"I need you right here, by my side,
You're everything I'm not in my life.
We're indestructible, we are untouchable,
Nothing can take us down tonight," – Papa Roach
Anna sat silently in the passenger seat. Even her thoughts were silent, as I had to block them out. The air was thick and the three hours it was going to take to drive to Wildwood was looking much longer; I didn't even bother suppressing a sigh.
"I was right," she finally spoke. Her voice gave away how tired she was. "He doesn't want the gift. I told him that it was his choice and I'd try to support him with whatever he chose."
"And then?" I asked. In her voice, I could hear that there was more that she wasn't telling me. I glanced over to find her staring out the window with a very troubled expression.
"Then, he tried to convince me to join him as he tried this new 'Mind over Matter' technique," she admitted. I was curious about this technique, but she didn't need me asking about it right at that moment. "I explained to him that I had no intention of getting rid of my gift. I gave him my reasons for it and he refused to hear me. We fought for a bit and then we both decided that it'd be best if we avoided each other for the rest of the weekend."
"That's probably best," I tried my best not to let my irritation show. What I really wanted to say was, 'and you're still with him, why?' But no, that probably wouldn't have been the best thing to do.
"I've lost him," her tone wasn't exactly heartbroken, but it was far from cheery. It was more matter-of-factly than anything, but in a sad way. It scared me.
"I wouldn't say that," I tried to encourage her, but the words sounded empty to my own ears. "Maybe you two just need a little break. You'll be back to your cutesy, gross couple stuff in no time." The words were painful to say and all I got in response was a small smile for my sad attempt.
She fell silent again, having finished telling me what I'd asked her to. It wasn't as if I was going to pry anymore, either; I wasn't about to make her feel any worse. I'd let her stew and deal with it in her own way, even if it killed me to not know what she was thinking.
It bothered me that she was so hopeless. You'd think that I'd be happy with the fact that she had given up on him, but no. And it was more than just because she was so sad; I mean, don't get me wrong, I absolutely hated it when she felt this way, but honestly something about the situation just terrified me.
Maybe it was the idea of losing the gift again – and of one's own free will. Or maybe it was because she seemed so sure of him being lost. Even if I didn't particularly like the guy, his decision would make a huge impact on all our friends.
What if they, too, decided to throw away their God-given gift? I couldn't imagine Mason being too keen on that – especially after all he went through to keep it. Emma was far too gung-ho about helping people with her gift to give it up so readily. Bethany probably wouldn't see the point in it. Seth would most likely follow his sister with whatever she decided, unable to risk losing her again.
Anna seemed pretty resolved with her decision to keep her gift, but would that change if it would cost her Simon? I glanced at her again; her reddish-brown tresses covering her face as she leaned her head against the door. I could hear her quiet sniffles and I knew she had to be hiding tears.
"Anna," I called out before I could stop myself. I had to keep my eyes on the road, but out of the corner of my eye I watched a silent sob shake her body. Then, I did the only thing I knew how to; I took her hand.
"I'm sorry," she croaked out between whimpers. "It's not fair to you. I'm so sorry." My grip on her hand tightened and I was pretty sure my thumb was rubbing her soft skin raw.
"It's okay," I tried to assure her while biting back my own tears. "Don't worry about it; it will be okay." She always tried to be strong around everyone. She never wanted to worry anyone and I wasn't going to let her see how much her tears affected me.
Sometime during the last two hours we had left, she had cried herself to sleep. Before she had been abducted by the hunters and injected with many unknown substances, her stamina was much better. Afterwards, she became tired more quickly, so I wasn't that surprised that she was sleeping; she needed it, anyways.
The little bits of sunlight that had shown through the clouds soon faded away. Over the hum of the motor, I could hear Anna breathing softly. Her hand was warm as it held mine tight. To be honest, I really enjoyed that feeling.
It was in that quiet moment that I allowed myself to think the selfish thoughts and desires that I'd been careful not to think earlier. I briefly entertained the thought that it could always be like this with the two of us. I let myself feel momentarily confident in the fact that I could mend her broken heart.
Then, the doubt resurfaced. In my mind, there was a slim chance she would ever think of me as something other than a friend. Maybe we'd become really close and she might think of me like a brother or something. At least then, I could always stay by her side and that was enough, for now.
The hotel room in Wildwood was nice. It was clean; had two queen-sized beds; a decent sized bathroom; a little table; a mini fridge; and a microwave in which Anna made our hot-pocket dinner. The hotel itself was only about a five minute drive from Brett and Sierra's.
I was slightly uncomfortable with the prospect of staying in this hotel. Not because I would be alone with Anna, although that was a bit unnerving, but rather because her dad was the one paying for this whole excursion. I felt bad, as if I was a bum tagging along for the ride.
If I had voiced my concern, I knew Anna would try to tell me that I had no reason to worry. Her dad would try to convince me that it was simply payment for taking care of his daughter, as he had asked me to do. I tried to go with their way of thinking as I stepped out of the shower and got dressed.
Turning off the noisy fan as I got dressed, I could hear Anna on the phone. She assured the person on the other line that we had made it safely. She was still working on placating the other person's fears as I walked out.
"Yes, dad," I could faintly hear Mr. Taylor's voice through the speaker. "The hotel is really nice. The beds are super comfortable!" She smiled up at me from the bed she was lying in at that moment – she hadn't moved since we brought all our stuff in the room.
I grabbed a book and sat down in the bed next to hers. I was trying to give her as much privacy as I could while in such a close proximity; a skill one learns rather quickly when they can read minds. It wasn't as if their conversation was of a private matter or anything, it was just the principle of it.
I knew that they probably wouldn't say anything I haven't heard them say before on one of his routine calls. Apparently, he used to be really hard to get ahold of, but after the big fight he had made a better effort to be available at all times. He made several reminders to himself about where his phone was and to make sure it was on full volume. Plus, he made sure to check in at least once every other day.
He still suffered from the guilt of leaving Anna in Northanger Valley without any way to contact him. Even though none of us discussed it, we all kind of knew that this trip was a peace offering of sorts. Maybe that was part of the reason I was uncomfortable with it.
"Yeah, he's here. Do you want to talk to him?" those words pulled me out of my book. Before I turned to look over at her, I could feel the bed sinking a little as she sat down next to me. "Alrighty, here he is."
She traded the phone for the book in my hands. She used her finger as a book mark while she read what the book was about. As she did this, I tried to ignore the fact that her head was on my shoulder and worked on talking to her dad.
"Hey, Mr. Taylor," I hoped my words didn't sound too forced. It was really hard to not concentrate on the girl beside me. "What's up?" I wasn't worried that he asked to talk to me, it wasn't unusual.
"How many times have I told you to call me Brian?" The answer to that would probably be about fifty times. I had yet to get the hang of it, though. At least he had refrained from asking me to call him dad, which was what he originally wanted to do. "I was just wondering how you were doing."
"I'm doing okay," I answered honestly. Anna seemed to be in better spirits after her little nap in the car, so I was also feeling a bit better. I was slightly irritated that I couldn't read her thoughts, but I could get over that for one night.
"I'm glad," he sounded as if he really meant it. I still didn't understand his concern for me. "That Hugo boy hasn't been giving you a rough time, has he?"
"No, sir," My nervous laugh didn't go unnoticed by Anna, who tore her eyes away from my book just long enough to give me a small smile. "I haven't been too bothered."
"I see," his voice took on a darker tone as he caught on to what I was implying. I was lucky enough, however, that Anna seemed too engrossed in my book to catch what was going on. "I should let you kids go. Enjoy your little vacation. Oh, and you'll probably see me when you get home."
"Really?" It had only few weeks since he had left Northanger Valley. I was really curious as to what he was up to. "Why?"
"Don't worry, it just has something to do with your schooling," Anna and I hadn't been to school since we came back. Being underground for several months had really messed up our records. We didn't have any problem with the testing, since the hunters had made sure that we continued with our education underground, but there was a bunch of legal stuff that Mr. Taylor and Sergeant had been working through to get us back to school. "It's a surprise though, so don't tell Anna."
"I make no promises," I groaned. Being a mind reader, I had learned to keep many secrets and surprises to myself, but that went out the window if Anna was involved. For some reason, I couldn't keep anything from her. "I will try, though."
"That's all I ask," I could hear the amusement in his voice. He loved to tease me about my inability to refuse the girl. He knew the reason a little too well, in my opinion. You'd think that would make him more wary of me, but nope – he enjoyed it. "See you, soon."
"Bye," I was careful not to respond in the same way and I could've sworn that I heard him laughing right before the phone's screen lit up, indicating that the call ended. I went to steal my book back and hand Anna her phone until I felt her stiffen beside me.
I nervously turned to look at her, afraid that maybe I had moved wrong or something. I found that she wasn't even looking at me, but was staring over her bed, at the window on the other side of the room. Her eyes intently watched something that I couldn't see; her mind was far from the book in her hands as she listened to a different story.
Anna's skin was deathly pale as she stared at the unknown intruder. My hand automatically dropped the phone and wrapped around Anna's. My mind opened up without much of a thought about the migraine I was about to have.
The first thing I read was Anna's irritated thoughts as she slowly realized what I was doing. Then, I saw the once invisible intruder. She looked to be in her late thirties with her curly orange hair coming to her shoulders. Her brown eyes were shining as she pleaded with Anna. There was something about her that seemed to so familiar.
"Please, find it in your heart to forgive my daughter," I couldn't figure out who the woman was, but Anna thoughts told me that it was Marcella's mother. Their family resemblance was strong, which was why she seemed so familiar. "She doesn't know what she's doing. She's not herself. Her heart is broken."
Anna couldn't find the words to say, so she just nodded. Her heart was breaking at the sight in front of her. She wished that she could find some way to comfort the woman. The woman trembled as she began to sob.
"Please, promise me that you'll forgive her," She was wailing so loud that had anyone actually been able to hear her, we would have had half the hotel coming in to investigate.
"I promise," the girl beside me spoke up meekly. The woman looked at Anna; the pain was still evident in her face, but relief was also there. She nodded, just before disappearing and leaving the sound of her sniffling to echo around the room.
Anna's thoughts told me that she was worried about keeping that promise, before a sharp pain ran across my skull and shut me off from her thoughts. The pain reminded me of a time when I was fifteen, after the hunter's had kidnapped me the first time. My memories and my gift were just beginning to resurface; there were still a few things that I couldn't recall.
I had actually let my mom hold my hand as the pain seemed to pulse through my entire body. My memory had come back full force that night and I think I passed out before it was all over. I hadn't experienced anything like that since then.
"Do you think you can take something for the pain?" Anna's quiet voice pulled me out of my memory. Her tone was calm, but knowing Anna, she was probably freaking out on the inside.
"Maybe," I hoped that my words were intelligible. For a few terrifying seconds, Anna's hand left mine. It was quickly replaced by two tablets of pain reliever. I had shut my eyes due to the pain, so I had to reopen them to see Anna holding a bottle of water out to me in the dark. She must have turned the lights off to soften the pain.
"Here," her hands trembled slightly, but her gaze was strong. I took the bottle from her and swallowed the tablets. She took the bottle from me, placing it on the bedside table, and sat down next to me on the bed again.
"I'm sorry," I wrapped my arms around her waist and buried my face in her shoulder. I normally wouldn't condone such physical contact, but I decided that I could be selfish for one night.
"It happens," She twisted one arm around to caress my head and her other hand rested on my arm. She let me stay there like that until the pain subsided. A little bit after I was sure the pain had been dulled, I pulled away and put some space between us. "Feeling better?"
"Yes, thank you," I stared at the blank television screen, unable to bring myself to look in Anna's crystal-blue eyes after the scene I had just made. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine," She was lying. I couldn't help my automatic reaction; I turned to glare at her. The grin she gave me in response told me that I had done exactly what she had wanted me to do. "I really am okay." I still wasn't sure I believed her.
"Are you worried about Marcella?" I tried to direct the conversation away from my little freak out. I almost regretted it when I saw her grin fall.
"I don't know, maybe a bit," She was probably more worried than she let up. "I don't think that she would intentionally hurt someone – even if she held a grudge against them. I'd be more worried about her harming herself. You don't think she would do something like that, do you?" I could tell that she couldn't bring herself to say the word, 'suicide'.
"No, I don't think so," She was still wary. "I didn't see any red flags tonight. Besides, she's with the Hugo's – I'm sure they'd notice if something was off and work to prevent it. Have some faith."
"You're right," she sighed; something still felt off to her. "We should call Mason in the morning and tell him what happened." I nodded, knowing that she would feel safer that way. "Do you want to see what they have on TV?"
"Sure," She turned on the television and the two of us escaped to the mind-numbing world of fiction. It was simply a short reprieve from real-life, but it was nice nonetheless.