The entire page is more of the same, desperate Latin phrases and random words. And of course the weird symbol. I don’t even bother trying to interpret that. My brother loves cryptic symbols and scribbles them all over the place. I don’t even blink until I come to the bottom of the page, where there are stick figures with their faces scratched out. Two of them, a man and a woman. The woman has flaming red hair.
I swallow hard and slam the book shut, staring out to sea, willing my mind to forget what I just read.
What does he need saved from?
Save me and I will save you. From what?
Do I need saved, too? Is that why he scratched my eyes out?
A lump forms in my throat, heavy and hot and acrid.
I can’t do this. I knew it would be insane in his journal, I just didn’t know how much. And I just…can’t do it today. I need a break from the crazy.
Because my brother is crawling into my bed and scribbling MINE across an intimate, nude sketch of me. If anyone else were to see it, they’d think he was truly sick, maybe even sexually depraved. That’s not the case. I know that because we’re two halves of a whole. We’re connected and because of that, he feels like he owns me. Like I’m his. Like he’s mine.
My thoughts are swirling together and nothing makes sense and I don’t know what to do.
I can’t think about it right now.
It’s too much.
It’s too much.
I pull out the little bag with the lighter, and then I light the drawing on fire, because no one can ever see it. If they do, they’ll lock Finn away because they won’t understand.
I can’t let that happen.
I watch it burn, I watch the corners curl and turn black, then I let it go up in flames, the ashes blowing away into the ocean.
And then I tuck the journal in my pocket and walk through the rain (when did it start raining?) to the house. The stones on the trail are wet and I slip a few times, scraping my hands, but I still don’t hurry.
The rain is cleansing.
Maybe it’ll wash away the crazy.
Because I don’t know what to do about it anymore.
Maybe Finn has gotten to a place where I can’t fix him anymore.
The thought terrifies me, paralyzes me, and I find that I’m rooted to the ground outside of the Carriage House, my feet enmeshed in the ground, unable to move, unable to carry me one step further.
The rain soaks me and my hair is dripping. My teeth start to chatter, but still I can’t move. The panic, the desire to run far from my home, cements my feet to the ground. It’s insane, but I still can’t move. My feet are stones, too heavy to lift.
The front door of the Carriage House is suddenly thrown open, and Dare darts out, jogging down the cobblestone path.
Without a word, he covers my head with a jacket as he pulls me into his home. His t-shirt is black, his shorts are black, his eyes are black as he rubs my arm with a towel, pushing me into a living room chair.
“What are you doing out in the rain, Calla?” he asks, his hands massaging my arms through the terry cloth. I lean into him, my forehead pressing against his muscle, against his solidity.
I love his solidity.
He’s strong and real, unmovable.
“I don’t know,” I murmur. “I just… I didn’t want to go home, I guess.”
Dare pauses, gazing down at me, a hundred things wavering in his eyes. “Any reason why not?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. Just a feeling.”
A sudden overwhelming feeling. The funeral home felt ominous and huge and I couldn’t go there, not with Finn’s issues hanging over my head, not with my mother gone forever.
“We’ve been looking for you,” he continues, eyeing me, rubbing the cold off my skin.
“You have?” I ask, confused. “But I haven’t been gone very long.”
He pauses, and I think I see concern in his eyes, but he quickly conceals it.
“You’ve been gone since this morning,” he says calmly.
Isn’t it still morning?
I look at the clock on his wall.
My heart pounds, loud and heavy, as I look again.
It’s still six p.m.
How can that be possible? I was so immersed in worrying about Finn that I lost hours of time?
“I think I might be going crazy like my brother,” I blurt out, my cold hands grabbing at Dare’s warm ones. His eyes soften and he stops, his hands so warm and dry and strong.
“You’re not,” he assures me. “You’ve just had a lot to deal with. Anyone would struggle. Trust me.”
Anyone would lose several hours out of their day and not even realize it?
“Did you?” I demand. “When your parents died, did you struggle?”
“Of course,” Dare assures me, cupping my hands now, enveloping them in his own. “Everyone does. And you have more to deal with than the average person. Calla, you’re surrounded by death here. The funeral home, your mom… it’s hard. Let’s just put it that way.”
He sits next to me, and I inhale him, breathing in the scent of man and rain and security and want.
I want him.
That’s what I know.
The more I’m around him, the more I want him. I want his assuredness, his sexiness, his shoulders, his hips. I want his comfort, I want his voice, I want all of him.
More than anything I’ve ever wanted.
I reach a cold hand up, tracing his jawline once again, the way I did the other night. This time, though, he doesn’t stop my hand. He doesn’t stop my fingers from running across his lips, feeling the softness that lingers there.
The electricity feels like it’s going to snap in the air, and electrocute me with the intensity, but it doesn’t. It just creates a current that runs from me to Dare and back again, lighting me up, making me tingle in places I’ve never felt before.
I swallow hard.
“Kiss me,” I whisper, looking hungrily into his eyes. He blinks, then stares, his mouth tightening.
“I shouldn’t,” he answers, low and husky.
“Do it anyway,” I reply, hoping, praying, holding my breath.
Then he does.
He lowers his beautiful face and his lips come down on mine, soft, firm, real. I sigh into his mouth, into the spearmint breath that absorbs my own, into the thing I’ve been wanting for weeks.