I still don’t know what to make of the letter. It’s infuriating and worrying at the same time, and the worst part is I don’t know how he knows my mother’s name. To me, it seems like he would refer to her as my mother rather than her actual name, unless her knew her. It kind of freaks me out, especially with that part in it. At least he had good grammar.
Even though I should, I don’t tell Sarah and Parker about me when they visit the next day. I don’t tell them about the man in my room either, or that he left me a note. It was nice to see them, though I couldn’t stop thinking about the night before.
Apparently, my arm healed completely overnight. I pulled my cast off this morning, sort of by accident, before the nurse came to check on me. I simply wanted it off and the next thing I knew it was on the bed laying next to me. She was confused, but saw my healed arm and told the doctor. I seem to be getting very strong, very fast, and it’s kind of terrifying.
I can feel my entire legs, something I haven’t been able to in years. Every centimeter of them. After my arm, the doctors took me to get an X-ray on my spine, and we find that it has also completely healed overnight. I haven’t walked yet, but I will be allowed to soon. I’m excited. And scared.
The doctors want to run more tests on me, but since there’s nothing wrong with me and it’s not absolutely necessary, I’m allowed to say no. So, I keep saying that, and hopefully that’ll be enough for now. I really need to get out of here soon.
“Julia!” Logan runs in the room out of breath, though it’s not from being tired. She’s flustered about something.
I quickly shut off the TV and sit up. “What is it?”
“It’s Mom–she–she woke up.”
“What? Is she okay? Did she say anything?”
Logan shakes her head. “She’s fine. I–I told her about you. I mean, about your legs.”
“Oh,” I say. “What did she say?”
“She had an oxygen mask on so she didn’t say anything, but she smiled. She seems confused. I’m not sure what she remembers.”
I reach up and pull the IV out with my left hand and turn myself, legs dangling off the bed. That was the only thing attached to me now, luckily. No heart machine.
Logan walks around the bed, in front of me. “Julia, what are you doing?”
“I’m going to see Mom.”
“Hold up, you can’t just take your IV out without telling a nurse or something–”
“Watch me.” I stare at the ground a long time, trying to convince myself to put my feet on the ground. The white floors look so daunting, and honestly, I’m kind of scared. But the day I admit I’m scared is the day I die, so damn it if I’m gonna let her know that.
I gulp, asking, “Well, are you gonna help me?”
She steps forward and grabs onto my right arm. Sucking in a deep breath of air, I slowly touch my toes to the floor. It’s ice cold, and I can feel it, causing me to let out a gasp on accident. I can’t believe this is actually happening. I set the rest of my feet down and push up with my knees.
The buckle beneath me and I almost collapse, but Logan latches on with both arms and pulls me up. I’m–I’m standing. Wait, what if this is the best I can do; what if I can’t walk? What if–
I take a step. I almost fall again, but my legs are getting stronger beneath me. Incredibly stiff, but stronger. So I take another step. And another. And another. I don’t realize I’m crying until I look up at Logan and my vision blurs.
“You’re doing it, Jules,” she says, staring at my legs like they’re the most amazing thing she’s ever seen.
I’m doing it. I’m walking. My mouth breaks into a smile and I start laughing and sobbing at the same time. I’m walking.
I take another step, this time leaning less on Logan and more on myself. My legs are getting steadier very fast: unnaturally fast.
“Let go, I think I can–” My voice breaks and I have to stop to clear my throat. “I think I can do it,” I finish. Logan slowly lets her arms drop away and I move forward another step. I don’t fall. I feel dizzy, but I don’t fall. I take another step, this one steadier than the last. I’m walking.
“I–I need to go see Mom,” I say, wiping off my eyes. Slowly, but steadily I turn around, facing the door.
“Well, hold on a second at least,” Logan says, walking around to my back. She grabs the strings to my gown, tying it. Well, at least I have some kind of underwear on, and– oh god. They saw me naked. I feel slightly horrified for a second, but I know that they see that kind of stuff every day so I need not worry about it.
“Thanks,” I say, now noticing how thin my hospital gown is. I’d prefer not to go out like this, but I need to see my mom. I gradually make my way to the door, amazed that I don’t fall over with every step. Logan stays behind me; I assume to make sure I don’t fall. Upon swinging the door open, I find that my room, luckily, isn’t near any of the desks. It’s pretty much in the middle of a corridor, surrounded by other rooms.
“Where’s her room at?”
“This way,” she answers. She moves to the right a few steps, but when I go to follow her, I almost fall, catching myself against the wall. Logan holds onto my arm the rest of the way after that, though I don’t fall again. I start out slowly, but over time I pick up speed. Some people pass us, but most don’t pay any attention, though I few do give us double takes. Probably because they think they’re seeing double, which they technically are.
“Here it is,” Logan says. Room 162. I grab the handle and yank the door open. There’s only one bed in the room and my mother is the one in it. Oh god. She looks like she’s going to die. I stumble to her bedside, being drawn in from her injuries. Bruises are all over her body and face, swollen and hard to look at. Her collarbone is especially purple, with her arm in a sling. It must not have been too bad because she didn’t have to have surgery, but it has to hurt either way.
Her hair is matted at the top of her head, leaving me wondering how I must look right now, considering I haven’t showered since Friday morning and it’s Tuesday now. Her breath keeps fogging and defogging her oxygen mask, leaving a thin layer of condensation. Something about seeing her like this is distressing.
“Is she okay?” I ask, glancing at Logan.
Her head quickly goes up and down. “She will be. Like I said, the doctors told me she’ll be fine. She just needs a lot of rest.”
I grab a chair from the corner of the room, dragging it over to her bedside. Holding her hand–the one not in the sling–I just keep telling myself she’ll be fine. She’ll be fine. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if she wasn’t, and I don’t want to find out. I’m not sure I could handle losing another parent.
Even though Dad was never really in the hospital after his car wreck, this experience brings me back to that time and I find myself crying. Logan joins me after a few minutes–not in the crying, but she does that same as I did and pulls up a chair.
Wiping my nose, I take a good, long look at her, thinking about the cabin. She was absolutely hysterical then, and that doesn’t just go away after a couple of days. I need to check on her.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Me?” She looks surprised.
“Yes, you. After the crash, we kind of put off talking about you. We need to.”
She gives a small smile. “Well . . I feel a lot better than I did, but I don’t exactly feel good. Something about full moons mixes up my emotions and makes me feel weird, and that combined with what I was feeling before just drove me over the edge. But I’m–I’m not going to do anything to myself. Don’t worry about that.”
“Well, that’s good, at least,” I say. “But I want to know how you are now. If we need to, Logan, we can–we can let you see a therapist or something.”
She laughs loudly. “And what would I tell them? That I killed four people? Or that I’m a werewolf? Either one of those things would get me locked up, or at the very least institutionalized.”
“Okay, fine, I get that,” I say. “You can talk to me, then. Tell me anything and everything you want. I’m here for you. I support you.”
She puts her head in her hands, rubbing her face before settling down with her hands preventing her head from falling down. “Okay, there are some things that I’d like to get out.”
“Tell me,” I say.
“It’s just . . I didn’t steal something from a store or do drugs in an alley. I killed people. I murdered them. I’m not sure how I can wake up every day and go about my life knowing that I did that. Knowing that I enjoyed it. If I could–if I could I’d trade my life for theirs, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I can’t. I can’t do anything about it, and that’s the worst part. Up to this point, all the problems I’ve had could be solved with an apology, but this? Who am I even apologizing to? They’re dead. I can’t forgive myself for that. I can’t just move on. I don’t deserve to live. I don’t. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for what I’ve done.”
It’s mostly hidden underneath her hair, but between the gaps I can see tears running down her face. I pull my hand away from Mom’s and set it on Logan’s leg, offering it to her. She takes it.
I want to say something, but it’s a struggle to get it out with the ball in my throat. I try swallowing it to no avail. Just knowing that someone in my life has killed other people, it’s . . . it’s indescribable. And yet, I’m still not mad, or disgusted, or anything else. I know she regrets it. I know she can’t stand what she’s done. I still love her. She doesn’t deserve this pain. At least not to me.
“Can I say something?” I ask, finding my voice.
“Of course,” Logan sniffles.
“If forgiveness is what you’re looking for, you should know that you already have it. From me. I forgive you. I know that you may not forgive yourself for a long, long time, or maybe not at all, but during the really hard moments, I want you to remember that. I forgive you. I still love you, and I always will. No matter what.”
Logan’s eyes close and she squeezes my hand. “Thank you,” she whispers.
Before either of us can say anything else, something rustles next to me. Mom. Her arm moved. Staring at her, I can see that her eyes are fluttering now, too.
Her eyes open and her head slowly turns toward me. Her quivering hand reaches up and pulls the oxygen mask down. I’m about to tell her that she might need to leave it on, but she says my name before I can. “Juliana?”
“Yes, Mom. I’m right here.” I grab her hand. Tears continue to run down my face, for the third time today, and it’s not even noon yet.
“Where’s–” She clears her throat. “Where’s Clark?”
The weight of what she says hits me, making me feel like my heart just fell out of my body. The grip I have on her hand loosens. “Clark?”
“Your father. Where’s your father?”
No. She can’t really think that–that he’s still alive, can she? But she can. She has a concussion, and the doctors did say that she might not remember everything. I just didn’t think it would go back this far. I can only hope that it’s temporary.
Logan and I exchange a look and I clear my throat, preparing myself for what’s going to happen. “He’s dead, Mom. He died seven years ago.”
“I think–I think you hit your head, and you can’t remember. But there was a car crash seven years and he’s been gone since.”
The beeping on her heart monitor escalates. “No.” Tears stream down her face. “That can’t be true.” Her hand grips mine exceptionally tight considering the condition she’s in.
“I’m so sorry, Mom,” I whisper. She pulls her hand back, covers her mouth, and starts weeping. I feel like I’m experiencing the days after his death all over again, but for my mom, she really is.
Without warning, the door swings open and a nurse–not mine–walks in. She spots us and her eyes squint. “You’re not supposed to be in here right now. I need you to leave.”
Then you should’ve locked the door.
I manage to get out a small “sorry” on the way out, giving Mom one last look before going back to my room.
“Do you think she’ll remember it all later?” Logan asks once we’re in the hall.
“I sure hope so,” I say, wiping the wetness from my face. Not once do I trip on the way back to my room.
Upon opening the door, I find my nurse waiting inside. Mrs. Harrison, according to her name tag that I never bothered looking at before.
“Where have you been?” she asks. Her eyes drop to my legs and her mouth hangs open. “You’re–you’re walking.” He eyes meet mine, widening. “You’re walking. You were supposed to wait on the doctor.”
What a damn shame, I think, having to bite back my tongue to prevent from saying it.
“Well, it’s too late now, I guess.” She stares at me. “Sorry?” I offer. Wow, I’m acting like a bitch.
Mrs. Harrison sighs, running her hand over her caramel-colored hair, which has been pulled into a bun. “Whatever. I’ll let him know you already did it without him. Also, if we can’t convince you to run the tests– which you should, whatever happened to you could be used to help others–then we’ll need you to leave, preferably by tomorrow morning. This room is needed for other patients.”
“No worries,” I say. “As soon as I get some clothes, I’m gone.”
“Okay. If you didn’t already know, we got rid of the ones you came in in, so maybe your sister can bring you some?” She glances at Logan.
“I already brought some.”
“Well, good. I’m leaving now.” She walks to the door, then adds, “And go to the desk to check out when you’re about to leave. We can’t just let you walk out. Dr. Jacobs will need to talk to you, too.”
“Okay. Thanks.” This time she leaves, her bun bouncing along the way.
Logan grabs her bag, which she brought clothes in this morning, and hands me them. I take them into the bathroom to undress in there, stumbling once but righting myself before falling. I stand in there for a while, staring at my legs and admiring them. I feel like I must be the luckiest person on the planet. No one else is going to randomly get their legs back after being paralyzed. If some way they did, their legs sure wouldn’t be working like mine are. It would take a lot of time, a lot of work before they could progress to where I’ve gotten just within an hour. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having them work again.
But what’s the cost? echoes in my mind once again. This may not be a gift so much as a curse in disguise.
My stomach looks thinner than I remember. I guess that’s because I haven’t had a whole lot to eat lately, and now I’m reminded to how hungry I am. I finish pulling on my jeans and t-shirt before heading back into the hospital room, where I find Luke and Logan waiting.
They look at me, Logan’s arms crossed defensively, and I feel my heart racing. This is the guy who attacked us a few days ago. He should not be here. What is he doing here? And why hasn’t Logan socked him in the mouth yet?
“Julia,” he starts, “I need to talk to you.”
He takes a tentative step forward and I step back. “Don’t come near me.” I look at Logan. “Why is he here?”
“Just hear him out,” she says. I feel like smacking her, clenching and unclenching my fists a few times.
Gritting my teeth, I turn back to him. “Why are you here? Gonna try to kill me again?”
“No, no, I’m really sorry, please . . just listen.” Underneath the bright lights of the hospital room, his face looks washed out and pale, practically shining. But no bruises or scratches from his fight.
I squint at him, my head tilting to the side. “I don’t think you’re aware of how angry I am at you. What the hell is wrong with you? Who were you waiting on out there?”
“I’m really sorry, Julia. I am. I want to tell you everything, please, just . . . calm down,” he says in a taut voice.
“Do not tell me to calm down,” I say. “I will calm down when I am good and ready.” I pause, then sigh, seeing that he’s not going to leave until I let him speak. “Talk fast,” I give in.
“Okay. I see that you’re walking now. Do you know why that is?”
Not a good way to start, friend. “Do you know why?”
“Because you were bit by a werewolf,” he says bluntly.
I shift on my feet a little, staring at him. “Okay, so you do know. Explain.”
“That man who bit you–I–I met him. He offered to bite me, but . . but only if I could get you alone. He wouldn’t answer me on the why, he just said that, for whatever reason, he needed you. He also said that he used to know you, and he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.” I’m taken aback when he says that that man used to know me. What does he mean by that? I don’t know him. I know he was the one in my room last night now, from the letter, but I’m pretty sure I would remember it if I knew him.
“The thing is,” Luke continues, “is though I did want to be bit, I–I didn’t want to do what he said. Not really. But . . the way he talked to me . . . it was like–like he made me want it. Like he . . .” he trails off, his eyes looking up as he searches for the right word. “Like he compelled me. Yet, it still felt like it was my decision, but after he talked to me like he did, I had to agree. We had it all planned out, all I had to do was get you alone for him and then he would bite me in return. He said he’d been trying to do it for around a month but he could never find you alone to do it.
“I–I think he has some kind of . . of powers or something because after he talked to me like he did, I felt different. It was . . . really weird, I don’t know how to explain it. But I felt like I had to do whatever I had to to get you alone. So I did. I–I was trying to fight myself the entire time, but I couldn’t help it. Either way, it’s still my fault and I’m really, really sorry for what I did. I hope you didn’t get hurt.”
“So . . did he do it? Bite you, I mean,” I say. I purposefully ignore the last part of his little monologue.
“No. I haven’t seen him since.”
I peer at Logan, but she offers no help. “So . . um, has he been following me around for a month?”
“Apparently.” Goosebumps run down my skin and I give a small shiver. I mean, from what I read in the note, I suspected he might’ve been following me, but really? A month? An entire month? How much has he seen?
“Okay,” I say, running my fingers through my hair. “Thank you for telling me this. Do you have anything else you can tell me?”
He shakes his head. “No . . . wait, I know what he looks like. Dark hair, really dark eyes, looked to be middle-aged, a little wrinkled, and . . that’s about it. I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you more.”
“Okay,” I say, not knowing what else to say. I still feel kind of angry with him, but thinking about how he acted in the woods, I do believe what he’s saying. He seemed like he was out of it, so maybe he really wasn’t in control.
“I know this seems like a lot, but do you–can you forgive me? It’s eating me up inside and all I want to do now is help in any way I can.”
I take a deep breath, then gradually start nodding my head. “I–I do believe everything you told me, Luke. You did seem really weird that day and I don’t think you could help it, but . . can you give me some time? I appreciate you being brave enough to come here and everything, but part of me is still upset at you and I have a lot on my mind right now.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine,” he says, backing up a few steps. “I think it’s time for me to go now, anyway.”
“Yeah, of course,” I say, feeling a little bad. “I’ll . . I’ll see you later, I guess.”
He gives me a smile that looks more like a grimace, and keeps on backing up until he and Logan make eye contact. A look passes over him that I can only explain as regret, and they stare at each other for what seems like a long time, with me on the sidelines looking between the two of them. Then he walks out.
Oooookkkkaaaaayyyyyyy. I really hope Elijah and I don’t look like this.
“Do you really believe him?” Logan asks when he’s gone.
I nod. “I do. I really hate that this all happened, but I believe him. What about you?”
“Yeah,” she says, nodding, “I knew he couldn’t have done that to me on purpose.”
I twiddle my fingers nervously, convincing myself to tell her about the man that was in my room. I should’ve told her earlier, but I was just trying to push it out of mind. I need to tell her; she’s involved in this as much as I am.
“Logan?” I say, and she turns back around from having walked away.
“Yeah?” she says, glancing back at me.
“There’s something I need to tell you. That–that man that Luke was talking about . . he was in my room last night. I’m sure of it.”
She takes a few steps toward me, her neck arching forward. “What?”
“Yeah, um,” I begin, rubbing my neck, “I woke up and saw him leaving. He–he left me a note.”
She just stares at me with a blank face, probably steaming underneath. I hurry up and walk around the side of the bed, grabbing the note from under the pillow where I hid it earlier.
“Here.” I hold it out for her and she snatches it out of my hand, reading it with determination.
When she gets done, she looks up at me, arching her eyebrows. “And why did you not show me this immediately?”
“I’m–I’m sorry,” I say. “I don’t know why. I was just freaked out. I’m sorry.”
I see her jaw clenching, but she must restrain herself from yelling at me. She brings the letter back up, taking another look. “What is this ‘Holland’ thing about? Does he know Mom?”
“I don’t know, but it kind of sounds like it, doesn’t it?”
We visited Mom some more, and the doctor came and talked to us about the tests. He tried one more time to convince us, but Mom didn’t really give a crap about anything then, so she left it up to me. I, of course, said no. He was extremely disappointed, but let us sign a waiver and then I was free to go.
We stayed with her for a few hours, until she went back to sleep, and during that time she told us that we needed to get back to school as soon as we can. By Monday, at least, which I’m cool with.
Right now, I’m sitting on a concrete ledge outside, waiting for Logan to come out. She forgot her bag and went back to get it. There’s a girl sitting about five feet to my right, on the same ledge I am. Even sitting down, I can tell she’s tall. Her hair is blonde, similar to mine but with a darker shade. She’s staring down at her legs, just watching them swing back and forth, like she’s down in the dumps about something. Since I have time to waste, I decide to talk to her; see what’s wrong.
“You waiting on someone?” I ask, smiling cautiously. When she looks at me, I can’t help but feel . . feel like I’ve seen her before. Green eyes, slim nose, freckles spread around her nose and cheeks. I don’t know; she just seems familiar.
“No, not really,” she says in a silvery voice. “I just got tired walking–walking home and decided to sit down for a while.” She looks at me a little harder, her head moving forward. “You’re Julia, right? Or Logan?”
“Um, yeah, Julia. How do you know who I am?”
“We go to the same school. So what are you doing here?” Ah, school, that must be it. I’ve probably seen her in the halls or something.
“Oh, my mom’s in the hospital.” Her eyes widen and I hurry to continue. “Yeah, we were in a car wreck. We’ll be fine though. Do you live far away or something? For you to be tired, you know. Do you need a ride? Actually, why am I offering you a ride? I don’t have a car.”
She laughs. “Not exactly.” She rubs her ear anxiously. “I don’t really . . have anywhere to go. I mean, I do have a–a tent that I’ve been staying in, but . . . I didn’t feel like going all the way out there today.”
“Wait,” I say, “hold up. Where are your parents?”
She scoffs. “Please. I haven’t seen them in years. My dad died when I was a baby and my mom left me two years ago. I’ve been on my own since then. But I know how to take care of myself. I’m just a little worn out, that’s all.” She sighs and rubs her face. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Please, don’t tell anybody what I said–”
“You don’t think that I’m actually going to let you stay here, do you?”
“I kinda did.”
“Uhhh, no way. It’s dangerous and you need somewhere to stay. An actual house.” I hop off the ledge. “C’mon. You’re coming home with us.”
“Us?” she asks.
“Me and my sister,” I explain. The girl hops down next to me. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Tiffany,” she answers. Tiffany. That–I’ve heard that before. Where have I heard that before?
“Hey, Julia–” Logan comes walking up behind me, stopping when she sees the girl–Tiffany. “Who’s this?”
“Her name’s Tiffany,” I say. “She’s coming to stay with us.”
Logan’s eyebrows go up. “What now?”
“Yeah,” I say. “She doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She’s gonna stay with us for a while.”
“Julia, I’m not sure Mom’s gonna–”
“It’ll be fine,” I say. “We’ll convince her.”
Logan glances at Tiffany, then back to me. She closes her eyes, breathing in and out slowly, and I assume she’s forcing herself to count to ten in her head. She opens her eyes. “Okay, fine.” She looks at Tiffany. “I want to know more about you, but . .” She brings her eyes back to me. “She can come. But if Mom gets angry, it’s on you.”
“Perfect,” I say, turning back to Tiffany. “I hope you don’t mine, but we actually got to walk home.”
“No, we don’t,” Logan says, right as someone pulls up in a sleek, four-door mustang, painted silver. An older model, but still very nice.“I called Michele.”
“Oh,” I say, staring at the car. As nice as it is, I don’t want to get in it. All I can think about is how normal everything felt when I got into cars during my past two crashes, and, well, those didn’t turn out too well. One caused me to be paralyzed. The one I wasn’t in killed my father. The last hospitalized my mother, almost killing us both. I can see us now: flipping and banging and screaming as the mustang spirals out of control. No, I’m not getting in it.
“You know what, you two go ahead,” I say as they’re walking toward it. I gesture with my thumb toward the sidewalk. “I think I’m just going to walk.”
“What, are you sure?” Logan asks.
“Yeah, I’d like to get used to my legs again.” I look at Tiffany. “Sorry about this.” I start walking, though I don’t really want to leave Tiffany alone, in case I’m making her feel uncomfortable. Logan apologizes to someone behind me, and I hear footsteps jogging to catch up with me. Michele, one of Logan’s friends, speeds away in her car, and Logan and Tiffany appear on either side of me.
“What are you doing?”
“Walking with you, obviously,” Logan says. She doesn’t say anything else, though I have the feeling that she knows something is wrong and that’s why she’s walking with me.
We all talk to each other on the way home, asking questions to get to know each other. At some point down the road, a realization hits me, and once it does I can’t get it out of my head.
If Tiffany knows me from school like she says, she knows me as the paralyzed girl. So, why did she think I could be me after I walked outside and sit beside her? I just learned to walk again today, how would she know that? Why would she say my name before Logan’s when guessing who I was if I was walking?