“Oh my god!” Mom and I jumped right off the couch and ran to Xavier and Aric.
“What happened?” Mom asked frantically. Xavier brought Aric in and laid him on the couch then sat down beside him, rubbing his forehead tiredly.
“We were playing video games, and he suddenly started to feel hot. I opened the window, but after a few minutes, he just passed out,” Xavier explained quietly.
“He fainted all of a sudden?” I asked.
Xavier shrugged and nodded while looking at my mom.
My mom examined Aric’s unconsciousness face then rushed into the kitchen. I went to sit on the other side of Aric.
“Here. Put this cold towel on his forehead,” Mom said as she came from the kitchen. “Maybe it was too hot for him and he overheated.”
I took the towel from her hand and put it on Aric’s forehead. He mumbled something and then opened his eyes slowly.
“Hey,” I said with a smile.
Mom came and knelt in front of Aric. “Are you OK, honey?” Aric shifted around a bit before sitting up slowly. “I guess. I feel hot and a little dizzy.”
“You should go take a nap,” Xavier said, standing up. Aric nodded and rose slowly to his feet. “I’ll be in my room.” After giving Mom a hug, he walked up the stairs on unsteady feet. When I heard his door close, I turned to Xavier and motioned him to go outside with me.
“Mom, I’ll be right back,” I said.
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” she called out after me. “And thank you, Xavier, for bringing him home.”
Outside, Xavier leaned against the porch railing. He looked worn out. I grimaced at his appearance and asked quietly, “Did you tell anyone? About the baby?”
He looked at me and shook his head slowly. “Nobody would believe us.”
I nodded my agreement. After a minute of debating what to do, I went to stand beside him. “Did you have any dreams last night?” I asked softly
He looked at me for a moment and then replied, “More like a nightmare.”
I released a shaky breath and rubbed my hands up and down my arms to shake off the uneasy feeling. Even though it was really hot outside, I felt cold. I was trying my best not to look at the trees but just being outside, I felt goose bumps forming on my arms. My body was strung tight with tension.
“Hey, you OK?” Xavier asked. I flinched and looked at him tensely. I was so lost in my thoughts that I had forgotten he was standing there. “Yeah. I’m fine. Just thinking.”
Xavier nodded although he didn’t look convinced. He looked into the distance, and we stood like that for a couple of minutes until he turned back to me. “Do the trees give you the creeps?” he asked in a shaky voice. He shuddered beside me.
I twisted around to look at the forest, and I was brought back instantly to that night. All I could see were the red eyes and the fangs. I shivered. “It scares the hell out of me. I don’t know what to do. I can’t forget it.”
Xavier sighed and finally said “Same. And it does the same to Aric.”
“He told you that?”
Xavier nodded and pushed himself off the wall. “I need to go.”
I surprised myself when I put my arms around him and gave him a hug. As I stepped out of his arms, I said, “I need to go too. Help my mom and all.”
When he was down the steps, he called over his shoulders “Call me when Aric wakes up. Let me know how he’s feeling.”
After Xavier was out of sight, I went back into the house and straight into the kitchen. My mom was washing the dishes and when she turned around and saw me, she smiled slightly.
“Alexia, can you go check on your brother?”
I grabbed an apple and took a bite. “Sure.” Upstairs, I stopped in front of Aric’s room, where I took a deep breath and knocked. When I heard Aric’s answer, I went in and found him sprawled on his bed. “Hey brother, how are you feeling?” I asked, shutting the door.
“Like shit. I literally feel like I’m dead.”
I walked over to him and saw that he was sweating badly. Placing my hand on his forehead, I checked for his temperature and was shocked to feel that he was burning with fever. “Aric, you have a bad fever.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” Aric said in his most sarcastic tone, but his weakness betrayed him.
“I’ll bring you some pills for your fever.”
“Wow, aren’t you an angel. Thank you very much.”
I slapped his arm gently. “I’m trying to help. Don’t be so rude.”
“Well, I’m sick, so obviously, I’m in a foul mood.”
I stared at him exasperated then went to his door. Before closing it behind me, I said, “You’re always in a foul mood.” I heard his hoarse laugh while closing the door.
I found my mom in the living room, and told her that Aric was really sick. “Oh, my poor baby. How bad is it?”
I shrugged then grimaced a little. “Pretty bad. He’s burning hot.”
“I’ll give him something. Can you check the chicken in the oven?”
“OK, Mom.” I went into the kitchen to do that as she went upstairs, but I decided to call Xavier. The phone rang a few times, and just as I was about to give up, I heard a voice on the other line. “Xavier?”
“Hi, Alexia. How are things with Aric?”
“I just wanted to let you know that Aric is really sick.”
“Oh damn. How bad?”
I sighed and replied solemnly “Pretty bad.”
“OK. I’ll visit him tomorrow morning.”
I leaned against the counter and opened the oven to check on the chicken. “OK. I’ll let Aric know.”
“I got to go, Alexia. See you.”
After we hung up, I removed the chicken from the oven and placed it on the counter.
“Is it done?”
I yelped and turned around quickly to find my mom standing behind me. I put my hand on my racing heart and took a deep breath. “Oh, my god. You scared the crap out of me.”
Mom laughed a little and checked the chicken. “You’re just too jumpy today.”
I changed the topic fast and asked how Aric was doing. “I gave him some medicine, so he’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
I nodded and tried to busy myself in the kitchen. “Do you need my help for anything, mom?”
“Can you continue cutting the vegetable for me?”
I scowled at her and made fake puking sounds. “I hate veggies. Why are you cooking so many vegetables?”
Mom frowned at me and said in her most motherly tone, “Alexia, vegetables are healthy and you’re the only person in this house who doesn’t like vegetables.”
“OK. OK.” I chopped the vegetables and after I was done, I asked my mom if she needed any help with anything else.
I shrugged and told her I’d be in my room, reading.
When I got to my room, I noticed that the window was open. I never opened the window. Finding it really strange, I went to close it but my eyes fell on the forest. When I should have closed the window and the curtains, I just stood there and stared at the dense trees.
Whenever I looked at the forest, I felt like I was being watched, and at that moment, it wasn’t any different.
Had the baby followed us? Was he looking at me now? I cringed at the thought of that. The rational part of my brain was telling me that it was impossible, but I still felt uncomfortable.
I closed the window quickly and turned away from it. I decided that I was not going to think about the baby or what had happened two nights ago.
I picked up my book and went to sit on my bed. I read for hours. When my mom called me down for dinner, I didn’t go. I kept reading. Totally engrossed in a book, my mind avoiding its troubled thoughts. Mom came up to check on me, but I told her I just wasn’t hungry.
Close to midnight, I succumbed to my tiredness and fell into a restless sleep. Only darkness awaited me in my dreams.