My vision hasn’t adjusted to the dark whenever I get up, and by getting up so fast I get dizzy and almost fall over. The scream stops as I stumble to the door, and without warning, bump into something. A person.
I gasp and swing out with my fist, making contact with something.
“It’s me, it’s me!” I almost swing again but I stop myself when I recognize Tiffany’s voice. “I came home during the night!”
“Sorry,” I gasp. “You scared me. Did you hear the scream?”
“That’s why I got up. It must be-” She gets cut off by another shrill scream slicing through the air. We stop talking and race toward the door. I run into it and frantically feel for the doorknob, twisting it open when I find it.
The screaming stops by the time I reach the living room, and I’m shocked to see Logan still on the couch, asleep. The blanket is twisted around her hands, which are white from her firm grip. She’s dreaming, I realize.
Seeing that there’s not any intruders in the house doesn’t make it any less terrifying. I pause momentarily, but quickly realize that she’s still asleep and I need to wake her up. I fly over to the couch across the room, stumbling onto my knees right next to her on the floor. Up close I can see her face twisted in fright, eyes clenched shut and eyebrows forced together. A thin sheet of sweat lies across her forehead.
“Logan,” I say, putting my hands on her shoulders, prepared to shake her and wake her up. I hear Tiffany worriedly say my name behind me, but it’s drowned out by the sound of my own worry.
As soon as I touch Logan, something strange happens. The scene in front of me seems to mix with some other one, though I don’t realize it until I blink again and I’m no longer in the living room at all. I’m staring at dirt underneath my knees. What the hell?
I look around to find I’m surrounded by trees, though I’m in the middle of some kind of clearing. I get to my feet, looking around confused, and recognize where I’m at when I see the rock in the center of the clearing. The heart-shaped rock.
This is where we’re supposed to be meeting Marcus on Sunday.
I hear another scream, Logan’s scream, and when I turn around I spot Logan across the clearing. She’s kneeling over a body on the ground.
“Logan!” I yell, sprinting to where she kneels in a patch of yellow, dried-up grass mixed with dirt. She looks up at me when I reach her, and I come to a stop upon seeing the body on the ground. It’s mine. Covered in blood, and in the area where my heart should be, it’s ripped open. My heart lies on the ground beside my body, blood mixed with the dead grass and dirt.
I can feel Logan’s stare sinking into my skin, but I can’t look away from my body to see her expression. The body-my body-seems to flicker and it dissipates in front of my eyes. Gone. Just like that. It takes my heart and blood along with it.
I look back at Logan, more confused than ever, and see her face reflects how I feel. She looks from me to the ground, and back to me again. “What the hell is going on?”
“I-” I start, only to be interrupted by a hand on my shoulder pulling me back. My hands go out behind me to catch myself as I land on my butt, and then I’m in the living room again, on the ground. Logan’s awake now, and we stare at each other in shock.
“What was that?” I ask. I sense a shadow behind me and figure it must be Tiffany. “I-I was dreaming,” Logan says. “And then you showed up-the real you-and..and I guess my dream you disappeared. How did you get me to wake up though?”
My heart is still beating like a sledgehammer in my chest from the shock of everything, but I manage to get out, “I-I don’t know. I didn’t. Someone just…” I remember the hand pulling me back, that I fell on my butt, and the fact that Tiffany is standing behind me, and I put it together.
I must pause for too long, because Tiffany starts asking us questions. “What exactly happened? Were you in her dream? I followed you in here and you put your hands on Logan like you were going to wake her up, but then you just...stopped. Didn’t move, it was like you were frozen there. I said your name a few times but you didn’t respond. I got worried and pulled you back. Should I not have done that?”
I pull myself onto the edge of the couch next to Logan, shaking my head. “No, no, it’s a good thing you did. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten us out of there otherwise.” I take a deep breath and put my face in my hands, relieved that it’s over and that I actually know what’s going on for once.
“So you were in her dream,” Tiffany prompts. I put my hands back down and lean back in the couch. “I’m assuming that’s what happened. That is what happened, right, Logan?”
She nods. “I was just dreaming and then suddenly there were two of you and...how did you end up in my dream anyway? Why were you trying to wake me up?”
“You were screaming,” I say. “You woke us up and we were worried. I guess you were having a nightmare, then.” The thin layer of sweat covering Logan’s face seems to have lessened slightly from earlier. I can tell she’s more relaxed than earlier, understandably.
“Oh,” is all she says. Thank god that was just a dream. From the sound of her screams I thought she must have been dying. I visualize the image of my body laying on the ground, and figure something probably happened to me in her dream, and that’s why she was screaming. That’s how she would look if she was dead, I think. Not just me. I would be screaming too.
The sound of her screams though, she was so...utterly terrified. That’s the only way I can describe it. I can’t help but feel that I never want to hear the sound of her screams again, but now they’re engraved in my memory, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get them out.
Tiffany’s alarm goes off soon after, but by then we figure out that what happened, me entering Logan’s dream, must’ve just been another part of us...coming together. We should really come up with a name for that. The Fusion? The Combining? The Melding? How about The Merging? That’s it. I’ll call it The Merging.
Tiffany leaves for school around ten minutes later, and I go back into my room to collect all the papers I need for today’s plans. You’d think I’d be tired, but I guess interrupting someone’s dream can jumpstart your day. Although my eyes are still puffy, with dark circles underneath, making me look tired. I haven’t had much sleep the past couple days, so it’s understandable. I guess the rapid regeneration of wounds doesn’t work on being sleep deprived.
I change into a fresh pair of clothes, comb through the knots in my hair-hair that I really need to wash-and get all the papers and names and addresses I need. Today’s going to be an eventful day, sadly, because I just want to stay at the hospital with my mom and get some rest.
Walking through the hallway, I quite literally have to stop and grab onto my stomach, for I’ve gotten so hungry that it’s giving me sharp pains through my stomach. And I feel like I’m just dragging myself places, being forced to walk. If I’m going to get anything done today, I’m going to have to find some food.
I walk into the living room, and spot Logan sitting at the bar connected to the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal.
Sitting my paperwork on the couch, I ask, “Where’d you get that?” Without looking back she replies, “Tiffany bought us groceries.”
“She bought us groceries. She said that before she left, but you weren’t in here, I guess. Yeah, last night she must’ve went out and did whatever she did, then bought us groceries and brought them back.”
I think of the strange expression on her face in the car when I told he that banana was all I had to eat. Gosh, I didn't want her to go out and buy groceries because of it. She shouldn't have done that.
“Oh. Where’d she get the money?”
“I don’t really know, but she does have a job, so I’m gonna assume she got it from that.” I walk past her and into the kitchen, opening the fridge to reveal it filled to the brim with food and drinks. She really went all out. “Did you tell her thank you?” I ask.
“No, I cussed her out. Yes, of course I told her thank you.”
“All right, no need to be smart-aleck.” I open up the freezer door to the fridge, finding it stocked, too, and pull out a frozen pizza. I open it and put it on a pan, then in the oven.
“Are you seriously cooking a pizza for breakfast?” Logan asks, walking around me to put her bowl in the sink. “Yes. Yes, I am. And don’t think I’m about to share either.”
“Touche,” Logan says. I go into the living room and pick up the home phone from its holder, and find the botanical garden’s number. They’ve already opened, so I call them to find out if they have wolfsbane.
“Hello, this is Eastcliff Botanical Garden, how can I help you?” a polite woman’s silvery voice says.
“Hi, um..” Crap, what do I say? “I’m doing research over a specific type of plant and I wondered if you have any that I could take a look at?”
“I can find out. What species of plant is it?”
“Okay, give me a moment.” I wait for a few minutes, doodling on a sheet of paper while I wait. The woman eventually comes back on, bringing bad news with her.
“Ma’am? I’m sorry, we don’t have that species here. Is there anything else I can help you with?” I politely decline her offer and hang up, disappointed. Well, there’s still two more places to check. Maybe one of them will have some.
Once the pizza finishes, I take it out of the oven, setting it on the stove, and dig in. I eat quite a bit. Who am I kidding? I ate all of it. An entire pizza. I’m no longer hungry, but I’m not full either.
Upon finishing what I like to call breakfast, I grab a backpack from my closet and put the paper with Marcus’s number and address on it inside, along with a fresh notebook and pen, and even though it’s mostly empty I put it on my back. If I find the wolfsbane I’m gonna need something to carry it in.
I find Logan and tell her to hurry up and get ready because we’ll be leaving for the hospital soon to visit Mom. Little does she know I’m going to leave her there after an hour or so to go to Marcus’s house.
I once again check the time, urging the clock to go faster, and see it’s now 8:04. I wanted to wait until eight to call the greenhouses, because those are privately-owned places, and I don’t want to be rude and call too early. Especially since I plan to take some of their plants.
I dial the number for the closest greenhouse, the owner of which is some dude by the name of Matthew King.
On the third ring, he finally picks up, after making me worry that I wasn’t gonna reach him. I already have my story prepare and I get right to it after he answers.
“Hi, you own the greenhouse here in Eastcliff, right?”
“Yes. Why?” A flat voice says.
“Well, I’ve been searching for a certain type of plant that doesn’t really grow in this area. I’m doing research to see how it affects sick dogs. Do you think you can help me with it if you have any?”
He pauses. “What kind of plant?”
“Aconitum.” Nothing. He’s silent for so long I begin to think he hung up. “Hello?” I ask.
“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” he says quickly. “Um..what did you say you needed it for again?” Why is he acting like that? Is he suspicious? No, I’m overreacting. He’s probably just tired or really didn’t hear me when I said it or something.
“It’s for a research project of mine.”
“Oh...Okay, then. Yes, I have some. I’ll get off work at three-thirty. I can be there at four. Is that fine with you?”
“Yes, thank you so much. Have a good day.” I hear a click and know that he hung up. That was kind of..odd. But considering I’m getting a free plant, I don’t really care.
I get everything ready and as soon as Logan gets done, we leave for the hospital.
“You know Elijah hasn’t come to see me since I woke up. I’d really like to see him. Is everything okay?” my mom asks. She’s looking a little better, but she still has plenty of bruises and scratches all over her. When I asked, the nurse said she should be out in a couple days. Probably on Sunday, which means that if we need to, we may be able to take her and run somewhere. But I’m taking care of everything, so I shouldn’t have to worry about that.
“Yeah, he’s fine, it’s just his brother-the one that’s been gone for awhile-came back, so he’s spending a bunch of time with him right now. I’m sure he’ll be here as soon as he can, things have just been a mess. His-” I get choked and have to clear my throat before continuing. “His dad hasn’t been home in a few days. No one knows where he is.”
I feel absolutely terrible for lying to her like that, but Elijah and Kai are going to tell the police that he’s missing, and my story has to match it. If I didn’t tell her anything, which is what I really wanted to do, then she’d be upset I didn’t tell her sooner. So even though it hurts, I lie to her.
Speaking about it makes me think of Marshall again, but I push the thought away. I’m too busy to have an anxiety attack over this terrible man, and I refuse to let it get to me.
“Oh, that’s terrible, honey,” my mom says. “I’m sure he’ll turn up soon. Tell Elijah I’m here for him.” I swallow the lump forming in the back of my throat and say, “Okay, Mom.”
Logan walks in with some water for my mom and they start talking about something but I’m too busy thinking about other things to pay attention. It’s about time I leave, because even though I want to stay, it’s obvious now that my mom will be fine, and I will be able to visit her more when this is all over.
I just have to ask one more question before I leave.
“Mom,” I say, getting her attention. “Has that man that you know, Marcus, has he visited you anymore since last time?”
“No, he hasn’t. It probably has something to do with the way you treated him,” she says condescendingly. I brush off the comment because I know she would act the same way if she were in my position. After a few minutes, I go out into the hallway, trying to find a phone I can use.
I search along the walls for one, but find nothing, so I approach the first desk. Before I get there, I spot someone coming toward me out of the corner of my eye, and hear my name being called.
I tense up, but relax when I see it’s only Parker. Then tense up again, because it’s Parker.
I assume I probably look like a fish with my mouth gaping open, and I don’t know what to say as he walks up. “Julia, I have to talk to you, like, right now.” He grabs my arm and tugs me toward a bathroom down the hall, then locks it once we get in. It only has one stall, so only one person can use it at a time anyway.
“What is it?” I ask, knowing full and well what it is. He looks down at me, surprisingly calm, especially for him. It hits me that the last time I saw him was when I was in the hospital, in bed. This is the first time he’s seen me up and walking in years, like Sarah.
“Elijah told me..told me a lot of stuff, and...he seemed serious but I need to see it for myself.” It’s a rare occasion when I see Parker serious, but here he is. At first I think about denying it, but I know it’s too late for that. I need to tell him. Or in this case, show him.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I use the same approach as I did last night, giving me a small burst of joy, though it quickly fades away.
When I open my eyes I know they’re glowing. Parker flinches and his mouth hangs open, shocked, but he doesn’t go scrambling away or anything. He couldn’t if he wanted to; I’m blocking the door.
For a split second I imagine what it’d be like it scratch his neck with my claws, but I quickly shake the thought away. I focus for a few seconds, then shift back. It feels like I really got the hold of this.
Parker just stares at me, making me uncomfortable. I can feel my face heating up. I clear my throat, saying, “So.”
“So, it’s true,” he says. I nod, unable to get any words out. Is he scared? Or is he mad? He’s not reacting the same way Sarah did. Maybe he doesn’t want anything to do with me now. Whoa, whoa, slow down. He’s my best friend. If this happened to him, I’d accept it. Surely he can do the same. And besides, I thought the same things with Sarah, and that turned out fine.
“Why didn’t you tell me,” he says quietly, his hazel eyes staring into mine.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I wanted to, and if Elijah’s told you everything then you know I’ve been really busy, and..I was just worried about what you would think. What do you think?”
He pauses, then says, “I think that something really bad must be going on if you haven’t told me yet. Because the girl I was with a week ago would’ve told us immediately about all this. And for you to be so worried that you haven’t even cracked a joke within the few minutes I’ve been with you something must be seriously wrong. More than Elijah knows.”
I don’t say anything at first, but I force myself to swallow the ball in my throat and speak. “Well, you’d be right.”
“Care to elaborate on that?” he asks. I look at the clock on the wall, knowing that I really need to go see Marcus. But Parker’s also my best friend. I need to talk to him too.
“Okay, look, I really have somewhere important to be right now,” I say. “But if you don’t mind skipping more school, then you can walk there with me, and we can talk. You can’t go in though.”
“Mind? Of course I don’t mind. Mr. Thompson was about to give me heart attack. Thank god I left.”
“Well, good. I’m gonna need to use your phone though.” He gives me his phone without question and I find Marcus’s number, calling it. He answers on the third ring.
“Hello?” I freeze at the sound of his gruff voice, the voice that made me unable the voice, the voice coming from the man who wants to kill my sister, the man who threw me into a wall and choked me. Bit me. “Hello?”
I wake up at the sound of him repeating himself. I’m braver than this. I will not let him intimidate me.
“Marcus? It’s Julia. We need to talk.”
“So this is his house?” Parker asks as we walk up to Marcus’s house. It’s a typical suburban home: two stories, white wood panels layering the walls, brick steps leading up to a porch outside the front door, windows lining the sides, first and second floor. I don’t know why, but I expected something...more. This is just an ordinary house.
“Apparently,” I say. I told Logan that I was leaving before we left, but I didn’t tell her where. And since Parker was here, she probably just assumed I went somewhere with him, so it looks like Parker coming to the hospital was a good thing.
I explained everything to him in detail on the way over, including the stuff about “The Merging.” He seemed a little upset that I didn’t tell him about all this sooner, but he understood that I had other things to worry about.
“Look, are you sure you want me to wait outside?” Parker asks, looking at me expectantly.
“No, you’ll only be in the way. And I’m, like, eighty times stronger than you now, so it’s not like I need you to ‘protect’ me, or whatever.”
“All right, then. Be careful. I’ll wait out here.” We go up to the porch, Parker sitting on a bench and I knock on the front door. My heart flutters in my chest, and I start feeling really nervous, but I choke it back. I’m just here to convince him to not kill Logan. Nothing else. And even though he seems to have some anger issues, he really does seem like he doesn’t plan to hurt me. Can’t say the same for Logan.
I hear footsteps and anxiously fiddle with my fingers behind my back. I see the doorknob turning and the door starts opening, my heart racing though I don’t want it to.
“Come in. Your friend can come in, too, if he wants,” Marcus says, backing up to hold the door open.
“He’ll be fine out here,” I say, stepping into his house. It smells oddly like vanilla and cinnamon. I wonder if his wife is home. I hope not.
He closes the door and asks me to follow him, then leads me through a hallway and into a living area. Something odd that I notice, is that there are no pictures. Not one. But there are areas where it looks like there might have been pictures there before, like nails on the wall where people hang pictures, and empty spots on tables. Did he take down all the pictures before I came? Why?
“So why are you here?” he says, sitting down on a plush brown chair while gesturing to a couch several feel away, matching colors. I sit down, laying my backpack on the floor by my feet, and take a look around while saying, “I’m here to talk about Logan. I get why you want to kill her, but it doesn’t seem like you’re thinking logically on this.”
There’a a large white fireplace opposite the couch, a few candles lining the top, along with an empty space in the middle, which could be there for a picture frame. Upon seeing this much of their house, I can confirm that he does not do the decorating. Candles, flowers, various wall decorations, and so on, which I can’t really imagine Marcus buying for himself. In this room there’s a wall decal of a tree, big enough to spread across an entire wall to my left, that I kind of admire for my own bedroom.
I turn back to Marcus, seeing his jaw clench and unclench, and his left hand balls up before relaxing again. “And what do you mean by that?”
“What I mean is, you say you want to kill Logan because she killed people, and that’s completely understandable, as an alpha I wouldn’t allow that either. But when the person wasn’t able to control themselves, and you weren’t there to help show them how, that person feels guilty and show regret, then I think you can make an exception. What kind of example are you setting by killing someone who obviously doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. Someone who is an amazing person otherwise. The rest of your pack will be getting the wrong idea.”
He grins without showing his teeth, and I can almost feel the anger radiating off of him. He picks up a glass of water off of the coffee table in front of him and takes a sip, then sets the water back down. “But I’m setting an example to them by showing them that killing will not be tolerated, no matter the case.”
“And that’s good, but there are other things that you need to teach as a leader. That there are times to make exceptions. That mercy and forgiveness are good things, especially when given to the right person.”
Something flashes in his eyes, and I begin to worry that I’m never going to get through to him. Yes, I can. I can get through to him. I have to.
“I can’t,” he says. I stare at him blankly. “What?”
“I can’t forgive her for this. I can’t and I won’t. She deserves what’s coming to her. You would have to come up with something magnificent to convince me not to kill her.”
Why is he so angry about this? Like he’s never killed anyone.
“Look,” I say. “If you’re going to kill her because she killed someone, then you’re going to have to kill me, too. Because I killed someone, and you can’t kill one of us for it and not the other.”
All the blood seems to drain from his face, and his mouth hangs open. “Who did you kill?”
“Does it matter?” I say. “I killed someone. No one is ever going to find him, and you know what, I’m glad. I’m glad he is gone. And if you’re going to kill a girl that feels bad for what she’s done, then it should be a no-brainer that you have to kill the girl who doesn’t feel bad for it.” I definitely feel bad for killing Marshall, but Marcus is making me a tad bit angry, and I want him to understand. I’m controlling it, but I figure that this could make him see that he’s wrong.
“That’s different,” he says, shrugging it off.
“No, it’s not!” I give him a few seconds to see if he’ll say anything else, change his mind, quiet enough to hear a clock somewhere in the house ticking, but he doesn’t. So I take a different approach.
“Okay, so we both know that you plan to kill Logan on Sunday, but not me,” I say, gesturing with my hands. I’m sitting on the edge of the couch, too worked up to sit back. “And you want me to be a part of your pack. You want to train me and do all these things for you, but if you hurt my sister, then I won’t. I won’t be a part of your pack. I won’t let you train me. I will never help you. I won’t be anything to you.
“But if you agree to not hurt Logan, not kill Logan, then I will help you. I will work for you, train for you, I will do any and everything you say. I’ll even be your right-hand man if you want. Whatever you want. Just don’t kill Logan.”
I don’t really want to do anything he wants. I don’t want to work for him, I don’t want to see him, I don’t want to be a part of his pack, nothing. I want nothing to do with him, whether he knew my dad or not. But I’ll do it for Logan.
It’s nothing but silence for a long time, and I fear either answer he’s going to give me, but one more than the other. God, god, god, agree to it, just agree to it. Can you hurry up for crying out loud, you're making me so nervous. Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes. I don’t want to kill anybody. I don’t want to kill you.
And then he says it. The word that I knew somewhere deep inside I would get, the word I had been dreading to hear, is given to me.