When I arrive at Sarah’s house and Luke is the one who opens the door, I’m pretty sure my heart stops beating for a good minute or two. He stands there in a white athletic shirt with baggy shorts on, looking disheveled like he just rolled out of bed.
He...he stayed the night here?
A wave of emotions overwhelms me as our eyes meet and suddenly I’m turned around and racing back to Logan’s jeep.
“Wait! Julia, wait!” Luke calls. I don’t stop until I reach the side of the jeep, my hands clenched at my sides. It seems that I can be calm all the time; all the time except when I’m around Luke. It’s like just seeing him saps all my strength. I’m not sure who I blame more for Logan’s death: Luke or myself.
“Julia, please don’t leave,” Luke says, coming up behind me. My eyes squeeze shut and I struggle to keep my heartrate down so I don’t shift. He sets a hand on my shoulder and I freeze, no longer trembling or breathing out of control. His hand drops at my stiffness and I slowly turn myself around to face him. Tears start filling in my eyes uncontrollably, the simple memory of what went down last fall holding me in its vice.
“I don’t think you get it,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper. “I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to talk to you. I just want to–to pretend you’ve never existed. And I want you to do the same.”
“If that’s what you want, Julia, then that’s what I’ll do,” he says. His icy blue eyes imitate my own sadness inside of them, and I wonder if it’s real. His jaw clenches and he gulps, like he’s in a fight to contain himself. “I know that I’m a monster, Julia,” he adds after a pause. “I know it. And I’m just….I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” His voice strains through the words and I watch as a single salty tear treks its way down his face. It hits me that out of all the time I’ve known him, this is the first time I’ve seen him cry.
Don’t fall for it. He played you like this before and look what happened. He betrayed you. And he’ll do it again.
The large ball in my throat prevents me from speaking so there’s a moment of silence where we both stand there, together, crying at each other. It’s interrupted when Sarah bursts through the front door, still open, and flies down the steps toward us.
“Julia, wait!” she yells. She slows to a stop in front of us, completely barefoot on the gravel driveway though it doesn’t seem to bother her. “Please don’t go,” she breathes.
“Yeah, don’t go,” Luke agrees, turning back to me. “I’ll leave. You can stay.”
“No,” Sarah interrupts, huffing like she’s already out of breath. Her wavy black hair falls in her face but she ignores it. In the midst of my breakdown a part of me wonders why she isn’t wearing her glasses. “Both of you stay. Let’s all go inside and talk.” She pauses, seeing the look on my face. “Please, Julia.”
“I–I don’t know,” I stutter, taking a step back but bumping into the jeep. I feel trapped with the two of them standing there, but even more trapped because of the look on Sarah’s face. It hurts that she would do this at all, let alone do it and not tell me about it. I don’t know how long this thing with Luke has been going on, and I absolutely hate it. But….with her looking at me like that, I’m not sure I can just leave. I don’t want to give in, I don’t want to stay and hear whatever sorry excuse they’re going to make up, but I love Sarah. And if I really do care about her, I might have to stay. I mean, if I care about her, wouldn’t I stay and make sure that she’s safe with Luke here?
“Please stay,” she begs, that same sad yet determined look in her eyes. “Please.”
I glance between her and Luke a few times, but deep down I already know that I can’t leave now. “Okay,” I whisper, nodding. “Okay.”
We walk back into her house, them leading as I lag behind. I shut the door behind me before making my way past their staircase and into the living room. I sit down in a beige reclining chair across from a couch of matching color that Sarah and Luke plop down in as well, too close to each other for me to feel comfortable. I have a hard time bringing myself to look at Luke, every muscle in my body screaming at me to either run or attack him, though I do neither.
“So what is it?” I ask after a few moments of staring at each other. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but Sarah looks like she may have lost even more weight from the last time I noticed.
“Well, uh…” she starts, glancing at Luke. “I think that you already figured it out, but Lucas and I are dating now.”
Lucas? She calls him Lucas now?
“Yeah, I kind of figured that when he opened the door earlier looking like he just woke up,” I say. I pause for a second, seeing if she’s going to say anything else. I tell myself to stop with the childish sarcasm and just be blunt with her, though I don’t really want to. “Why, Sarah? Why would you do this? You know what happened. You know how I feel about….him.” My eyes drift to Luke when I say it, though as soon as his eyes meet mine they shoot back to Sarah.
“I wasn’t doing it to you, Jules. It just kind of….happened,” she says. “He’s not like you think.” I get up as she continues, wanting to leave but unable to force myself out of the doorway. I end up pacing back and forth across the wooden flooring in the room, my fingers tangled in my hair. “He’s a good person,” she continues, hurrying since I stood up. “He wasn’t in control of himself back then, and it wasn’t his fault.”
I stop pacing, my mouth open to yell at her before I stop myself. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I am, I tell myself. I am not Marcus. I am not Marcus.
“How do you know?” I ask quietly, dropping my hands. Sarah seems taken aback, like she expected me to scream at her. “Seriously: how do you know? That’s exactly what he told me before, and even if it was true then, he still betrayed me. So how do you know he’s not going to do the same to you?”
“Because he won’t,” she says, shaking her head. “I know him. And besides, what would be in it for him to do that to me?”
That gives me room for pause. She has a point. He had a reason to betray Logan and I, but Sarah? I can’t see there being a reason for him to get close to her for anything other than just wanting to. Unless...those people who have been following Sarah around. Could he be working for them? Is there something about Sarah that makes her important in all this? Because all I know is that somebody out there wants something from her, I just don’t know what. But….would Luke really be working for them?
“I don’t know,” I say. “I really don’t. But...but I need more than that. Why weren’t you in control of yourself all that time?” I ask, looking at Luke. He glances away, rubbing behind his ear.
“I feel like I’m making excuses by doing this to you, and that’s not what I want to do,” he says. “What I did was wrong and that’s that. I’m not asking you to forgive me because I don’t deserve it. All I have to say is I’m sorry.” He doesn’t make eye contact with me the entire time, but the way his voice sounds pulls at my heart strings. He just sounds so heartbroken.
Stop it, I tell myself. He’s just playing you.
“No, no, no,” Sarah interrupts, getting to her feet. “He won’t tell you this because he blames himself too much, but before he got bit Marcus was controlling him, doing that mind thing he does. He really had no choice there. And after–well, after his mind was kind of messed up. It’s harder for someone who gets bit than it is for someone who is born that way, like you and Logan were. It took a few months before the weight of what happened really hit him because of it. And not just that, but he felt like he owed Marcus during that time. Marcus saved his life, and Lucas felt like he needed to repay him for that. He was messed up in the head, and Marcus used him when he was weak.”
I put my hands on my waist, peering up at the ceiling. “Even if that’s all true, that doesn’t explain what he was doing contacting Marcus in the first place. Why would Marcus choose Luke, of all people, to bite? To be the one to betray us? And what did you mean earlier–when you said that Marcus saved his life?”
Sarah opens her mouth to answer, but Luke cuts in. “Marcus didn’t choose me. I found him. I found him and asked him to bite me. It was after that that he started brainwashing me.”
“But...why?” I ask. I stare at him, waiting, but he gives no answer. He doesn’t even look at me. “WHY?” I scream, picking up a glass vase from the table in front of me. I cock it back like I’m going to throw it at him, though I restrain myself when I see him covering his face in fear. “ANSWER ME! YOU SAY YOU’RE SORRY, YET YOU CAN’T ANSWER ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU? LOGAN IS DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU! DEAD!” I stop screaming and take a breath, tears rushing down my face. I see the look on both Sarah’s and Luke’s faces–a mixture of pity and fear–and my anger subsides, rushing out of me like a river coursing downstream. I’m left with only my despair and sadness, causing me to let the vase drop out of my hand. It shatters onto the rug, which I ignore as I myself fall onto the chair behind me.
“She’s dead,” I sob into my hands. I’m not sure if either Luke or Sarah can decipher what I’m saying, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not talking to them. “She’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead.” If I were to look up right now, I don’t doubt that I would find Logan standing beside me, in that white dress, just watching like she does. I’ve managed not to cry over her for awhile now, but my heart has been ripped open again and now I can’t stop. My weeping continues even when I feel a hand on my back, unmoving. Sarah. She doesn’t rub me or say anything, just stands there for me, I guess.
“I was dying,” Luke says softly, seemingly out of nowhere.
My head shoots up, with my elbows still resting on my knees. “What?” He looks down, like he’s ashamed of it.
“I was dying. That’s why I found Marcus and asked him to bite me.”
“Wha– Why?” I stutter. Silent tears continue to make their way down my cheeks though Logan is no longer the center of my attention. “Why were you dying?”
When he doesn’t respond, Sarah speaks up for him. “Tell her, Lucas,” she says. She pauses. “Tell her or I’ll do it myself.”
Luke sighs, then looks across at me. “I had cancer.” I stare at him, dumbfounded, before he begins to add more. He speaks just loud enough for me to hear him, though that isn’t saying much. “Yeah, they, um, they said I had acute myeloid leukemia. And we caught it late. Way too late. At the most they said I had a year to live, if even that much. I should’ve noticed it sooner,” he says, his eyes closed like he’s thinking back to it. “I should’ve realized.” I look up at Sarah, then go back down to him, not knowing what to say for once.
“Anyway,” he starts. He reopens his eyes and shakes his head a little, like he just woke up from dreaming. “When I–when I found out that I was going to die, I was…..scared. I admit it, I was fucking terrified. And...well, you weren’t the only one to notice what was going on with the killings at the time. I was desperate. When I thought that there was the tiniest chance that I could get healed and live, I clinged to that hope. It was all I had. So, I researched everything I could about them, about werewolves, and after a few attempts of drawing one of them out, it worked. I found Marcus. Marcus offered to bite me if I just got you alone somewhere, and he said he wouldn’t hurt you, so why not, I thought. The thing is, after I found him, he did that mind control thing to me. I couldn’t have said no if I wanted to once he found out who I was.”
“That’s when we went out to the cabin, and well, you know what happened. Afterward, I knew I made a mistake, but it was too late for that. I thought Marcus had crossed me and wasn’t going to bite me, but the day after he kept his word. And...it was like everything changed. The cancer was completely gone by the next day, but it was more than that. It messed with my mind. All I–” He stops, swallowing for a moment. “All I wanted to do was kill people,” he says, his voice dropping a few octaves. “My anger was just–just out of control, and with Marcus still fucking with me with that compelment thing he does…..I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done. Actually, I don’t even remember all of it; it was like I was in a trance for a good three months, but I know that Logan is dead now because of me, and I know that I betrayed you. And now...well, now all I can say is I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything I’ve done, Julia. It wasn’t on purpose, but that’s not an excuse. I’m just….I’m sorry.”
Before now, Luke held himself together enough to impede the tears, but now they're steaming down in an unkindly fashion. He doesn’t just cry; he straight-out sobs. Which is the most emotion I’ve ever seen come from him, and some of the hatred I had towards him lessens in the moment. Some, but not all. Though, seeing him right now, I don’t think I can be angry with him. I’m sure that’ll come back later, but right now I just feel heartbroken. For him, for Logan, for myself; for every person that has ever been hurt by Marcus.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Luke cries into his hands. I’m not sure whether he’s talking to Logan, himself, or me. Sarah moves away from me to go comfort him, but I end up beating her to it. I jump up from my seat and a second later I’m sitting on the couch next to him, wrapped around him so close and tight I’m almost on top of him. His arms wrap around me as well, and for one sweet moment, we are both on the exact same page.
I can feel Sarah’s eyes on us, watching, probably frozen in shock. Luke and I cry into each for a little while, reunited for one brief moment.
“I miss her, Julia,” he says, sniffling. Although he doesn’t mention her name, we all know that he’s talking about Logan.
“So do I,” I say. We sit there for what feels like a long time until I pull away, though it’s probably only a few minutes at most. I let my defense down for too long. There’s still the chance that Luke is playing me like he did before and he’s going to betray me again, so I need to be careful. I feel as if we’re in the same place in our lives, but I can’t just let my walls down because he shed a few tears. I have to get it together.
“Okay, Luke,” I start, after getting ahold of myself. He wipes his face clean of the tears and watches me with a nervous look in his eyes, like he’s worried about me playing him. “I want you to know that this doesn’t mean I forgive you. Because I don’t. And I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t say that I trust you now either; nor can I say that I believe everything you said. A small part of me feels like you could still be playing me and thinks that you could betray me at any moment.” Luke nods, looking down at the floor. He seems like he understands, but still looks sad and disappointed.
“But,” I add, “I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. If everything you said is really true and you really regret it, you have a chance now to make that up. I’m going to keep my eye on you, but you’re welcome into my pack now. I’m giving you a chance, Luke, don’t screw it up. Though doubtful, maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive you for what you did. Maybe one day I’ll be able to trust you again. That day is not today, but now you have a possibility of that happening. You should have told me all of this sooner. This sounds less like an excuse and more like a reason.”
Luke gives a small smile, laughing a tiny bit. “I did try to tell you sooner, but you wouldn’t listen. Not that I blame you. I deserved every bit of it and more. I don’t even deserve this chance you’re giving me.”
“Yeah, well, don’t waste it,” I say. I rub the back of hand along my face, wiping off the leftover tears. He sets his hand on my arm, grabbing my attention.
“Thank you,” he whispers. Our eyes stay locked on each other’s for a long moment, and I have to remind myself to keep up my guard. I give a half-smile and he pulls his arm back, looking around. He frowns, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion.
“Where’d Sarah go?” he asks. I take a look around the room to see that he’s right.