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twenty - two


A blinding pain seared itself in my chest. I doubled over, making Officer Mendez run over to my side.

“You good, kid?” He asked, placing a comforting hand on my lower back.

Something’s wrong, Kieran yelled through the mindlink. Get to her. Based on his emotion, I knew that he was experiencing the same pain that I was.

But it wasn’t our pain.

For the first time since we were all separated, we were connected to Cleo and we could feel her presence. And of course, the second she stopped isolating herself from us was the minute she was in trouble.

“I . . . need to get to the psychiatric hospital,” I gasped, standing up straight. “Now.”

“Well, shit, okay.” The officer walked back over to the front desk of the police precinct. He frantically whispered something to the receptionist before lightly jogging back over to me. “It’s only about a minute drive. Around the block.”

And then we hopped into his car.

I didn’t even bother letting the officer come to a complete stop in his car before I jumped out, hitting the concrete harshly and going into an immediate sprint inside the hospital.

A sudden surge of pain hit my chest, splitting my nerves, blinding me so suddenly that I almost doubled over again.

Cleo was dying. That was the only explanation to this gut wrenching pain in my chest.

Her scent was faint in the hallways of the place, but it was there. I followed the smell as if there was an invisible line tugging me towards her. Not bothering to justify it to anyone, I sprinted along that imaginary line, pushing my legs even harder when I felt Cleo’s connection to me and Kieran begin to slip.

The pain wasn’t decreasing, it was almost like it got fainter. As if our bond was getting severed - meaning that Cleo was on the edge of death.

Taking a sharp turn, I dove into the first room that was covered in Cleo’s scent. There were a few other smells, one of blood, and I wrinkled my nose as I caught a whiff of Jessabel’s scent.

A realization hit me. One that almost made me stop dead in my tracks.

Jessabel was a psychiatrist.

I swear to god if she’s behind all of this . . .

The door to the room was wide open, and I bursted inside, abrupting stopping as to not crash into everything in the cramped dorm.

My eyes froze onto the sight before me.

Jessabel had a sheet twisted and pulled viciously around Cleo’s neck.

And Cleo . . . Cleo wasn’t moving. There was blood running down from her nose and over her chin, her arms swung lifelessly by her side, and though her eyes weren’t tightly shut, it seemed like her eyelids were only down because she didn’t have the strength to keep them open. They were simply curtains that kept her dying eyes from being seen.

I heard heavy footsteps behind me, it must’ve been Office Mendez, but I wasted no time in waiting for backup. Immediately I shot my hand to Jessabel, curling my fingers around her neck. Instantly I tightened my grip, making Jessabel release the sheet in shock.

Cleo swayed forward as the bed sheet slowly loosened around her neck. Dropping Jessabel, I dove to catch Cleo before she could hit the floor. As gently as I could, I unraveled the rest of the sheet from her neck and threw it to the side.

Her head lolled backwards, out of my hand, as I rested my palm against the back of her neck. The red and swollen skin around her neck made me wince as I placed two of my fingers against it, searching for a pulse.

There had to be one. There had to be one - otherwise I would’ve felt the searing pain of her bond being severed between Kieran and I.

Then, just barely, thumping ever so faintly beneath the wounds on her neck, I felt her pulse. Just a whisp of it was there, as if she was balancing on the edge between life and death.

I cursed myself as my mind went blank on what to do. Do I give her CPR? Is that what was necessary - usually that is for someone who is suffering from a cardiac problem -and Cleo had basically been suffocated. Did her heart need to be hit repeatedly into restarting? I knew her cells needed oxygen - but what was the correct way to go?

“Move aside!” Someone yelled, and then there was a pair of hands on my shoulders, tossing me away from Cleo.

I was about to retaliate when I realized it was one of the hospital’s medical staff.

Thank god.

Relief bloomed in my chest, but just as suddenly as it appeared, it was ripped away, leaving behind a sinister burn aching in my bones. The pain was like fire, engulfing me in its entirety, preparing to leave nothing but ashes in its wake.

Ezra!, Kieran shouted at me through the mindlink, and I knew that my pain was not just unique to me.

Not now!, I hollered back, knowing that if Kieran begins to yell in my head, I may just collapse from the overwhelming anxiety of everything happening all at once.

I knew that the pain he was feeling made him worry, because it could only mean one thing.

Cleo had fallen off that edge she had been teetering on; and only time would tell if she was resurfacing or would continue to drown.

Ezra, Kieran gasped through the mindlink. I think I feel Cleo’s connection getting stronger.

Sinking my hand into my own chest, I wheezed as the pain never lessened.

Sure doesn’t feel like it, I groaned back.

But Kieran was right.

Faint, fainter than I thought possible, I felt the littlest whisp of our bond regrowing.

The pain in my chest wasn’t because we were losing Cleo - it had to be because it was the bond reinventing itself. Getting strong again, just as strong as it was before Jessabel came in and messed everything up.

There was a before with her, now we only needed an after.

But that was the only thing we couldn’t guarantee.

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