“I’m not trying to argue with you, okay? I don’t expect you to understand—”
“This is hilarious,” Kenji says, wheezing through another laugh. “You really don’t get it, do you?”
“Ohhh, man,” he says suddenly. “Kent is going to be pissed,” he says, dragging out the word in glee. He actually giggles.
“Wait—what? What does Adam have to do with this?”
“You do realize you haven’t asked me a single question about him, right?” A pause. “I mean, I just told you the whole saga of all the shit that happened to us and you were just like, Oh, okay, cool story, bro, thanks for sharing. You didn’t freak out or ask if Adam was injured. You didn’t ask me what happened to him or even how he’s coping right now, especially seeing as how he thinks you’re dead and everything.”
I feel sick all of a sudden. Stopped in my tracks. Mortified and guilty guilty guilty.
“And now you’re standing here, defending Warner,” Kenji is saying. “The same guy who tried to kill Adam, and you’re acting like he’s your friend or someshit. Like he’s just some normal dude who’s a little misunderstood. Like every single other person on the planet got it wrong, and probably because we’re all just a bunch of judgmental, jealous assholes who hate him for having such a pretty, pretty face.”
Shame singes my skin.
“I’m not an idiot, Kenji. I have reasons for the things I say.”
“Yeah, and maybe I’m just saying that you have no idea what you’re saying.”
“Don’t whatever me—”
“Whatever,” I say again.
“Oh my God,” Kenji says to no one in particular. “I think this girl wants to get her ass kicked.”
“You couldn’t kick my ass if I had ten of them.”
Kenji laughs out loud. “Is that a challenge?”
“It’s a warning,” I say to him.
“Ohhhhhh, so you’re threatening me now? Little crybaby knows how to make threats now?”
“Shut up, Kenji.”
“Shut up, Kenji,” he repeats in a whiny voice, mocking me.
“How much farther do we have to go?” I ask too loudly, irritated and trying to change the subject.
“We’re almost there,” he shoots back, his words clipped.
Neither one of us speaks for a few minutes.
“So . . . why did you walk all this way?” I ask. “Didn’t you say you had a tank?”
“Yeah,” Kenji says with a sigh, our argument momentarily forgotten. “We have two, actually. Kent said he stole one when you guys first escaped; it’s still sitting in his garage.”
How could I forget?
“But I like walking,” Kenji continues. “I don’t have to worry about anyone seeing me, and I always hope that maybe if I’m on foot, I’ll be able to notice things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I’m still hoping,” he says, his voice tight again, “that we’ll find more of our own hidden out here somewhere.”
I squeeze Kenji’s hand again, clinging closer to him. “Me too,” I whisper.
Adam’s old place is exactly as I remember it.
Kenji and I sneak in from the underground parking garage, and scale a few flights of stairs to the upper levels. I’m suddenly so nervous I can hardly speak. I’ve had to grieve the loss of my friends twice already, and part of me feels like this can’t possibly be happening. But it must be. It has to be.
I’m going to see Adam.
I’m going to see Adam’s face.
He’s going to be real.
“They blasted the door open when they were searching for us that first time,” Kenji is saying, “so the door is pretty jammed up—we’d been piling a bunch of furniture against it to keep it closed, but then it got stuck the other way, soo . . . yeah, it might take them a while to open it. But other than that, this little place has been good to us. Kent’s still got a ton of food in storage, and all the plumbing still works because he’d paid for almost everything through the end of the year. All in all, we got pretty lucky,” he says.
I’m nodding my head, too afraid to open my mouth. That coffee from this morning suddenly doesn’t feel very good in my stomach, and I’m jittery from head to toe.
I’m about to see Adam.
Kenji bangs on the door. “Open up,” he shouts. “It’s me.”
For a minute all I hear is the sound of heavy movement, creaky wood, screechy metal, and a series of thuds. I watch the doorframe as it shakes; someone on the other side is yanking on the door, trying to get it unjammed.
And then it opens. So slowly. I’m gripping my hands to keep myself steady.
Winston is standing at the door.
Gaping at me.
“Holy shit,” he says. He pulls his glasses off—I notice they’ve been taped together—and blinks at me. His face is bruised and battered, his bottom lip swollen, split open. His left hand is bandaged, the gauze wrapped several times around the palm of his hand.
I offer him a timid smile.
Winston grabs ahold of Kenji’s shirt and yanks him forward, eyes still focused on my face. “Am I hallucinating again?” he asks. “Because I’m going to be so pissed if I’m hallucinating again. Dammit,” he says, not waiting for Kenji to respond. “If I had any idea how much it would suck to have a concussion, I’d have shot myself in the face when I had a chance—”
“You’re not hallucinating.” Kenji cuts him off with a laugh. “Now let us inside.”
Winston is still blinking at me, eyes wide as he backs away, giving us room to enter. But the minute I step over the threshold I’m thrust into another world, a whole different set of memories. This is Adam’s home. The first place I ever found sanctuary. The first place I ever felt safe.
And now it’s full of people, the space far too small to house so many large bodies. Castle and Brendan and Lily and Ian and Alia and James—they’ve all frozen midmovement, midsentence. They’re all staring at me in disbelief. And I’m just about to say something, just about to find something acceptable to say to my only group of battered, broken friends, when Adam walks out of the small room I know used to belong to James. He’s holding something in his hands, distracted, not noticing the abrupt change in the atmosphere.