The Edge of Everything (The Edge of Everything #1)(9)

The next thing Zoe knew, Stan had shoved the coffee table aside and stormed into the living room, his breathing heavy and ragged. Zoe and Jonah raced behind the couch just to get something between them and the intruder. Jonah held a floral cushion in front of his chest like it would protect him, which, even in the terror of the moment, made Zoe’s heart hurt.

Stan ignored her. He loomed over Jonah.

“Hey there, little guy, I’m Stan the Man,” he said. “Where’s the other dog?”

He waited for an answer like he wasn’t going to wait long.

Spock was still under the rug, the tiniest bit of his tail poking out. If Stan had been any less enraged, he would have spotted him immediately. Zoe willed herself, and Jonah, not to look in the dog’s direction.

As Stan stood there panting, she noticed for the first time what a big, grotesque head he had—how awkwardly it bobbed on his skinny neck. He looked like a dead sunflower.

“Don’t talk to my brother,” she said.

It wasn’t courage. It was disgust.

Jonah inched closer to her. He wasn’t pretending to be brave anymore. In a moment, he was crying so hard that his shoulders started to shake.

Zoe smoothed his hair out of his eyes. She told him everything was going to be okay.

“Now don’t go telling him that,” Stan groaned, his white eyebrow wriggling like a caterpillar. “That is what they call a falsehood. Because it sure as hell ain’t gonna be okay. In fact, it’s gonna be a big ugly mess of not okay if you don’t tell me the location of the other damn dog.”

He twirled the poker like a baton. He wanted to seem menacing, but nearly dropped the thing on his foot.

Jonah struggled to speak. Finally he forced the words out, stuttering through his tears: “W-what are you going to d-do to Spock?”

Stan snorted.

“Aw, I’m just gonna give him a bath, little guy,” he said.

“Don’t talk to my brother.”

“I d-don’t believe you. And d-don’t call me little guy. My daddy called me that.”

This shut Stan up for a second. But what he said next was the vilest thing yet somehow: “I knew your daddy, little guy. Met him back when we was shrimpy, like you.”

“Do not talk to my brother!”

“Your old man never mentioned me, little guy? Well, there was a time when we were blood brothers. But I’m guessing he never said a word about—hell, about the first twenty years of his life, probably! You barely knew who he was. And then he died in some goddamn cave? And nobody even bothered to go get his body? What the hell kind of people are you?”


There was a split second of silence, a stalemate where all they heard was the wind.

And then Spock sneezed.

Stan turned to the bubble under the rug and hooted with pleasure.

“Classic,” he said.

He grabbed the dog, bound him up in the rug, and stuck him under one arm.

“Time for chickenshit’s bath,” he said, and gestured out to the frozen lake. “Hope he don’t mind cold water.”

He bounced the sharp point of the poker on the floor like it was a walking stick.

“Do not follow me, big sister,” he told Zoe, his eyes crawling over her body once more, “or you’ll get more action than you can handle.”

Once he’d gone, she and Jonah sat on the couch, stunned. After a moment, she took his face in her hands so she’d know he was listening.

“I need to go out there,” she said. “To get the dogs back. And I need you to stay here. Okay, Jonah? I need to hear you say okay. Can you say okay for me—and mean it?”

Jonah wriggled until Zoe let go of his face, then scrunched his eyebrows down, like a teacher had told him to put on his thinking cap.

“Okay, I w-won’t go outside,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Zoe.

“But you can’t go either. That m-man doesn’t f-fight fair, so we’re not going to f-fight. Right? You said.”

“How about if I just go for five minutes?”

“No, Zoe.”

“Okay, how about two minutes?”

She was trying to calm him down by teasing him a bit, negotiating the way he always did.

“No, Zoe! No minutes! I want you here.” He stopped and fished around for words. “Even I get scared sometimes.”

Zoe knew if she went outside, Jonah would follow her, and she couldn’t take the chance. So she did the unheroic thing, which she hated herself for. She sat on the couch with her arm around her brother and made certain he never looked out the window behind them. It wasn’t as hard to distract him as she thought it would be. They found the wicker basket with Betty’s knitting supplies, and Jonah starting fixing the hole at the top of Zoe’s hat. For a while, the only sound in the room was the clicking of needles, though at one point, Jonah paused to scold her: “You really should take better care of your things.”

Zoe tried not to look out the window either. She didn’t look when she heard Stan walk past them toward the lake, his boots crunching over the snow and Spock whimpering inside the rug. She didn’t look when Jonah began rubbing his eyes and said what he always said when his body was shutting down from too much stimulation and he was seesawing on the edge of sleep: “I’m not tired. My eyes just hurt.” She didn’t even look when he put down the needles and fell asleep with his head in her lap.

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