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Portrait of a starter an.., p.2
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       Portrait of a Starter: An Unhidden Story, p.2

           Lissa Price
 
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  “You called them,” I say.

  “Kids like you belong in an institution.”

  Just like an Ender. Before I know it, my strong young hands are wrapped around the Ender’s fragile throat.

  “It’s not my fault. You Enders made this world.” I squeeze until his face turns red. “What is that building?” I point him toward it.

  He croaks out the answer. “Prime … Destinations.”

  “What kind of place is it?”

  He opens his mouth but no sound comes out. His lips turn white.

  “What happens in there?” I scream.

  I feel his bones underneath his cold, thin skin and swear I can hear them crunching.

  What am I doing?

  This isn’t me. I’ve turned into that rabid animal.

  I let him go. He stumbles and falls to the ground, facedown. I pant and stare at his feeble body as the siren gets closer. Did I hurt him? Bad?

  “Hey.” I touch his leg with my shoe.

  He’s still. Sweat beads on my forehead. What did I do? Then he slowly moves. I take a deep breath. He gets up on all fours and peers at me through the hair hanging in his face.

  “Why don’t you go in there and see?” His voice is raw.

  He nods toward the building, Prime Destinations. It sounded like a dare, but all I can think about is bursting into that building to find Callie, to stop her from maybe making the mistake of her life. What kind of place totally transforms Starters into beautiful but stupid mannequins with no memories? But the siren screams as the marshal’s car whips around the corner, its silvery nose heading for me like a shark. The shopkeeper sits back on his haunches and points at me, the aggressor, the animal, the Starter.

  I clutch my pad and my pack and I run.

  Hours later, back in my room, my feet swollen, my muscles burning, I sit in my corner. Tyler is asleep in his fortress. Callie’s still not back. I push the thought out of my head that she might never return.

  I stare at my drawing of her. With the new water stains, the edges of the pad are dirtier than ever, but her sketch managed to stay clean.

  I use my charcoal pencil to finish her hair. With fast strokes, I draw one side the way it often looks, messy and a little wild. Then I take a breath. I sketch the other side slowly, methodically, carefully. That side ends up very neat. Before and after? Maybe.

  I pick up my brown pencil and fill in one iris. I start to do the other but then stop. I erase the brown in the second eye. I reach for another pencil, my hand hovering over the colors until it stops at the blue one. I use that to fill in the second eye with a color I don’t see when I look at Callie. Why did I do this? I have no idea.

  But when I finish and stare at the drawing, it seems right. The result is surprising and haunting and a little creepy. It’s art, I figure, I’m allowed to do this. It’s my artistic interpretation, and truer than some photorealistic portrait. Then I realize why I did it. As close as we’ve become, living together these past months, I really don’t know her. In our stupid desperate lives, everyone and everything is unpredictable.

  Even me.

  I listen to Tyler’s snores. He believes she’s returning to us.

  I hope so.

  About the Author

  Lissa Price has studied photography and writing, but the world has turned out to be her greatest teacher.

  She has walked with elephants in Botswana, swum with penguins in the Galápagos, and stood in a field at sunset amid a thousand nomads in Gujarat, India. She has been surrounded by hundreds of snorting Cape buffalo in South Africa and held an almost silent chorus with a hundred wild porpoises off the coast of Oahu. She has danced in mud huts at weddings in India and had tea with the most famous living socialite in Kyoto.

  When she sat down to write, she found that the most surprising journeys were still inside her mind.

  She lives in the foothills of Southern California with her husband and the occasional deer. Visit her at LissaPrice.com.

 


 

  Lissa Price, Portrait of a Starter: An Unhidden Story

 


 

 
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