“So what stopped you? Current predicament aside.”
I wondered how to explain what had kept me and Noah apart even before Horizons. What I was afraid I might have done to him. What the fortune-teller had told me and what part of me still believed.
“I was afraid . . . I’d hurt him.”
Jamie quirked an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.”
“Seriously, though. You can tell me.”
I was embarrassed, putting the kissing conundrum into words, worrying Jamie might think I was crazier than I actually was, which, given the circumstances. But he listened intently, and didn’t mock me when I was finished.
“You think it’s just kissing?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I’ve kissed Noah before, obviously—”
“Obviously. He could never be that much of a saint.”
I ignored him. “And we did notice that something—happened. I think maybe it’s connected to my emotional state or whatever—like, I don’t know if it would happen with just a peck on the cheek, because—”
“Because there’s no intensity.”
“So you could probably kiss me or Stella and nothing would happen.”
“Stella would think I was trying to bite her. She’d mace me.”
Jamie cracked a grin. “God, that’s so accurate. It makes sense, though, the kissing thing? Like, if you stray out of your stable emotional range, something changes with your ability. Excess energy or something.”
“So a peck on the cheek wouldn’t do anything,” I said.
I planted a kamikaze kiss on Jamie’s cheek.
“FUCK,” he shouted, wiping it off. “What if you killed me!” He threw a Skittle at my face. It hit my forehead.
“Taste the rainbow, bitch.”
“Don’t be a baby.”
“I am going to be a baby. I am going to lock myself in the bathroom and cry now, in fact.” Jamie did go into the bathroom, and he did lock the door. Whether he cried, who knows.
I heard the toilet flush and the water run, and when he opened the door, he said, “I left something on the counter for you.”
“I’m . . . afraid to ask.”
“You really should take it.”
“Are we talking about the pregnancy test again? Because, no.”
“Whatever the result is, you have to know. We’ll figure it out, but we can’t pretend this isn’t happening.”
“I will admit to deriving a positive psychological benefit from your using the word ‘we.’?”
“Positive psychological benefit intended.”
I wanted to argue with him, but I couldn’t really. Jamie was right. If it was negative, I was like this for some other reason, and nothing changed. But if it was positive . . .
If it was positive, everything changed.
“Don’t even think about it,” Jamie said, popping another Skittle into his mouth. “If you think about it, you’ll change your mind. Like you said, you’re probably not . . . you know. But won’t it be a relief to know?”
Yes. It would be.
He turned around and not so gently pushed me into the bathroom. “Like ripping off a Band-Aid,” he said, closing the door behind me. “Just pee.”
I looked at the box. Jamie had already opened it, and the instructions were lying next to it, by the sink. I read them. Plus sign for positive, minus for negative. Easy enough. I ripped open the package and sat on the toilet. I could practically hear him outside the door, breathing.
I felt like a defendant, waiting for the jury to hand down its verdict. Seconds passed, or maybe minutes, before someone knocked on the bathroom door.
“I don’t hear peeing,” Jamie said mockingly.
“Eat me,” I muttered.
“Leave me,” I said louder. My voice was hoarse, and my bladder was shy. Or something. I couldn’t do it, not with him listening. I said so and told Jamie to leave. To my surprise, he did.
And then I did. I quickly put the test on the edge of the vanity. I felt sick just looking at it, felt the urge to run. I could run. I could run out of the room, run out of the hotel, lie to Stella and Jamie and myself, never mention it again.
But my mother always said that the truth will catch up with you eventually. It always does.
So I forced my eyes shut and reached for it. On the count of three, I swore to myself that I would look.
I opened my eyes.
It was negative.
I TOLD THEM ON THE way to the train station in DC. Stella, who had been ignoring me for nearly the entire cab ride, actually broke into a grin. “Don’t you feel so much better?”
I did and didn’t. My mind could now finally let go of the ugliest, scariest possibility, that something had been done to me while I’d been at Horizons that could have gotten me pregnant. My mind shied away from the word “rape,” but I didn’t know what else it could’ve been. But it didn’t matter now. I could finally let myself feel relief.
It was short lived, however. I got sick in the cab, opening the door at a red light to throw up in the street. The driver freaked out.
I might not have been pregnant, but I was sick. With what, I didn’t know. Or maybe I did know—maybe this was just the gene. Maybe something made me different from Stella and Jamie, and it would just have to run its course.
It wasn’t a pleasant thought, and I felt shaky as we followed Jamie up to the ticket counter. Whatever was happening to me was happening quickly, and we needed to get to New York faster than we could drive there.
“Three tickets to New York,” he said. “One way.”
The train was clotted with people, and we had to walk through a thousand cars before we could find seats even remotely close to one another. I stumbled twice. Jamie caught me both times.
When we finally found seats, I practically collapsed into mine. I was shaking. I crossed my arms to make it less obvious. It didn’t work.
“Cold?” Jamie asked from across the aisle.
I wasn’t, but I said I was anyway, because that made more sense than the truth. “Be right back,” he said as he stood up. “Watch my stuff?” I nodded, then leaned my head against the glass. People swarmed the platform, trying to make it on board before the train pulled away. I watched them, hypnotized, letting my vision blur out of focus, until something snapped it back.