I held her. It was the only thing I could do and it felt completely worthless.
They shot him. Him. Her father was the only conclusion I could draw.
After an eternity her ragged breathing calmed. Her rasping sobs slowed, the silent gaps growing longer. She slept, and I didn’t dare move to untangle myself from Beth for fear of waking her.
Hours later, when Emma’s own quiet sobbing died down. I managed to close my own eyes and trying to forget the pain in my legs from the awkward position. I wasn’t sure if I’d slept, but when I opened my eyes the rest had been enough to dull the edge of my fatigue. More than I’d managed in the last few nights anyway.
I watched the glint of Emma’s eyes in my peripheral vision as she herself watched me. She’d been awake for a while, but hadn’t moved or said anything.
I turned my eyes and matched her gaze. She looked away immediately, fingers twitching up to her throat.
“Sorry about that,” I said.
“Uh.” Her eyes darted around, anywhere but at me. “It’s okay.”
It wasn’t. But there’s nothing I could do. We sat there in an increasingly awkward silence until I dared break it, “What happened?”
I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to push her too much.
“I…” She paused. Her hands rubbed her temples. “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
She doesn’t know why things happened. She knows what. She can still tell me the events that led up to this.
Okay, from the beginning. What was she even doing near Beth? Were they in the hospital? I’d assumed Mr Spenser would have called me if she left, but maybe she’d met her after. Maybe I was wrong in my assumption he’d even think of me at all.
Emma didn’t elaborate. I was going to have to push her. “Did you visit Beth in the hospital?”
“Yes. Yeah we visited…” She trailed off again.
“I went with Haley.”
“Haley?” What the hell was she doing in all of this? I felt a surge of anger, but it had an edge of relief. I hadn’t killed her at least. As much as I wanted to hurt her, I didn’t want her dead.
“Yeah. She changed, or I thought she had.” Her eyes returned to their detailed study of the dusty floor. “Turns out not so much. She wanted to see Beth. They used to be friends you see…”
I’d managed to avoid ever picturing Beth being on speaking terms, let alone friends, with someone like Haley. But I did know. I could forgive her because I knew Haley so well. She was an expert at hiding her cruelty.
Still… Emma had seen what she was capable of.
“And?” I asked.
“Beth woke up.” Just like that. “The doctors rushed in, and there were tubes and…” She shivered.
“Then?” I urged her onwards.
“Haley freaked out, she was talking about you.” Emma threw her hands out in front of her in a frustrated shrug. “I don’t know what she was talking about, but she was angry about something to do with you and Beth. I don’t remember, there was so much happening at once. She left.”
Haley did seem to take particular affront to my existence. I’d always assumed this was because of me, something I’d done. Something about the way I was, or that I’d done wrong, that she hated.
But me and Beth?
It made no sense. Haley had targeted me long before I had even spoken to Beth at that lunch table. It had gotten worse since, but… nothing comparable to when she first started. I couldn’t see the connection.
And that didn’t tally up with turning up here. A pissed Haley wasn’t that much of a threat. I couldn’t imagine her shooting Beth’s father, and Haley most certainly wasn’t a They. There was only one They I could think of that acted outside the Island.
“I stayed a while-” A sob shook her, tears flowing down her face. “There were these men. They came, and… shooting… blood.”
I let her cry without interrupting. I could work out the rest.
Beth had come here because she had nowhere else to go. They had obviously worked out the best way to me was through Beth. If I had to guess I’d say Beth’s father didn’t let that happen. He’d have known better than to take Beth to me. He’d take her in the opposite direction. He certainly wouldn’t leave her.
I looked down at Beth in my arms. Eyes closed. Steady breathing. I was certain she was sleeping. “Dead?”
“I don’t know.” A small grain of hope, at least. “There was so much blood.”
So she came to the one place she could think might be safe, but I was far from safe. Her father was hurt, maybe killed, all because of me.
And she didn’t even know it yet.
I started stretching my fingers, alternately making fists and spreading my hand. A nervous habit I hadn’t even noticed picking up. I was restless. My back ached, I couldn’t even feel my legs.
As gently as I could manage, I lifted Beth’s head from my lap. She moaned, shuffling in her sleep and giving me an opportunity to slide my legs out from under her and rest her head on a bundle of my old t-shirts.
My legs obviously had not woken up with the rest of me. I’d disturbed their position enough to let a blood flow through my veins. I was rewarded with a fire of pins and needles. I held back a gasp at the onslaught of sensation. It hurt at first, but ultimately it died down into a pleasant warmth.
I threw my arms out and arched my back, stretching sore muscles over the bones of my shoulders. My joints snapped, disturbed by their sudden activity.
Turns out sitting in a tangled mess on a hard floor wasn’t a good idea for extended period of time. My attempt to stand failed dismally. I could hardly move my legs, let alone walk.
Not a good idea at all. I’d effectively incapacitated myself.
It took a few minutes of rough massage before I felt like they’d support my weight. I checked the knife was secure in its sheath, a reflex, and cast my eye around the dim garage.
It seemed small with three people. Crowded.
It seemed small compared to Mike’s place.
But it was mine. I’d only spent two months here, if that. Even with its lack of hot water, showers, and having to get dressed and put a coat on before going to communal toilets… it was mine. The only place I’d been able to come back to and relax.
I’d never had somewhere I could go and just be before. Exist as myself. No mother to pander to, tiptoe around. No bullies to avoid. No people at all.
Except Beth. When she’d stayed and I could still be me. I glanced over at her sleeping form, her eyes twitching under their lids.
She needed rest. Somewhere warm, with better facilities than a sink, a shower at least. A bed.
Mike’s place. There was no other option. I couldn’t care for her here. Could I trust Mike? Could I trust Danni? Jack?
Jack knew about here anyway. Mike knew the building, if not the garage specifically. It wouldn’t take much to betray me.
She might be more of a problem. I turned to catch her eyes dart away, inconspicuously not watching me again. She was a quiet, innocent girl. She was in danger. I owed her honesty at least.
“Emma. I’m sorry you got dragged into this. Those people who…” I glanced back at Beth, paranoid that she’d wake. “Those people who came after Beth. They’re trying to get to me. I don’t know why, I really don’t. But whatever their reason they want to find me. And now you’ve got dragged into this…”
I wasn’t sure how to continue. She just gave me a blank look.
“Listen,” I said. “I’m sure you noticed they’re dangerous. If you want… you can stay here. Not here, but close. I know somewhere better than this, with friends. We could protect you.”
“Here?” She frowned, but at least it was a response. “This place is awful! Someone attacked us just walking here last night. Beth- she shot someone. Just… just shot them. Yesterday!”
She pushed off the wall to her feet, her voice shrill in the bare room. I got the impression she had the urge to storm off, but one look at the door and she changed her mind. With little place to go, she walked to the furthest wall, facing it, back to myself.
“This is crazy,” she said. “This whole thing is totally freaking crazy. I can’t believe last night even happened and now what, you’re saying I have to stay here?”
“If you don’t, they’re going to connect you to this and I have no idea what they’d do.”
“So I’m supposed to hide, never see my parents again. What about school? What about my life? Can’t we just go to the police? I’m sure they can sort out some witness protection thing for you if you’re in trouble!”
“Emma,” I rubbed my eyes. Okay, I hadn’t really considered how much she’d be giving up. “They are the police.”
Silence as that sunk in.
“What did you do?”
Why does everyone assume I’ve committed some kind of crime? Every god damn time.
“I don’t know! Nothing! And you don’t have to.” I forced myself to keep my down, not to match her volume. Beth.
“But if I decide I don’t want to… what then?”
“They’ll probably ask you questions. And if you don’t give them answers…” Torture? What would they be willing to do?
“And if I do give them answers?”
Bit of jumbling around with the editing on this one, hope it all reads right. Make sure to check out the updated ending to the last one if you didn’t catch it (i.e. read on friday/early saturday) https://agreyworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/chapter-3-37-new-ending/
“And if I do give them answers?”
“If you do, then… they will act upon your answers, reach a dead end, and come back with more questions that you wouldn’t have the answers to…”
Sheesh, Emma. Don’t tip your hand like that! Especially not this deep into enemy territory.
Meanwhile, at the hospital: a new experimental cyborg procedure has been looking for… “volunteers”. The old memories are wiped, of course – they get in the way of a super-soldier’s duties. As for Haley, she meets a cute talking stuffed animal on her way home, and discovers her latent supernatural talent for sealing demons.
Ooh, nice. I liked this one.
Failing to remember which one Emma was, but that’s just by awful name recognition.
I’m liking what you’re doing with Emma. It’s one of those things that could very well be annoying but it’s not because it’s done realistically and well.
I forced myself to keep my down, ==> I forced myself to keep my voice down,
*sigh* looks like we’ll have to kill Emma. Pity, I liked her.
No, no killing nice girls who get bullied and just want to be freinds. Yer but im stumped as what to do… but that may verry well be thevodka speaking
Jesus christ, Emma, are you stupid? The police are willing to shoot a soldier while trying to find this girl, and you’re threatening her?
To answer your question: Yes, she is stupid. Veeerrry stupid.
I always hate getting caught up on something this good because it means waiting for more. Love ur writing, thank you
I am getting a little confused at this point. Let me put some bullets and see if I am missing anything.
Meet Alexis. At the beginning we just know that she might as well be homeless considering her living conditions. Technically she is better off, but she is still freezing and starving. She turns out to be some super human/monkey crossbreed with weak bones. Socially challenged to the extreme, but (here is a criticism) not enough trust issues. I would think she would be like a feral animal at this point, but that’s just me. Maybe she will go feral now that things are getting stressful?
Enter Halley the bully who for some reason has a beef with Alexis. I am guessing it is because she is afraid of her on sexuality and is crushing on Alexis? Probably not. Either way it looks like she has some connection to the Specials. Seems to be more important with that revelation, but before that was mostly marginalized.
Beth, who crushes on Alexis and tries to seduce/help her, is an army brat. Seems pretty mundane so far, but shit is hitting the fan so who knows what is about to happen.
Mike, scion of a crime family. Seems to be sociopath, but with a heart of gold? Possibly in love with Beth? Anyone else want to add more about him?
Emma. Just met her. Seems to be a classic “Normal” girl sucked into some crazy conspiracy shit so far. I don’t think Alexis is going to kill her, but I do think we will see just how… protective Alexis is of Beth. We know she isn’t that good of a girl from how she reacted to Alexis’ showdown with Halley. I could see her becoming as scary if not worse than Alexis.
Jake is an irritating side kick. Robin. I kid, I just haven’t seen enough of him yet.
Ms Gibbons (the teacher right?) seems to want to be a mother figure to Alexis. Probably going to get kidnapped and tortured. Shame, I liked her.
Danni, gangbanger with a heart of gold? Saved Alexis because she does not like the sex slave trade.
Ok now that I have put that down, am I missing any important bits or reading something incorrectly?
Haley has a massive crush on Beth, not Alexis. Haley is insecure with her sexuality, but Beth is confident about hers. She tried to show Beth that Alexis is worthless by bullying her, because Haley doesn’t understand how non-sociopaths think. Oh, and Haley has some psychological issues involving empathy.
Mz Gregory is the teacher who I’d say viewed her like a little sister at first, before she saw that the world Alex lives in is far harsher than hers ever was.
Mz Andrews is the therapist who might get taken for being uncooperative.
Gotta agree about Jack: he’s kind of annoying as a sidekick so far. However, there’s only been one real outing with him. His role can (and probably will) change.
“I turned to catch her eyes dart away, inconspicuously not watching me again”
I think it should be “conspicuously”
Emma still knows nothing, really. The place they are in right now might seem like a good place, but there will be others like it. Mike can probably arrange for an escort to her house, and she can talk to all the law enforcement she wants, and tell them the truth too. Remember the place is an economic and social black hole, and Emma knows nothing about the place at all. She probably couldn’t even lead them back, but assuming that would be foolish.