And I understand that.
I really, really do.
“What happened?” Warner finally says to me.
I’m sitting on his bed; he’s standing by the door, staring at the wall.
“What do you mean?”
“With Kent,” he says. “Earlier. What did he say to you?”
“Oh.” I flush. Embarrassed. “He kicked me out of his house.”
“He was mad,” I explain. “That I was defending you. That I’d invited you to come back at all.”
I can almost hear our hearts beat in the silence between us.
“You were defending me,” Warner finally says.
He says nothing.
I say nothing.
“So he told you to leave,” Warner says, “because you were defending me.”
“Is that all?”
My heart is racing. I’m suddenly nervous. “No.”
“There were other things?”
Warner blinks at the wall. Unmoving. “Really.”
He says nothing.
“He was upset,” I whisper, “because I didn’t agree that you were crazy. And he was accusing me”—I hesitate—“of being in love with you.”
Warner exhales sharply. Touches a hand to the doorframe.
My heart is pounding so hard.
Warner’s eyes are glued to the wall. “And you told him he was an idiot.”
Warner turns, just halfway. I see his profile, the unsteady rise and fall of his chest. He’s staring directly at the door now, and it’s clear it’s costing him a great deal of effort to speak. “Then you told him he was crazy. You told him he had to be out of his mind to say something like that.”
“No,” he echoes.
I try not to move.
Warner takes a hard, shaky breath. “Then what did you say to him?”
Seven seconds die between us.
“Nothing,” I whisper.
I don’t breathe.
No one speaks for what feels like forever.
“Of course,” Warner finally says. He looks pale, unsteady. “You said nothing. Of course.”
“Aaron—” I get to my feet.
“There are a lot of things I have to do before tomorrow,” he says. “Especially if your friends will be joining us on base.” His hands tremble in the second it takes him to reach for the door. “Forgive me,” he says. “But I have to go.”
I decide to take a bath.
I’ve never taken a bath before.
I poke around the bathroom as the tub fills with hot water, and discover stacks and stacks of scented soaps. All different kinds. All different sizes. Each bar of soap has been wrapped in a thick piece of parchment, and tied with twine. There are small labels affixed to each package to distinguish one scent from another.
I pick up one of the bundles.
I clutch the soap and can’t help but think how different it was to take a shower at Omega Point. We had nothing so fancy as this. Our soaps were harsh and smelled strange and were fairly ineffective. Kenji used to bring them into our training sessions and break off pieces to pelt at me when I wasn’t focusing.
The memory makes me inexplicably emotional.
My heart swells as I remember that my friends will be here tomorrow. This is really going to happen, I think. We’ll be unstoppable, all of us together. I can’t wait.
I look more closely at the label.
Top notes of jasmine and nuances of grape. Mild notes of lilac, honeysuckle, rose, and cinnamon. Orange-flower and powder base notes complete the fragrance.
I steal one of Warner’s soaps.
I’m freshly scrubbed and wearing a clean set of clothes.
I keep sniffing my skin, pleasantly surprised by how nice it is to smell like a flower. I’ve never smelled like anything before. I keep running my fingers down my arms, wondering at how much of a difference a good bar of soap can make. I’ve never felt so clean in my life. I didn’t realize soap could lather like that or react so well to my body. The only soap I’ve ever used before always dried up my skin and left me feeling uncomfortable for a few hours. But this is weird. Wonderful. I feel soft and smooth and so refreshed.
I also have absolutely nothing to do.
I sit down on Warner’s bed, pull my feet up underneath me. Stare at his office door.
I’m so tempted to see if the door is unlocked.
My conscience, however, overrules me.
I sink into the pillows with a sigh. Kick up the blankets and snuggle beneath them.
Close my eyes.
My mind is instantly flooded with images of Adam’s angry face, his shaking fists, his hurtful words. I try to push the memories away and I can’t.
My eyes fly open.
I wonder if I’ll ever see him and James again.
Maybe this is what Adam wanted. He can go back to his life with his little brother now. He won’t have to worry about sharing his rations with eight other people and he’ll be able to survive much longer this way.
But then what? I can’t help but think.
He’ll be all alone. With no food. No friends. No income.
It breaks my heart to imagine it. To think of him struggling to find a way to live, to provide for his brother. Because even though Adam seems to hate me now, I don’t think I could ever reciprocate those feelings.
I don’t even know that I understand what just happened between us.
It seems impossible that Adam and I could fissure and break apart so abruptly. I care so deeply for him. He was there for me when no one else was; he gave me hope when I needed it most; he loved me when no one else would. He’s not anyone I want to erase from my life.
I want him around. I want my friend back.
But I’m realizing now that Kenji was right.
Adam was the first and only person who’d ever shown me compassion. The first, and, at the time, only person who was able to touch me. I was caught up in the impossibility of it, so convinced fate had brought us together. His tattoo was a perfect snapshot of my dreams.
I thought it was about us. About my escape. About our happily-ever-after.
And it was.
And it wasn’t.
I want to laugh at my own blindness.