The awakening, p.22
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       The Awakening, p.22

         Part #2 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 22

 

  Every whisper of wind sounded like a voice. Every animal rustling in the forest was a poor creature I’d raised from the dead. Every creak of a tree was a corpse clawing up from the cold ground. Each time I closed my eyes, I saw the dead girl. Then I saw the dead bats. Then I saw the girl, buried in this forest, never found, waking in a shallow grave, trapped in her rotted corpse, unable to scream, to struggle….

  I kept my eyes open.

  I thought of waking Derek. He wouldn’t complain. But after what he’d just been through, it seemed silly to say I couldn’t bear being out here with a murder reenactment playing behind me. I did nudge him a few times, though, hoping he’d wake up.

  But he didn’t. He was exhausted and he needed his rest, and even if he did wake up, what could we do? We were trapped at this bus stop until morning.

  So I sat and I tried not to think. When that failed, I recited multiplication tables, which only reminded me of school and made me wonder whether I’d ever go back; and that reminded me of Liz, of how much she’d hated math, and I wondered how she was and where she was and…

  I switched to reciting favorite movie dialogue, but, again, it only reminded me of my other life, then my dad and how worried he must be. I drove myself nuts trying to figure out some safe way to get him a message, getting more and more frustrated when I couldn’t.

  I finally settled on something that always comforted me—singing “Daydream Believer. ” It was my mom’s favorite song, the one she’d sung me to sleep with whenever I had nightmares. I only knew one verse and the chorus, but I whispered them under my breath, over and over and…

  “Chloe?”

  Fingers touched my shoulder. I blinked and saw Derek crouched beside me, still in his shorts, his face dark with worry.

  “S-sorry. I drifted off. ”

  “With your eyes open? Sitting up? I’ve been trying to snap you out of it for a while. ”

  “Oh?” I looked around and saw it was day. I blinked harder and yawned. “Long night. ”

  “You’ve been sitting here awake all night?” He lowered himself to the ground. “Because of what happened with me? I know that couldn’t have been easy to watch—”

  “That’s not why. ”

  I tried to duck having to explain, but he kept pushing, and it came down to telling the truth or letting him think that watching him Change had put me in a state of shock. I told him about the girl.

  “It wasn’t real,” I said as I finished. “Well, it was—once. But I was just seeing some kind of ghostly replay. ”

  “And you watched that, all night?”

  “No, it’s”—I waved my hand over my shoulder—“back there. I didn’t look. ”

  “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

  “You were tired. I didn’t want to bother you. ”

  “Bother me? That is the stupidest—” He stopped. “Wrong word. Stubborn, not stupid…and yelling at you right now isn’t helping, is it?”

  “Not really. ”

  “Next time, wake me up. I don’t expect you to tough out something like that, and I’m not impressed that you did. ”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  “And next time you don’t tell me, I will yell at you. ”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  “I’m not your drill sergeant, Chloe. I don’t like getting on your case all the time. ”

  I wasn’t touching that one.

  “I don’t mean to…” He sighed, shook his head, and got to his feet. “Give me a minute to get dressed, and we’ll head into the truck stop, warm up, and get some breakfast. ”

  He took his clothes and headed for the thicket, still talking. “The main bus station is in the city. I’m hoping we’ll have enough for cab fare. When we get inside, we’ll call and get the bus rates and schedule, so we’ll know how much money we have left over. ”

  “I’ve got”—I pulled bills from my pocket—“eighty. I left the rest in my backpack. I don’t like carrying it all around. ”

  “Most of mine is in my backpack, too, which I forgot on the bus. ” He cursed himself under his breath.

  “You were in no shape to be remembering anything last night. I should have thought to grab mine. ”

  “But you were worried about me. Never mind, we’ll have enough. I’ve got about a hundred…”

  A pause. Then the sound of hands slapping fabric, like he was patting his pockets.

  He swore. “It must have fallen out. Where did you get my jeans from?”

  “Right where you left them, folded by the tree. I checked the pockets first. There was just an energy bar wrapper. ”

  “I know I had—” He stopped and swore again. “No, I moved the money to my jacket, which I left on the bus. ”

  “Eighty dollars should cover the bus to New York and breakfast. We’ll walk, then catch a city bus to the station. ”

  He strode from the bushes, muttering, “Stupid, stupid. ”

  “Like I said, you had other things on your mind. We both did. And neither of us is used to playing fugitive yet. We’ll learn. For now, let’s get inside. I’m freezing. ”

  Thirty

  WHILE DEREK WAS IN the bathroom I called the bus station and got fares and a schedule. The guy was even nice enough to tell me which city buses we needed to take to get there.

  When Derek came out of the bathroom, his sweatshirt was damp and clean, and his hair was wet and glistening, like he’d wiped down the shirt and washed his hair in the sink.

  “Good news first or bad—” I stopped. “Dumb question. Bad, right?”

  “Yeah. ”

  “We’ve got a two-mile walk to the nearest bus stop, plus one transfer to get to the terminal. The good news? The fare is sixty dollars for two students to New York, so we have enough for breakfast. ”

  “And deodorant. ”

  I was going to say that didn’t matter, but from the set of his jaw, it mattered to him, so I nodded and said, “Sure. ”

  We bought deodorant and a cheap comb. And, yes, we shared them. Money was too tight to get silly about that.

  The smell of bacon and eggs from the restaurant set my mouth watering, but our cash wouldn’t stretch to cover a hot breakfast. We grabbed cartons of chocolate milk, two energy bars, and two bags of peanuts, then headed out for our hike to the bus stop.

  After about a half mile of silence, Derek said, “You’re quiet this morning. ”

  “Just tired. ”

  Another hundred feet.

  “It’s last night, isn’t it?” he said. “If you want to talk about it…”

  “Not really. ”

  Every few steps, he’d glance my way. I wasn’t in the mood to share, but my silence was obviously bugging him, so I said, “I keep thinking about when I first saw that girl in trouble. When I thought it was real. I was going to do something—”

  “What?” he cut in.

  I shrugged. “Yell. Distract him. ”

  “If it was real, you shouldn’t have even thought of getting involved. The guy had a knife. He was obviously ready to use it. ”

  “That wasn’t really the point,” I murmured, watching my toe kick a pebble along the roadside.

  “Okay. So the point was…”

  “I saw that knife and I froze. All I could think about was that girl in the alley, the one who held a knife on me. If last night had been real, I might have let someone die because I was too freaked out to do anything. ”

  “But it wasn’t real. ”

  I looked up at him.

  “Okay,” he said. “Again that wasn’t your point. But what happened in that alley—you still hadn’t had time to slow down and…” He gestured, searching for a word. “Process it. You talked to Simon about it, right?”

  I shook my head.

  He frowned. “But you did tell him what happened. ”

  Another head shake.

  “You should. You need to talk to so
meone. You sure can’t talk to Tori. Liz is probably a good listener, but she’s not around. ” He paused. “You could talk to me, but you’ve probably figured out I’m not good with stuff like that. I mean, if you wanted to…” He trailed off, then came back firmer, shoulders hunching against the morning chill. “It should be Simon. He’d want to know what happened, and he’d want you to be the one to tell him. ”

  I nodded, though I didn’t know whether I would. Simon had spent enough time lately on Chloe-comfort duty. I needed to start working stuff out by myself. But there was a related issue I did want help with.

  “I’ve been thinking,” I began. “After what happened, I should learn how to defend myself. Some basic self-defense moves. ”

  “That’s a good idea. ”

  “Great, so could you—?”

  “I’ll ask Simon to teach you some,” he continued.

  “Oh. I thought…I guess I thought that would be more your area. ”

  “Our dad taught us both. Simon’s good. Unless…” He glanced down at me. “I mean, if you want, sure, I can help out. But Simon would be a better teacher. He’s got the patience for it. ”

  “Right. I’ll talk to Simon then. ”

  He nodded and we lapsed into silence again.

  We reached the bus station with twenty minutes to spare. Derek had me hang back, where the agent could see I was a teenager without getting too close a look, in case my photo was circulating. He went up to the counter alone. When he seemed to be having trouble, though, I joined him.

  “What’s wrong?” I whispered.

  “She won’t give us the youth fare. ”

  “It’s not a youth fare,” the woman said. “It’s a student fare. If you can’t produce ID, you don’t get it. ”

  “But we got tickets in Buffalo without any ID. ” I put my used ticket on the counter.

  “That’s Buffalo,” she said with a sniff. “Here in the state’s capital we follow the rules. No ID, no student fare. ”

  “Okay, adult tickets, then. ”

  “We don’t have enough,” Derek murmured.

  “What?”

  “It’s thirty-eight each for adults. We’re six bucks short. ”

  I leaned into the wicket. “Please, it’s really important. You can see on our ticket there that we already bought fares to New York, but my friend got sick and we had to get off the bus—”

  “Doesn’t matter. ”

  “How about one adult and one youth? We have enough—”

  “Next!” she called, and waved up the man behind us.

  The bus station also serviced Greyhound, but their sign clearly stated that their student fares required a special card, which was why we hadn’t bought from them in Buffalo. I tried anyway. The woman there was more sympathetic, but she explained that she couldn’t issue the reduced fare tickets without entering a student discount card number into the computer. So we were out of luck.

  “We’ll figure something out,” I said as we moved away from the Greyhound counter.

  “You go. I’ll give you directions to Andrew’s house. He can pick me up here—”

  “What if he’s not there? He could have moved or could be away. Then I’d have to find Simon, use a good chunk of money for us all to come back and get you…. ”

  Derek nodded, conceding my point.

  “You lived around here for a while. ” I raised my hands. “I know, it’s not your favorite place to remember, but is there anyone you could borrow ten bucks from?”

  “A friend?”

  “Well, sure, maybe…”

  A small laugh. “Yeah, you sound as doubtful about that as you should. You may have guessed I don’t go out of my way to make friends. I don’t see the point, especially when I’m never in one place long. I’ve got my dad and Simon. That’s enough. ”

  His pack…

  He continued, “I suppose I could find someone. Simon’s bound to have a friend or teammate who owed him money. He’s bad for stuff like that—lends it and never asks for it back. ”

  “On second thought, considering you vanished under bad circumstances, reappearing now might not be the wisest idea. The last thing we need is someone calling the cops. ”

  I walked to the stand of brochures and took one listing fares and schedules. Then I went to the map of New York State and studied the two. Derek read over my shoulder.

  “There,” he said, pointing to a town on the map. “We can afford the full fare to New York from there. ”

  “As for how we’ll get there…”

  That was the question.

  Thirty-one

  OUR BEST SHOT OF getting where we wanted to go was by hitchhiking. We weren’t stupid enough to thumb a ride, but we might be able to sneak one. So we decided to go back to the truck stop. I dozed for a few minutes while we rode the city bus, then we started the long walk.

  We were about halfway there when Derek said, gruffly, “I’m sorry. ”

  “About what?”

  “This. You helped me last night after all the crap I put you through. And this is your reward. Stranded in Albany. ”

  “It’s an adventure. I can’t remember the last time I took a city bus. I’m getting my exercise, too. After a week cooped up in Lyle House and that laboratory, I’ve never been more in the mood for a long walk. ”

  We walked a while longer.

  “I know you’re tired,” he said. “And hungry. And pissed off. ”
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