- Unravel Me
“I need your help,” Castle says without looking at me. “I know you don’t want to do this, but you’re the only one he’ll listen to and we can’t afford this distraction, not right now.” His voice is so thin, so stretched it sounds as if it might actually crack. “Please do what you can to contain him, and when you deem it safe for one of the girls to enter, perhaps we can find a way to sedate him without endangering them in the process.”
My eyes flick up to Adam almost accidentally. He doesn’t look happy.
“Juliette.” Castle’s jaw tightens. “Please. Go now.”
I nod. Turn to leave.
“Get ready,” Castle adds as I walk out the door, his voice too soft for the words he speaks next. “Unless we have been deceived, the supreme will be massacring unarmed civilians tomorrow, and we can’t afford to assume Warner has given us false information. We leave at dawn.”
The guards let me into Warner’s room without a single word.
My eyes dart around the now partially furnished space, heart pounding, fists clenching, blood racing racing racing. Something is wrong. Something has happened. Warner was perfectly fine when I left him last night and I can’t imagine what could’ve inspired him to lose his mind like this but I’m scared.
Someone has given him a chair. I realize now how he was able to dent the steel door. No one should’ve given him a chair.
Warner is sitting in it, his back to me. Only his head is visible from where I’m standing.
“You came back,” he says.
“Of course I came back,” I tell him, inching closer. “What’s wrong? Is something wrong?”
He laughs. Runs a hand through his hair. Looks up at the ceiling.
“What happened?” I’m so worried now. “Are you—did something happen to you? Are you okay?”
“I need to get out of here,” he says. “I need to leave. I can’t be here anymore.”
“Do you know what he said to me? Did he tell you what he said to me?”
“He just walked into my room this morning. He walked right in here and said he wanted to have a conversation with me.” Warner laughs again, loud, too loud. Shakes his head. “He told me I can change. He said I might have a gift like everyone else here—that maybe I have an ability. He said I can be different, love. He said he believes I can be different if I want to be.”
Castle told him.
Warner stands up but doesn’t turn around all the way and I see he’s not wearing a shirt. He doesn’t even seem to mind that I can see the scars on his back, the word IGNITE tattooed on his body. His hair is messy, untamed, falling into his face and his pants are zipped but unbuttoned and I’ve never seen him so disheveled before. He presses his palms against the stone wall, arms outstretched; his body is bowed, his head down as if in prayer. His entire body is tense, tight, muscles straining against his skin. His clothes are in a pile on the floor and his mattress is in the middle of the room and the chair he was just sitting in is facing the wall, staring at nothing at all and I realize he’s begun to lose his mind in here.
“Can you believe that?” he asks me, still not looking in my direction. “Can you believe he thinks I can just wake up one morning and be different? Sing happy songs and give money to the poor and beg the world to forgive me for what I’ve done? Do you think that’s possible? Do you think I can change?”
He finally turns to face me and his eyes are laughing, his eyes are like emeralds glinting in the setting sun and his mouth is twitching, suppressing a smile. “Do you think I could be different?” He takes a few steps toward me and I don’t know why it affects my breathing. Why I can’t find my mouth.
“It’s just a question,” he says, and he’s right in front of me and I don’t even know how he got there. He’s still looking at me, his eyes so focused and so simultaneously unnerving, brilliant, blazing with something I can never place.
My heart it will not be still it refuses to stop skipping skipping skipping
“Tell me, Juliette. I’d love to know what you really think of me.”
“Why?” Barely a whisper in an attempt to buy some time.
Warner’s lips flicker up and into a smile before they fall open, just a bit, just enough to twitch into a strange, curious look that lingers in his eyes. He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t say a word. He only moves closer to me, studying me and I’m frozen in place, my mouth stuffed full of the seconds he doesn’t speak and I’m fighting every atom in my body, every stupid cell in my system for being so attracted to him.
I am so horribly attracted to him.
The guilt is growing inside of me in stacks, settling on my bones, snapping me in half. It’s a cable twisted around my neck, a caterpillar crawling across my stomach. It’s the night and midnight and the twilight of indecision. It’s too many secrets I no longer contain.
I don’t understand why I want this.
I am a terrible person.
And it’s like he sees what I’m thinking, like he can feel the change happening in my head, because suddenly he’s different. His energy slows down, his eyes are deep, troubled, tender; his lips are soft, still slightly parted and now the air in this room is too tight, too full of cotton and I feel the blood rushing around in my head, crashing into every rational region of my brain.
I wish someone would remind me how to breathe.
“Why can’t you answer my question?” He’s looking so deeply into my eyes that I’m surprised I haven’t buckled under the intensity and I realize then, right in this moment I realize that everything about him is intense. Nothing about him is manageable or easy to compartmentalize. He’s too much. Everything about him is too much. His emotions, his actions, his anger, his aggression.
He’s dangerous, electric, impossible to contain. His body is rippling with an energy so extraordinary that even when he’s calmed down it’s almost palpable. It has a presence.
But I’ve developed a strange, frightening faith in who Warner really is and who he has the capacity to become. I want to find the 19-year-old boy who would feed a stray dog. I want to believe in the boy with a tortured childhood and an abusive father. I want to understand him. I want to unravel him.
I want to believe he is more than the mold he was forced into.
“I think you can change,” I hear myself saying. “I think anyone can change.”
And he smiles.
It’s a slow, delighted smile. The kind of smile that breaks into a laugh and lights up his features and makes him sigh. He closes his eyes. His face is so touched, so amused. “It’s just so sweet,” he says. “So unbearably sweet. Because you really believe that.”
“Of course I do.”
He finally looks at me when he whispers, “But you’re wrong.”
“I’m heartless,” he says to me, his words cold, hollow, directed inward. “I’m a heartless bastard and a cruel, vicious being. I don’t care about people’s feelings. I don’t care about their fears or their futures. I don’t care about what they want or whether or not they have a family, and I’m not sorry,” he says. “I’ve never been sorry for anything I’ve done.”
It actually takes me a few moments to find my head. “But you apologized to me,” I tell him. “You apologized to me just last night—”
“You’re different,” he says, cutting me off. “You don’t count.”
“I’m not different,” I tell him. “I’m just another person, just like everyone else. And you’ve proven you have the capacity for remorse. For compassion. I know you can be kind—”
“That’s not who I am.” His voice is suddenly hard, suddenly too strong. “And I’m not going to change. I can’t erase the nineteen miserable years of my life. I can’t misplace the memories of what I’ve done. I can’t wake up one morning and decide to live on borrowed hopes and dreams. Someone else’s promises for a brighter future.
“And I won’t lie to you,” he says. “I’ve never given a damn about others and I don’t make sacrifices and I do not compromise. I am not good, or fair, or decent, and I never will be. I can’t be. Because to try to be any of those things would be embarrassing.”
“How can you think that?” I want to shake him. “How can you be ashamed of an attempt to be better?”
But he’s not listening. He’s laughing. He’s saying, “Can you even picture me? Smiling at small children and handing out presents at birthday parties? Can you picture me helping a stranger? Playing with the neighbor’s dog?”
“Yes,” I say to him. “Yes I can.” I’ve already seen it, I don’t say to him.
“Why not?” I insist. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“That kind of life,” he says, “is impossible for me.”
Warner clenches and unclenches 5 fingers before running them through his hair. “Because I feel it,” he says, quieter now. “I’ve always been able to feel it.”
“Feel what?” I whisper.
“What people think of me.”
“Their feelings—their energy—it’s—I don’t know what it is,” he says, frustrated, stumbling backward, shaking his head. “I’ve always been able to tell. I know how everyone hates me. I know how little my father cares for me. I know the agony of my mother’s heart. I know that you’re not like everyone else.” His voice catches. “I know you’re telling the truth when you say you don’t hate me. That you want to and you can’t. Because there’s no ill will in your heart, not toward me, and if there was I would know. Just like I know,” he says, his voice husky with restraint, “that you felt something when we kissed. You felt the same thing I did and you’re ashamed of it.”
I’m dripping panic everywhere.
“How can you know that?” I ask him. “H-how—you can’t just know things like that—”
“No one has ever looked at me like you do,” he whispers. “No one ever talks to me like you do, Juliette. You’re different,” he says. “You’re so different. You would understand me. But the rest of the world does not want my sympathies. They don’t want my smiles. Castle is the only man on Earth who’s been the exception to this rule, and his eagerness to trust and accept me only shows how weak this resistance is. No one here knows what they’re doing and they’re all going to get themselves slaughtered—”
“That’s not true—that can’t be true—”
“Listen to me,” Warner says, urgently now. “You must understand—the only people who matter in this wretched world are the ones with real power. And you,” he says, “you have power. You have the kind of strength that could shake this planet—that could conquer it. And maybe it’s still too soon, maybe you need more time to recognize your own potential, but I will always be waiting. I will always want you on my side. Because the two of us—the two of us,” he says, he stops. He sounds breathless. “Can you imagine?” His eyes are intent on mine, eyebrows drawn together. Studying me. “Of course you can,” he whispers. “You think about it all the time.”