“You lied to me,” I growled, releasing the mortal’s wife.
She ran to her husband. The man embraced her, staring at his brother with deep concern. I could see the worry in his eyes. He didn’t know what was about to happen now that the man he left for dead stood in his house.
The liar didn’t acknowledge my question. His gaze remained locked on his target. He trembled, glaring at his brother.
“You feel that, Din?” Jealousy asked, inhaling deeply to savor the taste of the mortal’s jealous rage. “He’s about to explode. You need to get his mind off his brother and on you, quickly, or my sister will make her appearance.”
I stepped in front of the couple, blocking the man’s view. I wanted his eyes on me and only me.
“I despise liars,” I said, gritting my teeth. “And I despise being used for another’s gain.”
“You’ll get over it,” the man said, averting his eyes from mine.
“In hindsight, I think you shouldn’t have helped him,” Jealousy added with a chuckle.
“I’ll get over it?” I mocked. I could feel the anger boiling inside me. I had to fight it. By then, Hatred surely knew what was going on and would’ve been searching for the exact location. I had to keep my anger at bay, just as I had to keep the liar calm. “Do you realize what I am? What I could be? Yet, you disrespect me after what I did.”
“None of that matters anymore,” the man snapped. “Get out of my way. I have to finish this.”
“He has guts, Din. I’ll give him that,” Jealousy admired.
“What you need to do is turn around and go back to the car,” I instructed. “This is finished. You lied, and I won’t let you hurt these people. Understand?”
“Here it comes,” Jealousy said.
The man pulled a gun from his back, pointing it at me. It occurred to me I never checked him for anything after I healed his wounds.
I stood firm in my position. I furrowed my brow, flaring my nostrils as I glared at him in contempt. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t intimidated by his feeble attempt to kill me, just irritated.
He kept the weapon pointed at me, and my gaze didn’t alter its position. His eyes appeared black through his intense scowl.
“He’s going to shoot you, Din,” Jealousy said, chuckling at the thought of me taking a bullet. “I think you should use it. You have the advantage here. He doesn’t know you or what you are. So, when he shoots, drop and see what happens next.”
Playing possum? It might work.
“It will work,” he added.
The man didn’t know mortal weapons didn’t hurt me. Jealousy, as always, was right. I hated to admit it, but it was nice to have him with me. I looked over at him and smiled. He already wore a large grin that stretched across his face. His expression said thank you without him having to say anything.
“Last chance,” he warned.
“I’m not moving. So, you’re just going to have to—”
The gun fired. I felt the bullet pierce my torso, followed by the burning sensation mortals often describe. It didn’t hurt, but I could feel it rattling around inside of me. I clutched the wound, falling to my back with my eyes open.
The woman screamed in a panic. The smoke from the liar’s gun danced upward as he grinned at his next target.
Jealousy clapped, laughing wildly at my acting. He made it difficult for me to remain in character. His laughter was throaty, and he squealed whenever he regained his breath. It was a laugh I hadn’t heard before.
“Put the gun down,” the man’s brother ordered.
“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” the liar said, stepping closer to the frightened couple. “The fact is, I’m in control of this situation, not you. I decide how this is going to go, not you.”
“Okay, okay,” the man said, holding his hands in the air. “What do you want me to do? Just tell me, and I’ll do it.”
“Tell me you love me,” the liar said to the wife. “Tell him about the love we share, how it should be us together. Tell him.”
She shook her head. Her lip trembled as tears rolled down her wet cheeks.
“Answer him,” the husband urged.
“I don’t…I don’t love you,” she said, struggling to form the words. “You need help.”
“You’ve brainwashed her,” he yelled at his brother, pointing the gun at his face as he took another step closer.
“I haven’t,” the man assured. “Brody, you need help. Let me help you.”
“I don’t need help!” he shouted.
“Okay, look, remember when we were kids, and we had that huge willow tree in the backyard?” The liar nodded with a faint smile. “Good, now do you remember you were too small to reach the first branch, and I would reach down to help you up to it? Well, this is no different.”
“You only did that because of Mom. She made you do that,” he grumbled.
“No, I did it because you’re my brother, and I wanted to include you.”
“You never included me in other things. Your friends…your friends would pick on me, and you would let them.”
“Oh, you’re breaking my heart,” Jealousy mocked.
“Yeah, and I was wrong to do that,” the husband explained. “The truth is, and always was…I love you because you’re my brother. I should have done a better job looking out for you when we were growing up. Let me make it up to you by looking out for you now.”
The liar shook his head fast and hard, keeping the gun pointed at his brother. He fixed his eyes back to the wife. “Tell him, please,” he said. “You love me. I know you do. That night, when he left town for his job, you said we should be together. You said I was the one you should be with. You said that. Tell him.”
“What is he talking about?” the man asked, looking down at his crying wife.
She tilted her head upward. Her eyes told the story. They welled up with tears of guilt. “I was confused,” she muttered. “We were having our issues then, when you left, he came over. He knew I was upset and comforted me. It only happened once.”
The husband closed his eyes in disappointment. His brother smiled with his minor victory.
“I never said any of those things, and I regretted what I did immediately after—”
“You think that makes it better?” the husband snapped. “You, of all people, know that my brother’s sick. You can’t mess with his head like that. His mind doesn’t always piece the entire puzzle together, so he’s forced to fill in the gaps, usually with desires and fantasies.”
“Okay, now this is really getting good, Din,” Jealousy said, jumping down from the counter. “Mortal life is so messy but so entertaining.”
I kept myself still. I hoped he wouldn’t shoot his brother or the wife, but I needed him to take another step forward, so I would be behind him and could make my move.
“You were distant,” she shouted. “You ignored me.”
“Yeah, because I was focused on my job.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to exclude me from it!”
“That doesn’t give you the right to step out of our marriage, especially with my brother, who you know is sick.”
“I’m not sick!” he screamed, moving forward to place the gun to the husband’s forehead.
I started to get up, moving as slowly as possible to ensure no sound or movement would catch the liar’s attention.
“Hold on, Din,” Jealousy instructed. “I’m hooked. I need to see what happens next.”
“Tell me you love me, or I shoot,” the liar said, looking down at the wife. She shook her head as fresh tears made their way down her face. “Tell me now.” He clicked the hammer of the gun back.
“Brody, listen to me,” the husband urged. “She tells you she loves you, then what? We’re still married, and I’m not going to just hand her over to you. We had our problems, yes, but we worked them out. Just like we will now.”
“You left,” he groaned.
“Yeah, then I came back. The fact is, we were going through a dark time. So, I’m actually glad you were there for her. Don’t you see? You helped her. You helped us.”
“No, no, no. She told me she loved me and wanted to be with me. Not you.”
“You’re confused, Brody,” the wife added. “It’s okay.”
“I’m not confused,” he shouted. “Tell me you love me again! Tell him you want to be with me!”
“I can’t. It wouldn’t be true.”
The liar’s demeanor changed. I watched a tear force its way from the corner of his eye and roll down to his jaw. He glared at the woman. His face shook.
I carefully placed my feet beneath me, erecting my frame slowly until I towered over the liar. The husband’s eyes followed me in shock. The wife kept her eyes on the armed mortal, keeping his attention on her.
“You’re messing with me,” he said. “You’re trying to confuse me by saying things that aren’t true. I know what you said to me. I know how you feel. Now, tell me you love me. I want him to hear it.”
I mouthed duck to the husband. He nodded slightly to let me know he understood.
“Be careful, Din,” Jealousy warned. “If you’re not quick enough, he could lose his head.”
I quickly grabbed the mortal’s arm, thrusting it upward. The husband ducked at the same time. The liar squeezed the trigger, sending the bullet through the ceiling. I shoved him forward into the wall, clamping down on his arm until I felt the bones break apart.
He wailed in pain, dropping the gun to the floor. I flung him backward into the kitchen sink and away from the couple. He stood, clutching his arm, looking at me in fear and confusion when shots rang loudly through the kitchen.
I watched all four bullets pierce the liar’s torso. Upon their impact, they twisted his body around and sent him crashing to the floor.
Jealousy laughed hysterically, clapping like he had when I’d played dead. Since the danger was gone, I chuckled with him.
When I turned around, the husband still had the gun pointed at his brother. He breathed heavily while his wife curled up in the fetal position against the wall. She rocked herself slightly, attempting to comfort herself as she came down from the adrenaline rush.
“Who are you?” the husband asked. “What are you?”
“Doesn’t matter,” I answered. “The only thing that matters is that you two are safe. Just give me a ten-minute head start before you call the police.”
I hurried out of the house and walked quickly to my car. I no longer felt the pull. The liar was dead, and his jealousy had died with him. I scanned the neighborhood to make sure I wasn’t seen. Everything was as quiet as it had been when I arrived.
The fresh snow crunched beneath my steps. I climbed into my car. I placed my hand over my bullet wound and felt it tumble back the way it had come until it hit my palm. I rolled the bullet between my finger and thumb.
“That was entertaining,” Jealousy said, sitting in the front seat next to me. “Not only did we watch that family tear itself apart, but we avoided her arrival in the process.”
“I’m just glad it’s done,” I said, tossing the bullet out the window. “I knew I didn’t want to get involved.”
“You had no choice, Din. The pull was too great. That force beckons and makes your heart beat faster. I know, because I felt it too. It’s who and what you are. You can’t escape it, and you shouldn’t ignore it.”
I nodded my head in agreement as I put a cigarette in my mouth and lit it. I sat for a moment, savoring the smoky taste and the satisfaction of preventing an innocent mortal’s demise at the hands of his jealous brother. It was a feeling all too close to my heart.
“What now?” Jealousy asked.
“We drive,” I answered, starting the car and driving away.
I wasn’t about to let Jealousy know she was near. I could feel her. The fact was, I hadn’t interrupted the man in time. She’d known where we were. It would be just a matter of time before she closed in.