Aylese drove non-stop for about an hour. During that time, Maya passed through the motions of multiple activities, without registering anything. She vaguely remembered helping clean and bandage Timmy's wounds as well as she could, and staring vacantly out of the window at passing scenery.
Maya was certain she had not fallen completely asleep, but she had definitely been nearing the point of unconsciousness when Aylese finally stopped the car.
"Where are we?" asked Derrick.
"Far enough for now," responded Alyese. They got out of the car.
Maya ran a hand through her wild hair and straightened her shirt. She was aware of Jason's eyes on her as she got out of the car, but when she turned around he had already turned his back to her. She shook off the uncomfortable feeling seeping into her bones and made her way to the trunk of the car.
Alyese, Derrick, and Jason were already pouring over the stash in the trunk when she got there. Timothy could not join them because of his bad legs, so he was hanging over the back seat, watching Alyese shuffle through the bags.
"I managed to gather us some supplies," Alyese was saying. "But we'll have to get more before heading out."
"Where are you going?" asked Maya.
"Well it's not really safe for Aylese to be in the country anymore," responded Derrick. "She's a wanted felon, and if they were to catch her they might send her back to her Soulmate. Or worse. She's gotta leave, and I'm going with her."
"Thanks, Derrick," said Alyese quietly. She smiled at him, and Maya thought she could see the faintest hint of a blush tinting the rough man's face.
"Where will you guys go?" asked Jason, ruining the sweet moment with reality. Alyese and Derrick broke eye contact. Alyese wiped her eyes and went back to rummaging in the trunk.
"The Fourth Nation," answered Derrick.
"The Fourth?" repeated Jason. "Why? Fancy some maple syrup and snow?
Derrick laughed. "We heard there's a group of Spares in the Fourth that are organizing. We'll probably go up and join them."
"Organizing to do what?"
"I dunno," Derrick shrugged. "Something big, maybe. From what we've heard, there's a whole lot of them; much bigger then our little band here. Could be they're preparing to do something huge, take down the governments and their stupid Bond laws once and for all."
"Or, it could be that they're just organizing to have a suitable life together," added Alyese, pulling herself from the trunk. "Either way, we've got to go check it out. It'd be a fresh start for both of us, and a chance to live in peace for once with our own kind. No more being second-class citizens or painted as villains in the popular media because we're not happily Bonded."
Derrick nodded. Maya stole a glance at Jason, who's face was as impassive and unreadable to her as ever. She wondered what he was thinking about, what options he was considering for himself.
"What about you, Tim?" she asked.
Timothy sighed. "Well, it's been a blast running with you all outside the law, but I think I'm ready to go back to my quiet, hidden life of a Spare right about now. Plus," he slapped his leg and grimaced in pain. "I can't be running off to the Fourth in this mess. I'd just be dead weight."
"We'll drop you off at the nearest care center on our way out," promise Alyese.
"Make sure you give them a fake name and get out of there as quickly as you can," warned Derrick. "You might not be as much of a wanted man as the rest of us, But I'm sure there's still some blasted officials after you."
"I'll be alright," answered Timothy.
Alyese grabbed a bag of supplies and made her way to the front of the truck. Derrick followed her. Maya watched them go, until she realized they might want a moment alone. Then she turned away, and came face-to-face with Jason. She paused.
"So…." she started, trying to break the tension between them. "What are your plans now?"
Jason took a deep breath and looked away, back down the road. He seemed to be giving the question quite a lot of thought. Finally, without looking at her, he answered.
"I'll probably go with Alyese and Derrick, if they'll let me tag along. See what this group they've heard of is all about."
"But you're not a Spare," she said, confused. "You wouldn't fit in there."
"Aren't I?" Jason gave her a look that injected much more meaning into his two simple words. Maya felt something harsh turn in her stomach; guilt? "Besides," continued Jason, looking away. "It doesn't matter who's a Spare and who's not right now. All that matters is getting some kind of plan together to rise against the world's strict Bonding rules. Until something changes, I can't be here. There's too many officials after my name."
"But what if this group isn't even planning a resistance to the governments? Alyese said it herself; they could just be organizing a place to settle down and live together."
"That doesn't matter either. If it's the case, then I'm sure they'll accept me. Derrick said they'd be welcoming to anyone who wasn't happily Bonded."
That hurt. Maya bit the inside of her lip and blinked quickly, trying not to show him how much his indifference to their connection stung. She had confessed her love for him in a courtroom surrounded by guards, but apparently that wasn't enough to make him forget about her betrayal.
Jason took one last glance at the road, then turned to head back to the truck.
"Wait, Jason," Maya reached out a put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. He turned back to look at her, but his glance was cold. She steadied herself. "I'm sorry, about Micah. I don't know what happened; how I could let myself get manipulated so easily. I know I should have seen it coming."
Jason shrugged. "He was a spy. It's his job to be good at lying."
"I guess," said Maya.
Jason nodded, then made his way to leave.
"Wait," said Maya, stopping him again. She took a deep breath. "Can I come with you?" She hoped he understood how much he meant to her; that she was willing to leave with him to another country.
"You can do whatever you want," snapped Jason. He shook her hand off his shoulder and began to walk away.
Maya let her hand fall slowly to her side. She had almost turned to return to her side of the car when Jason turned back to her.
"Wait, Maya." She looked up hopefully. Jason sucked in a breath through his teeth, whistling slightly as the thought over his words. "You should come," he said finally. "It's not safe for you here. They'll be after you. You'd be better off in the Fourth Nation." Then he got in the truck and slammed the door shut.
Maya turned back to face the road. She watched a squirrel scuttle its way down a nearby tree as she thought. She would go to the Fourth Nation, she knew it. She needed to go on the run until her case with the soldiers calmed down, and she needed to fix her relationship with Jason. Maybe he wouldn't want to finalize their Bond right away, but that would be fine with that. She loved him, only him, and she knew that now. She would work her hardest to make him see it.
Taking a final breath of air, Maya set her shoulders straight and turned back to the truck with new determination. She was choosing a path for herself. A difficult, unsteady path, but one filled with the promise of adventure a love. It was a new thing for her, but she decided that new looked good on her. Maybe life wasn't just about what you learned from book and schedules and classes. Maybe there was some worth to living a life out in the world, even if it was on the run from the most powerful country in the world.
Hey everyone! Thank-you so much to those who followed along with this story and saw it through to the end! It's been a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! This story has the potential for a sequel, but I haven't started writing one yet and I'm not sure if I will. (If anyone of you feels like you might want to take on this story and co-author a sequel to it, DM me!) I will add an update to this story if any news about it comes up, so you will be notified!
Thank you for your support all those who read and especially to those who left a review! (If you haven't, now is a good time!) This story has been a big part of my life for the past two years and I'm sad to see it over, but also happy too. Well, that's all I have to say for now; hope you all have a wonderful rest of your summer! :)