He was standing inside wearing his usual white lab coat. He was staring into a microscope. Petri dishes and graduated cylinders and pipettes and tongs and a bunch of other equipment were scattered all around him. She was sure there was some order to it, but she couldn’t begin to navigate it.
“Dr. Washington?” she said, rapping on the door to announce their entrance.
His head popped up and he smiled brightly. “Ah, Reyna! Have you finally come to help me with all this work?”
“Yeah. And I brought Jodie with me.”
Reyna gestured to her friend, but when she looked up into her face, she was pale with terror.
She shook her head. For once words failed her.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” she asked, reaching for Jodie.
Jodie shuddered away as if she were in a very far-off place.
“Miss Gardner,” Washington said. He took a step forward.
Jodie took a step back. “Don’t.”
Her voice rasped and she withdrew even farther.
Reyna’s head moved from one to the other. “Do you know each other?”
“You’re a fucking monster,” Jodie said savagely. “How dare you stand there as if you’re part of this rebellion. And if you fucking are, then this entire thing is a sham. I knew it was all too good to be true. How could I have ever believed this wasn’t going to end exactly where it started.”
“Jodie,” Washington said. A look of absolute despair crossed his face.
“Fuck you! Just fuck you!” she spat and then fled the room.
Reyna’s eyes widened and she dashed after Jodie. She was already out of the medical wing and down the hallway before she caught up with her.
“Jodie!” She grabbed her shoulder and hauled her to a stop.
Jodie slapped Reyna’s hand away. “Don’t touch me. Just…don’t touch me.”
“What happened? Tell me what happened. You know Washington?”
“Know him?” Jodie hissed. “He was the monster who started the experiments on me!”
Reyna froze. Of course. She should have put two and two together a long time ago. Washington had said that he knew about the other people at the facility. He’d given Meghan the information to get her out in the first place. It made perfectly horrible sense that he’d worked with Jodie at some point if she had been at Visage for ten years.
“How long has he been here?” Jodie asked. “No. Fuck it. It doesn’t matter.”
Then she kept walking down the hallway. She took the stairs instead of the elevator down to the floor where she still shared a room with Meghan.
“Jodie, what are you doing?”
“Getting the hell out of here.”
“You’re leaving?” Reyna asked.
“Well, I can’t fucking stay. If that man is a part of Elle, then this place is no better than that hellhole.”
“Jodie, I know that Washington worked with Visage in the past. He invented the blood type cure in the first place, but that doesn’t mean he’s still the bad person he was before. I have to believe that.”
“Well, you do you, then.”
“If Beckham can change, then Washington can too.”
Jodie faced her, stuffing a pair of tennis shoes into a backpack. “That’s the difference between me and you, Reyna. I don’t believe that anyone can change. Let alone two bloodthirsty vampires who are our enemies.”
“They’re not our enemies.”
Jodie snorted. “They are and always have been our enemies. They feed off of us. They drink our blood. They want to kill us. Nothing changes that. Nothing.”
“I understand why you feel like that. I know many people who feel like that. But it’s just not true.” Reyna sighed. “Maybe it would be easier if this whole situation were truly black and white and not gray. Because then we wouldn’t have to come to terms with a more nuanced world. We wouldn’t have to realize that there are good and bad vampires and good and bad people. That people we hate can change. That people make bad choices and regret it. That those people can decide to work on the side of good. They know they can never clean the red off of their ledger, but that doesn’t mean they should stop trying.” Jodie stopped putting clothes in the backpack and looked at Reyna thoughtfully. “Running is a lot easier than seeing the reality of the situation. That we live in a fucked-up prejudice world. A world we’re trying to change.”
“He’s a monster, Reyna,” Jodie whispered pleadingly.
“I believe that he was to you. And I’m sorry for what he’s done.” She walked over to where Jodie was standing and took the backpack out of her hands. “I’m sorry for everything that happened to you. That happened to both of us. But running away isn’t the answer, Jodie.”
“Then what is the answer?”
“Stay and fight. Change the world with me. We all deserve a new world. I’m not saying forgive him or forget what he did to you. You don’t even have to work with him or donate your blood or anything. But just don’t leave.”