A solitary zombie stood in the door to the kitchen. It was so far into the end stages of the disease, I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Most of its hair had fallen out, and it was emaciated and pale. It looked like a reanimated corpse.
God. He shook his head, mouth twisting into a shadow of a smile. Did you know…you make me so happy that sometimes I actually forget to breathe? I’ll be looking at you, and my chest will get so tight…and it’s like, the only thought in my head is how much I want to reach over and kiss you. He blew out a shaky breath. So don’t talk about getting me out of here, because I’m not leaving, not unless you’re part of the package, too.I can’t go with you, I said. I won’t put you in that kind of danger.
Bull, he said. Nothing’s going to be worse than being apart.You don’t understand—Then make me, Liam said. Ruby, give me one reason why we can’t be together, and I’ll give you a hundred why we can. We can go anywhere you want. I’m not your parents. I’m not going to abandon you or send you away, not ever.
They didn’t abandon me. What happened to them was my fault. The secret had slipped out of me like a long exhale, and I’m not sure which of us was more surprised by the admission.Liam settled into silence, waiting for me to continue. It occurred to me then that this was it. This was really the moment I was going to lose him. And all I could think about was how much I wished I had kissed him one last time before he started fearing me for what I was.
I leaned my head down on the cushion beside his. In a whisper, because I wasn’t brave enough to say it any louder, I told him about going to bed the night before my tenth birthday, about how I woke up expecting my usual birthday pancakes. About the way they locked me in the garage like some wild animal. And when that story was over, I told him about Sam. How I had been her Chubs until I wasn’t, until I was nothing at all.
My throat burned when I was finished. Liam turned his face toward mine. We weren’t even a breath apart.Whoa— I began, trying to keep the hot food from spilling all over my legs and the seat. Betty’s engine started with a snarl, and suddenly we were rocketing backward. With the sheet blocking the back window, Liam had to rely on using the side mirror to navigate us down the road and up into the small back alley that divided the Waffle House from an abandoned jewelry consignment store. I braced an elbow against the door as he steered the old minivan past the Dumpsters to the cramped employee parking lot tucked away in a dead-end around the corner. The minivan lurched to a stop, throwing all four of us forward.
We’re…going to stay here for a little while, he announced to our terrified faces. Don’t panic, but I think I saw…I mean, it’ll just be safer here for a bit.You saw her. It wasn’t a question; Chubs already knew the answer before he asked. Lady Jane.
Liam rubbed the back of his neck as he leaned forward. He had left the nose of the minivan out far enough so we could peer around Waffle House’s wall to see down the alleyway. Yeah. I’m pretty sure.How was it possible that she had caught up with us?