Nathan pulled up as far as he could go until he was blocked by numerous trees. Derek’s sleeping face was slightly illuminated by the radio’s blue light, peace emanating from him. I pushed a lock of his too long hair from his eyes and took another look at the innocent boy passed out on my lap.
Nathan turned around in his seat after cutting the engine. “I will carry him up to the house and into your room. You should go with him in case he wakes up, I don’t want him to be scared.”
No way! My mind screamed and I opened my mouth to protest, but remembered Claire was probably in there. I could leave him with her while I speak with the rest of the pack about this.
Nathan climbed out of the back, moved his seat up, and reached into the backseat to carry Derek. With effortless ease, he lifted him gracefully into his arms and cradled him to his chest, Derek not stirring from his slumber.
Junto got out of his seat so I could climb out. I ascended from the cab and shut the door, Nathan waiting for me to go first.
The climb wasn’t as hard as it was the first time I had to do it, now that I’m starting to get used to the higher altitude and rough terrain. The illuminated house came into view as some dark figures emerged as silhouettes.
“What happened?!” Stephan yelled as we got closer.
I pressed my finger to my lips and looked back at Derek in Nathan’s arms. Spencer, Jules, and Lydia were at his side, staring at the young Foreseer defenselessly lying in Nathan’s arms. I shoved past them, ignoring the stares and jaw-dropping looks they gave us. Climbing the stairs, Nathan followed me to my room at the end of the hallways upstairs.
“There you are! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how late you are. When you say after six, that does not mean three hours after six!” Claire started yelling as she rose from my bed and circled around it to face me. She froze in mid-step when she saw Nathan.
I pointed to my bed and Nathan gently placed the boy down on the left side. He grabbed some pillows, using them as a buffer to keep his frail body in place. “Claire, I need a favor,” I whispered.
Claire’s demeanor was lost, looking to me for answers. “I promise I will tell you everything, I just need you to stay with him while I go sort everything out.”
“Is he okay?” She whispered, taking a step towards me so we could lower our voices even more.
“I think so, I just don’t want him to wake up and freak out because nobody is here. I’ll be right back up, okay? Just stay with him?”
I waited for Claire to nod before following Nathan out the door. He didn’t say a word all the way down, knowing I will have a hard time persuading Stephan that yet again that I was right about this.
Everybody had left the porch and was now gathered in the family room. Nathan placed his hand on my back, offering his own strength as soft tingles shot through my body. I nodded, taking a deep breath, and pushed the door open and stepped in.
Everybody was standing, not a sound coming from their mouths. Trysten and Blake seemed to have joined, rubbing their eyes and still dressed in their sleep attire.
Stephan stepped forward. “Elana, Nathan. Who was that? What happened?”
I took a deep breath and prepared to speak when Nathan did. He spoke of everything that happened, every last detail. From his horrible parking job to the conversation in the truck. Every person in the room was hanging onto every word, including Junto.
Nathan ended his story and all eyes turned to Stephan, waiting for his response. He stayed silent for a few seconds, which felt like forever. “He can’t stay here,” he bluntly said.
“What? Why not?!” I demanded, taking a few steps toward him.
“We aren’t a Foreseer therapy group, we’re a Shape Shifter pack. We take in those who don’t have a pack, and take care of them until they control their own abilities. Aside from you and Spencer, we haven’t had anybody else here, and there’s a reason for that. It isn’t my job to be an orphanage for any gamin that we come across!” Stephan started yelled at me. I could tell he was the kind of guy who was never questioned and it was making him mad I was starting to do it daily.
“Then why did you keep me with you? Huh? You could have put me with a ‘Foreseer therapy group’ or whatever you call it whenever you wanted, but instead, you kept me here—”
“That was different.” Stephan growled.
“Why does everybody keep saying that? Is there something else you aren’t telling me?” Stephan’s chest heaved with frustration, but he didn’t answer. “Because if you would have told me what was out there, I would have been able to shield not only myself, but that fragile, helpless little boy from what attacked us tonight. Why do you insist on me taking all these classes on guns and knives, but you won’t even tell me what it’s for! I’m out there, clueless of what is considered dangerous, because nobody has bothered to tell me what is out there!” I yelled at him, taking another step forward. Nathan laid his hand on my arm, sending tingles through my body. I took a step back and calmed my voice a little.
I guess this isn’t really the time to be yelling at the leader, but all this pent up anger is just begging to be released, and I’m not strong enough to stop it.
“This is how we can prevent anything happening to such an innocent soul; to save him from the evil out there that has the potential to turn him into something as dark as a Keeper or Walker.”
“There is no hope for the people like him, or the Spiritwalkers, but there is hope for this little boy. There is something you could do right now that can not only save his life, but possibly others as well.” I knew I hit a nerve, because Stephan’s face went from angry to solemn while I spoke.
Stephan looked at me, then at Lydia, who was looking at me with her mouth hinged open. She looked at him and gave him a small nod, signaling she agreed with me. “That’s the one thing you said you wanted to with this program, honey. To help people, or kids, like this. And we have plenty of room,” she reasoned with him, obviously on my side.
I looked around the room and saw the same agreeing looks on everybody else’s face. Stephan must have noticed the same thing because he looked back at me with understanding in his eyes. “I will see what I can do. What about his family?”
“Foster care.” Nathan said from behind me, finally removing his hand from my arm. The warmth left with him and I hugged myself trying to get it back.
Stephan nodded. “Is this okay with everyone else?” He asked as he looked around the room for any protest. When he saw none, he looked back at me. “I will check in the morning. No school for you, Claire, or Trysten tomorrow until we figure all this out.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, more about this understanding than the no school statement.
Stephan nodded to the door. “Go back and check up on your boy.” His look moved to Nathan. “These two,” he said, also pointing to me. “Are your responsibility. Anything else happens with this one and you will call for it.”
I turned and saw Nathan looking at me. He nodded to his father before signaling for me to go. “We will talk about everything in the morning. For now, go upstairs and get some rest.”
My eyes scanned the room, noticing all the tired faces. The multitude of people started to leave, realizing the drama was probably over. I followed, turning and walking to the door. I climbed the stairs slowly, now realizing how tired I was from the episode back in the school.
I dragged myself down the hall and into my room, where Claire was lying by Derek and stroking his hair. She leaped from the bed and crossed over to me. She ushered me outside the room and closed the door. “Did he wake up?”
Claire shook her head, waiting for an explanation. I retold the story of what happened the same way Nathan did, going through all the details. Every torturous moment.
I didn’t realize I was shaking until Claire reached out her hand to steady my shoulder. “Are you okay?” She asked gently.
I nodded slowly, grabbing my head in frustration. “Derek might not be able to stay here. He needs to, though. He needs us more than anything, and I know I need him to be okay,” I spoke quietly.
“Is that because your brothers aren’t here?”
I didn’t say it out loud, but I knew that was probably the best reason why I felt so protective over Derek. Because my mother is incognito, I’ve taken on that role in my life. I just never realized how much that affected my life outside of my home.
Claire reached into her back pocket and pulled out a photo with defined creases from the numerous times it has been folded. She held it out, exposing the colors to me. “Look familiar?”
I took the photo and looked at it. There was a beautiful woman with long brown hair dressed in a floral gown standing by a small lake. She was bent over, smiling at the camera with a toddler next to her holding her hand while sucking his thumb. Flashes of my dream went through my head and a woman with her little boy at a lake. The faces were no longer blurred and came into precise view as every feature cleared up.
The little boy had chubby cheeks, resembling his mother and looking a lot like Derek. “Where did you get this?” I asked her slowly.
“He had it in his pocket,” Claire said slowly, gesturing to the door behind her. “That’s the woman from your dream, isn’t it?”
I nodded as a lone tear escaped my eye. “I thought his mother was dead.”
Claire shook her head. “Apparently not,” she said and gave me a hug. I let a few more tears escape my eyes, half in confusion, the other half for Derek.
I pulled back, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. Sniffling, I whispered, “I’m going to check on Derek, okay?” Claire nodded, understanding I just needed time and space right now. “I’ll see you in the morning,” I promised and moved into my room to figure out the mystery surrounding this young boy.
“Last night on Thursday October fifteenth, there was a homicide at Corneldo High school. The Janitor named Steve O’Hara was found stabbed outside the Janitorial closet. There appears to have been nobody else in the building at the time. The authorities have some suspicions on what happened, but none of it can—”
Stephan shut off the high-pitched voice of the newscaster. The room was dead silent as everybody sat there, stunned at the news that something else happened besides our attack last night. Steve O’Hara. I wish I could say I knew him. I wish I could say something like I got lost one day, asked him for directions, and ever since then he’s been my buddy. I wish I could say that name at least rang a bell. I wish I could say I know he will be well-missed. But the truth? I know none of that is true.
Stephan put the remote down on the glass coffee table in the downstairs family room. I followed his movements, letting myself go numb inside.
“They looked at all the clubs that stayed after school, including the tutoring center. As people showed up, they crossed them off the list. When Elana didn’t show up for school, they checked her locker and found the pocket knife. They are trying to match it up with Mr. O’Hara’s stab wounds as we speak. Right now, she is the number one suspect.”
Dread filled my heart like a lead weight. Not only was Steve dead now, but they also thought I did it. My heart begged for me to go there, tell them what happened to me that night, set all this straight. To go and make sure the authorities knew I didn’t do it and the real killer was out there somewhere. But my head warned me not to, telling me if I told them a Spiritwalker got hungry, I would for sure end up in a psych ward.
I felt guilt rise up in me. Not only could I not go tell the authorities what happened, but I also couldn’t go tell his family. Steve O’Hara’s family will never have justice or a peace of mind in knowing what happened to their loved one.
Nobody will ever know.
And for some reason, that bothered me more than usual.