Author’s Note: So… I wanted something from the past, I wanted something that filled in a few blanks, and I wanted to go back to a song I’d used as a prompt before. Last time I used it for a different story, and I didn’t use all of it, just a couple words, really, so I had plenty to play around with this time.
I wish that he was here tonight
It’s so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell Amelia it was just a false alarm
~Joni Mitchell, “Amelia”
Okay, truthfully, it doesn’t all fit, but I used it anyway.
Desert stretched before her, a gaping maw ready to dry out everyone that passed through it, to leave them dead and desiccated, never to be found again. She could make herself a part of it, walk out there, ending all the trouble that she was without disturbing the others. She wouldn’t call it easy, but it was not impossible, either. All she had to do was take that first step forward. The rest would follow.
“I think you should go.”
She stiffened. Leaving tended to mean only one thing these days, gone was synonymous with dead, and she didn’t want to think about why he might want her dead. He had always told her that he didn’t blame her, had always been the first to come to her and comfort her when the others had been too afraid to get close, and he’d saved her life. How could he want her to go?
She swallowed. “What, to college? I don’t have the grades for it.”
“Yes, you do,” he said, looking down at the end of the street where the road turned into a dead end, the same place where it all seemed to end, this time taking his parents and their calming presence with it, robbing the neighborhood of all peace. “Though you don’t have to go to college if you don’t want to. No one can make you do what you don’t want to do.”
“That’s not true.” She choked on the words, fighting to push back the memories. She didn’t have control, and since she didn’t, things that she didn’t want happened all the time.
He put his hand on her back, and she closed her eyes, welcoming the soothing nature of his touch. She let out a breath, took another, forcing herself to think only of her breathing, nothing else. She could ignore the rest. That was what she did. That was how she coped.
“You know what’s coming now.”
She sighed. “So, you got elected leader again, did you? Where are you going to take us? I hope it’s far away from here. We can all move on for a change, since none of the parents are left to hold us back. We’ll get new lives and—”
“You get a new life.”
He walked around to face her. “The rest of us can’t go back. We didn’t manage to hold onto enough of what we were before, but you—Oh, they say you’re a coward and uncontrollable, but you’re the lucky one. You never gave yourself over to it like the rest of us did. You can walk away and be normal.”
“I’m not normal.”
“Well, you are special, but the normals won’t know that. You can pass for one of them, not like the rest of us. It doesn’t take long to figure out what we can do, and then it’s all over, just like it was before, like it always is.”
She frowned. “Just because a few idiots call us freaks and one girl broke your heart doesn’t mean it’s all over, you know. Life among normals is possible.”
“For you. I want you to go. Go as far as you can away from this life and from us and find something good out there. You won’t get that here.”
She blinked, her head shaking as she swallowed and stepped back from him. “Cress—”
“Don’t argue. Please.” He touched her cheek. “I guess now that I’m the leader and all, I can make it an order, but I don’t want to have to do that. You know you don’t want what’s ahead of the rest of us, and I am telling you now—go. If I could, I would, but I can’t. You have a chance, and you have to take it. Go and be happy, have a life that doesn’t mean being on the run with the constant threat of death.”
“You want me to abandon the rest of you?”
He lowered his hand and looked at the end of the street. “Our parents thought keeping us together was the answer, but all it did was give the wrong people an easy place to find. If we ever need you, I know you’ll help, but I hope we never do. I want you to stay apart from this. It’s the best way I know of keeping you and everyone else safe.”
Right. She was still a threat to them. The lack of control. She bit her lip. “I don’t want to go.”
“I’m still asking you to. I’ll beg if I have to, but please, go.”
She nodded. She couldn’t say no, not to him, not when he looked so damn miserable as he asked. The sky flashed with lightning, and rain started to pelt down on them, and she would have welcomed the pain if it had been hail coming down. The rain wasn’t quite violent enough.
“I’m sorry,” he told her, but he did not look back when he walked away.