Chapter Fifty-Nine

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Bright headlights burned against my eyes as cars passed me by. I could feel the cool breeze against the small section of open flesh between my gloves and my coat. It was so cold out that I was surprised I was even able to stand out there for this long. I'd been waiting fifteen minutes for my mom to come pick me up from the mall.

Lila had already left nearly ten minutes ago. My mom was late. Very late.

Usually, I might be annoyed, but at that moment, I could only care about the wind and how much it was biting into me. I knew going inside was probably the best option, but I'd already walked all the way into a little raised platform in the middle of the parking lot where my mom had promised to pick me up. I felt that if I left now, she would end up coming and I'd have to walk all the way back out here. I could've also just texted her to meet me elsewhere, but my battery was dying. And what if she said yes and I didn't know because my phone died before receiving the message?

Sometimes life could be so irritating.

I checked my phone one more time, to make sure she wasn't trying to call me. She was almost fifteen minutes late, and I was getting worried. In my terms, that meant I was imagining the millions of different reasons why she might not be on time. Had she gone shopping herself and had forgotten about my existence? It was always possible. Although I doubted that based on her track record of nearly always being on time.

I checked my phone messages again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I could feel my anxiety growing as I waited impatiently at the corner. It couldn't be too long until-

Finally.

I watched as her car came driving down the street towards where I was. I waved one of my arms in the air, making sure she saw me....or was that....?

It wasn't her in the car.

I frowned, not understanding why he was picking me up. My mom's boyfriend. She'd only been going out with him for maybe a week and judging on how that went I doubted their relationship would last. But still, I barely even knew him...

"Hey Calestia!" he said in an extra cheerful tone which immediately let me know something was wrong. I walked towards the passenger seat and quickly got inside, dropping the one bag that was in my hand on the ground next to my feet.

"What's going on?" I asked with hesitation. I tried to remember his name as he started to drive away. Was it...Ryan maybe? I'd only actually conversed with him once or twice since they'd started dating.

He sighed and continued staring ahead at the road as he let his happy facade drop off. "Listen....I'm sorry to tell you this, but..."

"But what?!"

"It's your brother. He got in an accident..." He looked over at me, judging my reaction. I stared back at him with wide eyes. An accident? I tried deciphering how bad it was by his behavior.

"Is he going to be okay?" I finally said, my voice cracking. He had to be okay. I couldn't imagine my life without him. "Is he...?"

"We're going to see him now," he replied and continued to drive even faster in the direction of the hospital. "Don't worry...."

Don't worry.

My eyes snapped open. I sat up in my bed, feeling one thousand degrees warmer.

It'd been a dream. A memory. One that I hadn't thought about in a while because of how survival always was on my mind.

I could vaguely remember that day and what had happened. I remembered my mom's boyfriend, who, as I predicted, broke up with her only a month later, driving me to the hospital where I found my mom waiting nervously in the waiting room. Her face had been streaked with tears and I'd assumed it was really bad. That day was the first time I ever really felt that I'd lose someone I'd loved. But fortunately, it had turned out okay, and my brother was let out of the hospital with a ton of stitches, but a still beating heart.

I got up and walked over to the bathroom, which was leaking light into the room as it always was. My face was pale as I looked in the mirror and my hair was its usual tangled mess. It probably was a good idea to go back to sleep. Tomorrow was a big day.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow we'd finally escape.

The complex was a home away from my life in the snow. It was a new one where cryptic poems didn't sit in my bag and where I wasn't constantly worrying about food and water. The only downside of course was all the death and murder attempts. Which is a pretty big downside when you think about it.

Which is why we had to escape.

The girl that I'd just met, Abi, had come up with a decent plan for how we'd manage to get out. The good thing about the complex was that they didn't actually expect people to try to escape. They gave us nearly everything we could possibly need, and even with the suspicious activity, it was still a place everyone stayed. The girl's death maybe went a bit too far, though, but it didn't seem like anyone else was ready to get out of here. Maybe they agreed. Maybe they thought that it had been a necessary evil, shutting up a girl trying to raise suspicion in the complex to avoid utter panic.

Or maybe they just blocked out all of the evil in this place in favor of looking for the good because they knew they couldn't survive long in the wilderness.

Either way, they lacked much security going out of the military complex.

Abi had immediately taken her drawing pad and began scribbling out a detailed maze. It was the ventilation. There were vents throughout the building which I hadn't been paying attention to, but she apparently had. I wondered if maybe she'd wanted to escape in the past and that was why she even knew any of it. Anyway, we were supposed to take the vent that was outside the cafeteria in the middle of the night and follow it until we felt the cold air coming in from the outside. Then we'd go in its direction and use tools provided to remove the grate and escape.

The only other part of the escape plan was that we would have to make sure not to be seen by the guards watching from the rooftops. But Abi had promised she'd take care of that. I trusted her enough. Mace trusted her and that made me feel confident that she wouldn't lie to us.

I looked at myself in the mirror one last time. It had been nice staying here for a while. But this place was messed up and I wasn't interested in finding out all of the secrets it was hiding.

It was time for us to leave.

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