I just can’t process this. Salem never actually said that she obliterated her entire town, but she didn’t deny it either. She also had this freaky moment where everything started shaking and her eyes turned black and the phrase “if looks could kill” meant something very real to me.
Is she evil?
She said in class that she believed the person responsible for the massacre was just evil, plain and simple.
Is it really that simple?
As far as I can tell, Salem is fighting that side of her. Is her magic really just so encompassing that she loses herself in it?
Could I trust that she would never be that person again?
Not after what I saw at her house. Not after I stared into those black eyes and saw only malevolence staring back at me. Those eyes didn’t see Leo, her friend—they saw something else, something that they could tear apart, something that they could hurt.
Then it was over, and Salem had a grip on reality again, but that one slip showed me what she could really be, and I’m not okay with that.
I don’t think so.
But I can try.
“I’m just tired,” I lie.
“You and the missus have a fight?” He says, clucking at me. “Isn’t it a bit too early in the relationship for a fallout? But if you’re done with her, I’ll shoot my shot with her.”
The thought Ezra anywhere near her makes me want to rip off his head, but I push the anger down. Let her go.
“Go for it,” I sigh, internally cringing at the thought of it, but I don’t think Salem wants Ezra. She wants me.
I want her too.
“Hmm, really?” He looks at me suspiciously.
“Hmm, really?” He looks at me suspiciously. “I don’t believe you.”
“Me and Salem are done. She’s not as innocent as one would believe.”
“Innocent?” He raises and eyebrow at me. “That girl is anything but. She’s sin on legs. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the moment you saw her. One look in her eyes and you can see that she has chaos in her soul. She’s badass. She tries to pretend she’s not, but that girl is evil perfection.”
“No,” I disagree. “You’re not seeing her clearly.”
“Or maybe you’re not,” he retorts quickly. “She’s pretending to be good, but I think that she and I could do all kinds of bad things together.”
“That’s not who she is,” I practically growl. “It’s not who she wants to be.”
“What she wants doesn’t matter, Leopold. You can’t change who you are.”
He’s right, I remind myself. She can’t change who she is.
“Whatever you say,” I sigh, getting up and grabbing my jacket. I head out the door without another word to him. I need air.
It’s been over two weeks since I’ve last seen Salem. She isn’t going to class and I haven’t run into her getting coffee. I miss her but I don’t want to admit it to myself. I’m worried about her. She was trying to be better, and stay on the right path. What if I hurt her too much? She told me to stay away from her and I wouldn’t listen. She told me she was no good and I didn’t listen. Why was I so hardheaded?
I’m sitting in the coffee shop at a table in the back when I hear a chair scrape the floor. I don’t look up because I really don’t care.
“Where’s my girl?” Nathan asks, his voice hinting that he knows that her and I haven’t been speaking.
“Who?” I ask.
“Salem, of course. The reason for your melancholy, I presume.”
What an insufferable ass.
“No melancholy here,” I say, scribbling through a students paper with a red pen.
“I see you’ve found another Professor to assist,” he smirks. “Professor Marcus didn’t want someone working with him that’s too soft on the students.”
I just hum in response, as though I’m listening to him.
“He’s tried speaking with her again, you know.”
I look up now.
“What do you know about it?” I ask with a face void of emotion, masking the inner turmoil. I want to knock out all of those shiny veneers in his mouth.
“Everything,” he tells me smugly. “Salem is the reason we came here. She really is quite the catch. Wicked girl, and easy to look at. She’s the full package, huh?”
“And you think she’s interested in you?” I ask, a slight smile on my lips. Salem would never be interested in a prick like this.
He shrugs as though it doesn’t matter.
“We came here for her,” he tells me now. “We don’t intend to leave without her. Convince your little girlfriend that she’s better off if she just leaves with us of her own free will. Otherwise we’ll slowly start picking off the people she cares about one by one. Tell her if she doesn’t, you can be our first.”
“Salem and I aren’t speaking,” I inform her, looking back down at the paper I’m grading. It’s taking every ounce of self-control I have not to lunge across this table and rip his throat out.
“That’s a shame. I guess we’ll take her the hard way, then.” His chair scrapes against the floor and my eyes dart back up to him, my face no doubt showing every bit of anger I feel rising in my chest.
“She isn’t going anywhere with you,” I snarl. “If you even think about laying a finger on her, I’ll kill you.”
He chuckles arrogantly. “I’d like to see you try.”
He suddenly flies back, his chair sliding with him as he slams across the far wall, his head cracking against the exposed brick. He hissed and stands to his feet, ready for a fight.
People around us are watching cautiously, ready to intervene.
Nathan glanced around, noticing the same thing, his demeanor shifting.
“This isn’t over,” he says, deathly quiet, before darting out the door.
I wait for a moment for everyone to return to normal before gathering my things and racing out.
When I get to Salem’s house, I bang on the door, ready to bust it down if she doesn’t answer.
The door opens slowly, cautiously, and I’m greeted by a petite blonde woman. She has many of the same features as Salem, but where Salem is dark, she is bright.
“Can I help you?” She asks.
I clear my throat. “I’m looking for Salem. I’m Leo.”
Understanding lights her eyes. She looks me up and down carefully. I shift uncomfortably, knowing she’s judging me.
“So, you’re Leo.” She puts her hands on her hips defiantly. “I’ll have you know, Salem is an amazing girl. Anyone would be lucky to have the chance to be her friend. What happened to her was not her fault. For you to make her feel any differently is shameful. She is tortured every single day because of what happened, and from what I’ve gathered she asked you to leave her alone and you refused. She didn’t want to hurt you or hurt herself. Now she’s crushed, just for your information. So I think you’ve done enough. Maybe you should just go.”
She goes to shut the door on me but I hold up a hand. “They’re coming for her,” I say quickly, hoping she’ll stop and listen.
She looks at me, fear in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Professor Marcus—I mean, Vincent St. Clair, her father, whoever you want to call him, he’s coming for her. His minion came and harassed me at the campus coffee shop. He said Salem either comes with them on her own, or they start killing the people she cares about.”
She pales. “Damnit. I knew it would come to this. I’ve been trying to get her to leave this town for the last two weeks and she won’t budge. She’s so stubborn. Thank you. I’ll speak with her. Goodbye, Leo.”
She tries to close the door again.
“Wait!” I yell. “I’d like to see her, please.” She looks conflicted so I continue. “I know that I hurt her, but please, I need to see her. It was a lot to take in—it still is—but I’d like to hear what she has to say. I’ve been thinking about her all the time. I’m trying to get her out of my head, but the Salem I got to know was nothing like what I saw that night. I just can’t reconcile the two in my head. I have to see her.”
She looks uncertain, but she steps aside and allows me in.
“If you hurt her, I’ll kill you myself. She’s been through enough.”
I nod solemnly and follow her to Salem’s room. She knocks gingerly on her door, but there’s no answer.
“Salem!” She calls.
When there’s no answer she open the door. Her room isn’t what I expected—light, open, airy—and she isn’t in it. Her mother checks the bathroom and comes out, a note in her hand.