Come Alive

Page 29

She smiled at Perry and Maximus as well, offering them the same warmth she was offering me. Only Rose got a colder reception, even though she was leaning over Ambrosia in honest concern.

“How are you feeling, does it hurt?” Rose asked.

Ambrosia shook her head. “No, not really. They gave me some form of morphine, so I’m feeling fine.”

“I hope that doesn’t scar your beautiful neck,” I found myself saying, gesturing to where the bandage was, between her ear and her shoulder.

Perry was staring at me, open-mouthed, and Rose shot me a perplexed look but I didn’t care. Why were they so uptight? She had a beautiful neck, and it would be a shame to have it forever damaged by the undead.

“I hope so too, dawlin’,” Ambrosia said sweetly to me. Her lids fluttered seductively and I felt warmth spreading from my heart outward. It was a feeling I wanted to hold on to, one that erased all worry and pain. I found myself gazing deep into her eyes as she said, “If I’d known you were coming, Dex, I would have made myself pretty for you.”

I smiled. “You’re already so beautiful.”

“Dex!” Perry growled at me, kicking my leg. I barely looked at her, I couldn’t. I could only see Ambrosia.

“Oh, that’s right,” Ambrosia said. “I’m sorry, Perry. I forgot that the two of you are together. You just don’t seem like you’re together. My mistake.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Perry snarled at her. “I’ve dealt with enough women like you to not believe a word you say.”

Everyone jerked in shock at her words, including me. Perry turned to me and said, “And fuck you too, asshole. I should have figured you’d get bored with me so fast.”

Then she spun around and marched out of the hospital room.

My eyes were wide, my heart pounding, pinching. What the fuck just happened?

Rose was staring at me in disgust. She turned to Ambrosia. “I’m going to go check on her. Why don’t you tell the boys what happened.”

She ran out of the room and Ambrosia shrugged. “We’ll, she’s a bit uptight. That’s the problem with dating young girls, Dex. They don’t know how to be in relationships.”

What she was saying was kind of true. Her eyes were steady on mine and I felt myself nodding. But still, part of me was in agony, somewhere deep inside. I shook my head slightly and tried to focus. My hand went to the vial of oil in my pocket and I began rubbing it.

Ambrosia frowned at me but then turned her mega-watt smile to Maximus, who was gazing at her like I knew I had been. Jesus, I needed to get a hold of myself.

Ambrosia told us about what happened, and her surprise that it was a white guy. She heard through the police officer that booked the guy that he was completely deranged and had been reported missing from his family a few days ago. Although a few days ago, he was an upstanding family man with no history of mental illness. The cops were also unable to find any traces of bath salts, but they did find a low amount of Datura. The very extract that the Bokors would control their zombies with.

Soon after the nurse came in, wanting to give her another round of antibiotics to heal her wound, and Maximus and I were asked to leave.

“That was weird,” he whispered to me as we walked down the hospital halls, looking for Rose and Perry.

“What was? The zombie attack in broad daylight, in a parking lot, by a white upstanding family dude?”

“That,” he said slowly, “and also Perry.”

“What about her?”

He swung his arms. “I don’t know. It’s like she totally overreacted over nothing.”

Was it nothing? And wasn’t this what he wanted?

“Let me deal with her,” I told him.

The reception we got at the truck was Antarctic chilly. Rose was being curt with me, and Perry wouldn’t even look my way. To make matters worse, Maximus was insistent that we stop at a crab shack he remembered, an authentic old thing on stilts. The view was terribly romantic as we took a seat on the patio overlooking the rippling bayou, the breeze warm and humid, the fishing boats zipping past in the distance. We ate out of perforated red plastic dishes, our crab and crayfish wrapped in greasy newspaper, drinking beer and sweet tea out of Mason jars. It was such a quintessential Louisiana moment for me, and yet I couldn’t enjoy a single second of it. I fought hard to keep my mind off of Ambrosia and onto Perry, which was something I didn’t want to do. Thinking about Ambrosia was easy, inviting almost, while thinking about Perry made me ache inside. It made my world spin, my hurt spasm, my lungs seize up, my guts freefall. Looking at her, thinking about her, just tore me apart. She was a dream that was seconds from becoming a nightmare, a present that was about to be taken back.

I dealt with it the only way I knew how—I drank myself into a bit of a stupor, hoping to numb the pain, the questions, the answers. When we were dropped off at the B&B, I felt like roaming the streets of the quarter, looking for my next drink, my next way out. I didn’t want to go into our room, I didn’t want to deal with her, with anything. But I had to.

I wasn’t in the room for more than five seconds before Perry slammed it, locked it, and put her hands on my chest and shoved me backward.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” she yelled, her eyes up in flames, her voice raw with anger.

I let her push me. I didn’t fight back. I looked at the floor and gathered my strength to know what I had to do. If Perry and I could never be, if being with her would possibly one day hurt her, kill her, I couldn’t do this to the both of us. I couldn’t keep loving her, being with her, not like this.

I was dying inside and she had no idea. I couldn’t let her see. Our world had changed on us and so damn fast.

I ignored her violence toward me and sat down on the bed, kicking off my shoes. She came right around in my face.

“Why are you ignoring me? What did I do?”

“Just chill out,” I told her, giving her a dirty look. “You made a fool of yourself earlier.”

She gasped. Her face flinched like I’d just slapped her. I wanted to cry.

“You asshole! You…oh, how dare you! You were flirting with her right in front of my face. How do you think that makes me feel?”

I shrugged, all forced casualness. “I don’t know. You flip out and get insecure over everything. How am I supposed to know what’s going to set you off?”

She shoved me again, and I reached up and grabbed her wrists, holding them between my fingers.

“Stop hitting me, you’re acting like you’re crazy,” I told her.

And now she was crumbling. “What happened to you, Dex? Yesterday we were fine, everything was fine. What happened? What changed?”

“You changed,” I said, turning it around. “You need to get over your issues.”

Another invisible blow. She nearly keeled over. I knew where I was hurting her because I was hurting there too.


“Kiddo, we both have them in spades.”

“Don’t call me that.” Her voice went all steel, cold and sharp.

“What? Kiddo? Perry, I have a whole arsenal of names here I could call you, but I don’t think you’d like those either.”

Her eyes blazed as she leaned forward, getting in my face. “I’m not some kid, I’m your girlfriend, and I’m trying to talk to you.”

“You are just a kid!” I yelled back, surprised at how caught up I was getting. I just wanted to push her away, just a bit, just to give me the space and time and distance to think things through. But now I felt like everything was coming out, all the things I kept to myself. There was no stopping it.

I pushed off the bed and began fumbling in my pockets for the cigarettes. I brought them out, the bag shaking in my hands, until Perry came over and struck them out of my grasp. They scattered on the floor.

“You think I’m just a kid?” she screeched.

“You’re twenty-three.”

“So what?” she spat out. “I was twenty-two when we met. You knew that about me. What changed?”

“You’re not ready for this with me.”

“Ready for what? For you flirting blatantly with women right in front of me? For you turning off like a light switch, ignoring me, pulling out of this relationship before it even got started?”

The madness was taking over, the rush of rage saturating my veins. I whirled around and screamed at her, “You won’t even tell me you love me! Don’t you dare say I’m turning off like a light switch, because I have been the only one who’s been on since this thing began. You’re the one who has been holding back. You’re the one who lets me bleed out in front of you!”

Her lips snapped shut, her face going white. She stepped away from me, facing the wall, her head down. I was breathing hard, wishing I hadn’t gotten so deep, wishing that I could take her in my arms and make all of this go away. But that wouldn’t stop the hurt that would follow. The future that would crumble. We had no other choice.

“I need time,” she whispered, her words breaking.

I swallowed painfully, trying to keep my own tears at bay. I took in a deep breath, shaking out my arms, hoping my feelings would go out with it.

I put on a fake smile and said, “Well, guess what, baby, now you have all the time in the world.”

Her whole body shook from my words, as if they were metal knives I’d driven into her body. I realized I was holding my breath, my lungs screaming for air.

She slowly turned her head to look at me. She looked beyond devastated. Beyond hurt. Beyond everything I never dreamed of doing to her. I was so close to losing her and I was so close to keeping her.

“Fine,” she said hoarsely. “I understand. I’m going to go get another room for myself here.”

“Good idea,” I said. The words just came. I regretted each of them.

She walked toward the door, trying to keep her head up, trying to keep from collapsing. She was trying to be strong, to be proud, to know what was going on and to know what she was going to do next.

She paused near the door, and I swore if she decided to stay, I’d tell her everything. I’d burden her with my burden if only not to do this to each other, to not make each other bleed.

You’ve fucked up again, Perry told herself, her thoughts coming through loud and clear. You have the only person you ever wanted and you fucked it up again because you can never let yourself be happy. Dex will never take you back after this, and you’ll never know what it’s like to love him while he loves you.

Her self-loathing for herself hurt me down to the bones. She stared at me for a few moments, maybe hoping she could voice what she was thinking, maybe hoping that I would say something too. Two stubborn people clinging on to what they believed was right. She felt she never deserved me. I felt she didn’t deserve to suffer.

I’m doing this because I love you, I thought, hoping to God that maybe she could hear me.

But she just walked out the door and closed it behind her. I collapsed to the ground, a ruin in her wake.


I woke up again in the middle of night, feeling like Perry was shaking me awake, whispering my name in my ear. But when I came to and sat up slowly, I realized I was alone. Perry had gotten her stuff and moved down to a room on the first floor. I didn’t have her anymore. I had nobody.

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