Chapter 21

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Jack refused to admit defeat.

"This isn't going to work," I told him as he went over the time step for the dozenth time that morning.

"You're already better than you were when I gave you your first lesson. If you keep practicing, you'll get it, Mazie. I promise."

"No, I don't mean the dancing. Well, okay, I do mean the dancing. I'm not cut out to move my feet in coordinated patterns for extended periods of time. But I also mean..."

I sat on my bed, and with a groan, pulled off the tap shoes my very confused mother had bought for me at the mall last weekend. She'd tried to get me to take dance classes when I was younger, only to be met with the full weight of Mazie Rivera's panic-stricken resistance. By the time I was six, she'd given up, which made my newfound interest perplexing. "It's about that boy who came to our opening, isn't it?" She'd asked on the drive back from the mall. "Didn't you say his sister is a dancer?"

"Nope. Not about him." Pretty much.

She nodded and let the subject drop, but the smile playing on her lips didn't convince me I'd convinced her.

Now, in my room, several dance lessons in, I was beginning to think my mom had wasted her money, but that was beside the point.

"Jack, things with real life you—with Blake—they're weird. I don't want to have anything to do with him. But because we're trying to figure out why you exist and he's part of that equation—a big part—I keep getting caught up in his drama. And Dakota's."

Jack glided forward until he stood next to me. "I don't want you to be involved with him anymore than you do, trust me."

"But it just feels inevitable at this point. I wanted to tell you and Kayla this last week, except then Kayla found out Zeke woke up from his coma and that news threw everything off. I haven't known how to say it."

We both knew I was making up excuses to soften the blow.

"Just say it, Mazie. I can take it."

I stood up so I'd be at eye level with him. The worst that could happen is that the news would upset him so much, he'd buzz away and never come back and I'd have to go through the rest of my days knowing I'd obliterated a benevolent spirit due to my own selfishness.

"I don't want to solve this mystery anymore, not if it means having to get closer to Blake. He makes me feel confused, and I don't want to be confused. I just want to spend time with you and not worry about what happens next."

Silence spread through the room, blanketing us an awkward tension. Finally, Jack nodded. "Okay."

"Okay? That's it? You're okay with this?"

"I mean, maybe it wouldn't make a difference anyways. Maybe if we figure it out, I'll still always be trapped here, or you'll grow old and move away and die and I'll still be a sixteen-year-old whatever I am, until one day I'll disappear and that will be that."

My shoulders hunched forward. "God, that's depressing."

"It could be inevitable, though. Or..." He rose a few inches off the floor. "Maybe we have to face the fact that there's a reason you and only you can see me and it's because you're the only one who can figure out what's going on. Maybe you can fix me."

"Stop saying that." Jack didn't need to be fixed. He was sweet and kind and perfect.

"Fix me. I mean, Blake me."

"Oh, no. No, no, no, no. I'm not a miracle worker." My palms began to sweat just thinking of it. "And if there's one thing my mom taught me right, it's that you never try to fix men. If they can't fix themselves, get the hell out of Dodge."

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