Chapter 17: A Burning Heart
A few months went by and I became envious of Jordan and Alicia’s relationship. Not because they were always together, but because I was getting nowhere with my relationship with Alex. I was dying for Alex to make the next move. I was too shy to kiss him first so I always waited while we hung out on the top of the roof or when we lingered outside my room as he wished me goodnight. I would often lean into him, making my intent clear, hoping that he would make the next move and press his lips against mine. But every time I tried this technique, he would just look at me strangely before walking away. After that I would drag myself into my room and land face first on my bed, while trying to muffle my screams in my pillow.
The next day was the beginning of February and all around I could see posters and banners that hung in the corridors, reminding students that on Valentine’s Day, at exactly eight o’clock in the gym, everyone was to prepare themselves for the Valentine Ball, by purchasing tickets and gowns before the deadline. I instantly wondered if Alex was going to ask me. Oh, I hope so. Maybe then he’ll kiss me and we can both live our happily ever after or whatever the hell happens after it becomes official. I just wanted something to happen – to let me know that his feelings for me were mutual.
So I waited every day when we got the chance to hang out, hoping that maybe he’d ask me, but he never brought it up. Surely he must know about it. For God sakes, the information on the Valentine Ball was everywhere! So what was the deal?
I was laying spread eagle on my bed, these thoughts heavily on my mind, when I heard a knock at my door. I shot up from my bed and peered through the peep hole to make sure it wasn’t a creeper, waiting outside to kill me. When I saw that it was Alex, my heart beat started picking up, beating faster and faster as I gazed at his handsome profile. He gave me a finger wave. I giggled as I opened the door.
“Hey, what’s up?”’
“Hey,” Alex replied. He seemed nervous, which instantly made me wonder if he had come to ask me to be his date for the ball. “Do you mind if I come in?”
“Of course,” I said, as I held the door open for him. He smiled as he passed by me. I closed the door and sat down on my bed, while watching as Alex took a seat at my desk. I repressed a frown. Why did he have to sit all the way over there? I don’t bite. I forced a smile. “So what’s up?”
“Um…I came to ask you something…and you can say no if you want.”
“Okay,” I was trying to keep the excitement hidden from my voice. In the end, I sounded like I had inhaled helium.
“Well, I was wondering…if maybe…”
“Yes.” He’s going to ask me. I know he is.
He blushed. “Well, I was wondering if you could help me with an assignment.”
“What?” Even I could hear the disappointment in my voice.
So much for hoping.
“I’m having trouble writing this stupid poem that we have to write in Communications class.”
I couldn’t help but agree that the assignment was stupid. Mrs. York wanted us to write a poem to our “future soul mates” as she called them. I believe that there is someone out there for you, but I wouldn’t call them soul mates.
“I’m not very good at poems. My friend Jordan, however, is. But good luck getting him to help you.” I frowned. “He’s too busy with his girlfriend nowadays.”
“Oh,” Alex said, blank-faced. “Well, maybe you could help me come up with some bull crap anyway.”
Or maybe you could ask me to the Valentine Ball. Instead I said, “Sure.”
I decided to do mine along with him. I mean, it didn’t hurt to get it over with. And even though he never asked me to be his date for the stupid Ball, I still had fun.
When we had it finished, I walked him to my door.
“That was fun.”
“Yeah, it was.” Maybe he’ll ask me now!
But to my dismay, all I got was a small smile as he opened my door and left. He didn’t even bother to say goodnight.
“So I’ve got some great news,” Ms. Hardwick said as everyone turned their attention to the front of the class. “I’ve been thinking awfully hard about it, and I realized that you guys have been a really good class this year.”
Everyone whooped and hollered at this, except for me and Alex. Neither one of us really cared about what was going on. I looked at Alex, hoping maybe I could send a psychic message to him.
Ask me to the Valentine Ball.
What? I was startled when I realized that it wasn’t Alex that had replied, but Jordan. I turned around and saw Jordan eyeing me strangely.
Sorry, I thought back. That was supposed to be to Alex.
Jordan chuckled. I wasn’t aware that you had an N’Sync bond with Torchwood. Should I be worried?
Naw. I’m just being silly.
Jordan smiled before turning back around.
“So,” Ms. Hardwick said. “I was thinking we could have a Valentine party. Don’t worry about providing anything; I’ll take care of that. But I think it will be fun and it will give you guys a day to relax from all the studying you’ve been doing. I’m thinking we should do it next Thursday. What do you guys think?”
What I thought was irrelevant. I just want Alex to be my date to the stupid Valentine Ball.
When the bell rang, I gathered my stuff and said bye to Alex as I joined my friends. I was walking a few steps behind them, my head lost in the clouds when I became aware that Jordan had fallen in step with me. I noticed that Alicia was watching us very closely as she and Jennifer whispered to one another.
“Hey,” he said.
“Long time, no see.” I answered in return.
Jordan laughed. “God, I know. I’m sorry. I haven’t been much of a friend, have I?”
“You’re fine, Jordan. You guys are just in that place where you want to be with each all the time. It’s okay.”
“So what was going on in class? You were acting really weird.”
I groaned. “I’ll tell you later. I’m giving myself a headache just from thinking about it.”
“Whatever makes you comfortable.” Jordan said. He gave me a gentle smile. “But know that I’m here for you.”
“I know you are.” Even if he’s always with Alicia, I know he’ll always be my best friend.
To my surprise, Jordan decided that he wanted to spend the evening with me and catch up. We were in my room, both of us lying side-by-side on my bed as we talked and laughed like old times. It was nice, just me and him. It felt like it was just us again. I listened as Jordan told me that he and Alicia were both going to the Valentine Ball, along with Morgan and Jennifer. I felt some sympathy for Jennifer. She was going to be having a long night. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling a little bitter though. It seemed like everyone had a date, but me. Then I realized that wasn’t true. Gabrielle, Scarlett, and Mia didn’t have dates either so that made me feel a little better. If all hope fails and Alex doesn’t ask me, I’ll just make Gabrielle my date instead.
Jordan kicked my leg, making me smile.
“So it’s later. Are you going to tell me?”
I sighed. I was hoping he’d forget about it. “Alex hasn’t asked me to the Valentine Ball. I’m starting to think maybe he only sees me as a friend.”
Jordan sat up then, his face outraged. “Then he’s crazy. Any guy would be lucky to go to the dance with you.”
“Thanks Jordan,” Though I didn’t really believe him. Usually people only say that when their feeling sorry for you.
“Have you ever wondered if maybe dances aren’t really his thing?” Jordan asked abruptly. In a weird way, it was almost like he was defending Alex. How odd.
“Why would you think that?”
“C’mon. Dances involve people. Alex hate’s crowds. It’s not rocket science, you know.”
I looked at Jordan with wide, sad eyes. “I’m going to be dateless, aren’t I?”
“Now don’t think like that. There are plenty of guys here at the academy that would love to be you’re date at the ball.”
“If you say Cameron I’ll kick you.” I threatened.
“Not Cameron,” Jordan scoffed. “Even I wouldn’t want you near that! I was thinking maybe George Dawson.”
“He’s got big ears.” I whined.
“So what? He thinks you’re hot and he’s an earth user, which means he’s a nice guy.”
I rolled my eyes. “He’s not Alex.”
“No, he’s definitely not. I don’t understand why that matters.”
I didn’t say anything for several minutes. How could I explain it to him so he’ll understand? “I love him.”
Jordan did double take at my words. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I love him. He makes me feel beautiful and doesn’t even have to tell me. And I can relent to him.”
“Really? How so?”
“Well, we’ve both been shunned most of our lives. I’ve never had friends until I met you and the others. The only people I really had was my mom and family. And to this day, most of them still don’t understand me. Some are even afraid me,” I started thinking about my two cousins, Carmen and Kelsey. Neither one hardly even looked at me during Thanksgiving or Christmas break. “Alex is the only one I have ever met who truly understands what it feels like to be rejected and unseen. Maybe that’s why I noticed him the way I did. Because on some level, I knew that he had suffered in life too. I mean, I had it rough, but it’s nothing compared to what he’s gone through. And I think that’s why God brought him to me. “
“You thought about this long and hard, didn’t you?” Jordan asked, dryly.
“Well, yeah. It’s Alex.” He didn’t reply. Instead he smirked at me. I pointed a warning finger at him. “You better not set me up on a date with George Dawson. If you do I might have to kill you.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that to you. Just let me know if I can help.”
It was my turn to kick his leg. He winced. “I think you’ve done enough, butthead.” Jordan laughed, before mussing up my hair. I frowned and slapped his hand away, which seemed to amuse him even more. Then somehow we started wrestling on my bed, kicking and slapping one another. Eventually we both fell off my bed, our limps tangled together.
“You really know how to show a guy a real good time.” Jordan teased.
“Yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls you hang out with.”
He chuckled. “I better go.” I crawled away from Jordan as he stood up. He held his hand out to me and pulled me to my feet. “I need to see my girl before we both have to go to bed.”
“Okay,” I said as I watched him head to the door. “Be safe.” I hope he heard the double meaning in my words.
He squinted his eyes at me, making me laugh. “Bye, Spence.” The door locked instantly behind him as he left. What a day. Of course it wasn’t over yet. I had to talk to Alex. I suddenly had this urge to see him. I checked the clock. It was a little past nine-thirty. He should be in his room by now. I grabbed my sweater from the back of my chair, shrugged it on as I made my way to the door. I peeked outside, making sure there was no one around and snuck out of my room.
I pounded on Alex’s door, hoping to God that he wasn’t about to go to bed. To my relieve, he was still fully dressed when he answered the door. I waved sheepishly at him.
“What are you doing here so late? It’s almost curfew.”
“I wanted to see you,” I said. I could feel my cheeks reddening. Why is it so embarrassing for me to say these things? “Do you mind if I come in?”
Alex didn’t reply. He just held the door open, his face unreadable. As I entered his room, I couldn’t help but take in my surroundings. For a boy’s room, it was surprisingly clean. His bed was on the right side of the room, black bed sheets unmade, with a small nightstand beside it. I nearly gasped when I saw the rose that I had given him pinned to his head board. It still looked lively and beautiful. I'm just surprised that he kept it. Part of me was so sure that he would throw it away. With my heart about to pop right out of my chest, I started looking around some more. The walls were mostly covered with his drawings, which were marvelous. I was captivated by one drawing that was of a man that, to my surprise, looked exactly like Alex.
“That was my dad,” he said, following my gaze. I felt a chill go through me. So this was Azazel. Alex does look a lot like him. I turned around in astonishment.
“Why do you have a drawing of him?” I asked, wearily.
“It’s not what you think,” he said. For the first time I felt unsure. For someone who hated his father, why did he have a drawing of him? “That was before he became possessed. When he was a good man. I keep it to remind myself that he was once just like everyone else. It gives me a reason not to be afraid of him. My father – like everyone else – can be killed.”
“Because everything has a weakness.”
“Exactly.” Alex said, deadpan. “And I can’t wait to see him suffer. The way I suffered.”
“Alex,” I said. Suddenly the Valentine Ball didn’t seem so important anymore. “Are you ever going to tell me what happened that night?”
“Why would I ever want to talk about it?” he snapped. “It’s in the past.”
“Yes,” I said. “But it’s your past and I want to know. Please.”
I stared at him with pleading eyes as I watched him. He seemed lost and unsure. Oh, Alex, I thought sadly. I staggered towards him and took his face in my hands. His skin felt surprisingly soft and he smelled wonderful. As a matter fact, this room smelled of him. Soup and mint, with the scent of paper mixed in. It was intoxicating. Alex still remained apprehensive.
“Talk to me. You know you can trust me.”
“I know,” Alex conceded. He sighed, crossing his arms. “It’s just so hard to talk about.”
I dropped my hands from his face, suddenly feeling helpless. I noticed that Alex was wearing a white a t-shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. I gasped. There was a visible scar on his elbow that seemed to stand out on his pale skin.
“What happened there?” I asked, as I traced the scar from his elbow to his wrist.
He seemed uneasy. I wasn’t sure if it was from the memory or me touching him. I’m hoping it’s the former. “Let’s just say that scar has a part in the story.”
I looked back up at him, suddenly feeling hopeful. “Are you going to tell me?”
“Yes.” Alex said. He didn’t seem happy about it. “But I’m warning you now it’s not a pleasant story. There is no happy ending to this tragic tale I’m about to tell you.”
I didn’t answer; I just went and sat on his bed, patting the space beside me. “I’m all ears.”
Alex sighed once more, before reluctantly crossing the room and taking a seat beside me. I grabbed his hand, holding it tightly in mine.
“I don’t remember much, but I was five years old at the time my parents had just split up. I didn’t know why. I just thought they were having some difficulties living together and just needed some space. I was under the impression that my mom and dad would get back together eventually. Being five, I didn’t worry about it much. I was more into drawing pictures at the time.”
Alex took deep breath, trying to calm himself, I think. “I remember that it was a cold winter night when my dad arrived. You see, my parents had an agreement that my mother would keep me through the week while my father kept me on weekends, and I remember feeling really excited about seeing him. I had drawn him a picture for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to give it to him. But when he arrived something was…off – different. He looked the same except I remember his eyes being the color of blood. I hesitated before I gave him the picture, for I was unsure. I watched him very carefully, hoping maybe he’d smile, because there was this look on his face that made me think that the man I once knew…was no longer there. It was like a monster had taken his place. I never forgot when he suddenly crumbled my drawing into a ball and threw it in the fire.
“He walked passed me after that and went straight for my mom. I didn’t know what was going on. So I freaked out when he backed my mother into a wall and started squeezing her throat, his eyes completely filled with blood lust. It frightened me.
“Without thinking about it, I started hitting and screaming for him to let her go, and without even looking at me, he pushed me into our coffee table that was completely made out of glass. Of course, being a Reaper, I had good reflexes so I only managed to hurt my elbow in the process.
“I do remember the pain. It hurt and there was so much blood that before I passed out, I saw my father twist my mother’s neck and watched as she crumbled to the ground, no longer moving. I cried, because despite being an ignorant child at the time, I was well aware that my mother was no longer with me. I was so scared when he turned around. He looked at me with such hate. It was unbearable and it hurt for him to look at me like that. I knew that he wanted to kill me, and as he started moving towards me, a man jumped through the window and attacked my father,” Alex smiled at my startled expression. He caressed my face. “A man that became my hero.”
“Did you get a good look at him?” I asked. Maybe Alex could give me some answers.
He shook his head ruefully. “I’m sorry, but no.” I felt disappointment wash through me. “By the time you’re father came to my rescue, I had already passed out. It was kind of hard to make out his appearance while he was wearing a brown hood.”
“So what happened after that?”
“I awoke in the hospital the next day. After that they sent me to an orphanage. I had no family left. I could have gone and lived with my grandmother, but sadly after my father had killed my mother, he had decided to murder grandma as well. His mother.”
I felt my hands ball into fist. Alex was right. There was no happy ending to this story. The tears came before I could stop them.
“Alex, I’m so sorry. I know the last thing you want from me is pity, but I am so sorry.” I wrapped my arms around him, burying my face into his shoulder. I began to sob uncontrollably, my tears falling onto his shirt. Alex hugged me back as he pulled me towards him, our bodies pressed up against each other. This was the first he had ever held me like this. I never wanted him to let me go.
When I finally stopped crying, I hesitated before pulling back. Alex was staring at me with some unknown emotion, one that was beginning to make my pulse quicken.
“I’m sorry for attacking you like that.” I whispered.
“It’s okay,” he said. I could feel his arms still wrapped tightly around me, our faces only a few inches apart. “It’s nice to finally tell someone. I’ve never been able to tell anyone that story before.”
I brushed my fingers through his hair. It was soft. “It makes me hate Azazel a lot more now. It just gives me enough reason not to be afraid of him.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Alex said. “Because what is he? He’s a coward. He needed a demon to become more powerful and now look where he is. He can’t even show his face right now he’s so weak.”
“Yeah, right now, but it’s only matter of time before he returns and starts destroying lives again.”
“I’m not worried about it.”
“I am,” I whispered. I was ashamed to admit this, but it was true. I was scared of him and I don’t think I have the courage to face him. “He’s trying to kill me, Alex. And when he succeeds he’s going to come after you next.”
Alex face went from gentle too hard in a second. It made my head spin. “He won’t touch you,” he growled. The promise seemed to ring in each word he spoke. And I believed him. I knew in this very moment that Alex would protect me no matter what. For the first time in a long time I felt safe. “I won’t let him.”
It was then that Alex started leaning towards me, his eyes filled with anticipation and uncertainty. I closed my eyes, waiting eagerly for his lips to meet mine. I could feel his warmth enveloping me as our lips were about to connect—
I jumped when I felt my phone vibrating in my back pocket. Part of me wanted to throw my phone on the ground and crush it under my foot, but I refrained. I smiled apologetically at him as I pulled my phone out of my pocket. I looked to see who was calling so late at night. It was my mom.
“Hello.” I said breathlessly.
“Hey, I hope I didn’t wake you.” I peeked at Alex and mouthed It’s my mom. He nodded in understanding, and remained quiet as I listened to my mom blabber on the other end of the phone.
“So I just got home and received a letter from the academy.”
Oh, crap. I hope it’s not anything that may involve me getting grounded for a whole summer. “What kind of letter?”
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s just about the Valentine Ball. Are you excited?”
I completely forgot about that actually. I had been too caught up in Alex’s story. “I guess.”
“Has anyone asked you to be there date?”
“Not yet.” I replied. Mom, I love you, but you are killing me. Get off the phone! “Um, mom, I gotta go. I got school tomorrow and I don’t want to be tired in the morning. I’ll talk to you later, okay.”
“Alright. I’ll send you some money to buy a dress and you’re ticket, okay. I love you.”
“I love you too. Bye mom.” I pressed the “end” button and dropped my phone on Alex’s bed. He seemed amused.
“What was that all about?”
“She just wanted to know if I was going to that Valentine Ball and if I had date.” I said, nonchalant.
“Oh,” he said, frowning. “Are you going?”
“Well, my mom is sending me money so I guess so. Are you?”
“I don’t know if dances are my thing.” I tried to keep a straight face, but I don’t think I fooled him.I knew that Jordan had been right, but still hearing the words out loud stung.
“Well, I gotta go.” I said abruptly. “We got school in the morning.” Alex seemed bemused by my sudden behavior as I kissed him on the cheek. I grabbed my phone and got to my feet as I walked dejectedly to the door.
I stopped in my tracks and turned around. Alex was on his feet and started walking towards me, a look of confidence on his face that hadn’t been there before. I stood still as he neared me and before I knew it; his lips were on mine – warm, soft, and unyielding as he wrapped his arms around me. I placed my hands on his shoulders, trying to keep myself balanced as I deepened the kiss, our lips moving slowly together in synchronization. We stood like that for a couple minutes before Alex pulled away, a smile tucking at the corner of his lips.
“No,” I giggled. “Thank you. That was the best first kiss ever.”
Alex smirked. “Whatever. You’re just saying that because you’re trying to be nice.”
“Okay, you sucked and I never want to see again. How’s that?”
Alex laughed, before kissing me one more time. “I think that sounds about right.” He released me. “I’ll see tomorrow.”
“You bet.” I said. “I’ll save you a seat in Magic and Spells. You don’t want anyone stealing your seat, do you?”
“Not if they want to find themselves on fire.”
A week seemed to go by rather rapidly, and before I knew it, it was next Thursday. It was third period and we we’re in Magic and Spells enjoying the party that Ms. Hardwick had thrown for us. I had to admit it was fun, although my mind was more focused on Alex’s hand as he held mine under the table. I smiled shyly at him.
“This party isn’t as lame as I thought it would be.”
“I don’t know. It would be better if I got the chose to leave.”
I punched his arm. He winced. “What are you saying? You don’t want to spend time with me?”
“Of course I do. I just don’t like parties.”
“You don’t like anything.”
“I like you.”
I couldn’t help but grin at his words.
I noticed that Jordan was watching us very closely, his face unreadable as our eyes met. I wanted to roll my eyes at him. As if sensing my annoyance, he smiled and turned back around. What am I going to do with him?
I sighed and looked down at the empty heart shape plate in front of me. It looked to pretty to eat off of. I also peeked inside my cup to see if there was any liquid inside. Nothing. When are they going to start passing that stuff out?
As if by answering my question, Mrs. Hardwick suddenly called Abigail to the front of the room. She handed Abigail a big jug of fruit punch.
“I want you to start pouring drinks into everyone’s cups, okay.”
“Of course,” She said politely. For some reason, her good manners bugged me. Abigail surprisingly followed Ms. Hardwick’s directions, by pouring fruit punch into everyone’s cups as she made her way down each aisle. My smile disappeared. No doubt, by the time she gets to our table, she’s going to give both of us hell. She might even pour fruit punch on my uniform, knowing her.
Before I knew it, she was at our table, a sardonic smile on her face. To my relieve, she didn’t spill juice on my uniform as she poured fruit punch into our cups.
When she finished, she said sweetly, “Enjoy.” Before walking away.
Alex and I exchanged confused glances before picking up our cups and taking a sip. For some reason, my juice seemed to burn as it made its way down my throat. I wonder why that is. I smiled to myself. Maybe Abigail spiked it with alcohol when she thought I wasn’t looking. I took another sip, wincing as the burning started to take place in the pit of my stomach. I tried to ignore it.
When Ms. Hardwick announced that she was about to start passing out cookies, the burning in my stomach started to intensify. I stood up abruptly, clutching my stomach, hoping that if I stifled the pain maybe it would disappear.
“Spencer,” Alex said. He seemed rather surprised by my sudden movement. “Are you alright?”
“No,” I panted. “My insides are burning!”
Alex continued to stare at me, his eyes full of concern. He was about to stand up when I suddenly started screaming. I was aware of everyone’s eyes on me as I fell to the floor, clutching my stomach. I curled into a ball as the agony took me. I felt Alex and Jordan rush to my side, both of them staring down at me anxiously
“Alicia, get headmaster Death in here, right away.” I heard Ms. Hardwick say. I heard someone running out of the room. It wasn’t long after that that I felt someone by my head. “What happened?”
It took me a minute to realize the question hadn’t been for me.
“I don’t know,” Alex answered. I could hear panic in his voice. “She just took a drink and that’s when this started happening.”
Ms. Hardwick got to her feet again, making her way to my table. She picked up my cup and sniffed it. She frowned. “This is not good.” She put my cup down before rushing back to her desk.
“What do you mean?” Jordan asked. Even he was having a hard time keeping calm. His eyes flickered to Alex, his gray eyes darkening. “You did this, didn’t you?”
Alex was affronted. “I would never—“
“Every time something happens to Spencer – you’re around. I never once thought you were innocent. After all, you’re just like your father!” Jordan seethed.
Alex went pale at his words. A look I recognized as hurt seemed to spread across his face. I was surprised to see that he didn’t bother trying to hide it.
“Jordan, stop.” I demanded. I winced as the pain was becoming unbearable. I could barely even breathe. I screamed when the burning seemed to enter into my heart. Was I going to die? Oh God – I hope so. Anything to get rid of this pain. I wish someone would put me out of my misery and kill me.
Jordan didn’t reply; just shot Alex one more accusatory look before grabbing my hand and holding it tightly in his. I squeezed back, but only because I was in so much pain. I felt something bubbling in my throat, choking and making me gag. I rolled onto my side and threw up, my eyes widening when I realized it was blood. I started whimpering.
Jordan and Alex’s eyes widened as well.
“You need to hurry, Ms. Hardwick.” Jordan exclaimed. He stroked my face, his hands cold. It took me a moment to realize that I was shivering. “She’s burning up.”
“I’m coming,” she said, walking briskly back to my side. In her right hand she was holding a silver flask. “Open up, dear.”
Jordan lifted my head up, while I opened my mouth weakly. I barely felt the liquid as it made its way down my throat. I couldn’t even make out the taste. Jordan laid me back down after that, trying to wipe the sweat off my face with a red napkin.
“You’re going to be okay,” Jordan whispered. He sounded more like he was convincing himself than me. It was seconds later that the pain started to subside, leaving nothing but a sort of throbbing behind. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
Alex, on the other hand, seemed skeptic. “Is she going to be okay?” he asked Ms. Hardwick.
“She’s going to be fine. Once the headmaster gets here, we’ll move her to the infirmary where the nurses can take care of her.”
I noticed that everything was becoming blurry, even Jordan and Alex’s faces as they stared down at me, both of them ashy pale. I smiled at them; just to reassure them that I was fine, before succumbing to the darkness that took me.
I awoke in an unfamiliar room – everything white. The walls, the sheets I was wrapped in, the long curtain that was pulled aside, revealing some women walking by, wearing white scrubs. It made my eyes hurt. I squeezed them shut before opening them again. Something moved in my peripheral vision, making me jump. I winced. My insides still ached. I turned my head and saw that it was Jordan. He was sleeping soundly by my bed side, his body curled into a ball, while his head hung off the back of the chair. I giggled, but stopped as a pain shot through my chest. I had a feeling it was going to take a while before I recovered.
My laugh must have woken Jordan up, because he blinked sleepily at me, a smile appearing on his face. “Hey.” he said.
“Hey.” I replied. I cringed at the sound of my voice. It sounded raspy and horrible, like I had a frog in my throat or something. “God, my throat hurts.”
“Well, don’t worry.” Jordan said. “You’ll recover before the week ends. Until then, just rest.”
“How long have I been asleep?”
“Since yesterday afternoon. It’s lunch time right now.”
“You’re kidding!” Jordan shook his head. “Well, if I’m going to be here for a couple of days, then how am I going to get any school work done? I don’t want this to get in the way of my studies.”
Jordan smirked. “I knew you’d say that so that’s why I brought you you’re stuff.” He gestured his head at the nightstand by my bed. On it was my text books and all my homework.
“Thank you,” I said, truly touched. “What would I do without you?”
“Ah,” Jordan said. “That is a good question.”
“You’re a good friend.”
“I know,” Suddenly his carefree smile disappeared and look of horror seemed to take its place on his face. “God, Spencer I’m so glad you’re okay. When I saw you in the state you were in…” He cringed. “You can’t possibly know how awful it was watching you suffer the way you did.”
“And you can’t possibly know how much that stuff hurt,” I winced at the memory. The feeling of burning spreading through my body, the difficulty of trying to breathe, the constant questions concerning if I was going to make it or not. I frowned. “What was in my drink?”
“Ms. Hardwick said that it was a fire serum. No one is sure how it got in there. The only person they suspected that could have done it was Abigail, seeing as she had the punch.”
“What’s a fire serum?” I croaked.
“It’s a serum made to torture demons with. It’s not supposed to be made for Reapers of any kind.”
“And everyone really suspects Abigail, did it?”
“Well, no, but she’s under investigation right now. Of course, her father is hiring the most prestigious lawyer in all of Eden, Rodrick Hemsworth. If she did do it, she won’t find herself convicted anytime soon. More than likely, she won’t even stand trial. Rodrick Hemsworth is that good.”
“But what do you mean if she did it? You make it sound like you think someone else is to blame.”
Jordan looked uncomfortable. He opened his mouth about to say something, when someone cleared their throat. Jordan and I looked to see who it was. I smiled when I realized it was Alex. He stared back at me blankly. I felt my smile disappear.
“What are you doing here?” Jordan asked coldly. I turned my head to scowl at him, but his attention was still focused on Alex.
“I just want to talk to her for a minute.” Alex answered. His voice was emotionless as his face. Somehow I feel whatever he’s come to say is going to be the opposite of comforting.
Jordan looked like he might protest, but thought better of it as he got up and left my room. He closed the white curtain, cutting off my view of the people that seemed to pass by. Alex sat down in Jordan’s seat, his eyes disconcerting.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I’m okay,” I answered. I still didn’t like the look on his face, and yet it seemed so familiar. “My insides ache and my throat hurts, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Alex looked away then. “I’m sorry that you got hurt.”
“It’s not your fault. It could have happened to anybody.” Though we both knew that wasn’t true.
“It’s still my fault this happened to you.”
“How is this your fault?” I demanded. “You didn’t do this.”
“I just feel like I could have stopped it somehow.”
“Alex, listen to me. No one knew that this was going to happen. It’s really not your fault. I mean, how were you supposed to know? Please,” I begged. “Don’t let this get you down. I’m fine. I’ll be out of here in a couple of days.”
“Everyone still blames me,” Alex said, bitterly. I blanched. “And maybe their right. Maybe I really am like my father. I’m just not aware of it yet.”
“You are nothing like Azazel. You know who you are? You’re Alexander Torchwood and you are the most amazing, most wonderful boy I have ever met. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. What matters is that we’re together. I don’t want you to hate yourself for something that wasn’t even you’re fault.” I grabbed his hand, squeezing it gently. He looked down at me, his face bereft of any emotion. “You mean a lot to me.”
“You mean a lot to me, too,” Alex answer took my breath away. His face was still blank as he took in my expression. It was unsettling to see him look at me like that – like he was trying not to care. “But I’m not good for you. You need to be with somebody who won’t hurt you in the future.”
I gasped at what he was saying. I barely noticed the pain in my lungs. “Why would you say that? You would never hurt me. I know you wouldn’t.” I gripped his hand tightly, while staring deep into his eyes. Alex winced, but didn’t complain about the pain. I could have easily broken his hand if I wanted to. But he had to know how much he meant to me. How much it would hurt if he gave up on us now. Tears started spilling down my face. This pain was unlike anything I’d felt before. “I’ve fallen in love with you, Alex.”
I felt Alex tense at my words, but he didn’t reply. I finally know why I recognized this face. It was the mask he wore before he started opening up to me. The mask I feared that would someday return. He removed his hand from mine and stood up.
“I can’t see you anymore. Sorry.”
With tears still falling silently from my face, I watched as Alex pulled aside the curtain, and walked away. Jordan peeked inside after Alex’s departure, I guess to make sure I was okay. But I barely saw him. I was still looking past him, hoping maybe Alex would turn around and come back to me, telling me that he loved me too. But he didn’t. Indistinctly, I heard the bell ring. Jordan gave me one more smile before grabbing his stuff. He closed the curtain behind him, and I knew he was gone.
Once alone, I let the pain take me. I put my face in my hands and started bawling, not even caring if I woke up the other patients. I tried to reassure myself that I would still see him, but his words were still like a stab to the chest. I can’t see you anymore. Sorry. Part of me always knew that it would come down to this – that I would indeed get burned. I winced as I remembered the burning spreading to my heart, wishing desperately that someone would kill me. Now that I think about it, that pain was nothing compared to what I felt now.
A nurse did come in to see if I needed any more pain meds, but I just shook my head at her and resumed crying. She lingered for a bit before leaving, turning off the lights as she left. For once I wasn’t afraid of the dark. In fact, I accepted it.