Darkness falls, p.4
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       Darkness Falls, p.4

         Part #1 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 4

 

  The Higher walks in, his chin tipped up, an arrogant air in the way he carries himself. “A pleasure meeting you again, Kayla,” It’s the Higher from the hall.

  Monarch’s pulse misses a beat when the Higher says my name. His breathing constricts. His blood flow slows and I worry he’s going to faint.

  “I’m sorry, Gabrielle. ” Monarch’s voice shudders. “I didn’t realize you were coming here. I thought we were supposed to go to your quarters for this. ”

  Gabrielle’s pale eyes linger on me, before he narrows them on Monarch. “Evident, ai fost gre?it. ”

  “I know and I’m terribly sorry for the misunderstanding,” Monarch says—I never realized he could understand their language. He bows his head. “I’ve just been so distracted lately. There seems to be more and more sick members to take care of. ”

  This is news to me. I come to the hospital a lot and the only person I’ve seen in weeks is Maci.

  “There are no misunderstandings,” Gabrielle replies. “Only mistakes. And you know how we feel about mistakes. ”

  “Yes, yes, I understand,” Monarch struggles to maintain calm. “Again, I apologize for my mistake. It won’t happen again. ”

  “I’ve been hearing too many apologies from you lately. ” Gabrielle’s voice is like ice as he strolls around, dragging his finger along the cabinet. “It’s starting to grow tiring. And I’m not the only one to notice this. The other Highers have been making complaints about you. Some of them are even starting to question where your loyalties lie. ”

  Gabrielle’s eyes move to me and again, I get the feeling he’s trying to burrow into my thoughts and see what it is I’m hiding in my head.

  “Kayla. ” Monarch gently nudges me in the back. “You should go. ”

  My brain screams at me not to. If I leave, what will happen? Monarch’s made a mistake and the Highers always make people pay for mistakes.

  “Kayla,” Monarch’s sharp voice slices my thoughts. “Go. Now. ”

  As I walk out the door, I notice how far away Monarch looks. And if I didn’t know any better, I would swear I can see him slipping away from me forever.

  I don’t know what I’d do if I lost him forever.

  He’s all I have.

  Monarch shuts the door and I vanish down the hall, with the faint echo of a scream following behind me.

  Chapter 5

  My eyelids flutter open to the brick walls that enclose my bed. I rub my eyes as I sit up. My mind is thick with morning haze and I can’t remember how I got here. All I remember is leaving the hospital wing, and then nothing.

  And why does it seem like I was supposed to be somewhere?

  Dammit. I was supposed to meet Tristan.

  I jump out of bed, yank on a black thermal shirt and cargo pants, lace up my boots, and run to the tower. His back is to me, head slanted up as he watches the ancient tower clock. The clock used to tell time before the Highers decided time was no longer relevant, since no one knew how to read numbers anyway. They ordered the Watchers to remove the hands of the clock. All that’s left now are golden numbers that serve no purpose.

  My shoes scuff against the dirt as I make my way over to Tristan. He turns, a grin spreading across his face and it hits me, like a punch to the stomach, the reason why I’m here. Suddenly, I want to run. And I almost do it; turn around and flee out of these walls, out of The Colony, disappearing into an unknown world.

  “For a second, I was worried you weren’t going to show. ” He’s glowing with happiness like this is the greatest day of his life.

  I take in his eyes, the brightest of blue, his flawless skin, his smile.

  “You’ve been so down lately. ” He traces my pouting lips and I can feel his pulse beating through his fingers, sharp and vibrant.

  “Have I?” I sigh, take a seat on the stone bench, and stare at the broken clock, wondering what it was like when time existed. What was life like when it ran on time?

  “Do you want to talk about it?” he asks. When I don’t answer, he takes a seat beside me. He tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Are you ever going to let me get inside that head of yours?”

  If I did, we wouldn’t be here. “I’m not sure you could handle what’s inside there. ”

  I’ve shocked him. His lips part as he starts to speak. Then he lets out an uneven breath and runs a hand through his blonde hair. “You know, you always look so sad, even when you’re pretending to be happy. It breaks my heart, Juniper. It really does. You should be as happy as the rest of us are. I know you don’t have the same life as most of us, with you being a Bellator, but choosing to be sad all the time. It’s not worth it. ”

  His thought process confounds me. “I’m not sad all the time. I have my happy moments. ” It’s the worst lie I’ve ever told. “And even if I am, it has nothing to do with me being a Bellator. I don’t mind being one. ” That is the truth.

  But he doesn’t believe me. He takes my face in his hands, his voice as soft as a feather. “You don’t have to be sad, Juniper. I can make you happy, if you’ll let me. ” We’re so close I can see the specks of green in his blue eyes. “I want us to be more than friends. I want us to be together. ”

  And there it is. It’s like a chain has been coiled around my chest, and he’s tugging at it. I can’t breathe.

  He’s leaning in, his lips moving for mine, a kiss that will change everything, if I let it happen.

  I lean back. “Why do you call me Juniper?”

  He freezes, his forehead creasing. “Huh?”

  “Juniper?” My foot’s tapping madly against the ground. “Why do you call me that? I mean, what even started it?”

  His face falls. “That’s all you have to say?”

  I’m crushing him; I can see it in his eyes. And I can’t seem to stop tapping my damn foot. “I’m sorry Tristan. I just…I just can’t. ”

  He stops breathing, as if my words strangle him. He shuts his eyes. “I can make you happy. ” He opens them again, a sea of pain. “If you’ll just let me. ”

  I shake my head. “No, Tristan, you can’t. ” They’re the realest words I’ve ever spoke.

  “I love you. ” His words are just a whisper of air and they fade with his breath as he waits, desperate for me to say it back.

  But I can’t. I can’t lie this time. Not about this.

  I stare at the ground. “I’m really sorry. ”

  A pause, a skip of a heartbeat.

  “I’m sorry too, Kayla. ”

  Then he’s gone, leaving me and my unfeeling heart.

  Chapter 6

  I hurry to the hospital to talk to Monarch about what happened. I don’t realize how worried I am until I see him. He’s digging around in the medicine cabinet, his back turned, and there’s a tiny red stain on the neck of his white coat.

  “Thank God,” I say. “I was worried that …” I don’t finish, not desiring to say aloud what I’m feeling.

  He quickly turns around, his hand pressed over his heart. “You scared me. I didn’t even hear you come in. ” Then he smiles. “You know, you’re getting lighter on your feet. That’s good. The quieter the better. ”

  I sit down on an empty bed next to Maci’s. Her chest is rising and falling, but I still can’t detect the murmur of her heartbeat. “So the Highers didn’t punish you yesterday?”

  He shakes his head and smiles, but his grey eyes are burdened. “No. I wasn’t punished. ” He presses his fingers to the sides of his nose. “Kayla, I really wish you’d stop asking questions. There are so many risks, more than you understand. ”

  I slip off my leather jacket, ready for my shots. “I’m sorry, it’s just that …” Suddenly, I want to tell him everything. About my lies. About my fearlessness. About my ability to sense fear and hear heartbeats. About how I think there’s more to life than The Colony, the Highers, and their rules. I want to, but I can’t. It’s like there’s a wall around me that I just can’t get over. “I
’ll try to stop. ”

  “I don’t want you to stop. ” He rolls up the sleeves of his jacket. “I just want you to wait until the time is right. ”

  “I don’t understand. ”

  “And you don’t need to right now,” he says. “Right now, I need you not to understand. ”

  A thousand questions tickle at my tongue, but I bite them back. “Can I ask you a normal question then?”

  He hesitates, but then nods.

  “Have you ever been in love? Really in love?”

  He watches me, his eyes crinkling in pain. Then he turns away to sort through his medicine bottles. “You know, I never wanted children. It wasn’t in my plans. I was too busy trying to change the world with medicine. ” He picks up small glass bottle, filled with the purple liquid and sets it on the counter. “My ex-wife did, though. She wanted children so badly. But I was selfish. I didn’t want to sacrifice my own time. ” He chokes up, about to cry, and I don’t know what to do. He never cries.

  “Monarch, are you okay?” I ask uncomfortably.

  When he turns back around, his eyes are blood shot. “She would have been proud to have you as a daughter. Anyone would. ” He pauses. “It’s me she would have been disappointed in. ”

  I’m not sure what he means. “I’m sure that’s not true. ”

  He fills a syringe with the purple medicine. “You wouldn’t be saying that if you knew the truth,” he says. I open my mouth, a ton of questions about to spill out, but he cuts me off. “I think we’ll skip your regular shot today,” he says. “We’ll just do this one. ”

  I tilt my head to the side, my long black hair falling into my face. “But I have to have my shot or else I’ll die. ”

  “I think you’re finally ready to be okay without it. ” He looks like he’s tearing up again. “It’s time for you to just be Kayla. ” He gives a small smile. “Or Juniper if you prefer. ” I try not to flinch at the name as it painfully reminds me of what happened back at the tower with Tristan.

  “This will be the last one. ” Then he pushes the needle into my arm, without any forewarning.

  “What is this stuff?” I point to the needle sticking out of my arm.

  “This is what will save you. ”

  “Save me from what?”

  “Yourself. ” He pulls the needle out and tosses it aside. He removes his gold pocket watch from his jacket. “I want you to have this. ”

  There’s something about the way he says it, like it’s a finality. “I don’t want it. ”

  “Kayla,” he urges the pocket watch at me. “Take it. It’s important. ”

  Holding back the water in my eyes, I take the pocket watch from his hand. “Why does it feel like you’re saying good-bye?”

  “We should always say good-bye, Kayla, whenever we part,” he says, like the wise old man that he is. “Just in case something does happen. No matter what people believe, death is a part of us and we’ll have to endure it one day. Even the Highers. ”