Chapter 30

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In a startling turn of events, my parents were the ones who wanted to keep me from returning to school, while I insisted on going back.

"We could homeschool you," my mom suggested.

That would be a disaster on multiple levels. "I'm good, mom, really. I'm ready to go back. April seems confident that it's a good move for me."

My mom nodded. April, my new therapist, had been a total rock since the incident. "Mom, I want to go back."

She gave me a hug and handed me a cup of coffee. "I'm proud of you, Mazie. You're braver than you ever gave yourself credit for."

For once, I didn't fight her touchy-feely parenting approach. "I'm pretty badass, aren't I? And I've got the scars to prove it."

It was more like a bruise than a scar, and two weeks after that incident, even that was nearly faded. Soon, the only scars I'd bare would be the ones I carried inside of me, scraping against the walls of my chest and my consciousness whenever I replayed the loop from that night.

Zeke choking me. Zeke pushing me to the ground. Darkness and then cold air. Dim light. A world without Jack. I pushed the thought of his absence away so my mom wouldn't see me cry.

A moment later, a car horn beeped from the driveway.

My father came in the side door with a newly emptied recycling bin. "Kayla's here. You got everything?"

"Yup." I slung my bookbag over my shoulder and took a last swig of coffee. "I'm fine, really. I could have returned to school a week ago."

"We love you so much, honey." My mom moved in for a hug and my father followed suit. A family hug. We hadn't done that since I was ten.

Thirty seconds later, I slid into the passenger seat next to Kayla. She'd been over nearly every day since the incident. Unlike my parents, Kayla wasn't closed lipped about what had happened and had filled in the gaps as soon as I was coherent again. The day after the dramatic confrontation, I found myself in a hospital, where I was being kept for observation. As soon as my parents left the room, Kayla told her tale.

When she'd arrived at my house, Ethan and Zeke passed her in the driveway. Ethan's hair was awry, his nose bloody. He supported Zeke, who limped along, grasping his arm like it would fall off if he let go of it.

"They both looked like hell," she told me. "I asked them what happened and why they were there, but they barely registered my existence. It was clear they wanted to get away as fast as possible. I freaked out and ran in the house and there you were, unconscious on the floor with Blake hovering over you."

"Did you see Jack?" I asked before remembering that she'd never been able to see him. "Never mind."

"I didn't see him, but... Blake looked stunned. He held a gun in his hand and for a second, I thought he'd shot you."

"He didn't."

"No. He'd gotten the gun and threatened the brothers with it. Told them he was calling the police and that's when they bolted. I think you getting hurt like that freaked them both out."

"They're both wannabe murderers, Kayla."

"I know, but Ethan's not..." She shrugged. "They're not good people and I hate what they did to you, so let's just leave it at that."

I couldn't do that, even for Kayla's sake. They'd fled, and then I had no idea what happened. "Are they still on the run?"

"State patrol nabbed them near the Idaho border this morning."

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