This chapter was cut from THROUGH THE ZOMBIE GLASS. (If you've read the book, you'll see a few snippets were moved to other parts of the book.) It was cut for three reasons. 1) It was confusing, 2) we decided to give Ali a different reaction to the zombie toxin and antidote, and 3) the Ali and Cole relationship was off and needed revamping.
If you haven't read the book, be warned. There is a spoiler in here.
The door opened, light from the hall flooding inside my room. “Ali?” Nana said, her voice...strange. Altered. “You awake?”
“Good. You’ve got a visitor.”
With the light, the fog parted and I came face to face with my…my…
“Momma?” My chest constricted as I drank in her beautiful face and fall of straight, dark hair.
“Ali, dear. Are you okay?” It wasn’t Nana’s voice I was hearing, I realized, but my mother’s.
But…wait. Ali, she’d said. My mom had never called me Ali. To her, I’d always been Alice.
This had to be another hallucination.
I stumbled past her, doing my best not to touch her. Cole waited in the living room. He sat on the couch, and when he spotted me, he eased to his feet.
“Let’s go,” I said, trying not to cry.
“What’s wrong?” he demanded.
I sailed past him, felt around for the doorknob. The fog had parted, but it hadn’t completely dissipated. Outside, I could see the outline of his Jeep. And yet, when I tried to open the door, the handle wasn’t in the place it should be. It was lower. I frowned as I settled inside a seat more comfortable than I remembered, the air saturated with a thousand different perfumes.
The driver side door groaned as it opened, and Cole slid inside. “Your grandmother is worried about you.”
Nana had seen me, and I hadn’t seen her? “I think I need more antidote,” I said, covering my eyes with my hands.
“Were you bitten?”
“No. Do you have any?”
Was he purposely torturing me? “Well, give it to me.”
A pause, a rustle of clothing. “I’m not going to comment on your choice of words.” A sharp sting in my arm. The warm liquid washed through me, just as before, but as I leaned back in my seat I realized the fog had only thickened.
Maybe… was it possible the fog was caused by the antidote and not a surge of zombie toxin? To my knowledge, no one had ever had so many doses of the antidote in so short an amount of time. The side-effects were unknown.
“I can take you to see Ankh,” Cole said.
I stopped him with a shake of my head. “I told you no more tests, and I meant it. Let’s go to the party.”
“Really? You and me?”
Why was he acting so weird, as if we hadn’t already made plans? Or was my perception off, too? “I wanted a night to be normal, and I’m not giving that up for any reason. Drive.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The car reversed, then straightened and sped into motion.
I couldn’t make out any details about the landscape, but I could tell the sun had gone down and night had fallen. “Has any zombie activity been reported?”
“No, but I’m on call tonight so I’ll be one of the first to know if that changes.”
I hadn’t reacted to the C-word in a while, but I did now. My heart sped up. Not enough to alarm me, but just enough to send me scurrying for a new subject. “What is it I’m smelling?”
I slapped his arm. “Seriously. What?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s like you couldn’t decide on an air freshener, so you decided to use them all.”
He laughed as the car slowed, stopped. “Maybe that’s exactly what happened. Now. Enough about that. We’re here.”
I reached out and clamped onto his wrist before he could emerge. “I’m going to need your help. I’m having trouble seeing my surroundings again.”
“Forget your glasses?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Har, har.” I released him and he exited. He came around the side, and opened my door, helped me out. I leaned into his side, tucking my head into the hollow of his shoulder.
Frowning, I realized I didn’t fit against him as seamless as usual.
“Have you lost weight?” I asked.
Another chuckle left him. “Girls like to be told they’ve lost weight. Not boys.”
“Sorry,” I muttered. Deep down, a part of me screamed, Something’s wrong. Leave. Go home.
Instinct? Or simple fear? Probably fear.
Well, I would never again cave to fear.
“Come on.” He led me forward.
I could make out the shadow of Reeve’s mansion, stretching high and wide. Could hear the congested murmur of voices mixed with the beat of hard, thumping music. The temperature changed the moment we were inside, from frigid cold to the sauna-like heat too many bodies in one space always created.
“Hey Ali,” someone called.
“Gavin,” someone else called.
“I wasn’t sure you’d show up,” someone else said to me.
“Ali Kat!” a bubbly girl proclaimed, using the name Kat sometimes called me.
But all of the voices sounded the same—like Emma’s. And as a group of girls approached me, tugging at my arms to gain my attention, the fog parted, revealing—
Shock sent me reeling backward.
Cole stopped me from going too far.
Emma. I saw Emma. All around me. Every face looking up at me belonged to my baby sister. Struggling to breathe, I glanced left, right. Emma, Emma, everywhere. And oh, sweet mercy, there was my dad. My mom. My dad again—standing next to… himself.
“Hey, what’s going on?” one of my dads snapped.
I was going to vomit.
A boy with black hair and violet eyes drew near our group. Only one boy I knew had black hair and violet eyes. Can’t be Cole. Just can’t be. I’m holding on to Cole.
“Don’t let me go,” I whispered.
“I won’t,” he whispered back, his grip tightening.
“Kitty Kat, I just thought of the perfect dress for you,” said the fake Cole to the shortest of the Emma’s. “Size beautiful, shade invisible. What do you think?”
She placed her hand over his mouth. “Shh. Something weird is going down with Ali, and it’s time to get serious.”
“Serious? You?” Fake Cole scanned the area, bypassed me, and zipped back. Then, he settled on Real Cole and glared daggers. “Okay. Now I get it. You want to explain yourself?”
“Back off,” Real Cole snapped.
This was too much.
“Let’s go get a drink.” My dad had been an alcoholic, and I’d avoided alcohol all my life. Now? I needed something, anything, to calm me down. “And no one better follow us!”
Real Cole led me a good distance away, and placed a cold plastic cup in my hand.
This is wrong, I heard. Off.
Ignoring the voice, I held my breath and drained the contents. The moment I finished, I wanted to gag. The taste…ugh! Motor oil, maybe. Or battery acid. After my third cup, however, I stopped tasting nasty, and just went numb. Dizziness swam in my head, and all of my concerns washed out of my awareness.
“Maybe you should stop,” Cole said.
A laugh bubbled from me, a little fanatical, a lot wild, the entire situation suddenly hilarious. My dead family was here. And there were a thousand Cole’s. This should be the best party ever.
“Never!” I said, throwing back my head and spinning.
“I guess you’re feeling better, then.”
“Mooch,” I replied, and laughed again.
“Well, well. Ali Bell. I’d like to tell you how awesome you look tonight,” a girl said from behind me, “and if I can figure out a way to sound sincere I will.”
I turned, and through my dizziness saw another version of Emma. I smiled and waved at her. Using my best baby-talk tone, I said, “You’re just so cute when you’re angry. Yes, you are. Yes, you are.”
She paled and stomped away.
“Was it something I said?” I asked Cole.
“New drinking game, everyone,” one of my dads called. “Any time someone speaks, down a shot!”
“And meanwhile, if anyone want a free make out session,” another of my dads shouted, “my ex is giving them away.”
More cheers, this time laced with jeers.
I grabbed Cole’s hand and dragged him forward. I’d lived in this home for weeks. I knew the layout. Fog or not, I could get us to where I wanted to go, and—I stumbled into someone and muttered an apology.
Or maybe not.
“Where are we going?” Cole asked, bemused.
“Now you’re speaking my language.” He took the lead, and when we reached the dance floor, gathered me in his arms.
Cole, Cole, my sexy Cole. The music was fast-paced, but we moved slowly, sensually, soon grinding against each other, rubbing with purpose, and tension coiled inside me, j****** up the temperature of my blood.
A tension I’d had to deal with since our breakup.
“Better than I imagined,” he whispered.
“Shut up.” I meshed my lips into his, and immediately he thrust his tongue into my mouth. He was hot. As always. He was forceful. As always. But… something was wrong. He different than before. His taste, the angle of his head, the fit of his body against mine. Even the way he held me. No longer reverent, but demanding.
Frowning, I lifted my head.
“Ali,” he rasped, and dove back in for another kiss.
I let him dominate my mouth for a minute, maybe two, trying to reason things out, before shaking my head and stumbling away from him. I traced trembling fingers over my swollen lips. “Wait. This isn’t right.”
“Then why does it feel so good?”
He tried again to kiss me, but again, I stumbled away. “I need to think.”
“There’s nothing to think about. We saw this happen. We know it’s meant to be.”
I flattened my hands over my rebelling stomach. “Saw this happen? Cole, we—”
“Cole? Honey, you know I’m Gavin.”
Gavin. His name echoed in my mind, suddenly poisonous. “No, you can’t be.”
“I assure you I am.”
That meant…that meant I’d kissed Gavin. In front of the entire Asher High student body. I spun from him and ran into another Cole. I shoved my way past him, hearing him call my name as I raced in the back yard. My pores seemed to open up and suck all the cold from the air, making me shiver.
A hard band latched onto my upper arm and stopped me, spun me around. “Ali!”
Cole glared down at me, violet eyes crackling. I ripped free, shouting, “Get away from me, Gavin.”
“Gavin? What are you talking about?”
This wasn’t Gavin? “Who are you?” I demanded, doing my best not to burst into tears.
“As if you don’t know.”
“Say it. Say your name!”
“Cole,” he snapped.
My knees collapsed, and a sob of relief escaped me. Relief—but I still didn’t trust what I was seeing and hearing. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No!” I pounded my fists into the ground, more desperate than I’d ever been.
“I see Cole and my dad in every male face around me. I see my sister and mother in every female face.”
“So, you thought you were kissing me?” he said hollowly.
He massaged the back of his neck, and that’s when I knew beyond any doubt exactly who stood before me. He really was my Cole.
I wanted to jump up and run to him. I wanted to throw myself at him, and cry and cling and draw comfort and strength from him, but I stayed right where I was, my head still swimming, the fog still surrounding me.
“You’ve been drinking,” he said, still using that flat, emptied tone.
I closed my eyes, hoping the shame would leave me. Of course, it didn’t.
I should have known I wasn’t with him the moment he—Gavin—put that cup of beer in my hand. The real Cole never would have done that.
“I know,” I said. “I started seeing my family, and I got scared, and I thought I’d have another panic attack, and I didn’t want to do that here, I just wanted to be normal for once in my life and I wasn’t ready to leave you and I hate myself so much right now.” I was babbling, but couldn’t stop. “Cole, I’m so sorry.”
His sigh echoed between us. “After I dropped you off, I talked to my dad. I know you didn’t want to be tested anymore, but I was worried about you and the fog. He told me he experienced a similar fog when he was beginning to develop an allergy to the antidote.”
Meaning, I couldn’t have the antidote anymore, so I was going to turn evil again, and this time, I would stay evil. I was going to be dangerous. And then dead.
“Cole,” I said with a tremor. “I’m so sorry for what happened. I—”
“No. It happened. It’s over.” He walked over and scooped me up. “Let’s get you home.”
I woke up groaning. My temples throbbed mercilessly as I blinked open my eyes. A mistake. My lids were like sandpaper. Worse, I was pretty sure a rat had crawled into my mouth and died, because I tasted copper and my tongue felt coated in fur.
Could you be any grosser, Bell?
Actually, I could.
I lumbered from bed, marveling over the fact that I couldn’t have slept more than an hour—the sun was still shining—yet I felt like I’d slept for days. I brushed my teeth, even scrubbed my tongue. Rinsed, repeated. I showered and as I towel dried, wondered what time would Cole pick me up for the party.
The party. I think I’d dreamed about going to the party. About waking up and seeing my mom. Then, Cole had picked me up, only, it hadn’t been Cole. It had been Gavin. Gavin, the guy I’d danced with and kissed. Just like in the vision. I’d run away, and the real Cole had chased after me.
He’d told me I might have an allergy to the antidote, then picked me up and drove me home. He’d carried me to my room and placed me in the bed, but he hadn’t kissed me goodbye. He’d straightened and left, shutting the door with a soft click behind him.
I popped a few pain killers, wishing the little white pills could do more than ease my headache. Wishing they could wipe my mind of the nightmare, too. I dressed in my best shirt and pants, took special pains with my hair—happy to note my reflection was wonderfully normal, if bruised.
I heard Nana bustling about in the kitchen, and joined her.
She looked up from the bowl of salad she was tossing. “Good. You’re awake. Now you can tell me what’s going on with you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You tell me you’re in the process of getting back together with Cole, then you go to a party with Gavin. Then Cole gets here, and I have to tell him you left with another boy. Do you know how horrible that made me feel? Then you come home drunk, and your new escort is an angry Cole.”
“What?” I squeaked.
“You heard me.”
I had. And I hadn’t had a nightmare. It had happened. All of it.
“Oh, Nana, I’m so sorry, but I have to call Cole.” I raced to my room and grabbed my phone. I found several missed calls from Cole—and all of them had come yesterday, the day of the party. One voice mail, probably Cole. Two texts from Kat.
U have some explaining 2 do, young lady!
Shaking, I held the phone to my ear and listened to the message. “I hope you’re sleeping,” Cole said, then gave a soft, warm chuckle. “Maybe I’ll even get to wake you up. I’ll be there in an hour.”
The phone fell from my hand and banged onto the floor. I fell onto the edge of the bed. Cole had witnessed me kissing and grinding on another boy—everyone had. I’d been out of my mind, yes, but that only had made my guilt worse.
I should have known better.
If I’d caught Cole making out with Veronica, after all the sweet things he’d said to me, I would have flipped…and I don’t think I would have ever taken him back. No wonder Cole hadn’t kissed me after dropping me off. He had to feel the same.
No longer would he fight for me. Something I’d tried to resist, had wanted to resist, but had fallen for anyway.
I buried my head in my pillow and cried.