Unhinged Page 38

I crouch down, careful not to get cut. “Are you okay?”

She keeps one arm behind her. “I was trying to move your mirror … it hit your dresser. The glass broke.” She watches our audience. “It’s his fault.”

At first I think she’s referring to Jeb, until Morpheus steps inside.

“That’s a wretched lie,” Morpheus says, then sits on the bed. “You broke that looking glass before I even came down the hall. I’d say you did it on purpose, though I can’t imagine why.”

“Hey …” Jeb’s the next to come inside, an irritated yet baffled scowl aimed at Morpheus. “Show some respect.”

Morpheus returns the scowl and stands so they’re eye to eye. “A person must earn my respect.”

Jeb’s lips curl. “You’re starting something you can’t finish, moth boy. You’re a guest here. Don’t forget that.” He pushes by, oblivious to the shadows of wings that lift behind his opponent.

Mom gasps, proof that she does see the wings, that she knows our guest is not who he’s pretending to be. I suspect she’s known from the moment she saw him in the doorway.

Jeb kneels and touches my mom’s hidden arm. “Can I see your hand, Mrs. Gardner?” His voice is noticeably softer now.

As if in a trance, Mom offers her palm. Blood drizzles from a gash that starts at the base of her thumb and stops at her pinky.

My stomach knots. “Mom, you’re hurt!”

Jen squeaks, covering her mouth. It doesn’t matter that she can sit through a twenty-four-hour slasher movie marathon; she can’t stomach real gore. It reminds her of scenes from her childhood. “I’ll get some bandages.” Trembling, she heads to the bathroom.

“You’re going to need stitches,” Jeb tells my mom as he helps her up and leads her to my bed. He wraps her hand in the clean side of his bandana. She seems numb to everything, and my whole body aches with worry. I start picking up the shards of glass.

I should be alone with her, comforting her, pressing my birthmark to hers so she’ll heal. But how do I get rid of everyone? I curl my fingers harder around the glass I'm holding, trying to get a grip on my crazy out-of-hand life.

Morpheus steps aside and turns his back on Jeb and my mom as they sit down. He snatches a Kleenex from my dresser and offers the tissue, gesturing with his chin to my clenched hand.

Blood drips from the curve of my fingers, spattering on the shards at my feet. My forefinger stings. I turn it over to see a scratch no bigger than a paper cut. I must’ve been holding the glass too tightly. I wrap the Kleenex around my finger to stop the flow and keep the blood from getting on my gloves.

My breath catches when I look at the floor again. My blood hops from one piece of glass to another, like a pebble skipping on water, leaving thin streaks behind. When it’s done, the result of all the lines is a red arrow pointing toward my closet.

I left the door slightly ajar when I took out my boots earlier. Through the crack, I catch a hint of movement inside. Two glowing pink eyes stare back from the shadows.

I’d know that piercing pink gaze anywhere. It was one of the first creatures that greeted me and Jeb when we jumped into the rabbit hole last year.

“Rabid White,” I mumble under my breath. Morpheus appears as rattled as I am at the netherling’s appearance. Which means this isn’t one of his stowaways.

Last summer, Rabid swore his loyalty to me and Queen Grenadine as our royal advisor. He could be here to warn me that something’s gone wrong in the Red kingdom. Maybe he startled Mom, and that’s why she broke the mirror.

I’m suddenly grateful Thursday is Dad’s weekly inventory day at work. He won’t be home until after seven. Maybe I can get this mess cleaned up before then with some help from Morpheus. And I’m not just talking about the glass …

Jen rushes in with the medicine box, and I hurry over to help bandage Mom’s hand, keeping one eye on the closet. As if he knows he’s been spotted, Rabid backs deeper inside. His antlers catch on some hangers, which clang together.

Jeb looks over his shoulder at the sound while holding my mom’s palm so I can tape the bandage. “Did you guys hear—”

“I can drive her,” Morpheus interrupts, crunching glass beneath his boots on the way to the bed. He offers his hand to my mom. “Alyssa and I, we will take you for stitchings.”

Jeb shakes his head and stands. “No, I should drive, since you’re having car trouble. Give me your keys, Mort.”

Mom snaps out of her lull and stands up next to me. “Alyssa can drive.” She hands the blood- and grease-stained bandana back to Jeb. “Thank you both for all you’ve done, but Mort is like family. He can help us take care of this now.”

The ease of her lie takes me aback. She and Morpheus must’ve had a few minutes together before we all came in. It’s the only way she could know our cover story.

The wounded look on Jeb’s face catches my attention and pricks at my heart. If only he knew the truth … how much Mom hates Morpheus and how hard it is for her to pretend otherwise.

“Sure, we’ll get out of your way.” Jeb takes his sister’s sewing tote after she gathers up her stuff.

I walk them to the front door quickly, antsy about leaving Mom alone with our otherworldly visitors—although I’m starting to suspect she’s less intimidated by them than I once thought.

Jenara takes her tote from Jeb and steps onto the porch. “I have to close Butterfly Threads, but you can bring the dress by after. It’ll only take a few minutes to finish those alterations.”

I nod, wishing I would be wearing my gown someday again.

Jen squeezes my hand, her features softening. “I know you’re worried about your mom. But her mind is strong, or they wouldn’t have released her from the asylum. She said it was an accident. I’m sure it was. Everything will be fine, okay? Text or call if you need me?”

“Thanks.” I squeeze her hand back, touched, even though she’s so far off the mark about my concerns.

After his sister leaves, Jeb puts both arms around me and pulls me close. “You sure you don’t want me to follow? Mort’s car isn’t reliable.”

I study the vein throbbing in his neck and press it with my fingertip to feel his accelerated pulse. “It’s not his car you don’t trust. It’s him.”

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