Castle stands up. His eyes are bright, eager, easily pleased. “Perfect. I’ll have him meet you at breakfast tomorrow. You can eat together and go from there.”
“Oh but I usually—”
“I know.” Castle cuts me off. His smile is pressed into a thin line now, his forehead creased with concern. “You like to eat your meals with Mr. Kent. I know this. But you’ve hardly spent any time with the others, Ms. Ferrars, and if you’re going to be here, you need to start trusting us. The people of Omega Point feel close to Kenji. He can vouch for you. If everyone sees you spending time together, they’ll feel less intimidated by your presence. It will help you adjust.”
Heat like hot oil spatters across my face; I flinch, feel my fingers twitch, try to find a place to look, try to pretend I can’t feel the pain caught in my chest. “They’re—they’re afraid of me,” I tell him, I whisper, I trail off. “I don’t—I didn’t want to bother anyone. I didn’t want to get in their way....”
Castle sighs, long and loud. He looks down and up, scratches the soft spot beneath his chin. “They’re only afraid,” he says finally, “because they don’t know you. If you just tried a little harder—if you made even the smallest effort to get to know anyone—” He stops. Frowns. “Ms. Ferrars, you have been here two weeks and you hardly even speak to your roommates.”
“But that’s not—I think they’re great—”
“And yet you ignore them? You spend no time with them? Why?”
Because I’ve never had girl friends before. Because I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong, say something wrong and they’ll end up hating me like all the other girls I’ve known. And I like them too much, which will make their inevitable rejection so much harder to endure.
I say nothing.
Castle shakes his head. “You did so well the first day you arrived. You seemed almost friendly with Brendan. I don’t know what happened,” Castle continues. “I thought you would do well here.”
Brendan. The thin boy with platinum-blond hair and electric currents running through his veins. I remember him. He was nice to me. “I like Brendan,” I tell Castle, bewildered. “Is he upset with me?”
“Upset?” Castle shakes his head, laughs out loud. He doesn’t answer my question. “I don’t understand, Ms. Ferrars. I’ve tried to be patient with you, I’ve tried to give you time, but I confess I’m quite perplexed. You were so different when you first arrived—you were excited to be here! But it took less than a week for you to withdraw completely. You don’t even look at anyone when you walk through the halls. What happened to conversation? To friendship?”
It took 1 day for me to settle in. 1 day for me to look around. 1 day for me to get excited about a different life and 1 day for everyone to find out who I am and what I’ve done.
Castle doesn’t say anything about the mothers who see me walking down the hall and yank their children out of my way. He doesn’t mention the hostile stares and the unwelcoming words I’ve endured since I’ve arrived. He doesn’t say anything about the kids who’ve been warned to stay far, far away, and the handful of elderly people who watch me too closely. I can only imagine what they’ve heard, where they got their stories from.
A girl with a lethal touch that saps the strength and energy of human beings until they’re limp, paralyzed carcasses wheezing on the floor. A girl who spent most of her life in hospitals and juvenile detention centers, a girl who was cast off by her own parents, labeled as certifiably insane, and sentenced to isolation in an asylum where even the rats were afraid to live.
So power hungry that she killed a small child. She tortured a toddler. She brought a grown man gasping to his knees. She doesn’t even have the decency to kill herself.
None of it is a lie.
So I look at Castle with spots of color on my cheeks and unspoken letters on my lips and eyes that refuse to reveal their secrets.
He almost says something. He tries to speak but his eyes inspect my face and he changes his mind. He only offers me a quick nod, a deep breath, taps his watch, says, “Three hours until lights-out,” and turns to go.
Pauses in the doorway.
“Ms. Ferrars,” he says suddenly, softly, without turning around. “You’ve chosen to stay with us, to fight with us, to become a member of Omega Point.” A pause. “We’re going to need your help. And I’m afraid we’re running out of time.”
I watch him leave.
I listen to his departing footsteps and lean my head back against the wall. Close my eyes against the ceiling. Hear his voice, solemn and steady, ringing in my ears.
We’re running out of time, he said.
As if time were the kind of thing you could run out of, as if it were measured into bowls that were handed to us at birth and if we ate too much or too fast or right before jumping into the water then our time would be lost, wasted, already spent.
But time is beyond our finite comprehension. It’s endless, it exists outside of us; we cannot run out of it or lose track of it or find a way to hold on to it. Time goes on even when we do not.
We have plenty of time, is what Castle should have said. We have all the time in the world, is what he should have said to me. But he didn’t because what he meant tick tock is that our time tick tock is shifting. It’s hurtling forward heading in an entirely new direction slamming face-first into something else and
time for war.
I could touch him from here.
His eyes, dark blue. His hair, dark brown. His shirt, too tight in all the right places and his lips, his lips twitch up to flick the switch that lights the fire in my heart and I don’t even have time to blink and exhale before I’m caught in his arms.
“Hey, you,” he whispers, right up against my neck.
I bite back a shiver as the blood rushes up to blush my cheeks and for a moment, just for this moment, I drop my bones and allow him to hold me together. “Hey.” I smile, inhaling the scent of him.
Luxurious, is what this is.
We rarely ever see each other alone. Adam is staying in Kenji’s room with his little brother, James, and I bunk with the healer twins. We probably have less than 20 minutes before the girls get back to this room, and I intend to make the most of this opportunity.
My eyes fall shut.
Adam’s arms wrap around my waist, pulling me closer, and the pleasure is so tremendous I can hardly keep myself from shaking. It’s like my skin and bones have been craving contact, warm affection, human interaction for so many years that I don’t know how to pace myself. I’m a starving child trying to stuff my stomach, gorging my senses on the decadence of these moments as if I’ll wake up in the morning and realize I’m still sweeping cinders for my stepmother.
But then Adam’s lips press against my head and my worries put on a fancy dress and pretend to be something else for a while.
“How are you?” I ask, and it’s so embarrassing because my words are already unsteady even though he’s hardly held me but I can’t make myself let go.
Laughter shakes the shape of his body, soft and rich and indulgent. But he doesn’t respond to my question and I know he won’t.
We’ve tried so many times to sneak off together, only to be caught and chastised for our negligence. We are not allowed outside of our rooms after lights-out. Once our grace period—a leniency granted on account of our very abrupt arrival—ended, Adam and I had to follow the rules just like everyone else. And there are a lot of rules to follow.
These security measures—cameras everywhere, around every corner, in every hallway—exist to prepare us in the case of an attack. Guards patrol at night, looking for any suspicious noise, activity, or sign of a breach. Castle and his team are vigilant in protecting Omega Point, and they’re unwilling to take even the slightest risks; if trespassers get too close to this hideout, someone has to do anything and everything necessary to keep them away.
Castle claims it’s their very vigilance that’s kept them from discovery for so long, and if I’m perfectly honest, I can see his rationale in being so strict about it. But these same strict measures keep me and Adam apart. He and I never see each other except during mealtimes, when we’re always surrounded by other people, and any free time I have is spent locked in a training room where I’m supposed to “harness my Energy.” Adam is just as unhappy about it as I am.
I touch his cheek.
He takes a tight breath. Turns to me. Tells me too much with his eyes, so much that I have to look away because I feel it all too acutely. My skin is hypersensitive, finally finally finally awake and thrumming with life, humming with feelings so intense it’s almost indecent.
I can’t even hide it.
He sees what he does to me, what happens to me when his fingers graze my skin, when his lips get too close to my face, when the heat of his body against mine forces my eyes to close and my limbs to tremble and my knees to buckle under pressure. I see what it does to him, too, to know that he has that effect on me. He tortures me sometimes, smiling as he takes too long to bridge the gap between us, reveling in the sound of my heart slamming against my chest, in the sharp breaths I fight so hard to control, in the way I swallow a hundred times just before he moves to kiss me. I can’t even look at him without reliving every moment we’ve had together, every memory of his lips, his touch, his scent, his skin. It’s too much for me, too much, so much, so new, so many exquisite sensations I’ve never known, never felt, never even had access to before.
Sometimes I’m afraid it will kill me.
I break free of his arms; I’m hot and cold and feeling unsteady, hoping I can get myself under control, hoping he’ll forget how easily he affects me, and I know I need a moment to pull myself together. I stumble backward; I cover my face with my hands and try to think of something to say but everything is shaking and I catch him looking at me, looking like he might inhale the length of me in one breath.
No is the word I think I hear him whisper.
All I know next are his arms, the desperate edge to his voice when he says my name, and I’m unraveling in his embrace, I’m frayed and falling apart and I’m making no effort to control the tremors in my bones and he’s so hot his skin is so hot and I don’t even know where I am anymore.
His right hand slides up my spine and tugs on the zipper holding my suit together until it’s halfway down my back and I don’t care. I have 17 years to make up for and I want to feel everything. I’m not interested in waiting around and risking the who-knows and the what-ifs and the huge regrets. I want to feel all of it because what if I wake up to find this phenomenon has passed, that the expiration date has arrived, that my chance came and went and would never return. That these hands will feel this warmth never again.