I tried to dry my hair as best I could and clean myself up. Before I had even finished washing my face, I heard a yell. I turned off the faucet, and Mae was shouting Jack’s name, so I rushed out into the kitchen.
Jack was yelling, and he sounded terrified.
Mae stood on the patio when I ran outside. Jack was still several feet away from her, standing closer to the shoreline. When I tried to run past her, Mae grabbed my arm, and her face blanched.
It was too dark for me to really see what was going on, but I could feel pure heartbroken terror. Something terrible had happened, and Jack felt worse about it than he ever had before.
“Ezra!” Jack bellowed, and he stopped walking forward. “Ezra!”
“I’ll go get him,” Mae whispered nervously. Her hand squeezed my arm so tightly it hurt, but I barely noticed. “Alice, you stay right here. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry!” Jack pleaded, but she was already gone.
Even though I didn’t move any closer, my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and the moonlight splashed on him through the branches of a nearby tree. Something lay limp in his arms, and my breath caught in my throat.
Immediately, I thought that something had happened to Matilda. The boys had gotten too rough, and she’d gotten hurt somehow, and Jack knows how freaked out I get when animals are hurt.
Then Matilda whined by his feet, her white fur soaking wet. I noticed dark patches running through it, dripping off whatever Jack held in his arms. But I still couldn’t see it.
It was perfectly visible, but my mind just couldn’t process. I felt dizzy and disoriented, like I was looking down at the world from an amazing height. I couldn’t make sense of anything.
A wind rustled through the trees, moving the branches, and the moonlight struck him just right. I saw his face, his eyes rolled back into his head, and I saw exactly what Jack held in his arms.
“Milo!” I screamed, and Mae wrapped her arms around me just in time to keep me from running at Jack.
- 3 -
Ezra ran past us, down the embankment towards Jack and Milo. I kept wailing Milo’s name, as if that would help somehow.
I only saw my little brother, bloodied and limp in his arms.
“Get him inside,” Ezra told Jack.
Jack cradled Milo like an injured child as they hurried to the house. Ezra placed himself between them and me, shielding me from as much of it as he could. I bucked futilely against Mae’s arms as they walked past us, screaming at them, but I don’t even know what I said.
“It’ll be okay, love,” Mae tried to reassure me, but I heard the tremble in her voice. “Ezra will know what to do.”
I watched helplessly through the glass doors. With one quick move of his arm, Ezra pushed everything off the island in the kitchen, and Jack laid Milo on the counter. Jack stood off to the side as Ezra inspected my brother.
I couldn’t hear them, but neither of them looked good. Finally, Ezra pursed his lips and shook his head.
“No!” I cried, and Mae let me go.
I flew into the house. I reached out for Milo, and Jack grappled me in his arms. Lake water and Milo’s blood covered his bare skin, and it felt slimy rubbing against me. I hit him hard in the chest and tried to escape his grip.
“Let me go!” I shouted. “He’s my brother! And you killed him!”
“He’s not dead,” Ezra said, and it startled me enough where I stopped squirming away from Jack.
“Then what’s wrong?” I stopped fighting, so Jack loosened his grip on me but didn’t let me go. “Can’t you fix him? Shouldn’t we call 911?”
“I don’t think they can do anything for him,” Ezra said.
“But you don’t know!” I stared down at Milo. Other than the blood, he just looked like he was sleeping. “We just have to call! Where’s my cell phone?”
“Alice,” Ezra said, and I moved to search for my cell, but Jack wouldn’t let me go. “Alice.”
“Why aren’t you doing anything?” I yelled at him. “We have to do something!”
“We are trying to,” Ezra insisted. “Milo broke his neck and cracked his skull. Even if he lives, he’ll most likely be brain damaged and paralyzed.”
“So you’re just going to let him die?” I asked incredulously.
“I don’t think that’s what anyone’s saying,” Mae said. I turned to her, trying to understand the conflicted expression on her face.
“We can try the hospitals,” Ezra said, watching the slow rise and fall of Milo’s chest. “Or… we can turn him.”
“Into a vampire?” I swallowed hard.
Jack finally released me and took a step away. When I managed to pull my gaze from Milo, I saw Jack’s eyes filled with tears.
“I am so sorry, Alice,” Jack apologized, his voice thick with despair.
“His heart is slowing.” Ezra looked at me evenly. “You’re going to have to make a choice, Alice. Quickly.”
“If he turns, he’ll live, right?” I asked, surprised I could talk. I found it hard to even breathe.
“If we catch it in time,” Ezra said hesitantly. “But it’s not a sure thing. If he’s already too weakened, the turn might push him over the edge.”
“You mean instead of saving him, it might kill him?” The room started spinning, and Jack reached out to steady me, tentatively putting his arm around me.
“I’m sorry,” Ezra said simply.
“I can do it,” Jack offered, knowing it would make me more comfortable with the decision. He moved closer to Milo. “If this is what you want, I’ll do it.”
“Do it,” I whispered hoarsely.
“Are you sure?” Ezra eyed me seriously.
Ezra wanted to gauge my certainty, but that was impossible to measure. I felt somewhere between total shock and blacked out hysteria. Tears streamed down my cheeks, mixing in with the blood I had rubbed off Jack’s chest when he held me to him.
Milo laid on the island, barely breathing and his heart slowing every second. If this was going to happen, it had to happen now, and as far as I could tell, it would be his best chance for survival.
“Everything will be okay, love.” Mae was at my side and wrapped an arm around me. I wanted to push her off, but I didn’t have the strength.
“We’ll see,” I said. Jack rummaged through a drawer, wasting precious time we didn’t have. “What are you doing?”