Chapter 9: leaving to shadowy silence and dismay

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Dinner that night is more talkative than the day before. My brother sits with us, if front of me and beside Harper, and steals food off of my tray when he thinks I’m not looking. None of us are in good moods, but we aren’t quite as shell shocked as we were; Alice and Tamsin even sit with us, though they give Four funny looks when he slides his bowl of banana pudding onto my tray. I retaliate by letting him have my portion of chocolate cake.

“I have decided,” Az says to the table, setting her fork on her tray, “that I want another tattoo.”

“It’s been two days,” I tell her. “And your first one is infected.”

“Irritated,” she says. “Not infected. I want another one.”

“What do you want?” Alice asks.

“I have no idea. Who else has got one?”

Alice, Tamsin, and Az all raise their hands.

“You have one,” Az says, pointing at Four. “What is it?”

“It’s a big fat sign that reads ‘fuck off’.”

“Never mind,” she says, and I kick my brother under table.

“Stop kicking me,” he hisses.

“Then stop being an asshole,” I hiss back. I like that my brother and I no longer have to think about each other’s feelings before we say anything. I like being able to speak my mind without someone fussing at me for being selfish; I can be as selfish as I want now.

“I’d stop being an asshole if you’d stop kicking me.”

“Liar. You’d keep pushing until I punched you again.”

“You punch like a girl,” he sneers.

“Of course I do,” I say smiling. “Seemed pretty effective to me.”

He rolls his eyes and dumps a piece of chocolate cake in my pudding.

***

I feel like I can’t breathe. I try to open my mouth, bring the air back into my lungs, something, but I just can’t. It’s dark, and hot, and when I feel a hand grab my wrist as I flail, I realize this isn’t a dream. The hand over my face moves and I can finally breathe through my nose, but I can’t make a sound, can’t call for help, if any would even come. I don’t know who’s here with me, but unless they have more than two hands, there are at least two of them.

It starts like a quiet whisper in my ear, and grows louder like an enormous crowd cheering, more and more and more people chanting. I don’t realize where we’re headed until one of the men’s feet steps on metal grating, and I hear it rock and sway under his weight. We’re headed for the chasm.

No one will think it’s murder, a voice in my head whispers, Eric has caught you out here twice. He’ll just think you really were suicidal, that you just went ahead and jumped. And these two will get away with it. No one will care about the death of another initiate, especially a transfer.

I scurry away, and yank whatever is in my mouth out, intending to be able to bit whatever comes at me next. I put my back to the tunnel wall and fling my hair out of my face. The man stalking in my direction is bigger than I thought he was, and when his nose crinkles, I know who it is. This is the same man and his friend that pushed me on the stairs when I had Adele with me.

The two men that threw me over scramble away from the edge until one of them realizes that I haven’t fallen into the water. The friend growls and stalks towards me and begins to pry my fingers from the bar. I do what I can to stop him, but it’s honestly not much. I’m too busy watching my fingers slip from the bar, too worried thinking about what’s going to happen next, and I don’t see someone punch the other one in the face. The one prying my fingers from their hold is shoved away, and two hands are grabbing my arms and pulling me up.

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