Savage Delight

Page 30


My phone rings. I wince as I answer.
“Jack!” Sophia’s sunny voice says. “Dr. Fenwall says the last payment for the surgery came through! Thank you. Thank you so, so much.”
I push out the vestiges of the memories of that night, and smile.
“Don’t thank me. It’s the least I could do.”
“You worked so hard. I’m really grateful. Remember when I said you could choose the place next time we went out?”
“Well, Dr. Fenwall said he’d let me have a few days out next week. So.”
“I’ll see if I can’t find something fun for us to do.”
“Yeah! But, Avery wants to throw me a surprise party. For my birthday.”
“That’s in March.”
“I know! But if I only have a few days out, she can only plan it then.”
“I thought we hate Avery?”
“We do! I mean, we don’t like her, but she’s trying really hard. And it just seems unfair. And plus, if I don’t make it –”
“Don’t talk like that,” I snap.
“ – If I don’t make it,” she says more sternly. “I don’t want things between us to be bad when I…you know.”
“You won’t.”
“Just, please. I really want to go.”
I sigh. “Alright. I’ll ask her about it.”
“Okay. Thank you. I know it’s hard for you, but thank you.”
“It’s fine.”
“Say hi to your mom for me. Or, I guess I’ll say hi. It still feels weird, though, just popping up on facebook and being like ‘Hey Dahlia! It’s me!’”
“Don’t worry,” I assure her. “She loves you. She always will. You can say hi whenever.”
“Okay! I’m going to try to get some sleep.”
“Good. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Jack.”
When we hang up, Isis’ words ring in my head.
‘She’s dying, Jack.’
I put my head on the steering wheel and pretend I’m somewhere else. Somewhere warm. Somewhere like that ridiculous sea-themed little room.
3 Years
27 Weeks
2 Days
Since the trial, Mom’s been getting better.
I don’t know if better is the right word. She had to be so strong for so long, just for me, and now that I’m back she’s leaning on me again, and I don’t mind, it’s the norm for us, but I can’t help feeling like I’m a cane sometimes instead of a daughter, but then I get guilty about thinking that and make her dinner and bring her tea and tell her it’ll be alright, instead. Love is being there for someone. If there’s one thing I learned from Aunt Beth, it’s that family means being there when no one else is.
Mom’s going to twice as many shrink appointments, but they seem to be helping. I see Avery at the office, sometimes, and she gives me a passing sneer before flouncing out the door. She’s bitchier lately, and that means she’s happier, and that means Sophia’s probably talking to her again. Avery’s basically her yo-yo, and Sophia pulls her back and forth for her amusement. But you can’t tell Avery that. Sophia can do no wrong in Avery’s eyes. I feel sorry for her. I pity her. And pity’s not healthy, but after everything Avery’s done to me, to Kayla, to Jack and Sophia and Wren, I can’t bring myself to feel something better towards her. And it’s shitty of me, and it’s not very Isis Blake-like.
I’m changing. The old Isis would’ve tried harder to be friends with Avery again, even through all this bullshit. The old Isis would’ve soldiered in with a smile and taken all the blows.
I’m getting worse. I am the villain, after all. The fire-breathing dragon. So it makes sense.
The hospital is quiet. Like the grave. Except people here are trying extremely hard not to be in graves. Very hard. At least four morphine drips and two crappy hospital food trays worth of hard.
Being back here makes me feel claustrophobic – the smell of antiseptic, the people in gowns wandering like ghosts from room-to-room, the nurses and interns all staring and trying to decide where I belong in their mini-ecosystem of healing. Naomi isn’t on duty, which I’m grateful for. I don’t want this to be any messier than it has to be.
Who am I kidding, I totally want it to be messy. Bring on the best mess.
I poke my head into the kids ward for just a second when the guard steps away to pee. Mira and James wave frantically, and I wink and put the plastic bag of presents down inside the door. They come rushing over in their little cartoon-character pajamas with big smiles on.
“Mira said you’d never come back!”
“Did not!” Mira sticks her tongue out at James.
I laugh and ruffle their hair. “I can’t stay long, but I’ll come back in the daytime this week, okay? For now just open the presents. But don’t tell Naomi where you got them. Just say it was from…uh, Jesus. Not that I’m Jesus. Uh.”
They nod frantically, and Mira hugs me around the neck so hard I think she’s trying to merge with me on a cellular level. I manage to pry her fingers off and sneak out just as the guard rounds the corner. The sounds of tearing wrapping paper and squealing reverberate behind me. I made some spawn happy. And that definitely does not make me feel all gooey and happy inside in the slightest because goo is super disgusting except when it is cheese goo on pizza and –
Sophia’s open doorway looms before me. It’s dim, and the usual flower vases line her window. I can see her feet under the blanket.
I stand there for what feels like years. And then I take a deep breath and walk in.
She’s not asleep like I’d hoped. She’s very much awake, blue eyes staring at me over the cover of a romance novel. This one has a knight on it, and a very lost-looking busty lady.
“Yo!” I smile.
“I thought I told you to leave me alone,” she deadpans.
“Uh, yeah, I’ve never been very good at following directions. Or respecting people’s wishes. Or anything at all, really. So here I am. Doing…here stuff.”
She shoots me a withering look. “You’re annoying.”
“That, my dear, is nothing new!” I sit on the end of her bed. “In fact, ‘tis ancient knowledge. The Egyptians foretold of my coming. Actually they mostly told stories about how Isis got it on with her brother. Incest was big back then. So was not living past thirty.”
Sophia doesn’t crack a smile, eyes set and hard like blue-black flint.
There’s no avoiding it. Whatever tenuous friendship we once had has been tainted by our mutual insecurities. She’s treating me like she used to treat Avery, and it’s cold and silent and so full of disdain my stomach shudders with queasy unrest. Sophia’s presence was always calm and gentle, but heavy, and I feel the weight of it now more than ever.
“I met Tallie,” I say. There’s a half second of silence, and then Sophia puts her book down slowly. I can’t stand the quiet. “I found her. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for prying. I’m sorry for meeting her. I’m sure you don’t want many people to. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it happened to you in the first place –”