Chapter Eleven - Drifting Friendships

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"You weren't there," she uttered, her voice breaking. "Out of everyone, I'd thought you'd be there." She left him before he can say another word. She desired to make it good again between Theo and her but she couldn't do it. Not yet. She needed time to think, to process everything, to gather her words. Her heart hurt more at the fact he didn't come to visit her at all.

Memories flooded her mind but she couldn't push them away.

The memory goes to the day Theo had stolen food for Riley Livet, the girl who lived in the room next to hers.

Riley was around the age her sister would have been, and she thought, if she couldn't save her sister, she could save this girl.

She was terribly, unforgivably wrong.

She told Theo of her plan to steal meal portions for Riley. The girl had gotten dreadfully thin. More than seven could help Riley gain enough weight to stop the regulators from watching her. She had already noticed their lingering, calculated eyes on Riley.

One night, they were all awoken and ordered out of their rooms. Officers lined them all up in Tier Three, accounting each and every one of them.

After locating Ira and Xander the officers were about to snatch Riley by her arms, but Ava had screamed for them to stop. She pushed though the rows to the officers to take responsibility, and take whatever punishment she would get. Theo had committed this violation, but it would have been her if she didn't involve him. She couldn't let Theo take the fall, but she was too late.

She didn't even make it to the officer when she saw four new officers push Theo from the entry doors all the way to the ground in front of the all the passengers. In front of them, Commander Benedict Zaloy let an officer slash Theo's back two times to give everyone a fresh reminder that there will be punishment if rules are to be broken. An officer had picked Riley up, giving her a front row view of the entire incident. Ava kept shouting "It was me!" but Yana Zol came to her, smacking her across in the face, hissing for her to shut up, or she'd get the same punishment as she tugged the back of her hair back, forcing her to her knees.

That should have scared her, but it didn't.

She knew they wouldn't touch her, that's why she was going to steal the meal portions. She was too much of value to them. When she responded with, 'You and I both know Zaloy would never allow that,' Zol released her with fury, hate for her rising in Zol's blood. She could sense it, Zol's hate. It wasn't the first time she felt it.

She came into Theo's room late that night, once he was returned from the healer center. She had him remove his shirt, so she could apply the ointment to his lashes. He was drowsy from the pain medicine the healers gave him, and it was hard to steady his body from the shaking. Even though they are punished, they needed to be functional enough to train the next day so he was lucky to get as much pain medicine as he got. As she helped dab cold water on his back in a sleepy groan, he said, "Guess I didn't think it all the way through this time huh, Av?" A faint smile curled around her lips at his nickname for her. She shake's her head and tells him to lie still. The ointment was going to burn.

He winced in pain as she smoothly ran the ointment on his back. His breathing steadied as his body adapted to the ointment.

"It should have been me," she responded a moment later taking a deep breath.

"No. I'm glad it was me."

"Why?"

"Because," Theo turned, lifting himself up from his side to face her. Ava immediately tried to push him back down, because he needed rest after the pain he went through, but something in his eyes made her stop. "I would have never forgiven myself if I let them hurt you. I will always protect you, always be there. I promise you."

"If I hadn't told you of my plan, it would have been me up there tonight, it should have been me."

He had sat there a moment thinking deeply, his expression hard and steady. After helping put his shirt back on, she went back to her room to let him rest.

Riley was transferred to Asa Shuttle that night, and they haven't seen or heard of her since. Ava had come to realize Riley wanted that. She wanted to be taken away, maybe to even die, but once she was given those meals, she knew someone cared enough to want her to stay. It was too late, they were too late.

That memory was especially painful now, now that Theo hadn't kept that promise.

She almost walked past Theo when he voices her name so softly she almost didn't hear it. She stopped. "I couldn't be there, see you like that. It would have driven me insane."

"When I helped tend your lash wounds, I almost passed out from the agony I felt seeing you in that pain. I knew you needed me, so I was there, no matter what it did to me. I was there," she let out a shaky breath, continuing, "that night you promised you'd always be there. I shouldn't have let you say that promise, a promise I deep within me knew you couldn't keep, and you knew it too."

To that she leaves. She knew her words would bite but she had to say them. He had to know how she felt. That's one thing they always told one another. How they felt.

Always, was now becoming seldom. 

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