Unhinged Page 46

Then, with a flutter of wings, he’s out of my door and out of my life—gone as fast as he stormed into it.

The instant Morpheus leaves, I’m slammed with regret. The more I think about it, the more it seems clear: He hasn’t been in my head once since he showed up wearing Finley’s image. Even in my dream at the hospital, it wasn’t his voice I heard. It was a whisper that could’ve belonged to anyone. Even me.

He was telling the truth. He opened his heart, and I gutted it. All he wants is to save Wonderland, and I can’t stop acting like a coward.

Sunset filters through my blinds and reflects off the glass on the floor, casting soft pink designs onto the walls. The serenity is out of sync with how I feel. I can’t bring myself to pick up the mirror’s pieces. So much has broken today. So many things, I don’t know how to begin fixing them all.

The sound of snoring distracts me from my guilt and leads me to my closet. Rabid is curled in a ball on the floor. Some clothes have fallen off their hangers, and I arrange them over him for camouflage. He smacks his lips and snuggles deeper into the bed of shoes and belts. As creepy-weird as he is while awake, he’s adorable when he’s sleeping—vulnerable, even.

His safety is my first priority. I need to send him back through the rabbit hole. We can’t risk Dad or other humans stumbling upon him.

Butterfly Threads has full-length mirrors along the walls. If I take Morpheus’s car before Dad gets home this evening, it will buy me some time before I have to explain what it’s doing in our driveway.

I can smuggle Rabid into the store. He’s the size of a rabbit. He’ll fit inside my backpack. We can get there before Jen closes and locks the doors. I’ll take my prom dress, then suggest that I close up so she can leave early to finish it.

The plan’s foolproof. But the question is, what happens after I send him back? Morpheus is gone. That means I have to go to Mom, have to try to trust her. Maybe she has some idea how we can stop Red and her zombie flowers.

Also, it’s time to tell Jeb everything like I’ve been wanting to all along. And Mom’s going to help me convince him, whether she likes it or not.

I grab my backpack from the living room and stop to peek at her out the back window. She’s sitting in the grass beside a clump of silver licorice, whispering all of her secrets into their feathery ears. Tears roll down her face.

If only she could confide in me or Dad as intimately as she does them. All these years they’ve known a side of her that we never have. I bite the inside of my cheek, because even I’m not too far gone to realize how ridiculous it is to be jealous of a plant.

Back in my room, I slide two schoolbooks from my backpack and lay them on my desk, leaving only a half-empty bottle of water and my cell inside. I call Jeb so I can lay out the groundwork for him to come over later. The phone goes to voice mail. Afraid to leave a message with my voice so shaky, I text him instead.

I tried to call like you asked. Mom’s OK. I pause. I can’t tell him via a text that I’m off to work so I can send a bald, skeletal creature through the looking glass. Instead, I improvise.

I’m tired … going to study, then take a nap. Txt me when you have time. I need to see you tonight.

A percentage of what I said is true. I am tired. I need a shower to rejuvenate myself.

Inside Mom’s pink-and-pearl-toned master bathroom, I take off my prom gown and underthings. I step into the shower and twist the faucet head to massage. The heat works its magic on my aching bones and muscles.

Scented like a sugar cookie, I step out and dry off. My mind is clear, but my body is still heavy and sluggish. There isn’t time for makeup or blow-drying, so I twist my wet hair into a loose braid that leaves only my red strand to hang long and wavy in the front. I slip into some skinny jeans—vertical stripes of deep red and black running the length of the stretchy denim. They were a Christmas gift from Mom. It’s the first time I’ve worn them. Jeans and no makeup. She’ll be so proud.

As soon as I’ve dragged a black, holey T-shirt over a purple tank and knee-high lace-up boots into place, I loop my necklaces around my neck.

In my room, I put my gown away and drape the dress bag at the foot of my bed, then crawl under the covers—clothes, boots, and all. It doesn’t matter that the sheets are damp or that they smell of old bones and aquarium water. I’m too exhausted to care.

Through bleary eyes I peer at the clock on my nightstand. The red digital numbers glare 6:15 p.m. I fumble with the buttons to set the alarm for 6:45.

Just a quick catnap … I can fit that in before Dad gets home … then I’ll be rested enough to take Rabid to Butterfly Threads.

The moment my eyes close, my mind kicks into overdrive. I keep wondering: Could Morpheus be right, that my blood might be used as a weapon against me? He is a creature of dreams. He knows how to interpret them. And since he wasn’t behind the clown, who was?

Who triggered that terrifying nightmare that ended in Jeb’s cocooned corpse?

If only Nurse Terri hadn’t sedated me that night, things wouldn’t seem so muddled. If only she hadn’t had those sad eyes that made me want to please her.

My breath sticks inside my lungs.

Mom’s interpretation of my artwork resurfaces: three Red Queens fighting for the ruby crown, and another woman watching from behind a cluster of vines and shadows. “I could see her eyes. Sad, piercing.”

Nurse Terri … she was dressed in that white costume uniform. She stood out. Maybe she was a Wonderland denizen in disguise. She had access to my room, could’ve brought the enchanted clown inside. She would’ve heard about and had access to the mosaics in my art teacher’s car … and my blood.

But if she was a netherling, I would’ve seen glimpses of her true form through the glamour like I did with Morpheus.

It’s all so confusing. But one thing’s for sure: There’s another player in this game. Someone in the human realm who doesn’t belong. I can’t go back to Wonderland and fight a battle while my family and friends are unprotected here with a mysterious netherling on the loose. The fact that they might’ve already had contact with her gives me goose bumps.

If I go through the mirror to the iron bridge in London, maybe I can decipher the mosaics Mom hid and figure out who I’m up against. I squeeze the key at my neck, debating if I should call Morpheus back.

He won’t come. I hurt his pride. He told me I have to find him now. He said he’d be hiding among lost memories, whatever that means.

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