I sigh in content as I wake up in Michael’s arms. It’s not the first time, but it’s different this morning. Especially when I think about how it could be my last. I sigh again, content gone. I’m not ready for today. Actually, I’m not ready for tonight.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, knowing something’s up, but unaware of what it is. Leave it to me to find the one guy who can tell the difference between a happy sigh and a not so happy one. “You don’t regret…?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. I roll over so that I’m facing him and our eyes meet. I kiss him. “Never.”
“Then what’s bothering you?”
I frown, wringing my hands. He sees the action and frowns as well. “You’re nervous.”
It’s not a question, he knows I am, but I nod.
“Yesterday…” I start, trailing off, trying to figure out how to tell him. I suppose being blunt is best and after that, I should start from the beginning. “Yesterday, Ian and I found the contracts.”
“Oh,” he responds. Then a thought occurs to him and he raises an eyebrow. “Is that why last night…?”
“It gave me the push to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, Michael, but it’s not the reason it happened at all. It’s just the reason it happened now.”
He nods, believing my answer. He has so much faith in me. I’ve never noticed before, but he does. I’m not sure if I feel comforted or guilty. “So what’s the plan, then?”
“We have to burn the contracts, tonight. All of them.”
“Then we will.” He kisses me. “Thank you, for telling me. I wasn’t sure you would.”
I sigh once more, and answer honestly. “I wouldn’t, if I didn’t have to. But I can’t get this done without you or without Ian. Otherwise, I’d do it myself.”
“At least you know your limits.” He sighs this time. “We had better get going. Work.”
I smile sadly, just noticing how much has changed. “Never really thought you’d be the one reminding me that we have work to do.”
He smiles back, just as sad. “Neither did I.”
On the upside, this should be the last time he ever has to remind me.
I take a nap after I finish my shift, unsure of when I’ll have the opportunity to sleep again. I’m also hoping to talk to Kate.
For once, my hopes aren’t dashed.
I almost don’t realize that I’m dreaming this time, because we’re in my room, which is odd. I frown, wondering when I sat up. And made my bed. But then I see Kate and it makes sense.
“You wanted to talk?” she asks. I can hear more than that question; I notice the hope leaking into her voice.
“Yes, but how’d you know that?”
She smiles, “I have more fun if I don’t tell you. So what’s up?”
“We found them. And we’re going to burn them. Tonight. I figured I should tell you, because I don’t know if I’ll get another chance.”
A frown forms on her lips and I wonder why. Don’t have to wonder long. “There’s more to it than that. You didn’t want to talk just to give me good news. What do you really want, Cassie?”
“How many are there? I need to know, so I can make sure all of them get burned.”
She sighs. “Are you sure? Because it’s a lot more daunting when you have the specific figures.”
“Yes. I need to know. I don’t want to, but I need to.”
“There are 8,162 of us who are already dead. Plus the 203 of you at the house. You have 8,365 contracts to find and burn. Do you still want to free everyone?”
“No. But I’m going to.”
“Then I wish you the best of like, Cassie. I hope I don’t meet up with you again soon. Enjoy your nap.”
She vanishes; I follow her advice.
We meet up in the library at eight pm, deciding that we should get as many of the contracts as possible before we even start burning them. We have two hours before the kitchen staff clears out and about four before any of us think we should dare go down there. Four hours to get almost eighty-five hundred contracts. Three people. Two hundred and forty minutes. To get this done, each of us needs to get about twelve contracts a minute. One every five seconds.
I look at the guys. “You sure that you want to do this?”
They both nod. I take a deep breath, step forward, grab the nearest book, and tear off the binding. A contract, signed in 1832. Samantha Alemana. Obviously, no one I know, but that’s irrelevant. I grab the next one, signed in 2004. The book is notably newer as well. This one is Yvonne Perez. The same Yvonne who transferred to Pluto not too long ago. I briefly wonder why Venus still has her contract, but I don’t put too much thought into it. I move onto the next one and the process continues.