They went their separate ways after that, Zack pulling Jamie along, the girl staggering behind as if she were drunk. High and drunk. We make quite a pair. The thoughts themselves, tumbling around in his brain, confused him. She was a child, not quite pretty, not quite quick, not quite a lot of things, actually.
But she was just clever enough, just pretty enough, just old enough, to somehow embed herself in his head like a virus.
And now he was taking care of her. Zack could remember the last time he cared about a girl – his sister had ended up dead anyway. All his affection and idolizing and loving and caring and god-damned wasted time hadn’t been enough to save her. After that he’d stopped caring about most things. Most things but Blake.
And Blake was probably the only thing the two of them had in common.
Zack had seen the way she was when Blake was around, the way Jamie seemed to be more comfortable. He’d watched her watch his friend, and he’d smiled inside. Only now it irritated him. Now, not only was he just the slightest bit worried she’d take his friend from him, he actually seemed to care about the girl herself. Just a little.
But a little was enough. It had been enough for him to stop her, to help her in a room full of enemies. God knew this girl was good at making enemies. Anyone in that room who’d thought of themselves as this “White Rabbit” now hated her, as did those loyalists who’d felt accused and judged by her comment.
Jamie Cunning was tearing them all apart inside.
But she wasn’t coming away unscathed either.
Zack watched her, though she spent hours staring dazedly at a blank white wall. He watched her, and he tried to imagine what exactly she was doing in his life, in his head, in his family. He watched her until he thought he might go insane from boredom and his hands started hurting again as the painkiller wore off and his thought grew clearer.
He watched her until someone knocked on the door, then he stood stiffly to answer it.
“My mother was a whore, you know,” Jamie whispered behind him, and Zack forgot about the door. This time he couldn’t blame his relief on meds, on drug-induced stupidity. “That’s what my uncle said, anyway. I wouldn’t know, because I can barely remember.”
“What do you remember?”
“We lived in a big house. Not as big as this, but too big for two people.” The girl shivered and Zack draped a blanket over her shoulders. They were in his bedroom, though why he’d chosen to bring her here, he had no recollection. “When I was really little, this man would come and visit, and he’d always talk to my mom alone. But he never paid attention to me.
“Then, when I was seven or eight, he stopped coming. Mom started going crazy then, started hurting me. I think she was taking it out on me because she was already so full of hurt she couldn’t handle any more.” Zack watched the tears trace idle tracks down Jamie’s face and pitied her. He, at least, had done something to deserve his pain, whereas this girl had been abused for no tangible reason.
“She almost killed me a few times, before we moved in with my uncle. Then she killed herself.”
She said it so matter-of-factly that Zack almost believed she felt nothing. But the tears were coming faster, and he knew they weren’t all for herself. Despite everything, this little girl had managed to love her mother. Had managed to hold that feeling through years of neglect and abuse.
It was more than Zack had even tried. He’d given up on his father when he was still a child, had broken in a different way under the pressure of his life. He’d struck out, had killed and maimed and hurt others to make up for his own pain. And he knew now, after finally welcoming what once he had called a monster, but now knew as part of himself, that he’d enjoyed every bloody moment of it.
“I’m sorry.” He said it to Jamie, to his mother and his father and Blake, and to everyone else he’d killed, most of them unknown, most probably innocent of any crime against him. Surprisingly, he actually meant it.
And then Zack turned away once more, and opened the door.
And staggered back as, for the second time that day, a body toppled through the door, blood oozing from beneath the edges of a dagger.
Fool, it read obscenely from its perch beside Bara’s spine.