It had been two days since Emmett and Alicia told us the news. Two days since the story of the party in the woods gone wrong hit the town. Two days since, Mahala had learned her cousin was dead and two days since the blow out between my family.
The house had been silent, as Zach spent the whole time in his room, refusing to come out. We barely exchanged words between each other, just glances and slight nods. Things were even different between Masato and me, we’d hardly said a word to each other, and at night, I’d let him hold me for a while before I turned and slept with my back to him.
The grief rippled through the house like vasts waves while the concern for Zach cast an angry storm over the already disrupted sea.
He’d put up a barrier on his door, so none of us could even open it. I knew I could, but I understood he wanted to be alone. He was grieving, and I knew he felt guilt over how he reacted. Zach had been a lone wolf, he always was in ways, and he needed time alone. However, two days was too long.
“Maybe one of you should break the barrier and check on him. I’m concerned about him.” Alicia sighed, running her hand through her chestnut hair.
“I’ll go.” I sighed, forcing myself up from my seat.
“Hallie?” Masato spoke quietly.
“It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault other than those assholes who did this to Eric. Grief makes people do crazy shit, and you were defending me, which I love you for. Not the most helpful move, no, but what’s done is done. Stop apologizing, you’ve already said you’re sorry a hundred times.” I moved over to him and pressed my lips to his, “I’m going to check on Zach.”
I dashed upstairs and stopped outside Zach’s room, my hand softly tapping on the wood. “Zach?”
“Zach, let me in, or I’ll smash the barrier and let myself in. You have until the count of three. One.”
I readied the energy in my hand, and I was about to let the power burst out when the door swung open.
Zach looked exhausted. Heavy bags sat under his sharp, teal blue eyes, which were bloodshot red. His hair was messy and unkempt, and his stubble had grown a little more, making it look darker, which only added to the tired look.
“What do you want, Hale?” His voice was void of emotion and dull, the way you’d expect someone who’d not slept for days to sound.
“I’m worried about you, and you haven’t come out for two days. You haven’t eaten or drank anything either.”
“I had some water bottles up here and snacks.”
“Come down and eat with us, please, Zach? You need to eat.” Just then, my eyes caught the scene behind him. A gym bag open, half packed with clothes. “Zach, what are you doing?”
“I’m going, Hale. I’m going where I can’t hurt you, Emmett, Alicia, or Masato again. If you hadn’t taken that blow, you know it would have hurt him. You could take it because you’re stronger and half Vamp. I almost killed Emmett, the guy who’s spent so many years taking care of you. I hurt you physically and emotionally; I saw how much my words hurt you, so don’t try and say I didn’t hurt you. And it’s not the first time either. I don’t belong here.”
I pressed a flat palm against his firm chest, pushing him back a little before closing the door behind me and putting up a soundproof barrier.
“Yes, you do. How can you say that, Zach? How on earth could you think I’m better off with you gone? If you left, that would destroy me; I won’t lose you again. I already lived so long without you, please don’t make me live without you again.”
“You told me to leave, Hale, remember?” Zach snapped, a mix of hurt and anger evident on his worn face, which caused a pain in my chest. “You looked me dead in the face and told me to leave; I wasn’t the brother you grew up with!”
“Zach, I didn’t mean it, the same way you didn’t mean what you said! I shouldn’t have said that, and I’m sorry.” The tears pooled in my eyes, the guilt for the words I said clawed at me like a beast.
I’d snapped the same way he had, and I’d spoken words in anger I shouldn’t have. A knot grew in my stomach as it churned enough to make me feel sick, I couldn’t let him leave.
“You almost killed Emmett, and that blow could have seriously hurt Masato, you know that by your own admittance. I snapped the same way you did, and I’m am so sorry. You leaving is never going to be the answer to anything, Zach.”
“All I’ve done is hurt you, Hallie. When you told me who you were now and two days ago. I hurt you. You were so happy before I came around.”
“And? A million others had hurt me before that, so what? I’m a big girl. I can build a bridge and get over it. Families fight, Zach, they screw up and make mistakes. They get mad, they get angry, and they lash out at each other. Mind you, our family isn’t exactly normal, but it’s our family, Zach. It’s your family. And I wasn’t happy either, not really, because I thought you were dead!”
“Hallie, I almost killed Emmett!”
“But you didn’t! He’s fine, didn’t even need human blood because I healed him. He doesn’t hate you for it, and he forgave you instantly, so did Alicia. Also, that wasn’t a first for Emmett. I did that to him too once, only it was wood and through the gut. They both know and understand; we all do. Please don’t leave, Zach. If you leave, then I go with you. And you know full well, that means those three will follow too. So, you can run, but I assure you, you can’t hide.”
My words were firm and authoritative as I spoke, my eyes unwavering from his. I refused to lose Zachariah again after all these years living without him and believing he was dead. I had him back, a piece of me, the other half of my heart, and I wasn’t going to let him go.
Zach stared at me for a moment before he sighed, and his expression oppressed, “This is all such a mess, Hale.”
“I know, but we’ll figure out a way to stop this happening. We can’t just go charging in there, but we’ll figure out a plan. However, we need you here to help us do that. Right now, we need to stay together as a family.”
Zach stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me, “I don’t know what to do, Hale. I’m so detached from everything, I’ve been on my own for so long.”
“Stay, we’ll figure it out as we go. They’re holding a memorial assembly for Eric tomorrow at school. And they’ve agreed to go ahead with the football final because we all know that’s what he would have wanted. They’re leaving his position open, so they’ll be playing a man down, without their captain, but they don’t care about winning. They care about playing in Eric’s honor.”
“When’s the funeral?” He pulled back a little but kept his hands on my shoulders.
“Sunday, I spoke to Mahala earlier. She said it’s family only for the actual funeral, but everyone is welcome to the burial and wake.”
“Is any of this really going to be okay, Hale? Because right now, it doesn’t feel like it will be.” His face looked tortured and unsure, afraid of what was going to happen.
“I promise it will get better. Emmett took Masato out yesterday to extend our field of surveillance, and we’re going to start working out a plan. As long as they don’t start coming into town, no one else here should die, we won’t allow it. The only reason Eric and his friends got past us is that they took the dirt track. We’ve covered all angles now, any Vampire coming, going, and any human too, we’ll know.”
“Maybe if they go unfed, they’ll leave.”
“That’s what we’re hoping. If a human enters at night, then we’ll move to make sure they’re turned around. We’ll have to whip up some spells, but hey, we don’t age, so it works.”
Zach shook his head and chuckled, “Maybe this whole you dying, becoming a Vampire, me dying with you and coming back and never aging isn’t so bad.”
I shrugged, “It has its perks. Now please, will you come to eat with us? Alicia has made your favorite.”
Zach’s stomach growled loudly, which caused us both to laugh. “You sure they don’t hate me?”
“Not even a tiny bit, come on.” I held my hand out to him, look up at him pleadingly.
He gave me a small smile before he took it, “Hallie? I’m sorry for everything.”
“I’m sorry, too. We’ll get through this, I promise.”
Zach tugged my arm softly, causing me to step toward him as he wrapped his arms around me, “I hope so.”