I burst through the front door of my parent’s house like a madman, not even stopping to shut it before clambering into my room. I know exactly what I have to do. I love my parents, but after how they acted this morning, and how they’ve been acting since my Rite, I don’t even know who they are anymore. There is still a lot I need to learn about Micah, but his gentle nature and care has never faltered after all these years. I would rather spend the rest of my life outside these walls than helping a society that doesn’t care about all its people.
The one thing I always held onto was how he would always care about me. I doubted it every once in a while, when I was really missing him, but in the end I knew. No matter what happens, he’ll be there to support me and make sure everything is okay. It’s why I’m not worried about how my life will turn out. He’ll always be there. And this way I’ll be able to attempt a relationship with Ryder. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least this way we can try. I have a choice as to who I will spend my time with.
Breathing heavily from the non-stop running, I stand in the middle of my room doing circles as I do an inventory of all my things. Everything I own is just a reminder of the life I don’t want anymore. None of it really matters enough to take with me. With my parents leaving work soon, I don’t have any time to waste. I grab a few things of sentimental value – my baby blanket, a scarf mom made me years ago, a stuffed animal that Micah gave me for her birthday just before he disappeared, and my favorite book that dad bought for me a few years ago. There’s a brief moment of hesitation, though. I have plenty of clothing to take with me, but it seems superfluous when I’ll acquire more fitting clothing while living in Landow.
Happy with the few items I’ve grabbed, I dash into the kitchen and into the dining where a single notepad sits on the table. Although they probably deserve no notice about my whereabouts after the way they’ve been acting, I still leave a note for them. Picking up the pen off the table, I write, ‘I found Micah. I’ve decided to live with him rather than be forced to choose a career path and live an unhappy and unfulfilling life. Thank you for everything you both have taught me. Find comfort knowing your children are together and happy.’
Once the pen is back on the table, I feel free. The weight of the world is no longer pushing down on my shoulders, trying to crush me. Ready to begin the next chapter of my life, I sprint back out the front door, making sure to shut it behind me all in one graceful move. Even though I haven’t entirely caught my breath from the run to my parent’s house, I dash back behind Central Hall and down the clay stairway. The breeze against my skin as I run further exhilarates me on my way back to Ryder. Humidity overtakes me as I take the last step onto the landing in front of the gate.
I squeeze through the gate, tossing the keys on the floor below where it hangs then dart straight to the blueprint room. Men and boys are still hard at work shoveling coal into the humungous Boilers, not even looking at me. It wouldn’t matter if they did. I’m now, by choice, one of them. Not skipping a beat, I open the door to see Ryder sitting behind the desk playing with a small piece of coal. He doesn’t even notice me until I giggle at the sight. His face glows seeing me standing in the threshold.
“Miss me?” I tease.
He doesn’t answer. Instead, he launches himself over the desk, his left hand helping to propel him toward me, so there’s less than a foot between us. He wraps his arms around me and pulls me close for another, tender kiss. I drop my things and hug him tight around the waist, loving the tea lingering on his lips. His uncertainty as to whether I would actually return is clear in his kiss, along with his relief that I really am here in front of him. It deepens, and a moan escapes his throat. Suddenly extremely uncomfortable, I have to pull away from him but he doesn’t let me go far. There’s concern in his gaze as I look up at him.
“Sorry,” he consoles. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, thank you,” I nod. “Let’s go home.”
Ryder smiles and all my anxiety fades. This rollercoaster he has me on is starting to make me dizzy and want more. He lets his arms fall from around me, leaving his left outstretched for me. I take his firmly in my hand, squeezing gently. We walk back to Landow hand in hand. The sun begins to set as we stroll. I know the way back rather well now, but without the sun to light my way, I trip over every rock, stump, and root on the way. Ryder is always there to catch me and keep me on my feet. He teases me about being clumsy for a Favorable, and we laugh together. I’ve never been this happy before. There’s a dull ache in my heart for leaving my parents, but it’s barely noticeable.
The journey through the market place is unlike anything I’ve seen previously. There are men and women of all ages celebrating the return of their loved ones from a hard day’s work supporting the unseen citizens of Geha. Some, like the Burners, are still out working, but to see these people embrace one another in a ceremony that happens every single night is simply magical. Music is playing off to the left of the main path where the crowd is slowly pushing towards while Ryder and I continue towards Micah’s hut. I can’t help hoping that I’ll be accepted into the village as everyone has seems to be.
Everything seems to speed up as we go. The closer we get to Micah again, the faster time flies around us. The rush of a new beginning, one that won’t leave me lonely the rest of my life, has finally hit me. As soon as Micah’s hut is in view, I let go of Ryder’s hand and sprint to the front door, knocking excitedly. My brother opens the door, confused and befuddled when he sees me standing before him. He glances behind me at Ryder, as if he’s not sure I’m real, then back at me with fresh tears in his eyes.
“You came back,” he whispers, tears caught in his throat.
“Yeah, I did, big brother,” I acknowledge. “I’m home.”