Continued from ‘Ungrateful Protection‘
Despite the residual ache and burn of my limbs, I roll onto my side and turn my head to find the girl I left Buffalo with. A woman braces her like Alice might fall over at any second. It eats away at me to see her so frail. She was always the strong one. How could she be so weak right now?
“Alice,” I croak, my voice as crusty and damaged as before.
Her dark eyes shift to me from behind the mess of black hair and they widen. “K-” She inhales. Her mouth gapes and something deeply emotional settles onto her face. “Kyle!”
My heart nearly breaks to hear her say my name. It feels like forever since I’ve seen her. I didn’t even know if she was alive, much less healthy enough to speak or remember me. Yet, to see her right before me, saying my name is all the reminder I need for why I came out here in the first place. “Alice,” I whisper.
Pushing away from the woman in her natural, forceful nature, Alice stumbles forward. Yet, her feet give way beneath her. Her knees crack into the ground with a sickening crunch and my stomach lurches.
“Young lady,” the woman scolds as she reaches forward and helps Alice back to her feet. “You’re not healthy yet. You need to be careful.”
Alice doesn’t seem to be listening to her. Instead her dark eyes focus on me, never leaving me as the woman directs her over to where I lay on the ground. Here, my best friend falls to her knees once more, gentler than last time. She places a hand on my cheek. It brushes up through my messy hair and she surveys my features. “Kyle, what happened to you?”
Her eyes trickle down to my chest and her brow furrows.
Glancing down, I notice for the first time the remnants of what used to be my shirt. Hardly anything is left. “I…” I don’t know where to start. So much feels like it’s happened in the few days since we arrived here at this place, but what does any of it matter? As soon as Alice is healthy, we’ll leave. We’ll never see this place again. With another look over her pale features, that’s all I want, to leave this place.
“Nothing important,” I inform her, drawing her hand from my hair and raising myself to a seated position.
“Nothing important?” She scoffs, her usual blunt demeanor returning. “Something important must’ve happened for you to start wandering around shirtless.” The playful smile that tugs across her lips, lifts my heart. Only when she’s feeling well does she smile.
“It’s a long story,” I evade. The last thing I want to talk about is the disdain the people here have for us, how they want us to leave, or to kill us, or about Kalla and her protection of me or how I stepped in to protect her. I don’t think Alice would understand. I’m not sure I understand.
“Young lady, you are still healing. You need your rest,” the woman says from where she stands besides Alice.
Alice waves her off. “Kyle can help me back to my bed,” she informs the woman without so much as a glance.
The woman inhales and exhales and shakes her head. “Very well, but if you’re not there soon, I’ll drag you back myself.”
My best friend rolls her eyes like she always does when an elder speaks to her. With the woman gone, Alice grabs my hand and smiles. “I’m so happy you’re alright. I tried asking for you when I woke, but no one would tell me anything.”
“When you woke?” I ask. I had been told she hadn’t woken yet.
“Well… it was more of a daze, I suppose,” she continues with a casual shrug of her shoulders. “But we’re both okay now.” Her smile returns and her eyes dance back and forth between my own like she’s trying to memorize how they look.
Okay… That isn’t the word I’d use to describe what we are. Alice is still too weak to walk, possibly delusional, but she’s always been that way. I, on the other hand, not so much.
My body aches. My mind is exhausted. We’ll never get to return home. We don’t get to stay here. Does Alice know any of that? Would she be so cheery if she knew they were throwing us out?
“I’m starving,” Alice grumbles with a tug on my hand. “Let’s find some food and you can tell me all about what happened while I was in dreamland.”
Despite myself, I chuckle and nod. “Okay. I think there’s food at the fire.” I nod towards the raging inferno these people call a fire. It’s size makes me wary, but Alice is a fire adaptation. Her face lights up at the sight of it.
“How beautiful,” she breathes.
Raising myself to my feet, my legs visibly shaky under me, I somehow manage to hoist Alice up with me. The two of us stumble our way towards the circle. People shuffle aside as we near a tree trunk being used as a bench, but I ignore them. I don’t care what they think about me anymore. In a few days I’ll be gone and they can go back to their twisted, violent lives.
As I stand in line to get food for Alice and I, I start to realize why the electricity adaptations were run out of the city. They might seem just like us on the outside, just adaptations trying to survive. Yet, there’s something else. Something burns within them.
They’re too dangerous to be around other adaptations. I felt the electricity coursing through me, the pain it caused, the agony. I felt myself dying. I would’ve died if it weren’t for Julian, but how many other water, air, fire, and earth adaptations died at the hands of careless electricity adaptations. Despite wanting to give them all a chance, it makes sense that they’d be forced out of the city.
With food in hand, I return to Alice, glancing at the electricity adaptations I pass. I can’t wait to leave here. I can’t wait to be away from them all. Even Julian and Kalla show signs of having secrets, of something raging deep within them, and I don’t want to be around when it’s released.
I glance at Alice out of the corner of my eye. I can’t risk Alice being around when that happens. Frankly, I agree with Rayna. As soon as Alice is healed, we have to leave.
Next Installment: Lies Drag Us Down