Chapter 48: Present
I sucked in air as a cold, damp washcloth grazed my forehead. The familiar sound of the waterfall in the town square flowed into my ears. I cracked open my eyes and sat up. “Mom?” My voice was hoarse and my head pounded.
Mom hugged me. “Thank goodness you’re okay.” Her empathy lasted only a few more seconds before she pulled back and raised a questioning eyebrow at me. “You healed awful quickly.”
I sank back into the bed. “I was gonna tell you about my powers, eventually.”
“You promised to tell me as soon as you knew.” She sounded indignant.
I straightened up and eyed her sharply. “That’s what you get for blackmailing me.”
Mom’s lips pressed together with frustration. “I wouldn’t have told anyone.”
“It wasn’t you I was worried about. What if someone had overheard? What if the killer has our quarters bugged?” I let out a sigh. “I had to be careful.”
Mom sighed in resignation. “I know. And I’m glad you did.” She liked to put a guilt trip on me sometimes when I hurt her feelings, even if I had a good reason for it. But she’d let it go pretty quickly, too. “I’m glad you’re safe.”
Then, she went mysteriously silent for a moment.
“What is it?”
She looked uncomfortable. “You’ve…aged.”
My eyes grew wide. “No way.” Did I look ninety, like Emma? I looked at my hands, then relaxed. Thank God they weren’t wrinkled.
She handed me a mirror from the nightstand beside my bed.
Looking back at me was an older version of myself. Thankfully, I hadn’t aged much, but I definitely looked older than before. My youthful face had become subtly thinner. More mature.
“You are like fine wine,” Mom said. “Better with age.” She smiled softly, trying to make me feel better.
“It’s not bad, really.” I tried not to wear too big a smile. “I like it.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Everyone knows you have powers now. But I suppose it doesn’t matter since the murderer’s been dealt with.”
“What?” I scowled at her. “You actually believe Ian was the murderer?”
She looked at me with pity. “Abigail, his fingerprints were on the murder weapon.”
I pursed my lips. “Sometimes facts can be misinterpreted. You taught me that.” I gave her a harsh stare. “Ian was framed. He didn’t do this.”
Mom frowned at me then glanced away contemplatively. “If you keep talking like that, you’re going to have me worried.”
“You should be worried. Everyone has their guard down now. And I’m likely the next target since I can separate and spy on the murderer without him knowing.” I snapped my mouth shut, realizing my mistake. “Does anyone know what my power is exactly?”
Mom nodded, a worried look in her eyes.
Kat must have told them. Was she trying to get me killed? I suppressed the anger for now. I might need it later to separate.
“You need to get some food in you,” Mom said. “You’ve been out nearly two days.”
I cringed. “Two days?”
She nodded. “You did a number to your body. Kat said you could hardly move when she found you, and you lost consciousness within minutes.” She stood, then leaned over to help me up. “Let’s see if you can manage to get out of bed. Maybe we can get some blood pumping through those muscles of yours.”
I lifted myself from the bed, my body aching with soreness. My legs quivered at first as I stood, but quickly became solid. “I think I’ll be okay once I get some food in me. I’m just really sore and a little weak.”
“Do you need something for the pain?” Mom said.
“No. I’ll be fine.” I figured the pain would serve as a reminder never to overexert myself again. Then again, I wasn’t sure if overexertion had caused it or if Chen had.
I ate breakfast, then ate some more breakfast. And when I was done, I had some more breakfast to go with my breakfast. My body craved food, trying to replenish its calories and nutrients.
After eating, I got a couple hours more sleep, then hobbled to Kat’s Kitchen for some lunch.
Kat helped me into a chair, then sat beside me. “You feeling okay?”
I put a hand to my head and groaned. “I feel like I was just run over by a car, actually.”
Kat laughed, amused. “And I’d do it again.”
I had to laugh, too. I wasn’t sure I could be mad with Kat since she’d saved my life, even if she had told everyone about my powers. “Thanks for coming back for me.”
“It was worth it for the great story I got out of it. Who else can say they ran over their friend at a hundred-seventy miles an hour to save their life?” Kat gave a clever chuckle.
“So everyone thinks Ian is the murder?”
“Yeah.” Kat shrugged. “About the only thing that would change anyone’s mind now is if another dead body turned up.”
“Unless I can prove otherwise before that happens.”
Kat raised an eyebrow. “And how do you plan to do that, Goldilocks?”
“By finding the killer.”
She frowned. “You just aged yourself a few years by using your powers too much and now you’re gonna use them again to find the killer? Are you crazy or do wrinkles just turn you on?”
“Ew.” I wrinkled my face. “That’s gross.”
“Hey, ya never know.” She shrugged. “You have to wonder about women who date old geezers.”
I rolled my eyes at her bluntness. “I have to find the killer before someone else turns up dead. And if I can clear Ian’s name, maybe I can find him and get him back here.”
“Good luck with that.”
She didn’t have to say it—I knew it was a long shot.
“And he’s never gonna find his way back,” she said. Did she even want him back in Winter’s Edge?
“Maybe he’ll go back to the safe house,” I said.
“If he got away from those Hunters, that’s probably the first place he went. As far as he knows, we’ll never show up there again.” Kat shook her head. “He’s not coming back, Abby. You need to let him go.”
Kat had a pretty cynical view of the world. It was her way of not getting her hopes up so she couldn’t be let down. And sometimes, it was her way of being a friend. She probably didn’t think Ian was still alive…or she really didn’t want him back. I couldn’t understand that, though. She had nothing against Ian as far as I knew.
“I’m not gonna lose him.”
“Doesn’t matter, anyway,” she said. “You’ll never find him.”
“Well, gee.” I gave her a flat stare. “You’re real encouraging.”
Kat smiled smugly. “I know, right? I should be a life coach.”
After lunch, I was feeling better and starting to get my strength back, so I returned to my quarters for the first time in days. As I opened my door, my heart sank.
On the wall just inside the door hung a huge drawing made up of smaller drawings on several pieces of paper. It was my favorite inscription—the one on the amphitheater floor. A majestic Tree of Life took up most of the drawing. Three rows of flowers circled on top of the outside edges of the tree. Each flower had its own piece of paper. At the bottom right, it was signed Ian Sharp. He’d drawn it for my birthday gift.
I stood for a moment, taking it all in, my heart breaking into a million pieces. My insides felt like someone was running them through a meat grinder.
Then suddenly, something snapped inside of me. I rushed the drawings, clawing at them, ripping them from the wall. Several pulled free and dropped to the ground before I broke into tears and fell to my knees, sobbing.
The drawings were just a reminder that I’d never see him again.
It wasn’t long before a knock came at my door. I wiped my eyes and face, then picked myself up from the floor. When I opened the door, Lena stood there.
Her expression quickly shifted to pain. “I’m sorry, Abby.” She hugged me. “I was coming to take these down before you saw them.”
I held back more tears that threatened to spill out. “It’s okay.”
Lena shut the door behind her. “When we found out what happened with Ian, we figured it wouldn’t be good if you walked in on this. I’m so sorry. I should’ve been quicker about it.”
“Really, it’s okay.”
“It was his birthday gift to you.” Lena looked into my eyes, a sadness of her own reflected back at me. “I can’t believe he’d do this.”
Pressure sprang up in my temples. “You think he’s guilty too?” My tone was harsher than it should’ve been.
Lena shrugged, a sheepish look in her eyes.
I looked away, frustrated. “Geez, is there anyone here who thinks he didn’t do it?”
“Part of me wants to believe that.” Her French accent grew thicker now that I’d called her out. She walked to the living room and sat in a recliner while I grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “The other part of me says anyone can be a pawn for the Hunters. Maybe they recruited him before he came to Winter’s Edge?”
“That’s not what happened.” It irritated me that she’d even say that, but I let it go. She didn’t know him the way I did. “Ian had nothing to do with it.” I sulked, crossing the room, and sank into the couch.
“I hope you’re wrong,” she said. “But if you’re right, dead bodies are going to start showing up again.”
“That’s why I’m gonna need some help.”
Lena raised an eyebrow. “With what?”
“Catching a killer.”
Lena shook her head in disappointment. “If you search for months and months and find nothing, then will you believe Ian was the killer?”
“Look, I just need help, okay?” I wasn’t usually that brash, but it was really starting to get to me that no one believed Ian was innocent.
Lena was taken aback for a moment, but she seemed to let it go. “Okay. I’ll help you.”
We stood at the same time, Lena about to head to the door.
“Everything’s going to be okay, Abby.” She hugged me. “When do we start?”
I leveled a serious gaze on her. “Tonight.”