“Zach?” She says it so quietly, I almost miss it. My mind was not here with us.
“Sorry.” I feel her body shift, and I pull her in tighter and rest my cheek on her head. She relaxes and mutters “I’m sorry” again. And it’s not just for falling apart. It’s for everything. I can feel her sadness, her regret. It seeps from every muscle, every bit of her perfect skin. She won’t have to say it again. I know. And I forgave her long before she asked for it.
Her fingers find the cuff of my shirt, and worry the edges as she starts to come back to me. Something happened in the City. I don’t think she’ll ever tell me. She can’t know that it doesn’t matter to me. Nothing matters except that she’s back here.
She shifts and this time, I know she’s ready to talk. She pulls away from my chest, leaving a chill in the shape of her head. She stays in my lap, though, my arms still draped around her waist.
“It’s warm. Even near the walls, in the shadows.” She must be cold if that’s the part she remembers first. I notice that even though we’ve been sitting here for hours, her clothes are still wet. I’d offer her some dry ones, but then I’d have to let go of her.
She shivers a little. “Yeah. And everyone wears white and doesn’t look dirty. Really, it was a little weird.” She sits up a little more and I know it’s time.
“Can I get you some dry clothes?” I whisper in her ear, and she smiles a little and nods.
She comes around the corner with a pile of wet clothes in her arms, climbs up on a couple of crates and spreads them out on my roof to dry. This is the girl I remember. Self–sufficient. Confident. But I know the girl I held last night, too. The cold, scared, beautiful girl. The one I love.
I wonder when I’ll get to see that one again.
“You’ll need to clean yourself up. You’ll never pass in there like this.” She waved her hand up and down at me. Like this. I grimaced.
“But that means I can pass. Right?”
“Yes.” She sighed. “Cleaned up, if you keep your hand hidden, yes, you’ll be ok.”
Something seemed off deep behind her eyes, though. Like she wasn’t as sure as she sounded. Like she wasn’t sure she wanted me to go.
“OK, so where’s the Book?”
She laughs. “Not that easy, Rotter!” she winks as she says it, and somehow that makes it ok.
Why doesn’t she want Zach to go to the City? Leave a comment…