Hana, p.7
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Hana, p.7
 

         Part #1.50 of Delirium series by Lauren Oliver
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Page 7

 

  Then there is nothing to do but wait, and listen, and pray.

  Every minute is an hour and an agony. I wish, more than anything, that I could put my hands over my ears and hum, drown out the terrible soundtrack thats looping around me: the screaming, the thud of the nightsticks, the dogs snarling and barking. And the people begging, too, pleading as they are hauled away in handcuffs: Please, you dont understand, please, let me go, it was a mistake, I didnt mean to . . . Over and over again, a nightmare-song stuck on repeat.

  Suddenly I think of Lena, lying safe somewhere in her bed, and my throat squeezes up and I know Im going to cry. Ive been so stupid. She was right about everything. This isnt a game. It wasnt worth it either--the hot, sweaty nights, letting Steve kiss me, dancing--it has all amounted to nothing. Meaningless.

  The only meaning that matters is the dogs and the regulators and the guns. That is the truth. Crouching, hiding, pain in my neck and back and shoulders. That is reality.

  I squeeze my eyes shut. Im sorry, Lena. You were right. I imagine her giving a fitful stir in her sleep, kicking one heel out of the blanket. The thought gives me some comfort. At least shes safe, away from here.

  Hours: Time is elastic, gaping like a mouth, squeezing me down a long, narrow, dark throat. Even though the basement must be ninety degrees, I cant stop shivering. As the sounds of the raid begin to quiet, finally, Im worried that the chattering of my teeth will give me away. I have no idea what time it is or how long Ive been crouched against the wall. I can no longer feel the pain in my back and shoulders; my whole body feels weightless, outside my control.

  At last it is silent. I edge cautiously out from my hiding place, hardly daring to breathe. But there is no movement anywhere. The regulators have gone, and they must have caught or chased out everyone who was here. The darkness is impermeable, a stifling blanket. I still dont want to risk the stairs, but now that I am free, and moving, the need to get out, to escape this house, is rising like panic inside me. A scream is pressing at my throat, and the effort of swallowing back makes my throat hurt.

  I feel my way toward the room with the couch. The window high in the wall is just visible; beyond it, the sheen of dew on the grass glows slightly in the moonlight. My arms are shaking. I can barely manage to haul myself up onto the ledge, scooting forward with my face in the dirt, inhaling the smell of growth, still fighting the urge to scream, or sob.

  And then, finally, Im out. The sky glitters with hard-edged stars, vast and indifferent. The moon is high and round, lighting the tree

  s silver.

  The C"jurent. Tre are bodies lying in the grass.

  I run.

  five

  The morning after the raids, I wake up to a message from Lena.

  "Hana, you need to call me. Im working today. You can reach me at the store. "

  I listen to it twice, and then a third time, trying to judge her tone. Her voice has none of its usual singsong, no teasing lilt. I cant tell whether shes angry or upset or just irritated.

  I am dressed and on my way to the Stop-N-Save before realizing Ive made the decision to see her. I still feel as though a great block of ice has been lodged inside me, in my very center, making me feel numb and clumsy. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to sleep when I at last made it home, but my dreams were full of screams, and dogs drooling blood.

  Stupid: That is what Ive been. A child, a fairy-tale chaser. Lena was right all along. I flash to Steves face--bored, detached, waiting for me to finish my tantrum--to his silken voice, like an unwanted touch: Dont be upset. Youre so pretty.

  A line from The Book of Shhh comes back to me: There is no love, only disorder.

  Ive had my eyes closed all this time. Lena was right. Lena will understand--shell have to, even if shes still angry at me.

  I slow my bike as I pedal past Lenas uncles storefront, where Lena works shifts all through the summer. I dont spot anyone but Jed, though, a huge lump of a man who can barely string a sentence together to ask you whether youd like to buy a Big Gulp soda for a dollar. Lena always thought he must have been damaged by the cure. Maybe shes right. Or maybe he was just born that way.

  I pull around to the narrow alley in back, which is crowded with Dumpsters and smells sickly sweet, like old, rotten trash. A blue door halfway down the alley marks the entrance to the storeroom in the back of the Stop-N-Save. I cant think of how many times Ive come here to hang with Lena while shes supposed to be doing inventory, snacking on a stolen bag of chips and listening to a portable radio I snagged from my parents kitchen. For a moment, I get a fierce ache underneath my ribs, and I wish I could go back--vacuum over this summer and the underground parties and Angelica. There were so many years when I didnt think about amor deliria nervosa at all, or question The Book of Shhh or my parents.

  And I was happy.

  I prop my bike against a Dumpster and knock softly on the door. Almost immediately, it scrapes inward.

  Lena freezes when she sees me. Her mouth falls open a little. Ive been thinking about what I wanted to say to her all morning, but now--confronted by her shock--the words shrivel up. She was the one who told me to find her at the store, and now shes acting like shes never seen me before.

  What comes out is, "Are you going to let me in, F"jures nor what?"

  She starts, as though Ive just interrupted a daydream. "Oh, sorry. Yeah, come in. " I can tell shes just as nervous as I am. Theres a jumpy, hopped-up energy to her movements. When I enter the storeroom, she practically slams the door behind me.

  "Hot in here. " Im biding time, trying to shake loose all the words I planned on saying. I was wrong. Forgive me. You were right about everything. Theyre coiled like wires in the back of my throat, electric-hot, and I cant get them to unwind. Lena says nothing. I pace the room, not wanting to look at her, worried that Ill see the same expression I saw on Steves face last night--impatience, or worse, detachment. "Remember when I used to come and hang out with you here? Id bring magazines and that stupid old radio I used to have? And youd steal--"

  "Chips and soda from the cooler," she finishes. "Yeah, I remember. "

  Silence stretches uncomfortably between us. I continue circling the small space, looking everywhere but at her. All those coiled words are flexing and tightening their metal fingers, shredding at my throat. Unconsciously, Ive brought my thumb to my mouth. I feel small sparks of pain as I begin ripping at the cuticles, and it brings back an old comfort.

  "Hana?" Lena says softly. "Are you okay?"

  That single stupid question breaks me. All the metal fingers relax at once, and the tears theyve been holding back come surging up at once. Suddenly I am sobbing and telling her everything: about the raid, and the dogs, and the sounds of skulls cracking underneath the regulators nightsticks. Thinking about it again makes me feel like I might puke. At a certain point, Lena puts her arms around me and starts murmuring things into my hair. I dont even know what shes saying, and I dont care. Just having her here--solid, real, on my side--makes me feel better than I have in weeks. Slowly I manage to stop crying, swallowing back the hiccups and sobs that are still running through me. I try to tell her that Ive missed her, and that Ive been stupid and wrong, but my voice is muffled and thick.

  Then somebody knocks on the door, very clearly, four times. I pull away from Lena quickly.

  "Whats that?" I say, dragging my forearm across my eyes, trying to get control of myself. Lena tries to pass it off as though she hasnt heard. Her face has gone white, her eyes wide and terrified. When the knocking starts up again, she doesnt move, just stays frozen where she is.

  "I thought nobody comes in this way. " I cross my arms, watching Lena narrowly. Theres a suspicion needling, pricking at some corner of my mind, but I cant quite focus on it.

  "They dont. I mean--sometimes--I mean, the delivery guys--"

  As she stammers excuses, the door opens, and he pokes his head in--the boy from the day Lena and I jumped the gate at the lab com
plex, just after we had our evaluations. His eyes land on me and he, too, freezes.

  At first I think there must be a mistake. He must have knocked on the wrong door. Lena will yell at him now, tell him to clear off. But then my mind grinds slowly into gear and I realize that no, he has just called Lenas name. This was obviously planned.

  "Youre late," Lena says. My heart squeezes up like a shutter, and for just a second the world goes totally dark. I have been wrong about everything and everyone.

  "Come inside and shut the door," I say sharply. The room feels much smaller once he is in it. Ive gotten used to boys this summer but never here, like this, in a familiar place and in daylight. It is like discovering that someone else has been using your toothbrush; I feel both dirty and disoriented. I feel myself swivel toward Lena. "Lena Ella Haloway Tiddle. " I pronounce her full name, very slowly, partly because I need to reassure myself of her existence--Lena, my friend, the worried one, the one who always pleaded for safety first, who now makes secret appointments to meet with boys. "You have some explaining to do. "

  "Hana, you remember Alex," Lena says weakly, as though that--the fact of my remembering him--explains anything.

  "Oh, I remember Alex," I say. "What I dont remember is why Alex is here. "

  Lena makes a few unconvincing noises of excuse. Her eyes fly to his. A message passes between them. I can feel it, encoded and indecipherable, like a zip of electricity, as though Ive just passed too close to one of the border fences. My stomach turns. Lena and I used to be able to speak like that.

  "Tell her," Alex says softly. It is as though Im not even in the room.

  When Lena turns to me, her eyes are pleading. "I didnt mean to" is how she starts. And then, after a seconds pause, she spills. She tells me about seeing Alex at the party at Roaring Brook Farms (the party I invited her to; she wouldnt have been there if it wasnt for me), and meeting him down by Back Cove just before sunset.

  "Thats when--thats when he told me the truth. That he was an Invalid," she says, keeping her eyes locked on mine and forcing out the word, Invalid, in a normal volume. I unconsciously suck in a breath. So its true; all this time, while the government denied and denied, there have been people living on the fringes of our cities, uncured and uncontrolled.

  "I came to find you last night," Lena says more quietly. "When I knew there was going to be a raid . . . I snuck out. I was there when--when the regulators came. I barely made it out. Alex helped me. We hid in a shed until they were gone. . . . "

  I close my eyes and reopen them. I remember wiggling into the damp earth, bumping my hip against the window. I remember standing, and seeing the dark forms of bodies lying like shadows in the grass, and the sharp geometry of a small shed, nestled in the trees.

  Lena was there. It is almost unimaginable.

  "I cant believe that. I cant believe you snuck out during a raid--f K ra0em">

  For the first time in a long time, I actually look at her. Ive always thought Lena was pretty, but now it occurs to me that at some point--last summer? last year?--she became beautiful. Her eyes seem to have grown even larger, and her cheekbones have sharpened. Her lips, on the other hand, look softer and fuller.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll