Chapter One

I am disturbed. It is something that I cannot help. I have tried, and it has taken me a long while to come terms with who I am. I just hate that I had to hurt so many that I loved in order to escape my own mind.

The train rattled, and I swayed slightly with the warm metal pole that I gripped in one hand I was caught in a swarm of bodies, stinking in wretched filth, and did not know how to extricate myself. I was not quite sure that I wanted to be free. Though I was sweaty, my shirt sticking uncomfortably to my skin, and trapped in the groaning organism that shared my discomfort, trying to ignore that I had no room to move, or to breathe, or to be alive, I could not help but be aware the one body that was pressed tightly against me quite willingly.

Evelyn.

Her slender and roughened hand was wrapped tightly around my free arm as if she were afraid that she would lose me were she to let me go for even a moment. She need not have bothered: there was no way that I would have lost her for anything, not after everything it took me to find her.

She said something. I could feel her moist breath on my neck, her heavily breathing chest against mine, her scratched and scabbed skin on my arm.

My eyes swivelled down to meet hers. Though she stood only a few inches shorter than I did, I felt a giant beside her fragile form. Her eyes–amber pools, opened wide–locked with mine. I could not bear to move my sight to any other part of her. If I did....

If I dared to look at the rest of her face, the rest of her body uncovered by the long clothing she wore, I would see the pain. I would see what I had done to her. The bruises and the blood, the deep gashes and acid burns. I would have to remember that I almost killed her. That I had killed the woman that she used to be.

I only had to close my eyes to remember the soft, pale skin in place of the now red and raw, long eyelashes fluttering gently, strong, yet carefully groomed, eyebrows, and glistening dark silk for hair, where now there was nothing. I think that is what hurt her the most–looking in the mirror to find a hairless beast, a shadow of a human, a beautiful woman turned to dust. She wore a hood now, gray and heavy, that drooped over her face in an attempted disguise.

I tried to speak and my voice caught. My throat still burned, even after the all the time that had passed.

Evelyn looked at me with understanding, as she always had. I wondered how she could still bear to look at me, knowing me for what I was.

Knowing that I did not hear her the first time she spoke, she repeated her question, "Kady, do you think that we shall be there soon?" Her voice was still sweet. At least I had not destroyed that. "These people..." she gestured with a turn of her head, "they make me uncomfortable." She chewed on her bottom lip, a characteristic sign of dicomfort.

I nodded, knowing what she described even more than she did. The shared sense of despair and overwhelming panic that ran though us all left me anxious and wanting to get far from the train. I could offer only a short croak sounding something like "I hope so."

The truth was that I had no idea where we were going, nor how long it would take us to get there. I only knew that it was far away, and I did not care how long it took to arrive at our destination, as long as we were getting away from the place that had caused us so much pain, brought us so much trouble. That had caused my Evelyn so much suffering.

I gently kissed the top of her head, brushing my lips against the course synthetic material of her hood. I wished that I had found her a better cloth to wear in the unstinting heat, but there was not much to be found in a city of ruins, especially when I had nothing left with which to bribe desperate people for their last belongings. We were all desperate. I was desperate: that was why I had done what I did.

I sighed and turned my eyes back to the crowd on the other side of me, pulling my arm from Evelyn's grasp and wrapping it around her, pulling her closer, holding her slim body in one arm, keeping her against me. I felt her relax into me, and lean her head on my shoulder. My throat tightened with remembered love and longing and former comfort. I could remember a place where we had both once felt safe together. I lifted my head to the cracked ceiling, watching a broken ray of sunlight slip through. I could feel her still with me. I would never let her go.

I felt a tear slide down my cheek.