Clara

Continued from ‘More

I jolt upright. My hands splay against the floor. My legs tangle in the countless blankets. My heart pounds. I breathe heavily. Sweat drenches my body as the image of the dancing flames ebbs back into the nightmare.

The sun isn’t up yet. Darkness still clutches the tiny room and the people sleeping next to me, but I can’t go back to sleep. I can’t watch my parents burn… again.

Leaning forward, I shiver. Fear clutches me as I stare through the darkness. Three bodies lay in the room with me, each one with their back to a wall, but none of them are the woman who saved me. Their shapes are too small.

Somehow I lift myself up. My legs wobble as I inch across the dark room to the door, making sure not to step on anyone. Arabella leans against one wall. While she sits up, her head hangs to one side, ensuring she’s asleep.

In the dim hallway no one moves. But the floor creaks from the front of the house and curiosity drives me towards it, leading me to a kitchen.

The woman stands in front of a window with her back to me. Her arms cross in front of her. The moonlight outlines her immobile shadow.

I step forward. The floor creaks under me.

She glances over her shoulder. Our eyes meet.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “Did I wake you?”

My head shakes.

Turning from the window, she crosses the room to crouch before me. Her mouth gapes, but she ends up chuckling and shaking her head. “I suppose asking if you’re alright is a silly question.” She inhales deeply, expanding her chest full of air. “But I want you to know you’re safe now, okay?”

I nod.

She places her hands on my arms. “I don’t know what you saw today. I can’t imagine what must be going through your mind, but things will get better, I promise.”

“Wha-” I breathe, my voice more air than words. “What’s happening?”

Darkness settles over her shadowed eyes. “It would seem,” she begins, searching the metal floor for answers. “That some adaptations think they’re better than us.”

“B-Better?” I choke.

Her eyes meet mine again. “You’re a metal adaptation,” she confirms.

It’s not a question, but I nod anyway.

“Well, the other adaptations think we aren’t pure because our adaptations are mixtures of theirs.”

“Mix… tures…” I repeat, remembering the word screamed with hatred from earlier.

The woman nods. “The Gods gave you the ability to control both fire and earth, which gives you the ability to control metal as well because it is a combination of the two.”

“And… this is bad?”

“No!” With intensity the woman shakes her head. “No! Of course not! No adaptation is bad. We’re just… special.”

I stare down at her, confused by her words. “The man,” I continue, recalling the air adaptation who dragged me into this section of the city. “He doesn’t like us.”

Once more she shakes her head, but gently. “No. They don’t like us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t like us.” She squeezes my arms. “We are all metal adaptations here in this part of the city now. Do you understand that?”

Gazing at the ground, I absorb her words. All metal adaptations. “Yes.”

“We have to stick together, to help each other.” She tips her head sideways, snagging my attention from the floor. “Do you think you can do that?”

I search her eyes for the answer. Can I do that? Can I help others? …can I even help myself? “I… will try.”

A smile widens across the woman’s face. “That’s all I can ask of you…” She hesitates as if searching for my name.

“Clara.”

“Clara,” she repeats, the smile softening. “What a beautiful name.”

“It was… my… grandmother’s name.”

The woman looks up at me with her big brown eyes. Her hand caresses my cheek. “I’m going to take care of you, Clara. Arabella and I are both going to take care of you.”

Courage trickles into my hand. I don’t know where it comes from or where it was hiding, but it moves my hand to grab the woman’s. I hold it between my tiny hands. “And I… will… take care of… you.” I swallow hard, my throat still sore. I owe her so much for what she’s done for me, what she’s promising to do for me.

Tears pool in the corners of the woman’s eyes. She wipes them away before they can fall. “You’re such a sweetheart, Clara.” Her voice is soft, breathy. “I wish I could give you more.”

I don’t know what she means by this. I don’t know what more she could give me. I could be dead, but she saved me. I could’ve been in danger, but she protected me. I could’ve been alone, but she took me in. “Thank… you.”

Next Installment: May 30th

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