“Why?” I ask.
It’s just a word, stupid and simple.
“Why is the battle over?” I ask. I’m not breathing anymore, not really speaking at all; just expelling letters through my lips.
Warner is not looking at me.
He’s looking at the wall and at the floor and at the bedsheets and at the way his knuckles look when he clenches his fists but no not at me he won’t look at me and his next words are so, so soft.
“Because they’re dead, love. They’re all dead.”
My body locks.
My bones, my blood, my brain freeze in place, seizing in some kind of sudden, uncontrollable paralysis that spreads through me so quickly I can’t seem to breathe. I’m wheezing in deep, strained inhalations, and the walls won’t stop swaying in front of me.
Warner pulls me into his arms.
“Let go of me,” I scream, but, oh, only in my imagination because my lips are finished working and my heart has just expired and my mind has gone to hell for the day and my eyes my eyes I think they’re bleeding. Warner is whispering words of comfort I can’t hear and his arms are wrapped entirely around me, trying to keep me together through sheer physical force but it’s no use.
I feel nothing.
Warner is shushing me, rocking me back and forth, and it’s only then that I realize I’m making the most excruciating, earsplitting sound, agony ripping through me. I want to speak, to protest, to accuse Warner, to blame him, to call him a liar, but I can say nothing, can form nothing but sounds so pitiful I’m almost ashamed of myself. I break free of his arms, gasping and doubling over, clutching my stomach.
“Adam.” I choke on his name.
“Kenji.” I’m hyperventilating into the carpet now.
“Please, love, let me help you—”
“What about James?” I hear myself say. “He was left at Omega Point—he wasn’t a-allowed to c-come—”
“It’s all been destroyed,” Warner says slowly, quietly. “Everything. They tortured some of your members into giving away the exact location of Omega Point. Then they bombed the entire thing.”
“Oh, God.” I cover my mouth with one hand and stare, unblinking, at the ceiling.
“I’m so sorry,” he says. “You have no idea how sorry I am.”
“Liar,” I whisper, venom in my voice. I’m angry and mean and I can’t be bothered to care. “You’re not sorry at all.”
I glance at Warner just long enough to see the hurt flash in and out of his eyes. He clears his throat.
“I am sorry,” he says again, quiet but firm. He picks up his jacket from where it was hanging on a nearby rack; shrugs it on without a word.
“Where are you going?” I ask, guilty in an instant.
“You need time to process this and you clearly have no use for my company. I will attend to a few tasks until you’re ready to talk.”
“Please tell me you’re wrong.” My voice breaks. My breath catches. “Tell me there’s a chance you could be wrong—”
Warner stares at me for what feels like a long time. “If there were even the slightest chance I could spare you this pain,” he finally says, “I would’ve taken it. You must know I wouldn’t have said it if it weren’t absolutely true.”
And it’s this—his sincerity—that finally snaps me in half.
Because the truth is so unbearable I wish he’d spare me a lie.
I don’t remember when Warner left.
I don’t remember how he left or what he said. All I know is that I’ve been lying here curled up on the floor long enough. Long enough for the tears to turn to salt, long enough for my throat to dry up and my lips to chap and my head to pound as hard as my heart.
I sit up slowly, feel my brain twist somewhere in my skull. I manage to climb onto the bed and sit there, still numb but less so, and pull my knees to my chest.
Life without Adam.
Life without Kenji, without James and Castle and Sonya and Sara and Brendan and Winston and all of Omega Point. My friends, all destroyed with the flick of a switch.
Life without Adam.
I hold on tight, pray the pain will pass.
Adam is gone.
My first love. My first friend. My only friend when I had none and now he’s gone and I don’t know how I feel. Strange, mostly. Delirious, too. I feel empty and broken and cheated and guilty and angry and desperately, desperately sad.
We’d been growing apart since escaping to Omega Point, but that was my fault. He wanted more from me, but I wanted him to live a long life. I wanted to protect him from the pain I would cause him. I tried to forget him, to move on without him, to prepare myself for a future separate and apart from him.
I thought staying away would keep him alive.
The tears are fresh and falling fast now, traveling quietly down my cheeks and into my open, gasping mouth. My shoulders won’t stop shaking and my fists keep clenching and my body is cramping and my knees are knocking and old habits are crawling out of my skin and I’m counting cracks and colors and sounds and shudders and rocking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and I have to let him go I have to let him go I have to I have to
I close my eyes
Harsh, hard, rasping breaths.
I’ve been here before, I tell myself. I’ve been lonelier than this, more hopeless than this, more desperate than this. I’ve been here before and I survived. I can get through this.
But never have I been so thoroughly robbed. Love and possibility, friendships and futures: gone. I have to start over now; face the world alone again. I have to make one final choice: give up or go on.
So I get to my feet.
My head is spinning, thoughts knocking into one another, but I swallow back the tears. I clench my fists and try not to scream and I tuck my friends in my heart and
has never looked so sweet.
One day I might break
One day I might
b r e a k
Warner can’t hide his surprise when he walks back into the room.