Continued from ‘We need a Favor‘
“But you just said that they were dangerous. That they-” I swallow the lump in my throat. “That they use them for pleasure.” My voice cracks on the last word, horrified and disgusted all at the same time.
My assailant from campus flashes across my mind. I can’t do that again. I can’t be in that position. I can’t!
“Yes,” Mal returns in the calmest voice possible.
“NO!” I shout at her. My hands tremble. “I can’t do it! I won’t do it! You can’t make me!”
Mal’s shoulders settle and she nods. “You’re right. We can’t make you.”
Victory flutters in my chest. I’ve won. They won’t feed me to the dogs.
“But we can leave you out here.” She pauses long enough for my jaw to drop open. “Alone.”
With that, she turns from me and heads back towards the street. “Girls, let’s go.”
Jade glances over her shoulder at me, conflict creeping across her face. “I’m sorry, Natalie,” she mutters as Lea pulls on her arm.
The girls vanish around the corner. They’re actually going to leave me! My heart skips into a flurry when something at the other end of the alley creaks and echoes off the narrow walls. I jolt into the street after the girls.
They’re halfway down the block and I rush after them. Adrenaline allows me to run faster than I’ve ever run before and I practically cling to Mal when I catch up.
“You can’t leave me out here!” It would be wrong to leave me out here. It would be immoral. Yes, that’s it. They can’t do this to me.
“Actually,” Mal returns, grabbing my fingers and prying them off her arm. “We can. You see, Natalie,” she continues like she’s smarter than I am. “I offered you a spot in our pack, Natalie, and it still stands, but every member of the pack has to contribute.”
My eyes widen in horror. “Why can’t I do what the other girls do? Why can’t I run patrols and gather supplies?”
Car rolls her eyes, answering for Mal. “Because you’d be a nightmare at it.”
“You grow nauseous at the sight of a corpse. You scream and whimper whenever a blade is pulled out. You wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight. You’d be a liability to any team we put you on.”
“Then teach me,” I beg, dropping to my knees. “Please! Teach me! I’ll do anything! Just… just don’t make me go to them.” My head shakes back and forth, throwing my hair out around me.
Jade steps up. She places a hand on my shoulder. “Come on, Mal. There must be something else she can do.” Her voice is even, unlike the heavy waver of my own.
Mal inclines her head, glancing at me down the length of her nose. “I’m sorry, but no.” She shakes her head.
“Mal!” Jade exclaims.
The leader of the group throws her hand up for silence. “None of us can go to the theater group. They know all of our faces. Natalie is the only person who can go. She’s the only who has an in and if this boy really did save her, then…” She inhales and exhales. “Maybe they won’t be too hard on her.”
My stomach tumbles and spins while my mind skips to Derek. He couldn’t be like them. He saved me. He protected me. He couldn’t possibly be like the men that Mal is explaining. He’s better than that. He traded his life for mine. He would never abuse me… would he?
“Too hard on her?!” Anger floods Jade’s tone. “You sound as callous as Lysander from the theater group, Mal. Tell me. Where’d you drop your heart so you can pick it up and put it back into your body?”
Fury glows in Mal’s eyes as she glares at Jade. “You know what they’ve done to us, Jade. Don’t you want revenge for what they did to Lea?” She throws her arm in the blonde girl’s direction.
Lea turns away, dropping her head.
“Of course I do!” Jade returns.
“Then this is our chance!”
“By sacrificing an innocent girl to the wolves?!” Her voice echoes off the surrounding buildings in a swell of noise.
“You guys, keep it down,” Lea hisses, her voice soft and fragile. It’s nothing like it was before. “We’re too close to theater territory.”
Mal nods, checks herself, and glances back to me. “I’ve made my decision. Be a spy and I promise we’ll rescue you and protect you once we’ve gotten the information we need. Or… figure out how to survive on your own out here, which…” Her blue eyes slide across my crumpled form. “Based on the condition in which we found you last time, you may not want to do.”
My shoulder slump. I’ve lost. There’s no way out of this. I can’t do what she says. I don’t have the courage. I can’t go somewhere I know the people will torture me in the most gruesome ways possible, but… would it really be worse than starving to death or being kidnapped on the streets? Either way, I could end up in the same spot. The only difference is, Mal is offering me a way out of the torture.
Somehow I climb to my feet. Somehow I find the strength to stand. “You-” My voice breaks off. “You promise to come get me?” I’m not sure if my voice is even loud enough to be heard, but both Jade and Mal react.
“Natalie, no!” I ignore Jade when Mal nods.
“Yes. We will come get you the moment we get the intel we need. You have my word.” She places a hand on my shoulder and stares right into my eyes. The sincerity dripping from her almost crushes me or maybe it’s my weakness that does that.
“Fine,” I concede.
Jade groans and storms back over to Lea.
“I’ll be your spy. When…” I inhale, praying that I’ll inhale courage along with oxygen. “When do I start?”