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Reece is quiet for a moment before he begins to explain his plan for Saturday, a conversation that has my stomach in knots.

I'm supposed to make it through the park and onto the monorail, which will take me to a parking lot. Once there, I need to head to row C where a car will be waiting for me, ready to take me as far away from here as possible.

But instead of feeling hopeful at the thought of escape, I feel overwhelmed, like maybe I can't do this after all. I grab my compact mirror from the bedside table, running my fingers along its fine jewels in a bid to settle my nerves.

"You hold that a lot, you know," Reece says, nodding down at the compact mirror. "Who gave it to you?"

"My mother," I say after a lengthy silence, opening up the mirror to study my anxious reflection. "You know, it's strange, I spent near enough every day with her growing up, and now I can barely remember what she looks like."

Something flickers across Reece's features, and I know exactly what  thought must be crossing his mind.  "Aura–"

"I know she wasn't my real mother," I say before he can speak, "but she was the closest thing I've ever had to one."

"What was her name?"

"Teresa." Things fall silent again as he studies the mirror in my hand. "Say it."

He looks up now, his eyebrow raised into a perfect arch. "Say what?"

"Whatever it is you're stopping yourself from saying," I say, studying his face with the same precision he's studying mine with.

"I've never met Teresa," he says at last, "but I know she wasn't a mother to you. She was just a woman employed to look after you until you were old enough for the enclosure."

I slam the compact mirror shut, causing him to jerk his head up to look at me. "You're wrong," I say, something unfamiliar swirling within me–a mix of pain, and longing, and denial all mixed into one. "She loved me. She loved me how mothers are supposed to love their children, and she wouldn't have left without a reason."

Reece is quiet, and I wonder what it is he's thinking in this very moment. Perhaps that I'm delusional, that I don't understand humans as well as he does. But if so, he's wrong.

This year spent watching them has made me understand them better than I ever wanted to. 

"The pills they give you," he says after a while, his eyes slowly flickering to mine. "You need to stop taking them. They're all kinds of anti-depressants. The side effects can be amnesia or haziness and they've been dosing you for years. That might be why you can't remember as well."

"I stopped taking them after Muriel disappeared," I admit, my voice barely audible. "They made me numb, like I couldn't feel anything. But I didn't want that. I want to think of the times Muriel and I had before she disappeared and be able to feel them."

Reece's eyebrows furrow now, an action that forces his long lashes to bend into his brow bone. "Who's Muriel?" He asks, the question causing something in my chest to tighten.

The only place Muriel exists now is in my memory.

I take a deep breath, my mind screaming at me that I'm telling him too much, I'm being too honest, but my heart refuses to listen.

"She was my old enclosure mate," I say, clasping my hands together in a bid to stop them from shaking. "I woke up one day and she was gone."

"What happened?" He asks.

I force myself to think back to that night, a strange shudder running through my body. "I don't know."

Noticing my change in demeanor, Reece reaches out and places the pads of his fingertips underneath the groove of my chin, tilting my head up to look at him.

"That's not going to happen to you," he says, his fingers so warm it feels as if they're burning holes through my skin. "We're getting you out."

"But not the others," I say, unable to help myself.

"Not yet," Reece says, and I nod in response, watching him get to his feet before he makes his way to the door.

"The world out there," I say suddenly, causing him to stop and turn on his heel. "Is it really how Marine World describes? Hard? Cruel?"

Reece stares back for a moment, his eyes taking me in, in a way that sends a flurry of nerves to the pit of my stomach.

"Sometimes," he says, the corners of his mouth tilted in what could one day become a smile, "but if it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be worth living."

With that, he closes the door behind him.


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