Chapter 43 : I’ll Ask Him Tomorrow

*Lena*

I hadn't seen or heard from Xander in a week.

I'd spent most of that time in bed. sweating beneath three thick quilts and even thicker flannel pajamas while Heather fussed over me, making sure I was taking the antibiotics the doctor had prescribed for what he said was a severe viral infection of some kind.

All of it felt odd. The days passed in a blur, day fading into night over, and over. I didn't seem to get better, however. My body was numb and frequently chilled despite how warm Heather tried to keep me.

The worst of it was having to come clean to both of my roommates about what had actually happened in Crimson Creek one feverish night when I'd spilled hot soup on my shirt, and Heather helped me remove it.

They saw the long, jagged scars across my belly, and had screamed, then were frantic and shocked beyond belief as I told them the incredible and unbelievable story.

I'm not sure if they believed it. They probably thought it was some tall tale my fevered mind had concocted.

But something changed the night before graduation.

Viv came into my room, balancing a large, hot mug of tea in her hands. Her face was drawn in a grimace, and in a split second, I knew why. I sat straight up.

“Where did you get that?" I cried, and Viv looked at me in shock. She set the mug of murky black liquid on the beside table that seperated my bed from Heather's bed.

“Xander dropped it off. He said you liked this tea and he could only get it in Crimson Creek."

I paled, looking down into the mug and watching the sheen that had developed on top of it. Blood root. I hadn't seen him because he went back to Crimson Creek.

“Is he here?" I asked, but Viv shook her head, looking a little sheepish.

“No. He left in a hurry. He told me how to brew it and I... do you really like it? The smell is just awful. I was going to try it but-" she held her stomach, looking a little green.

“How did he know I was sick?"

“Viv went to him the night Slate assaulted you," Heather said from the doorway, unwinding her scarf from around her neck and tossing it on her bed. I hied to swallow but found it impossible.

“I told him what we thought happened. And then when you got sick I... I know his roommate Adrian; we have classes together. I told him you were sick and then didn't see him again for several days."

I brought the tea to my lips and drank deeply, watching the disgusted looks on my roommates' faces as I tilted it back and drained it.

she took

watched as she began to put the pieces

us about

I said, laying back down on the pillow

me. He'd gone all the way to Crimson Creek and back just to get the blood root. Wiry? Wiry bring me blood root

was drifting through tire frosted windows as I stood.

I was healed, entirely.

moonlight as a weight settled on my

a fever. Blood

What did this mean?

only one person who I could ask. And

At graduation.

***

moved from the shabby conference room in the library to the small auditorium used almost exclusively by the theater club. I'd never been inside,

mingled with a group of students in tire aisle near the row we'd chosen to sit in. I'd promised my parents that if they'd just let me get this small formality out of the way, I'd walk in the official graduation ceremony in May, wearing a cap and gown and letting the announcer call my full, formal name instead of the

get over their shock, and likely anger, at the fact I'd hidden my true identity from them for so long. I hadn't told them, not yet.

too chaotic now to say anything. No, not yet. Now was

filled with floral arrangements from “Mom and Dad," and my roommates and I had our coffee with the rich smell of lilies and roses permeating the air of our tiny apartment after we'd brought them

was to accept Abigail's diploma for her- since she

auditorium and did a double take before quickly turning my head away from the entrance of the theater. Xander had just walked in, and I felt his gaze on me instantly, little ripples

to be reading the pamphlet

at least. He wasn't in my line of sight when Heather and Viv finally sat down and the lights began to

hair shimmering in the lights above her head. She looked around, smiling broadly as she tapped her finger on the microphone and then adjusted its

little spiel. There were many murmurings in the crowd, all whispers about who she was, and what she

Mara began to call the names of every graduate. Heather went up to the stage, met with applause. Viv accepted Abigail's diploma, which caused a brief moment of

and I walked up to the stage, my feet feeling heavy. The lights were blinding enough that they cast

smiled, handing

gripped it, giving her

tliat. No frills, no tossing of our caps. That would come in May, and I'd heard a rumor I was in the running for valedictorian of my graduating class as well. As I walked back to my seat, I began to wonder what people would think about tliat. Would they accept that I had earned my grades, or would they think my status as a

squeezing my aims in silent congratulations as the rest of the overachieving seniors

I watched as he

the way he narrowed his eyes at Mara, the way he leaned in

she kept her expression despite the sharp look on Xander's face. What had he just said to

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