Chapter no 16

Shatter Me

As soon as I’m in the room I open the armoire and yank the purple dress off the hanger before I remember I’m being watched. The cameras. I wonder if Adam was punished for telling me about the cameras, too. I wonder if he’s taken any other risks with me. I wonder why he would.

I touch the stiff, modern material of the plum dress and my fingers find their way to the hem, just as Adam’s did yesterday. I can’t help but wonder why he likes this dress so much. Why it has to be this one. Why I even have to wear a dress.

I am not a doll.

My hand comes to rest on the small wooden shelf beneath the hanging clothes and an unfamiliar texture brushes my skin. It’s rough and foreign but familiar at the same time. I step closer to the armoire and hide between the doors. My fingers feel their way around the surface and a surge of sunshine rushes through my stomach until I’m certain I’m bursting with hope and feeling and a force of stupid happiness so strong I’m surprised there aren’t tears streaming down my face.

My notebook.

He saved my notebook. Adam saved the only thing I own.

I grab the purple dress and tuck the paper pad into its folds before stealing away to the bathroom.

The bathroom where there are no cameras. The bathroom where there are no cameras. The bathroom where there are no cameras.

He was trying to tell me, I realize. Before, in the bathroom. He was trying to tell me something and I was so scared I scared him away.

I scared him away.

I close the door behind me and my hands are shaking as I unfurl the familiar papers bound together by old glue. I flip through the pages to make sure they’re all there and my eyes land on my most recent entry. At the very bottom there is a shift. A new sentence not written in my handwriting.

A new sentence that must’ve come from him.

It’s not what you think.

I stand perfectly still.

Every inch of my skin is taut with tension, fraught with feeling and the pressure is building in my chest, pounding louder and faster and harder, overcompensating for my stillness. I do not tremble when I’m frozen in time. I train my breaths to come slower, I count things that do not exist, I make up numbers I do not have, I pretend time is a broken hourglass bleeding seconds through sand. I dare to believe.

I dare to hope Adam is trying to reach out to me. I’m crazy enough to consider the possibility.

I rip the page out of the small notebook and clutch it close, actively swallowing the hysteria tickling every broken moment in my mind.

I hide the notebook in a pocket of the purple dress. The pocket Adam must’ve slipped it into. The pocket it must’ve fallen out of. The pocket of the purple dress. The pocket of the purple dress.

Hope is a pocket of possibility. I’m holding it in my hand.

Warner is not late.

He doesn’t knock, either.

I’m slipping on my shoes when he walks in without a single word, without even an effort to make his presence known. His eyes are falling all over my frame. My jaw tightens on its own.

“You hurt him,” I find myself saying.

“You shouldn’t care,” he says with a tilt of his head, gesturing to my dress. “But it’s obvious you do.”

I zip my lips and pray my hands aren’t shaking too much. I don’t know where Adam is. I don’t know how badly he’s hurt. I don’t know what Warner will do, how far he’ll go in the pursuit of what he wants but the prospect of Adam in pain is like a cold hand clutching my esophagus. I can’t catch my breath. I feel like I’m struggling to swallow a toothpick. If Adam is trying to help me it could cost him his life.

I touch the piece of paper tucked into my pocket. Breathe.

Warner’s eyes are on my window. Breathe.

“It’s time to go,” he says. Breathe.

“Where are we going?” He doesn’t answer.

We step out the door. I look around. The hallway is abandoned; empty. “Where is Adam everyone . . . ?”

“I really like that dress,” Warner says as he slips an arm around my waist. I jerk away but he pulls me along, guiding me toward the elevator. “The fit is spectacular. It helps distract me from all your questions.”

“Your poor mother.”

Warner almost trips over his own feet. His eyes are wide; alarmed. He stops a few feet short of our goal. Spins around. “What do you mean?”

My stomach falls over.

The look on his face: the unguarded strain, the flinching terror, the sudden apprehension in his features.

I was trying to make a joke, is what I don’t say to him. I feel sorry for your poor mother, is what I was going to say to him, that she has to deal with such a miserable, pathetic son. But I don’t say any of it.

He grabs my hands, focuses my eyes. Urgency is pulsing at his temples. “What do you mean?” he insists.

“N-nothing,” I stammer. My voice breaks in half. “I didn’t—it was just a joke—”

Warner drops my hands like they’ve burned him. He looks away.

Charges toward the elevator and doesn’t wait for me to catch up.

I wonder what he’s not telling me.

Only once we’ve gone down several floors and are making our way down an unfamiliar hall toward an unfamiliar exit does he finally look at me. He offers me 4 words.

“Welcome to your future.”

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