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Chapter no 19

Shatter Me

The darkness is choking me.

My dreams are bloody and bleeding and blood is bleeding all over my mind and I can’t sleep anymore. The only dreams that ever used to give me peace are gone and I don’t know how to get them back. I don’t know how to find the white bird. I don’t know if it will ever fly by. All I know is that now when I close my eyes I see nothing but devastation. Fletcher is being shot over and over and over again and Jenkins is dying in my arms and Warner is shooting Adam in the head and the wind is singing outside my window but it’s high-pitched and off-key and I don’t have the heart to tell it to stop.

I’m freezing through my clothes.

The bed under my back is filled with broken clouds and freshly fallen snow; it’s too soft, too comfortable. It reminds me too much of sleeping in Warner’s room and I can’t stand it. I’m afraid to slip under these covers.

I can’t help but wonder if Adam is okay, if he’ll ever come back, if Warner is going to keep hurting him whenever I disobey. I really shouldn’t care so much.

Adam’s message in my notebook might just be a part of Warner’s plan to drive me insane.

I crawl onto the hard floor and check my fist for the crumpled piece of paper I’ve been clutching for 2 days. It’s the only hope I have left and I don’t even know if it’s real.

I’m running out of options. “What are you doing here?”

I bite down on a scream and stumble up, over, and sideways, nearly

slamming into Adam where he’s lying on the floor next to me. I didn’t even see him.

“Juliette?” He doesn’t move an inch. His gaze is fixed on me: calm, unflappable; 2 buckets of river water at midnight.

I’d like to cry into his eyes.

I don’t know why I tell him the truth. “I couldn’t sleep up there.”

He doesn’t ask me why. He pulls himself up and coughs back a grunt and I remember how he’s been hurt. I wonder what kind of pain he’s in. I don’t ask questions as he grabs a pillow and the blanket off my bed. He puts the pillow on the floor. “Lie down,” is all he says to me. Quietly, is how he says it to me.

All day every day forever is when I want him to say it to me.

They’re just 2 words and I don’t know why I’m blushing. I lie down despite the sirens spinning in my blood and rest my head on the pillow. He drapes the blanket over my body. I let him do it. I watch as his arms curve and flex in the shadow of night, the glint of the moon peeking in through the window, illuminating his figure in its glow. He lies down on the floor leaving only a few feet of space between us. He requires no blanket. He uses no pillow. He still sleeps without a shirt on and I’ve discovered I don’t know how to breathe. I’ve realized I’ll probably never exhale in his presence.

“You don’t need to scream anymore,” he whispers. Every breath in my body escapes me.

I curl my fingers around the possibility of Adam in my hand and sleep more soundly than I have in my life.

My eyes are 2 windows cracked open by the chaos in this world.

A cool breeze startles my skin and I sit up, rub the sleep from my eyes, and realize Adam is no longer beside me. I blink and crawl back up to the bed, where I replace the pillow and the blanket.

I glance at the door and wonder what’s waiting for me on the other side.

I glance at the window and wonder if I’ll ever see a bird fly by.

I glance at the clock on the wall and wonder what it means to be living according to numbers again. I wonder what 6:30 in the morning means in this building.

I decide to wash my face. The idea exhilarates me and I’m a little ashamed.

I open the bathroom door and catch Adam’s reflection in the mirror. His fast hands pull his shirt down before I have a chance to latch on to details but I saw enough to see what I couldn’t see in the darkness.

He’s covered in bruises.

My legs feel broken. I don’t know how to help him. I wish I could help him.

“I’m sorry,” he says quickly. “I didn’t know you were awake.” He tugs on the bottom of his shirt like it’s not long enough to pretend I’m blind.

I nod at nothing at all. I look at the tile under my feet. I don’t know what to say.

“Juliette.” His voice hugs the letters in my name so softly I die 5 times in that second. His face is a forest of emotion. He shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he says, so quietly I’m certain I imagined it. “It’s not . . .” He clenches his jaw and runs a nervous hand through his hair. “All of this— it’s not—”

I open my palm to him. The paper is a crumpled wad of possibility. “I know.”

Relief washes over every feature on his face and suddenly his eyes are the only reassurance I’ll ever need. Adam did not betray me. I don’t know why or how or what or anything at all except that he is still my friend.

He is still standing right in front of me and he doesn’t want me to die. I step forward and close the door.

I open my mouth to speak. “No!”

My jaw falls off.

“Wait,” he says with one hand. His lips move but make no sound. I realize in the absence of cameras there might still be microphones in the bathroom. Adam looks around and back and forth and everywhere.

He stops looking.

The shower is 4 walls of marbled glass and he’s sliding the glass open before I have any idea what’s happening. He flips the spray on at full power and the sound of water is rushing through, rumbling through the room, muffling everything as it thunders into the emptiness around us. The mirror is already fogging up on account of the steam and just as I think I’m beginning to understand his plan he pulls me into his arms and lifts me into the shower.

My screams are vapor, wisps of gasps I can’t grasp.

Hot water is puddling in my clothes. It’s pelting my hair and pouring down my neck but all I feel are his hands around my waist. I want to cry out for all the wrong reasons.

His eyes pin me in place. His urgency ignites my bones. Rivulets of water snake their way down the polished planes of his face and his fingers press me up against the wall.

His lips his lips his lips his lips his lips My eyes are fighting not to flutter

My legs have won the right to tremble

My skin is scorched everywhere he’s not touching me.

His lips are so close to my ear I’m water and nothing and everything and melting into a wanting so desperate it burns as I swallow it down.

“I can touch you,” he says, and I wonder why there are hummingbirds in my heart. “I didn’t understand until the other night,” he murmurs, and I’m too drunk to digest the weight of anything but his body hovering so close to mine.

“Juliette—” His body presses closer and I realize I’m paying attention to nothing but the dandelions blowing wishes in my lungs. My eyes snap open and he licks his bottom lip for the smallest second and something in my brain bursts to life.

I gasp. I gasp. I gasp. “What are you doing—”

“Juliette, please—” His voice is anxious and he glances behind him like he’s not sure we’re alone. “The other night—” He presses his lips together. He closes his eyes for half of a second and I marvel at the drop drop drops of hot water caught in his eyelashes like pearls forged from pain. His fingers inch up the sides of my body like he’s struggling to keep them in one place, like he’s struggling not to touch me everywhere everywhere everywhere and his eyes are drinking in the 63 inches of my frame and I’m so I’m so I’m so

caught.

“I finally get it now,” he says into my ear. “I know— I know why Warner wants you.” His fingertips are 10 points of electricity killing me with something I’ve never known before. Something I’ve always wanted to feel.

“Then why are you here?” I whisper, broken, dying in his arms. “Why

. . .” 1, 2 attempts at inhalation. “Why are you touching me?”

“Because I can.” He almost cracks a smile and I almost sprout a pair of wings. “I already have.”

“What?” I blink, suddenly sobered. “What do you mean?”

“That first night in the cell,” he sighs. He looks down. “You were screaming in your sleep.”

I wait.

I wait.

I wait forever.

“I touched your face.” He speaks into the shape of my ear. “Your hand. I brushed the length of your arm. . . .” He pulls back and his eyes rest at my shoulder, trail down to my elbow, land on my wrist. I’m suspended in disbelief. “I didn’t know how to wake you up. You wouldn’t wake up. So I sat back and watched you. I waited for you to stop screaming.”

“That’s. Not. Possible.” 3 words are all I manage.

But his hands become arms around my waist his lips become a cheek pressed against my cheek and his body is flush against mine, his skin touching me touching me touching me and he’s not screaming he’s not dying he’s not running away from me and I’m crying

I’m choking

I’m shaking shuddering splintering into teardrops and he’s holding me the way no one has ever held me before.

Like he wants me.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” he says, and his mouth is moving against my hair and his hands are traveling to my arms and I’m leaning back and he’s looking into my eyes and I must be dreaming.

“Why—why do you—I don’t—” I’m shaking my head and shaking because this can’t be happening and shaking off the tears glued to my face. This can’t be real.

His eyes gentle, his smile unhinges my joints and I wish I knew the taste of his lips. I wish I had the courage to touch him. “I have to go,” he says. “You have to be dressed and downstairs by eight o’clock.”

I’m drowning in his eyes and I don’t know what to say. He peels off his shirt and I don’t know where to look.

I catch myself on the glass panel and press my eyes shut and blink when something flutters too close. His fingers are a moment from my face and I’m dripping burning melting in anticipation.

“You don’t have to look away,” he says. He says it with a small smile the size of Jupiter.

I peek up at his features, at the crooked grin I want to savor, at the color in his eyes I’d use to paint a million pictures. I follow the line of his jaw down his neck to the peak of his collarbone; I memorize the sculpted hills and valleys of his arms, the perfection of his torso. The bird on his chest.

The bird on his chest.

A tattoo.

A white bird with streaks of gold like a crown atop its head. It’s flying. “Adam,” I try to tell him. “Adam,” I try to choke out. “Adam,” I try to

say so many times and fail.

I try to find his eyes only to realize he’s been watching me study him. The pieces of his face are pressed into lines of emotion so deep I wonder what I must look like to him. He touches 2 fingers to my chin, tilts my face up just enough and I’m a live wire in water. “I’ll find a way to talk to you,” he says, and his hands are reeling me in and my face is pressed against his chest and the world is suddenly brighter, bigger, beautiful. The world suddenly means something to me, the possibility of humanity means something to me, the entire universe stops in place and spins in the other direction and I’m the bird.

I’m the bird and I’m flying away.

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