I drop my head again. Sigh.
Warner laughs and I peek up.
“Nothing,” he whispers.
I hear a sharp whistle. Spin around.
“Hey—jazz hands!” Kenji barks. “Get your ass back over here.” He makes it a point to look as irritated as possible. “Back to work. And this time, focus. You’re not an ape. Don’t just throw your shit everywhere.”
Warner actually laughs.
I look back at him, and he’s looking toward the wall, trying to suppress a wide smile as he runs a hand through his hair, down the back of his neck.
“At least someone appreciates my sense of humor,” Kenji says before tugging at my arm. “Come on, princess. Let’s try that again. And please, try not to kill everyone in this room.”
We’ve been practicing all week.
I’m so exhausted I can’t even stand up anymore, but I’ve made more progress than I ever could’ve hoped for. Kenji is still working with me directly, and Castle is overseeing my progress, but everyone else spends time training on all the various machines.
Winston and Brendan seem to be in better spirits every day—they look healthier, livelier—and the gash on Brendan’s face is starting to fade. I’m so happy to see their progress, and doubly thrilled Delalieu was able to find the right medicines for them.
The two of them spend most days eating and sleeping and jumping from the bikes to the treadmill. Lily has been messing around with a little of everything, and today she’s exercising with the medicine balls in the corner. Ian has been lifting weights and looking after Castle, and Alia has spent all week sitting in the corner, sketching things in a notepad. She seems happier, more settled. And I can’t help but wonder if Adam and James are okay, too. I hope they’re safe.
Warner is always gone during the day.
Every once in a while I glance at the elevator doors, secretly hoping they’ll open and deposit him back inside this room. Sometimes he stops by for a bit—jumps on the bike or goes for a quick run—but mostly he’s gone.
I only really see him in the mornings for his early workout, and in the evenings when he does another round of cardio. The end of the night is my favorite part of the day. It’s when all nine of us sit down and talk about our progress. Winston and Brendan are healing, I’m getting stronger, and Warner lets us know if there’ve been any new developments from the civilians, the soldiers, or The Reestablishment—so far, everything is still quiet.
And then Warner and I go back up to his quarters, where we shower and head to separate rooms. I sleep on his bed. He sleeps on the couch in his office.
Every night I tell myself I’ll be brave enough to knock on his door, but I never have.
I still don’t know what to say.
Kenji tugs on my hair.
“Ow—” I jerk back, scowling. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You’ve been hit extra hard with the stupid stick today.”
“What? I thought you said I was doing okay—”
“You are. But you’re distracted. You keep staring at the elevator like it’s about to grant you three wishes.”
“Oh,” I say. I look away. “Well. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” he sighs. Frowns a little. “What the hell is going on between you guys, anyway? Do I even want to know?”
I sigh. Flop onto the mats. “I have no idea, Kenji. He’s hot and cold.” I shrug. “I guess it’s fine. I just need a little space for now.”
“But you like him?” Kenji raises an eyebrow.
I say nothing. Feel my face warm.
Kenji rolls his eyes. “You know, I really never would’ve thought Warner could make you happy.”
“Do I look happy?” I counter.
“Good point.” He sighs. “I just mean that you always seemed so happy with Kent. This is a little hard for me to process.” He hesitates. Rubs his forehead. “Well. Actually, you were a hell of a lot weirder when you were with Kent. Super whiny. And so dramatic. And you cried. All. The. Damn. Time.” He screws up his face. “Jesus. I can’t decide which one of them is worse.”
“You think I’m dramatic?” I ask him, eyes wide. “Do you even know yourself at all?”
“I am not dramatic, okay? My presence just commands a certain kind of attention—”
“Hey,” he says, pointing at my face. “I am just saying that I don’t know what to believe anymore. I’ve already been on this merry-go-round. First Adam. Now Warner. Next week you’re going to try and hook up with me.”
“You really wish that were true, don’t you?”
“Whatever,” he says, looking away. “I don’t even like you.”
“You think I’m pretty.”
“I think you’re delusional.”
“I don’t even know what this is, Kenji.” I meet his eyes. “That’s the problem. I don’t know how to explain it, and I’m not sure I understand the depth of it yet. All I know is that whatever this is, I never felt it with Adam.”
Kenji’s eyes pull together, surprised and scared. He says nothing for a second. Blows out a breath. “Seriously?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I feel so . . . light. Like I could just . . . I don’t know . . .” I trail off. “It’s like I feel like, for the first time in my life, I’m going to be okay. Like I’m going to be strong.”
“But that sounds like it’s just you,” he says. “That has nothing to do with Warner.”
“That’s true,” I tell him. “But sometimes people can weigh us down, too. And I know Adam didn’t mean to, but he was weighing me down. We were two sad people stuck together.”
“Huh.” Kenji leans back on his hands.
“Being with Adam was always overshadowed by some kind of pain or difficulty,” I explain, “and Adam was always so serious. He was intense in a way that exhausted me sometimes. We were always hiding, or sneaking around, or on the run, and we never found enough uninterrupted moments to be together. It was almost like the universe was trying to tell me I was trying too hard to make things work with him.”