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The next couple of days are centered around regaining my strength because I am really beginning to loathe laying on the couch. Ethan helps me stand up and walk around the first floor of the house. I walk up the stairs twice as slow with him behind me, holding my waist with firm hands burning through my thermal shirt.

The aftermath of the poison left me with loss of weight, weak limbs and balance, and little endurance. Standing alone is tiring, and walking up and down the stairs repeatedly does not help. Once I have done my laps around the house, Ethan and I do some push-ups, curl-ups, lunges. Soon enough, my strength comes back. Slowly, sure, and not much, but it is returning.

Ethan gives me real food, consisting of brisket and potatoes with bread. I scavenge it down, but in the middle of the night I throw up, just like Chris promised would happen. Ethan has to run up to my room with a bucket and a towel. I feel sorry that he still has to care for me because my strength isn't what it should be yet.

The poison left a purple-black spot with tiny rays still scarred onto where the dart hit me. My lungs ache only a little because they are still getting used to breathing in deeply. My muscles become less and less sore and stronger than they had been before the poison was in me.

I work out every day, jogging up and down the stairs, stretching and loosening my body all the time. Ethan often exercises with me, too, but lately has become even more distant, like everything that was said and done just a few days ago meant nothing. But if he won't talk, I won't push him.

It's driving me crazy, though. With Ethan totally mute and Chris gone AWOL, who do I have to talk to? My days pass by in boredom and loneliness. I find myself staring at the dreaded picture of my parents and I in the ski resort. Staring at it won't take me back in time to that trip, but I don't know how else to spend my time. I have made sure each inch of this house is spotless, washed our clothes by hand, and checked that we have enough food to last us a week. I feel like a housewife in the 1950s, performing my wifely duties, dreaming for a better life. 

Ethan won't let me go outside unless it's dark and everybody's in their homes. This suburban neighborhood isn't nearly as secluded as our last safe house. The only trees here are a couple of small ones in the frontyards and a pitiful treehouse across the street. The homes are separated by a few meters rather than miles of forest.

I hate it here. It reminds me too much of my home in Omaha. I see couples and children jogging and playing, walking their dogs, wearing heavy layers of jackets, chatting and giggling their lives away, never knowing that just a few meters from them are two kids running from a group of people who want them dead or in a battlefield. I am filled with envy. These normal people can go outside and play in the snow and hang out with their friends without having to look over their shoulders, searching for the constant threat of death and betrayal. It's like a crazy stalker with a weapon is walking behind you, never letting you forget that you cannot escape. One wrong move and that's it.

If I could just get a taste of freedom, I may be able to survive this life. Or even beat it. But this is excrutiating. 

I wonder about Chris a lot. I wouldn't exactly be surprised if he has told Project Z of our whereabouts, but they would have come for us already. It's been an entire two weeks since we've last seen him and it's radio silent on the other side, which only worsens my anxiety. The more time passes without an encounter of any sort, the more I fear of what the Project could possibly be planning for us.

Sometimes, I recall a hallucination I had when I was still under the lethal poison: my mother, making me promise to be strong, to survive. That's hard to do when you are completely blindsided and unprepared.

My heart burns each time I think of her.

At least when I saved Ethan in the bookstore, I regained a piece of my mother that lived within me. And at least I knew what I was doing. I understood what I signed up for. If it meant saving his life, I'd do it.

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