So this is the second to last chapter, enjoy.
It's like a jet of icy air littered with knives blasting down my throat with every ragged intake of breath. Even then, it only makes it half way into my lungs before I choke and the little air that entered is forced back out my gasping lips.
The impact of falling to my knees still jars up through my bones and pain like spikes, bypass the wounded joints and aim directly for my heart.
In the back of my mind, I know that I'm causing a scene, but I think I'm having a panic attack and can't bring myself to care. The fear that he had buried deep into me bursts force in my chest like a roaring monster that even to most skilled tamers can not calm.
All this happen in less than an instant, because the next second, Fang is by my side with Ari hovering with wide eyes near by.
With their concerned eyes on me, I swallow down the bile that had risen in my throat and force the beast back into its cage. But I know that when I am alone, the cage will bust open and the monster will consume me, for the cage I stuff it into has a rusted lock.
I allow Fang to help me to my feet, a guarded expression carefully smoothed over my face.
"Max..." He mumbles and I know what he wanted to ask, but I shrug his hand off my shoulder and brush past him, walking back toward the forgotten ice-cream parlor.
"You're paying right?" I ask, and even I can hear the carefully placed emotionlessness in my voice.
"Yeah..." He takes Ari's hand, almost subconsciously, and I would have smiled if I weren't so shaken up. I can feel Fang's stare all through the time it takes to eat the cold treat and after, we go to the park to let Ari play.
When the sun starts to set, I make Fang buy us dinner at McDonald's, my stomach twisting slightly from recognition as we sit in a familiar booth.
At about eight o'clock, we find our way on the path back to the house with a sleepy Ari stumbling between us, and still, I feel his gaging gaze.
I lay awake long after Ari's soft snores start, just staring at the ceiling as I listen to the two pairs of soft breathing.
"I'm sorry." I break the silent, abruptly, unintentionally. It's quiet, though I know that he is not asleep. If I listen really hard, it's almost like I can hear his steady heart beating.
"I know." He finally says- it's all he says- before I hear the shift of blankets before silence once again. After a few minutes, I hear his breathing even out and I feel like I'm the only living thing for miles.
I sit there like that all night, not letting myself fall to exhaustion because if I do, I know I'll wake up screaming for my sister or whoever else that my mind is scared will die because of me. The list seems to be getting longer, much to my bemusement.
I'm still in the same position, staring up at the ceiling by the time the sun comes up and I hear the beginnings of chirping birds. A few hours after that, I hear Fang stir from his spot from the floor. I quickly close my stiff eyes so it looks like I'm asleep.
I hear a sigh and feel something warm brush my cheek and push my hair back. Then I feel something soft and moist press into my forehead and I stiffen.
A thumb brushes along my cheekbone under my eye and a warm breath whispers in my ear. "I know your awake."
I let my eyes flick open and glare at the boy leaning over the bed. He just gives me a cheeky grin and pushes my hair back further from my face.
Feeling heat flood up my neck, I sit up quickly, not removing my glare from my amused friend.
I glance and seeing the time, I sigh and gently shake Ari awake. He sleepily blinks up at me and then throws his skinny arms around my shoulder.
"Do you have to go so soon?" He asks in such a voice that makes me want to cry.
"I'm sorry bud." I pull back slightly and look him deep in the eyes. "I'll be back. You know that I will always come back for you. Always. I promise you that."
"I know Maxie." I give a small smile and plant a kiss on both his cheeks and one on his forehead making loud obnoxious kissing sounds with each one. I wrinkles his nose and pushes me away in complaint and I just giggle while trying to kiss him again.
I become somber again when I notice how high the sun is getting.
"Time to go Fang." I tell the silent boy behind me and he nods making his way to the window.
"Wait!" Ari calls and launches himself off the bed and into his arms. "Take care of Maxie."
Fang returns the hug much more quickly this time around and answers with an honest, "I will." Then her ruffles Ari's hair and disappears out the shabby screen.
I pause halfway out the window and look directly into his blazing sapphire eyes and a heavy dread settles in my stomach.
"If you see that man from before, run. Don't even lit him get close to you, just run, I don't care where you are. Just run." Even my own voice sent a shudder down my back, but are just nods solemnly at me.
"I will Maxie."
I give one last hesitant nod before ducking all the way out into the early morning sun.
Fang and I walk in a stiff silence all the way home, not a single word passing our pursed lips. When we got to our houses late that night, I give an awkward wave and disappear into my house.
The clang of a bottle shattering makes me freeze in my place and my eyes go wide. After so long, I thought that he was gone for good. I never thought of what would happen if he actually came back.
Jeb appears in the doorway with a stumble and harsh glare than makes me cringe.
"Where the hell have you been?"
I leave early the next morning wincing with every step, and not even bothering to worry about Fang waiting up for me. I just hope he wont go into my house, then again, Jeb is probably passed out on the couch, completely dead to the world.
I pull my collar up subconsciously to cover the cut that had been slashed into my collarbone the night before and I shift my one eye farther behind my screen of hair.
Even the light strands brushing against the tender flesh make me recoil in pain, my body subtly becoming softer in the weeks it went without getting pounded, therefore the beating hurt more than usual.
I became angry with myself, thinking that things could change, and I see that more than ever that they never will.
I don't let on to my change of heart throughout the day and next few weeks, just slowly pulling back into myself. Fang had most definitely realized that Jeb was back the moment he saw me wince when I was poked in my bruised ribs. You could tell because he hovered more and his eyes hardened when ever he saw a new injury covered up.
Through out the weeks my nerves become more and more frayed than before and I feel like I'm losing my mind, I'm having panic attacks at random.
Finally the thing that I have been dreading to happen happens. And it sends a wave of fear washing over me.
A whole three months later I'm siting in my last period class doodling in my notebook when the intercom statics and comes to life.
"Mrs. Sanchez?" A voice cracks.
"Yes?" My teacher asks the ceiling.
"Can you send Max Ride down to the office, she has a call?" My attention immediately snaps to the conversation being spoken.
"A call?" The teacher asks confused.
"Yes, they say it's urgent."
On impulse, I meet Fang's eyes from across the room, before quickly turning away and standing up, throwing my bag over my shoulder. Class is almost over anyway.
I make my way to the office and stop at the secretary desk.
"Are you Max?" She asks, much more normal sounding than she did over the intercom.
"Yes ma'am." I speak politely because she's an adult.
She nods and hands me a phone attached to a cord to me over the desk. "Hello?" I ask because really, who would be calling for me?
"Maxie?" A voice says that makes my entire body go ridged. "I'm sorry Maxie, I tried to run, I promise." The voice sniffs.
"Ari?" I drop my bags to the floor and grip the phone with both hands. The secretary shows that she's only vaguely paying attention. From fall away, I hear the bell ring for class to get out. "Ari honey, what's wrong?"
But he is gone and replaced by a joyful chuckle that would make anyone cringe.
"Ah Maxie, I warned you. You better hurry, I think it's time for your boy to finally meet Angel."
"Listen you bastard-" My voice cracks but it does no good because the line goes dead. Only my heavy breathing reaches my ears as the phone falls from my fingers and I dash out the office doors.
I left my bag behind me but I don't care. I push through the sea of students, sending some to the ground, but I don't care. Fang appears in front of me but I'm sprinting and I don't have time to stop. My shoulder slams into his hard, but I don't care because right then I make it to the school doors and sprint out and into the trees with Fang calling after me.
I race harder than I ever have without stopping to rest or catch my breath, because I wouldn't be able to breathe anyway, I completely ignore The Pack as they come to join me but they quickly drop back in disappointment when I pay them no attention.
I make it to the next town in record time, only a few hours, but it's still too long and dusk is just starting to break the sky.
I run past Ari's house, a dozen stitches ripping my side open, and head to where I hate to go the most; the place I have only been twice in my life, the place where people go when they are no longer part of the world.
I shove past the heavy rust iron gates without pause and race in the direction I know where both Mom and Angel, my little Angel, had been surrendered to the earth and bugs, never to be seen again. And I see two figures rise up from the grey sky outline, one taller that the other by feet.
I fall to my knees just feet away with pain ripping through my stomach and lungs and throat; a fire set over gasoline.
"Dylan..." I gasp as I fearfully look from Ari, to the knife held to his neck. His blue eyes are wide and crying in terror and I find myself sobbing with him. "Please." I beg, tossing aside all pride, I beg for him not to do it.
He brings his glinting weapon down and just the slightest hope begins to sprout in me, before the knife plunges into my last hope at life's stomach.
Three things happen at once:
1) Ari screams
2) I scream and
3)... For the first time since my sisters death... I fight back.
My body goes numb as I somehow lurch to my feet and lunge at Dylan carelessly. He sidesteps casually and drops Ari's limp body to the ground in a heap with a deadening thud.
I swing a hard kick with all my strength at him but it only grazes his side and before I can react, he clips my jaw with his fist. I hadn't fought in a long time but my body slowly starts to remember the rhythm that comes with lashing out at an opponent.
An angry calm, if that makes any since, settles over me as I block and punch and sidestep.
Sometime in the middle of this Dylan had gotten another knife, the other still plunged deep into innocent Ari's abdomen. He never was one to play fair. Then again, neither was I.
As he swings at me, blade flashing, both my hands come up to meet his. I slap the hard part of my palms into a pressure point on either side of his forearm and the offending mettle spirals away.
I lunge after it and feeling him right behind me, blindly swing it while turning to face him head on. But I freeze.
We stare in each other for a moment in shock.
"Y-you... you actually..."
He crumbles to the ground, dead at my feet, with blood oozing from a cut in his neck.
I stare wide-eyed at the bloody knife that rests loosely in my shaking hands. ""I-I didn't..." The words die in my throat and the sharp steal falls to the stained grass. My stomach rolls in nausea.
I gurgled groan makes me swallow a lump from my throat and stumble over to the body of Ari.
He's still breathing. I almost sob when he tries to smile at me, but no tears fall.
"A-Ari... can you hear me? Speak to me, it'll be alright bud. I'll fix you up good as new, nothing we can handle."
He slowly and painfully shakes his head. With a hand slick with a dark liquid, he reaches up and touches my cheek. "D-don't cry..." Then his hand falls limp and his eyes close.
I feel his heart give one last shuddering thump, and then nothing else.
I don't cry. I don't seem to be having that carving feeling in my chest that wants me to rip it out just so it stops; I'm numb. With a sense of finality, I reach out and pull the knife from Ari's stomach with a sickening sucking sound.
I'm not stupid, I know what would have happened if Fang hadn't called out to me.
I slowly turn to see my old friend running towards me with a panicked expression.
Why is he so frightened? Why does he look so scared? Is it because he saw me kill Dylan? Oh god, I killed someone. Don't worry Fang, I'll get rid of this monster.
"Max, stop!" I get pulled out of my self-loathing. He's getting closer; I don't want him closer. I raise my scarlet slick knife and point it at him. His steps falter.
"Stop." I choke out. "I'll kill you if you come closer." Some realization finally seems to be seeping into my icy veins of all that has happened. I killed someone. Ignoring my warning, he takes another sure step forward and I stumble back some, falling to sit between my knees. "I killed Dylan, I'll kill you too."
A tear has still yet to fall but my emotionless tone wavers. Why wont he listen, can't he see that I'm a killer?
He steps forward again, without pause, and wraps his arms around me. It is such a foreign gesture after all that has happened that I struggle to get away.
"Get away from me!" I scream and try to push him away. "I killed someone! Why are you hugging me, I'm a murderer!" I pound on his back but I don't stab him, I was never going to. "I couldn't save him!"
And then the full weight of what happened lands on my shoulders with suffocating force, and I freeze.
I'm a murderer. Dylan murdered Angel. Then Ari. Then I killed him. I'm just as bad as him, as my dad. No, I'm worse than Jeb. I'm a killer.
And I couldn't save him.
I choked. "Dad was right. I am worthless." And I finally started to cry. I hug Fang in favor to hitting him and sob into his black shirt. "I'm worthless." I mumble.
"No." He says softly. "You're not worthless, you're strong."
I shake my head furiously. "I'm not, I couldn't save him." I start to quiet down and finally do the one thing I have been aching to do for years now, but couldn't. "I should have realized that I wasn't the one protecting him, but he the one saving me. How could I have saved him if I can't even save myself?"
"Then let me save you Max, let me carry your burden too."
I finally pull away from him and he lets me. I shake my head and smile sadly at him.
"It's to late for that." A woozy feeling fogs my brain and makes it hard to breathe. "Fang?" I whisper, eyes starting to close. I'm getting lightheaded fast. "Fang, I finally fell off the table."
"Max what are you-"
He stops when he finally notices the knife still clutched in my hand and coated in fresh blood and the deep cut that had mercilessly slashed open a major artery in my arm. The last image I have is my own crimson blood draining like a river over my wrist and mixing with Ari's blood on the stains grass of the graveyard. Right behind Fang I make out a headstone that reads:
A Dear Daughter and Sister
And the headstone directly next to hers,
A Loving Wife and Mother
A content sigh escapes my lips as I stare at it in longing, my eyes don't seem to want too close. I faintly hear Fang calling me. Screaming at me to stay with him, not to leave him, but I don't want to stay, I want to see Ari and Angel and Mom.
He's screaming something over and over. I don't know what it is, I'm already fading.
The world swoops and spins around me, and it seems the blood I watch is swirling and making patterns. Till finally the world turns completely to night and I slump forward onto something hard that is Fang's body.
Two last words finally make it through my conscious.
"You promised!" But I already told him; promises are always broken in the end. And I'm gone, gone, gone.
I'm finally free.
How much would you guys hate me if I ended this story right here? I was very tempted, but no. I think all stories need an end, and I'm not that cruel.
So, please, please, please, please, please leave a review! I really, really, really want to make it to 100 reviews by the end of this story, but at this rate, I don't think I'm going to. *frowns*
Thanks for reading.