Fury driving me forward, I thrust myself around Ryder and towards my reprieve. The boiler room where I can slip through and get back to Geha. My home. Where I belong. Not out here with Ryder and the rest of the Unfavorable. I shouldn’t have let my emotions get the better of me. I let it cloud my judgement, and he used my weakness against me. After everything I’ve been taught, I should have been smarter than this. It’s my own fault I got into this mess. I’m grateful that Ryder doesn’t try to stop me from going back this time.
I stomp along the grass, keeping my eyes targeted on my destination. The humid heat hits me the minute my foot touches clay again. In my peripherals, I can see the Burners preparing to leave for the day. It gives me the perfect distraction to slip in unnoticed. I duck into the room with shelves of scrolls without any problems. Not knowing whether Ryder decided to follow me or not, I grab the back out of the drawer and practically run back to the gate. I’m on the other side, key replaced on its hook, and bolting up the clay stairs – two at a time – until I’m out of anyone’s line of sight still in the Boiler room.
Changing quickly back into my Geha garb, I trot back down to the gate with the leather pack in hand. I stop on the bottom step, seeing Ryder on the other side of the gate, leaning against the wall on the left. He glances up at me, sorrow clear as day on his features. His eyes are the worst, though. There’s pain in them. I try to look away and ignore it, ignore him, but his anguish pulls at my heartstrings. My anger subsides just long enough to toss the leather pack at the foot of the gate, and race back up the stairs. This time, going all the way up until I’m right underneath the trapdoor. Lifting it just enough so I can see the alley, I make sure the coast is clear before lifting myself back into the purified air of Geha. I sprint the length of the alleyway, not stopping until I’m on the side of the Central Hall building.
I’m careful walking the rest of the way back home. My steps are quick, but quiet on the paved roads. I don’t see anyone along the streets. Not even Loyals are wandering around looking for stragglers before the power is off for the evening. I’m glad, though. It saves me the trouble of trying to explain why I’m out and about alone when it’s nearly dark. I had no idea I had wasted so much time fumbling around outside the city with Ryder. It’s like time melts away when I’m with him. However, I’m not sure if I like it that way or not. Mostly because I’m not sure whether I can trust him after today. I can’t tell if he was being sincere when he apologized, but I really hope that he was.
My parent’s house comes into view before I expect it to. From the hours of walking around today, I’m almost completely drained, so my focus isn’t that great right now. My feet are beginning to drag along the concrete with every step. Even my head is foggy, now. Though all I’ve had to eat today was that blue apple, I’m not even hungry. I’m only moderately aware that my parents are probably home right now and wondering where I am. Part of me even hopes that they worried I had disappeared like Micah did, so maybe they’ll care about him again.
Walking in the front door, my mom and dad both rush me from their seats at the dining room table. Good, they missed me. They’re fussing about something as they lead me into the kitchen for food, but I wave it away. Even the smell of it makes my stomach churn. Nothing they say is making it into my head. It’s all just incoherent buzzing that’s only adding to the fog clouding my mind. Every time I open my mouth to speak, mom butts in and doesn’t give me the opportunity to. It doesn’t take long before I’m fed up.
“Guys!” I yell out in front of me. I’m so grateful that they both shut up I almost shed tears of joy. “I’m not hungry, I just want to go to bed.”
“Are you going to tell us where you were today?” Mom asks, her tone gentle. Like she’s talking to an infant.
“No,” I growl between gritted teeth. “I have time to decide what I want my path to be, and I can do what I like to figure out what that is.”
A beat passes before dad pipes in.
“Okay, sweetie,” he acknowledges, clearing his throat. “We were just concerned. If you’re not hungry we won’t force you to eat. Go ahead to bed.”
“Thank you,” I respond, as politely as I can.
Without hesitation, I exit the kitchen and go directly to my room. I close the door just enough so it look like fully closed. Mom sighs, and I hear their footsteps make their way back to the table. I open my bedroom door as quietly as possible before tiptoeing down the hallway and leaning my back against the wall. I’m not usually one for sneaking, but I’m exceptionally paranoid with their behavior. Glancing around for a moment, I see them sitting back in the spots they were in when I first arrived home, mugs of tea long cooled sitting in front of them. Mom stairs worryingly into her mug, and dad is anxiously rubbing his jawline.
“I’m worried about her, Cormac,” Mom whispers to dad. “She’s never acted like that before. Not even when her brother disappeared.”
“His name was Micah, Cardondra,” dad emphasizes. “You can say it. He’s not our son anymore so the name means nothing. It always will to her, I’m afraid.”
“Micah then,” she repeats. “It still doesn’t excuse her behavior.”
“She’s just nervous,” he defends. “She has a lot of pressure on her right now. There hasn’t been anyone in centuries who has scored that well on the Bleeding Rite. She’ll be okay once she makes a decision.”
“I hope so,” mom sighs. She takes a sip of her tea, not even registering the fact it is ice cold by now.
I’m glad that they’re so sure about where I’ll be in a couple days. I’m not so sure.