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Birdcages on the wall

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Energy rushes through me. It pushes out from the contracting muscles of my heart and madly pulses through my veins. I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm trapped. I'm dirty and beaten and I've been smacked down to a stub of my former self. And I have a wrong to fix.

"We can't just leave her there!" I scream.

"Of course we can! We tried, Nitti. We tried. When I opened that caged door, it was for both of you. But she stayed. She said that she didn't trust us. You did what you could. You can't go return to the awful place!" He yells back, throwing his hands up into the air in frustration.

I climb off the unkempt motel bed and finger the flick under the exposed light bulb before turning it on with a click, covering the surrounding area in a dim sheen. It's something to do, so I can avoid his gaze. I really don't want to go back. I want to forget about that place all together. About everything that happened there. What I really want is to run away, never look back, start fresh.

"You know that I don't like Scylar, but we have to," I say, "I have to. I may not like her, but she's still someone. Nobody deserves that, not even your worst enemy! That place is terrible and sick and disgusting. It's inhumane what they do there," I stomp my foot on the carpeted floor and try to shove all the desperation that I feel into my eyes, pleading with him to understand, "and I have to push past my own feelings. She's a person, Derek. Nobody deserves that."

He sighs and pushes his dark hair away from his forehead. "Nitti - " he begins, but I cut him off.

"Derek. I know it will be hard." I try not to get lost in his eyes. I can't even think about that, him, right now. I have to turn off my emotions and get what I have to do done. No distractions. I have to ignore his hazel eyes, with little golden specks and a few green flecks. Damn!

He closes the distance between us and wraps his seemingly giant hands around my bony shoulders. I haven't eaten much in a while, just the horrid food they fed us; like we’re dogs.

"Nitti," he whispers, his deep voice fiddles on my heart strings like it was a violin, "I lost you once. I don't want to again. Fuck 'hard'. This is crazy. This is stupid. This is dangerous. You could die. No, you will die. And there's no getting you back after that. Nitti. For once, forget what's 'right for the world' or 'for the better' or 'the bigger picture' ”, he mocks things I've said in the past, "and think about me. You. Your mom, sister, friends." A black curl falls into his face and I pretend to be utterly enthralled in it's perfection instead of catching his gaze. I don't tell him that my mother's dead. That I've never had a sister, not until now. That he really doesn’t know me, not at all. Only the words I’ve told him – lies.

 His grip on me tightens. "You need to let this go." I find myself melting. Closing my eyes, I relax my muscles and realize how tired I am. How long it's been since I've had a full nights rest. "You can't save everyone. You're not the hero of this story." My eyelids fly open and my lips twist in disgust. All at once, my wall are rebuilt, my defenses called into action.

I wrench myself away from him and out of his grip. "Oh, I'm not? Well then who is? Why not me? And who says I'm this hero? Maybe I'm doing what's right. What I feel is right. Why is this so wrong? Why can't I save someone?" I shake my copper hair until it covers my face, separating us.

 Desperate for something, anything, to do, I go over and make the bed. Deliberately, I tuck the starchy sheets under the mattress then lay the red and blue checkered comforter on top. I flatten nonexistent wrinkles and bumps with my sweaty palms.

Derek comes from behind and wraps his strong arms around my waist. Softly, he tugs me back. Or tries to. But I stay strong, my back rigid and my moves forceful as I plump a pillow. "Derek," I growl in warning.

"Yes?" he asks innocently. Sweetly. His teeth tug at the collar on my shirt and his hands move to rub my hips in gentle circles. I feel my resolve melting, beyond my struggles, and before I can register what's happening, our lips collide. They match each other's rhythm, a perfect harmony. Shutting my eyes, I breathe him in but pull back when his tongue begins searching for mine.

"No," I shake my head, my eyes still shut closed. I pull away and search yet again for something to do. When did it become like this between us? Back in, all I wanted was to feel his arms around me, one more time. To feel his lips and his breath and to listen to the sound of his voice, one more time. Now, his voice had a bittersweet affect and his arms felt too tight around me.

When I turn back around, he's moving a hand over his brow, his face wrinkled in worry like the clothing that's clumped into a bundle inside our suitcases.

"Babe," he draws out the e as he slowly opens his eye, his gaze trying to connect with mine.

Our eyes latch together. "Would you give me up?" he closes the distance again, circles me with his arms. But it's not comforting this time, I feel suffocated and caged. Again. "Give this up? Is she worth it?" his nose flutters. He's holding back his tears and his anger at me. .

"I won't be able to forgive myself." I say in a weak attempt to get him to understand.

"I won't be able to forgive myself if I lost you. Nitti. Please. If you want to forget about yourself, fine, whatever. Fuck it! Forget about Merry, your little sister who looks up to you. Forget about your mother. But think about me. Nitti. Me! How will I live without you? If you die, I do too. If you're hurt, I feel the pain. Please! Nitti, listen to me!" and, in his desperation, I hug him close - more out of pity and sympathy than anything else. Eventually, I find that we're on the bed, kissing. Then more. But I feel numb, my brain almost tingling. I'm not thinking about him or us. I'm thinking about the dirt floors and bloody noses and screams that were always a mixture of excitement and agony. I'm thinking of cages.

Several hours later, we still lay on the bed in each other's arms. Derek's head's tucked under my chin, his even breaths moving long strands of my hair back and forth across the sheets. But I can't sleep. Millions of thoughts flow like an overfilled river through my mind. I can't let emotions get in this. I have to save Scylar. I can't not. That will only be more blood on my hands. Haven't I already had enough? I swallow and shiver slightly at the memories.

Absently, I stroke Derek's tanned cheek and rub my fingertips against the dark stubble along his jaw. I'll go back for her, tomorrow. I'll forget about Derek and move on. He only thinks that he'll die without me. But I know he's stronger than that. I guess, well, that I need to be stronger. I need to suck it up. I have to shut up and get going. I'm not important enough, no matter what Derek thinks, not worth the air I breathe. Murderers get the most time in jail, right?

But I can save her. Scylar. And maybe then I can at least come to terms with my past and move on. Start fresh somewhere. Philly sounds nice. Or the beach. Salty water kissing my toes as the sun peeks over the horizon, saying it's first and only hello to the world. Maybe, by saving her, she can be my salvation.

Around four, I finally close my eyes. I fall into the vast depth of a dreamless sleep and try to forget about the day to come the best way I can. Ignorance.

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