13. The Precipice

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Gaius

I walked into Charlie's room from the bathroom; my mouth was startlingly refreshed from what I could actually feel. We had something similar to the tooth brushing in Fismuth. It was part of the Cleansing that Prestigious endured quite often. Never had I been required to actually operate the cleaning mechanism. That was a worker's job. It did wield enjoyable results, though. I smiled and found Dethany on the bed.

"Good evening, Dethany," I greeted.

Her head hung low and she sat despondently on a pile of her plans for Kelsie's escape. Dethany was a resourceful human and a valued asset to our cause. She lifted her hand, but only barely; it could have just as easily been a twitch of the wrist.

"Something ails you," I inferred. She snorted quietly. Then she nodded. "I would sit with you if you are open to speaking about what weighs so heavily on your mind."           Though, vaguely at least, I already knew. Charlie's face floated in and out of her thoughts, mingling with thoughts of Tane. I tried to crane my neck to get her to make eye contact with me; a standard way of telling a human that they had your undivided attention.

Without looking up at me, Dethany scooted over on the bed, shifting and crunching some of the papers her handwritings were scribbled on. "Be my guest."

I sat next to her and pulled up both of my legs into a cross-legged position, breathing in deep and trying to make sure I listened to her mouth and not her mind. But her despair had her mental walls crumbling and she made no move to stop me when I began to probe into her thoughts. Perhaps she did not know.

She shook her head as if it would rid her brain of every memory wrinkle that held any sadness. I closed my eyes to help me listen.

She began in a torrent of words and kept the pace impressively. "It's Charlie. I mean, I guess it's Charlie. It's kind of me too. We've been friends for so long. So fucking long. And I've been so patient. Just waiting like a helpless little orphan hoping to get adopted. No, orphans aren't even sad enough. Like a cancerous puppy waiting to be bought. But not just any owner. It had to be him."

She bit her lip and her fingers rubbed against each other in such a way that I was sure had to be audible to not only me but her as well. It was like silky sandpaper.

"And for what? Being single for years and watching him not be? I just know that no one can be that dense. Not even Charlie. That he'd have to figure it out at some point, right? That he'd see the way I look at him. The way that I'm always there for him. The way that I stick with him even through the fucking Rapture."

I assumed the Rapture meant Tane and I. The f-word she used was a frequent thing that did not sound pleasant to me. It seemed to have almost no positive connotation each time she used it.

"But no. A girl from heaven falls out of the sky and suddenly we don't revolve around the sun anymore. At least, he doesn't. She is the sun now."

I nodded, not because I understood what she was saying but because I knew Charlie's sentiment without having to guess.

"I can't just turn off these feelings. I even managed to stay mad for longer than usual. A day. A full day. I just don't even know what to do anymore. You guys will be gone soon. And then who's left to pick up the pieces? Me. Always me."

I opened my eyes to find Dethany biting her nails and nearly heaving. All of that I could hear, but what I could only see was the frantic way her eyes darted to mine.

"Why are you anxious?" I asked, putting what I hoped to be a comforting hand on hers.

She stared at our hands for a long time before she answered, "I don't know why I just told you all of that." I remained silent. Her thought did not seem complete. "I mean, you could tell Charlie or Tane. You don't owe me any favors."

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