38 - Where They Part

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         Beatrice reclined on the flowery couch with her legs crooked over one of the armrests. One arm dangled down and she brushed her knuckles against the ratty carpet. Her other arm was draped over her face, and she stared up at the plaster ceiling.

         Jacoby had pulled up a rickety chair in front of the TV, and was flipping through the channels. Ever since the long talk we had about Others, his composed face had not been able to fool me. The tulip was still there, except it was now only a couple inches tall. Vines were tangled around his lower legs, but he didn’t seem to notice them, and if he did, he gave no sign of it. Each time he started over from Channel 1 again, his finger jammed the up button on the remote harder and harder.

         While he and Beatrice went about their own business, I decided to head into the bathroom for a shower.

         Maybe I could wash away my worries and problems from today and they would swirl down the drain with the scentless bar soap and lukewarm water.

         I let myself stand under the showerhead a few minutes longer than I really needed. As the spray drizzled down my back, I forced myself to think about the offer we had seen today at the Sony store.

         Would I ever turn Jacoby in to save myself? He was the one who had brought this mess on me, so it would only be fair if he were my ticket out.

         But even as the thought finished registering in my head, I knew I would never do such a thing, and for many reasons—the two most obvious among them being it would be just plain wrong to do such a thing, and Jacoby couldn’t have predicted what did happen when we were eight, at Iliadys camp, where all of this had truly started. And I’d agreed to go on this trip, entirely of my own volition.

         What about Beatrice? I found myself asking. What about the girl who would no doubt jump at any chance to get rid of me for good, especially now that she had a sensible reason to.

         I abruptly turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. No, I said firmly to myself. Nobody, no matter how much I despise them, deserves to be handed in.

         Why would they want to spare Probes, anyway? The minute I ground out the thought in my head, I knew the answer. Probes could get away with not being an Other.

         I mean, look at us. We don’t have flowers, like Imaginers. We don’t attract bugs. We really aren’t that special. And they can use us to find Hiders.

         I sighed and looked down at the water, making a face. The drain was gurgling, and the water level was high enough to swirl around a couple inches above my ankles.

         All the hair that’s clogged up in there is probably going to come together in a collective being and claw its way out the drain.

         As I towelled myself dry, I started to think of ways to convince Jacoby and Beatrice that I honestly was not going to turn them in. After much grumbling and mental cross-outs, I finally decided that I would just say it out loud. Jacoby, Beatrice, I am not going to turn you guys in, because that would be a completely immoral thing to do. I paused in drying my hair. No. That sounds too fake and Beatrice would be even more suspicious.

         “Jacoby, Beatrice,” I began to say loudly. I winced and hoped they hadn’t heard. “Jacoby, Beatrice,” I said again in a softer voice, “I am not going to turn you guys in.” For extra measure, I whipped my towel from my shoulders to punctuate my determined expression—and sent the extra towels stacked on the edge of the tub into the used bathwater.

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