“Did you have some big plans for tonight?” I asked, trying to figure out what had him so depressed. I was the one that had to get up at seven in the morning, not him.
“No. I just don’t like it when things are finite.” He sighed again, and then looked up at the sky.
“That’s kind of weird,” I said. Milo had a phobia of wet sand, and Jane hated the word kumquat (it sounded too perverse, even for her), but it was pretty strange to dislike anything that had a definite ending. “Everything ends.”
“I know. I mean, we don’t hang out forever anyway. It’s just…” He shook his head, and then stared off at the Basilica of St. Mary. It was this huge, beautiful cathedral, and we could just see the top of it, arched out into the sky above the trees. “Mae wanted to get married there.”
“What?” I asked, confused by his sudden topic change.
“My brother’s wife.” He nodded at the church. “But Ezra didn’t want to.”
“Why not?” It was a stunning piece of architecture, so I understood the urge to marry there. I personally wouldn’t want to, but most of the time, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get married.
“They’re not Catholic, for one thing.” There was more to the story, but Jack seemed hesitant to tell me about it. Finally, he continued, “It just didn’t seem right. It was Mae’s second marriage. So they found something else, and it worked out better anyway.”
“How long have they been married?”
“I’m not really sure,” he shrugged.
Pulling my hoodie tighter around me, I shivered. Jack glanced over at me, and he didn’t seem even slightly bothered by the cold. Nothing really seemed to bother him, except my bedtime.
“Do you want my sweatshirt?” He started pulling on his sleeve, like he was going to take it off, but I held up my hand to stop him.
“No, I’m okay.” Since he had actually bothered to put on something warmer today, I wasn’t about to take it from him because I thought my jacket was ugly.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I insisted. Flipping up the hood over my head, I smiled up at him. “See? Fine.”
“If you say so.” Jack pulled on his sleeve, adjusting it back to normal. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
“I know,” Jack said, sounding a little exasperated. “You never change your mind about anything.”
“You haven’t known me for that long,” I scoffed. “How can you be so sure?”
“I’m just very certain of things,” he replied simply.
That was true enough. He didn’t always have an answer for everything, but the things he knew, he really knew. I was about to ask him what the deal was with his sixth sense about everything, but then his head shot up sharply.
“Watch out for what?” I tried to keep my voice even, but the instant he got nervous, I was terrified.
He stepped in front of me to shield from me something, but I peered around him, looking into the dark for some lurking danger.
- 6 -
At first, I thought it was a giant grizzly bear barreling towards us. Then it ran underneath a lamp on the path, and I saw it was just a massive brown dog. There was a dog park on the other side of the park, so I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if Jack hadn’t been on such high alert.
“It’s just a dog,” I told him, hoping that would somehow relax him.
“I know what it is.” He seemed to be debating something, probably whether he should run or stay put, but the dog was approaching quickly, making his decision for him. “Ah, hell.”
The dog snarled at us, but it never even slowed down. Drool and slobber spewed from its mouth, and its eyes had a crazed, intense look I had never seen on an animal before.
Without any provocation, it suddenly lunged at Jack. He held one arm behind him, trying to protect me more from the dog, and he held his other arm in front of him, using his forearm to block the attack.
The dog latched on it with a loud crunching sound that made my blood curdle, and I screamed. With one swift movement, Jack whipped his hand around, grabbing the dog by the back of the neck.
“Go back to the car!” Jack shouted.
He had pinned the dog to the ground by kneeling on its back and wrapping his hands around its neck. There was blood streaming down his arm, and all the while, the dog was snapping and growling viciously.
But I stayed frozen, gaping at Jack and the dog.
“Alice! Go back to the car!”
“Why?” I felt nauseous, but I didn’t want to leave Jack. If I did, I knew that something bad would happen, although I didn’t even know what that meant.
“Alice! Just do it!” Jack growled.
Adrenaline surged through my body, and my feet were happy to comply when I started running back to the car.
Before I had even made it there, I heard the dog yelp, and my stomach dropped. My heart pounded erratically in my chest, and I wanted to throw up.
I made it to the car, and I fought the urge to just keep running. I collapsed on the pavement next to it, gasping for breath.
When I saw Jack walking towards me, I stood up and hurried towards him, but I stopped sharply before I met him.
Part of me really wanted to hug him, but another part of me knew what he had done, and it scared the hell out of me. Irrational tears streamed down my cheeks, but I tried to ignore them.
“Jack, what did you do?” I wiped at my eyes to erase the tears. “What’d you do with the dog?”
“Alice…” He closed his eyes, as if it would hurt him too much to watch me react. “I didn’t have any choice. You saw him. He was going to kill somebody! What if you had been here by yourself or with Milo?”
Everything he was saying was true. The dog had looked insane and probably rabid, and even before I left him, I knew that Jack would kill the dog. But it didn’t change anything.
Hurting any animal for any reason would always reduce me to tears, especially when I had been some part of it. He had killed that dog to protect me.
“I don’t care!” I cried harder, and I wished I would just stop.
It seemed unfair to me that I would be angry with Jack for saving my life, but I couldn’t help it. He moved awkwardly, as if he wanted to hug me, but he knew that I would push him away if he tried.
“Alice,” Jack breathed deeply, looking away from me. He had this agonized expression on his face, and he took a small step back from me. “Everything just got so much more complicated.”