“I wish I had that gun right about now,” I stammer out, bouncing up from the couch, away from Ellery.
“What? Why?” His eyes widen. He lifts his hand, makes a show of removing the ring, and then places it on the table. “It’s yours. I don’t know what’s happening.” He also stands from the couch but doesn’t move away from it.
“Why don’t you see them?” I whimper. Is that really my first response? I’m becoming more pathetic as the days go on. Maybe I am going insane.
“See what?” he wonders. “Be a little more specific here.”
“The memories,” I practically shout. I guess I’m admitting the truth now. If he doesn’t give me an answer I’m satisfied with, then I can just leave. I don’t know where I’ll go, but it’ll be better than here. “Every time I see those objects, your memories-”
“-Is that what that was?” Ellery’s words choke me.
“Are you kidding?!” I growl in frustration. “You’re the one who’s supposed to know-”
“-I’m joking.” He smiles slightly, but it immediately transitions into a frown.
“You lied to me,” I whisper.
“You lied to me too,” he offers, shrugging. “I guess we’re bad at trusting people.” Why is he so unbothered by this?
“I’m not staying here unless you-” He keeps cutting me off.
“-tell the truth?” He finishes my sentence.
“Precisely.” I nod.
“If you expect the truth, then I expect it too.” He points to the ring. “Start with what that is.”
“I don’t know. When Theo died, I was compelled to take it from his body…” I trail-off.
“Compelled?” He snorts.
“Yes.” I glare at him. “By my...subconscious.”
“Okay.” he nods. “So, you swiped this from my alternate brother’s body, right after he died?” I agree.
“It seems to react the same way the objects do,” I explain. “The colors, the memories…”
“...the ability to see it.” His jaw pulses as he clenches his teeth. “You saw the objects.”
“I did.” I don’t want to admit it. It takes every fiber in my body to force the words out.
“There was one in your house this morning,” he continues.
“How did you know?” I furrow my brow.
“The memories, the colors,” he repeats my words sarcastically.
“What did you see?” I growl, feeling almost naked. He’d seen into my mind. But I’d also seen into his. I hold my thrashing anger in though I’d rather let it loose on him.
“What did you see? Whatever it was, it has you standing a couch width away from me.” He gestures at the space between us.
“You’ve always had these dreams.” I brush the hair out of my face with both hands, trying to keep from panicking. “Theo said you told your parents and they were going to experiment on you.”
“Yikes. You saw the style I used to wear when I was a teen?” He looks embarrassed.
“Ellery, please.” I’d have otherwise laughed at the spontaneity of his comment, but I’m beyond tense. He’s the only one who seems relaxed.
“Okay. Yeah, I’ve always had these dreams,” he agrees. “But I never told our parents. Theo thought I had, but it wasn’t me.”
“But your mom was under the impression you only started having them three months ago,” I announce.
“You’re right. That’s because Theo and I lied and told them the dreams stopped. That was a long time ago, but then we started dreaming about him dying, and...we told them the dreams had suddenly come back.” Ellery tells me. “I’m sorry for lying about it. Theo and I have been keeping secrets from our parents for decades. It was just easier to lie to you, too.”
“Why did you like him?” I ask.
“Who?” Ellery lifts a brow.
“Theo.” My heart is finally calming. Apparently, all I had to do was ask. Every time I stepped into the car with him, I should have been bombarding him with questions. Instead, I was too mad or too uncomfortable with him to snatch my opportunity.
“I didn’t like my brother. He was the only ally I had,” Ellery states. “And that pull you felt to him...to your world’s Theo. I get the feeling it was because they were together here.”
“How did you know?” I glance away from him.
“Sorry,” he apologizes, taking a careful step towards me. “It’s one of the memories I saw. You were being driven to him like he was some kind of light at the end of a tunnel.” When I don’t react to his first step, he proceeds to take another. “So what else did you see?”
“Theo pushing you into a fountain.” I laugh softly, trying to fight the embarrassment. I was stupid to ever think there was some invisible string tying my fate to Theo’s. I have an answer now. It wasn’t a tug to him, it was my subconscious tugging me to this world--this situation.
“The one that broke?” Ellery confirms, moving even closer.
“One and the same.” I sigh. “And him asking you to plan his funeral.” Ellery pauses, his eyes meeting the floor between us.
“Who asks that of their brother?” he snaps under his breath.
“Your brother, it would seem.” I gaze at him. Why is he closing the gap between us? “If it helps, I planned the funeral for my sister.”
“And saw her killer attend it,” he confirms, his gaze wandering back to mine. “If it was me, I would have shot him dead.” My heart wrenches in my chest, tears flooding onto my lower lids. Ellery closes the gap, wrapping his arms around me. Now I know why he was inching his way to me. He was preparing for the waterworks that would inevitably come with the memories he saw. “If I ever see him, I still might shoot him dead.”
“My sister I-” I begin, trying to speak over the flood pouring down my cheeks.
“-I’ll look for her,” he promises.
“The last memory?” I sniffle.
“I saw your father’s funeral,” he replies, resting his chin on my head. “You had one hell of a left hook.”
“I still do.” I laugh with his joke because it’s all I can do not to fall apart completely.
“How long did that guy have a black eye for?” Ellery wonders.
“A full month.” I continue to laugh, almost forcibly so. I can’t fall apart.
I can’t. But-
His apology is all it takes to send me over the edge. I clutch onto him for dear life, sobbing years of tears into his chest. “I want to get you home. I don’t want you to be in danger. I didn’t mean for you to get drug into this. But if you’ll trust me, I’ll protect you, no matter how much you say you don’t need me to.”
I don’t have the words to answer him for some time. So he just holds me, remaining silent, remaining still. He may not be the type that can comfort well, but he seems to have at least learned a hug is all it takes. When I finally have the words to speak, the first question that comes to mind is about the last one I’m sure he wants me to ask.
“Are you really not convinced your parents are involved?” I stutter out the question, having to speak each word through a plethora of sobs.
“It crosses my mind daily,” he admits, sucking in a heavy breath. “But what motive do they have for collapsing our worlds on one another?”
“What motive does anyone else have for that?” I start to lean back from him, but he doesn’t let me. He tucks me in a little closer, a little tighter. “Worried I’ll go for the gun again?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” he reminds me.
“Right. Can I at least wipe my eyes?” I push on him lightly. He lifts a hand, his sweater pulled over his thumb, and presses it under each of my eyes. “I guess this makes us friends?”
“We admit to one truth each, and suddenly we’re friends?” He lifts his eyebrows.
“I also owe you an apology,” I nod solemnly.
“Don’t bother.” He shakes his head. “I get a little threat happy when I feel left in the dark, as well.
“Threat happy.” I snort. “I’m sorry for threatening you. I hate funerals. They trigger this reaction in me that-”
“-That swings guns. I got it.” He finally lets me push him away. “But sure. We’re friends.”
“We have to be if I’m going to hide here.” I spin to face away from him, wiping my eyes with my fingers. It’s embarrassing enough that I sobbed in front of him but I’d rather he not see the aftermath. “And if we’re going to keep seeing intimate memories that we wish no one else would see.”
“At least we know we can see the objects.” He brightens at the thought. “Because of that ring.”
“You should wear it,” I tell him, clearing my throat. “I’m stuck in here. I don’t know what it does, but it might help you out there.”