- Unravel Me
I dare to meet her eyes and I’m surprised to see how soft they are. Gentle and green and squinty from smiling. She sits down on the right side of my bed. Pats my bare arm with her latex glove, unafraid. Unflinching. Sonya stands just next to her, looking at me like she’s worried, like she’s sad for me, and I don’t have long to dwell on it because I’m distracted. I smell the scent of jasmine filling the room, just as it did the very first time I stepped in here. When we first arrived at Omega Point. When Adam was injured. Dying.
He was dying and they saved his life. These 2 girls in front of me. They saved his life and I’ve been living with them for 2 weeks and I realize, right then, exactly how selfish I’ve been.
So I decide to try a new set of words.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
I feel myself begin to blush and I wonder at my inability to be so free with words and feelings. I wonder at my incapacity for easy banter, smooth conversation, empty words to fill awkward moments. I don’t have a closet filled with umms and ellipses ready to insert at the beginnings and ends of sentences. I don’t know how to be a verb, an adverb, any kind of modifier. I’m a noun through and through.
Stuffed so full of people places things and ideas that I don’t know how to break out of my own brain. How to start a conversation.
I want to trust but it scares the skin off my bones.
But then I remember my promise to Castle and my promise to Kenji and my worries over Adam and I think maybe I should take a risk. Maybe I should try to find a new friend or 2. And I think of how wonderful it would be to be friends with a girl. A girl, just like me.
I’ve never had one of those before.
So when Sonya and Sara smile and tell me they’re “happy to help” and they’re here “anytime” and that they’re always around if I “need someone to talk to,” I tell them I’d love that.
I tell them I’d really appreciate that.
I tell them I’d love to have a friend to talk to.
“Let’s get you back into your suit,” Sara says to me.
The air down here is cool and cold and often damp, the winter winds relentless as they whip the world above our heads into submission. Even in my suit I feel the chill, especially early in the morning, especially right now. Sonya and Sara are helping me out of this hospital dress and back into my normal uniform and I’m shaking in my skin. Only once they’ve zipped me up does the material begin to react to my body temperature, but I’m still so weak from being in bed for so long that I’m struggling to stay upright.
“I really don’t need a wheelchair,” I tell Sara for the third time. “Thank you—really—I-I appreciate it,” I stammer, “but I need to get the blood flowing in my legs. I have to be strong on my feet.” I have to be strong, period.
Castle and Adam are waiting for me in my room.
Sonya told me that while I was talking to Kenji, she and Sara went to notify Castle that I was awake. So. Now they’re there. Waiting for me. In the room I share with Sonya and Sara. And I’m so afraid of what is about to happen that I’m worried I might conveniently forget how to get to my own room. Because I’m fairly certain that whatever I’m about to hear isn’t going to be good.
“You can’t walk back to the room by yourself,” Sara is saying. “You can hardly stand on your own—”
“I’m okay,” I insist. I try to smile. “Really, I should be able to manage as long as I can stay close to the wall. I’m sure I’ll be back to normal just as soon as I start moving.”
Sonya and Sara glance at each other before scrutinizing my face. “How’s your hand?” they ask at the same time.
“It’s okay,” I tell them, this time more earnestly. “It feels a lot better. Really. Thank you so much.”
The cuts are practically healed and I can actually move my fingers now. I inspect the brand-new, thinner bandage they’ve wrapped across my knuckles. The girls explained to me that most of the damage was internal; it seems I traumatized whatever invisible bone in my body is responsible for my curse “gift.”
“All right. Let’s go,” Sara says, shaking her head. “We’re walking you back to the room.”
“No—please—it’s okay—” I try to protest but they’re already grabbing my arms and I’m too feeble to fight back. “This is unnecessary—”
“You’re being ridiculous,” they chorus.
“I don’t want you to have to go through the trouble—”
“You’re being ridiculous,” they chorus again.
“I—I’m really not—” But they’re already leading me out of the room and down the hall and I’m hobbling along between them. “I promise I’m fine,” I tell them. “Really.”
Sonya and Sara share a loaded look before they smile at me, not unkindly, but there’s an awkward silence between us as we move through the halls. I spot people walking past us and immediately duck my head. I don’t want to make eye contact with anyone right now. I can’t even imagine what they must’ve heard about the damage I’ve caused. I know I’ve managed to confirm all of their worst fears about me.
“They’re only afraid of you because they don’t know you,” Sara says quietly.
“Really,” Sonya adds. “We barely know you and we think you’re great.”
I’m blushing fiercely, wondering why embarrassment always feels like ice water in my veins. It’s like all of my insides are freezing even though my skin is burning hot too hot.
I hate this.
I hate this feeling.
Sonya and Sara stop abruptly. “Here we are,” they say together.
We’re in front of our bedroom door. I try to unlatch myself from their arms but they stop me. Insist on staying with me until they’re sure I’ve gotten inside okay.
So I stay with them.
And I knock on my own door, because I’m not sure what else to do.
I’m waiting just a few seconds, just a few moments for fate to answer when I realize the full impact of Sonya’s and Sara’s presence beside me. They’re offering me smiles that are supposed to be encouraging, bracing, reinforcing. They’re trying to lend me their strength because they know I’m about to face something that isn’t going to make me happy.
And this thought makes me happy.
If only for a fleeting moment.
Because I think wow, I imagine this is what it’s like to have friends.
Castle opens the door just enough for me to see his face. He nods at me. Glances down at my injured hand. Back up at my face. “Very good,” he says, mostly to himself. “Good, good. I’m happy to see you’re doing better.”
“Yes,” I manage to say. “I—th-thank you, I—”
“Girls,” he says to Sonya and Sara. He offers them a bright, genuine smile. “Thank you for all you’ve done. I’ll take it from here.”
They nod. Squeeze my arms once before letting go and I sway for just a second before I find my footing. “I’m all right,” I tell them as they try to reach for me. “I’ll be fine.”
They nod again. Wave, just a little, as they back away.
“Come inside,” Castle says to me.
I follow him in.
1 bunk bed on one side of the wall.
1 single bed on the other side.
That’s all this room consists of.
That, and Adam, who is sitting on my single bed, elbows propped up on his knees, face in his hands. Castle shuts the door behind us, and Adam startles. Jumps up.
“Juliette,” he says, but he’s not looking at me; he’s looking at all of me. His eyes are searching my body as if to ensure I’m still intact, arms and legs and everything in between. It’s only when he finds my face that he meets my gaze; I step into the sea of blue in his eyes, dive right in and drown. I feel like someone’s punched a fist into my lungs and snatched up all my oxygen.
“Please, have a seat, Ms. Ferrars.” Castle gestures to Sonya’s bottom bunk, the bed right across from where Adam is sitting. I make my way over slowly, trying not to betray the dizziness, the nausea I’m feeling. My chest is rising and falling too quickly.
I drop my hands into my lap.
I feel Adam’s presence in this room like a real weight against my chest but I choose to study the careful wrapping of my new bandage—the gauze stretched tight across the knuckles of my right hand—because I’m too much of a coward to look up. I want nothing more than to go to him, to have him hold me, to transport me back to the few moments of bliss I’ve ever known in my life but there’s something gnawing at my core, scraping at my insides, telling me that something is wrong and it’s probably best if I stay exactly where I am.
Castle is standing in the space between the beds, between me and Adam. He’s staring at the wall, hands clasped behind his back. His voice is quiet when he says, “I am very, very disappointed in your behavior, Ms. Ferrars.”
Hot, terrible shame creeps up my neck and forces my head down again.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
Castle takes a deep breath. Exhales very slowly. “I have to be frank with you,” he says, “and admit that I’m not ready to discuss what happened just yet. I am still too upset to be able to speak about the matter calmly. Your actions,” he says, “were childish. Selfish. Thoughtless! The damage you caused—the years of work that went into building and planning that room, I can’t even begin to tell you—”
He catches himself, swallows hard.
“That will be a subject,” he says steadily, “for another time. Perhaps just between the two of us. But I am here today because Mr. Kent asked me to be here.”
I look up. Look at Castle. Look at Adam.
Adam looks like he wants to run.
I decide I can’t wait any longer. “You’ve learned something about him,” I say, and it’s less of a question than it is a fact. It’s so obvious. There’s no other reason why Adam would bring Castle here to talk to me.
Something terrible has already happened. Something terrible is about to happen.
I can feel it.
Adam is staring at me now, unblinking, his hands in fists pressed into his thighs. He looks nervous; scared. I don’t know what to do except to stare back at him. I don’t know how to offer him comfort. I don’t even know how to smile right now. I feel like I’m trapped in someone else’s story.
Castle nods, once, slowly.
Says, “Yes. Yes, we’ve discovered the very intriguing nature of Mr. Kent’s ability.” He walks toward the wall and leans against it, allowing me a clearer view of Adam. “We believe we now understand why he’s able to touch you, Ms. Ferrars.”
Adam turns away, presses one of his fists to his mouth. His hand looks like it might be shaking but he, at least, seems to be doing better than I am. Because my insides are screaming and my head is on fire and panic is stepping on my throat, suffocating me to death. Bad news offers no returns once received.