Chapter 7

Are you alright?” Jaden asked.

“Fine,” I responded, clutching my stomach.

My stomach was burning uncontrollably.

Jaden was looking at me with worry. It made me uncomfortable. I was never fond of having anyone around, trying to take care of me, and Jaden was already pushing it.

“What’s wrong?” he pressed, ignoring the fact that I just told him I was fine.

“It’s just a little nausea,” I admitted.It was an understatement but still the most he could hope to hear from me.

He didn’t look like he was buying it. “I’ll go get a doctor to look at you.”

“No!” I snapped as he turned to the door, immediately having him spin on his heels to face me again. “I’ll be fine,” I assured him through clenched teeth.

Jaden glared at me. “You need a doctor.”

“I just need a break from work,” I said. “I can request a short vacation once this case is dealt with.” I forced the sweetest smile that I could manage. I could only hope that he believed that I would actually look out for myself as I said I would.

Jaden sighed.

“I’m okay,” I said.

“Fine.”

“You guys make the cutest couple!”

Jaden’s cheeks were flushed with a deep red, but I responded fairly calmly, “We’re just friends, Mrs. Jacobs.”

Mrs. Jacobs was smiling at us from her hospital bed. I was still finding it hard to deal with her on her medications. The odd thing about her situation was that the doctor explained to me earlier that it wasn’t all from her medications. Her reactions were a side effect, but they were more extreme than any case he had seen on the particular medication. He assumed that the heightened reactions were an affect of her previous trauma.

“You’re a couple,” she chimed. “I can tell. No use keeping secrets from me!” Her voice was painfully shrill.

“N-um, we’re not a c- haha. We’re not a couple,” Jaden stuttered.

I rolled my eyes the slightest bit. This wasn’t the first time someone made the assumption. Jaden was scratching the back of his neck. I didn’t understand why he got so nervous when anyone thought that we were together.

“Don’t you worry,” Mrs. Jacobs told us in a very serious tone. “Your secret is safe with me.”

Mrs. Jacobs started giggling, and her smile widened. I did my best to ignore it, but her laugh was nothing easy to tune out. Jaden was standing next to the chair I was sitting in, looking uncomfortable. I didn’t put much thought into it. He was an awkward man sometimes. I knew that he had feelings for me in the past. He tried confessing once, but I turned him down. I was in no place for a relationship at the time, nor was I at the present time. I always assumed he got over it, though. Part of me wondered if he didn’t, but the rest of me assured that it was just him feeling uncomfortable over the past. I settled with that belief and let my thoughts drift away from him. I didn’t have the time to worry over petty things like relationships or love interests.

“Mrs. Jacobs, do you remember anything about the attack?” I asked.

Her giggling subsided, but only momentarily. She then giggled again and let out a cheery, “nope.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yup!”

Jaden decided to pitch in. “Do you remember what you were doing before the attack?”

“I already told Lily! I was trying to solve my own case! I was going to be a detective, too, since she’s so lazy.”

I ignored the insult. “What about before that? Did you see anyone earlier that day?”

Mrs. Jacobs thought about it for a few moments, but then shook her head. “I wasn’t with anyone that day. I went to the spa, but they were booked, so I left.”

“Who was working at the spa?” I asked.

Mrs. Jacobs shrugged.

“Can you call the doctor for me?” she asked.

“Sure,” Jaden answered, sounding relieved. He was quick to leave us alone.

Mrs. Jacobs went quiet after that and looked out to the window, looking fearful.

“Mrs. Jacobs,” I called out to her, trying to get her attention, but she didn’t move. “Mrs. Jacobs?” I tried again. When she didn’t say anything I followed her gaze and tried another question. “Is there something out there?”

I couldn’t see anything outside but blue skies, white clouds, and a few birds flying by.

Mrs. Jacobs turned to face me again and shook her head. “Nope. No one out there!”

“It doesn’t have to be a person,” I pointed out. “What were you looking at?”

“Just the sky,” she told me.

I tried reading her face, but it was abnormally blank.

“Are you feeling alright?” I asked.

She nodded and gave me another one of her highly medicated smiles. I heard footsteps nearing the room. I soon realized that there were two people walking to the room, and soon after that, I could hear the faint breathing of the two individual men.

“Is everything okay?” a man’s voice cut in. I turned to see that the doctor entered the room and Jaden was right behind him.

“Can I get a cup of pudding?” Mrs. Jacobs asked.

“Mrs. Jacobs, you could always call a nurse for food. There is a button right there next to you. It’s on the remote on your nightstand.”

Mrs. Jacobs turned to look at the remote, then back to the doctor. “I know,” she said.

The doctor sighed.

“Can you get me some pudding?” she asked again.

“I’ll send in a nurse,” the doctor mumbled as he left.

Jaden had to move to the side so that the doctor could get past him, but quickly skipped over to my side.

“Are you ready to go?” he asked.

“Aaawwww.” Mrs. Jacobs was smiling wide at us again and Jaden blushed.

“I suppose so,” I answered, ignoring Mrs. Jacobs.

“Can’t you spend the night here?!” Mrs. Jacobs asked, disappointed.

“I have to get going,” I told her. “I have a lot to do, but I’ll come back in a couple of days.”

I left her room, and Jaden followed behind me. I walked straight over to the receptionist’s desk. She was writing something in a notebook and didn’t bother looking up at me, so I cleared my throat to get her attention.

“Can I help you?” she asked as she looked up.

“I need you to make sure that Mrs. Jacobs is not given any more pills until I return.”

“I can’t promise-”

“I have a job to do,” I told her, my voice severe. “I understand that nobody here wants to put up with a whining woman and her absurd claims, but unless you want to have a potential murderer staying on the streets of Hollowville, I suggest you help me do my job.”

The lady at the desk stared at me, stuttering.

“I’ll see you in a few days,” I said, turning to the elevators.

The way home seemed to go by fairly quickly. Jaden didn’t speak, and I had things on my mind to preoccupy me. When we reached my home I let Jaden in. I felt that I owed it to him after he accompanied me on my trip to the hospital and after he attempted to take care of me. My stomach was still burning, but it was more manageable. I knew that I would need to do something about it, but it could wait. For the time being, I would do my best to show Jaden that I was okay, even though I was far from it. I was hungry again. The food he gave me that morning did nothing of course; it only made the situation much worse.

I had to wait before I could eat. I was hoping that keeping Swift Wing around a little while longer would help distract me from the nagging pains, but as soon as he entered my house, I regretted allowing him in. Without the outdoor breeze, scents stuck. It was making me dizzy.

Luckily, I was able to hide my pains, discomforts, and desires. Jaden walked by without noticing a thing. Unfortunately for me, him walking by had me feeling less than indifferent to the situation. The burning in my stomach intensified. I needed to make him leave, but wasn’t sure how. If I let him stay, things could get out of hoof. They would get out of hoof. Swift Wing was the last pony that I wanted to see get hurt because of my own personal problems.

“You know what,” I asked, speaking low out of fear that my voice would crack form pain, “I think I should just go to sleep now.”

“Huh?” Jaden looked back at me, seeming confused.

“Well, I’m really not feeling well,” I explained.

“What’s wrong now?” he asked. “I should probably stay if you’re really that bad. I can make you something to eat if you want.”

Before I even answered, he went over to the kitchen and started rummaging through cupboards.

“It’s all empty,” he noted aloud.

“I haven’t had time to shop lately,” I said.

“I’ll order something then,” he said, trotting over to the living room to find my phone.

“I really think that I just need to sleep,” I insisted.

“So go ahead and sleep,” he said. “Tell me what you want from the pizza place down the street first. I’ll wake you up when it gets here.”

“No, I’m fine.”

I walked over to him and took the phone from his hand to place it back on the table. He reached back for it, stepping closer. The scent intensified and the sound of his heartbeat was banging in my head. I dropped the phone and jumped back before the burning in my stomach had the chance to get the best of me.

“What was that about?” Jaden asked, sounding both concerned and confused.

I couldn’t speak. I just shook my head. My mouth was watering and I could still hear the beating of his heart. My head was spinning circles. All of my senses were heightening except for one. My vision began to tunnel as the floor beneath me felt like it was sinking.

“Lily?”

The corners of my sight were dark. I could hardly see Jaden as he came closer. He needed to stop coming closer. I tried to tell him to stay away, but I couldn’t speak. My body wouldn’t let me speak. It was too late. It was already too late. I shouldn’t have let him inside.

“Lily!”

The dark corners spread and everything else became a blur. It was as if I was trying to look up from under six feet of water.

“Lily!!”

Jaden was trying to shake me out of it. I tried to push him away, but I couldn’t move my arms either. I was going to lose it. I had gone too long avoiding what I needed. I was too stubborn with myself.

“Lily!”

Everything went black, and all sounds became a ringing. The only thing that told me that Jaden was so close was the scent. I could smell his blood stronger than ever and my entire being wanted to respond to that smell. I couldn’t do it. I fought myself as best as I could. I was fighting myself. I was fighting my body’s attempt at momentarily wiping out my consciousness. It was painful. My stomach burned like never before. It was like lava was now churning within me. I tried letting out screams, but they were lost in my thoughts. I could only scream in my mind.

I was sure that Jaden was still shaking me. He was likely losing his mind as I lost control to the monster that was inside me. No, to the monster that I was— that I am to this day. My body rejected my screams, but it couldn’t keep the tears from falling. I felt suddenly cold and alone. I realized then that I could no longer smell the blood. It was a possible side effect of my own fight against myself, but it didn’t make sense. I wondered if Jaden left me there on my own. He must have run off to get help. I knew that he was looking out for me, but bringing anyone else around me was a foolish thing to do. I only had the willpower to spare one person, and he was already gone. There was nothing else for me to fight for.

I shut down — collapsed on my own floor. I couldn’t tell you what happened after that, not even if I wanted to. All I know is that when I woke up, I wasn’t home, and I didn’t get there on my own.

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