Nameless, Page 9Jessica Sorensen
I smile then bite into the cupcake again. The tension in his expression eases, and he reaches toward my mouth. I stiffen as he drags his thumb across my bottom lip then pulls his hand back.
"You had frosting on your lip," he explains, putting his thumb to his lips. I watch in fascination as he licks the glob of frosting off and closes his eyes. "God, I forgot how good that is."
I hold the cupcake out. "Are you sure you don't want more?"
Shaking his head, he opens his eyes. "Nope. That's all yours." He moves past me, snagging my elbow and towing me along with him.
I finish the cupcake while he makes a quick stop to tell Zaire he'll be back in a few minutes to discuss what he found out in his Tracker research. Then we shove our way through the crowd and to the back wall with all the doors. He knocks on the door farthest to the right, and within seconds, an older, frail-looking woman with chin-length grey hair answers.
She smiles when she sees Blaise and steps forward to give him a hug.
"Hey, Mable," Blaise says, stiffly patting her back.
I realize something then. It's not just me Blaise seems nervous about touching. It's almost everyone. I wonder why that is.
"Hey, yourself." She moves back but keeps her hand on his arm. "Where have you been? The last time you left, there was a storm. I think a lot of people thought you were dead."
"Not dead, just busy," he says, shrugging. "The station has been slamming us with missions left and right. No one's had a break in months."
"Well, you need to make sure you rest." She leans against the doorjamb with her arms folded. "I know you boys think saving the world is important, but you also need to take care of yourself."
"We do," he assures her. "We just work hard."
"You work too hard," she scolds him. "You need to take a break sometimes and have some fun."
Blaise shakes his head. "Fun doesn't exist anymore, Mable. You know that."
"Yes, it does, honey. You just don't understand that part of life yet. You will, though, in time." She smiles at him before her attention drifts to me. "And who's this lovely, young lady?"
"Oh, this Allura. She works at Leviter Station, too." He nods his head at her. "Allura, this is Mable, Zaire's wife."
I try to smile and appear calm, but her scrutiny puts me on edge.
She skims me over from head to toe, a frown forming on her lips. "You've been overworking her, Blaise. She's all skin and bones."
I open my mouth to tell her that it's not his fault, but Blaise talks over me.
"I know. We had a rough mission, though," he says breezily. "A Tracker attacked us and threw the car at least a couple of miles. We were in the trunk, and her arm got jacked up. I was hoping you could help her get cleaned up, get her some clothes and a proper sling, while I go make her something to eat."
She arches her brows. "You better make her a feast. I'm serious, Blaise. This girl needs more than just some biscuits and gravy."
Blaise bobs his head up and down. "Yes, ma'am."
I don't know why, but I find it almost amusing that someone as tough as Blaise is letting this tiny, older woman lecture him. It clicks then, what amusement is, as if my brain has pieced together something I forgot about long ago.
"Good. Now go get busy." She snaps her fingers and points at the counter. "And make my husband help you. He needs something else to do other than sit around and serve drinks to people who've had too many already."
Blaise nods then turns to me, seeming hesitant. "You'll be okay?"
"Of course she'll be okay." Mable snags ahold of my hand and hauls me toward her while shooing Blaise away. "Now go make her dinner. The girl looks like she'll barely last a couple more hours without any food."
Blaise still appears reluctant to leave, so I offer him a smile, trying to reassure him I'll be fine. At least, I hope I will.
"I'll be right over there if you need anything," he tells me, hitching his thumb over his shoulder.
I nod, and he backs away. I haven't left his side in hours, and watching him leave restores the anxiety I felt when Ryder and him showed up at my cell.
"Come on, honey." Mable gently pulls on my arm. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Tearing my gaze off Blaise, I follow her through the doorway.
She closes the door behind us, sealing out the noise and the chatter. "Do you know your size?" she asks me then waves herself off. "Never mind. You're probably a small, if that." She crosses the small room, stops in front of a series of handmade shelves, and begins sifting through stacks of clothes, boots, bags, and boxes.
I turn in a circle, taking in the room: some mattresses; a couple of wooden crates with boxes of ammo on them; blankets and pillows; and a clear, rectangular shaped box in the corner, large enough for a person to stand in. It kind of reminds me of the scanner at the channels, but without the lights.
"I know it's smaller than the showers at the station," Mable says, coming up beside me with a pile of clothes in her hands. "But it gets the job done."
I take the clothes from her then warily eyeball the shower. Blaise said a shower was like a bath but different, yet he never explained the difference.
"Um ..." I cross my fingers I'm not asking a bizarre question. "How do I use it?"
"Here. I'll show you."
She gives me a brief rundown of how to make the water turn off and on by tipping the head and pulling the plastic handle. "It'll be a little cold, but it's better than nothing," she says, more right than she knows. "There's a towel in the stack of clothes and soap, shampoo, and a razor in the shower if you need it. I'll step out for a while then come back and check on you in a bit. You'll want to lock the door when I leave. And I'll knock three times when I come back so you'll know it's me."
"Okay," I say, noting she seems reluctant to leave me alone, too. Blaise warned me to be careful down here, that not everyone is trustworthy. I wonder just how dangerous this place is.
She finally offers me a kind smile then walks out of the room, I hurry over and flip the latch, locking the door. Then I set down the clothes, untie the sling, and toss it aside. Getting Blaise's jacket off is a bit more complicated, and by the time I get my injured arm out of the sleeve, tears sting my eyes. Next comes the ratty T-shirt. I decide to tear that off my body since the fabric is pretty flimsy.
After I've peeled the clothing from my body, I step inside the shower and pull the handle like Mable showed me. Lukewarm water spurts out of the nozzle and streams across my body. I shut my eyes and tip my head back, allowing the water to river over my hair and face. My skin feels so refreshed I don't ever want to get out, but Mable warned me the water would run out within minutes, so I quickly try to scrub off as much grime as I can.
As I'm trying to figure out how to work the razor without cutting my skin, I hear a loud boom, and the walls begin to shake. I nearly stop breathing. Tracker? Has it found us already?
I glance at the steel walls. I'm safe here, I try to tell myself. Then I hear the faint, haunting whisper I've heard before.
"Allura," it hisses. "Allura, I'm coming for you."
My skin crawls as the hissing turns to a voice, a voice that sounds an awful lot like Lex.
The Danger that Lurks Everywhere
"Who said that?" I stumble back, covering myself with my arms.
No. There's no way Lex could be here. Or could he? Maybe wardens can get down here. But I don't see anything other than an empty room.
The voice and hissing stop, the only noise coming from the showerhead. I try to convince myself I imagined it, that the fear of being in this room alone is getting to me. I should just focus on enjoying the shower. But as much as I love getting clean, I'm too nervous to be alone and want to go back to Blaise where I feel safe.
I quickly finish shaving, cutting myself at least a dozen times, but the pain is minimal to what I'm used to. Then I shut off the water and step out. I dig through the clothes until I find what I think is the towel and dry myself off. Th
e clothes Mable left me are a long-sleeved black shirt, a pair of cargo pants, socks, and clunky boots, along with a sling. I don't remember the last time I wore so many clothes. Add that to the fact that I can barely move my arm, and it takes me forever to get dressed. I leave Blaise's jacket off, mostly because I'm warm, and I can't tie the laces of the boots, so I leave them undone.
By the time I'm slipping the sling onto my shoulder, someone is knocking on the door. I wait for the second and third knock, but they never come. I tiptoe over to the door and listen. Hushed whispers flow through the other side, male and female, I think.
"Are you sure she went in there?" a guy says.
"Yes, I'm sure," a girl snaps. "I'm never wrong."
"You're wrong a lot," the guy replies. "And if she's in there, why isn't she answering?"
"Probably because she's scared shitless." The girl laughs. "Did you see how terrified she looked? Seriously. No one looks that terrified."
"Unless she's one of them."
"My thoughts exactly."
Another knock and then the doorknob jiggles.
"Hey, we know you're in there," the guy calls out. "We just want to talk to you." The door shakes. "Don't be scared. We're not going to hurt you."
I back away from the door until the backs of my legs bump into a crate. A lantern topples over and crashes to the floor. I hold my breath, hugging my arms around myself.
"Oh, come on," the guy whines. "Don't make this harder than it needs to be."
Someone bangs on the door so hard the lock starts to slip loose. I rush forward and press myself against the door, tightening the lock.
"Allura ..." the voice returns, swarming around me.
My skin vibrates as my heart pounds.
"Allura, where are you?"
"Open the fucking door," the guy growls, banging on it.
I slide to the floor, cover my ears with my hands, and rock back and forth. I can't take this: voices, threats, danger lurking everywhere. I've only been out of the channels for a day, and so much has already happened.
Will I ever feel safe?
The guy and girl knock a few more times before abandoning their plan of getting in. After they leave, the voices hush too. I don't get up, though, until I hear three distinct knocks on the door.
"Allura, it's me," Mable says from the other side. "Open up."
I stumble to my feet and dig deep to find the courage to unlatch the lock.
The door flies open, and Mable hurries inside. "Hey, honey." She shuts the door, and her eyes sweep me over. "The clothes are a little big, but I don't have a smaller size."
"They're fine." I tug the sleeve lower on my arm, making sure the number is concealed properly. "I appreciate you giving them to me."
"That's what the post is for, sweetie. We're here to help anyone who needs it." She pats an upside down crate. "Now, come sit down so I can brush your hair."
At first, I don't move. While I don't want to be rude, I'm eager to find Blaise and tell him about the voices and the guy and the girl. But when Mable snaps her finger and points at the crate with a stern look on her face, I plant my butt down.
"So you guys help people?" I ask, placing my hands in my lap.
"We do ... or we used to." She picks up a brush and begins brushing my hair. "It breaks my heart to say this, but some people have forgotten our purpose for creating the posts. I blame the broken city for a lot of that. People wander out there, searching for something better, and never find it. They forget how much control the watchers have over the city, how broken the laws are. Almost everyone who leaves the posts comes back, but they're changed." She sighs heavy heartedly as she works on getting a tangle out of my hair. "That's what the broken city does. The corruptness sucks the goodness out of a person and leaves their soul dry. They forget how to be a good person, that stealing and hurting people is wrong. It's not fight or die down here at the post like it is out in the city, but a lot of people think that way, and it taints the place. We become more and more like the Forsaken every day, hurting our own kind over practically nothing. I've talked to Zaire about trying to get some laws in order, but so far, the Committee won't approve the changes."
"When the posts were built, everyone decided we needed someone in charge, so one family member was elected from each family who helped build the post. The East City Post Committee consists of fifteen people, and they're the people who get the final say on any changes made in our society. Although, they don't do much in the line of change. Most of them just look the other way.
"Every time a member passes away, one of their sons or daughters takes the position. I think that's part of the problem. We need some new blood in the committee, people who are more accepting of change. This place needs to be cleaned up, and we need to weed out the people who bring the violence from up there"--she points the brush at the ceiling--"to down here." She lowers her hand. "I hate to say this, but I think we should stop letting everyone in who bangs on that door."
I think about how Maxx just let Blaise and me inside. If they changed the rules, would we be allowed to come back if we needed to? What would have happened to us today if we hadn't been able to come down here?
"I'm not talking about you or Blaise or Ryder or any of you out at Leviter Station. Honestly, I wish more of you would come here and fewer strays would." She walks around in front of me, angles her head to the side, and puts a finger to her pursed lips. "Interesting."
I self-consciously run my fingers through my hair. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." She tosses the brush onto a stack of blankets. "It's just that you remind me of someone ... What did you say your last name is?"
I have no idea how to reply. Thankfully, someone raps on the door and puts an end to the conversation.
I straighten, tensing. What if it's the girl and guy again?
"I'm guessing that's your guys," Mable says, heading for the door. "You should've heard them out there. Is Allura okay? Did she get her sling off okay? Should I go check on her? If I didn't know any better, I'd think they never left you alone before."
I hope it's just Blaise instead of the guy and girl ...
Wait a second? She said guys. I jump to my feet but brace my hand on the crate as blood rushes from my head.
"Wait? You said guys?"
"Ryder and Reece showed up just a little bit ago." She unlocks the latch and opens the door.
Ryder pushes his way into the room and slams the door. He has a fresh cut on his cheek, his jacket is torn on the side, and his cargo pants are covered in dirt, but other than that, he looks unharmed. A heavy weight falls off my shoulders.
"All right, it's been long ..." He blinks when he spots me. "Well, holy shit. Look at you."
Mable lightly smacks him upside the back of the head. "Watch your language, young man. You know my rules. No cursing in front of me."
Ryder winces, rubbing his head. "Sorry. It's just been a while since I've seen Allura cleaned up. She looks"--he struggles for the right words--"good."
I do? I glance down at the clothes I'm wearing, wondering how different I look now that I'm not wearing that gross T-shirt.
"She does look good, but she also looks like a girl who needs to eat." She pulls the door back open and gently shoves Ryder toward the doorway. "Go take her to the tables and make sure she eats until her belly's full."
"On it." Ryder extends his hand to me. "Come on, Allura, before she starts trying to convince me to let her cut my hair."
"You should let me cut your hair," she scolds as I rush forward and take Ryder's hand. "Allura agrees with me, right?"
"No way. She likes my hair, right, Allura?" Ryder juts out his bottom lip. "Tell her you like it."
"Um ..." I eye Ryder's blond hair that almost reaches his shoulders. I'm not sure how to answer her question, whether I should lie or not. I don't want to make anyone mad. "I do kind of like it," I decide to answer truthfully.
r /> Ryder smirks at Mable. "See? She likes it."
Mable softly smacks him upside the head again. "She's just being nice. If she saw it when it was short, she wouldn't say that. You looked much better with shorter hair."
Ryder makes a face, and Mable retaliates by raising her hand. Ryder laughs and skitters out of the way, hauling me with him.
"You better watch that one," Mable calls out. "Make sure he keeps his hands to himself."
Ryder shakes his head. "Don't listen to her, Allura. She just likes to embarrass me."
"She seems nice." I stare down at our interlocked fingers as he steers us toward the tables. "She kind of acts like a ... mother?"
He glances at me, questions flooding his eyes. "You remember what a mother is like?"
"I think so ... someone who gave birth to you and cares for you, right?" I ask, and he nods. "I don't remember mine, though." The realization creates an aching sensation in my chest.
"I don't, either." Ryder stops in front of a vacant table. "Neither does Reece or Blaise. We don't know who our dads are, either. It's something we have in common and was kind of the reason why we became friends." He pulls out a seat for me then plops down in the chair beside mine. "Reece, Blaise, and I were orphans when we were brought to Leviter Station. We were too young to remember what happened to our parents, and we bonded over that during our classes."
I scoot the chair forward, the legs grinding against the steel floor, and cringe when a few people sitting at the nearby tables glance in my direction. "Classes? Like school classes?"
"Yeah, where kids go to learn."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about ... I've never heard of a school before."
"Oh." Then why can I picture a brick building filled with rooms where teachers teach and kids sit at desks and learn? I sat in a desk once, I think. "What kind of classes were you talking about, then?"
"Ones given at the station. It's how we were trained for the missions we go on." He twiddles a knob on the lantern in the center of the table. "When we get to the station, I'll show you around and explain what's what."
I nod, imagining what Leviter Station will look like--a towering building with windows and steel trim that shines in the sunlight. Who knows if I'm right, though? I've been wrong about everything else so far. For all I know, the place could look as dangerous and unfamiliar as everything else has so far.