Milo got up and tried to help me, but I refused to let him. He needed to stay and talk to Leif and sort things out. I couldn’t sort anything out anymore. My brain barely worked.
It was after one in the afternoon, and I had yet to sleep. Last night had been the longest night of my life. I remembered feeling my best friend dying, we’d been attacked by vampire hunters, my boyfriend broke up with me, and I found out my dad was a vampire. It was all a bit much.
I staggered upstairs to the bedroom I shared with Jack, but I couldn’t let myself think about him, or wonder where I’d sleep tomorrow. I couldn’t even change out of my clothes. I just collapsed on the bed. As I drifted off, I just kept hearing Mae’s words playing in my head over and over again.
“We’re just a means to an end for you.”
Wiping the steam from the mirror, I was surprised by how normal my reflection looked. I felt like I’d been in a train wreck, even after a night’s sleep and a hot shower, but I looked just like I always did.
The breakup hurt even worse. I’d expected it to dull, the way the shock about Leif had, but it didn’t. It throbbed painfully inside me, like a festering wound. I hadn’t cried yet today, but I suspected that last night had completely dried me out of tears for a while.
I couldn’t get Mae out of my head. What if she had been right? What if I’d just been meant to be a vampire? If I’d never been meant for Jack or Peter, had I ever really loved either of them?
I felt like throwing up every time I even thought about the fight with Jack last night, and my life looked like a giant vortex without him. That desperation for him, because of him, that had to happen because I loved him. I really and truly loved him. That couldn’t just be a biological response ingrained in me so I’d become a vampire. Could it?
Not that it mattered anymore how much I loved Jack or not. He’d broken up with me.
“Alice,” Jack opened the bathroom door without knocking.
“Jack!” I yelled. I had a towel wrapped around me, but I hadn’t gotten dressed yet. When he walked in, I jumped and pulled the towel tighter.
“What?” Jack asked, surprised by my attempts at modesty. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before.”
“Yeah, well, you dumped me,” I reminded him. “You don’t get to see me naked anymore.”
“You’re in my bathroom,” he countered.
“You still don’t get to see me naked. Now will you get out so I can get dressed?”
He left the bathroom without further protests, and as soon as he shut the door behind him, I leaned against the bathroom sink and tried to catch my breath. I swallowed hard and told myself I could do this.
“So, Alice, I just…” Jack said from the other side of the bathroom door. “I wanted to talk.”
I got dressed in a hurry because I wasn’t sure how long he would wait. He tended to get impatient, and maybe what he wanted to talk about was something good. Like he realized how unfair he was being last night. Sure, I had lied to him, but it wasn’t that big of a thing.
With my hair still damp, I stepped out of the bathroom. Jack stood by the end of his bed with his arms crossed over his chest, and he didn’t really look at me when I came out.
Being close to him normally filled me with a warm, fluttery feeling. Not like butterflies, either. It happened after I’d turned into a vampire, after we had a blood bond. I could feel him, like a tether attached my heart to his. Without any effort on my part, my body always naturally tilted to his. My blood had become magnetized to him.
But not now. I only felt an ache, a dark cloud growing inside me, overshadowing our bond. A vice gripped my heart, clenching it too tightly for me to feel the invisible tether that held us together.
“What do you wanna talk about?” I asked, biting my lip.
“Um…” Rubbing the back of his neck, he shifted his weight. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright. After last night.”
“You mean because you broke up with me over something really, really stupid?” I asked.
“It’s not stupid, Alice.” He sighed and shook his head. “And no, I didn’t mean that. I meant, you know… about Leif and everything too.”
“Well…” I wrapped my arms around myself, and my mouth felt dry. My stomach dropped, and I didn’t even know how to answer his question. “Why?”
“Why what?” Jack looked up at me, but I wouldn’t meet his eyes. I could feel him appraising me, making sure I was alright, and that hurt all the more.
“You don’t get to do this, Jack.” I ran a hand through my tangles of damp hair, and I put my hand on my side, pressing hard, as if I could hold the sadness in that way. “You don’t get to break my heart and pick up the pieces.”
“Alice.” His entire face fell and his shoulders slumped as he stared helplessly at me. “I didn’t… I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You’re an even bigger liar than I am.” I rolled my eyes to keep back the tears.
I hated being the in same room with him, feeling the way he felt. His own confused pain permeated through the air, like a thick fog, and I couldn’t stand to feel it along with my own.
“How am I a liar?” Jack asked, his hurt expression growing defensive. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I know that!” I yelled, and I didn’t mean to yell. I shook my head, and when I spoke again, I tried to lower my voice. “But you said you’d love me forever, and then I did something really dumb and relatively minor, and … I mean, let’s be honest, kissing Peter was way worse than this.”
“No, it wasn’t.” He chewed the inside of his cheek and furrowed his brow. “That was bad. But this… I asked you what you were doing. I told you I felt a distance between us. I was so honest with you, and you didn’t correct me. You didn’t… You couldn’t trust me with this part of you.”
“I just didn’t want you to worry,” I told him emphatically. “I didn’t want to fight about this because we’ve been fighting about so much other stuff lately. I wanted to have one less argument.”
“But that is the problem, Alice.” He looked at me seriously. “We’ve been arguing, and there’s been something going on with you. You’re restless and distracted, and this whole thing is just a symptom of that. Something is going on with you that I can’t fix.”