“You haven’t known me for that long,” I scoffed. “How can you be so sure?”
“I’m just very certain of things,” he replied simply.
That was true enough. He didn’t always have an answer for everything, but the things he knew, he really knew. I was about to ask him what the deal was with his sixth sense about everything, but then his head shot up sharply.
“Watch out for what?” I tried to keep my voice even, but the instant he got nervous, I was terrified.
He stepped in front of me to shield from me something, but I peered around him, looking into the dark for some lurking danger.
- 6 -
At first, I thought it was a giant grizzly bear barreling towards us. Then it ran underneath a lamp on the path, and I saw it was just a massive brown dog. There was a dog park on the other side of the park, so I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if Jack hadn’t been on such high alert.
“It’s just a dog,” I told him, hoping that would somehow relax him.
“I know what it is.” He seemed to be debating something, probably whether he should run or stay put, but the dog was approaching quickly, making his decision for him. “Ah, hell.”
The dog snarled at us, but it never even slowed down. Drool and slobber spewed from its mouth, and its eyes had a crazed, intense look I had never seen on an animal before.
Without any provocation, it suddenly lunged at Jack. He held one arm behind him, trying to protect me more from the dog, and he held his other arm in front of him, using his forearm to block the attack.
The dog latched on it with a loud crunching sound that made my blood curdle, and I screamed. With one swift movement, Jack whipped his hand around, grabbing the dog by the back of the neck.
“Go back to the car!” Jack shouted.
He had pinned the dog to the ground by kneeling on its back and wrapping his hands around its neck. There was blood streaming down his arm, and all the while, the dog was snapping and growling viciously.
But I stayed frozen, gaping at Jack and the dog.
“Alice! Go back to the car!”
“Why?” I felt nauseous, but I didn’t want to leave Jack. If I did, I knew that something bad would happen, although I didn’t even know what that meant.
“Alice! Just do it!” Jack growled.
Adrenaline surged through my body, and my feet were happy to comply when I started running back to the car.
Before I had even made it there, I heard the dog yelp, and my stomach dropped. My heart pounded erratically in my chest, and I wanted to throw up.
I made it to the car, and I fought the urge to just keep running. I collapsed on the pavement next to it, gasping for breath.
When I saw Jack walking towards me, I stood up and hurried towards him, but I stopped sharply before I met him.
Part of me really wanted to hug him, but another part of me knew what he had done, and it scared the hell out of me. Irrational tears streamed down my cheeks, but I tried to ignore them.
“Jack, what did you do?” I wiped at my eyes to erase the tears. “What’d you do with the dog?”
“Alice…” He closed his eyes, as if it would hurt him too much to watch me react. “I didn’t have any choice. You saw him. He was going to kill somebody! What if you had been here by yourself or with Milo?”
Everything he was saying was true. The dog had looked insane and probably rabid, and even before I left him, I knew that Jack would kill the dog. But it didn’t change anything.
Hurting any animal for any reason would always reduce me to tears, especially when I had been some part of it. He had killed that dog to protect me.
“I don’t care!” I cried harder, and I wished I would just stop.
It seemed unfair to me that I would be angry with Jack for saving my life, but I couldn’t help it. He moved awkwardly, as if he wanted to hug me, but he knew that I would push him away if he tried.
“Alice,” Jack breathed deeply, looking away from me. He had this agonized expression on his face, and he took a small step back from me. “Everything just got so much more complicated.”
“What are you talking about?”
I felt something shift, and a whole new fear ran through me. As upset as I had been over the dog, I hadn’t hated Jack, or even really been mad at him.
“This!” Jack shook his head and walked past me. “Everything! This is so stupid. I am so stupid.”
“What are you talking about?” I ran after him, wondering what I had done that had been so terrible. I reached out for him, but he pulled his arm away before I even got close to it.
“I’m taking you home.” We had reached the car, but he stood outside of it, waiting for me to get in. I had stopped in front of it and refused to go any further.
“No!” I insisted. “Why?”
“Why?” He laughed, but it was humorless and sent nervous shivers all over me. Then he reeled on me, his face stone cold, and his voice harsher than I had ever imagined it could be. “I killed a dog – to save your life – and you look at me like I’m a monster!”
He rubbed his temple, and I saw blood covering his hand. Somehow, I’d managed to forget that the dog had bitten him.
“Jack, I don’t think that you’re a monster,” I explained softly. “I just don’t like it when things die.”
“Nobody does, Alice,” Jack replied icily. He bit his lip and shook his head, then mumbled, “The damn thing was probably rabid. It was gonna die anyway.”