Grief, guilt, heartbreak, fear, loss, and abandonment all swirl in my head, creating a vortex of pain and confusion keeping me awake.
Three days ago I was planning a future with the boy I love. Cyrus was going to come back to the Union with me. We were going to figure out a way to warn the citizens here or stop the attack. Together. Now his brother is dead and Cyrus stayed behind, unwilling to abandon the rest of his family.
The scents of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass float on a late summer night breeze. I stare up at the clouds from the chaise lounge on the balcony. A thick marine layer inched its way in from the coast hours ago, blanketing the sky and obscuring the stars I was hoping to see. With the moon hidden and the Union lights off for the night, darkness envelopes me.
Over the soft murmuring of desalinated ocean water burbling through the aqueduct, I hear the door slide open behind me and sit up. My bio-dad, Eddie, walks out and takes the spot beside me.
I shift to my right, giving him more room. “No. You?”
He shakes his head, his cinnamon-colored wavy hair sweeping across his shoulders. “My grandmother used to say if you can’t sleep, it means you’re awake in someone else’s dreams.”
That’s a comforting sentiment. Is Cyrus dreaming about me right now? Or is he like me, too afraid of the nightmares to close his eyes?
Eddie presses his lips together and studies me for several long seconds. “Are you ready to tell me where you’ve really been all summer?”
His question catches me off guard. I thought he bought my story, the one I told him when I came back. The one Lisa fed him while I was in the Ruins. Posing as me, she texted my mom and Eddie from my tablet with regular updates on our fake adventures sailing off the southeastern coast. When I first showed up here yesterday afternoon, he didn’t seem to care where I’d been or what I’d been up to, only that I was here at all. I’m definitely not ready to have this conversation with him.
“I don’t know, are you ready to tell me where you were for the first twelve years of my life?”
He shifts his weight on the chaise next to me and sighs. “I don’t know how many times I can apologize.”
“You think another ‘I’m sorry’ is going to fix everything?”
He rubs his palms on his thighs and stands. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you’d like, but you might want to ratchet the anger down a few notches.” He moves toward the door before turning back. “You’re going to have to forgive me some day.”
I raise my head and turn toward his dark silhouette. “Why? You think sending me a ticket and letting me hang out with your new kids makes up for everything?”
“No,” he says quietly, “because hanging on to all that anger and resentment isn’t healthy.” He walks back into the house, sliding the door closed behind him.
With a heavy sigh, I fall on my back and stare back up into the blackness. Seriously? After being nothing to me for three-quarters of my life, where does he get off being all parental right now?