Page 48

“I’m s-sorry,” I stammer, “I’m so sorry—I never meant for this to happen—I wasn’t thinking—”

But he’s not listening.

He’s shaking his head over and over and over and he’s looking at his hands like he’s waiting for the part where someone tells him this isn’t real and he whispers “What’s happening to me? Am I dreaming?”

And I’m so sick, I’m so confused, because I want him, I want him and I want Adam, too, and I want too much and I’ve never felt more like a monster than I have tonight.

The pain is so plain on his face and it’s killing me.

I feel it. I feel it killing me.

I’m trying so hard to look away, to forget, to figure out how to erase what just happened but all I can think is that life is like a broken tire swing, an unborn child, a fistful of wishbones. It’s all possibility and potential, wrong and right steps toward a future we’re not even guaranteed and I, I am so wrong. All of my steps are wrong, always wrong. I am the incarnation of error.

Because this never should have happened.

This was a mistake.

“You’re choosing him?” Warner asks, barely breathing, still looking as if he might fall over. “Is that what just happened? You’re choosing Kent over me? Because I don’t think I understand what just happened and I need you to say something, I need you to tell me what the hell is happening to me right now—”

“No,” I gasp. “No, I’m not choosing anyone—I’m not—I’m n-not—”

But I am. And I don’t even know how I got here.

“Why?” he says. “Because he’s the safer choice for you? Because you think you owe him something? You are making a mistake,” he says, his voice louder now. “You’re scared. You don’t want to make the difficult choice and you’re running away from me.”

“Maybe I just d-don’t want to be with you.”

“I know you want to be with me!” he explodes.

“You’re wrong.”

Oh my God what am I saying I don’t even know where I’m finding these words, where they’re coming from or which tree I’ve plucked them from. They just keep growing in my mouth and sometimes I bite down too hard on an adverb or a pronoun and sometimes the words are bitter, sometimes they’re sweet, but right now everything tastes like romance and regret and liar liar pants on fire all the way down my throat.

Warner is still staring.

“Really?” He struggles to rein in his temper and takes a step closer, so much closer, and I can see his face too clearly, I can see his lips too clearly, I can see the anger and the pain and the disbelief etched into his features and I’m not so sure I should be standing anymore. I don’t think my legs can carry me much longer.

“Y-yes.” I pluck another word from the tree lying in my mouth, lying lying lying on my lips.

“So I’m wrong.” He says the sentence quietly, so, so quietly. “I’m wrong that you want me. That you want to be with me.” His fingers graze my shoulders, my arms; his hands slide down the sides of my body, tracing every inch of me and I’m pressing my mouth shut to keep the truth from falling out but I’m failing and failing and failing because the only truth I know right now is that I’m mere moments from losing my mind.

“Tell me something, love.” His lips are whispering against my jaw. “Am I blind, too?”

I am actually going to die.

“I will not be your clown!” He breaks away from me. “I will not allow you to make a mockery of my feelings for you! I could respect your decision to shoot me, Juliette, but doing this—doing—doing what you just did—” He can hardly speak. He runs a hand across his face, both hands through his hair, looking like he wants to scream, to break something, like he’s really, truly about to lose his mind. His voice is a rough whisper when he finally speaks. “It’s the play of a coward,” he says. “I thought you were so much better than that.”

“I’m not a coward—”

“Then be honest with yourself!” he says. “Be honest with me! Tell me the truth!”

My head is rolling around on the floor, spinning like a wooden top, circling around and around and around and I can’t make it stop. I can’t make the world stop spinning and my confusion is bleeding into guilt which quickly evolves into anger and suddenly it’s bubbling raging rising to the surface and I look at him. I clench my shaking hands into fists. “The truth,” I tell him, “is that I never know what to think of you! Your actions, your behavior—you’re never consistent! You’re horrible to me and then you’re kind to me and you tell me you love me and then you hurt the ones I care most about!

“And you’re a liar,” I snap, backing away from him. “You say you don’t care about what you do—you say you don’t care about other people and what you’ve done to them but I don’t believe it. I think you’re hiding. I think the real you is hiding underneath all of the destruction and I think you’re better than this life you’ve chosen for yourself. I think you can change. I think you could be different. And I feel sorry for you!”

These words these stupid stupid words they won’t stop spilling from my mouth.

“I’m sorry for your horrible childhood. I’m sorry you have such a miserable, worthless father and I’m sorry no one ever took a chance on you. I’m sorry for the terrible decisions you’ve made. I’m sorry that you feel trapped by them, that you think of yourself as a monster who can’t be changed. But most of all,” I tell him, “most of all I’m sorry that you have no mercy for yourself!”

Warner flinches like I’ve slapped him in the face.

The silence between us has slaughtered a thousand innocent seconds and when he finally speaks his voice is barely audible, raw with disbelief.

“You pity me.”

My breath catches. My resolve wavers.

“You think I’m some kind of broken project you can repair.”

“No—I didn’t—”

“You have no idea what I’ve done!” His words are furious as he steps forward. “You have no idea what I’ve seen, what I’ve had to be a part of. You have no idea what I’m capable of or how much mercy I deserve. I know my own heart,” he snaps. “I know who I am. Don’t you dare pity me!”

Oh my legs are definitely not working.

“I thought you could love me for me,” he says. “I thought you would be the one person in this godforsaken world who would accept me as I am! I thought you, of all people, would understand.” His face is right in front of mine when he says, “I was wrong. I was so horribly, horribly wrong.”

He backs away. He grabs his shirt and he turns to leave and I should let him go, I should let him walk out the door and out of my life but I can’t, I catch his arm, I pull him back and I say, “Please—that’s not what I meant—”

He spins around and he says, “I do not want your sympathy!”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you—”

“The truth,” he says, “is a painful reminder of why I prefer to live among the lies.”

I can’t stomach the look in his eyes, the wretched, awful pain he’s making no effort to conceal. I don’t know what to say to make this right. I don’t know how to take my words back.

I know I don’t want him to leave.

Not like this.

He looks as if he might speak; he changes his mind. He takes a tight breath, presses his lips together as if to stop the words from escaping and I’m about to say something, I’m about to try again when he pulls in a shaky breath, when he says, “Good-bye, Juliette.”

And I don’t know why it’s killing me, I can’t understand my sudden anxiety and I need to know, I have to say it, I have to ask the question that isn’t a question and I say “I won’t see you again.”

I watch him struggle to find the words, I watch him turn to me and turn away and for one split second I see what’s happened, I see the difference in his eyes, the shine of emotion I never would’ve dreamed him capable of and I know, I understand why he won’t look at me and I can’t believe it. I want to fall to the floor as he fights himself, fights to speak, fights to swallow back the tremor in his voice when he says, “I certainly hope not.”

And that’s it.

He walks out.

I’m split clean in half and he’s gone.

He’s gone forever.


Breakfast is an ordeal.

Warner has disappeared and he’s left a trail of chaos in his wake.

No one knows how he escaped, how he managed to get out of his room and find his way out of here and everyone is blaming Castle. Everyone is saying he was stupid to trust Warner, to give him a chance, to believe he might have changed.

Angry is an insult to the level of aggression in here right now.

But I’m not going to be the one to tell everyone that Warner was already out of his room last night. I’m not going to be the one to tell them that he probably didn’t have to do much to find the exit. I won’t explain to them that he’s not an idiot.

I’m sure he figured it out easily enough. I’m sure he found a way to get past the guards.

Now everyone is ready to fight, but for all the wrong reasons. They want to murder Warner: first for all he’s done; second for betraying their trust. More frightening still, everyone is worried that he’ll give away all of our most sensitive information. I have no idea what Warner managed to discover about this place before he left, but nothing that happens now can possibly be good.

No one has even touched their breakfasts.

We’re all dressed, armed, ready to face what could be an almost instant death, and I’m feeling little more than entirely numb. I didn’t sleep at all last night, my heart and mind plagued and conflicted and I can’t feel my limbs, I can’t taste the food I’m not eating and I can’t see straight, I can’t focus on the things I’m supposed to be hearing. All I can think about are all the casualties and Warner’s lips on my neck, his hands on my body, the pain and passion in his eyes and the many possible ways I could die today. I can only think about Warner touching me, kissing me, torturing me with his heart and Adam sitting beside me, not knowing what I’ve done.

It probably won’t even matter after today.

Maybe I’ll be killed and maybe all the agony of these past 17 years will have been for naught. Maybe I’ll just fall right off the face of the Earth, gone forever, and all of my adolescent angst will have been a ridiculous afterthought, a laughable memory.

But maybe I’ll survive.

Maybe I’ll survive and I’ll have to face the consequences of my actions. I’ll have to stop lying to myself; I’ll have to actually make a decision.

I have to face the fact that I’m battling feelings for someone who has no qualms about putting a bullet in another man’s head. I have to consider the possibility that I might really be turning into a monster. A horrible, selfish creature who cares only about herself.