Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 116)
They were quiet and motionless while I ate. I stared at the TV, but I couldn’t make sense of what was happening. Was it a news show? Was it an infomercial? I wasn’t sure. I ate until the plates were empty. I didn’t taste any of it.
When there was nothing left to eat, I stared at the wall.
All I could see was Edythe in the forest, faster than a cheetah—faster than a bullet. It was obvious she would catch up with the tracker first.
Lauren’s words echoed in my head. You can’t bring her down. She’s absolutely lethal.
Suddenly Jessamine was standing over me, closer than usual.
“Beau,” she said in a soothing voice. “You have nothing to worry about. You are completely safe here.”
“Then why are you frightened?” She sounded confused. She might feel my emotions, but she couldn’t see the reasons behind them.
“You heard what Lauren said. Joss is lethal. What if something goes wrong, and they get separated? If anything happens, if Carine or Eleanor—or Edythe—” My voice broke. “If that crazy redhead hurts Earnest—how do I live with myself when it’s my fault? None of you should be risking your lives for—”
“Stop, Beau, stop,” she interrupted, her words pouring out so quickly they were hard to understand. “You’re worrying about all the wrong things, Beau. Trust me on this—none of us are in jeopardy. You are under enough strain as it is; don’t add to it with imaginary worries. Listen to me!” she ordered—I’d looked away. “Our family is strong. Our only fear is losing you.”
“But why should you—”
Archie was there then, his arm around Jessamine’s waist. “It’s been almost a century that Edythe’s been alone. Now she’s found you. You can’t see the changes that we see, we who have been with her for so long. Do you think any of us want to look into her eyes for the next hundred years if she loses you?”
My guilt started to ease. But even though the calm that spread over me felt totally natural, like it came from inside, I knew better.
“You know I’d do this anyway,” Archie added. “Even if Edythe hadn’t ask me to.”
He grinned. “It’s hard to explain without sounding slightly schizo-phrenic.… Time doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it does to you—or Jess, or anyone else.” Jessamine grinned and tweaked his ear. “So this won’t make sense to you. But for me, it’s like we’ve already been friends for a long time, Beau. The first second you became a part of Edythe’s life, for me it was like we’d already spent hundreds of hours together. We’ve laughed at Edythe’s overreactions together, we’ve annoyed Royal right out of the house together, we’ve stayed up all night talking with Carine together.…”
I stared and he shrugged. “It’s how I experience the world.”
“We’re friends?” I asked, my voice full of wonder.
“Best friends,” he told me. “Someday. It was nice of my favorite sister, don’t you think, to fall in love with my best friend? I guess I owe her one.”
“Huh,” was all I could think to say.
Jessamine rolled her eyes. “Thanks so much, Archie. I just got him calm.”
“No, I’m good,” I promised. Archie could be lying to make me feel better, but either way it worked. It wasn’t so bad if Archie wanted to help me, too. If he wasn’t just doing it for Edythe.
“So what do we do now?” I asked.
“We wait for something to change.”
It was a very long day.
We stayed in the room. Archie called down to the front desk and asked them to suspend our housekeeping service. The curtains stayed shut, the TV on, though no one watched it. At regular intervals, food was delivered for me.
It was funny how I was suddenly comfortable with Archie. It was like his vision of our friendship, spoken out loud, had made it real. He sat in the chair next to the sofa where I sprawled, and answered all the questions I’d been too nervous to ask before. Sometimes he’d answer them before I asked them. It was a little weird, but I figured that was how everyone else felt around Edythe all the time.
“Yes,” he said, when I thought about asking him that. “It’s exactly the same. She tries hard not to be obnoxious about it.”
He told me about waking up.
“I only remembered one thing, but I’m not even sure it was a memory. I thought I remembered someone saying my name—calling me Archie. But maybe I was remembering something that hadn’t happened yet—seeing that someday someone would call me Archie.” He smiled at my expression. “I know, it’s a circular dilemma, isn’t it?”
“The hair?” He ran a hand over his scalp, unselfconscious. The stubble was just long enough to see that his hair would have been dark brown, nearly black, like his eyebrows. “It was a rather extreme look for 1920. A little too early for me to have been a skinhead, thank heavens. My best guess is disease or bad behavior.”
“Bad behavior?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I might have been in prison.”
“You couldn’t have been much older than me,” I protested.
He steepled his fingers thoughtfully. “I like to believe that if I was a criminal, I was both a mastermind and a prodigy.”
Jessamine—back at the desk and mostly silent—laughed with me.
“It wasn’t confusing the way it probably should have been,” Archie said when I asked him what his first visions were like. “It seemed normal—I knew what I was seeing hadn’t happened. I think maybe I’d seen things before I was changed. Or maybe I just adapt quickly.” He smiled, already knowing the question I had waiting. “It was Jess. She was the first thing I saw.” And then, “No, I didn’t actually meet her in person until much later.”