Cassie felt horrible about bailing on Doc, but by the time he escaped the meeting, she was dirty and smelly from caring for Topper, and worse, she was a nervous wreck. She ran the stairs to the room she shared with Galahad and was relieved he wasn’t back yet from his spying duties. She gave herself a sponge bath and washed her hair with the last of her no-rinse camp shampoo. Then she changed into fresh clothes and lay on the bed, willing herself to take deep breaths and relax.

No luck. The sound of David’s hateful words burned in her memory, repeating every time she closed her eyes. Lying in bed was useless. She had to do something.

She jumped out of bed and searched the room for some obvious task, but she had tidied up that morning and there was nothing that needed doing. She moved a few objects at random, but that didn’t help. Where was Galahad? Maybe she should go downstairs and confront him. But no, she might have to make nice with the delegates’ guards and other hangers-on and she wasn’t up for that, especially not the Thespians, who might try to soliloquize for her or worse, pantomime like the kid who wandered into the ward earlier in the evening, pretending to offer entertainment but really just curious to see Zach.

She would have to wait here, but the walls of the room were too close, the corners too dark with only her one electric lantern for light. She paced the narrow space from window to closet and back, sometimes pausing to sit on the bed, only to jump up as if the mattress was on fire and begin pacing again.

After what seemed like hours, she heard the door open and spun around, her heart setting up such a pounding it was a miracle she didn’t faint. Galahad came toward her, smiling in that fond and reassuring way he had, as if she made his day complete just by existing. For a moment, Cassie envisioned herself returning his smile, dismissing David’s words as the lies of a hurt and jealous boy. She would go with Galahad to the penthouse and they would make love on the patio in the early light of dawn, then dawdle over some exotic snack from the kitchen pantry while spinning dreams of the world they wished they still lived in.

Galahad stopped in the middle of the room and his expression turned to one of concern. “Is everything okay?”

Cassie hesitated. Once she said the words, she wouldn’t be able to take them back. She would have no choice but to follow wherever they might lead.

He put a hand on her arm.

Cassie jumped away. “David came to the clinic tonight. Why didn’t you tell me about Trina?”

Galahad’s features closed down and his eyes grew wary. “What did David think I should’ve told you?”

“Oh, no you don’t.” Cassie shook her head. “He said you’d deny it. So is it true?”

“That I had a girlfriend with the Kevorks? Yes. Are you satisfied now? She didn’t mean anything to me like you do.”

“Of course you’re going to say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Easy to say since she’s dead.”

“So he told you that, too.”

Cassie lifted her chin. “How did it happen?”

“I don’t know.”

Cassie turned away in disgust. “Liar. All that talk about truth, nobility and civilization, and you can’t even answer a simple question.”

“But I don’t know! I was drinking and taking pills, and the last thing I remember was the argument, or didn’t he tell you that part? There was the fight with David and Trina in the pub, and I think some other people got involved, but it’s all fuzzy, and then there were several hours where I don’t know what happened. The next thing I knew was when I woke up.”

“Just like that?” Cassie held her breath.

Galahad sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor. “Yes. We were in an office building, but I don’t know how we got there. I tried to do something for her, but she had already been dead awhile.”

“And then?”

“I tried to find clean clothes and hide the knife.”

It took Cassie a moment to grasp the import of his words. He couldn’t possibly mean—

“David found me,” he went on, his voice strange and small in the dark. “He said he’d looked everywhere for us. He was worried because there was something bad about that batch of pills. They weren’t what we thought they were.” In an even softer voice, he added, “David never criticized me, even though she had been his girlfriend first and he was still in love with her. Her death has always been our secret.”

A rushing sound filled Cassie’s ears, breaking over her head like a wave. She was going to faint and make a fool of herself, except—oh, she had already acted like a fool! She had given herself to him, trusting that he was one of the good guys, that he wasn’t like these other wild boys who—


“You killed her.”

“I don’t know if I did or not.” He got to his feet and took a step toward her, but paused when she backed away. “If I did, it was because I was out of my head.”

“That’s either a lousy excuse or a lie.”

“It’s no lie. I could’ve never done such a thing sober.”

“You killed your cousin.”

“You know why I did that. Be fair. I’ve always been good to you.”

“Good to me for how long? Until I piss you off and you cut me up for rat food?”

“Stop it.” He moved toward her, ignoring her skittering backward steps toward the wall. “You know me better than that. David is jealous. That’s the only reason he said those things. He knows I’m different now and you know it, too.”

“Get away from me. Don’t even look at me!”

“Please, angel. Be reasonable.”

She didn’t want to be reasonable. Her whole world was falling apart again. After everything she had been through, she had dared to trust and love, only to have it taken away from her, just like her family, just like her teachers and friends, just like everything she ever thought mattered. The world was once again an upside down place where there was nothing safe to hold onto. “It was all a goddamn lie, wasn’t it? Just like the world before the Telo, just like all our stupid dreams.”

“My love for you isn’t a lie.”

“Stop it!” A note of panic crept into her voice. “Leave me alone!” She lunged toward the door, but he caught her in his arms and they struggled until her shrieks and kicks forced him to release her. As she bolted toward the hall, she heard him call her name but she wouldn’t go back, she couldn’t go back. Instead she ran into the corridor where several children had poked their heads out their doors, curious about the noise. “Get back in your fucking rooms!”

All down the hallway, doors slammed shut. Then at the end, one opened and a figure held a lantern high. “Cassie?”

“It’s none of your business, Julilla.”

“Come talk to me, anyway. You’re scaring the children.”

Cassie tried to walk but ended up running to Julilla’s room. At the kindness in her eyes, she burst into tears.



Alice Audrey said...

I understand where you're coming from with this, but I'm ready to bop Cassie a good one. Let's see some more character growth there, girl.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

It'll come. Deep down, she suspects she's making a mistake, but things aren't always so clear to a teenager, especially not one living in her world.

It's easier for us as grownups in a safe world, who haven't lost all our loved ones, to see where she should be patient and hear him out.

Besides, later events will make the entire Regents tribe wonder if Galahad really is their enemy, after all.