I don’t think Julia notices the red and white corvette parked at the end of the parking lot, underneath the shadows of the trees around it. I tense up upon sight of it, immediately recognizing the owner.
“Same time Sunday?” Julia asks, jolting me out of my stupor. I smile, though it probably looks more like a grimace, and nod.
“Sure. See you then.” I slip into my car but don’t go anywhere, waiting for her to leave. As soon as she pulls away, the door to the corvette opens up and Jane steps out, confirming what I already guessed. I step out as she makes her way toward me, already having my car warming up.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see you,” she says. Her black hair is pulled back into a braided bun, a few flyaway strands cupping her cheeks.
"No kidding." I sigh, rubbing my temples. “Get in the car then.” I slide back inside as she walks around the front, getting into the passenger seat. She huffs and rubs her arms as if she’s cold, then adjusts the vents so they’re facing upward.
“So, how have things been going since you got back?” she asks. Though she gives me a friendly enough smile, her eyes tell a different story. They speak of anger and hate and loathing....but most of all they speak of pain.
“What do you want, Jane?”
She rolls her eyes, brushing her hair out of her face like she’s done so many times before. “Okay, so I’m here to cash in on that favor you owe me. And...it’s kind of a big one. I need your brother.”
I stare at her. “My brother?”
“Elijah, right? I need him. I have a plan.” The hopeful look in her eyes tugs at my heart a bit and I, of course, want to make her happy, but...my brother? He’s not on the table.
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I don’t know what your ‘plan’ is, but you’re not including Elijah in it.”
The faint smile that was left on her face before disappears now. She straightens up in her seat, clenching her jaw. “Look,” she starts, “you’re my friend, Kai, and I want it to stay that way, but you’re going to have to work with me. In case you don’t remember, you wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for me. Probably in more ways than one. Your brother is never going to be in any danger.”
“Yes, I remember,” I mutter, looking down at the steering wheel. I sit there for a moment, feeling her eyes bore into me. My own eyes shut, and I realize that I’m going to have to relent. She helped me. I owe her this. Unless Elijah actually will be in danger, then I’m going to have to work something out. “What is it?”
“Julia. I want her dead. And I’m gonna use your brother to do it.”
My heart skips a beat. “What?” Jane goes on to tell me every single detail of her plan, and all the while I’m sitting here thinking about the last interaction I had with Julia. She’s...going to be dead in a few months? I..I don’t know if I can go through with that. I can’t go through with that. I can still remember the first time I met her, and then when I met her again for a second time. That was when I truly met her met her. The words she said then and the words she says now are ingrained into my brain, and they will probably never leave.
“It’s okay," she told me."You’ll be out of this house soon and you won’t ever have to think about him again. He’s never coming back. I know you’ll never get rid of the memories of him, but you can make new ones. Stop hiding, Kai. Go out and make memories, make good ones. That’s the only way. That’s what we all have to do when times get hard. We have to keep going, and find something better. Find something to make you keep going.”
Before that, I had mentioned something to her about Marshall. How she knew the perfect thing to say to me is beyond me. I don’t know why I even told her what I told her before that, but somehow she still knew what to do. That was the moment that I really saw her. And I liked what I saw. She was just a girl who cared a little bit too much for everyone, and I think that, even now, she still has some of that in her. She wanted nothing more than for her sister to live, and she didn’t get that. And for a while she shut off. I could see that. Everyone could see that. But now I’m getting to see her come back.
She claims she’s having trouble caring for people around her, but I doubt that’s true. I bet that she does care, but the problem is that she doesn’t want to in case something else happens. Not that I’m any better. Though, I’m thinking she already knows that. She’s one of the few people who can see it, and I’m not sure how I feel about her looking at me for a whole of several days and being able to see right through me. It’s unnerving how quickly she figured me out, as if I’m something as simple as a child’s puzzle that she put together.
Yet, I’m still not sure if I have her figured out. I’ve watched her for months now, and she’s as much of an enigma to me now as she was then. How when I first met her, she could be so caring for people she loved sometimes, yet at the same time she could get angry and fly off the handle very easily, that visible fire of hers lighting up her eyes. How she will come up with some of the most brilliant ideas, but a few minutes later she’ll make one of the dumbest comments I may ever hear. How she can sometimes come across as someone more mature than most adults I know, and other times she’ll make some irrational decision like she’s five. She’s like a walking contradiction, and it’s both intriguing and annoying at the same time.
After everything I’ve seen her do, everything I’ve seen her go through, how am I just supposed to agree with Jane and help kill her? I watched her go from someone who was so angry all the time after her sister’s death that I thought she might genuinely hurt someone who made the wrong comment, to someone who would be calm if someone got shot right in front of her. Even though she doesn’t have the same kind of rage that she had before, it doesn’t make her any less powerful. Something about the way she holds herself; the way she walks, the way she talks….it shows her power on its own. Her posture and walk reeks of confidence and strength. Her words ring with authority when she chooses. The calmness of her now doesn’t take away any of that; if anything, it gives to it. Unlike Marcus, she doesn’t need an unpredictable temper to make her terrifying.
I can’t help Jane. I can’t do this.
“Jane,” I interrupt. She looks at me with those big brown eyes of hers and slows to a stop in her speech. “I….I’m really, really sorry about your mom and your sisters and everything, but I can’t do this. I won’t. I’m sorry, Jane, but Julia doesn’t deserve this. I know I owe you, but...anything but this.”
She clenches her jaw yet again and sighs, and I can practically see the steam coming off of her. “Look, I didn’t want to have to be this way, but...I’m not asking. I need this, okay? So I’m giving you a choice. You can help me and Elijah will live, or, you can choose to help Julia and he will die. It’s either Elijah or Julia. Your choice.”
I gulp and turn away, silence eating at us for a few moments. “What happened to you?” I ask quietly. “Your mom wouldn’t have wanted this.”
“Maybe she wouldn’t have,” Jane agrees, surprising me. I glance over at her in time to see her add, "But my dad would’ve, and we both know that he is the one I take after. So, who do you choose, Kai? Elijah or Julia?”
Sighing, I grip the bottom of the steering wheel to keep myself from turning on her. She knows exactly what she’s doing. It’s obvious that I’m going to pick Elijah. It’s not a contest; my choice will always be my brothers over anyone else. And that includes Julia. I know it’ll be devastating to Elijah, but at least he’ll be alive. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but I know how obstinate Jane is. There's nothing in the world I could say or do to change her mind.
We should’ve moved when we had the chance.
“You already know," I say. "Tell me again where you’re going to be keeping him?”
She smiles brightly, though it doesn’t make her any less intimidating. “You made the right decision.” Then she goes on to tell me about the things I missed out on earlier, and all I can think about is that last smile Julia gave me before getting into her car mere minutes ago.
What have I done?