Chapter 12

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T W E L V E

      I ONLY HAD to wait with Tyler's limp body for maybe five minutes before I heard the sound of footsteps pounding against the pavement. I tensed up at first, hovering protectively over Tyler's body, terrified it was the men with guns back to finish the job.

      "Skye? Where are you?" Ryder's panicked voice called out. I'd never been so relieved to hear that jackass' voice in my life.

      "Under h-here!" I shouted, watching as Ryder's feet turned towards the direction of my voice. My heartbeat steady slightly besides a few quick, panicked jumps. Tyler would be okay, he could get help. "Hurry!"

      Ryder quickly jogged over, another pair of footsteps following behind him. Not a moment later, the worried and horrified faces of Ryder Williams, Jay Spencer, and Cyrus Ross stared at the unconscious boy beneath me.

      Cyrus blinked back tears, stumbling back in shock as Ryder crouched down on shaky knees. I didn't blame them in the slightest; I'd be reacting the same if one of my best friends for as long as I could remember had a bloody hole in his shoulder. "I-is he..."

      I shook my head, stifling a sob. I absentmindedly tugged Tyler even closer to me, holding him tighter. My eyes shifted down to his pale face. "No, just unconscious," I whispered.

      I risked a glance up at Ryder and immediately regretted my decision. His eyes were lightly puffy and his face was red with what quickly switched from sadness to rage.

      Rage that was directed souly at me.

      I gulped, prepared for the onslaught of curse words and hate sent my way. The worst part, in my opinion, was that I didn't blame him. I'm the reason his best friend could die at any moment.

      Ryder took a deep breath, and I knew from experience that it was the calm before the storm, just like I'd seen countless times on Jay. He pinched the bridge of his nose and stood up, backing away from the car. "Cye, help her get him out of there whil Jay calls the police. I need to have a word with Skye."

      Cyrus now looked worried for my sake, but I knew he was too tired and shocked to argue very much. "Ryder, can't you just wait until later—"

      "No, Cyrus," Ryder snapped. I flinched from the harsh tone. "I can't just 'wait until later'."

      Cyrus winced and nodded, knowing further argument would only make things worse for me. He crouhed down and helped me slide Tyler out from under the car and into his arms. Then, he stood up on wobbly legs, sucking in a deep breath before turning to leave.

      I crawled out from underneath the vehicle and walked over to the nearest building. Without a word, I rested my forearms against the concrete walls above my head. Tears streamed down my face as I pressed my head against it too, a lot harder and than I'd meant to. It would most likely bruise from the force, but I didn't care. Maybe I deserved it.

      It wasn't until I was sure Cyrus was gone that I felt a pair of hands grab my shoulders and spin me around, slamming my back against the wall in rage. I glanced up, not surprised in the least by Ryder's beyond-angry expression.

      "What the fuck were you thinking?"

      I winced for he umpteenth time that night. My eyes clenched shut and my head bowed in shame. This was all my fault; I didn't need Ryder to tell me that.

      "You should have just waited until morning to get your god damn necklace, Skye! None of this would have happened if you'd just listened to me!"

      I pursed my lips to prevent myself from saying, 'I'm sorry'. That wouldn't do anuthing but make Ryder even angrier.

      But, you know what? I deserved it.

      "I'm sorry," I whispered.

      If this were a cartoon, I was sure there would have been steam bursting from Ryder's ears and nose. "You're sorry? My best friend just got shot because of you! He could die because of your carelessness!" He dropped his arms from my shoulders with a deep breath and shake of his head. He took a few steps back and turned around, lacing his hands behind is neck before thowing his head back with a dry laugh. "He wouldn't listen to us when we told him to stay inside. He was too focused on protecting you!"

      I opened my mouth to speak, but he turned back to me before I could. Nevertheless, it was probably for the best. I had no idea what I would have said had he let me speak.

      "What the hell is it that they all like about you? You're only putting them in danger! I'd noticed that they'd been doing more reckless things lately, but I'd been too stupid to piece things together!"

      I slid to the ground and pulled my legs to my chest, threading my hands in my hair as I rested my head on my knees and sobbed. Some part of me wanted to tell him this wasn't his fault, that it was all mine, but my anger at myself and the situation got the bet of me. "I'm sorry! I'm fucking sorry, okay? You think I wanted him to get shot?"

      I let out a loud laugh of my own and lifted my head, cutting his attempt at speaking off. I thought I'd seen a look of guilt cross his features as the tears streamed down my face, but convinced myself I'd imagined it. "It should have been me! I tried pulling him under the car with me, but he just had to let go of my hand and go for my stupid necklace!" I took a deep breath, lowering my voice at the thought that the men from before could be anywhere. "I was the one going after my necklace in the first place. I should have taken that bullet. Not Tyler. He didn't do anything to deserve this."

      When my eyes met Ryder's, they were filled with surprise. He took another deep, calming breath—something I noticed he did a lot—but he was still beyond pissed off at me and the situation. "Just do us all a favor and stay the hell away. They were safer before you came along, and they don't need you dragging them in the problems that come with your life."

      He was right. Them being close to me meant trouble, and I knew that. Bad luck followed me wherever I went, and I didn't want to drag them into it. They really were better off without me.

      I nodded. "Okay."

      Ryder furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. He must've expected another fight. "What?"

      "Okay," I repeated, throwing my mental walls up in the process. I wiped my tears from my face and stood up, trying to hide the weight being shifted on one leg. Despite me trying to hide it, i saw guilt flash over Ryder's features when he noticed the blood on my leg that didn't belong to Tyler. "You're right. They're in danger when they're with me, and there's no way for me to keep them safe. If anything, they've been the ones keeping me safe these past two months." I looked down at my hands in disgust, as if they were the reason for all the twisted shit in my life. "Just . . . make sure they know I didn't just abandon them." I winced at the word. "Let them know that I did it for their own safety."

      Ryder stared at me with an unreadable expression for a while, then sighed. "I will, Skye. And . . . thank you. I'm really not trying to be an ass, I'm just pissed, and—no offense—but their safety is more important to me than yours, right now."

      I nodded in understanding. "I know, Ryder. I'm sorry."

      I took a deep breath, not daring to look him in the eye as I turned and made my way to my 'home'.

      And the whole way there, not once did I let go of that necklace—the one that would always remind me of two people in my life hurt because of me.

      I couldn't help but wonder how many more would be added to that list.

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