Chapter 5

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The moment that Ellie's feet crossed the exit threshold of The Tower, instant, soothing relief flooded through her nervous system. Even though it was barely the wee hours of the morning, 3:47AM judging by the lightless sky and the placement of the stars above, Ellie's keen eyes had no trouble seeing in the dark. Her gaze subconsciously turned toward her sister to 'check in' if their reactions were the same. They often were, but not this time. Eden's expression was subtle but pensive. Freedom from the vibe of The Tower was clearly not in the forefront of her mind. Ellie paused in her forward motion and subconsciously curled her left arm up under her chest. Bad move.

"Did you do it again?" Eden astutely accused. Ellie quickly shifted her gaze away, but she couldn't keep secrets from her twin and they both knew it.

"Zulia's dead..." Ellie echoed with a soft, mechanical voice through a tightened throat. The fingers on her right hand scratched defensively at her left shoulder. The corners of Eden's mouth tightened and twitched downward in disapproval. "Stop. I had to. The sight of her... her body... I can't get it out of my head!" Eden's expression did not change.

"Did Jeffries see?" Ellie turned away from her sister and closed her eyes.

"...Yes." Jeffries had returned for the sketch that he'd asked Ellie to make of the symbols that had surrounded Zulia's corpse and the first thing he had noticed was her pathetic attempt at acting casual.

"That's another blemish on your record." Ellie kept her back toward Eden as momentary resentment toward her sister fizzled through her bloodstream. Mental and physical health were closely monitored in Beechwood. Some infractions were small and mere side notes in their files, but other anomalies were larger. Blemishes were the largest, and three blemishes in their files meant immediate remand in The Tower for six months of close observation and invasive testing.
Ellie had been taken into The Tower for such evaluations twice before. The first time, she was only six years old. The second time, she was fourteen. When the six month evaluations were over, she retained very little memory of her time in The Tower or what was done to her in there. It was like that for everyone who was ever taken for a six-month remand. Ellie had stopped tasting her blood for a number of years after the second evaluation, but in moments of stress, the gentle sting of a cut and the salty, thick, irony taste of her own red liquid, the source of life, the flow of ecstasy, were the only things that brought her any relief.

"I know," she echoed with irritation. "but it couldn't be helped. I needed it." She heard her sister take a step closer to her.

"I'm taking care of the situation." Ellie wiped at her eyes, straightened her spine, and turned around.

"What do you mean, taking care of it?" Ellie recognized the look on her sister's face. Eden's pale, gentle features carried strength within their femininity. She had a plan. Ellie could not keep secrets from Eden, but Eden could keep them from Ellie. It was how things had always been between them. There were moments when Ellie resented Eden for her superiority, but she loved her sister, and she knew that Eden loved her deeply, as well. The love that they shared superseded her fleeting moments of rage. She knew that Eden's secrets were in her best interest, so she was not surprised when silence followed her question. She sighed in resignation.

"I'm exhausted," Eden complained. "When we get back to the house-"

"We're not going home," Ellie gently interjected. Eden's brows furrowed with surprise. It wasn't often that Ellie asserted herself, but Eden's head also tilted which gave Ellie hope that her sister was keeping an open mind. "We're going to the library. I can't - I can't get Zulia's corpse out of my head. Those symbols mean something. I didn't recognize them, but I can feel their familiarity." Ellie was not a Six. She wasn't supposed to know things without a concrete, rational example of how or why she knew them, but there were no other words to describe the horrified sensation that forced the tiny hairs on her arms to stand at the mere memory of those symbols.

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