember what you said to me about the whole lycanthrope thing? You said it affects everyone differently. It’s possible that it ended up affecting Luke a lot differently than it did you, and maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t as in control of himself as we thought he was.”
I walk along a few more paces before I respond, several leaves fluttering to the ground from a tree as we pass beneath it. “So what? You forgive him now? You’re going to go back to being friends with him?”
“No. God, no, Juliana. What I am saying is that Sarah was there when–when everything happened. She knows just as well as the rest of us about what he did, but . . she’s not stupid. If she’s chosen to still talk to him after that, forgive him for that, then I trust that it’s for a good reason. She must see something in him that we don’t.”
I close my eyes and sigh, scratching at my head with my fingertips. “I hate it when you make sense.” I turn and look at him, noticing the same red and white car behind him on the road for the third time now since we left the school. I push it out of my head for the moment. “I don’t agree, but I don’t want to fight over it either. I don’t trust Luke and I don’t know if I will ever be able to again, and that’s that. But . . I get it if you do. You knew him better than I did. Just . . . if you choose to reach out to him, Elijah, please be careful.”
“Of course.” I bite my lip, wishing that Luke could just move away or something. It’d make all of this so much easier. I hate the very idea of any of my friends being around him, but I also get that what he did isn’t as personal to them as it is to me. So maybe they can forgive him and move on, but I can’t. I just want him to disappear. Now I’m left with the idea of him being with Sarah right now and . . I don’t like it one bit. Sarah’s never done anything like this before, and I can’t even remember when the last time she lied to me was.
What worries me is that this could be my fault. If Sarah has been talking to Luke for a while now, it might have been because of things she’s been experiencing. I wasn’t there for her, so she had to reach out to somebody. Looks like that person was Luke, unless I’m reading too much into this. If I had only been paying attention, then maybe she wouldn’t have ended up asking someone like him for help. I’m such an idiot.
“So, how are things going with that girl?” I ask. He gives me a confused look. “You know, the one in Roman–I mean, Mr. Griffith’s class. The one that likes you?”
He pauses. “You mean Kate?”
“Yeah, Kate,” I say. “What’s going on there?”
He shakes his head. “Kate doesn’t like me.”
I scoff. “Yes, she obviously does, Elijah. Why don’t you go for it? You seem like you enjoy being around her.”
He sighs, scratching his head as he continues to stare at the ground. “But she . .”
He looks at me. “She’s not you.” My heart speeds up for a moment before I remind myself that I’m supposed to be encouraging him to move on, not preventing it. It's high time I talk to him about this. He needs to know that it's okay if he moves on, even if I'm still alone. I reach out and grab his arm, pulling him to a stop.
“Elijah,” I start, “we’re–we’re not together anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still love you and I always will, and what we had was great. It was one of the most real things I’ve ever experienced. But . . it’s over now. Not asking this girl out because you don’t like her is one thing, but doing it because you’re still holding out for me is something else entirely.” I let go of his arm and start walking again, with him falling into step beside me. “I’m your past, Elijah. This girl could be your future. Don’t wait for me.”
He lets out a long breath. “I’m sorry. I guess I just. . I just always thought that we’d end up together. I thought that’d you come back around eventually. But I guess that I was wrong. It’s time for me to move on.”
Part of me wants to disagree with him, to take his hand in mine and tell him I didn’t mean what I said. But . . the stronger part of me reminds that it’s over. Reminds me that I made a deal with Kai that I wouldn’t go back to him. So I won’t.
“So do you want–” I turn to look at him, but stop both walking and talking as I realize that same red and white corvette is still following us. I forgot about it when I pushed it out of my head earlier, but now I see that it’s still here. It has stopped every time we stopped, as it is right now with us. I stare into the windows as hard as I can, trying to make out who is inside with no luck. The car doesn’t move any as I look into it, and I don’t hear any sound coming from inside when I try to listen, except for two sets of heartbeats.
“Julia, what are you doing?” Elijah asks. He stops walking and comes back to me, glancing between me and the car.
“That car has been following us,” I say. He looks at it himself, and after a second I work up the courage to approach it. It’s only a few paces away, stopped on the other side of the curb. I only take a couple steps toward it before someone floors it and the car takes off down the road, leaving the smell of burnt rubber behind. We turn and watch as it disappears around a corner, gone within mere seconds. Smoke clouds over us and I’m left wondering just who that was following us.