Evernight Page 46

I thought he might say yes, that he would do anything to have them with him. I thought he might say no, that he couldn’t have brought himself to kill them, no matter what. Either answer would tell me a lot about how long grief lasted, how long I would have to endure the misery of having lost Lucas. I didn’t expect Balthazar to stop in his tracks and give me a hard stare.

“If I could go back,” he said, “I’d die with my parents.”

“What?” I was too stunned to come up with any other response.

Balthazar stepped closer and laid a leather-gloved hand on my cheek. His touch wasn’t loving, like Lucas’s. He was trying to wake me up to something, to make me see. “You’re alive, Bianca. You still can’t appreciate what it means, to be alive. It’s better than being a vampire—better than anything else in the world. I remember a little of what being alive was like, and if I could touch that again, even for a day, it would be worth anything in the world. Even dying again, forever. All the centuries I’ve known and all the marvels I’ve seen don’t compare to being alive. Why do you think the vampires here are so vicious to the human students?”

“Because—well, they’re snobs, I guess—”

“That’s not it. It’s jealousy.” We looked at each other in silence for a long moment before he added, “Enjoy life while you have it. Because it doesn’t last—not for vampires, not for anyone.”

Nobody had ever said anything like this to me. My parents didn’t wish they were still alive—did they? They’d never spoken a word about it. And Courtney, Erich, Patrice, Ranulf: Were they all wishing to be human after all?

Perhaps recognizing my doubt, Balthazar said, “You don’t believe me.”

“It’s not that. I know you’re telling me the truth. You wouldn’t lie to me about anything important. That’s not the kind of person you are.”

Balthazar nodded, a slow half smile playing across his lips, and I felt like I’d said more than I meant to say. The hopeful light in his eyes now was something I hadn’t seen since the night of the Autumn Ball, before I’d let him down.

What bothered me more, though, was the fact that what I’d said was true. Balthazar really wouldn’t lie to me about anything important, even when that truth was difficult for me to hear. He was a trustworthy person—a good person. I wished I could’ve been as good a person, someone who would have put other people’s interests first, one who would have deserved Lucas’s trust.

Then I thought, Maybe it’s not too late.

After we returned to the school, our footprints winding a track all around the grounds, I waved good-bye to Balthazar and hurried upstairs to the computer lab. Luckily, the door was unlocked. As I waited for my computer to boot up, I remembered the print of Klimt’s Kiss above my bed. Those two lovers held each other for eternity, two parts of the same whole, fused together in a mosaic of pink and gold.

If you loved someone, you couldn’t let lies come between you. No matter what happened—even if you’d already lost each other forever—you owed each other the truth.

With trembling fingers, I typed in Lucas’s e-mail address and put as the subject line “and nothing but the truth.” Then I started typing, spilling out everything I’d held back from him all this time. As quickly and simply as I could, I told him that what he’d seen that night was real.

That I was a vampire, born to two other vampires and destined to become like them someday.

That Evernight was full of vampires, that the school existed for us to teach us about the changing world and to protect us from people who were frightened of us because they didn’t understand.

That I’d bitten him the night of the Autumn Ball, not meaning to hurt him but because I’d wanted to be near him so much.

The words gushed out of me. It was a mess, really; I’d never tried to tell these secrets before and I kept repeating myself, putting things badly, or asking questions I wasn’t sure of the answer to. That didn’t matter. What mattered was telling Lucas the truth at last.

Finally, I wrote:

I’m not telling you all of this because I expect to get you back. I know I don’t deserve that, not after what I did, and even though you’re not in danger at Evernight, I guess you don’t want to come anywhere near the school ever again.

Mostly I’m writing to ask you, please, if you haven’t already told anyone what you saw here, don’t. Don’t show anyone this e-mail. Keep this secret for me. If the truth got out, my parents and Balthazar and a lot of the other students would be in danger, and it would be all my fault. I couldn’t bear it if I were responsible for hurting anybody.

I didn’t tell any of them that you saw me and Erich up on the roof. I did that to keep you safe. You can do that much for me in return, right? That’s all I ask. Maybe it’s more than I deserve, but it’s not about me. It’s about the people who could get hurt.

I also wanted you to know that I do care enough about you to tell you the truth. I’m sorry that I waited until too late. But I hope it means something to you when you understand how I really feel.

I’ll never stop missing you.

Good-bye, Lucas.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I quickly hit Send. As soon as I’d done it, a chill swept through me. What if Lucas didn’t listen to me? What if the e-mail I’d sent didn’t convince him to remain silent—but instead just provided him with evidence?

Maybe I should have regretted it, but I didn’t. Maybe Lucas couldn’t trust me any longer, but I still trusted him.

I didn’t really expect Lucas to answer. However, expectations are different from hopes. I kept rechecking my e-mail that whole next day, and the next, and then throughout Christmas Day, whenever I could slip away from the unwrapping of gifts.

No answer from Lucas.

New Year’s Day. Nothing.

I’d told myself that the truth was worth telling for its own sake, and I believed it. But that didn’t make it any easier to face the fact that my confession had meant nothing. Lucas was still gone for good.

Chapter Twelve

WHEN THE STUDENTS RETURNED TO THE school, I stood on the front steps, hoping to see a friendly face. I knew Lucas wouldn’t return. Although I kept fantasizing that I saw him, it was just my imagination playing cruel tricks. In some ways, I told myself, today would be a turning point. When Lucas didn’t show, I’d at least be certain. Instead of torturing myself with useless wishes for something that couldn’t be, I could face the hard facts and force myself to keep going.

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