Chapter Twenty Eight

When Kaitlyn got up the next morning for school, it felt like there was a rock sitting in her gut, her head was fuzzy and her body ached. Memories from the night before, of death, of fear, of blood still swarmed over her like a herd of angry bees. She hadn't slept a wink, not even for a little bit. Any time she felt as though she was nodding off, she'd see Alex, his lifeless eyes staring at her, and she'd jerk awake.

School was going to be interesting.

Still in pajamas, Kaitlyn wondered down to her mother's room, wondering if Erica was still asleep. She hadn't left the house yet, Kaitlyn would have heard that. Sure enough, as Kaitlyn neared her mother's bedroom, she heard her quiet voice on the other side of the door.

She was on the phone.

Kaitlyn let herself in without knocking and noticed her mother sitting on the edge of her bed, back facing Kaitlyn. The way Erica kept talking, well, she probably hadn't even heard Kaitlyn come in.

"Ryan, are you sure this is a good idea?...Do you have any other options?...Well, what are you telling Val?...Ryan, you can't keep this a secret from her anymore, you've got to tell her the truth. It's the only way to keep her safe...I know. What is safe anymore?"

Kaitlyn lowered herself to sit on the edge of her mom's bed and Erica whipped around to see her daughter staring at her, curious as ever. Erica sighed heavily and spoke quietly into the phone. "I have to go, Ryan, Kaiti's up...Yeah, I think so...You take care of yourself, and Valerie, okay?...Keep us updated."

Erica hung up the phone and looked exhausted. She looked at Kaitlyn, and forced a smile.

"Hey Mouse," Erica said, really taking in her daughter. "Baby, you didn't sleep, did you?"

Kaitlyn simply shook her head. "Is Ryan okay?"

Erica hesitated. "He should be fine."

So cryptic. Kaitlyn felt herself growing frustrated as Erica stood up and began to get dressed for work.

"Mom," Kaitlyn said seriously. "I know he's not fine, I heard the conversation. So what happened?"

"Nothing, Kaitlyn." Erica sighed. "Why didn't you sleep?"

Kaitlyn lifted an eyebrow, waiting until her mother turned and acknowledged her daughter.

"Come on, mom." Kaitlyn crossed her arms. "Tell me what's going on."

Erica finally shook her head and found a seat at the edge of her bed.

"No, honey, I'm not telling you anything else. No more, not after last night! I shouldn't have told you anything in the first place. You're just a little girl, far too young to be privy to any of this."

"Mom, last night I saw a man die!" Kaitlyn shrieked, startling her mother. Kaitlyn took a deep breath before continuing. "I saw a man die, all because of this fight to expose the V's for who they are. I think I'm beyond being a little girl anymore, mom."

Erica was silent, considering her daughter without a single word. Kaitlyn decided to go one further.

"What can you possibly tell me that isn't more freaky than what happened last night?"

Erica sighed, rolling her eyes. Kaitlyn could see that she was torn, and Kaitlyn couldn't help but appreciate how much her mother was looking out for her little girl, but still, Kaitlyn's curiousity won out. She didn't want to be protected; she wanted to know the truth. Maybe if she knew the truth, she'd be able to help, somehow. Maybe she'd be able to protect Tyler, somehow.

So many 'somehow's.'

"Kaitlyn, why can't you just leave it alone?" Erica asked quietly.

"The same reason you can't leave it alone," Kaitlyn replied just as quietly. "My family is involved in this whole thing."

Erica bit her lip and engulfed her daughter in a hug. "Oh Kaitlyn, you're too brave for your own good."

"So, are you going to tell me what's up with Ryan?" Kaitlyn asked, not wanting her mother to change the subject. She had a habit of doing that.

"Ryan's...in trouble. And so is Valerie, his girlfriend, who's pregnant," Erica replied. Kaitlyn wanted to roll her eyes. Why did her mother insist on offering so little information?

"Why?"

Erica hesitated, but after a glare from her daughter, she continued.

"The Visitors are after them."

"Why?"

"Well, because Ryan's a Visitor, and...he's the father of Valerie's baby," Erica replied.

Kaitlyn didn't have to ask, she was smart enough to make the connection. The baby would be half visitor, half human.

"Oh," she said.

"And for some reason, Anna wants that baby. It probably has something to do with it being a hybrid, but we can't let that happen. Anna's ultimate plan is to take over, and if that baby has some kind of role in that, we can't let her get to it. So, Ryan has to run, and he has to take Valerie with him. He's got to do everything he can to hide her, or else the Visitors will take the baby."

Kaitlyn was silent, considering everything her mother was saying. No, it was nothing as scary as what she'd seen the night before, but the weight of the whole situation was heavy, and Kaitlyn felt all the implications of this war heavy on her shoulders. She felt sick.

Erica seemed to notice.

"What's up, babe?" she asked quietly. Kaitlyn just shrugged non-chalently, but her mother knew better. She twined her arm around her daughter's shoulders and waited. Kaitlyn was like that - eventually, she'd come out with whatever she was thinking.

"What's going to happen, mom?" Kaitlyn wanted to know.

Erica puckered her brow. "What do you mean?"

"Do you really think you can defeat the Visitors? I mean, there's so many of them, and they're from another planet, and they're smart. There's only...a few of you. What if you can't stop them?" Kaitlyn swallowed. "What about Tyler? He thinks they're awesome, and if he gets sucked in too far...what if they hurt him? What if they kill him?"

Erica pulled away from her daughter and turned her to face her, eye to eye.

"Listen to me. I know it seems huge, and I know it seems impossible, but Kaiti, I promise you that I am going to do everything in my power to get the Visitors out of here. I am going to do whatever it takes to keep you and Tyler safe. Nothing in this world is more important to me than the two of you, and if the Visitors are threatening that, then this means war!"

Kaitlyn appreciated her mother's sincerity, but even this seemed too big a war to fight. Once upon a time, Kaitlyn believed her mother, strong and able as she was, could do anything. She was better than any hero in the storybooks, stronger, more dedicated.

But Kaitlyn was 13 now, and last night, she saw a man die. Her mother was fighting the same war Alex was fighting, and he was dead.

Safe. What her mother said to Ryan was right:

What is safe anymore?