Tick . . tick . . tick.
The clock is the only thing still making noise in this house. It’s practically dead silent...which is a terrible choice of words.
I can’t get my eyes to tear away from the sight of his lifeless body laying on the floor. My claws go back in without me realizing it. What did I do? What did I just do? Elijah is just as frozen as I am, staring at his father. My entire body begins to shake. I killed him, I killed him, I killed him. Why–why did I do that? I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to. Oh god, what did I do?
My breathing hitches and I start hyperventilating, my hands pulling at my hair. “I–I didn’t mean to!” My voice is high-pitched, hysterical, and I can’t stop it. What did I do, what did I do? My eyes stay glued to his limp form on the ground. He’s dead. Because of me. “What did I do,” I whisper. “What did I do?”
“Julia.” Kai’s voice bounces off the invisible wall surrounding me. He puts his hands on my shoulders and spins me around, my hands falling to my sides. “Julia.” He says it more forcefully and this time I hear him. My eyes pull away from Marshall and numbly look into Kai’s. “You’re okay. It’s okay. You didn’t mean to. He was coming at you.”
“No,” I whisper, shaking my head. “I killed him. I–” Hot, wet tears flood down my face. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” His eyes soften and I can see pity reflecting back in them. I killed their dad, I killed their dad, I killed their dad. What . . . what am I going to do?
“Elijah,” Kai says, his eyes locked on him still on the ground behind me. I want to look at him, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m not sure I can handle seeing his reaction. “Elijah, are you okay?” Kai asks slowly. “Do you think you can handle Milton and see if you can calm Julia down?” Elijah must nod because he continues. “Okay. I need you to get up. Don’t look at the body, just go into one of the rooms and see if can both calm down. I’ll take care of this.”
My brain comprehends enough for me to hear what he said. “Wait, what does that mean?” I ask. “What are you going to do?”
His head turns back to me and he must realize he’s still gripping my shoulders. He lets his arms drop, looking at the ground. “I said I’ll take care of it.”
I hear Elijah moving toward me and I finally muster up the courage to look. “C’mon, Juliana. Let’s go.” Juliana. He still called me Juliana. I study his face the best I can in my daze. It’s wet and he sniffles, so I know he’s crying. The blood is mixed in with the tears across his face. He keeps his head down, refusing to make eye contact. He’s ashamed of me, mad at me. Is he scared of me?
I want to stay here and see what Kai meant, but I can’t find it in my heart to start an argument right now. Elijah grabs onto my arm gently, as if he’s gonna hurt me, and pulls me along with him. My feet go along, although I couldn’t have felt them any less when I was paralyzed.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, gazing at him. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look at me. I bite back my hysteria and continue walking.
The memory continues to play over and over again in my head. My feet stepping forward, my hands twisting his neck. I can feel his spine snapping underneath my palms, an earthquake vibrating through my body. It echoes in my ears even now, like a piece of wood breaking. The sound itself wasn’t very loud, but with my newly advanced hearing, it sounds thunderous.
We end up at the end of the hallway, going into Milton’s room. We leave him in Elijah’s room, considering him seeing us like this isn’t going to help anyone. At least he didn’t see what happened. See what I did.
I sit on the bed, with Elijah pacing back and forth in front of me, running his fingers through his hair.
“Elijah,” I beg, reaching out for his hand. I hate seeing him in pain. And this time it’s because of me. “Elijah, please. I’m so sorry. I–I just saw him hit you and he was going to hurt you and–and I couldn’t let him. I just . . reacted. If that was–that was you, and I was the one being hurt, wouldn’t you have done something? Please look at me. Please.” I’m not sure how I’m going to convince him of this when I can’t even convince myself, but I’m trying. Any sense of pride I had before now is gone. I have to make him understand. I have to. I don’t know what I would do if he hated me.
Elijah stops pacing and brings his head up to look at me. “I’m not mad at you, Juliana. I’m mad at myself. It was my fault he attacked me in the first place–”
“No,” I say, tears still running down my face. “It is never your fault. It shouldn’t have been happening in the first place.”
He stares at me for a moment then continues talking. “Either way, I shouldn’t have let you stay here, I knew something was going to happen; I knew it. I should’ve never let things get this bad. And he,” he yells, “he should’ve never done these–these things!” His voice raises from its normal, calm tone until he’s yelling at the top of his lungs. His voice is always soft, always calm. Always. He never yells like this.
“No,” I say, shaking my head, “he shouldn’t have. None if this is your fault. Don’t be mad at yourself like it is. The only one in the wrong is me and him, and now all there is is me.” His eyes meet mine and a ball rises in my throat. My mouth starts moving on its own, and I can’t stop it. “I . . I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to.” I can’t even make out what I’m saying because I’m sobbing so hard. I was trying to comfort him, but I can’t even stop myself from talking.
The thing is. . . didn’t I mean to? I’m the one who took the step, the one who reached and grabbed him. Why didn’t I hit him with a frying pan or knock him out of the way? I could’ve just decked him. Why didn’t I? I knew what I was doing. I can’t even lie and say it was self-defense. It wasn’t. It was murder.
Elijah glides over two steps and kneels in front of me. His arms wrap around my back and pulls me close to him. His hands rest behind my head, our foreheads touching.
“Shh. It’s okay. It’s okay.” I’m still shaking and crying, but I feel more in control with him here. I rest my arms around his neck, my eyes clenched shut. I try to steady my breathing. We sit there for what seems like hours, both of us using the other to steady ourselves.
I finally open my eyes, seeing his still closed mere centimeters from mine. “Elijah . . I’m really sorry,” I whisper. My voice is much stronger sounding than before, and I feel a little more put together, though I probably shouldn’t after what happened.
He pulls back a little. “Stop it. I don’t want you to be sorry.” He brushes the hair out of my face. “I . . I thought I would be sad when he hit the floor, but . . I wasn’t.” His eyes wander around the room. “I thought is he ever died, I would be heartbroken, but I’m not. I’m . . . I’m happy. I’m glad he’s gone. The only part of him I loved was how he was when I was a child and my mom was still alive. But he hasn’t been that man in a long time. So don’t be sorry. You did the human race a favor.”
“I shouldn’t figured this out a long time ago,” I say. “I’m a terrible girlfriend. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you like I should’ve been.”
“Juliana, you didn’t know because I didn’t want to you to know. It’s not your fault. I should’ve–I should’ve done something a long time ago, but . . Anyway, you were there for me. By just being there, you were there for me. You just didn’t know it.”
I take a deep breath, my breathing finally steady. I pull away and take his hands off my face, our hands tangling together between us. My hands finally stop shaking.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask quietly, gazing at our hands. I glance up at him and he looks away. I catch his red eyes, crying, before he does it though.
“I was just . . . I was afraid. My father . . he was a terrible person,” he says slowly, as if it hurts him to say it. His voice fades into a soft whisper as he continues. “He was so, so violent. Before my mom passed, he was fine. Actually, he was good. But then he started drinking. It ruined him. With it came the beatings, the belts, the–” He closes his eyes, his jaw clenched. “Whatever he deemed fit. I never told you, or anyone, because . . well, because Kai tried to once. The next time I saw him he had a broken arm. And he told us if we tried to, he’d–” He sucks in a breath, obviously struggling to brace himself. “He said he’d hurt Milton and . . and I believed him. I wouldn’t take that chance. When–when Kai left and he didn’t–he didn’t take us with him, it just . . .” He trails off and doesn’t seem capable of finishing.
I watch as he bites his lip, his head completely sideways from me, trying to hide his pain. His body starts shuddering and he can’t hold it in anymore. He’s been holding it in for too long. The sobs break loose. I slide off the bed onto the black shag carpet beside him and pull him in, kissing his neck before setting my head on his shoulder. His face is probably getting blood on my clothes and hair, but I don’t care. I can feel his body twitching against mine.
“We were just little kids,” he cries in my ear. “How could he do those things?”
Water if forced from my eyes yet again. “I don’t know,” I whisper. “I don’t know.”
We stay there, holding each other, for what could be hours or even days. I let him sob, silently crying for his pain to myself. Eventually, the crying slows to a stop and we pull away from each other. Now I can hear the banging echoing in the house. Milton. We were supposed to get him out.
Elijah looks around, confused by the sound. “I locked Milton in your room,” I explain. He stands up, pulling me up by my hands along with him.
“I’ll go get him,” he says, wiping his face clear of blood and tears as best he can.
“Are you sure?” I ask. He nods. “Okay. I–I think I’m gonna go to the bathroom for a second.”
“All right.” He leans in, kissing me slowly and passionately on the lips. I melt into him. Everything is erased from my mind for just one moment, but it quickly ends when Elijah pulls away, preventing it from going any further.
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you too.” Then he lets go and walks out. I follow him out the door, waiting until he disappears into his room before opening the bathroom door.
Staring into the mirror, I see my red, swollen eyes staring back. I can still imagine how they looked earlier, when they were glowing bright green. How my entire face looked: the teeth, the ears, the eyes, the claws. An animal. I wonder if that’s how I looked when I broke his neck. I have blood spotted on my shirt, face, neck, and hair. Very few of it is my own.
“No,” I whisper, shaking my head. I’m not going to think about this right now. Upon turning the handle, water pours out of the faucet and down the drain. I cup my hands, letting them fill with water before splashing it over my face. I look back in the mirror, back at my eyes. Eyes that could so easily turn green at a moment’s notice. I listen to my heart beating and try making it escalate. All I have to envision is Marcus pulling me from the car wreck and it works. My eyes glow. The sound of Marshall’s neck snapping rings in my ears. You murdered him.
My fist shoots forward, causing the glass to shatter and fall into the sink and floor. I watch as a cut on my hand heals right in front of me. It disappears within seconds, as if it was never there. That’s not natural, I think.
“Stop it,” I hiss to myself. I shut off the water and tell myself not to think of anything, to just do what I need to do for now. I wipe my hands on my jeans and reach for the door when I hear a knock on it.
“Julia, are you all right?” Elijah asks.
I yank the door open. “I’m fine.” His eyes go from me down to the broken glass scattered around my feet and sink. I glance at it myself, then spin back to him. “Sorry about the mirror.” I wipe my nose. “Is Milton okay?”
“He’s fine. Just upset we locked him in a room. He’ll get over it.”
“What about Kai? Where is he at?”
“Um . . you should look at it yourself,” he says, leading me into the kitchen. I’m confused, but see that the kitchen is completely empty: no body and no Kai. Elijah grabs a scrap of paper off of the white, peeling countertop and hands it to me.
I’m taking care of the body. Don’t worry about it. We’ll call the police tomorrow and report him missing. I’ll be back within a couple hours. I’m trusting the two of you to handle yourselves alone. Don’t do anything stupid. -Kai
“No . . he can’t do that,” I say.
“I know. He should’ve took us with him.”
“No, he shouldn’t have done it at all,” I say. “I–I did this. I should have to pay for it. If he gets caught, or–or if this comes back to us, I can’t let you guys get in trouble. This was me, not you.”
“Not anymore,” he says, shaking his head. I see him glance into the living room, where Milton is standing ten feet away listening. He lowers his voice. “We’re all in this now. All three of us.”
“No, I reply, shaking my head. “No, I killed him.”
“No, we killed him, Juliana.” I close my eyes and sigh. Sometimes I wonder if dating someone this stubborn was a mistake. No. No, it wasn’t. It was one of the best decisions you've made.
Now that I’ve calmed down, or at least, better than earlier, I realize something: I forgot about Logan.
“Oh, god,” I say. “Logan.”
“What?” Elijah asks.
“I told her I was going for a run and I left her there with this girl we just met. She’s gonna be so pissed, can I use your phone?”
“Just go home. We’ll be okay here. You’ve been here a long time.”
“What? No, I can’t just . . leave. I mean, after what I did–”
“What we did,” he corrects.
I sigh. “After what we did, I can’t just–just go home. I gotta . . I gotta–”
“You should go home is what you should do. I, of course, would love it if you stayed, and you’re absolutely welcome to if you need to, but it sounds like you need to go home. It’s up to you. We’ll be fine until Kai gets back.”
I hesitate, seriously considering just calling Logan and staying here. But no, he’s right, I need to go. “Are you sure you don’t need me here?”
“Yes,” he says. “Go.”
I close my eyes. “Okay. Okay, okay, okay,” I say, shaking my head. I briskly kiss him on the mouth. “I love you.”
He returns the phrase as I speed-walk toward the door. I notice Milton sitting on the floor, coloring on a piece of paper. Reaching for the door handle, I decide to at least tell him goodbye. I don’t what is going to happen from here on out. I don’t know when the next time I’ll see him will be.
“Milton,” I say, squatting down next to him. “I’m really sorry, but I have to leave.”
“Are you going to come back?” he asks, continuing to color.
“Yes. As soon as I can, I’ll be back. I’m not leaving. Well, I am leaving, but not for good.” Good job, Jules. “And I’m sorry I locked you in Elijah’s room for so long. Things were happening and . . yeah. I’m sorry.”
He stops coloring and looks at me, and I realize for the first time that his eyes are the same chocolate-brown color as Kai’s. Except Milton’s seem much more welcoming. Much more innocent, too.
“What happened to my dad?”
“Um . . he–he left.” I swallow.
Milton looks at the floor. “He’s not coming back, is he?”
“No. No, he’s not,” I whisper. I watch as he eyes start to water and prepare myself to comfort him if starts to cry.
“Good,” he says, returning to his coloring. I’m shocked, but I realize that he has to have known what was going on. His dad . . beating Elijah. No wonder he’s happy.
“Anyway, um, can you . . can you not tell anybody what happened tonight? We could get in trouble.”
“Okay,” he says, not even looking up. It feels as if my heart shatters watching him. All he’s known his entire life was how his dad has been treating them. He never met the good version of him. I’m not sure how much he understands of what really happened tonight, but I’d be willing to bet he knows more than anyone thinks he does.
But now he’s finally free. I freed him. My brief moment of elation quickly dies off when I think of what I had to to get him that.
“Well . . okay then,” I say. I squeeze him tightly, kissing the top of his head. He still doesn't hug me back. “I have to go now. I love you.”
I get up and actually make it out the door this time, waving to Elijah as I go. Upon stepping outside, I see that it’s now raining. Great. I pull up my hoodie, sucking in a deep, long breath, allowing myself a few seconds to just breath. To numb myself to what has happened.
What have I done? I shake my head, trying to clear it. Get it out of your head, Julia. I take off under the downpour of rain, jogging home without a single thought in my mind.