Defining Strength

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"That's not strength." I say my voice lower now almost a whisper, "That's learning no one cares what you say. That's hoping no one sees you and knowing that if you were to disappear, no one would notice. No one would care..............I'm not strong." I look into her eyes, I feel my mask slipping as I talk, "I have been shattered more times than I can count. I am a jigsaw puzzle of jagged pieces glued together so many times there's no hope of knowing what I might have looked like once. I am not strong. I'm just what's left of what used to be a strong person."

As I finish I turn away and walk as fast as I can down the nearest hall leaving behind a stunned Stella and a room full of deafening silence.

I'm practically running down the dark hallways and corders. Reaching out with one hand I grab a corner and swing myself around into the next hall running right into a solid mass.

Stumbling back the person I ran into steadies me. Looking up I see Bak looking at me through worried eyes.

"Miss. Massai Is everything alright?" He questions.

Taking deep breaths I even out my breathing, "Yeah, everything's fine." I say running my hand through my hair, "Do you know where Carson is?" I ask in a rushed voice.

Pausing a moment he nods, "She's down the hall I've assigned two sentries to guard her door."

Looking past him, "Thanks." I say slipping by him and down the hall not paying attention to his reply.

As I make my way down the hall I see two male majors armed on ether side of a stone door in the side of the hallway.

Not saying a word I walk by them and enter the room. As I close the door behind me I freeze when I look up to see Valora's back to me as she cups Carson's face standing very close.

"Uuuhhh.............if you two are busy I can come back later." I say reaching for the door handle.

Both girls look at me quickly before Carson responds, "No, stay. I've been needing to talk to you actually." Her accent prevalent but not too strong.

"No, you two seem busy doing................something." I say making a vague hand motion, "I'll just go and leave you two to do.........whatever you were doing." I say turning around.

I hear loud melodic laughter ring out behind me. Turning back around I see Carson trying to contain her laughter as Valora gives her a bewildered look.

"What's so funny?" Valora ask the laughing girl. Her brows furrowed in confusion.

Taking deep breaths Carson responds in an airy breathless voice, "She thinks we were doing something." She manages through her laughter.

Valora still looks confused for a moment before something seems to click, "Ooohhh....... You thought we were kissing." She says looking at me for confirmation.

Looking between the two for a moment I hesitantly nod. By this time Carson's laughter had sobered up enough for her to respond in a normal voice, "There was something stabbing me in the gums I asked Valora to see what it was and get it out." She tells me. Turning to Valora she says, "Speaking of which it's still stabbing me. What is it?" Her faces scrunching up in displeasure.

Laughing Valora says, "It's your teeth. You're not used to having them yet and your other teeth have to adjust to the larger pearly whites you got comin' in." Her accent coming out stronger than usual.

This causes Carson to give a low chuckle, "You sounded like a hick."

Looking around the room awkwardly I speak up, "Okay the third wheel is feeling uncomfortable so I'm gonna hop off the tricycle and leave you two to bicycle. Okay?" I say rocking back on my feet point behind me.

"No, I really need to speak with you it's very serious. Nikolai will know more than I do but I feel it only necessary I be the one to tell you of my own error." Carson speaks quickly all traces of laughter gone from here voice.

Sighing I recall the conversation with Nikolai in the infirmary earlier that day. "Nikolai already told us about what happened," she goes to speak but falls silent as I lift my hand, "and the conditions you were forced to speak under." I say in a gentle voice.

Letting out an angry sigh Carson turns away sharply from Valora and I as I walk farther into the room. Apparently she had moved too quickly because she stumbles and lets out a grunt of pain as Valora catches her.

Letting Valora support her weight, "I should have seen it coming, I should have lied, something, anything, but I was so narrow sighted and didn't, and now look what I've done." She says through gritted teeth, motioning around at everything with her hand. "I've endangered the lives of hundreds of people because I let myself form a stupid bloody attachment." Her voice dripping with disgust and disdain towards herself.

"Hey anyone else in that position would have done a lot worse than you." Valora says standing in front of the girl holding her by the waist.

"Carson." I say getting her to look at me. Looking back I meet her eyes, full of pain and sorrow but most of all I could see rage burning bright in her eyes. "I came here because you know the Nadef. You know what they're like and you know how they work. There are new families coming in every day and none of them will be safe until the Nadef are gone." I say.

She stands up on her own turning her full attention on me. Taking a deep breath I look her strait in the eyes and ask, "Will you help me destroy every last one of them?"

Her eyes grow brighter, that defiant spark I saw the first day I met her coming back into her eyes as she grits her teeth standing up straighter. "If it is the last thing I do I will make damn sure they all fall to their knees. Those children deserve a chance to live. And I'll be damned if I don't do something about it." She says all traces of pain and sorrow gone from her features replaced by anger and determination.

I set my jaw and give a curt nod before turning and walking out of the room and down the hall with a new purpose in every step.

'I am not strong. But I was once and if I have to be, I will be again.'

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