I stared at his beautiful face and his beautiful mouth and I wanted nothing more than to taste it.
“I would kiss you back.”
Noah parted my legs with his knees and my lips with his tongue, and I was in his mouth and oh. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. I felt myself unfold, turned inside out by his insistent mouth. When Noah pulled back I gasped at the loss, but he slid his hand beneath my back and lifted me, and we were sitting and his head was dipping and our mouths were colliding and I pushed him down and lingered above, hovered before I crashed into him.
I felt delicious for an eternity. I smiled against Noah’s lips and ran my fingers through his hair and withdrew at some point to see his thoughts in his eyes, but they were closed, his lashes resting on his stone cheek. I lifted higher to see him better, and his lips were blue.
“Noah.” My voice was rude in the stillness.
But he wasn’t Noah. He was Jude. And Claire. And Rachel and dead and I saw them all, a parade of corpses underneath me, pallor and blood in lunatic dust. The memory sliced through my mind like a scythe, leaving behind lucid, unforgiving clarity.
Twelve iron doors slammed shut.
I slammed them shut.
And before the blackness, terror. But not mine.
One second, he had pressed me so deeply into the wall that I thought I would dissolve into it. The next, he was the trapped one, inside the patient room, inside with me. But I was no longer the victim.
I laughed at him in my crazed fury, which shook the asylum’s foundation and crushed it. With Jude and Claire and Rachel inside.
I killed them, and others, too. Mabel’s torturer. Morales.
The realization slammed me back into Noah’s bedroom, with his motionless body still beneath me. I screamed his name and there was no answer and I freaked the fuck out in earnest. I shook him, I pinched him, I tried to wrestle into his arms but they held no asylum for me. I dove for his headboard and with one hand fumbled for his cell, furious and terrified. I reached it and began dialing 911 while I raised my other arm and backhanded him across the cheek, connecting with skin and bone in a furious sting.
He woke up with a sharp intake of breath. My hand hurt like a bitch.
“Incredible,” Noah breathed, as he reached his hand up to his face. The beautiful taste of him was already fading from my tongue.
I opened my mouth to speak, but there was no air.
Noah looked far away and hazy. “That was the best dream I have ever had. Ever.”
“You weren’t breathing,” I said. I could barely get the words out.
“My face hurts.” Noah stared past me, at nothing in particular. His eyes were unfocused, his pupils dilated. From the dark or something else, I didn’t know.
I placed my trembling hands on his face, careful to balance my weight above him. “You were dying.” My voice cracked with the words.
“That’s ridiculous,” Noah said, an amused smile forming on his mouth.
“Your lips turned blue.” Like Rachel’s would have, after she suffocated. After I killed her.
Noah raised his eyebrows. “How do you know?”
“I saw it.” I didn’t look at Noah. I couldn’t. I unstraddled him and he sat up, glancing his hand across the dimmer, brightening the room. Noah’s eyes were dark, but clear now. He stared at me plainly.
“I fell asleep, Mara. You were sleeping next to me. You pulled me into bed and I was behind you and … God, that was a good dream.” Noah leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes.
My head spun. “We kissed. You don’t remember?”
Noah smirked. “Sounds like you had a good dream as well.”
What he was saying—it made no sense. “You told me I smelled—like bacon.”
“Well,” he said evenly. “That’s awkward.”
I looked at my hands lying limp in my lap. “You asked if you could kiss me, and then you did. And then I—” There were no words to translate it, the dead faces I saw on the insides of my eyelids. I wanted to rub them out, but they wouldn’t leave. They were real. It was all real. Whatever the Santeria priest did had worked. And now that I knew, now that I remembered, all I wanted was to forget.
“I hurt you,” I finished. And it was only the beginning.
Noah rubbed his cheek. “It’s all right,” he said, and pulled me back down, curling me into his side, my head on his shoulder and my cheek on his chest. His heart beat under my skin.
“Did you remember anything?” Noah whispered into my hair. “Did the thing work?”
I didn’t answer.
“It’s all right,” Noah said very softly, his fingers brushing my ribs. “You were just dreaming.”
But the kiss wasn’t a dream. Noah was dying. The asylum wasn’t an accident. I killed them.
It was all real. It was all me.
I didn’t understand why Noah didn’t remember what happened seconds ago but I finally understood what had happened to me months ago. Jude trapped me, crushed me against the wall. I wanted him punished, to feel my terror of being trapped, of being crushed. So I made him feel it.
And abandoned Claire and Rachel.
Rachel, who sat with me for hours under the giant tire in our old school’s playground, our thighs gritty with dirt, as I confessed an unrequited fifth-grade crush. Rachel, who sat still for my portraits, who I laughed with and cried with and did everything with, whose body was now turned into so much meat. Because of me.
And not because I went along with the Tamerlane plan, even knowing it could be dangerous. Not because I failed to scratch at some vague tickle of premonition. It was my fault because it was actually, literally my fault—because I crumpled the asylum with Rachel and Claire inside like it was nothing more than a wad of tissues in my pocket.
I reeled at the delusions I’d invented after murdering Mabel’s owner and Ms. Morales. I was not crazy.
I was lethal.
Noah’s hand worked in my hair and it felt so wonderful, so painfully wonderful that it was all I could do not to cry.
“I should go,” I managed to whisper, even though I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to be anywhere.
“Mara?” Noah leaned up on his elbow. His fingers traced the outline of my cheekbone, stroking my skin awake. My heart did not beat faster. It did not beat at all. I had no heart left.
Noah studied my face for a moment. “I can take you home, but your parents will wonder why,” he said slowly.
I said nothing. I couldn’t. My throat was filled with broken glass.