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I am

lit

on fire.

It’s like swimming in molasses, this kiss, it’s like being dipped in gold, this kiss, it’s like I’m diving into an ocean of emotion and I’m too swept up in the current to realize I’m drowning and nothing even matters anymore. Not my hand which no longer seems to hurt, not this room that isn’t entirely mine, not this war we’re supposed to be fighting, not my worries about who or what I am and what I might become.

This is the only thing that matters.

This.

This moment. These lips. This strong body pressed against me and these firm hands finding a way to bring me closer and I know I want so much more of him, I want all of him, I want to feel the beauty of this love with the tips of my fingers and the palms of my hands and every fiber and bone in my being.

I want all of it.

My hands are in his hair and I’m reeling him in until he’s practically on top of me and he breaks for air but I pull him back, kissing his neck, his shoulders, his chest, running my hands down his back and the sides of his torso and it’s incredible, the energy, the unbelievable power I feel in just being with him, touching him, holding him like this. I’m alive with a rush of adrenaline so potent, so euphoric that I feel rejuvenated, indestructible—

I jerk back.

Push away so quickly that I’m scrambling and I fall off the bed only to slam my head into the stone floor and I’m swaying as I attempt to stand, struggling to hear the sound of his voice but all I hear are wheezing, paralyzed breaths and I can’t think straight, I can’t see anything and everything is blurry and I can’t, I refuse to believe this is actually happening—

“J-Jul—” He tries to speak. “I-I c-ca—”

And I fall to my knees.

Screaming.

Screaming like I’ve never screamed in my entire life.

FIFTEEN

I count everything.

Even numbers, odd numbers, multiples of 10. I count the ticks of the clock I count the tocks of the clock I count the lines between the lines on a sheet of paper. I count the broken beats of my heart I count my pulse and my blinks and the number of tries it takes to inhale enough oxygen for my lungs. I stay like this I stand like this I count like this until the feeling stops. Until the tears stop spilling, until my fists stop shaking, until my heart stops aching.

There are never enough numbers.

Adam is in the medical wing.

He is in the medical wing and I have been asked not to visit him. I have been asked to give him space, to give him time to heal, to leave him the hell alone. He is going to be okay, is what Sonya and Sara told me. They told me not to worry, that everything would be fine, but their smiles were a little less exuberant than they usually are and I’m beginning to wonder if they, too, are finally beginning to see me for what I truly am.

A horrible, selfish, pathetic monster.

I took what I wanted. I knew better and I took it anyway. Adam couldn’t have known, he could never have known what it would be like to really suffer at my hands. He was innocent of the depth of it, of the cruel reality of it. He’d only felt bursts of my power, according to Castle. He’d only felt small stabs of it and was able and aware enough to let go without feeling the full effects.

But I knew better.

I knew what I was capable of. I knew what the risks were and I did it anyway. I allowed myself to forget, to be reckless, to be greedy and stupid because I wanted what I couldn’t have. I wanted to believe in fairy tales and happy endings and pure possibility. I wanted to pretend that I was a better person than I actually am but instead I managed to out myself as the terror I’ve always been accused of being.

My parents were right to get rid of me.

Castle isn’t even speaking to me.

Kenji, however, still expects me to show up at 6:00 a.m. for whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing tomorrow, and I find I’m actually kind of grateful for the distraction. I only wish it would come sooner. Life will be solitary for me from now on, just as it always has been, and it’s best if I find a way to fill my time.

To forget.

It keeps hitting me, over and over and over again, this complete and utter loneliness. This absence of him in my life, this realization that I will never know the warmth of his body, the tenderness of his touch ever again. This reminder of who I am and what I’ve done and where I belong.

But I’ve accepted the terms and conditions of my new reality.

I cannot be with him. I will not be with him. I won’t risk hurting him again, won’t risk becoming the creature he’s always afraid of, too scared to touch, to kiss, to hold. I don’t want to keep him from having a normal life with someone who isn’t going to accidentally kill him all the time.

So I have to cut myself out of his world. Cut him out of mine.

It’s much harder now. So much harder to resign myself to an existence of ice and emptiness now that I’ve known heat, urgency, tenderness, and passion; the extraordinary comfort of being able to touch another being.

It’s humiliating.

That I thought I could slip into the role of a regular girl with a regular boyfriend; that I thought I could live out the stories I’d read in so many books as a child.

Me.

Juliette with a dream.

Just the thought of it is enough to fill me with mortification. How embarrassing for me, that I thought I could change what I’d been dealt. That I looked in the mirror and actually liked the pale face staring back at me.

How sad.

I always dared to identify with the princess, the one who runs away and finds a fairy godmother to transform her into a beautiful girl with a bright future. I clung to something like hope, to a thread of maybes and possiblys and perhapses. But I should’ve listened when my parents told me that things like me aren’t allowed to have dreams. Things like me are better off destroyed, is what my mother said to me.

And I’m beginning to think they were right. I’m beginning to wonder if I should just bury myself in the ground before I remember that technically, I already am. I never even needed a shovel.

It’s strange.

How hollow I feel.

Like there might be echoes inside of me. Like I’m one of those chocolate rabbits they used to sell around Easter, the ones that were nothing more than a sweet shell encapsulating a world of nothing. I’m like that.

I encapsulate a world of nothing.

Everyone here hates me. The tenuous bonds of friendship I’d begun to form have now been destroyed. Kenji is tired of me. Castle is disgusted, disappointed, angry, even. I’ve caused nothing but trouble since I arrived and the 1 person who’s ever tried to see good in me is now paying for it with his life.

The 1 person who’s ever dared to touch me.

Well. 1 of 2.

I find myself thinking about Warner too much.

I remember his eyes and his odd kindness and his cruel, calculating demeanor. I remember the way he looked at me when I first jumped out the window to escape and I remember the horror on his face when I pointed his own gun at his heart and then I wonder at my preoccupation with this person who is nothing like me and still so similar.

I wonder if I will have to face him again, sometime soon, and I wonder how he will greet me. I have no idea if he wants to keep me alive anymore, especially not after I tried to kill him, and I have no idea what could propel a 19-year-old man boy person into such a miserable, murderous lifestyle and then I realize I’m lying to myself. Because I do know. Because I might be the only person who could ever understand him.

And this is what I’ve learned:

I know that he is a tortured soul who, like me, never grew up with the warmth of friendship or love or peaceful coexistence. I know that his father is the leader of The Reestablishment and applauds his son’s murders instead of condemning them and I know that Warner has no idea what it’s like to be normal.

Neither do I.

He’s spent his life fighting to fulfill his father’s expectations of global domination without questioning why, without considering the repercussions, without stopping long enough to weigh the worth of a human life. He has a power, a strength, a position in society that enables him to do too much damage and he owns it with pride. He kills without remorse or regret and he wants me to join him. He sees me for what I am and expects me to live up to that potential.

Scary, monstrous girl with a lethal touch. Sad, pathetic girl with nothing else to contribute to this world. Good for nothing but a weapon, a tool for torture and taking control. That’s what he wants from me.

And lately I’m not sure if he’s wrong. Lately, I’m not sure of anything. Lately, I don’t know anything about anything I’ve ever believed in, not anymore, and I know the least about who I am. Warner’s whispers pace the space in my head, telling me I could be more, I could be stronger, I could be everything; I could be so much more than a scared little girl.

He says I could be power.

But still, I hesitate.

Still, I see no appeal in the life he’s offered. I see no future in it. I take no pleasure in it. Still, I tell myself, despite everything, I know that I do not want to hurt people. It’s not something I crave. And even if the world hates me, even if they never stop hating me, I will never avenge myself on an innocent person. If I die, if I am killed, if I am murdered in my sleep, I will at least die with a shred of dignity. A piece of humanity that is still entirely mine, entirely under my control. And I will not allow anyone to take that from me.

So I have to keep remembering that Warner and I are 2 different words.

We are synonyms but not the same.

Synonyms know each other like old colleagues, like a set of friends who’ve seen the world together. They swap stories, reminisce about their origins and forget that though they are similar, they are entirely different, and though they share a certain set of attributes, one can never be the other. Because a quiet night is not the same as a silent one, a firm man is not the same as a steady one, and a bright light is not the same as a brilliant one because the way they wedge themselves into a sentence changes everything.

They are not the same.

I’ve spent my entire life fighting to be better. Fighting to be stronger. Because unlike Warner I don’t want to be a terror on this Earth. I don’t want to hurt people.

I don’t want to use my power to cripple anyone.

But then I look at my own 2 hands and I remember exactly what I’m capable of. I remember exactly what I’ve done and I’m too aware of what I might do. Because it’s so difficult to fight what you cannot control and right now I can’t even control my own imagination as it grips my hair and drags me into the dark.

SIXTEEN

Loneliness is a strange sort of thing.

It creeps up on you, quiet and still, sits by your side in the dark, strokes your hair as you sleep. It wraps itself around your bones, squeezing so tight you almost can’t breathe. It leaves lies in your heart, lies next to you at night, leaches the light out from every corner. It’s a constant companion, clasping your hand only to yank you down when you’re struggling to stand up.

You wake up in the morning and wonder who you are. You fail to fall asleep at night and tremble in your skin. You doubt you doubt you doubt

do I

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