Chapter 9

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After looking away from Peter, I turn my head forward again, but I feel a scream beginning to start, first in my throat and then making its way out my mouth. And why do I scream? Because in front of me stands a shocked Cassia. Look of absolute disbelief is plastered on her face, and for the first time ever, she has the look of distrust in her eyes, a look pointed at me.

"Cassia?! W-what are you doing here?" I demand after I let loose my short scream. "I was looking for you. I was going to ask if you wanted to come with me to Susan's house to see if I could heal her. I asked people if they had seen you around, and a few of them said they saw you heading here. So I follow their directions, and I see you leaving the forest! What in the world were you doing in there?!" She shouts. "Cassia, please keep your voice down!" I whisper harshly. "Don't tell me to keep my voice down! And answer my question! What were you doing in there?" She repeats. I heave out a deep sigh as I say, "Follow me."

I lead Cassia to one of the few places of seclusion that is permitted for citizens. An old building that is in ruins, but it offers privacy. "Enough secrets Julia. What are you hiding?" Cassia demands again after I close the rickety door. I break down and I tell her everything, from the moment I left the Council Building after I found out my power to my kiss with Peter. I tell her everything, why I went in the woods because I felt the need to defy them, and the love I feel for this person who has the same suspicions and the need to be free as I do. I even tell her about what really happened to Gwyneth.

Cassia doesn't say a word during my speech. She still looks mad, but her eyes have softened up enough for me to look at her. "It's wrong for me to keep secrets, I know. But Cassia, it's just that...I can't be happy here. This...this way of life, it isn't for me. What right do the twelve have to invade our privacy hidden in a place sacred to us: our minds? Even more, why do they give us a power that they think suits us when they don't even know us? They don't know me. They can't give me something and expect me to live my life by it without suspicion. And think about this: how much do we really know about the Council? When was the last time they opened up to us? When was the last time they let their citizens know anything about what they were up to? They killed Gwyneth, and nobody even knew! I just don't trust them. I'm surprised anybody does. I'm surprised you do," I say.

"I don't," Cassia simply says as she stares at the ground. There are times in life when surprise catches you completely off-guard and slaps you in the face; hearing Cassia say that was one of those moments. "You don't?" I repeat. "I never have, not really. You're right; we don't know anything about them. So no, I don't trust them. However, I do trust what people say about the misfortunate "accidents" that happen to those who interfere with them. That's why I obey their rules, and that's also why I can't believe that someone as smart as you would openly defy them when you know what's at stake! You knew the dangers of going in there and you did it anyway! You are the most-watched citizen in the city right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if they know what you've done already," she says, looking me dead in the eye. "I'm happy that you found someone to love and exchange opinions with, don't get me wrong, but Julia, he's from the dark side. If the twelve find out about you two, they'll kill you both!" She yells, tears forming in her eyes. "You'll become martyrs!"

"During my examination, one of them did want to kill me...because I wanted to know what life was like over the wall. But Cassia, they didn't kill me. As far they know, I'm just someone important with suspicions. They saw my memories, and I've never done anything rebellious in my life. They know nothing," I say, trying to give her some comfort. "I wouldn't be so sure. If you think you've got some kind of...immunity...against death from them, you're wrong. If what you said about Gwyneth is true, then murdering someone with a power like hers won't phase them! Julia, your life is in danger!" Cassia shouts, tears now streaming down her face. It's not often I see Cassia like this. She's always so calm, but at the same time, she has this instinct to be strong and provide words of comfort to those who need them. But even she can't give my any hope right now.

"Cassia, I can't just stop seeing him. If the Council wants me dead, let them come. But they will not deny me the happiness one experiences with love. I have every damn reason to enjoy something out of my life!" I yell. It's not often I curse, but it fit the moment. "Of course you have a reason to be happy! I'm not saying you don't! But Julia, please just listen to me. I want you to be happy, but I also want you to be safe. If you and Peter are ever caught in those woods together, I can tell you that things will not go smoothly. All I ask is that...just please, please, please...be careful," Cassia pleads.

"I will be. I promise. I promise I won't die," I state. "Don't make promises you can't keep," I hear Cassia mumble under her breath. I can't stand being in this claustrophobic building anymore, and this conversation is making me feel worse by the second. So, I change the subject. "What do you say we do what you came to find me for: let's go see if you can heal Susan," I offer. Cassia nods her head, and we leave the old building. For a long time we walk in awkward silence, no one breaking it. Never would I have thought things would be this awkward between me and one of my best friends.

Knowing Cassia, she can't stay mad at anyone forever. So when she breaks the silence when she asks, "Is he at least cute?", I smile and say, "Exceedingly so." Then, we laugh the rest of the way to Susan's house.

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