“Can you still?” I asked.
“Not so much,” he shook his head. “Maybe if the fear was really strong, but that was a long time ago, and your blood has changed. It usually only lasts a few months, even when you care about someone a lot.”
“So you just-”
I stopped cold and realized I knew exactly what Peter was talking about. I’d been thinking that I hadn’t felt anything with Jack or Bobby, but they weren’t the only two people I’d bitten.
I’d bitten Jane too.
“Oh my god.” The color drained from my face, and my stomach knotted up. My heart stopped beating for a minute, and I could barely breathe.
“Alice?” Peter put his hand on my back and leaned in toward me. “Alice? Are you alright?”
“I felt Jane die.”
“What?” Peter put his other hand on my knee and moved closer to me. “What are you talking about?”
“Jane, I bit her, when I saw her, and I knew I shouldn’t have, but then she went to rehab, and I thought everything was okay, I thought everything was better.” My words came out rushed, and tears tumbled down my cheeks more rapidly.
“You bit Jane?” He’d started rubbing my back, but I don’t think it helped any.
“Yeah, I bit her and-and then in Australia-” My breath caught in my throat.
I remembered the terror I had felt when I woke up. The panic and fear surging through my veins. It’d scrambled my thoughts, and my heart wanted to hammer out of my chest. I had never felt that kind of intense fear before, and that’s how Jane felt. That was Jane dying.
“Remember?” I looked at Peter, his worried expression blurred through my tears. “You came into the room, and I was freaked out, and I didn’t know why, and I couldn’t shake it. And I was mad that I felt that way! I was mad, and that was Jane!”
“No, Alice, you don’t know that was Jane.” He tried to reassure me, but I’m not sure that he believed what he was saying.
“No, it was! Jack called me later that night, and he told me she was dead, and I-” I cried harder, and I wiped at the tears with the palm of my hand. “I felt her die, Peter! I felt what she felt, and she was so afraid! She was terrified, and I didn’t do anything!”
“You couldn’t do anything.” He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close to him. I buried my head in his shoulder and sobbed. “You didn’t know, and you couldn’t do anything.”
Peter stroked my hair and tried to tell me it was alright, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t just that I’d felt Jane die, and I hadn’t done anything about it, although that weight of the guilt threatened to crush me. It was that I knew how scared and how horrible it had been for her to die.
Even though I’d known she’d been murdered, part of me had been able to hold out that it had been painless. If she’d been bitten before she died, she would’ve been unconscious, and she wouldn’t have known what happened.
But now I knew. She had felt everything. She’d known she was dying, and it had been more horrifying than anything I had ever felt before.
Even after I stopped crying, I let Peter hold me in his arms. I should’ve pushed him away for a lot of different reasons, but I didn’t have the strength for it. His arms were strong and safe, and I was afraid if he let go, I’d fall into a million pieces.
“What happened to Jane isn’t your fault.” He spoke into my hair, so his words came out muffled. He kissed the top of my head and stroked my hair back from my tear stained cheeks.
“It doesn’t matter.” I shook my head and pulled away from him. He left a hand lingering on my arm, and I let him. “She’s dead, and I have to make it right.”
“I’ll find a way.” I swallowed hard and didn’t look at him. I couldn’t tell him my plans to destroy the bastard that had killed Jane. Peter would freak out as bad as Jack would, if not worse.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Alice,” he warned me.
“What me?” I laughed, and the flat sound echoed off the cavern walls. Suddenly, I felt ashamed of the scene I had made, and I wiped at my drying face. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. It just… hit me.”
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for,” Peter assured me.
“Yeah, I really do.” I wiped my hands on my jeans and stood up. “You’ve got your own stuff, and you don’t need to worry about my shit.”
“It’s alright.” He stood up with me and pushed up the sleeves of his shirt. I started to stumble out another apology, and he held up his hand. “Alice. It’s fine.”
I lifted my head, willing myself to look at him, and for a moment, I thought about Jack’s apologies from earlier tonight. He felt guilty for forcing me into life because he knew the vampire life wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be.
Looking into Peter’s eyes, I wondered if I’d feel the same way if I chose him instead, if our bond would’ve given my life the meaning I was so desperate for.
“Peter!” Daisy shouted, breaking my thoughts.
She dashed into the room, her skirt flying around her, and ran towards Peter. At first, I thought something had happened, but when she jumped at Peter, she screamed with glee and giggled as he caught her in her arms.
“What are you doing, kiddo?” Peter asked, holding her to his side.
“I finished my picture!” Daisy said.
Rainbow colored chalk smudges covered her pudgy cheeks and arms. One of her hands was balled into a fist. I thought she held a piece of chalk, but she pulled it away from Peter, like she was trying to hide it.
“What have you got there?” Peter asked, and she put her fist behind her back. “Let me see.”
She shook her head fiercely, making her ponytail bounce. Peter reached around and pried open her hand, revealing a rather squashed cockroach. He wrinkled his nose and tossed the bug corpse away.
“Daisy, what did we say about bugs?” Peter reached for one of the towels I’d brought.
“That they’re yucky,” Daisy said, dutifully letting him wipe the bug guts from her hands.
“That’s right,” he said. “We need to leave them alone so you don’t get sick anymore. Right?”
“Right,” Daisy said, adding an overly dramatic sigh. “Do you wanna come see my picture now?”
Peter exchanged a look with me, checking to see if I was alright. I wasn’t, not yet, but I could pass for it.