I head back into Mom’s room, Logan trailing behind me. She says she’s not scared, but I know she is. I can feel it.
“Julia,” Mom says as soon as I walk in. “What did you say to him? He didn’t leave, did he?” Her voice is tight, angry with me.
I sit down in the chair Marcus was in, preparing myself to be yelled at. “Mom, do you know him?”
“Of course I know him. He was your father’s friend, and mine. We used to be close, but after your father–after he passed away, Marcus kind of fell of the map. He still lives in town, but he never came by anymore. His wife doesn’t either.”
“His wife?” I recall the wedding ring I saw on his finger. I don’t know, I just didn’t imagine him being married.
“Yes, Julia, his wife,” she says patronizingly. “He’s married. Has three daughters. Well, one of them passed recently. Poor guy. You probably remember them.” Three daughters? He has a family?
“Why would we know them?” Logan asks. She leans on the back on my chair.
Looking at Mom, I can see that she’s looking better. Her face looks less puffy, and she seems more awake, and therefore, angrier at me.
“Well, you’ve met them several times, even played with the younger two. But then again, you were pretty young, so maybe you don’t remember.” Her eyes drift back to mine and I can see the fire waving in them. “Why did you react like that when you saw him? And what did you say to him out in the hallway?”
“I–I thought he was someone else,” I lie. “And in the hallway I kinda asked him to leave.” I feel kind of bad for the lie, but I know I can’t tell her the truth. She wouldn’t believe me even if I did.
She squints at me, either not able to see me or confused by what I said. Probably the latter. “Now who did you think he was?”
I shake my head. “Just forget about it. It was my mistake. I’m sorry.” I move my left leg on top of the other and she stares down at them.
“What’s that?” She lifts her arm up to point at my jacket pocket. I look down and see the picture of Dad and Marcus is sticking out at the corner.
“Nothing,” I say, adjusting myself so that it no longer sticks out. “I was going to ask you about someone in it, but I remember now.” She stares at me, probably about to ask to see the picture, but Logan jumps in and saves me before she can.
“So are your memories coming back now?” she asks. I can feel her weight against the back of my chair.
“Most of it. Although you still look older than I remember. I’m–I’m sorry about yesterday.”
I shake my head, and I think Logan does it, too, a the same time. “That wasn’t your fault,” I state. “You didn’t know.”
“Yeah,” Logan chimes in. “And at least you’re getting your memories back now. That was actually pretty fast. They’ll probably all be back within a few days.”
Logan pulls up another chair and we end up staying for only a few hours. She still seems a little out of it from the drugs, and she probably needs more rest anyway. A nurse comes in before we leave and I ask her how long it will be until she’s able to leave. The nurse guesses at a few more days, at the least. We thank her and then Logan and I go on our way, now one o’clock in the afternoon. I keep thinking about what Marcus said with the test thing. I’m not going to do it unless I have to, but I don’t know what exactly he’s going to do, or when. Not only that, but I should talk to Sarah and Parker soon, and I should definitely check on Elijah. I also need to figure out what I need to do about Sunday. This is going to be a busy few days.
Logan and I walk back home, silent for most of the time. My mind keeps drifting back to Elijah so I know that I’m going to end up over there sometime today. We eat, and then I grab a phone and call him.
He answers on the second ring. “Hello?” He sounds okay. God, I hope he really is okay. Yeah, I should definitely go over there. What if Kai’s there? What am I gonna say to him? Thanks for hiding your father’s dead body for me? Maybe not that. I still need to talk to him sometime. You know, that’s really great: I wait for months to finally meet him, and then I just go and kill his dad in front of him. I start to pace back and forth in the kitchen as I stress over my thoughts.
“Hello?” Elijah repeats.
“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” I stutter. “It’s me. I just wanna know how you’re doing. And how Milton and Kai are too.”
I can hear him laugh a little on the other end. “Yeah, no need to worry about Kai any. I’m not sure he feels any emotions sometimes. But yeah, we’re fine, Juliana. What about you?” I try to judge the sound of the voice to see if he’s lying, but it’s hard to tell over the phone. He doesn’t sound like he is; his voice is still soft, a contrast from last night.
“I’m fine,” I say. “I now I freaked out last night, but . . I’m good now. And I’m just glad you’re doing okay.”
“Good, good. Are you home? Can I come over if you’re not busy?” I stop pacing and glance at the crack in the wall from where I hit it. It runs sideways, about three feet wide.
“Um . . yeah, I’m home. But I think it’d be better if I went over there.”
Once again, it’s Kai who opens the door after I knock. He’s wearing a gray pullover hoodie and dark pair of jeans, paired with a brown set of loafers that do not match whatsoever. What the hell are those?
Before coming here, I talked with Logan, but she said she wanted to get some sleep and to call her when it’s time to go get Tiffany.
“Elijah invite you here?” Kai asks. I nod, feeling even more tense now that I see him face to face. What do I say?
He opens the door wide enough for me to come in, closing it behind me when I pass through. I notice we’re the only ones present; Elijah is probably still in his room.
“So,” I start, clearing my throat. “What, um, what did you do with . . with–”
“With Marshall’s body? I buried it. In the woods, where no one will be finding it anytime soon.” He has a nice voice, I think. It’s not like Elijah’s, more like– Julia, focus. This is not what you came here for.
“You know, we made a pretty good team,” he says. “You kill ‘em, I’ll bury ‘em. We should do this again next week.” He smiles, his white teeth blinding me momentarily. I stare at him, dumbfounded.
“Tell me you’re not talking to them this way.”
“No worries there. It’s not like we just sit around talking about it,” he says sarcastically. A door creaks open from down the hallway, so I assume either Elijah or Milton is coming our way. Unless Milton went to school, but I doubt they made him.
We turn to see who it is coming down the hallway and I lean closer to him. “I don’t what those are on your feet, but I really think you need to reassess wearing them. Anytime,” I whisper in his ear. I pull back as Elijah walks toward us and I’m pretty sure I see Kai smiling out of the corner of my eye. I can see the marks on Elijah’s neck from where Marshall choked him, along with a swollen jaw and a couple of small cuts. I, however, will never have any marks like that again. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I will always heal faster than any bruise can come to light.
“You know, I was thinking that we should take Milton somewhere to do something,” Elijah says as he comes to a stop in front of us. “Try to–to take his mind of last night. And your first meeting wasn’t the greatest so you can get to know each other too.” He glances between us, waiting for an answer.
“I have to be at the school at three, but I’m fine with that,” I say. I glance at Kai, expecting a smart-aleck remark, though that’s not what I get.
“Sounds great. Where we going?” So is he just sarcastic to me, or is he just nice to his brothers?
“I don’t know. Let’s ask Milton,” Elijah answers. He turns and walks in the direction of Milton's room. I hear Kai muttering to himself under his breath as we follow him.
“Of course. Ask the five year old where to go. This should be good.” I bite my lip so I don’t laugh and fall into step behind Elijah.
“Can’t we just walk?” I ask. We’ve made it outside by now, standing next to Kai’s car. We used to have one almost exactly like it until it was totaled in the wreck, so I know the make and model on it. A sleek 1966 Chrysler Imperial with emerald green paint that sparkles in the sunlight like a gemstone.
“The festival is six miles away, Julia,” Kai says. He studies me for a moment, then, with one corner of his mouth edging upward in a grin, he jokingly adds, “Tell me you’re not afraid of cars.”
“Of course not,” I say a little too fast. “Let’s just go.” As I hustle toward the car, I see him raising his eyebrows at Elijah, a smirk on his face. I’m reaching for the back door handle when Elijah speaks up.
“You can sit in the front.” No, no, and no, I think. I don’t want to ride in this green bean anyway, let alone in the front. I can’t exactly say that aloud though, or at least I refuse to do it, so I just clench my eyes shut and sigh. I slide into the front seat, the door already open from Kai opening it for me.
He walks around to the driver’s side as Elijah and Milton get in the back. I grip the door handle as we back out of the driveway and into the street. My eyes squeeze shut and I try to keep the image of my car wrecks out my head. I keep my head turned to the right, hoping no one sees me holding on for dear life. My heart pitter patters in my chest and I tell myself to think about anything but crashing, anything but crashing, anything but–
“Wow, I didn’t think you were actually scared of cars,” Kai’s voice says. I open my eyes but keep them looking out the window.
“I am not,” I hiss through gritted teeth, at the same time that Elijah says, “Dude, she’s been in two car wrecks. That’s why she was in the hospital, you idiot.”
“Holy crap,” he says. I can feel his eyes burning into my skull. “Two car wrecks? And you’re, like, what, twelve?”
“I am sixteen,” I state, annoyed. “I will be seventeen on the eighteenth.” My heart has begun to slow down as he bugs me, my grip on the door loosening a bit. Part of me wonders if that was the idea.
“So . . . tomorrow?” Kai suggests. Look at the road, look at the road. I sigh, exasperated.
“No, tomorrow is n . . .” I trail off as I remember what day it is. November the 17th. Tomorrow is my birthday. “Oh my god,” I exclaim, turning to look at him. “It is my birthday tomorrow.” I don’t even notice that I’m no longer holding on to the door.
“Yeah,” Kai laughs, “that’s why I said it.” His laughter, surprisingly enough, sounds warm and genuine, like a child’s. I tense up when he glances at me, smiling.
“Look at the road,” I say quickly. My eyes dart to the street flying by in front of us.
I see Kai’s eyes glance up at his rearview. “I thought you said she was smart, Elijah.”
“Hey,” I say, wanting to hit him but not wanting to wreck. I glance back at Elijah, everything forgotten for a split second as I look into his eyes.
“So,” I say, turning back around. “Did you get a girlfriend while you were away?”
“No.” Kai shakes his head.
“Did you make any friends?” I question.
“Not really,” he answers, keeping his eye on the road.
“I wonder why.” He gives me a dirty look and I crack up on the inside. A few minutes passes by before we arrive at the festival Milton wanted to go to. I’m pretty sure he probably wants to go on the rides, which I doubt any of us really want to do besides him, but I’ll do it for him. Upon seeing all the people, I start to worry. What if something happens and I lose control? Like I did with Marcus at my house. I can hear it perfectly now: necks snapping. I can feel it underneath my fingertips, vibrating through the rest of my body like an aftershock.
Kai’s hand waves in front of my face and I realize I’ve been zoning out. They had already walked away before noticing me. I blink hard, then force my legs to follow them. I don’t realize that I’m shaking until Elijah falls into step with me and entwines his hand in mine. It stops shaking. Neither of us say anything, but I’m pretty sure he knows what I was thinking about.
Twenty minutes passes as we take Milton to play games, and I begin to relax a little. I haven’t killed anyone yet, so I think I’m good. I spend most of my time at first with either Elijah or Milton, but talk to Kai more when I think about how I should be at least trying to get to know him. He actually doesn’t have a bad sense of humor, although I still find him slightly annoying. He tells me that he plans on getting legal guardianship over Elijah and Milton, and then move into another house. I agree with him on that. They may have lived in that house all of their lives, but it’s not their home.
I feel Milton tugging on my arm and look down at him. He points at something to his left. “Ride on the ferris wheel with me.” I drag my eyes over to where he’s pointing, finding the giant ferris wheel towering over most of the other rides.
“The . . ferris wheel?” I repeat. He nods. I gulp, dreading it already, but preparing myself to do it for him.
“All right,” I nod. “Let’s go.” The four of us are standing in line when we see a man scolding a young boy by the gate. The boy is probably around Milton’s age, and the man–his father, I assume–is nearly yelling at him. It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong though, so I don’t bother listening to what he’s saying. Elijah does though. He’s staring hard at them. He wears a blank expression, and as I watch him it hits me that he must be thinking of his dad.
“Elijah.” I put my hand gently on his arm, all three of us staring at him. He doesn’t respond and I’m about to repeat myself, but then he speaks up.
“I’ll be back,” he says quietly, still staring at the father and son. I let him go and he walks away, disappearing into the throng of people. I exchange a look with Kai, his expression showing what I feel: a mixture of sadness and worry.
“Should we go after him?” I ask. He shakes his head so I stay. I really want to go after him, but he’s long gone by now. Plus, I have Milton. I can’t imagine what he’s really going through, the things he has been through, and I have no way to help him. To be hurt so badly by someone you love is one of the worst things that could possibly happen to someone in my mind.
Milton slides his hand into mine and I try to focus on acting happy for him. To be honest, I’m surprised Kai is even going to go on the ride with us; it doesn’t seem like his thing. Doing it for his brother, I guess. I get more and more nervous with every step as the line scoots us closer to the entrance. It seems like no time and we’re getting on the ride ourselves, the three of us packed into one capsule. Milton sits in the middle and I sit on the left to make for a quick exit.
The operator starts the ride and we begin rising in the air. I grab the rail and hold onto it like it’s my lifeline. I keep my eyes shut as tight as I can get them. My heart is racing faster now than it was when Marcus attacked me. I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.
“Oh my god,” Kai says. I peek my eyes open enough to see him looking at me. “You’re afraid of heights.”
“Pfft,” I scoff. “Now what would make you think a thing like that? My white knuckles or the shut eyes?” Milton giggles a little and I smile at the sound of it.
“Unbelievable,” Kai says. “I’m with you for an hour and I find out that you’re afraid of car rides and heights. Anything else I should know about?” I can see his white teeth practically reflecting the sunlight out of the corner of my eye.
“I love cats, but cats don’t love me,” I say, my voice sounding strained. I manage to completely open my eyes, but from my peripheral vision I can see we’re at the top of the ride. My knuckles have turned completely white from my death grip and I lock my eyes on Kai’s because if I don’t I’ll end up looking at the ground.
“What about you? What are you afraid of?” I’m trying to keep myself distracted, but it’s not working very well.
Kai shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
I look down at Milton next to me. “Milton, what’s he afraid of?”
“He’s afraid of letting himself care about people in case they get hurt or die.” I stare dumbfounded at Milton, wondering where that came from and if he’s right. He continues to stare straight ahead, ignorant to how deep that actually was. I realize Kai is probably majorly uncomfortable after that and that maybe I should say something to make him less so.
I glance at him, my eyebrows raised. “That got deep.”
“And spiders,” Milton adds.
My eyes meet Kai’s and I put a huge grin on my face. “Really? I actually have a pet spider at home. Maybe I should bring it over sometime.”
“Don’t.” He shakes his head and I laugh. Milton seems to enjoy the rest of the ride, but as soon as that safety bar pulls up at the bottom, I bolt out of there. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m still not going to be riding it again. What Milton said up there keeps drifting back into my mind. Sometimes he says things like that and I forget how old he really is. He sounds so much older.
“Milton, I love you,” I say, “but we’re never riding that again.” We weave our way past the groups of people until we’re mostly alone. Now we need to find Elijah.
“Let’s check the bathroom before we call him,” I suggest. After a good ten minutes of searching, we finally find the bathrooms. It’s packed here and I’m ready to leave before something goes wrong. I need to leave soon anyway, so I’m hoping to just find Elijah and leave. I wait outside with Milton as Kai goes inside to check, only to come out a minute later to tell us he’s not in there. I feel my anxiety level going up, but I try to wait patiently as he pulls out his cell phone to call him.
We hear a phone ringing inside the bathroom, and I furrow my brows because it sounds just like Elijah’s. Kai must notice it, too, because he makes a confused expression before saying, “Wait here.”
I almost follow him in there, but I restrain myself. C’mon, Elijah, where are you? I start shaking my knee, getting seriously worried though I try to keep it from rubbing off on Milton. I hate the way this place smells. A mix of different types of food, burnt rubber, all the people’s unique scents, even some smoke. It’s giving me a headache.
I hear the door squeaking as it open and my head shoots up, but it’s only a couple of older men coming out. Then, Kai leans out and says, “It’s empty now. You can come in.”
I take Milton’s hand and drag him in with me, to be sure he doesn’t run off anywhere. The walls are a dingy white with random writing scribbled across at various places and the stall doors look beat up, some of them even missing. The sinks themselves are dirtier than the hands being washed in them. The worst is the smell: like a sewer. It’s disgusting and I struggle to keep myself from gagging. I’m not sure who could even go to the bathroom in here without throwing up.
“Did you find anything?” I ask. He holds up a cell phone: Elijah’s phone. It has a few small scratches, and one corner of it is chipped like he dropped it. I furrow my brows at it. “That’s his phone, but where is he at?”
“I don’t know,” Kai says. “Maybe he dropped it on his way out or something. We should go look for him.”
“Give me a second,” I say, gliding past him. Something doesn’t feel right, but I can’t put my finger on it. Kai’s right, he probably just dropped it, but . . it feels like something else. Marcus’s quote from the hospital. What–what if this is it? What if Marcus did this? Julia, shut up, you’re overreacting.
I take in every detail of the bathroom, though I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I make it to the second to last stall before Kai calls out to me.
“Um . . Julia? You might want to look at this.” I see him staring down at Elijah’s phone and I hurry over to him.
“What is it?”
“What is this?” he asks as he hands the phone to me. My eyes fall onto the screen and I find that someone has left a note for me; a message. I read it and shove my face into my hands, groaning. No, no, no, not now, not now. You weren’t supposed to involve Elijah.
The message on the phone isn’t necessarily a message: more like instructions. Instructions on how to get Elijah back. I was right when I had that thought earlier. God-fucking-damnit, Marcus. Why’d you have to take Elijah to make me take your damn test?