“I never shoulda been so hard on you. But I had to. You’re too nice.”
I stared blearily at her, waiting for more.
“If you’re ever gonna make it, you hafta be tough. An’ you’re not tough enough. Not even close. Not against them.” She shook her head, and her dark wings flickered to match. We sniffed at the same time, but only Shadela gave a small smile.
“Who’s “them”?” I asked through my stuffed-up nose.
“The gov’ment. You know about the High Order? How they’re s’posed to protect the city with the Watchers an’ stuff?”
I nodded. “Yeah, my dad’s one.”
“Mine, too. But anyway, all that’s…well, it’s a load of turds in a punch bowl.”
I couldn’t help but bust up laughing at the image. This time it was only me. Shadela’s eyes glinted with a relentless fire, reminding me of the fragment in my heart that still told every bone in my body not to trust her. But I still asked her.
“They’re liars. They don’t protect the city from anyone. It’s all bogus. It’s just a cover for their secret programs. An’ don’t think I read too many conspiracy stuff, ’cause I don’t.”
I, in fact, did not think that she read too much. In fact, until that moment, I’d convinced myself she couldn’t read at all. Something clicked and I started spilling the beans.
“No, I believe you. I’ve always had this feeling of being, I dunno, spied on. The past couple weeks, especially, I’ve felt like everything has exploded around me. I mean, not more than half an hour ago, there was a railing that broke behind me, and I almost tumbled down into oblivion. And I would’ve, if, um, a friend hadn’t caught my arm.”
Shadela smiled deviously.
“Was it Tryoncore Mink?”
“Uh…yeah. And he goes by Tracer. Why?”
“Oh, I was just wondering,” she replied.
Sure, you were just wondering.
“Well, I was just wondering…why the moose are we even talking to each other?” I asked.
Shadela shrugged. “Dunno. We’re meant to, I guess. Personally, I don’t believe in God, but…I dunno. Weird stuff makes you wanna talk to anybody you can, I s’pose.”
“Yeah…I guess so.”
We sat for a while in the shade, smothering ourselves in the cool leaves and dirt. My stomach growled and Shadela’s followed. We laughed and fell quiet again.
“So, are you okay?” I asked. “I didn’t mean for you to hit that branch. Not on purpose, anyway. You know—”
“What? That we still hate each other? Yeah, I get it. And I’m okay. I just busted my gut in half, but it’ll grow back.”
“You sound like my dad,” I grinned.
“Yeah. I think my dad and yours work together sometimes. Mine’s super funny, too. In a weird sort of way.”
I remembered my dad talking about a guy at work. Dad said that he was a great guy, and we should meet up with our families, if the Guards weren’t restricted from doing so unless they were at a formal procession.
“Hey, by the way,” she added, “what’s it mean to ‘go myrrh yourself’?”
I snickered. “Oh, it’s just something dumb I made up. It’s the first half of ‘maid.’”
She blinked for a second and cracked up.
“I mean—well…bother. At least you get it.”
“What, go ‘myrrh-maid’ yourself? Yeah, I get it!...That’d take some skill to do, since it’s impossible to turn into one.”
“Or to reach the ocean when there’s nothing but toxic wasteland beyond the Wall,” I laughed.
So did she.
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