[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Except right now, I thought—and it felt so glorious that I wished I could lose myself in the woods forever.But the woods were finite, squeezed between streets and subdivisions.In only a few minutes, I spotted Zach’s street through the leaves.Keeping low, I climbed over another old stone wall and then peered out through the bushes at his house.The lawn was pristine, even sterile.A silver car was in the driveway—Zach’s mother.A black car with tinted windows was parked down the street—a marshal.I felt my heart thump in my chest, harder than it had when I’d run through all the backyards.I crept backward, away from the road.At least one agent waited on the street.Others could be nearby.Maybe this is a mistake, I thought.Maybe I should run.But where to? And then what? I didn’t know this world.I didn’t have money, a place to stay, a way to survive, or a way to stay hidden.Unless I used magic and risked losing myself … Zach will help me.Half a block from Zach’s house, the street curved out of sight of the agents.Checking in both directions like Malcolm always did, I darted across and dove behind a white fence.I sprinted through the backyards, keeping as far from the street as possible.Lowering myself over yet another fence, I landed in the bushes behind Zach’s house.For an instant, I didn’t move.It wasn’t too late to change my mind.I could sneak back to the WitSec house, let myself back inside, and place myself back under the agency’s protection.Except then it would begin again … the visions and the memory loss and the lies and the fear and the hospital and the bulletin board and the hat and the box.Gathering my courage, I ran toward the enclosed porch.I ducked my head and hunched my shoulders, as if that would keep me from view.Any second, I expected to hear a shout or a shot.I flung open the screen door and threw myself inside.Inside, the porch had windows and skylights, far too many.I darted for the hallway.Inside at last, I leaned against the wall with the photos.My legs shook.My heart pounded.There were voices in the kitchen.I heard Zach’s mother, shrill and strained.“I can’t face it again! I can’t!” And I heard Zach reply, soothing and soft, with a lilt to his voice as if he were coaxing a bird to his hand.I couldn’t make out the words.And then a man shouted, “Enough!”Glass shattered.Inching forward, I peeked into the kitchen.Chapter EighteenRed wine had spilled on the marble countertop.It ran in a rivulet to the stainless steel sink and dripped in.I knew it wasn’t blood.It wasn’t thick enough.It looked so out of place amid the white tile, the shining brass pots on hooks, and the pristine floor.I didn’t see Zach.Zach’s mother was holding the broken stem of a wineglass in one hand.A man—Zach’s father—stood in the remnants of the shattered glass.Shards crunched under the soles of his polished black shoes.He wore a gray suit that wrinkled as he breathed deeply in and out, then in and out again.His face was flushed.“Not one more word,” he said.He hadn’t seen me, and neither had she.“Look out the window.” Her words slurred together, loud and shrill, as if she couldn’t hear the volume of her voice.“Tell me you don’t see them.Day and night! And no one ever gets out of the car.You know they have binoculars trained on the house.Maybe they’ve bugged the house, the phones.Maybe they’ve talked to our neighbors.I can’t go through this again!”“Say they’re watching.So what?” his father demanded.“We’ve done nothing wrong.We don’t have anything to hide!”“Except you.” Zach’s voice, soft.On the floor, he sopped up the spilled wine with a dishrag.One by one, he picked up the shards of glass.“And this.”His father grabbed his arm and yanked him to his feet.Glass pieces fell out of Zach’s hands onto the floor.They shattered, sounding like hail on the hard tile.“You don’t—”“Zach?” I said from the doorway.Releasing Zach, his father spun to face me.He was much broader than Zach and taller by a foot than both of us.His arms weren’t as muscled as Malcolm’s, though, and I saw the curve of a paunch above his belt.The belt must leave red dents in his flesh.“Excuse me?” he said.“Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?”Zach quickly said, “She’s no one.”“I’m not no one,” I said.Zach’s mother’s eyes focused on me, as if the sight of me didn’t compute in her brain.And then she blinked and plastered a bright smile on her face.“Eve! This is unexpected.Did you expect her, Zach? I didn’t expect her.”“Eve, why are you here?” Zach asked, his voice strained.Shooting a look at the kitchen window, I stepped into the room.“I thought you could rescue me.But I think … you need rescuing.”Zach made himself laugh.“Me?”“You don’t lie,” I reminded him.His face crumpled as if I’d snipped the puppet strings that had pulled his lips into a smile.“Only about this,” he said softly.“Zach.” His father’s voice held a warning note.“You’re with them, aren’t you?” his mother said to me.Her lips had blotches of dark purple-red between the lipstick, as did her gums.The wine bottle near the sink was nearly empty.“Checking up on us.Well, there’s nothing to see here.We’re fine.We’re all fine.Fine, fine, fine!”“She’s not with them,” his father said.“She’s just a girl.”“The cars outside … Are they …?” Zach trailed off, but I knew what he was asking.He’d guessed the cars were for me.“You know why they’re here, why she’s here,” Zach’s mother said.She slid to the floor, her back against the marble island in the middle of the kitchen.“Sophie.My poor, sweet Sophie.” She began to cry, ugly heaving sobs that shook her shoulders.His father’s fists curled.“It’s been nine years! It’s over!”She raised her head.Makeup smeared under her eyes, looking like black-and-purple bruises.Her eyes looked hollow.“It’s never over! It will never be over.I dream about her.Who she was supposed to be.What she would have been like.All of us, together.”“Jesus, why won’t you stop?” his father said.“Because I deserve this pain!” she said.“Because I should be dead, not her.Because life is cruel.Life is brutish, short, and …” She searched for the word.“Short.”“But it’s not,” Zach said.“It can be magical and—”“And you, shut up,” his father said.“Don’t you see you’re making it worse? You always make it worse.”Zach paled.“Zach.” I held out my hand.“You can take my breath if you want it.” He’d have to walk past his father to reach me.I saw him realize this, calculate the distance.“You don’t need to be powerless.”His father’s face flushed darker, and he shot a glance at me.“This isn’t what it looks like.” He knelt beside Zach’s mother and began to tend to her.He fetched a paper towel and dabbed it on her lip.Blood had welled in the middle of her bottom lip, just a drop.“She took a nasty spill.Slippery floor.”“I’d just mopped it,” Zach’s mother agreed.“And the bruises?” Zach asked [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]