—Have a secret. He doesn’t want me to tell you.—
His eerie tone gave me chills.
Aric hurried around the truck, snatching open my door. He leaned in, cradling my face in his shaking palms. He was speaking to me with dread in his eyes, but I couldn’t hear a word.
Get out of my head, Fool!
—Listen.— A different voice carried into my mind: —“What kind of danger is she in? Damn it, tell me! What’s coming, coo-yôn?”—
I whimpered. Jack??? Is that you? He sounded so close.
Blood kept pouring. My breaths shallowed till I was hyperventilating, on the verge of blacking out. But I was desperate to hear more of his voice. Jack, please answer me!
White-noise answered me.
Please, please, PLEASE—
My eyes rolled back in my head.
Day 512 A.F.?
“There she is,” Aric said when I blinked open my eyes. He sat beside me, stroking my hair.
I was in our bed? So foggy.
Why did Paul have a blood pressure cuff on my arm? “Everything checks out,” he told Aric. “I’m sure the posttraumatic stress from that attack didn’t help things.”
Aric said, “Thank you, Paul.”
With a “Get some rest, Evie,” the medic left.
My eyes went wide as memories returned. Matthew, answer me! I bolted upright, growing dizzy again.
Aric grasped my shoulders. “Easy, slow down. What’s wrong, love?”
That buzz in my ears was back. I shook so hard my teeth chattered. MATTHEW, please answer me! I’m begging you. Is Jack alive?
Matthew had never actually said he was. The Fool might have been channeling something Jack had said before he’d died. Maybe Matthew was trying to drive me crazy. If so . . .
Kudos, the plan’s a success.
I rubbed my temples, muttering to Aric, “I-I don’t know.” What if I’d imagined Matthew altogether? Imagined Jack’s voice?
Oh, God, of course. I’d been remembering a detail about Jack, and then his voice popped up?
In a solemn tone, Aric said, “There is something we need to talk about, sievā.”
Now what? I could’ve been out for days. In that time, he might’ve uncovered something new and dire.
So why was he looking at me so strangely? Almost like I was nuts.
Maybe I . . . shouldn’t tell him what I thought I’d heard. Not until I knew more. How exactly would I put the revelation anyway? Jack’s alive, but apparently he kept that little detail secret. Ah, but Matthew spilled the beans! Buying myself time, I waved Aric on.
I was scarcely listening as he began talking about Paul, of all people. How the EMT had grown worried when I’d been shut in with my grandmother for so long. How I had lost weight and become listless. The man had pleaded with me to get a checkup, even offering to source contraception after Aric and I had started sleeping together.
Wait. I glanced up. “After?”
Aric nodded. “He said you told him you had no need of contraception.”
The hell? “I went to him and got a shot prior to us getting together. I told you about it.”
“As I told him in turn, but he swears that never happened.”
Real? Unreal? Had I . . . imagined my meeting with Paul? I’d already feared gaps in my memory; Gran had told me things that I’d had no recollection of. Was I now inventing memories?
Had I invented Jack’s return?
In a soothing voice, Aric said, “I’m not angry, love. Just talk to me.” He wasn’t the first person to look at me as if I’d gone insane, like I was trouble with the possibility of rubble.
Won’t be the last.
No. I refused this. I had heard Jack, and I had gotten that shot. “It did happen, which means Paul’s a liar.” But why would he lie? “I’m going to confront him.” In time. Right now, all I wanted was to hear from Matthew again.
Yet I frowned as a thought occurred. “Why would you be talking to Paul about contraception?”
Aric tucked my hair behind my ear. “Sievā,” he said gently, “do you not know you’re pregnant?”