And he leans in, so carefully. Breathingand not breathing and hearts beatingbetween us and he’s so close, he’s so close and I can’t feel my legs anymore. I can’t feel my fingers or the cold or the emptiness of this room because all I feel is him, everywhere,filling everything and he whispers“Please.”He says “Please don’t shoot me for this.”And he kisses me.His lips are softer than anything I've ever known, soft like a first snowfall, like biting into cotton candy, like melting and floating and being weightless in water. It’s sweet, it’sso effortlessly sweet.And then it changes.“Oh God—”He kisses me again, this time stronger,desperate, like he has to have me, like he’s dying to memorize the feel of my lips against his own. The taste of him is making me crazy; he’s all heat and desire and peppermint and I want more. I've just begun reeling him in, pulling him into me when he breaks away.He’s breathing like he’s lost his mind andhe’s looking at me like something has brokeninside of him, like he’s woken up to find thathis nightmares were just that, that they never existed, that it was all just a bad dream that felt far too real but now he’s awake and he’s safe and everything is going to be okay andI’m falling.I’m falling apart and into his heart and I’m a disaster.
Kenji snorts.“That’s because you’re not fragile,” Kenji says. “If anything, everyone needs to protect themselves from you. You’re like a freaking beast,” he says. Then adds, “I mean, you know—like, a cute beast. A little beast that tears shit up and breaks the earth and sucks the life out of people.
I’m not an idiot, Kenji. I have reasons for the things I say.”“Yeah, and maybe I’m just saying that you have no idea what you’re saying.”“Whatever.”“Don’t whatever me—”“Whatever,” I say again.“Oh my God,” Kenji says to no one in particular. “I think this girl wants to get her ass kicked.”“You couldn’t kick my ass if I had ten of them.”Kenji laughs out loud. “Is that a challenge?”It’s a warning,” I say to him.“Ohhhhhh, so you’re threatening me now? Little crybaby knows how to make threats now?”“Shut up, Kenji.”“Shut up, Kenji,” he repeats in a whiny voice, mocking me.
And I do. I do wonder, I think about it all the time. What it would be like to kill myself. Because I never really know, I still can't tell the difference, I'm never quite certain whether or not I'm actually alive. I sit here every single day. Run, I said to myself. Run until your lungs collapse, until the wind whips and snaps at your tattered clothes, until you're a blur that blends into the background. Run, Juliette, run faster, run until your bones break and your shins split and your muscles atrophy and your heart dies because it was always too big for your chest and it beat too fast for too long and you run.Run run run until you can't hear their feet behind you. Run until they drop their fists and their shouts dissolve in the air. Run with your eyes open and your mouth shut and dam the river rushing up behind your eyes. Run, Juliette.Run until you drop dead. Make sure your heart stops before they ever reach you. Before they ever touch you.Run, I said.
I never thought it would get this bad. I never thought the Reestablishment would take things so far. They're incinerating culture, the beauty of diversity. The new citizens of our world will be reduced to nothing but numbers, easily interchangeable, easily removable, easily destroyed for disobedience.We have lost our humanity.
Juliette ? ” A tentative voice . “ Are you okay? ” I lower the pillow . Blink up . Warner is wearing a towel . A towel . I want to roll under the bed .
I keep sniffing my skin, pleasantly surprised by how nice it is to smell like a flower. I've never smelled like anything before.