“Seriously? C’mon, Julia, we’ve been working on this one for weeks,” Kai says. I push myself off the ground and dust the dried grass off of me.
“I know, I know. I suck at fighting. Don’t have to tell me twice.”
“Well, you used to suck at it,” he says. He has a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“And now you don’t suck as bad.” I roll my eyes at him. For several months, he has been attempting to train me in fighting. I’m not sure who he learned from since he won’t tell me, but he’s good at it either way. It’s something I need to learn as well, and I’d rather not ask anyone in my own pack to teach me. I’m their leader, I should be teaching them. Not the other way around.
“Try it again,” he says. He swings at me with his fist, which I deflect as he brings a knee up to my groin. I block it with my other arm and he spins in a complete circle, swinging the back-side of his fist with the momentum.
He never does the same attack on me twice. I just have to figure out how to block his moves while trying to work in the one he taught me whenever I get the chance, like in a real fight. I duck, colliding my fist into his stomach as I do so. When he bends over, I swing my leg through the air toward his head as he ducks. The palm of my hands shove into his chest when he does it, sending him spiraling to the ground. The kick was what he wanted me to do, whether I hit him or not, which I've finally managed to work in. I balance myself out, smiling down at him as he rolls on the ground a few times. He lays on his back, just staring up at the sky for a moment.
“Ow,” he breathes. He turns to me. “I think you did it.”
“Okay, you did it. Congratulations.” I stick my hand out and help him up as he checks the time on his watch. “I think that’s enough for today.”
“What? No, let’s go a little longer,” I say. After saying it, I notice that the sun is beginning to set in the west, leaving the darkening sky with a fiery orange tint through the trees around us.
Kai stares at me. “Child, you have a mother. Go home. You stay out too late and too often anyway. We can work on this again on Sunday.”
“All right,” I sigh. I stride over to some of the trees where I have my bag resting and slide it onto my back. We start heading back to our cars, falling into step beside each other.
“So, Elijah says your birthday is coming up soon,” Kai says after a few minutes. “Eighteen, right?”
“Yeah,” I say. I shove my hands, which are now getting cold since I’m no longer fighting, into my pockets and watch as the leaves crunch underneath my feet. “Next Friday.”
“You actually going to do something this year?” I can feel his eyes on me though I don’t look up.
“I don’t know,” I shrug. “It just doesn’t . . it doesn’t feel right. All it is is one big reminder that Logan’s gone.” I clear my throat. “Anyway, I’ve been busy. There’s more important things that I need to take care of.”
“Like a list of things that you probably don’t want to hear about.” Kai glances at me with droopy eyes, a look that says, Really, bitch? He turns away and I notice for the first time the way the tip of his ear curves downward, unlike the other one. Finally, I’ve found a flaw in him physically. Everyone can see the many, many flaws of his personality, but even more annoying is when his appearance is near perfect, which I have now proven wrong.
“You know, you’re right, I don’t want to know,” he says. “But if you recall, you know shit about me that very few other people do, and I need to know something about you to make up for it. Other than Elijah and your sister. I see Elijah every day and I don’t need to hear more about him. And as for your sister . . . I’m not your therapist.”
I quickly clench, then unclench my fists, controlling the burst of anger before it grows into something bigger. “Wow, I thought you had gotten past your dick faze.”
I bite down on my teeth, grinding them together for a moment. “Well, anyway, you’ve seen me naked so I think we’re pretty even on the whole ‘knowing stuff about each other’ thing.”
“Oh, yeah,” he says, a far-away look in his eyes. “Yeah, that was a good day. “ He gives me his typical mischievous smirk, like a child who just got away breaking the rules. I shove on his shoulder.
“Shut up.” He laughs, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he goes.
“But really, that doesn’t count. Plus, I’ve been a bit bored lately and need something to do. As long as it’s not going to get me killed, that is.”
I sigh, rubbing my hands against my tired eyes. “Fine. You remember Sarah? Dark hair, glasses, pretty small?”
“Not really, but go on.”
“Well, she’s been having . . having some visitors,” I say. “And I think they’re supernatural.”
“Visitors?” he asks. His eyes flicker between mine and I’m surprised to see genuine concern in them. I try to explain to him what’s happening in the simplest way possible, though I’m not sure why I bother. There’s nothing he can do about it.
“Hmm,” he grunts. “And you say you’ve never seen them yourself? Or any kind of proof, for that matter?”
“Well, no, but there’s no reason for her to lie about this,” I say. “She wouldn’t lie about this.”
“I don’t think she’s lying,” he says. “What I’m trying to say is just because she thinks it’s real, doesn’t mean it is real.”
My heart skips a beat. “You think there could be something wrong with her?”
“It’s a possibility. I mean, it’s more likely that you’re right and there’s some supernatural stuff going on, especially with you being her friend, but it’s something to think about. Anyway, what’s next on your list?”
I drop my head back and let out a long sigh. “I don’t know, man, there’s Luke, Rachel, and Lorraine; which one do you want to know about?”
“Okay, hold up,” he says. “I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Elijah mention a Luke and Rachel before, but who the hell is Lorraine?”
“She’s a woman in my pack,” I say. I run my fingers through my hair. “I guess you could say she’s a bit of a project. She does everything I tell her to and follows all the rules but...I want more than that. I don’t want her to not kill people because I tell her not to; I want her to not do it because it’s the right thing. I don’t want her to use her powers to help people because she knows that’s what I want; I want her to do it because it’s what she wants. I don’t–well, you get it. I can’t seem to get through to her. I guess it would’ve helped if I started a long time ago instead of, like, a month ago.
“To be honest, I didn’t really care about her back then. As long as she didn’t cause problems, I didn’t care what she did. So for months I let her continue to think like she does, not even trying to help her. She...she seems like she enjoys violence a bit too much, and I'm hoping I can shake her out of that. I know I didn't care much for anyone for awhile after Logan. I didn’t really care about anything,” I say, a dreamy tone to my voice. I stop to clear my throat, shaking my head. "But I’m past that now, for the most part. I mean, I actually care about the people around me. Or at least, kind of. Enough that I’m trying now. And yeah, I’m done talking about myself and my problems and I know you’re getting bored over there with me rambling. Unless you feel like taking over my job, there’s nothing you can do about any of this. So I’m just going to shut up and stop complaining about it to you.”
“Thank god,” he says. I glare at him and he throws his hands up in the air in a "don’t shoot me" gesture. “Kidding. And anyway, I’m not about to get all sappy and say that I’m here for you or any of that bullshit. I’d offer my help, but you’re more than capable of doing it yourself. Also, I can tell that you’re getting better. When we first started this training thing I was worried you were going to kill me every time I made a comment, but now you’re the calmest I’ve ever seen you. Though I still worry occasionally that you’re going to go off and snap my neck sometimes.”
I roll my eyes. “Thanks. I mean, you’re not wrong, but thanks. And I assume you got the information you were looking for?” He nods, staring at the ground. “Good. I won’t tell anyone anything about you so long as what I said stays between us. Don’t want anyone to know that I’m having trouble empathizing.”
“No worries. Not like I’m the most caring of people either.”
“Yeah,” I scoff. “You care a lot more than you put on.” He glances at me and I hurry to change the subject. “Anyway, you should know that I think Elijah is moving past everything now. Past your dad and past me. He seems happier. And he may or may not be getting a girlfriend that’s not me soon, but don’t tell him I told you that. Anyhow, the only reason I'm mentioning that is so you know that I'm holding up my end of the bargain. ”
“Thanks.” When Kai first agreed to help me with my training, he made me promise that I would distance myself from Elijah, and under no circumstances would we date again. Which I have done, and will continue to do unless he says otherwise. I've slowly been avoiding Elijah more and more, hoping to wean us off each other completely at some point. For now, we still hang out as friends sometimes, though in the future I'm hoping that we won't at all, for his own safety.
We walk the rest of the way back to our cars without bringing up anything important, although we do get on the topic of dancing, for whatever reason. He has claimed to be an amazing dancer for the longest time, though I’m not sure I believe it. He’s yet to prove it to me. I, however, am a terrible dancer. The worst. I mean, it’s not like I’ve had any practice in years, but I doubt I’d be any better even if I did. Logan was always the dancer of the family. I’ve been told I look like an injured crab when I attempt any kind of dance.
Fifteen minutes flies by and suddenly we’re standing outside of our cars in the park’s parking lot, ready to leave.
“Same time Sunday?” I ask.
He nods, smiling. “Sure. See you then.” I wave as he slides into his emerald green Chrysler Imperial before I hop into Logan’s jeep. Technically it’s my jeep, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call it that. It’s still hers, even now. Except I’m the new driver.
I back out of the parking lot and pull into the street. I hate driving her jeep. I hate it. Every time I look over at the passenger seat I think I’m going to find Logan there, but she never is. She should be there. She should have been there when I was learning how to drive. I was there when she learned. I always thought it would’ve been something we learned together, but I guess not. Sometimes I have to walk to places because I can’t bear to be in her car any longer. I swear that I can still smell her in here from time to time, the smell of vanilla wafting up my nose and sending shivers down my spine.
Even now, almost an entire year later, it still feels as if part of me is missing. I thought it would go away with time but it hasn’t. Logan was much more than my sister; she was a part of me. A part that I’m never going to get back. I figured by now that I’d be able to talk about her, or even just think about her without crying, but I still can’t. I can’t walk into her room without feeling like I’m going to crumble into a million pieces. She’s left a hole in me that refuses to go away or be filled. Instead, it grows. Grows larger and larger every day, almost overwhelmingly so sometimes. I’m not even sure it’s a hole anymore; it seems as if it’s evolved into something so big that it’s replaced her. That hole isn’t a hole; it isn’t a missing piece of me like I thought. It’s a part of who I am now. A darkness that I’ll never be able to leave behind.
I love you, I hear echoing in my ears. Logan’s last words. Not just to me, but her last words to be spoken to anyone.
I step on the gas and speed home before my mind can get too deep into the subject. Apparently, Sarah, Luke, Rachel, Lorraine and my pack, my mom, and work isn’t enough for me right now. I need something else. A bigger distraction. A joyful distraction. Maybe celebrating my birthday for a change would be a step in the right direction.
All I know is that I need something else to do. There’s a strange calmness in me now, something that I’ve never felt before, and I’m not sure I like it. Kai is right, I’ve never been so calm in my life. Through everything, there was always a fire in me, an ignition of, if not anger, some kind of motivation that pushed me to do things. Now that spark has extinguished and I’m left with an eerie sense of serenity. I don’t like the calm. It feels like I’m just waiting for the storm to come.