I remembered hands that weren’t mine sewing a letter into a doll. I remembered what the letter said. I remembered deaths I hadn’t wished for, families that weren’t mine, trees and beasts, ships and dust, feathers and hearts.
I remembered everything. Every feeling, every scent, touch, sight. I brimmed with echoes of my grandmother’s memories, her knowledge, my inheritance. They rose at the back of my throat, and I was bursting with the urge to tell Noah everything. But it wasn’t Noah’s face I saw when I opened my eyes.
Jude grinned, showing both dimples and looking like a child on Christmas. He held a syringe. “I knew you’d come back once you’d manifested. Doctor guessed you would, when you were finished changing.”
I didn’t care enough to ask him what he was talking about, or to think much about what he was saying and how creepily he was saying it. I had only one question, but my heart knew the answer before my eyes could confirm it.
I turned around to see Noah’s body stretched out behind me. The knife was still in his chest.
I HEAR THAT VOICE BEFORE I see that face.
“You are not going to die,” Mara says. Her distinctive alto has an edge to it now. Angry. Hopeless. She’s a terrible liar. Always has been, at least compared to me.
I manage to open my eyes. I watch hers travel my body, and revel in the weight of her fingers on my chest. She looks so determined, so furious.
For some reason I think of the first time I saw her, kicking the shit out of the vending machine that refused to release her candy. Before that day, every hour of my life had been exactly like the one before it. Relentlessly boring. Painfully monotonous. But then she walked out of my waking nightmare and into my life, a complete mystery from Second One. Her presence was a problem I needed to solve, a problem that finally interested me. And then, somehow, she made me interested in myself.
Mara began as a question I needed to answer, but the longer I’d known her, the less I felt I actually knew. She was constantly surprising, infinitely complex. Unknowable. Unpredictable. I had never met anyone more fascinating in my life, and all the time in the world wouldn’t be enough to ever know her.
But now I want that time. My mind closes around memories of her, the feel of her hands in my hair, her cheek on my chest, her voice in my ear, her breath in my mouth. It’s so classic. I’ve spent most of my life waiting to die and now that I am, I don’t want to anymore. I manage a small, wry smile. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE HOLDING the body of the person you love and knowing those heartbeats are numbered.
Noah was still breathing, but shallowly. His eyes didn’t open when I said his name. I cradled him in my arms, and looked up at Jude with hate in my eyes.
“Why?” I barely recognized the sound of my own voice.
“I needed to trigger you. Doctor said. She said if you manifested, you could kill me. And I want that. It’s the only way I can die. I knew if I killed him, you’d be mad enough to do it.”
But I didn’t feel mad. I felt empty.
“Mara?” Jamie’s voice. The laptop was still on the stack of boxes. I craned my neck to look at it. “Jesus Christ,” he said, “I thought you died.”
“Is Daniel—my brother—”
“They took him,” Jamie said. “Fuckers took him and left me here.”
“He was alive, yeah. They put something in his drip. Mara, I’m here—somewhere in the building. Come get me?”
I looked down at Noah’s face. His pulse fluttered in his throat. I glanced at the knife in his chest. Maybe—if I pulled it out . . .
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know.
“Do it before he gets back,” Jude said.
“Who?” Noah’s father? I didn’t care about him. He would get what he deserved. I would make sure of it.
“The one inside me,” Jude said, sending a ripple of revulsion through me. “Doctor was working on something, a cure. I gave myself a shot, but it pushes the other one away for only a little while. You’ve gotta do it, Mara. Please. There’s no one else who can. You couldn’t do it before you manifested, but now, now you’re done. You came back. You healed yourself. You can do it now. Please.”
Jude was asking me to kill him. And I would. He couldn’t live, not after what he’d done. But what he was saying, how he was saying it, peeled the skin off of a memory.
I remembered him standing in the torture garden at Horizons, telling me I had to be afraid, afraid enough to bring Claire back. Which was impossible.
The moment I thought this was the moment Noah stopped breathing.
I watched as the pulse died in his throat, and a breath, his last one, escaped from his lips like a sigh.
“Oh, God,” I whispered. One tear fell, then another. I looked at the knife through blurred vision.
Jamie said, “Mara, do you hear that?”
But I heard nothing. Saw nothing. Felt nothing but Noah. I pulled the knife from his chest, hoping, desperately, that it might not be too late, that somehow he could heal, would heal, despite the things his father had said, despite the fortune-teller’s words.
“You will love him to ruins.”
I thought about all of the choices that had led us here, how each one could have gone a different way. How Noah might never have met me. How he would have been whole and unbroken and alive now if he hadn’t.
“Sirens,” Jamie said with hope in his voice. “Is he—is Noah—”
But it was too late. The life I’d almost had died in my arms.
“He’s gone,” I said, holding his body, and the knife that had killed him.
“Please,” Jude said again. “Please, please.”
I looked at the knife in my hands, the blade wet with Noah’s warm blood. There was so much of it, on his chest, beneath him. Even in his hair.
The knife didn’t kill him. Jude did.
But maybe I could bring him back.
I let Jude’s pleading voice fade into the background with Jamie’s, with the sirens, with everything else. I closed my eyes and pictured it.
Noah, alive, tying my shoelaces in front of my house before he drove me to school.
Noah, alive, looking at the picture I’d drawn of him, folding it and putting it into his pocket to keep.
Noah, alive, looking down at me with his messy hair and sleepy eyes, his arms wrapped around me as we lay in my bed.
I opened my eyes.