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Pen Your Pride

Chapter 4 of His Defiance

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The girl guides me through some restaurant named Chester's. The place is a hole in the wall.

"Is that blood?" she asks, staring at my ripped jeans which are in fact stained with blood. My jeans being ripped on purpose, didn't do much when I tripped on the steps exiting my safe house today.

"No," I lie. "It's dirt."

That shuts her up for a few moments, and we slide into a brown cushioned booth, she and I on opposite sides.

"So let's start with the basics." She sits up straighter. "What's your name?"

I scan the room for members of the Society. Okay, I'm being paranoid. "Erik." This is a bad situation. She's going to die tomorrow, and I'll probably end up being the cause of it, directly or indirectly.

A few minutes later our waitress finally decides to show up. "Can I get you started with something to drink?"

I stare at the girl—I really should ask her name. No. No, I shouldn't. Knowing her name would just cause me to become attached.

"A Cherry Fizz, please," she says. For someone who's dying tomorrow, she sure manages to sound polite.

"Water," I mutter.

"Are you sure?" the girl I saved from injury asks.

"Water."

Saved. I saved somebody. But it's not like it can make up for what I did. Nothing can. Sparing her from harm doesn't make up for Molly's death.

The waitress leaves and while she's gone retrieving our drinks, the girl scans the menu. The drinks come and she still continues to study the list. This is getting ridiculous. It's not even that diverse of a menu.

"What's your name?" I ask.

She finally lays down the damn menu. "Excuse me?"

Now she can't hear? "Did you hit your head too hard?"

She crosses her arms. "I didn't hit my head. My head hit my arm."

"Then I guess you were just born hard of hearing." I take a sip of my water. So much healthier for you than soda, but it's not like it matters for her. She's dying tomorrow. D. Y. I. N. G. Get that?

"Why did you trouble yourself to help me? It's apparent you wouldn't care if I was suffering."

A stare off between us ensues. All it gains me his more time to stare into her painful green eyes.

"What is your name?" I ask. That's all I want to know.

"Iris." So her parents were either botanists or Greek mythology nuts.

The waitress returns and asks us if we're ready to order.

"Umm. . . can I have the grilled cheese?" Iris passes her menu to the end of the table. Seriously? It's her last day before she dies and she orders grilled cheese.

I pass the waitress my menu. "The house salad." After the waitress leaves I ask Iris, "Of all days, why aren't you with your family or friends?" If she had my family I wouldn't blame her for not being with them, but she doesn't have my family.

She plays with her straw, swirling it around her drink. "My mother died giving birth to me, and my father killed himself a day later due to his grief—at least that's what I was told."

"So who was it that raised you?"

Her fingers freeze. "I grew up in an orphanage."

How...tragic? Is that what I should say? I would choose an orphanage over the Society any day. I should tell her she's lucky, but instead I say, "I'm sorry." Politest thing I've said all day.

"Dying young has its drawbacks. Not too many people want to adopt a kid they have to raise and pay to take care of, just to have them die before they can do anything with their lives."

"Not too many?"

She takes a sip of her drink. "There are always the sickos who adopt people like me because they don't have to worry about making sure we get an education or teaching us anything except how to be bossed around."

Or there's my family who'd probably be besties with those types of people. Voice of reason, remind me to never say besties again. "So you're friendless." It's not even a question.

"Yes," she says it like she's answering if her favorite color is gray. "So who are you?"

Like I'm answering that. "I'm no one. I'm simply the guy who saved you."

"That's pretty big though. I wouldn't use the word simply."

"It's not like I saved your life." No one can die before their Expiration Date. It's impossible. People have tried all manner of things to die before their Dates, but they all failed.

The waitress brings our food and sets a cupcake before Iris. Might as well write Happy Death Day on it.

Iris grabs the ketchup and squeezes it onto the grilled cheese. My fork freezes midway to my mouth.

She raises her eyebrows. "What?"

"You put ketchup on your grilled cheese."

"Yeah, so?"

"That's...repulsive."

"It's a cheeseburger minus the meat." Why is she even trying to argue this?

"Then why didn't you just order a cheeseburger if that's what you wanted?"

"I wasn't in the mood for something dead."

I shake my head and continue with the bite of my salad.

We both remain silent until the waitress brings the check. While Iris is studying it, I say, "I'll stay with you till you die."

She looks up, blinking her eyes. "Excuse me?"

"And then I'll continue on with my life." Hopefully never thinking of her again. Molly would want me to do this; I'll do anything for her.

Iris sets down the pen. "What makes you think that you are the last thing I want to see?"

Why is she so difficult?

"I'm already not supposed to be here, just say thank you and get on with your life."

She closes the check folder and pushes it to the side. "Apparently I'm going to have to die with a mystery."

Oh dear, what have I begun? "Don't strain your brain trying to solve it."



That's it for His Defiance. I hope you enjoyed it! It was fun to write. 

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