Chapter Thirty Nine
Doors rattled and winds wailed as a storm picked up outside of my home. I pulled open the blinds and peered out into the night, wincing at the bright white snow obscuring my view of the street. It was January now, and the bitter cold of winter had a firm grip on the city. It would be months until spring weather made the outdoors bearable.
I tugged the blinds shut and turned to the fridge as I heard movement in the living room.
"So it was Eliam that gave you those glass balls?" Morden called over.
"Yeah, he also gave us the info on Hespet," I called back as I poured myself some juice, "He's a pretty cool guy."
I came back into the living room and placed my glass on the table.
"Huh?" he blinked over at me.
"Whenever you make that kind of, I dunno, dismissive sound, it's because you think I'm wrong." I said as I sat down beside him.
It had been a week since Morden and I had cleared the air, and I had decided to stop walking on eggshells to spare his feelings.
"I just think it's odd," Morden said with a shrug, "He's helping you and giving you gifts, but he never asks for anything in return."
I leaned back, giving him a quizzical look.
"Yeah, well I just figured he was being nice. It's not like I could give him anything he doesn't already have."
"Morden I'm going to hit you if you keep doing that." I said dryly.
Before Morden had a chance to annoy me further, we heard the front door burst open. We both went to investigate, only to find Rik hurrying inside as the storm blew in after him. Despite his heavy winter coat he was completely covered, even his eyebrows were layered in snow.
It was a fight against the wind to get the front door to close. Gusts of freezing cold air forced their way into the house until Rik finally managed to push it shut. When he'd succeeded he shook himself off like a dog and Morden recoiled in disgust as the snow scattered in every direction.
"Do you MIND?!" Morden said sharply, dusting his pants off like it was the biggest hassle in the world.
Rik froze and glanced up under his wet hair.
"Oh. You're here." He said, not bothering to disguise his displeasure.
Morden crossed his arms and glanced at me sidelong. I pretended not to notice.
"Looks bad out there." I said cheerfully, helping Rik yank off his coat, "You must be freezing."
"Not really," Rik bit off his gloves one at a time and tossed them onto the floor, "The cold doesn't bug me, but I couldn't see worth a damn with the wind blowing snow directly into my face. Had to follow my nose to get back from the bus stop."
"Riveting." Morden muttered as he leaned against the wall.
Rik shot him a look. I waved a dismissive hand in Morden's direction, encouraging Rik to ignore the comment.
"Anyway, wasn't the snow melting last week? What is this snowstorm bullshit?" Rik huffed as he finally got his boots off and began peeling off his wet socks.
"That's the country we live in. Sunny one day, flurries the next." I said, chuckling, "I'll make us a frozen pizza."
"You eat it frozen?" Morden asked, "Wouldn't that hurt your teeth?"
Rik and I paused, smiling as we processed the question.
"You don't eat it frozen, dumbass." Rik said with a grin, "You keep it frozen until you want to eat it, then you cook it in the oven."
Morden's face flushed with embarrassment as he crossed his arms tighter across his chest and got defensive.
"Well then it's stupid to call it 'Frozen' Pizza then!" he sputtered.
"Well they weren't going to call it 'Frozen 'till You Cook It' pizza!" Rik's smile grew wider as Morden became more and more flustered, "Most people just assume that pizza is cooked before you eat it. Unless you're, I dunno, a vampire or something. In which case you're a bloodsucking creep AND you miss out on everything delicious."
"G-guys…" I lifted a finger.
"Who would want to eat anything now that the house smells like wet dog anyway?" Morden snapped back, "At least I know how to bathe!"
"What? What does that have to do with anything? And I don't smell! I don't—" he paused and his confidence faded as he sniffed at his sweater, "I…Ah. Hm."
He turned to me, avoiding Morden's smug smile.
"Start the pizza. I'm going to hop in the shower." He said, then turned to Morden abruptly, "Wipe that smile off your stupid face. I'm not doing it for you."
Morden raised his eyebrows and shooed him away with one hand as Rik lumbered up the stairs. I slapped his hand down.
"Do you have to do that?" I asked, shaking my head.
"He started it!" Morden rolled his eyes, "You know he's a ticking time-bomb, right? One of these days he'll end up attacking someone. Maybe even you."
"Or he could not and everything will be fine." I said flatly.
The vampire shrugged and started pulling his boots out of the closet.
"What, you're leaving?" I asked.
"Yeah well, I'd rather not be around when your pet gets out of the shower," he said with a smirk, "And I think the feeling's mutual. You two enjoy your non-frozen pizza."
"All right, see you." I said, exasperated.
Morden, who hadn't bothered with a coat, yanked the door open and disappeared into the blizzard. I shut the door behind him and sighed, plunking me forehead against the wooden frame.
They were both hopeless.
The pizza was almost ready by the time Rik came back down the stairs in fresh clothes. He waltzed into the kitchen, chest puffed out and smug.
"I scared him off, right? I can smell that he's not here anymore." He said, ducking into the fridge for a can of soda.
"I wouldn't say 'scared' is the right word." I replied, "More like 'annoyed into leaving.'"
"Hey, a win's a win." He said, cracking open the can.
He froze mid-sip to see my look of disapproval. He shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
"Gah, look." He put the can down on the counter and leaned against the edge of it, "I know you two are BFF's again now, or whatever. But that doesn't mean I have to like him. I mean," he searched for words, "He's like, a total shit. Like, a complete and total shit! He acts all high and mighty, and he barely even feels bad for all the shit he did, and he treats his own brother like trash!"
"There's more to him than that," I insisted, "You're only seeing one side of him."
"I'd rather see no side of him." Rik said evenly, "He's your friend, not mine. I mean, I get that I'm involved in all of this crazy shit, but I'm here for you. Not him."
I raised my hands in silent surrender. He wasn't wrong. It was unfair to keep pushing the impossible on them both. They weren't going to make nice and I just had to accept it. Eventually. Was is wrong to want my two friends to like each other?
"Fine, fine." I said, sighing, "Sorry. I just…I like you both, I wish I could hang out with you both at the same time, y'know?"
"I get it." Rik said, "And hey, here's a compromise; if he ever stops being a shit, I'll try being his friend."
I scoffed as I pulled open the oven to grab the pizza.
"Speaking of your creepy neighbours, where's the less shitty one? You know, the demon lunatic that's actually a nice guy?"
I hissed and whipped my hand to my chest as I burnt the tip of my finger on the pizza pan.
"Ow! Oh, Simon went out hunting tonight."
"So the neighbourhood's gonna have a few less raccoons? Well, at least everyone's trash bags will be safe on garbage day."
I shook my head as I went over to the kitchen sink and ran cold water over my finger.
"You actually like hanging out with Simon, don't you?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's a cool dude. Nuttier than peanut butter, but yeah. He's cool."
"Well, at least there's that." I said, mostly to myself.
I had to take good news where I could get it.
School was a welcome distraction now that winter break was over, but it forced me to face my one remaining cause of anxiety; Luke. I wanted to relax around him and the guys, but it was hard when I was worrying about him getting his memories back every time I saw him.
The first half of the week went by smoothly, despite my paranoia, and I was just starting to let my guard down when Thursday rolled around. There I was, grabbing my books for first period out of my locker, minding my own business. Then I shut my locker and realize that Luke had been standing beside me the entire time, waiting for me to finish.
"Gah!" I exclaimed, unable to stop myself from flinching.
"Sorry." Luke said quickly, smiling and friendly as always, "I wanted to talk to you."
"Yeah?" I asked, smiling back nervously.
Luke and I were friends, don't get me wrong. But we were the kind of friends that only really hung out or 'talked' when we were all together with the rest of our group. Being approached by Luke by himself was unusual.
We both looked up as the bell rang.
"We both have second period free, right?" he asked even though he already knew the answer, "I'll meet you in the library, okay?"
I nodded again as he wandered off, and dread pooled inside my gut as I went to class. I was lucky that this English class was a review session, because my mind was elsewhere.
He knows, I thought in a panic. He knows what happened. He's going to ask me why I lied and covered for our attackers. He's going recognize Simon and demand answers. What if he calls the cops? What if he already has?
Theories and strategies swirled around in my head until a solid migraine set in. Finally, the bell rang. I almost ran to the library.
The place was empty, as usual, and the librarian was nowhere in sight. I caught my breath and leaned against the wall, waiting for Luke. I willed myself to calm down. Maybe he only remembered fragments? Maybe he was going to ask me to verify what he thought happened? I could make things up, convince him he was wrong. Oh God I hated lying.
I hadn't seen Luke round the corner and my tangled nerves had me on edge. My notebooks slipped out of my hands before I could compose myself.
"Oh geez, sorry dude!" Luke exclaimed cheerily, crouching and gathering them up for me, "Man, Rik said you were jumpy ever since we were hospitalized, but now I think I get what he means."
"Oh, ah, ahah…" I took the books and shrugged, "Yeah, um, sorry about that."
I followed him to the back of the library to an obscured table between two bookcases. I sat down beside him as he pulled out his smartphone.
"Anyway, sorry to drag you out like this, I couldn't really explain this morning." He flipped through his touch-screen as he spoke, "It's just, I don't think the other guys'll get why I'm interested in this, but I think you will."
I watched Luke's face as he spoke. He didn't seem that different than usual. Not what you'd expect from someone who was about to demand answers from you.
"Ah, here it is. It was in the news this morning." Luke turned the screen and passed his phone to me, "What do you think?"
I scanned the headline and knew immediately why Luke was so interested.
'Two Killed in Brutal Animal Attack! Werewolves in the Downtown Area?'
End of Chapter 39.