In Which the Kingsleys Get a Shock
And that was how I found myself answering the door of Vicar’s Lot, at 10:10 in the morning, to a half-dressed, wild-haired Jason Kingsley. “Okay, I’m probably going to ask, so stop me if I really don’t want to know.”
All he would say was, “They did find me.”
That was the end of that.
I helped him unpack, and set up the room for him. It looked like everything would be normal now...until I remembered normal doesn’t exist in my world.
The day passed, and the next morning was quite peaceful. Vic was still asleep, Levi was out for a walk, and Fred was attempting to teach Jason how to play cards. Although, from the sound of it, Jason had a few things to teach Fred about playing cards. “That’s it! I’m done!”
I looked up at him, amused. “Is he really that bad?”
“No! He's great!” Fred exclaimed. “The problem is he keeps beating me!” He gave Jason an over-exaggerated dirty look. “Tell him to stop beating me at my own game.” Jason and I both dissolved into laughter, and it only took a few seconds for Fred to join in.
Then, the doorbell rang. “Huh,” I said to myself, “I didn’t even know we had a doorbell. Fred, since when have we had a doorbell?”
“Dunno,” he answered.
I, thinking it was probably Levi, went to answer it. “You know, you don’t have to ring the doorbell. I know it’s you. By the way, has this house always had a...?” I stopped short. It was Levi, but standing with him was a middle-aged couple who looked vaguely familiar. He was holding his large hands over their eyes, keeping them from seeing the house.
“Found these two wandering around down by the lake,” he said. “Think they might be hunters. Introduce yourself, you two.”
“I’m Alan Kingsley,” said the man, “and this is my wife, Faith. Can you uncover our eyes, please? I dunno what you don't want us to see, but it can't be all that important.”
Levi looked at me. “Think they’re hunters?”
“I’ve never been hunting in my life!” Faith protested. "That's ridiculous."
“Also,” Alan muttered, “do you make it a point to harass hunters just wandering around in the woods?”
“We’re looking for our son,” Faith explained. “He left the house yesterday morning, and he hasn’t been back since. We’ve been looking everywhere.”
That was why they looked familiar. This couple were Jason’s parents.
“What makes you think he’d be here? Have you called the police?”
The woman shrugged. “Like I said, everywhere. We've asked everyone he knows, but he's not with them. We did call the police, but they won't report him missing for forty-eight hours, so we went looking for him ourselves, thought maybe he was lost in the woods. We didn’t expect to run into this nutcase.”
“Watch it,” growled Levi.
I sighed. “Go back down to the lake,” I instructed. “I’ll meet you down there.” I couldn’t risk bringing anyone into Vicar’s Lot, especially anyone who’d encountered a hunter, anyone who might sell us out. Levi nodded, leading the couple away. I called for Jason.
He ran out into the front room. “Yeah?”
“You’ve got visitors.” There was a path from the house that led down a tall hill to the lake, where Levi had a small house of his own. We followed the path, walking along the creek until it let out into the large body of water. I stopped in front of the house, picking up a smooth rock from the lake bed. “Go inside,” I said, throwing the rock into the water. “They’re waiting for you.”
He looked floored when he saw who was there. “Mom? Dad? What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you!”
"I...oh. Right. Look, I'm sorry about that. What happened with the man, the one who wanted to question me?” Faint splashes were scattered between his words, the sound of me, outside the door, slinging more stones into the lake.
“Forget him, Jason,” said Faith. “You’re our son, and we love you, and if you’re going to disappear we need to at least know why.” At this point, I decided to open the door, letting the last rock slip from my hand.
Jason looked at me. The unspoken question passed between us, should I tell them? I, reluctantly, nodded. We sat down on the circle of chairs in the front room. “Guys,” Jason said slowly, “this is going to be tough. I’m about to ask you to reconsider not just what you think about me, but what you think about...well, about the world.” They slowly nodded.
“I want you to think about the monster movies I used to watch with Julius. Now, I want you to think, what if they’re real? And what if I’m living in one? What if I’m...a monster?”
“What are you saying, Jason?”
“The truth is, I’m actually a...I-I’m a...oh God, I....”
I broke in. “He’s a werewolf.” I looked over at him. “Sorry. You looked like you needed an assist.”
“I did, thanks,” Jason said, relief on his face.
That did it for Faith. She jumped to her feet and started screaming at me, saying she was fed up with all of this, and she wanted to know the truth about her son, and all kinds of things besides. "I don't want any more of these ridiculous stories! Enough of this! Enough!"
Jason put any doubt to rest -- he clenched his fists, and jumped to his feet, Changing in front of everyone. No one could ignore it, and no one could deny it: this version of Jason was not human. “It’s true,” he said, his voice coming as something between speech and growling. “I am not crazy, neither is she, and I am not lying.”
Faith Kingsley took one look at her son’s visage, and slumped to the floor in a faint. Alan shook off his own shock and looked accusingly at Jason. “Now, whatever trick you’re pulling, stop it! Look what you’ve done to your poor mother!”
Jason lost it right then. “Look what I did? Look what I did? You think I'm making this up? Do you think I'm making this happen?"
"Well...what else would it be?"
"Why the hell would I do that? Why the hell would I make myself a freak? I wouldn't choose to be a freak! I wouldn't choose to be some monstrous thing, cut off from everyone I love! Why the hell would you think that?"
Alan was taken aback by this outburst. “I-I wasn’t suggesting that you chose it, Jason, or that you made it happen. I’m just saying...can’t you...well, stop it from happening?”
“Oh for Christ’s sake,” I muttered. "You're even denser than you look."
“No! No, I can’t! Don’t you think I would if I could?” He took a deep breath. “Look, Dad,” he said, his voice calmer now, “I know it must be hard for you to accept this. But I’m not...I’m not what you think. I’m still Jason.”
“I...no, I can't believe that. I can't. You're a freak!” Alan exclaimed, his tone completely changing. Fear had taken over his voice. “You’re some kind of unnatural...thing, you are! You can't be my son. There's no way you're my son, whatever you are.”
“No, Dad, I’m not! I’m still human, like you! I am your son, I am!"
“You just said you weren’t. You said you were a monster.”
“I’m...both. I have another side that I can’t control, but that doesn't mean I'm not Jason." He sighed, changing back. "Look, Dad. I wanted to break this to you gently. But I guess there really isn’t a way. I promise I'm still your son. Can you find a way to love me, still?”
Alan gently picked his wife up from the floor. “Yes,” he said, “If you are Jason, and you may well be, I love you. I'll always love you. But my feelings don’t change the truth that you are not human.” He paused. “And I’m afraid of you.”
"I'm sorry, Jason. Just stay with them. D-don't, don't follow me."
Alan left the house, Faith leaning on his shoulder. I got up, ready to chase after them, but Levi stopped me. “Let them go, Hailee.”
“What if they sell us out?”
“They won’t,” Levi assured me. “Trust me, they saw nothing worth reporting. They can call the hunters, but they can tell them nothing they don't already know.”
“Dad! Dad, wait!” Jason sank into a chair, head in his hands. His shoulders shook and his breath came in gasps as he began to weep, bitterly.
I bent down and put my arms around him, trying to comfort him.
He shoved me away, hard. “Don’t! Just don’t!”
"Jason, I'm sorry --"
He jumped up and ran from the house. I glanced at Levi, shrugged, and followed him, trees crashing in my face. I lost sight of him several times, having to follow his trail by smell and sound. Eventually, he led me to the End of the Earth. He ran so hard I was out of breath when I got there.
I saw him standing at the edge, looking over into the abyss, just as he had been the day I saved him, except now he didn’t look scared at all. Just sad. Heartbroken. He must have heard me coming, because he didn’t turn around when he spoke, his voice quiet and dull. “I could, you know. We both know I could.” I didn’t have to ask what he could do. Jump. "I think," he said, even quieter, "I think I sort of want to."
“But you’re not going to,” I said firmly, keeping the trembling from my voice. “You’re going to back away, right now.” He didn’t move. “Jesus, Jason!” I exclaimed, letting the trembling free. “Say something, please, you’re scaring me!”
“Don't you get it? I'm being hunted, I'm probably going to be killed before I'm thirty, and now my family won't even help me. I’m scared, Hailee.” He sat down, inching one of his feet over the edge. “Fascinating how your survival instincts work, huh? When you’re that scared, you’ll do anything not to be scared anymore. Anything.”
I took a quick step forward, sitting beside him, and grabbed him around the waist. He kicked and struggled, muttering protests, but I held on. “Jason freaking Kingsley,” I spat, “you get away from there. I know it isn’t what you want to hear right now, but I’m going to get you away if I have to drag you kicking and screaming, understand? You’ll thank me someday.”
“No, I won’t,” he said, teeth gritted. “Someday you will see things from my point of view. Someday, when you’ve hurt some of the people you loved and alienated all the others. Someday, you might even join me. Now let me go!”
“Don’t. Talk. Like. That.” I said, enunciating every word. “Never talk like that, ever, do you understand me? Ever. And I will not let you go. I will never let you go, y’hear me?” I roughly forced him around, made him look into my eyes, though I knew he could see me tear up. “Never.”
He had relaxed a little, but I could still see pained defiance in his eyes. “You can’t force me to change my mind,” he said. “You can’t save me.”
“The hell I can!” I exclaimed. “I can save you, and I will. You’re going to live, Jason, and yes, you're going to live to be thirty, and that’s an order.” I knew if I started ranting I’d never stop, but that hardly deterred me. “You think no one cares. You think no one needs you. That’s a lie. I care. I need you. I know it seems hopeless now, but you can’t focus on that.” I thought back to the conversation we’d had the day before. “What was it you said yesterday? ‘The past is irrevocable. It’s there forever, carved into stone. But the future isn’t.’ This doesn’t have to be the future, Jason. Fight it. Fight it. Stay with me.”
I slid my hand from his arm down to his hand, and was unpleasantly shocked to feel the sticky warmth of blood on his palm. I raised his hand in front of me and looked closely at it. The skin around the mark was torn and bleeding, and I had a sick, horrible feeling it wasn’t at all accidental. I looked down at his other hand, saw his bloodied claws, and my fears were confirmed. “Don’t do this again, please,” I said softly. “It isn’t worth it. Your Marks are beautiful, don't ruin them.”
I could see his lip tremble as he spoke again. “It doesn't matter, Hailee. It’s too late for me.”
I wrapped my arm around him, held him. “It’s never too late,” I murmured.
“‘Never,’” he said. “You keep saying that word.”
“Because it’s true. It’s never too late. And I will never let you go.”
“Promise?” he whispered, his voice cracked.
“Promise,” I whispered back. “I promise.” He finally broke down, crying into my shoulder, and as he did, a few pesky tears started streaming down my face as well. I pulled him to his feet, stepping slowly away from the edge.
There’s something very intimate about crying with someone, something as intimate as a kiss, even more. I could feel his every emotion as if it were my own -- his despair, his hopelessness, his loss, his wanting...maybe even, in the depths of his heart, our hearts, his faint, shining hope. And I could feel him -- the warmth of his skin on mine, the shakiness of his shattered breaths, his heartbeat, the rough strands of his golden hair under my fingers. “Come on” I whispered in his ear. “Let’s go home now.”
He looked up at me. “I don’t have a home.”
“Yes, you do,” I said firmly. I led him further down the path, holding tightly to his hand. “You have a home with me. You know that, don’t you?”
He nodded. I kissed his forehead lightly. “It’s okay, Jason. I’m here for you. It’s okay.”
And it was. For the first time in a long time, I felt truly comfortable, not worried, not wondering, not looking over my shoulder. Just being, and being happy. This is what normal feels like, I thought, satisfied. I could tell Jason felt much the same way, shaken as he still was. It would take a while, I knew. There would be more hard days and hard talks. But he could heal. Eventually, he would. I had to hope.
His wounded hand cleaned and bandaged, Jason lay back on his bed, sipping coffee. I sat beside him, holding my legs to my chest. There were so many things I wanted to ask him: how long had he felt like this, did he think his parents would change, and countless others. I tried, but he was very insistent that he did not want to talk about it, not yet. The last question I asked, the one that troubled me most, was “Would you really have done it?”
“Maybe,” he answered “I was thinking differently, Hailee. There’s no telling what I would have done.”
"Do you still want to do it?" He didn't answer. "Jason, I need to know," I said firmly. "I need you to tell me so I can protect you."
"I don't think so," he said. "I told you, I was thinking differently. I wasn't thinking at all, really. If I start thinking that way again, I'll tell you, I promise." That was all that was said about that.
Finally, he asked me to tell me what I knew about the hunters. I wanted to answer. I just wasn’t sure he was ready. “Jason,” I said, “I don’t know if today is the right time. You’ve already seen and done enough for one day.”
“No,” he replied firmly. “This is exactly the right time. Please, Hailee, I need to know. If you don’t tell me now, I’ll just start putting it off.”
“Well...okay,” I said reluctantly. I stared off into the distance, taking several deep breaths before I said, “Jason, I’m going to tell you exactly what happened to my dad. You can stop me whenever you want if it gets to be too much for you.”
“Go on,” he said.