Welcome to October
CHAPTER
16
A Poison Pernicious
The Fountain of Youth was anything but. As October’s only pub it was ancient— as was everyone in it.
Except Evie Mortimer. She was fifteen and flustered as she flew into the hole. It was difficult not to notice the Downs laughing merrily surrounded by people perfectly poisoned by a mixture of alcohol and memories. As if in a trance, Evie followed their laughter. It pulled her toward them, despite everything else in her commanding her to leave well enough alone.
‘Cause Evie was a black hole. She craved chaos and disorder; she was darkness. She hated light. And every ha they chuckled sounded warbled in her ears. Only Leila’s words were clear as crystal.
His dad killed your mom.
How many hours had Evie spent crying to Leila over the fear of never knowing? How long had Leila known? And the Downs... What excuse would they come up with for withholding a fact most fateful?
It took a while before anyone noticed the presence of a youth in the fountain. Evie was young, but she’d experienced enough pain to make her feel old. She saw the Downs, but it wasn’t until she was upon them that they noticed her too. And she sucked up their laughter and their smiles.
Just as all black holes do.
The moment Constance Down spotted Evie, she knew there’d be trouble. As her mind leaped to conclusions most cold, Constance rose from her seat. Something horrible must have happened. In a warbling whisper, Constance said rather than asked Evie the question.
She said, “What’s wrong.”
Evie was shaking as she walked toward her guardians now grave. “Is it true?” the girl quivered. Constance unconsciously started toward her. But Evie stopped. Stepped back. Constance suddenly felt sick. “Was Mr. Graves the one who ran over Mom and Dad?”
And The Fountain dried up. The last liquid drop rolled off Evie’s cheek. Constance cringed as it plopped on the floor’s rustic tiles. It shook the whole tavern. October’s answer was just as audible.
No one made a sound.
Evie looked like she was gone. She wasn’t listening, wasn’t speaking. She wasn’t even trying to move. She stood still and was barely breathing. Constance wanted to catch her. Wanted to save her from the weight of carrying around too much. But it was too late to catch anyone now.
“He didn’t mean to, Sweetie,” Constance said. “It was an accident. No one’s fault.”
October hung its head in silence shamed as Evie erupted.
“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “How could you say that? How could you know?”
“I—“
“Why would you keep that from me?”
“Evie...”
“From us? Who else knows?”
Evie looked around the tavern, but everyone avoided her glare. Understanding was sometimes heavier than pain.
“Did every body know?” Constance squeezed Wei’s hand, begging him to help her. She looked at the Brothers Beetle. But the silence sober they returned made her frightened. ‘Cause she didn’t know what to do.
“How did you know?” Constance asked her, but Evie’s face contorted completely.
“Does it matter? Does anything now?”
“Of course it matters,” Constance tried.
“But only when convenient,” Evie answered. “My fears... my feelings never mattered. All this time.”
“Let’s talk about this, Evie...”
“Then you start talking. Does everyone know?”
October watched closely. Constance let them, not sure of how to answer or what to say. Then finally a voice Vale crawled under the barricade.
“Not everyone, obviously,” Vienna said solemnly. “Not you Mortimers. Not you youngs. And not that boy beastly. But you’ve heard the saying. ‘Like father, like son.’”
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