Where foundlings hide, p.30
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.30

           KL Mitchelson

  Chapter Thirty

  Silence falls between us, broken only by my ragged breathing. My heart is pounding so loudly that I’m sure he must hear it.

  Haydn looks confused. “What did you say?”

  “I’m not a Foundling, I’m not Acacia Vedmak.”

  His dark eyes scan my face. “Is this some kind of a joke?”

  I take a deep, shaky breath. “My name is Casey George, and I’m human, or at least half-human. I was obtained as a decoy to protect the real Acacia Vedmak.”

  He looks like he’s not sure whether to believe me, his face set in incredulity.

  “It’s why I can’t do everything the Foundlings can. I can’t read minds, I can’t see visions in the fire, I’m not fast and strong like the Smith’s…it was all a lie.”

  “Roma said that you can’t do everything because your powers were supressed.” Haydn says, eyeing me doubtfully.

  “She lied.” I say, my voice thick with tears.

  He puffs out his cheeks, exhaling slowly. “Then… why all this?” He says, gesturing around the training room.

  “The Vedmak’s brought me here to convince the council to leave the Foundlings where they are,” I can’t seem to stop speaking. “They ran some tests and found out I was half-Displacian. They’re testing me to see what powers I have and to help my body to adapt.”

  He lets out a small sound of disbelief, his face set in astonishment. “Does anyone else know about this?”

  “Just a few of the Vedmak’s – Roma, Ivy, Caleb, Parker, and the Emperor.”

  “The Vedmak’s lied, this could jeopardise their claim to the throne.” He looks at me sharply. “I knew there was something different about you, I thought it was just because you’d spent so long on Earth, but this…” He looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time.

  “I hated it,” I say, swallowing a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball. “Having to pretend to be a Foundling, having to train to do what they can, knowing all along that I would never be as powerful as they are.”

  “But you do have some powers,” Haydn says, furrowing his brow. “I’ve seen them. How is that possible if you’re human?”

  “Half-human, the Vedmak’s are trying to find out how that happened. I also have powers that aren’t Displacian, and they can’t explain that either.”

  He folds his arms over his chest. “What kind of powers?”

  “Maybe some kind of psychic ability, I saw something in a dream that came true, and… I can feel other people’s emotions,” The heat starts to rise in my face. “It’s the reason I pulled away from you, you know…last night. I can feel everything you feel.”

  He shifts a little awkwardly. “You can?”

  “Yes, and it’s overwhelming sometimes,” I say. “Especially when people are feeling particularly… emotive.”

  He clears his throat. “So um… where’s the real Acacia?”

  His question catches me off guard and my lip starts to tremble. “She’s gone.”

  “Gone? What do you mean she’s gone? Gone where?”

  “She…she died.” Fresh tears gather in the corners of my eyes.

  “He steps towards me, his expression suddenly dark. “The Foundlings are supposed to be protected.”

  “They are; it was just her,” I bite my lip to stop myself from saying anything else.

  “You said you were obtained as a decoy,” he says. “What does that mean?”

  I swallow down the hot tears gathering in my throat. “Ivy adopted me when I was a baby, she raised me as Acacia’s twin. It was an extra cover, because Acacia is royalty.”

  “Because twins don’t exist in Displacia.” Haydn says, looking thoughtful.

  I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything. I can’t believe I told you, I’ve ruined everything.”

  “The Vedmak’s dragged you into this,” Haydn sighs. “It’s their mess.”

  “What will you do?” I ask. “Will you tell Nicholas?”

  “I probably should,” Haydn says quietly. “Roma lied to him, and now I’m part of that lie too.”

  I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the tears from falling. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I just couldn’t bear the way you were looking at me.”

  “What do you mean?” He says, a little taken aback.

  “Like you hated me, you were looking at me like you hated me.” The tears start to fall then, leaving hot, wet tracks on my cheeks.

  He moves towards me, then he hesitates. “You don’t like to be touched.” He clasps his hands behind his back. “Because you feel everything everyone else is feeling.”

  I take a deep, shuddering breath. “You’re the only one I want to touch, but you feel more pain than I’ve ever felt from anyone.”

  I’m sorry, here.” He takes a cautious step towards me, pulling the cuff of his shirt over his hand. He brings it to my face and dabs at my eyes using the fabric to absorb the tears.

  I look up at him through wet lashes, blinking away the last of the tears. “Thank you.”

  He holds my gaze for a long time, his hand still at my cheek. Without speaking, I lift my mouth to his. I kiss him long and deep, the taste of my tears on both of our lips. I raise up on my tiptoes and wrap my arms around his neck, pressing myself against him until I feel the thrum of his heart against mine. Instead of cringing away from his pain and anger, I absorb it. His pain becomes mine, both of us burning together. When we finally break apart, he tucks a lock of hair behind my ear.

  “So what now?” He says.

  “I don’t know what the Vedmak’s will do when they find out I’ve told you.” I step away from him with a heavy, sickly feeling, closing my fingers around the gem at my chest. “I guess I have to go home.”

  “You don’t have to go,” Haydn says. “I’ll keep your secret.”

  I shake my head sadly. “I don’t like lying, Haydn, it eats me up, and I won’t put you in that position. Besides, they’ll hear in my thoughts that I told you.”

  “You can’t just leave, not now.” He says, taking my hand in his. He looks at me with those dark eyes that remind me so much of the Displacian night sky.

  “You were right by the way, I did lose someone,” he says. “Only it wasn’t just one person.” His face is suddenly etched with pain. “I lost everyone.”

  “In the war?”

  He nods. “My father was killed, along with my aunts, uncles, even my grandparents. Then my mother and brother left. My brother is a Foundling, he was sent to Earth with the other Foundling children, with Acacia. My mother went with him.”

  I realise, then, that by telling him about Lana, I made him doubt the safety of his brother. “Haydn, I’m-”

  He shakes his head. “You don’t need to say it. But now you know why… why I’m like this.” His brow furrows and I desperately want to put my arms around him, hold myself against him again, stay here with him forever.

  “The Foundlings are well hidden,” I say. “Your mother and brother are safe.” It’s not untrue, the Foundlings are well hidden, so well hidden that even their own people can’t find them, but I can’t tell Haydn this. I’ve felt his anger, who knows what might happen if he finds out that the Vedmak’s can’t trace the Foundlings.

  The ground below us shifts suddenly, violently, sending us both falling to the ground. Dust showers down from the ceiling and the tall, glass windows rattle in their frames.

  Haydn helps me up and guides me over to the wall, where we hold on until the shaking subsides. When the ground is still, I can still feel the vibration in my bones. “You have the quakes here too?”

  “They’re like an aftershock of the quakes on Earth,” Haydn says quietly, still clasping on to my arm and sending jolts of anxiety surging through me. “Casey, what did they tell you about the earthquakes?”

  I look up into his face, it reflects my own unease. “They didn’t tell me anything.”

  “Why doesn’t th
at surprise me?” He says, shaking his head.

  “What do you mean, what is it?”

  “Haydn,” A Smith soldier strides into the room, his face grim. “You’re needed in the fountain room.”

  “Come on,” Haydn takes my hand and we follow the soldier out of the training room. Haydn walks quickly and I almost have to jog to keep up, trepidation coursing through both our bodies and combining in the palms of our interlocked hands.

  We find the fountain room crowded with people – mainly Smith’s dressed in compression suits of green, and Vedmak’s dressed in blue, with some Halers dotted here and there wearing white – Aimee amongst them. There is also a handful of brown-clad Wanderers watching nervously from the side lines.

  I scan the noisy crowd for Roma, the proximity of so many bodies making me heady.

  Nicholas pushes through the crowd towards us. “It’s zone one, level five. The quakes brought down dozens of buildings and sent a nuclear power station into meltdown.”

  “Level five?” Haydn says, his face suddenly pale.

  Nicholas nods firmly. “We have to go now; the capital city is overrun with rioters. It’s chaos.”

  “Which capital city?” I ask, my breath catching in my throat.

  Nicholas starts to walk away. “Our communication systems are down so Roma’s staying behind with a team to try to bring them back online. You’re to stay here with her, Acacia.”

  “Nicholas, where did it happen? Which country?”

  When he turns, his expression is pained. “England.”


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