Chapter 24

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I kept my word. When Blake showed up at my locker on Monday, I walked right past him without making eye contact. When he sat outside after school waiting for me to join Kayla by her car, I took the long way around, past the gymnasium, to avoid him. I preemptively blocked him on social media in case he tried to contact me that way.

Jack seemed happy with the arrangement even though it meant I was getting no closer to solving the mystery of his existence. "It's just a break until he gets his head on straight," he told me. "Once that happens, you can continue investigating."

I didn't tell him what I knew deep in my gut—Blake wasn't going to be getting his head on straight no matter how much time passed, and it had nothing to do with his unwitting attachment to me. As long as Blake and Jack existed in the same universe, nothing was going to be completely right with either of them.

Several weeks flew by. The jeers and whispers behind raised hands died down. People resumed ignoring me. I could almost breathe normally again when news of the fall dance broke.

"Kayla's brother is going to be the DJ. You have to come," Vanessa insisted. The four of us sat on a large boulder at the waterfront park drinking coffees on a sunny day after school.

"I don't think I do," I answered.

"Sure, you do. It's tradition." She sipped her iced latte through the metal straw of her reusable cup. "Besides, we're going as a group and I don't want to be a third wheel." She eyed Darren and Kayla, the latter squinting her eyes at her.

"We're all going as friends," Kayla said. "And Vanessa's right. Everyone attends the fall dance. Plus, he may be my annoying brother, but Ace is a great DJ. I might even convince Ethan to go."

Darren snorted. "If he's coming with us, count me out."

"Come on, Darren, don't be that way." Kayla scooted over towards him.

I let them all talk about the pros and cons of the dance, knowing full well I wouldn't be in attendance. Not a dance at the school, at least.

By the time the day of the dance had arrived, Kayla had given up trying to convince me to go with her. She knew I had my own plans. They were unconventional, but Kayla was all for it.

"It's romantic, it really is." She handed me a roll of purple streamers. "Does he have any idea?"

I shook my head. "Not a clue."

"Damn, I just wish he could kiss you."

I thought about Jack holding the knife. He'd done similar things several more times since then, lifting a saltshaker, the TV remote. He'd closed a few more doors too. I tried to get him to do these tricks in front of my parents, imagining their horrified expressions when a large knife floated passed them. Jack refused. He was done trying to prove his existence to them.

"It will just scare them," he told me. "They might want to sell the house and move away."

Aww, that was my Jack. He was so scared of losing me, he refused to terrorize my parents the way I'd asked him to.

Being able to even partly use the remote was probably Jack's favorite new skill. It meant he could change the channel. It didn't always work, but he believed practice made perfect. I hoped so, because so far, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't grip my hand the way he'd been able to grip a soup spoon. Maybe if he mastered remotes and utensils, he'd manage skin to skin contact. Lips to lips.

A girl could hope.

On a Saturday evening, I left Jack to flip through the channels, telling him I needed something upstairs and I'd be back shortly. I grabbed a bag of party supplies from under my bed and then raced up to the attic.

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