Days. Hours. Minutes. It all added up. Every wrong I had done. Every mistake I had made. It was all coming back on me now. I listened helplessly as my lawyer defended me and did everything that he possibly could do to lower my many penalties' severity. I thought about how well he was doing considering the circumstances. All of a sudden, the placid feeling left. The judge retired the jury, and my stomach began to churn. I sat nervously in the room while the jurors ventilated. I was unable to maneuver any part of my body. I felt as if I was paralyzed. I also stopped breathing. I was so worried as I remained motionless that I was drowning in my fears. Everything in the room became a blur as I waited for the jurors to decide my fate. I gripped the arms of the chair and soon lost all feeling in my hands. My knuckles were whiter than the clouds outside.
I did not know how long I remained in the chair. It could have been hours. I satisfied my nervousness by doing little things. I twirled my thumbs. I counted the breaths of the defense intern beside me. I watched the seconds tick away on the clock hanging on the wall opposite of me. I counted the complaints from impatient adults behind me. Eventually, one by one, the jurors filed into the room. They sat in order from two to twelve. The foreman, juror number one, remained standing at the door for a minute. He stared at me with a "you-are-lucky-to-be-alive" look. I caught the judge staring at me with a similar expression. The foreman slowly walked towards the judge. He stopped before him and whispered something that was too low for anybody but he and the judge to hear. He then turned and walked away in no hurry to be back to his seat. I waited for him to sit down before looking at the judge. He seemed upset yet satisfied in the most peculiar way. His eyes narrowed and he called for me to stand. I rose and waited desperately for the judge to announce my punishment. I was sure to be given the death penalty for what I had done.
"The woman standing here," the judge began motioning towards me, "is found guilty on all accounts."
I could feel my knees give in immediately. Though I had expected them to make this conclusion earlier, it was still horrific to hear. I knew that the death penalty was the only option. I could feel a tear gather in the crevice of my eye and fall to my cheek and continue down to my chin. It took a great deal of effort for me to remain calm and composed as the judge continued his speech.
"It also seems that the jurors have decided to exile you rather than give you the standard punishment," he spoke. It was spoken more as a question than a statement.
I looked up astounded by the turn of events. The standard punishment is the death penalty, and they have decided not to give it to me. I would never have expected this incredible turn of events. Tears of excitement ran fluently from my eyes now. Instantly, the crowd behind me began to murmur in disagreement. I took a peek at the judge and around the court room and found wide eyes full of opposition gazing at me. Some of the people even had their lips pursed or eyebrows scrunched. One mother had her child by his arm and was rushing out of the room.
"You will, however, be exiled for life. So therefore, you are forbidden to return. We will give you seventy-two hours to prepare to leave. Court is dismissed." The judge then stood up and left the court room. It was so quiet in the room that you could have heard a pen drop. I was the first to move.
I made the agonizing walk to the exit door. I could feel the glares behind me burning a whole in my back. I continued to the door and ignored my urge to spin around and see who exactly was scowling at me or exactly who was staring into me. I reached the door and waited for the police to allow me to enter the door and, once there, I was nearly trampled by reporters who wanted to ask me questions and take my picture. The security guards held them off as I made the long trip down the hallway. I finally reached my destination, the room. This room contained my clothing and other items that had been brought with me when I was first committed of the crime. If I had a family, they, too, would be here. Unfortunately, I had no family. The truth is, my family exiled me awhile ago. I was abandoned and left to die at the age of ten. I was forced to provide for myself. It is their fault, in a way, that I am in this position now. I had to steal food, water, and apparel to survive. I spent six years of my life this way until an ignorant, upper class man told the police I was stealing from his garden. The police looked at my records and watched previous recordings from other years and discovered some other crimes I had committed. The man spoke in court and explained to the judge that children like me should not be allowed to walk amongst him or to be here in the city at all. It is like he wanted me to die.
I retrieved my clothes from the chair and changed into them as fast as I could. I did not want to spend any of my time left in here if I could help it. I returned my borrowed garments and opened the extravagant white door that led me outside. I began walking along the cobble stone street. I looked more closely at my city than I usually would have. I did not want to forget it once I was exiled. I saw a sign for a trail that had been neatly outlined in dark red paint. I took-in the pretentious buildings that lined either side of the wealthier half of town. I examined the trees that each seemed to bear a different fruit: some apple, others peach, some orange, others pear. The variety was endless. I even began to notice the disarrangement of bricks on some of the buildings that gave them their own distinct personality.
I continued down the street, eventually crossing the railroad and making my way into the poverty-ridden part of town and noticed different things. I noticed the unruly wood used to make the houses. I saw that the weight of people had gone from average and plump to shriveled and skinny. Everybody here was lacking the necessities for survival. I continued to stroll until I reached a makeshift hut. This is my home, I thought as I opened the sheet I had used as a door all of these years. I stepped in. There was a musky, yet floral aroma in my home that I believed to be from the woods nearby. The carpet of my home was the grass, and there were no walls to separate rooms. I made this hut by myself. It was a reasonable little home. The exertion put into building my hut was all worth it in the end. It had survived numerous storms. I looked around my home now and thought to myself, what do I really want to bring with me. I knew the answer almost immediately.
I crawled to the box in the far right of the area. It was a small jewelry box with shells coating every side. It contained my most precious objects. I opened the box and examined the few items that I had managed to collect and keep over the years. My great grandma's watch lay on top. It had a diamond encrusted bezel which was important to me in the sense that, if necessary, it would offer me some stability with food, but I couldn't dare sell it no matter how hard I tried. The watch also had a distinguished odor. It smelt of vanilla and plum. These were the fragrances of my grandma. This watch was one of my few reminders of my real family. I set the watch down by my knee gently. Behind the watch was a ring that I had found in the snow by the gutter. It had an opal and was gorgeous. I remembered the day that I found it clearly. The snow had just begun to blanket the city as I was returning from a garden where I was collecting carrots for my stew. The wealthier people were too arrogant to be seen out in the cold, but the unfortunate in the town dealt with it and went on with their occupations like any other day. A carrot had escaped my basket through a hole and, as I bent down to retrieve it, I saw a glimmer to my left. I reached towards the shining object. It was the ring. I looked at it now. To me, it always seemed fragile. I was as careful with my ring as a mother is with her newborn child. Now, I set the ring on the ground, too. A rabbit's foot was to the left of where the ring had been placed. I only kept this foot because it came from my first rabbit kill. I was told that it was good luck to keep the foot of the first rabbit you killed, so I did. I placed the foot next to the ring and returned my attention to my box. My favorite object was now alone in the bottom of the box. I lifted it up and examined the detail on the little charm. The locket was shaped in a heart and it had incredibly intricate flowers. I had stolen this locket a few years ago from a traditional old woman who lived alone by the pond in the woods. I felt bad about stealing from her. She was very much like me. If an outsider were to compare our lifestyles but since she did not need it to survive, I took it. I placed each object carefully back into the box and set the box aside knowing that I was going to bring it with me.
I reached now for a small bag to my left. It was scratched up and torn at the top, but it was the only thing I had that I could use to carry my items in. I searched my hut for anything else that I felt was necessary to bring once I was exiled. I searched for two hours and packed the items that I found neatly into my bag. I concluded my search by zipping up the bag to the best of its ability. I grabbed at a jacket hanging from the roof and pulled it down. I put on the jacket and exited my home to go to the square to find my few friends so that they could know the news of my court case's decision.
I trotted through the alley as I had done almost everyday since I had been on my own. I arrived at the square and searched for my friends. I roamed the square for a long time unable to find somebody with whom to share the news of my near departure. Suddenly, Johanna appeared. She, too, was coming into the square from the alley. Seeing her brought forth in my mind the realization of the future that was creeping up on me. I could feel my I could legs begin to buckle beneath me for the second time today, but this time I could not hold myself up. Johanna could see this, too. She rushed towards me. Her eyes yelled out in fear and her voice strained for me to hear her. I saw her mouth, but I did not get the chance to respond. I collapsed in the middle of the street hitting my head on the way down.
When I woke up the next morning, I was not inside of my hut. I was in a large, spacious, white room that smelt of antibacterial soap and cleaner. I was not alone either. I could faintly make out Johanna and Trevor's silhouettes across from me. I blinked a couple of times because of the light coming from the window. I reached for the blinds unable to close them. Seeing my struggle, Trevor reached to close them himself.
"Thanks," I said. I could now see the scene across from me. Trevor was wearing an ivory green T-shirt that was covered in holes and a pair of faded, ripped jeans. His hair was messy and he had circles under his eyes. Johanna was sleeping uncomfortably next to him. She was sweaty and nervous looking. She wore a hooded sweat shirt and jeans. They were sharing an under-sized couch. His feet were hanging off of the edge and she was curled up into a ball on the side opposite of his.
I looked at Trevor who was looking at me with a sensitive expression. He is, perhaps, the only person I can remember who did not give me a look of criticism besides Johanna who was worried at the time. "I heard about the court's decision," he said faintly.
I pretended to be shocked. "Really! Wow, news travels fast," I replied in a sarcastic tone. I sat up in the hospital bed. It was lumpy and uncomfortable. I missed the soft grass of my hut.
"I'm sorry," he apologized though he had no reason to.
"Why? I think it's a lucky break. I thought I was going to get the death penalty. There isn't much to go around and I have stolen a lot." I stopped my speech short seeing the disapproving look on Trevor's face. His look of disapproval turned to anger.
"A lucky break?!" he whispered furiously. His eyebrows scrunched up in anger. He shook his head.
"Think about it, Trevor. If I had been given the death penalty like I was supposed to have gotten, I would be killed in front of many people. At least this way nobody will have to see it." The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of a death in the wild where few people have ever been in recent years.
"Okay. Who knows, maybe you will like it beyond the gates," he replied mockingly.
"Exactly," I interrupted. "What if it is good?"
"What if?" he questioned glaring at me.
A nurse then came into the room. She explained my injury to me in detail. I didn't really pay attention to her. My mind was too focused on what could be outside of the forbidden gates. I would find out soon enough.
"Take this with you," I heard the nurse say as she handed me a filled prescription, "and I will have your friend here sign you out." She smiled towards Trevor and was on her way. I could hear her heels click on the floor in the silence after her departure.
I looked at Trevor who was standing up from the chair that he had used as a bed. "Come on," Trevor urged. "I hate the hospital. Let's get out of here." He began walking towards the bathroom.
I got out of the bed and scanned the room and found none of my items. "Trevor?" I called.
"What?" he asked.
"Where is my stuff?"
"In here," he replied.
I walked towards the bathroom where I found my bag and clothes. I bent down and retrieved the bag. I then rummaged through it to find my toothpaste and blue toothbrush. I turned on the faucet of the nearest sink, put water on my toothbrush, added toothpaste, and began brushing the teeth vigorously.
While I was brushing my teeth, Trevor was looking at himself in the mirror. He was fascinated by his face. I finished brushing my teeth and turned to him. "What's wrong?"
He looked at me shocked. "What's wrong? Look at me! I look horrible." He turned around and saw the shower. "Do you mind?" he asked motioning towards the shower.
"Not at all," I replied signaling him towards the curtain which was stained by previous patients. I then looked down at the prescription in my hand and tossed it in the trash under the sink.
"Seriously?" he asked.
"I have never used medicine before. Why start now?" I asked.
He nodded understanding my reasoning. Trevor opened the shower curtain and turned on the water which almost instantly filled the whole room with steam. I looked in disgust at the various stains on the curtain.
Unlike me, Trevor did not seem to care about the them. He removed his shirt revealing a tan and muscular chest. I stood staring at him until he reached towards me and waved his hand in front of my face.
"Are you okay?" he asked nudging my shoulder.
"Uh...yeah," I announced stumbling from his light push. I sounded awkward, even to myself. I reluctantly continued to stare at him. He had defined abs that were unnoticeable under the ragged shirt that he wore just moments ago. His perfection left me in aw.
He laughed. He hadn't noticed the weird tone to my voice. "Okay." He proceeded to remove the rest of his clothes before stepping into the shower. I could faintly make out the outline of his body behind the curtain. "I have something important to tell you. Before Liam..."
"Liam?" I asked. I had not heard any news of him in three years. A far as I knew, he was dead. I hated this fact. He had been one of my closest friends.
"Yes. You see," he began, "Before Liam left, he told me of where he was going and how I could find him. He told me that he had found a way out of Cautus Civitatem. At first I didn't believe him. I thought he was crazy, but then he showed me. He said that beyond the gate he could see little mole hills. He believed that he could travel beyond the gates by building an underground tunnel and climb out of a mole hill to freedom."
"That's ridiculous," I exclaimed. "How could he believe that he could do such a thing?"
"It worked," he simply said.
"Really?" I questioned amazed.
"Really. You see, I found Liam's escape hole and I have been able to communicate with him through it."
"Why didn't you tell me before," I asked offended. Trevor knew that I had spent countless nights worrying about Liam.
"Liam thought that if too many people found out then it would draw attention to the area where his escape passageway was built causing higher security which would mean that none of us could ever get out. I plan on asking Liam later about your departure tonight."
"Ask him what about my departure?"
"I think he can get you out."
"So you are asking him tonight? Why so soon?"
"They might keep higher security on you so that you don't try to commit suicide to get out of self survival beyond the gate."
I nodded. High security was to be expected. "What happens when they recap the tapes and see that I went there last?"
"Ugh! I forgot about that. They wouldn't have cared for a common citizen unless it was a lot of them but a highly ranked criminal. Ugh!" Trevor was extremely frustrated. He continued to mumble to himself as he remained in the shower.
The news of Liam's life gave me a sense of hope. I was so happy now. Maybe I would have a life beyond the gates. I imagined my life with Liam beyond the gate. Maybe we could find each other, live together, fall in love. Oops. I dropped my toothbrush on the ground and the noise snapped me back to reality.
I decided I needed to get out of this horrid hospital gown. I dropped to my knees and searched through the bag of items until I found my jeans and my pink lace tank top. I stepped into my jeans quickly and buttoned the top button hastily, too. I was in the middle of slipping into my tank top when Trevor stepped out of the shower. He looked at me grinning. Then, he turned to the mirror.
"All better," he assured.
"Yes," I agreed. This look was a great improvement from his T-shirt outfit and shaggy hair earlier. He had gone from a beggar to a banker in just minutes. I had to remind myself no to drool. Trevor walked into the main room to get his bad and I followed. He returned to change and I stayed with Johanna.
She was still sleeping soundly on the sofa. There was a light snore in the room that gave it a home-like feeling. Trevor opened the door and walked out fully clothed. "Are you ready to get out of here?"
"Absolutely!" I responded.
Trevor began creeping towards Johanna, but he stumbled on the leg of a chair causing him to make a loud stomp. She woke up quickly and looked around to see what had caused the noise. She
"Sorry," Trevor apologized.
"It's okay," she yawned. She then turned to me. Seeing my new clothes she said, "Are they letting you leave?"
"Yes. We were just on our way to sign out."
"Oh, let's go then!" she answered.
We decided to just grab everything now. We explored the room for anything that we thought was ours, and when we believed we had packed everything we left.
Outside, we began walking towards the city square. We did not talk much, but I began to feel eyes on the back of my head. When I turned around, I found Johanna a few steps back peering at me.
"What?" I asked her.
"I am trying to figure out how you are remaining so calm."
Trevor perked up. "You know, I have been wondering that, too."
"I don't really know," I began. "It is just easier like this."
They both nodded. I began thinking about her question. Soon, I became upset by it and my eyes began stinging. I then knew that I was going to cry. Her question had caught me off guard and thinking about the situation made me upset. Trevor saw my struggle to hold back the tears and he pulled me into hug him. I could no longer fight them off. They began coming out of me continuously. They were unstoppable, so I just cried. Trevor kissed the top of my head and rubbed my back. Johanna stood in my view with an apologetic look on her face.
It took a while for me to stop crying. When I released myself from Trevor, I could see that I had soaked his shirt in tears.
"Sorry," I sniffed.
"My shirt is fine. Are you okay?"
I looked at him unsure of my answer. "I hope so," I finally replied. It was the best I could do.
We continued our wandering stroll. It seemed to me like we were going in circles. None of us had anywhere to be at the moment. I think we also remained together because today and tomorrow were going to be the last times we would ever see each other, and besides Liam, they were the only friends I had.
"So, where do you want to go for dinner?" asked Trevor suddenly.
"I think you should pick," Johanna said to me.
"Okay," I began. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. "I want to go to Lola's."
"Yummy!" said Johanna as Trevor licked his lips. We used to meet up at Lola's all of the time.
We began our hike to Lola's now. Lola's was a little shack-of-a-restaurant in the middle of nowhere. The paint was peeling off of the walls and shingles were falling off of the roof, but the food here has always been delicious. Once we reached the restaurant, Trevor got the table in the rear of the restaurant for us because he knew of my love for the decor surrounding this table. The table's floor and walls were covered in strange metal rectangles that each contained three letters, a picture, and three more letters. At the top of the rectangle was a foreign word and at the bottom was a different foreign word. I was fascinated by them and often wondered about where they came from. Now I wondered if these places such as "Kentucky" and "Maryland" were what awaited me behind the gate. I would soon find out.
Johanna was also staring at the rectangles in confusion. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing. Johanna and I began a conversation that revolved around the gate and what awaited me. Trevor offered little to this conversation. He stared at my bracelet and seemed to be thinking very hard about something.
"Would you like something to drink?" asked a cheerful waitress. I jumped at the presence of an unannounced voice. Johanna was also jumpy.
Trevor remained still. "I would like water."
"Orange juice," I replied.
"I will be right back with your orders." She left and her long blonde hair smacked Trevor's face as she turned to looked up for a moment but immediately returned his attention to my bracelet. I, too, began to examine it. Was there something special about it?
"Trevor, what's wrong?" asked a concerned Johanna.
Trevor returned to an almost normal self. It was a phony smile. "Nothing," he said to Johanna.
She believed him and reached for his hand. He held it and stroked the back with his thumb. He was still not completely there.
"Where is the waitress?" asked Trevor.
"I don't know, but I will go look for her," offered Johanna. Johanna then got up and left.
I turned to Trevor who was now inspecting my face. "What's wrong?"
"I was thinking about the possibility of getting you out of the city. If there was a distraction, you could sneak into the house and depart Cautus Civitatem without being noticed."
"I think that is possible, but who would cause such a disturbance In our city's normal routine that would require all of the official's attention."
"For you, I would," he spoke.
"For me you won't," I replied angrily. I looked towards light footsteps. Johanna was returning with the waitress.
"Sorry," the waitress said. "I was caught up in something on the news."
As she passed out our drinks, I looked around the restaurant for a TV. I found one in the far corner and stood up to walk towards it. On the screen was a plain room, but I knew better than to believe that a room was the breaking news story. The reporter opened the closet and moved the rug revealing a hole. I stepped back from the TV shocked. This was not just any room. It was Liam's room.
I stared at the TV unable to move. This was Liam's room. This was where he had escaped. This meant that I would be exiled. I looked at the TV trying to control my sadness. I knew I could no longer hold it in. I looked around for an exit. I ran towards the door, flung it open, and ran out as fast as I could. I did not care who saw me cry. Tears began streaming down my face as soon as I had left the restaurant. I ran into the woods knowing that anyone who truly cared about would know that I would go there. I sobbed for a good twenty minutes before I gained enough composure to return to the restaurant. On my way back, I saw a camera. I then proceeded to break down again.
"Where are you?" I heard as Trevor stomped through the woods. With each step I heard more leaves break. "There you are."
He ran to my side. I broke down into his lap and he rubbed my back and kissed my head. "It will be okay. I will get in touch with Liam. There are other ways." I looked up at him confused.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Don't worry. We have other holes throughout the city. They are just smaller."
"Too small for you to exit the city out of."
I bawled in his lap again. At some point he lifted me up and carried me to his house. I woke up the next morning wondering how I had gotten there. I looked at the clock. It was already 9:00. I had slept for a good 12 hours. I was mad at myself now. I had only three days before I had to leave the city in a public event and I just wasted 12 hours sleeping. I was so caustic, especially since this was my last day here.
"What are you going to do today?" asked Trevor.
I turned to him. Only one word could describe what I would do. "Live." To me living is different from surviving. Living is enjoying life and that is what I intended to do on my last day in this savage city. I walked towards Trevor now. "Do you have a shirt I could borrow. I'd like to save mine for when I am exiled."
"Sure." He went to his drawer and pulled out a green shirt with black letters on it. I recognized it immediately. It was our school shirt way back when during a recession in our city. The schools were unable to buy a regular uniform so they did there best with the t-shirt. This shirt had been our uniform and that year Liam, Trevor, Johanna, and I had met each other. I smiled at Trevor.
"We have been through a lot haven't we?" he asked as he gave me the shirt.
"You bet," I said pulling the shirt over my head. There was a knock on the door and we both looked in the door's direction.
"I'll get it," offered Trevor. He strolled towards the door and turned the knob. "Hey Johanna."
"Hi," I greeted.
"Well, what's on the agenda today?" she asked. Johanna was great at making a wretched day seem like any other day. She never seemed worried at all. I watched her walk towards Trevor's sofa and plop down on it. Her black hair was lifted in the air for a second as she did.
"We were just discussing that," replied Trevor as he, too, made his way toward the torn down sofa. I remained standing. I refused to sit down on this day. I could sit for the rest of my life but not today.
"Well, I have an idea," I explained.
They both looked at me patiently. "Why don't you and Johanna try to get in touch with Liam," I began. "I want to revisit my old home."
"Which home?" asked Johanna.
"My first one," I say simply. Both know my hatred for this house. It was the last place I could remember being happy with my parents. I had no real reason for the sudden urge to want to revisit my past, but I had a strange feeling that I was meant to go there. I said my goodbyes to them and walked out the door.
My old home was in the wealthier part of town. This confused me because I don't have any memory of ever having any substantial amount of money. I walked and accepted the glares from the people on this side of town. I was trash in their eyes. I had no argument either. I lived in a hut by the woods and they lived in white mansions with ivory stairs. I ate plants and they had meat. I was of a lower class. I saw the old woman on the corner across from my old house. She smiled. She treated everyone in the town equally and she was much respected because of it. I reached the remains of my house and felt a tear fall out of my eye. I looked towards the still-standing fireplace. It was the only thing that had been made of brick in my large house. I heard that my neighborhood had been built when clean-cut wood resembled wealth. I stepped into the ashes and bent down and lifted up a handful. I let the wind blow them away. I began to wander around on the ruins. My house had been set on fire not long after my parents had abandoned me. Their bodies were never found and, as far as anyone else knew, my whole family died that night. No one but my friends ever found out that this was my family's house, and I never had the intentions to let the citizens know it was. I knew I would reach my emotional breaking point any minute. I began to leave, but I saw the street sign and a wave of fury came over me. I ran towards the fireplace and began to remove the bricks one by one. My family was gone, so this house should be, too. I threw some of the bricks at the street sign and others were randomly tossed from my hands. I had reached the last row of bricks before I realized that a corner of something was flopping out from under the brick. I crouched down and removed the brick from the layer of ash. I picked up the object and examined it. It was a photo.
I stared at the picture for a long time. I recognized this girl and the three surrounding people, but where have I seen them. I studied the picture unable to recall who these people were. The girl in her father's lap smiling up at him while he kissed her forehead. Her brown hair blowing in the wind. The father laughing at the silliness of his daughter. The women holding her son. The son pointing at a butterfly in the sky. The wife nodding as she, too, reached for the flying insect. It was all too familiar yet too far out of reach for my mind to give me an answer. I continued to ponder over the image as I sat on the sidewalk. I became puzzled. Why was it that I felt drawn to the little girl? Was this a neighbor or friend of mine? Had I seen this child on my way to my house? I had no justification for my newfound obsession with this photo. If I accomplished anything today, I hoped I could find out who these people were.
I now began the journey back to the house. On my way there, I ran into two enfeebled friends. Trevor and Johanna were huffing as they leaned against a building. I hurried towards them worriedly.
"Are you okay? What happened?" I asked. I prepared to catch Johanna who looked like she could collapse any minute now.
Trevor answered in pieces. He was still breathing heavily as he spoke. "We had...to go to the...cave to get...in touch with...Liam. We...did...and...he said that...he would watch...the gates tomorrow...for your arrival. Johanna...and I almost...got caught at the cave...by police, so...we ran for...our lives. If we had...gotten caught...then we would...have ruined our...plan."
"What about the cameras?" I questioned.
"The cave...cameras...were disabled...a while...ago," panted Trevor.
Johanna was gasping for air now. "Let's get to Trevor's house," I told her.
I helped Johanna shuffle to Trevor's house. Trevor stabilized soon after we began the walk to his house. Johanna almost fell over several times on the way there. Trevor, seeming to understand Johanna's need for a seat, opened the door quickly. She stumbled into the house and plopped down on the sofa resting her head against his pillow. Trevor, moving at a normal speed, moved to the sofa and sat next to her. I paced the room as I waited for Johanna's breathing to steady. Her breathing was fast but gradually slowed to a normal rate.
"Okay," I began. "I went home, and I found this...this picture."
"What of?" asked Trevor.
"It looks like a family. I don't know whose family, but it was wedged between two of the bricks remaining in the fireplace."
"Let me see," Trevor anxiously replied as he stretched his arm towards the photo.
He began to smile. "I know who this is."
"Who?" I asked. I had no idea of who the strange people were.
"Me? How can it be me? Did I even have a brother?"
"Yes," Trevor replied. "His name was Dylan. He looked just like you."
"Well, where is he now," I asked. The possibilities were endless. He could have moved; he could have married, he could be in the army...
"He's dead." Trevor looked sadly at me.
I looked at him startled. How was it that my whole family was dead? How was it that I managed to live and survive on my own for such a long time and they died even though they had each other? Why me? What made me so special? I contemplated these questions for a long time. I survived and I wasted my chance getting into trouble by stealing food. Why had I done this to myself? I became angry and stormed out of the house. I slammed the door and collapsed on the porch outside. I stared at the pavement and the gate across the street. Then, far down the street, I could make out the faint outline of Liam's house. There were reporters still gathered outside who had not been able to get through the mass of paparazzi that had taken over the area yesterday.
I stood up from the porch and began a walk to Liam's house. I could feel a sensation nearing the home of my friend. It felt as if he was watching me. Reaching the house, it felt as if almost no time had changed since the last time I had been here with Liam. We had been sitting on this porch watching the clouds go by. Their was no romance between us, but if people who didn't know this had seen us that day, they would have thought we were dating for sure. We were cuddled together because of the cold weather. His arm was around me and we shared his jacket. I had my head rested against his shoulder and we simply sat. We weren't talking or moving, we were content with being near each other. While on the porch now, I just wished Liam would come out and continue that day with me.
I sat gazing at the sky, wishing that the clouds could be as full as they were that day. Today, they were ugly and thin. They were mock clouds. I felt my head lean down and land on a shoulder. The arm from the shoulder put its arm around me and laid its head on top of mine.
"Hi," a voice said. An instant rush of disappointment ran through me as I realized that this was not Liam. It was just Trevor.
"Hey," Trevor," I looked up at him. His face was smiling and his eyes had never been bluer.
"I have to tell you something," he began.
"What?" I asked. This week had been full of surprises. Everything from and exile sentencing to a photo finding had happened this week. What else could possibly come as a surprise.
Just then Trevor leaned down and brought me closer to him. His face was just inches from mine and his minty breath was felt on every pore in my face. I hadn't expected this, but before I could object his lips were against mine. At first, he kept control and was gentle, but the longer we kissed, the more strength he brought. His mouth was his crowbar which he used to open mine. His tongue danced on my lips and brought a tingle down my spine. His unexpected release brought a wave of sadness upon me until he pulled me closer to him. His lips no longer wanted my mouth but they wanted to explore the taste of my neck and jaw. I felt whole until I realized that I wanted his lips on mine. I grabbed at his neck and looked him straight in the eye. Soon, his lips, round and pink, were fluttering on my lips until a woman separated us. Why?
"Young man, do you realize what you are doing?" she began. The old woman had white hair and wore a long dress that went down to her toes. Trevor stared at her with a blank expression on his face.
"Young man, you are to treat this girl like a young lady. Do you understand me?" Trevor continued to stare.
"Young man, these children," she began as she motioned towards the group of teenagers across from the porch, "are seeing your dis-play of affection." Trevor continued to stare. I let out a laugh.
"What is your problem?" she asked me.
"Nothing," I said shaking my head. At that, she stood up and walked away from us mumbling something about teenagers and their "dis-plays".
I looked over at Trevor who had unknowingly taken my first kiss from me. His eyes sparkled and his round lips were curved into a smile. This was not a reaction from the old lady, this was still his reaction from our kiss. His whole expression made him look happier than he had been in a very long time. I wondered why he had not done this a long time ago.
"Trevor," I began, "why now?"
"I have wanted to do that for so long. I just couldn't, not with Johanna," he replied.
"Crap! You are still dating Johanna. Do you realize what you just did. If I don't die being exiled, she is sure to find a way to kill me!" I slapped him in the arm and he reached for my wrist. He tightened his grip on them before speaking.
"She doesn't know."
"So! It still isn't very...isn't very...nice!" I stammered.
"I'm sorry. I just needed to do that before you left," he apologized turning to leave.
"Wait," I said stopping him. I reached for his arm and held on tightly as he continued to walk. "I'm glad you did. I just don't want Johanna to hate me the day before I leave."
"She won't find out." I smiled at this. I got to kiss Trevor and there were no consequences.
Trevor didn't hesitate to continue his stroll down the street. It was beginning to get dark out, and he insisted that I allow him to cook me my final meal here. The stars were out and I was with Trevor. I had him for one day only, but it was enough to surpass any fears I had, any worries about tomorrow. Trevor stopped me on the porch and outside of his house. He leaned down and placed his lips upon mine again. It was a farewell kiss, but a kiss at that. He brought me inside where he cooked me spaghetti. He only knew how to cook spaghetti, but it was the best I had ever tasted. We ate in silence. I was grateful for this because it gave me time to think.
Time to think about hat would become of me after tomorrow. Before today, I had thought that I would be released and be happy with Liam in the wild, but after Trevor's kiss today I was unsure of what I wanted or if I could even have Trevor after I was exiled. I looked up at him. His face was so innocent, yet he had known what had happened earlier. To me, he looked like my best friend. My best friend who I had seen happy. My best friend who I had seen sad. My best friend who I had seen in the shower. Yet, the kiss today had opened my heart and my eyes and I could now see a glow around Trevor as if he and I were something more Than what we had been.
He glanced at me smiling but quickly lowered his eyes in embarrassment. He had probably been trying to guess what I was thinking. I doubted that he could tell. He probably thought that I was thinking about what I was going to do when I was exiled tomorrow and I was fine with that. I finished my dinner and brought my dish to the sink. I instinctively began to scrub the dish free of the spaghetti sauce. I watched the sauce fall from the plate and scrubbed the outside of the plate. There was one stubborn spot that refused to come off. Trevor must have seen my frustration and he stood up and came behind me. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my head. If it had been any day but today I would have thought nothing at all about his gesture, but my feelings for him had sky-rocketed already. I turned around to face him and he put his hands on my waist.
"Don't leave," he whispered.
I stared at him. I could not believe that he had waited until today, the day before my departure, to tell me his feelings. He lifted me up to the counter. We were at eye level now and no more than a few inches apart. If I wanted to, I could lean in a bit and kiss him again, but I restrained. I just stared at him as he looked into my eyes and tried to see into me. He made the first move. He put his hands on my back and moved one step closer to me. His hands were firm yet gentle and I put my hands around his neck. He smiled and moved his head so close to mine that I could feel each individual breath on my lips. I tried to control my breathing as he carefully moved a piece of hair off of my face. I shyly looked away, but he moved his head in front of mine mine and leaned even closer. At this point, our noses touched. He turned his head slightly and lingered his lips on mine. I could no longer restrain. I pushed my lips into his. He returned the favor. With his hand on my back I was incredibly close to him yet I wished to be closer. I pulled myself to him. I could feel him smiling as I did so.
The next morning, I woke up in a blur. Somebody had brought me a bed and I felt incredibly warm. I pushed the comforter off of my body and stood. I looked out the window and saw that everybody seemed to be going in the same direction: towards the town's square. It was then that I remembered that today was the day I would be exiled. I panicked then and moved about the house trying to find Trevor. I went to the living room and his bedroom and eventually the kitchen. He was sitting alone at his table facing away from me drinking a cup of coffee. He turned as I entered and smiled.
"Hi," he welcomed.
I was taken away by his normality under the circumstances. "Hi," I copied. I knew that my voice was not as calm as his. I moved around the table to make myself a cup of coffee and saw that Trevor wore nothing but his boxers. His exposed chest was perfectly tan and I went to him instead of the coffee. I sat on his lap and wrapped my arms around him. "I leave today," I reminded.
He took a deep breath before speaking. "I know."
We sat in silence as Trevor stared at me. He glanced over every inch of my body and my face turned red. I had yet to shower or apply makeup. I stood and announced, "I am going to shower now."
I walked out of the room slowly. When I was sure that he could no longer see me, I ran to my room and removed all of my clothes. I grabbed a towel from the shelf in the bathroom and stepped into the shower. When I turned it on, it hit me with icy water and I screamed.
"Are you okay?" Trevor asked. He voice was loud and I knew that he was close.
"Yes. I am fine."
The water changed from warm to hot and I was sprayed with boiling water. I jumped out of the shower and decided to skip it. In doing so, I managed to cover the entire floor in a flood of water. I grabbed for my towel to wipe it up before realizing that it was the only one in the bathroom. I looked around for something that I could walk out of the bathroom in, but saw nothing. I opened the door and stuck my head out. Trevor was not in there. I opened the door and streaked to my room. I had made it.
I put on my clothes from yesterday and grabbed my bag of items that I had packed to bring with me. and walked out into the living room where Trevor sat.
"Nice butt," he said as I entered the room.
"What?" I asked.
"I saw you streak," he smiled. My face reddened and I sat in the chair farthest from him.
"Aw, don't get shy on me." He stood up and sat on the arm of the chair I sat on. "And were those C or D cups?" he asked jokingly.
I smacked his arm and laughed with him. This was what we had always been like before yesterday. There was a knock at the door and Trevor left to answer it. Johanna came in with a bag for me.
"Here! It has all of your favorite foods and that cute pink jacket you were always trying to steal from me." I smiled. Johanna was so nice to me and yesterday I had been kissing her boyfriend. I deserved to be exiled. I took the items from her and loaded them into my bag.
"What time are you supposed to be there?" Trevor asked.
"Nine," I replied.
"Shoot! It is already 8:45!" Johanna exclaimed.
I stood up slowly grabbing my bag and walked to the door. I turned to give Johanna a quick hug goodbye.
"I love you," she cried.
"I love you, too, Johanna. I will miss you."
I turned to Trevor who was trying to hold back his tears. I reached up for him and he reached down. I hugged him so close but I knew he wanted more. I knew I wanted more. I turned to face him and he kissed me, but this time we did not stop. We kissed goodbye until we realized what we had done. We turned to Johanna who had just witnessed our defying act. She looked like she wanted to yell. I would have let her; I deserved it. Instead, she burst into tears and flew out the door in the opposite direction of the town's square.
"Trevor, I have to go now. Go help Johanna. Tell her that I'm sorry," I rushed. I turned from him but he did not allow me to leave. He reached for my hand.
"Let me come to the square with you," he begged.
I nodded and intertwined my fingers with his.
The walk to town's square was usually short and sweet and the sky would always shine. Today, the weather matched my mood. It was raining and the people in Civitatem all work dark clothes that had been patched. Nobody wore anything that they considered to be dressy or attractive. They wore clothes that had been to through the worst days and had been to the worst places. I was their clothes. I was going to the worst place on this worst day. I walked to the center of the square where the mayor stood. He was mingling with the citizens. Upon my arrival, he ordered two guards to restrain me. Trevor kissed my forehead as they dragged me to stand before the mayor. He immediately hushed the crowd.
I had been hoping that the mayor would give a speech. Telling the crowd of what I had done wrong and that this was my consequence. Instead he kept his announcement short.
"Open the gates," the mayor ordered. The gates were pulled open. As they opened, they made an awful noise that was similar, yet much louder, to the sound of a shoe squeaking on a tile.
I turned to look at Trevor. He was tearing up but obviously trying to hold it together. His hands were in fists and his knuckles were white. I smiled at him to assure that I would be okay, but he just looked even more aggravated.
The mayor coughed and I turned back to him. "You are no longer allowed in Civitatem. You may not have contact with anybody in Civitatem. You may not cause any disturbance to Civitatem. If you disrupt or ignore any of the previous statements, action will be taken against you. You are here by exiled from Civitatem." The mayor read his statements straight off of a paper with a bored expression on his face.
The two guards released me and at that moment everything stood still. Nobody moved and no one made any noise. They all watched as I took a step towards the gate. Then another, and another until I was beyond the gate and into no man's land. I turned around to watch the two guards who had been holding me each being to close one side of the gate. Past them, Trevor was hysterical and was waving. I could not watch him cry any longer. I turned towards the vast emptiness. The gates creaked closed and I knew I was on my own.
I looked in every direction. Ahead of me, there was grass. To my left, there was grass. And to my right, there was grass. All around me was flat land with grass. I could see no trees or sources of water. I bent down and clenched a fist full of grass in my hand. When I stood up, I released it. It flew to the left. My decision was made, I would let the wind lead me.
As I walked, I began to see a few scattered trees. They grew closer and closer together as I moved on and eventually I was walking through a forest. I felt unsafe here. This forest gave me the feeling that I was being watched. I continued on anyway hoping I would be able to find Liam somewhere, but all I saw were birds and bugs.
I heard a crack of a branch behind me and whipped around, but nobody was there. I turned back and tried to ignore my urge to spin around again, but it was impossible to withstand. I turned around and from the part of the forest that had been in front of me seconds ago somebody put a hand over my mouth. In seconds I would be dead or reunited with my old friend.
The person began to pull me back with them. They made no attempt to talk to me. I backed up with them hoping that if they were going to kill me that they would have already. I tried to turn around but the hand held me faced forward. Once we had backed up a significant distance from our original spot, my mouth was released.
"Not even a day and you almost killed yourself," said the voice.
I saw a tail of a large cat stalk off, and I spun around quickly so as not to miss the person who had saved me. The voice was a her. Her hair was knotted and her eyes were wild. She wore a cloth over her chest and shorts made of leaves or an old shirt. She looked deprived of supplies. I instantly felt guilty for having a backpack full of clothes. I wondered what she had done to deserve to be exiled. I wanted to keep quiet but my nosy instincts took over.
"What are you here for?" I asked, my words jumbling together.
She stared at me wide eyed. Her face was covered in dirt. I wondered if she knew where Liam was, and how long it had been since she'd seen another person, or where she stayed at night, but I let her eyes wander over my face. Her hand made what seemed like the start to reach out and feel my cheek, but she stopped short. She moved her hand again and held it right next to my jaw. I stopped breathing and held her gaze as she poked at my cheek and smiled. She grabbed my hand and begin to lead me to who-knows-where. I had no other option but to follow. I knew she was capable of speaking, and I knew she could tell me where she was dragging me off to, but I thought better of it. She had already saved my life once today, so why question her now.