The rest of the tests passed quickly, and it seemed that I passed with flying colors. Physical abilities weren't really my best field, but I did think I did well, and Gideon confirmed my thoughts. Even though I was dripping with sweat, and overall just gross, I was very happy with my performance.
Mike and I went back to the room, and I found the time by looking at Mike's iPod. Realizing I only had a few minutes before dinner, I rushed into my bathroom and showered quickly, wiping away all of the sweat that I had. Finally I emerged from the shower, and with dread realized I had no clothes. My dirty ones were sitting on the tiled floor, covered in dirt, sweat, and gunpowder. I realized with regret I didn't have any more, and I shut my eyes. Muttering to myself under my breath, I tried to deny the entire thing was happening.
"No, this isn't happening. It's not happening. It's not. Nonononononono…" I groaned, but within the next minute I brought myself to call to anyone through the door.
"Um, hello? Anyone out there?" Mike responded almost immediately, his voice muffled through the thin wood of the door.
"Yeah. What is it? Are you alright?" I sighed, and nodded, then realized I was going to have to talk my way through this one.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just uh… need clothes. Do you, uh, do you have any I could, ya know, maybe, um, borrow?" I squeaked the last word, almost as if it would make it not true. A light, teasing chuckle reached me through the wood.
"Okay, I can get you pants and a shirt. The rest you have to manage on your own." I muttered my agreement to that with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, wishing with all my might to wake up from this nightmare. Sitting down on the toilet, I pulled on the clothes that were somewhat clean, and waited for the pants and shirt to arrive.
Eventually, what seemed like a century later, Mike called to me through the door.
"Roxy, can I open the door and throw these in without looking?"
"Sure" I called, and hid myself behind the shower curtain just in case. Not that I doubted that Mike would try something like that, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Or at least, that's what I like to think. True to his word, the door cracked for a split second and a bundle of clothes came in and hit the floor as the door shut. Without even looking at them, I pulled them on quickly, and reviewed myself quickly in the mirror. My hair was damp, but for the most part looking okay. It would have to do. I couldn't doll myself up every time I wanted to set foot outside of the room, so everyone would have to get used to me for who I was- minus the guys clothes. The jeans were long but surprisingly enough fit right in the hips, and I was wearing a Metallica t-shirt, which appeared unisex to a point. So I was okay with that. Messing with my hair one last time to make sure that I felt alright about myself, I opened the door and walked out.
Tom and Joe were already gone, but Mike was still waiting for me, playing a game on his iPod while he waited for me. Once I walked out he stopped what he was doing and looked up at me, then gave an approving nod.
"Hey, those don't look all that bad" he admitted, and nodded again, almost as if he was approving of his work. I finally allowed myself a tiny blush, but was able for the most part to keep it under control. I walked out of the room first, waiting for Mike to follow me this time, more confident in my abilities to know where I was going. Down the stairs, through the door, and into the mess hall.
Already brimming, the cafeteria like room almost seemed like home already, after only a day and a half. The place where everyone and everything was. In fact, this entire place, though foreign, I knew it would soon be more of a home than anything I've ever known. The thought of home made me ache inside though, remembering the bed in the dark blue bedroom that would be missing me, and the family that would be missing me too.
I found that my feet stopped moving at the thought of it. I had been terrified of a kidnapping at first, but soon came to realize that I wanted to do this, take a step in a new life, and start on a real adventure. I missed my family a bit the first few nights, and even more so in the first night in my new bed, but that had been swept away into today's excitement. It had been about a week and a half since I was first taken from my sleeping bag in the middle of the night. What could be happening when I was gone?
Would there be helicopters and search teams looking through the woods? Would there be alerts out on me, "Missing Child!" blinking across TV screens? How many tears had my mother shed, my father cried, or maybe even my brother? Adam's face flashed across my memory, as well as my entire family. My mother, as annoying as she could be, but the best. Helped with schoolwork, baked the world's best cookies and brownies and cakes and pastries and everything. The smell of homemade dinner and lasagna and other baked goods flooded into my senses just from memory. What about my father? AQ bit of a pain sometimes, but in the end, always helpful and kind. Despite the fights we had, the fact that he would always told me he loved me when I went to bed? And Adam. My little baby brother. Grown now of course, only a year and a half younger than me. But he would always be my little baby brother, the person not a soul could lay a finger on. Of course we fought and yelled, but it was rainy days when we went outside and played football, or fought for world domination in board games, or when he still confided in me for school problems, I was reminded of just how a unique of a bond siblings could have. I really loved him.
Was he crying? How could I make a decision, no matter the benefit of mankind, that could make the people I love cry? Make them wonder where I was, if I was lying dead, scared, or afraid, or tears of my own? All of this pain for them when in fact I would be living a plush but dangerous life underground? I could never contact them, tell them that I was fine and missed them. I could only wonder how much pain that they were in, pain I caused.
I didn't blink back to reality until I heard my name screamed into my ear, a hand shaking my shoulder. It was Mike, yelling at me, maybe even asking if I was alright. But I didn't hear. My body was shaking, and tears were running down my face. Streams of salty water down my face, and everything seemed just a din in the background. Bodies rushing past me, Mike close to me, touching my shoulder, practically yelling at me. It was all too much. I tore away from him and through blurred vision ran to the door and opened it. I felt stairs moving underneath my feet, barely able to see where I was going. Breath starting to come more heavily I threw open the next door and tore down that hallway, running blindly until I hit a wall, where I collapsed in a heap and cried at the top of my lungs. I shrieked and wailed and cried and shook and punched the wall as hard as I could. I hit it again and again, rage at myself, pain from missing my family, all until I was left sobbing, whimpering, a heap on the ground.
I didn't know how long I lay there, tears trickling down my face, but I did hear footsteps running towards me from the distance. I couldn't look up, face buried in my hands, to tell who it was. Hands shook my shoulders, but immediately I thought of my mother waking me up in the morning by doing the same thing. My tears increased once more, and the shaking started again as well. Soon I was aware of warm arms around me, a body sitting down next to me, pulling me close to them. The warmth of a human being caring for me was so overwhelming, I couldn't help but bury my face in their chest and cry for what seemed like years.
Eventually, I found there were no more tears to cry, and I looked up to see the face of the person that had provided me comfort through one of my most desperate times of need. I saw gorgeous, dark, glittering eyes, and dark brown spiked up hair. My tears were soaking a black t-shirt that I had seen a lot today already.
It was Mike.
I was too stunned to say a word, but I was beyond embarrassment. I am sure a part of me cared that he had seen me in such a disheveled state, but the astonishment that he could care about me enough to come after me and comfort me was also beyond my belief. But my quivering lips and ever so soft choking sounds didn't allow me to say a thing. Mike made a few softs sounds that soothed me, and I closed my eyes, leaning back against him. His arms wrapped around me still, and tightened just for a second, a comforting gesture. I leaned back against his chest, taking deep breaths, eyes closed, and content to listen to the drumming beat of his heart. It was so peaceful and heart tingling wonderful, I would have been happy to never move. Though in my peace, a stinging in my hand drew me from my stillness.
I looked down at my hands, which had at some point found one of Mike's, I saw blood trickling down from gashes along my knuckles. Realizing that it must have come from my rage at the innocent wall, I pulled myself apart from Mike and surveyed us both. There wasn't all that much blood, but there was some on my hands and arms, and some on Mike's hands and jeans. That was a bit embarrassing, but almost as if he guessed my thoughts, he shook his head.
"It's alright Roxy, I can have these washed. How about we go get you cleaned up a little bit?" I nodded, still not able to call up words. We separated our bodies and he stood up, helping me up with a hand. I was shaky on my feet, but he wrapped his arm around me. That seemed to steady me somewhat, and we made our way into the elevator, as if Mike seemed to understand I was hardly ready for stairs. He helped me make our way to the medical floor, where I waited numbly next to him on a plastic chair. Soon enough though I was called into a room that looked like any other doctors office, with a plastic chair, a table, and a chair for the doctor. I sat on the table, while Mike settled himself in the plastic chair to the side. A man was in the room almost as soon as we were, and there were no questions asked as he went about checking my pulse and temperature. White gauze and tape was wrapped around my hand and knuckles after a quick x-ray to make sure I hadn't broken anything. I had sprained a finger, but he quickly slid a splint on it, and I was done. It was easy and quick, and in no time I was back by Mike's side, willing to go wherever he would lead me.
Suddenly in my new room, room twenty four, Mike sat me down on his bed. He started talking to me, and I finally could hear his words, and was able to comprehend them.
"Roxy, I know how you feel. I know exactly what it is, and I went through it too. I'm always here for you, I hope you know that. I'll always be here for whatever you need, as long as you're here. Alright? It'll hurt for a bit, the missing, and I have to warn you you'll never completely get over it. But it will be better. At least you know they love you. What was your family like?" And I found myself pouring words out about my childhood, each family member, extended family, my home, my life, all in one breath it seemed. I just went on and on, until my body seemed to give out. My eyes were flickering shut, and then they were almost closed. I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke, I was still on Mike's bed, a blanket pulled over top of me. In the pitch black I was barely able to distinguish a form fallen asleep upright in one of the chairs in the middle of the room. With hardly another thought, I fell back asleep and dreamt of happy times with my family.