I Could Not Promise

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Two months passed before my shattered ankle healed, but it ached with the pain of a thousand burning forests every time it rained. Just my luck. Tonight, the sky came pouring down, and of all the places to be, I was stuck outside trying to find a way in.

Lily's house might as well have been a fortress.

Since Noah's escape, everything had changed and nothing had changed. Noah and Rinley were gone, but so was Miles. After Broden's arrest, both were implicated in the bombing of the record's building, but before they came for Miles, my father smuggled Miles out, leaving his twin sister, Lily, behind. She wasn't arrested, in part due to her clean records and service at the women's correctional facility—the same one we broke Rinley out of—but now, she was forced to work there, fulltime. She'd never graduate high school. She'd never get another job. She'd probably never see her brother again. But at least she wasn't taken to Phoenix.

Unlike everyone else, I didn't get punished at all. Not one bit. My physical therapy was even paid for, and the State wrote me off as a victim of a terrorist group. But we all knew the truth.

Wheston Phelps was watching me. Wheston Phelps might have even loved me. After all, he'd been like an uncle through my childhood—the very man to give me Homer's works to read—but he hadn't been around since. Not until Noah returned.

The State's leader knew I was involved with the Tomery family, the very family that created the clairvoyant drug, and Phelps wanted me to expose them. For that to happen, I had to be free. I had to think I was free. But I never believed in freedom at all. I never would again.

Even if I wanted to expose Noah and Rinley, I couldn't. What was left of the Tomery siblings was gone, safely concealed by the wild places between the six regions, and they weren't coming back. No one was.

I was alone, and that was that.

But I never was one to accept my circumstances.

Slowly, inch by agonizing inch, I crept forward through the brushes on my toes, careful not to twist my ankle in the process. My physical therapist, Ruth, would be proud. But not if I told her why I was straining myself.

Lily. I had to see her. She was my best friend, the girl who dressed me up like a doll (even though I hated it), the same girl who helped me study (even though I didn't need help), and the very girl who was my first friend upon moving to the Topeka Region from Albany.

She wasn't all I had left, but after tonight, I'd most likely be the only person she had left. With her twin brother's disappearance and her probation prohibiting her from seeing me, she'd have none of her original friends after tonight. Not after Broden's execution.

I shuddered at the thought.

Just two months ago, Broden and I had crawled through bushes to meet Noah, a teenage fugitive. Now, one way or another, we were all fugitives, even if the State denied it. But I wouldn't allow that fact dictate we couldn't be friends.

Lily was my best friend, and I would be there for her.

I inhaled a single breath and pushed it out at the same time of pushing myself to my feet. I shot out of the bushes, met the security lights, and whipped around the movement, dodging the moving circles that had been recently installed, and avoiding the cameras at the sides. The poorly placed cameras. Too poorly placed.

I bet Phelps is watching me now.

The thought hit me as hard as I hit the house's siding, slick beneath my fingers. My hot cheek pressed against the cooling rain, and I closed my eyes only for a moment, as if to listen to its heartbeat, but all I heard was thunder.

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