Passion, p.2
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       Passion, p.2

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 2

 

  There must have been a hundred people there. All of them bundled up to their ears. Some were down on their knees, digging with shovels. Some were digging with their hands. Some stood as if frozen, watching the sky. A few soldiers carted off heavy loads of earth and rock in splintery wheelbarrows and farm carts to add to the rubble barricade at the end of the street. Their bodies were hidden under thick army-issue wool coats that billowed out around their knees, but beneath their steel hats, their faces were as gaunt as any of the civilians. Lucinda understood that they were all working together, the men in uniform and the women and children, turning their city into a fortress, doing anything they could, down to the very last minute, to keep the enemy tanks out.

  Kristina, her grandmother called, the same notes of panic-washed love in her voice as when shed been looking for Luce.

  A girl appeared at their side almost instantly. What took you so long?

  Tall and thin, with dark strands of hair escaping from under the porkpie hat on her head, Kristina was so beautiful, Luce had to swallow a lump in her throat. She recognized the girl as family right away.

  Seeing Kristina reminded Luce of Vera, another past lifes sister. Luce must have had a hundred sisters across time. A thousand. All of them would have gone through something similar. Sisters and brothers and parents and friends whom Luce must have loved, then lost. None of them had known what was coming. All of them had been left behind to grieve.

  Maybe there was a way to change that, to make it easier on the people whod loved her. Maybe that was part of what Luce could do in her past lives.

  The great boom of something exploding sounded across town. Close enough that the ground rocked under Luces feet and her right eardrum felt like it was splitting. On the corner, air-raid sirens started going off.

  Baba. Kristina took hold of her grandmothers arm. She was near tears. The Nazis--theyre here, arent they?

  The Germans. Luces first time stepping through time on her own and shed landed smack in World War II. Theyre attacking Moscow? Her voice wobbled. Tonight?

  We should have left town with the others, Kristina said bitterly. Now it is too late.

  And abandoned your mother and your father and your grandfather, too? Baba shook her head. Left them alone in their graves?

  Better we should join them in the cemetery? Kristina spat back. She reached for Luce, squeezing her arm. Did you know about the raid? You and your kulak friend? Is that why you didnt come to work this morning? You were with him, werent you?

  What did her sister think Luce could possibly have known? Who would she have been with?

  Who but Daniel?

  Of course. Luschka must be with him right now. And if her own family members were confusing that Luschka with Luce . . .

  Her chest constricted. How much time did she have left before she died? What if Luce could find Luschka before it happened?

  "Luschka. "

  Her sister and grandmother were staring at her.

  Whats wrong with her tonight? Kristina asked.

  "Lets go. " Baba scowled. You think the Moscovitches are going to hold open their basement forever?

  The long drone of a fighter planes propellers sounded over them in the sky. Close enough that when Luce looked up, the dark swastika painted on the underside of its wings was clear. It sent a shiver through her. Then another boom rocked the city, and the air grew caustic with dark smoke. Theyd hit something nearby. Two more massive explosions made the ground shudder beneath her feet.

  It was chaos on the street. The crowd at the trenches was disappearing, everyone scattering up a dozen narrow streets. Some hustled down the stairs of the metro station on the corner to wait out the bombs underground; others disappeared into dark doorways.

  A block away, Luce caught a glimpse of someone running: a girl, about her age, in a red hat and a long wool coat. She turned her head for just a second before she sprinted on. But it was long enough for Luce to know.

  There she was.

  Luschka.

  She wrestled free of Babas arm. Im sorry. I have to go.

  Luce took a deep breath and ran down the street, straight into the roiling smoke, toward the heaviest bombing.

  Are you crazy? Kristina yelled. But they didnt follow her. They would have had to be crazy themselves.

  Luces feet were numb as she tried to run through the calf-high snow on the sidewalk. When she reached the corner where shed seen her red-hatted past self dash by, she slowed. Then she sucked in her breath.

  A building that took up half of the city block directly in front of her had caved in. White stone was streaked with black ash. A fire churned deep inside the crater in the buildings side.

  The explosion had spat out heaps of unrecognizable debris from inside the building. The snow was streaked with red. Luce recoiled until she realized that the red streaks were not blood but shreds of red silk. It must have been a tailors shop. Several badly singed racks of clothes were scattered in the street. A mannequin lay on its side in a ditch. It was on fire. Luce had to cover her mouth with her grandmothers scarf to keep from choking on the fumes. Everywhere she stepped, shattered glass and stone cut into the snow.

  She should turn back, find the grandmother and sister who would help her get to shelter, but she couldnt. She had to find Luschka. Shed never been so close to one of her past selves before. Luschka might be able to help her understand why Luces own lifetime was different. Why Cam had shot a starshot into her reflection, thinking it was her, and told Daniel, It was a better end for her. A better end than what?

  She slowly turned around, trying to spot the flash of the red hat in the night.

  There.

  The girl was running downhill toward the river. Luce started running, too.

  They ran at precisely the same pace. When Luce ducked at the sound of an explosion, Luschka ducked, too--in a weird echo of Luces own movement. And when they reached the riverbank, and the city came into view, Luschka froze into the exact same rigid stance as Luce herself.

  Fifty yards in front of Luce, her mirror image began to sob.

  So much of Moscow was burning. So many homes were being leveled. Luce tried to fathom the other lives being destroyed across the city tonight, but they felt distant and unreachable, like something shed read about in a history book.

  The girl was on the move again. Running so fast Luce couldnt have caught her if shed wanted to. They ran around giant craters cut into the cobblestone road. They ran past burning buildings, crackling with the awful racket a fire makes when it spreads to a new target. They ran past smashed, overturned military trucks, blackened arms hanging out at the sides.

  Then Luschka hooked left down a street and Luce couldnt see her anymore.

  Adrenaline kicked in. Luce pressed forward, her feet pounding harder, faster on the snowy street. People only ran this fast when they were desperate. When something bigger than them spurred them on.

  Luschka could only be running toward one thing.

  Luschka--

  His voice.

  Where was he? For a moment, Luce forgot her past self, forgot the Russian girl whose life was in danger of ending at any moment, forgot that this Daniel wasnt her Daniel, but then--

  Of course he was.

  He never died. He had always been there. He was always hers and she was always his. All she wanted was to find his arms, to bury herself in their grasp. He would know what she should be doing; he would be able to help her. Why had she doubted him before?

  She ran, pulled in the direction of his voice. But she couldnt see Daniel anywhere. Nor Luschka. A block away from the river, Luce stopped short in a barren intersection.

  Her breath felt strangled in her frozen lungs. A cold, throbbing pain tunneled deep inside her ears, and the icy pinpricks stabbing her feet made standing still unbearable.

  But which way should she go?

  Before her was a vast and empty lot, filled with rubble and cordoned off from
the street by scaffolding and an iron fence. But even in the darkness, Luce could tell that this was an older demolition, not something destroyed by a bomb in the air raids.

  It didnt look like much, just an ugly, abandoned sinkhole. She didnt know why she was still standing in front of it. Why shed stopped running after Daniels voice--

  Until she gripped the fence, blinked, and saw a flash of something brilliant.

  A church. A majestic white church filling this gaping hole. A huge triptych of marble arches on the front fa?ade. Five golden spires extending high into the sky. And inside: rows of waxed wooden pews as far as the eye could see. An altar at the top of a white flight of stairs. And all the walls and high arched ceilings covered with gorgeously ornate frescoes. Angels everywhere.

  The Church of Christ the Savior.

  How did Luce know that? Why would she feel with every fiber of her being that this nothingness had once been a formidable white church?

  Because she had been there moments before. She saw someone elses handprints in the ash on the metal: Luschka had stopped here, too, had gazed at the ruins of the church and felt something.

  Luce gripped the railing and blinked again and saw herself--or Luschka--as a girl.

  She was seated inside on one of the pews in a white lace dress. An organ played as people filed in before a service. The handsome man to her left must have been her father, and the woman next to him, her mother. There was the grandmother Luce had just met, and Kristina. Both of them looked younger, better fed. Luce remembered her grandmother saying that both her parents were dead. But here they looked so alive. They seemed to know everyone, greeting each family passing their pew. Luce studied her past self watching her father as he shook hands with a good-looking young blond man. The young man leaned down over the pew and smiled at her. He had the most beautiful violet eyes.

  She blinked again and the vision disappeared. The lot was once again little more than rubble. She was freezing. And alone. Another bomb went off across the river, and the shock of it dropped Luce to her knees. She covered her face with her hands--

  Until she heard someone softly crying. She lifted her head and squinted into the deeper darkness of the ruins, and she saw him.

  Daniel, she whispered. He looked just the same. Almost radiating light, even in the freezing darkness. The blond hair she never wanted to stop running her fingers through, the violet-gray eyes that seemed to have been made to lock with hers. That formidable face, the high cheekbones, those lips. Her heart pounded and she had to tighten her grip on the iron fence to keep from running to him.

  Because he wasnt alone.

  He was with Luschka. Consoling her, stroking her cheek and kissing her tears away. Their arms were wrapped around one another, their heads tipped forward in a never-ending kiss. They were so lost in their embrace they didnt seem to feel the street rolling and quaking with another explosion. They looked like all there was in the world was just the two of them.

  There was no space between their bodies. It was too dim to see where one of them ended and the other one began.

  Lucinda got to her feet and crept forward, moving from one pile of rubble in the dark to the next, just longing to be closer to him.

  I thought Id never find you, Luce heard her past self say.

  We will always find each other, Daniel answered, lifting her off the ground and squeezing her closer. Always.

  Hey, you two! A voice shouted from a doorway in a neighboring building. Are you coming?

  Across the square from the empty lot, a small group of people were being herded into a solid stone building by a guy whose face Luce couldnt make out. That was where Luschka and Daniel were headed. It must have been their plan all along, to take shelter from the bombs together.

 

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