I’d waited for Finn to call.
I’d waited and waited and waited.
The sirens wailed in the night, and I’d paced the floor.
Finn never called.
Dare nods. “I’ve always held you up, Cal.”
“When my father came in, and said… when he told me about Finn, everything else faded away,” I recall, staring out at the ocean. God, why does the ocean make me feel so small? “Nothing else mattered. Nothing but him. You faded away, Dare.”
The truth is stark.
The truth is hurtful.
I lay it out there, like flesh flayed open, like pink muscle, like blood.
Dare closes his eyes, his gleaming black eyes.
“I know,” he says softly. “You didn’t remember me. For months.”
We know that. We both know that. It’s why we’re here, standing on the edge of the ocean, trying to retrieve my mind. It’s been out to sea for too long, absent from me, floundering.
I snatch at it now with frantic fingers, trying to draw all of my memories back. They’re stubborn though, my memories. They won’t all come.
But one does.
My eyes burn as I fix my gaze on Dare.
“You confessed something to me. It scared me.”
Dare’s lids are heavy and hooded, probably from the weight of guilt.
He nods. One curt, short movement.
“Do you remember what I told you?”
He’s silent, his gaze tied to mine, burning me.
I flip through my memories, fast, fast, faster… but I come up empty-handed. I only emerge with a feeling.
Dare sees it in my eyes and looks away.
“I tried to tell you, Cal,” he says, almost pleading. “You just didn’t understand.”
His voice trails off and my heart seems to stop beating.
“I didn’t understand what?” I ask stiltedly. Just tell me.
He lifts his head now.
“It isn’t hard to understand,” he says simply. “If you remember all that I told you. Can you try?”
I stare at him numbly. “I’ve tried already. I… it’s not there, Dare.”
Dare’s head drops the tiniest bit, almost imperceptibly, but I see it. He’s discouraged, disappointed.
He shakes his head. “It is there. Just relax, Calla. It will come. But you should know now that you’re not safe. You have to trust me.”
“You were here for me,” I tell him. “I remember that much. You were here for me all along.”
Dare shakes his head. “No. That’s not true. I came here for a reason, then that reason changed and it was you. I swear on my mother’s life.”
“Your mother is dead,” I point out starkly. “And so is mine. And I’m supposed to just believe you now?”
Dare sighs, a ragged and broken sound. He tries to touch my hand, but I yank it away. He doesn’t get to touch me. Not anymore.
“You don’t understand,” he says quietly.
I stare at him. “No, I don’t.” And you have no idea what this feels like.
“You will,” he replies tiredly. “I swear to God you will.”
A lump lodges itself in my throat as the sea breeze rustles my hair. I take a deep gulp of it, filling my lungs with the clean scent.
“Did you ever love me at all?” I ask, the words choking me, because no matter what, it’s the most important thing to me right now.
Pain flashes across Dare’s face, real pain, and I brace myself.
Don’t hurt me.
“Of course I did,” he says quickly and firmly. “And I do still. Right now.”
He stares at me imploringly and I so want to believe him. I want to hear his words and clutch them to my heart and keep them there in a gilded cage.
But then he speaks again. “You’re not safe, Calla. You have to come with me now. There’s something you need to know.”
I’m frozen, petrified by my circumstances. Go with him to Whitley? With a person I don’t even know anymore, with a person I think I should be afraid of? Confusion consumes me and nothing seems real.
Nothing but two things.
I have to admit that I do feel the danger. It crackles around me, everywhere. It’s here for me. I just don’t know why.
You’re not safe, Calla.
And of course, Dare. He’s here, he’s real, and I love him.
I can’t trust him.
I can’t trust anything.
“I don’t know what to do,” I whisper jaggedly. “I want to hate you, Dare, for lying to me. But I can’t.” I’m too confused, and he’s my anchor.
He grabs my arm and pulls me to him, resisting my struggles, and then I’m limp.
Because here, surrounded by his scent and his warmth and his strength… this is where I belong. How can I argue with that?
“You belong right here, with me,” he tells me, his lips moving against my hair. “You don’t hate me, Calla. You can’t. I didn’t lie to you. I tried to tell you.”
His voice is afraid, terrified actually, and it touches a soft place in me, a hidden place, the place where I protect my love for him. The place where my heart used to be before it was so broken.
“You’re my own personal anti-Christ,” I whisper into his shirt. His hands stroke my hair frantically, trailing down my back and clutching me to him. “Why can’t you just tell me everything right now?”