Okies...last chapter. Please, Please Review! You'll be my best friend! Heehee. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. I hope the ending was satisfactory enough. Thanks to x-thesmallprint-x, dark memory maker, rabid.squirrels, KittenOfFlame, horsechick118, A Different Kind of Yellow, irishbri, and angryclouds for reviewing. You guys are the best. THIS IS THE END! WHEE!

Chapter 23

It was oppressive at first. They all stared at me--all my teammates. Except for Elisa, I should point out; she was used to the fact that I had never made it down into the grave. That was why I began to run for all I was worth at the coach's orders.

My feet pumped against the asphalt like my life was at stake. Only it wasn't my life, just my sense of freedom that was called into question. All the curious and assertive eyes doused over my frame as if I were some guinea pig in a small glass pen with no exit in sight. And true to the instincts of the animal in question, my brain was screaming run! Run! Run!

Anyone who knows my story might wonder why I took the Sevenfold up on their offer to live a normal life again. Had I no pride? It was the same as thanking them for killing me, for which in one instance I certainly was not grateful.

I hadn't killed Cain for the Sevenfold. I had killed him for my family, for the people I love, and most importantly, for myself. Whether or not they benefited from my actions was really beside the point.

In the future I wanted as little to do with them as possible. But if they were the ones who held the strings to the possibilities that would really make me happy, then I would take the offer from them. This didn't mean that I had to join them or even associate with them. All it meant was that for one moment I had to swallow my pride to get my life back. And I did.

I took in a deep breath of fresh and and let it out, blazing down the straight line toward the curve in the track. The group of curious eyes were far behind me now--just a blob of trim and tan legs jogging in rhythm.

In time things would settle back to the way that they used to be. People would stop staring and just accept the fact that I hadn't died--that some other body had been mistaken for my own and that I had revived into a daze, only to run away from all the people that screamed in horror at the sight of the living dead--or what they assumed was the living dead. That was my story; a story that had spread like wildfire through the premises of the whole city. My story was on every News Station's list in all of Savannah--perhaps all of Georgia for all I knew.

When the time came that everyone I knew had accepted my presence, I would feel free again--just as free as I felt now with my chest burning and the air rushing in and out of my lungs a mile a second and the sun gazing over my back to fill my body with warmth.

When I happened to glance over at the bleachers, I found them strangely vacant. My heart thumped oddly as I searched almost frantically for the one sole being who should have been there, watching me. He wasn't there. Something dropped within me and my stomach twisted with butterflies.

Did he still not trust me? How could I even trust myself? I had chosen without a doubt in my mind, to kill that little boy. What kind of person did that make me? A note of clarity rung in me as I thought this. It was what you had to do--for your mother. And I knew it was true. I didn't feel the least bit proud of myself for it, but if I had to make the same choice again, I would not change the outcome.

If Zeke wanted nothing to do with me from now on because of the choice that I had made, then I would understand that. And I would learn to live with it.

My heart ached at the thought. I yearned just to be around him. He was my comfort. He made me laugh. He was a friend to me when no one else was. He loved me...and maybe I was starting to feel the same way.

I was a mess of nerves, wondering if he had abandoned me. And then I caught a glimpse of a dark head moving around to the back of the locker huts. He disappeared out of sight behind the buildings, the back of his shirt splattered with old paint stains. I would know that figure anywhere, even without the telltale paint stains to focus my wandering eyes.

Taking little thought to track practice, I veered off to the right. Elisa blazed passed me, smacking me lightly in the shoulder as she did. My eyes flitted to the left to see her small victory dance before she took off once again, whooping. "Who's in the lead now, girl?"

I smiled fondly and streaked after Zeke. My sneaker-clad feet felt the change from asphalt to the soft green grass that surrounded the locker huts. The coach didn't even bother to call after me. She hadn't reprimanded me at all since I had come back on the team. I guess everyone was still trying to be careful around me; especially since I had been through an ordeal. It was nice that they pretty much let me do what I wanted--and maybe I shouldn't have taken as much advantage of it as I did.

My breath was still coming out fast as I rounded the corner to a blast of cigarette smoke. It choked my lungs as inhaled on the demands of my beating heart. My hands grasped my knees and I leaned slightly forward on them as I spluttered.

"What do you think you're doing?!"

Zeke let the cigarette dangle from his hand, looking nonchalant but for the sudden flash of surprise that zipped through his eyes, nearly indefinable in it's hurry before it disappeared. He leaned against the wall and sighed.

If I didn't know him better, I would have misinterpreted the gesture to mean that I was a nuisance and that I should depart immediately. Not that I would have followed the urging, even if that was the case. I sighed in return and folded in on myself, taking a seat on the grass and pulling my knees to my chest.

"I'm smoking because it's something to do--to keep my mind away from my thoughts," Zeke replied a little belatedly, sending me a sideways look with his midnight blue eyes. He moved as if to pull the cigarette up to his lips again but it never made it there. A blur was all that could be seen of my hand and then the small white cylinder when bouncing across the grass. I ground it with my foot for insurance purposes.

Zeke let out a disgruntled noise and glared at me for effect.

"Well, don't," I returned. "You lose five minutes of your life for every one you smoke."

His eyes met mine with an equally stubborn look. He knelt down across from me and spoke slowly and succinctly for effect. "It's. My. Life."

I leaned forward slightly. Our noses nearly bumped. "It's my life too," I returned. "Everything you do to hurt yourself hurts me too, because I care about you."

He let a breath out of the side of his mouth, looking deflated. His shoulders rose and fell in a casual shrug. "Whatever," he muttered his concession, not losing eye contact with me. "I don't smoke them very often anyway--just when..."

"When you're agitated," I finished for him. "I know."

His eyebrows rose an inch.

"You forget we shared a room for about a month," I couldn't help the grin that rose up my cheeks.

He rolled his eyes. "Don't remind me. I'm trying to keep a blind mind to the fact that you probably heard my sleep talk--And saw me dancing like a lunatic."

My grin rose even further. "Yes on both accounts."

His hands flew up in a defeated gesture. He glared at me as he pronounced. "Well, you're not supposed to tell me that! Whatever happened to the saying 'ignorance is bliss?'"

The grin fell slightly. "Zeke, I'm sorry. You're not mad at..."

A wicked grin rose up his lips and he leaned forward on a whim. The kiss was soft and sweet and thankfully close-mouthed as he undoubtedly must taste like cigarette smoke at the moment, something I wasn't enjoying the thought of tasting. It just wasn't my thing. It shouldn't be anybody's thing, in my opinion. But I was beginning to learn that you couldn't control the world. You could only control how you reacted toward the things that happened in life.

Zeke pulled back, brushing his nose with mine for a moment. His voice was husky when he spoke. "Kate, I shouldn't have judged--about the boy, I mean. I didn't have enough information. I should have let you explain."

"Let's just put it in the past," I muttered, leaning back to get a full view of his gorgeous face. Since I had gotten to know him, over time he had become the most appealing boy that I had ever met, right from the top of his dark head down to his white-out covered shoes. "It's a bad memory that I don't like to indulge in."

He nodded slowly chewing his lip.

A thought suddenly occured to me. "Why do you feel so agitated right now?"

"Because my mom hates you," he responded truthfully. "She doesn't want me to have anything to do with you."

I sighed, my stomach curdling. I had it in my mind to take control of the situation and tell his mom to go screw herself because I was going to do whatever I darn well pleased. But this wasn't just about me--and I did need to let Zeke make some of his own decisions instead of babying him all the time.

"So," I spoke slowly as I chose how to phrase my words. "What are you going to do?"

A smirk started to slide up the side of his mouth. "The heck with her. You know I couldn't live without you. You're the first person that's ever truly...cared...about me."

His words exploded into me like a waterfall of joy, bursting through my senses and leaving me frazzled but happy. I leaped forward and hugged him, maybe a little too hard but I was overcome with a happiness that I didn't realize that I could feel.

"Kate," He whispered over my shoulder, his arms gripping me just as tightly. "I love you."

I smiled at that and gripped him even tighter.