p; It is not the word, but the way it is said. Drawn out with a slight nod and a sigh. I recognize it. From somewhere. Maybe I saw it on Jenna’s face or heard it in her voice on one of the video discs. A simple word that said more than was intended. Resignation. Enough. Stop. What do you want from me? Yeah. Things I think Mother never wanted me to see on those discs. Things that I think even the old Jenna never saw.
‘Here is a problem for you,’ I say.
‘That’s why I go to the charter,’ he answers. ‘A lot of people around here know me. It’s easier there.’
‘Because you can hide?’
‘You put things together fast.’
‘No. Not really. You said everyone has a reason for being at the charter. I was just waiting to hear yours.’
He leans forward, his arms resting on his knees. ‘I spent a year in the state juvenile facility. I beat someone up. When I got out I couldn’t go back to the academy, so I went to the charter.’
‘You don’t look the type,’ I say.
‘The type who would beat someone up until he’s more dead than alive?’ He looks past me, his eyes unfocused. I can hear the knot in his throat pulling tight. ‘You just never know.’
I lean forward, my arms on my knees so our positions are mirror images of each other. You never know. Ethan knows more about himself than he ever wanted to know, and I know less than I should. It seems wrong that his dark past should elevate my own blank one. His eyes are dark, full, as full as Dane’s are empty. I come forward so I am on my knees. So close to his face I should be embarrassed, but I’m not.
‘Aren’t you going to ask why?’ he says.
I close the space between us. My lips on his, wondering if the old Jenna knew how to kiss and if the new one remembers, but judging by the way his lips feel against mine, the answer to both of my questions is yes. I finally pull back.
‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘I should have asked.’
He pulls my face back to his and kisses me again, both of his hands soft against my cheeks.
Our kisses grow heated, and everything that is curious and odd and funny and wrong about me disappears and I am no longer thinking about me, but everything about Ethan, because the warmth of Ethan, the scent of Ethan, the touch of Ethan, is all about who I am now, and only when he pushes me away because Lily is yelling in the distance for me to come back to the house do I want to answer his question.
‘I already know why. Because sometimes there is just no choice.’
I needed it like I needed air.
But no one could hear me.
No one could listen.
No words. No sound.
I couldn’t even dream myself away.
Choices were made.
None of them mine.
At first I wondered if it was hell.
And then I knew it was.
I slam the kitchen drawer.