Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Page 25

  “Was it bad?” I whisper, imagining myself tearing him limb from limb in his nightmare.

  “Yeah. Worst nightmare I’ve ever had. Even worse than after my mom died. ” His arms tighten. I spread my hand over his chest and, through his sweat-damp shirt, feel his pulse beneath my fingers.

  “Did I tear your beating heart from your body?” I ask, struggling not to cry.

  He lifts his head to look down at me. “What?”

  “In your dream. Did I kill you and eat your heart?”

  His head falls back onto the mattress and his ribs rise and fall with a deep sigh. “You tearing out my heart would have been a pleasant alternative to my nightmare. ”

  I cringe and bury my face against his chest. His hand moves up to my hair and he trails his fingers through it. “Fiona. Look at me. ”

  There’s something in his voice—I know what he’s about to say is monumental. I brace myself for bad news and look up.

  “I’m not taking you to the lab. ” His arms fall away, and he rolls out from under me, climbing off the bed.

  “You’re not?” I ask, sitting, wondering if I heard him right.

  “No. We’re going to run, you and I together. But you have to promise me one thing. ”

  My heart starts hammering in my chest. “What?”

  “You always have my gun with you. And you always keep one bullet in the magazine. If you get caught, you use it. On yourself. Can you agree to that?”

  I stare at his black silhouette. “Yes,” I whisper.

  “I’m going to get some supplies and another gun. ” He moves about the dark room gathering things, unzipping and zipping the backpacks. And then he is beside the bed. His hand finds mine, and something comes around my wrist. A tiny light glows, showing that it is 2:08 a. m. I am wearing his watch.

  “Put your shoes on and leave them on, even if you sleep. If you have to run, you won’t have time to waste putting them on. And make sure your backpack is always ready to go. If I’m not back by seven a. m. tomorrow—roughly twenty-nine hours from now—go to the north gate and turn yourself in. They’ll get you to the lab. ”

  His words jolt me. “Wait. If you’re not back? You mean, if something happens to you and you die?”

  “Yeah, something like that. ” He stands in the small patch of moonlight shining in through the window and pulls off his shirt. Taking the Kevlar vest from the floor, he zips it around his chest, and then puts his shirt back on. Next, he places something on the bed beside me. I reach out and feel dense, heavy metal. I sit up, afraid.

  “You’re not taking your rifle? But what if—”

  His fingers cover my lips. “Fo. Keep yourself safe. I have my Taser. I’ll be fine,” he whispers.

  I back away from his hand. “But what if you’re not?” I cry.

  He turns and walks away, and I can practically see the dark shadow of death marching on his heels. Before he can open the hotel room door, I scramble from the bed and run to him, throwing myself between him and the exit, wrapping my arms around his neck. Tears fill my eyes, so I press my face against his shoulder. His arms encircle me and squeeze.

  “Fo, I’ll come back,” he says. I sniffle and press my face harder against him. He tries to pull away, but I won’t let go. His hand finds my chin and forces it up, his thumb sweeping over my wet cheek. “Tears? For me?” he whispers.

  I can’t speak—just stare at his shadowed face.

  “Fiona, I …” His fingers slide to the nape of my neck. Our noses bump and then his lips touch mine, finishing his sentence better than any words could have. His hands pull me closer and his lips press harder, start moving on top of mine. My mouth moves with his, my breath flows with his, my heart hammers against his. My salty tears make their way onto our tongues and are forgotten.

  I push my hands under his backpack and run them over his back, over the unyielding Kevlar vest, up to his shoulders, and slip them beneath his sleeves against his warm skin. He groans, and his hands pull against the small of my back. Beneath his sleeves, I trace his muscles, find the teeth-mark scar and freshly scabbed bullet wound, and Bowen pulls his mouth from mine and gasps. He rests his forehead on mine and frames my face with his hands. They smell like metal and soap and shaving cream.

  “Fiona, I …” The words disappear, their ending unspoken. I find his lips with mine, as if I’ve known how to kiss my entire life, and his hands tangle in my butchered hair. I taste Bowen and fresh tears, yet I’m no longer crying. I take my hands from his shoulders and press them to his face. Tears are streaming over his cheeks, down to our mouths.

  I pull my mouth from his, and he buries his face against my neck, holding me tight. His body shudders against mine, and his tears come faster, soaking my skin. I cradle his head, my hand moving over his hair.

  “It’s okay, Dreyden,” I whisper. “It’s going to be okay. ” My words make his body shake.

  He pulls away and peers down at me, his face nothing more than a silhouette in the darkness. “No, it’s not okay,” he says, voice ragged. “In my dream tonight, you were captured by raiders. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t save you. And I couldn’t bring myself to kill you. They …” He takes a deep breath and pulls me against him. “You might as well have eaten my heart straight from my living body. I would rather die a thousand times at your hands than see you captured. Even if you eat my heart. Because you already own it. ”

  He holds me for a long time, neither of us speaking. A long time later, he whispers, “Remember what I said about seven a. m. ” He touches my face with one hand and opens the door with the other. Darkness swallows him as he steps into the hall.

  “Bowen, wait,” I whisper. He stops and looks at me. “I love you. ” I’m glad for the dark that hides my flaming cheeks.

  Bowen stands perfectly still for a drawn-out minute and then he steps up to me, cradles the back of my head in his hand, and presses his mouth to mine. Without a word, he releases me and strides into the hall’s darkness.

  Chapter 25

  I sleep until the sun rises, heating the hotel room like an oven. With the gun in my lap, I sit on the bed, eager to run away with Bowen, watching the seconds tick away on his watch. I bring it to my nose and inhale. The band holds his scent.

  When the watch shows twelve o’clock, I’m too restless to continue sitting. I go into the bathroom and sort through the old suitcases, putting things we might find useful—fingernail clippers, mouthwash, concealer, panties, and oversize T-shirts—into one pile, and the things we won’t need—other makeup, lingerie, dresses, and high heels—in another. At the bottom of the suitcase I find a news magazine dated the year I turned thirteen—four years ago. I take it and the pile of useful supplies into the bedroom and drop them on the mattress, then lean against the headboard and open the magazine. The headlines make my head spin.

  “New Bee-Antivenin Vaccine Discovered to Trigger Violent Behavior in Recipients. ”

  “The Price of Life May Be Death. ”

  “Cities Urged to Take Individual Government Control—White House Can No Longer Offer National Protection. ”

  “Roving Gangs Taking to Streets, Preying on Women. ”

  “Pediatrician-Induced Coma in Nine-Year-Old After Parental Consent. ‘Anything to Stop Our Daughter from Attacking Us. ’”

  Reading the headlines, a fog seems to lift from my brain. I can remember hearing things like this, remember screaming at my mom that the vaccine wasn’t making me violent. I wasn’t going to start attacking people.

  Lis sat behind me, humming, her back against my headboard, and ran the hairbrush through my long hair. Since I wasn’t feeling well she’d skipped her nursing classes and had been sitting with me all afternoon while Mom took Jonah to the doctor’s again.

  “Do you want me to braid it?” Lis asked, gathering my hair at the nape of my neck. Before I could answer, Mom walked into my room, arms crossed over her chest, sting-proof netting s
till pinned in her hair like a bridal veil. At least she’d remembered to take it off her face when she came inside this time.

  “How is Jonah?” Lis asked before Mom could say a word. “Where is Jonah?”

  Mom’s lips thinned and she studied the carpet. I leaned away from Lis and shivered—not because Jonah had gone to the doctor again; he’d been going on a weekly basis for the last two months—but because I was freezing on the outside while a fever burned hot inside of me, making my blood pulse through my body at an alarming rate.

  “What did the doctor say?” Lis asked, dropping my hair around my shoulders before climbing from the bed to stand beside Mom. I buried my hands in the quilt’s folds so Mom couldn’t see the veins bulging beneath my skin.

  “The doctor put Jonah in a straightjacket. That way he can’t keep pulling out the morphine drip. ” Tears pooled in the corners of Mom’s eyes and trickled out. Lis put her arms around Mom and spoke quietly in her ear.

  Heat filled me. Sweat broke out on the bridge of my nose, and my blood vessels began aching with my pulse. I pushed my quilt off and swiped my hand over my forehead. “I don’t see why you still give him morphine. It doesn’t help anymore,” I blurted, glaring at Mom.

  Mom nodded and her bottom lip quivered. “I know. The doctor said there’s another alternative. ” She sniffled and wiped her nose on the back of her hand, and for some reason that made me even hotter.

  I clenched and released my jaw, poked my tongue in the hole where I’d lost my last baby molar. “What alternative?” I asked, fanning my face with the corner of the quilt.

  “A medically induced coma. It might buy him some time while they try to find a cure. ” Mom looked up, right into my eyes, and I felt like I might throw up. Her tears were gone, replaced with bright, eager hope.

  “No!” I shouted between clenched teeth. “You can’t do that to him!” My body started to tremble, my heart beating too fast, pumping too much boiling blood through me. Sweat trickled down my temple and dripped from my chin.
Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]