Continued from ‘Lies Drag us Down‘
My anger shuts me down. It drains all my energy. Some would call it a cool fire, caused by my water adaptation, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. It doesn’t make me any less betrayed by Alice. It just means I won’t face her about it.
I wander far away from the fire, from Alice, from Julian. I wander past my makeshift house and the bed these people have given me. For what? What has it all been for if Alice never wanted me here? If all she cared about was Julian? Why did I follow her? Why did I care about her? Why… did I let myself be so stupid?
On the outskirts of all the ‘houses’ I find true darkness in the night. Beyond here is nothing. Nothing but flat, empty, dry land. No life. No water. Nothing for me.
I settle onto the ground and bend my knees. My arms rest atop them while my fingers entwine themselves in an attempt to understand just what I’m doing out here. I came here for Alice. I know that. She’s my friend. I care about her. I don’t want to see her get hurt. I can’t just sit idly by and let her do something foolish, but is that really my job? Can’t she take care of herself?
A sigh heaves from my lungs and I lean back to lay on the ground. Stars twinkle at me. They blink in and out. They mirror the way sun sparkles on water and it makes me yearn for home, home I’ll never see again. I left my family for Alice. I left my future for Alice. I was fine with living the mundane life Alice hates so much and yet I gave it up by following her. Why? Why did I follow her?
“It’s dangerous to be out this far alone,” a familiar voice informs me.
I don’t look up. I don’t move. I don’t have to.
Kalla pops into view, her wavy blonde hair dangling down about her face as she leans over me. “You don’t even have any way to protect yourself.”
I roll my eyes at her and tip my head away. She doesn’t have to remind me how weak I am, how pathetic I am. “What do you care? Aren’t I just a city blood to you?”
“You’re still my responsibility.”
“Not anymore. I remove your responsibility of me. Now leave me alone.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” she returns, adamant as ever. “You’re my responsibility until you leave this camp.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be leaving soon,” I grumble.
Kalla jabs her foot into my shoulder.
“Ouch!” My head snaps to look up at her, angered by her attack. “What was that for?”
“You being full of self-pity. It’s pathetic.”
“That’s me!” I call out with a roll of my eyes. “The pathetic city blood.”
Kalla stares down at me. “I didn’t mean what I said earlier.”
“Yes, you did,” I counter, my tone calm again.
After a moment, Kalla settles on the ground next to me. “You’re right, I did. You are weak.”
“Thanks.” I glare at her out of the corner of my eye from where I lay.
“At least physically,” she continues. “But physical strength isn’t everything. You’re strong in other ways.”
“Is this about to be a pep talk because I’m really not in the-“
Kalla slaps a hand down on my arm and a tingling sensation shoots through my body, numbing it. “Just shut up a moment.”
My throat closes up from the numbing and I have no choice but to do as she says despite my anger towards her for doing this to me.
“I know how much you care about, Alice.”
Her words catch me off guard.
“It’s obvious in the way you demanded information about her when you first woke, in the way you tried to see her, the way you followed her out here into the Unknown despite not knowing what was here.”
My eyes widen.
“I overheard your conversation. The entire camp did.”
My eyes close as embarrassment flushes through me. I should’ve kept my mouth shut.
“You care about her and that makes you strong. It gives you the strength to do what it takes to protect her.”
Feeling returns to my body and I slowly sit up. “Yeah and look where it got me.”
“Do you only ever see the negative in the world?” She asks, tilting her head to the side as she looks at me.
I clamp my mouth shut and glance to the ground. I have been awfully gloomy lately, especially compared to Alice.
“Look. What I’m trying to say is, you care so much about Alice, but you still don’t seem to really understand who she is.”
“That’s not true!”
Kalla silences me with a stern look. “If it weren’t, you would see what she was trying to do this whole time.”
With a tight jaw I demand, “and what’s that?”
Kalla hesitates, her eyes dropping towards the ground. Her fingers slip over the dirt, tossing it into the air. “That she’s trying to let you go because she’s found a new protector.”
My brows furrow. “You don’t mean-“
“Julian,” Kalla chokes out, emotion thickening that one word.
“But-” I try to counter. Yet, nothing comes out. I know Kalla’s right. I saw the way Julian worried over her when the two of them saved us, the way he raced up to her this evening. He cares about her. He cares about her in a different way than I do and… Alice cares about him, too.
“It’s hard to accept, isn’t it?” Kalla asks, dragging her nails across the dirt. Lines carve into the ground like she’s digging for something.
I glance to her. Emotion glitters across her face, a mixture of pain and understanding. “Kalla, what is Julian to you?”
Her fingers stop. They fall limp in the dirt. “It’s… complicated.”
“But you care for him, don’t you?”
In one swift motion, Kalla rises and kicks me in the arm so that I topple over. “It’s none of your business,” she grumbles. “Now, I don’t know if the healer can do anything for you what with you being a water adaptation, but you’d best see her anyway.”
She walks away from me, back towards camp. When I don’t follow she calls back, “come on!”
Scrambling to my feet, I dust off my pants and what’s left of my shirt and follow her, my mind still reeling with questions.
Next Installment: Healer