“Are you gonna get out?” Logan asks. We’re parked outside of Elijah’s house. I put it off as long as I could but I had to come here eventually. So here we are.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Just give me a second.” I close my eyes and take a deep breath. You’re doing this for him, Jules. It’s better for him to be gone and alive, then here and dead. He’ll move on eventually, and so will you.
“All right,” I say. I open my mouth, about to say something to Logan when I see that she’s fallen asleep, her head kicked back. I smile and decide to just leave her there. She must be tired. I guess I’m not the only one who’s been having nightmares.
I push myself out of the car and up the steps to their house. I let myself in. I don’t see anybody at first but I hear something to my right. After moving forward, I see that Kai is laying face-down on the floor, and Milton is on his back, shaking him. I kind of laugh when I hear Kai groaning with Milton urging him to get up.
They must hear me come in because they both turn to look my direction, Milton screaming, “Julia!” He runs at me and I easily side-step at the last second to avoid him.
Kai spins around to a sitting position, his arms laid out on his knees. Milton runs into me from behind, now attacking my leg.
“Did you give him sugar?” I ask, trying to keep him off of me.
“I have made a grave mistake,” Kai says. I smile and he gets up, walking toward me. “Elijah’s probably being a hermit in his room. Good luck.”
He picks up a fighting Milton and takes him back into the living room as I walk down the hallway. Milton turns into a little monster when he’s hyper.
I’m about to turn the corner to Elijah’s room when he steps out and runs into me. His eyes widen and he tenses up, but relaxes upon seeing who it is.
“Sorry,” I say. I hesitate, then resolve that I’m going to do this now. “I need to talk to you.”
He must see from the look on my face that this is serious for he takes on a solemn look. “Oh, okay. Let’s just step in here then.” He gestures to his room and I follow him in. He shuts the door behind me. I stand kind of awkwardly for a second, then shuffle to his bed.
“Let’s sit down,” I say. He gives me a worried look but sits down next to me anyway.
“What’s wrong, Juliana?” The sound of his voice pangs around my head. I have to do this. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and start talking.
“I need you to do something,” I say, making eye contact with him for the first time. “I need you to leave with Kai and Milton. You’re not safe here, Milton’s not safe here, nobody’s safe here with me. People are going to use you against me..and if you stay, you will get hurt. Even after this is over with Marcus, there will be others. Others who will want to hurt me, others who will use you have leverage. You’re going to be trapped in the crossfire, Elijah.”
We hold a stare for a long time, neither one of us willing to look away before the other.
“I’m not leaving, Juliana,” Elijah says.
“Elijah, I need you to. Please. For me.”
He shakes his head. “I’m not leaving you. If I get hurt, so be it. I am completely in love with you, and I’m not going to let you deal with this by yourself.”
Why do you have to make it so hard?
“You’ll get over me eventually. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but one day you’ll find another girl, and you’ll fall in love all over again.”
“No, I can’t-”
“Yes, you can,” I say. “You can and you will. You have my permission to be with another girl. Even if you stay, Elijah, we’re through. I don’t care how bad it hurts me, if you stay, I’m not going to come around, I’m not going to talk to you, I’m not going to be anything to you. Not even a friend. Or you can leave as someone I love, and not have to deal with seeing me at school every day.”
Keep going. I know it feels like your heart is shredding into tiny pieces but keep going. It’s the only way. “And it’s not just you that these-these people will hurt. They’ll hurt Milton, too. Kill Milton, too. If you can’t leave for me, and you can’t leave for yourself, then do it for Milton. Milton still has his entire life ahead of him. Don’t let that get taken away from him just because you couldn’t let me go.”
By this point I’ve gotten so choked up I don’t think I can get another word out. I can feel my eyes filling up with tears. All I can do now is wait to see what he says. But he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he kisses me.
I don’t push him away. I can’t. My heart breaks into a million pieces as I think that this is the last time I will ever kiss him, even if he stays. The first tear out of many more to come runs down my cheek.
I stay still as he cups my face, waiting for him to be the one to pull away. But he doesn’t. So I do it for him.
“I’m so sorry, Elijah,” I whisper. Please don’t cry, please don’t cry.
He nods, his head down. “I’ll go,” he says quietly, barely loud enough for me to hear, even with my extra hearing. An immense feeling of relief and disappointment hits me and I’m not sure whether to yell at him or thank him. I choose the latter.
“Thank you,” I sigh, barely able to get the words out. The tears come fast and hard now and I am unable to stop them.
“Yeah, well, I don’t know if I could handle it if I stayed and made you hate me.” I could never hate you.
I turn to leave, having nothing more to say, but remember something else. “One more thing,” I say, unlatching the necklace he gave me.
He sees what I’m doing and refuses the bracelet. When I look at his face I see he’s crying just as hard as I am, maybe more.
“No, no, keep the necklace,” he says. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought and I want you to have it.” He says the last part while hustling past me, his head down so I can’t see his face, and then out the door.
I didn’t know it was possible to feel this bad. He’s heart-broken. But at least he’ll be safe. I stand there in his room, sobbing, the necklace clenched in my hand.
I don’t believe it right now, but I know one day it won’t feel like this anymore. This was for the best. What matters is that when this is over, at least I’ll still have Logan.
After a while I gather up the strength to stop crying so I can go talk to Milton. I want to at least tell him goodbye.
I walk down the hall and into the living room, hoping that Elijah is not in there. He’s not. He either left or went into the bathroom and I’m not sure which.
Upon going into the living room, I find Milton passed out on the recliner. He wore himself out, I guess. Maybe I should let him sleep. . . No. He’ll be extremely upset if he leaves without a goodbye from me. I won’t do that to him.
“Julia,” Kai hisses from the kitchen. I glance over and find that he’s washing the dishes in the sink, which kind of surprises me. I bring myself to walk over to him, though I really don’t want to talk to him right now.
“How did it go?” he asks, hands still in the sink. “He ran out the door saying that he’d be back soon, but I didn’t get to ask what happened.”
I rub my nose. “He said he’d leave with you. And don’t worry, I’m just going to say goodbye to Milton and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
He opens his mouth like he wants to say something else, but he doesn’t know what to say. I don’t wait to see what he’s going to say, shuffling over to Milton. His head hangs off the side and I wonder how he can sleep in a position like that.
“Milton,” I say softly. I kneel down in front of him and put my hand on his shoulder, gently nudging him. He opens his red-rimmed eyes and slowly lifts his head. “I need to tell you something.”
He spins in the chair and sits up, facing me. “What is it?”
I can’t handle looking into his innocent face so I look down when I talk to him. I take his hand in mind and he surprisingly doesn’t pull it away.
“Look,” I start, “there are some...some bad things that I’ve gotten myself wrapped up in, and because of it, no one who knows me is safe to live here anymore. So you’re going to be moving away now, that way neither you or your brothers will get hurt because of me. You won’t get to see me anymore. Maybe one day we’ll be able to see each other again, buddy, but not right now. So for now this is goodbye, and I want you to know-” My voice breaks and I have to stop. Keep going.
“I want you to know that I love you very, very much, okay? No matter how far away you are, you’ll always be with me, and I’ll always be with you, and nothing can ever change that. I don’t want you to leave, but it has to be this way. I’m going to miss you so much.” I can’t hold back the tears any longer and they pour down my face in a flood of sadness.
I hug Milton and he wraps his arms around my neck. I can feel his chin poking into my shoulder but I leave it there. I expect him to get angry and yell, or throw a tantrum, or just do something that little kids typically do when they’re upset. He doesn’t. Instead, it seems as if he understands, even if he is only five.
“I don’t want to go. But..but if I have to, then I want you to know-know that I’m still with you, and you don’t have to miss me.” That’s the smartest thing you’ve ever said to me.
I stay like that a long time, but eventually force myself to pull away. I kiss the top of his head, still crying, then get to my feet. Goodbye, Milton.
“Goodbye, Milton,” I echo. As I walk to the door I see Kai has been watching us and now walks over to the door to meet me.
“Take good care of them, Kai. Protect them. I hope you find your happiness.” I hear him call my name as I fly out the door but I ignore him. I run down the steps and jump into the jeep, scaring Logan awake. She sees me crying and tries to comfort me.
“Julia,” she begins, his voice sounding worried.
“Please, just drive,” I say, staring out the window so I don’t have to look at her. She doesn’t push me any more, and I hear the car start. We back out of the driveway, and as we pull away down the street, I watch their house fade away in the mirror as long as I can before it’s gone.
I spend the rest of the day curled up in my bed, crying. I want to stop thinking about things but I can’t. It’s not just Elijah and Milton I’m thinking about. It’s all of it. I’ve seen so much the past week and . . . it’s taking its toll on me.
Diana had her freaking neck tore open and I had to keep her from bleeding out. I broke Marshall’s neck to keep him from attacking Elijah, which I can still feel happening in my hands. I witnessed all of Logan’s memories firsthand, and even though I know it didn’t really happen to me, it felt like it did. Plus, Rachel’s incident.
So many bodies. And so much blood.
“Julia,” Logan says softly. I hate the sound of pity in her voice but I hate the idea of acting okay to make it go away worse.
Her footsteps pad from the doorway to around my bed, and I feel the bed sink in where she sits down next to me.
She puts her hand on me. “Julia, come on.”
“No,” I groan. Let me cry in peace.
Her hand rubs my shoulder tentatively, and I embrace the warmth coming from her hand. “You’re gonna be okay, Jules. This is only temporary.”
“I know,” I say, sniffling. “But right now it feels like my world is crashing down around me.”
I’d like to stay in this bed and sob some more by myself, but I know that if I feel this bad, then there’s no telling what Logan feels like. I need to pull myself together and ask her how she’s doing.
I pull my head around to meet her. “What about you? How are you doing?”
She looks taken aback. “Me? I’m fine.” I continue to stare at her until she gives in and tells me the truth. “Okay, okay. I’m not good, but I’m doing better. What I did still haunts me every second of the day, but now I understand what’s going on. Before I had no one, I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I was killing people. Of course I went a little out of my mind. Like I’ve said, I still don’t forgive myself, and I never will, but I’m learning to deal with it.”
I nod. “That’s good.”
“Anyways,” she says, running her fingers through her hair, “I came in here to see if you wanted to go see Mom with me. I figured it’d be good to see her before . . before tomorrow.” She turns away, like she’s about to leave. “But I guess you don’t want to go.”
“No, no! I want to go. Just let me take a shower first.”
“Great!” Logan says, practically skipping out of the room. Way to manipulate me, Logan.
Soon I’m in the shower, lathering my hair with shampoo, wishing I could wash away my worries like soap washes away dirt and grime. As much as I would like to stay in bed, I feel better getting out and doing things because it keeps me distracted; I don’t have to think as much.
I dress myself into something comfortable that way when I go to Marcus’s tonight I’ll be able to move around: black tights and a white tank top, covered up by a black hoodie. I slide a pair of black and blue high tops onto my feet, pull my hair into a wet french braid, and I’m set to go.
“Why are you dressed like a criminal?” Logan asks when I walk into the living room.
“What?” I say, looking down at my clothes. I am wearing all black. “I’m thinking about joining the emo community. This seems like a good start, don’t ya think?”
“Ha, ha, you’re funny. I’ll let that distasteful outfit slide this time, since you’re so upset. But don’t do it again, young lady.” She picks up her keys off the table, the jingle making it to my ear even from several feet away. “Let’s roll.”
“Logan, why does your sister look like she’s going to rob a bank?” Mom asks, spooning red jello into her mouth. Her doctor came up to us when we came in, told us that they’re going to release her tomorrow morning to come home.
“I tried to tell her,” she replies.
“I just don’t really care what I look like right now, that’s all,” I say, and this time it’s the truth. Speaking of the truth, I need to tell Mom something about what happened at the house if she’s going to be coming home tomorrow morning. Not the truth, obviously, but something. I’ve been lying to people too much lately.
“Oh, Mom?” I say, pretending I just remembered something. “Logan and I went to the house today. Apparently somebody broke in.”
“Yeah, we went to get some more clothes and the door was broken in. We had to scrap it, and the coffee table was broken, so we got rid of that, too. The only other thing we found was a large crack in the wall, like someone had been fighting there. They didn’t take anything though. Not sure if they got scared or what, but we looked through and everything else is still as it was.”
“Did you call the police?” she asks.
“No, it seemed like a waste. They were already long gone and they didn’t leave anything behind that could be used to find them, so . . . ”
“Well, that’s fine, but any other times this happens call the police and give a report, okay? And did you do anything about the missing door?”
“We put up a plastic wrap thingy to block it off from outside,” Logan says. “So far no one’s attempted to go in or anything, so it’ll have to work until we get another door.”
Mom sighs. “I guess so. Don’t stay there tonight though. Oh, and guess what? They’re releasing me tomorrow morning. I can go home.”
“Yeah, the doctor told us,” Logan says happily. “That’s wonderful. What time should I show up?”
Logan and Mom keep discussing things while my mind wanders elsewhere.
I never did tell Elijah that Mom wanted to see him. I can’t believe I forgot to do that. I hope he doesn’t leave without a goodbye to her but. . . it seems it may happen.
Looking at Mom and Logan, I can’t help but wonder if Logan wanted to come here so she could be with all of us together one last time. What if it is the last time? Well, there’s tomorrow morning that we’ll be together, but something could go wrong tonight. Marcus’s temper could get out of control and he could overpower me and . . . no. I’m not going to allow that to happen. I can, and will, kill him. No doubting myself.
“Julia, is something wrong, sweetheart?” Mom asks, bringing me back to the present.
I notice that both Logan and Mom are staring at me and I shake my head. “I’m fine.”
They don’t look like they believe me but they let it go. I focus on them while I’m here, but as time goes on it’s clear that I need to leave soon. I can tell Mom is getting tired anyway.
“Hey, Logan,” I whisper, leaning over to her. She scoots closer so she can hear. “I think I’m going to go for a walk, clear my head. Don’t tell Mom where I’m going since it looks like she’s about to fall asleep anyways.”
Mom is watching the tv on the wall, not paying any attention to us. Her eyes are starting to droop and I figure if I leave she’ll fall asleep before realizing I’ve been gone too long to be at a bathroom.
“Okay,” Logan says. “Are you coming back after?”
“I– I doubt it. I’ll probably just go home.”
“Okay, then. Be careful,” she says. She gives me a small smile as I get up.
Mom doesn’t notice when I slip out. The night air is freezing when I get outside, and I pull my hoodie over my head. The stars are gorgeous tonight and all I really want to do is go for a walk in the woods and look at the sky.
As I get closer to Marcus’s house I try to get myself prepared for this, but there’s nothing that can really prepare you for killing someone. I just have to do it. It’s all going to be over soon. It’s ending tonight.