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“I know,” she says, but she still won’t look at me.

“They—they took my mother, Hana.” I wasn’t planning to tell her, initially. I didn’t want to talk about it. But the words rush out.

She glances up at me sharply. “What are you talking about?”

I tell her the story of the Crypts then. Amazingly, I keep it together. I just tell her about everything in detail.

Ward Six and the escape, the cell, the words. Hana listens in frozen silence. I’ve never seen her so still and serious.

When I’m finished speaking, Hana’s face is white. She looks exactly like she did when we were little and used to stay up at night, trying to freak each other out by telling ghost stories. In a way, I guess my mother’s story is a ghost story. “I’m sorry, Lena,” she says, her voice barely a whisper. “I don’t know what else to say. I’m so sorry.”

I nod, staring out at the ocean. I wonder whether what we learned about the other parts of the world—the uncured parts—is accurate, whether they’re really as wild and ravaged and savage and full of pain as everyone has always said. I’m pretty sure this, too, is a lie. Easier, in many ways, to imagine a place like Portland—a place with its own walls and barriers and half-truths, a place where love still flickers into existence but imperfectly.

“You see why I have to leave,” I say. It’s not really a question, but she nods.

“Yeah.” Hana gives her shoulders a tiny shake, as though trying to rouse herself from a dream. Then she turns to me. Even though her eyes are sad, she manages a smile. “You, Lena Haloway,” she says, “are a legend.”

“Yeah, right.” I roll my eyes. But I feel better. She has called me by my mother’s name, so I know she understands. “A cautionary tale, maybe.”

“I’m serious.” She brushes her hair out of her face, staring at me intently. “I was wrong, you know.

Remember what I said at the beginning of the summer?

I thought you were afraid. I thought you were too scared to take any chances.” The sad smile tugs at her lips again. “Turns out you’re braver than I am.”


“That’s okay.” She waves a hand, cutting me off. “You deserve it. You deserve more.”

I don’t really know what to say to that. I want to hug her, but instead I wrap my arms around my waist, squeezing. The wind coming off the water is biting.

“I’ll miss you, Hana,” I say after a minute.

She walks a couple of steps toward the water, kicks sand in an arc with the toe of her shoe. It seems to hang in the air for a fraction of a second before scattering.

“Well, you know where I’ll be.”

We stand there for a while, listening to the tide sucking on the shore, the water heaving and tumbling with bits of rock: stone whittled to sand over thousands and thousands of years. Someday maybe this will all be water. Someday maybe it will all get sucked into dust.

Then Hana spins around and says, “Come on. Race you back to the track,” and takes off, running, before I can say, Okay.

“No fair!” I call after her. But I don’t try very hard to catch up. I let her stay a few feet ahead of me and try to memorize her exactly as she is: running, laughing, tan and happy and beautiful and mine; blond hair flashing in the last rays of sun like a torch, like a beacon of good things to come, and better days ahead for us both.

Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

But that isn’t it, exactly.

The condemner and the condemned. The executioner; the blade; the last- minute reprieve; the gasping breath and the rolling sky above you and the thank you, thank you, thank you, God.

Love: It will kill you and save you, both.

Chapter Twenty-Five

“I must be gone and live, or stay and die.”

—From the cautionary tale Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, reprinted in 100 Quotes to Know for the Boards, by The Princeton Review

It’s cold when I make my way toward 37 Brooks sometime after midnight, and I have to zip my nylon windbreaker up all the way to my chin. The streets are as dark and still as I’ve ever seen them. There isn’t a whisper of movement anywhere, no curtains twitching in windows, no shadows skating across walls and making me jump, no glittering alley cat eyes or scrabbling rats’ feet or the distant drumbeat of footsteps on the pavement, as the regulators make their rounds.

It’s as though everyone is already braced for winter—as though the whole city is in the middle of a deep freeze.

It’s a little freaky, actually. I think again of the house that somehow survived the blitz and now stands out there in the Wilds, perfectly preserved but totally uninhabited, with wildflowers growing through all its rooms.

I’m relieved when I turn the corner and see the rusty iron fence that marks 37 Brooks’s periphery, feel a tremendous rush of happiness when I think of Alex squatting in one of the dark rooms, solemnly packing a backpack with blankets and canned food. I haven’t realized until now that at some point over the summer I began to think of 37 Brooks as home. I hitch my own backpack a little higher on my shoulder and jog to the gate.

But something’s wrong with it: I rattle it a few times but it doesn’t open. At first I think it’s stuck. Then I notice that someone has looped a padlock through the gate. It looks new, too. It glitters sharply in the moonlight when I tug it.

37 Brooks is locked.

I’m so surprised, I can’t even be frightened or suspicious. My only thought is of Alex, and where he is, and whether he’s responsible for the lock. Maybe, I think, he locked the property to protect our stuff. Or maybe I’m early, or maybe I’m late. I’m just about to try to swing myself over the fence when Alex materializes from the darkness to my right, stepping silently out of the shadows.

“Alex!” Though we’ve only been apart for a few hours, I’m so happy to see him—soon he’ll be mine, openly and totally—I forget to keep my voice down as I run to him.

“Shhh.” He wraps his arms around me as I practically leap on top of him, and staggers backward a little. But when I tilt my head up to look at him, he’s smiling, and I can tell he’s just as happy as I am. He kisses the tip of my nose. “We’re not safe yet.”

“Yeah, but soon.” I stand on my tiptoes and kiss him softly. As always, the pressure of his lips on mine seems to blot out everything bad in the world. I have to wrench myself away from him, slapping his arm playfully as I do. “Thanks for giving me a key, by the way.”

“A key?” Alex squints, confused.

“For the lock.” I try to squeeze him but he steps away from me, shaking his head, his face suddenly stark white and terrified—and in that second I get it, we both do, and Alex opens his mouth but it seems to take forever, and at the exact moment I realize why I can suddenly see him so clearly, framed in light, frozen like a deer caught in the beams of a truck ( the regulators are using floodlights tonight ), a voice booms out through the night: “Freeze! Both of you! Hands on your head!” At the same time Alex’s voice finally reaches me, urgent—“Go, Lena, go!” He’s already backpedaling through the darkness, but it takes my feet longer to move and by the time I do, running blindly and without aim down the first street I see, the night has come alive with mobile shadows—grabbing at me, shouting, tearing at my hair—hundreds of them, it seems, pouring down the hill, materializing out of the ground, from trees, from air.

“Get her! Get her!”

My heart is bursting in my chest and I can’t breathe; I’ve never been so scared; I’ll die from fright. More and more shadows turn to people: all of them grabbing, screaming; holding glittering metal weapons, guns and clubs, cans of Mace. I duck and spin past rough hands, make a break for the hill that cuts over to Brandon Road, but it’s no use. A regulator grabs me roughly from behind. I barely shake off his grasp before I’m pinballing off someone wearing a guard’s uniform, feeling another pair of hands snatching at me. The fear is a shadow now, a blanket: smothering me, making it impossible to breathe.

A patrol car springs to life beside me, and the revolving lights illuminate everything starkly but only for a second, and the world around me pulses black, white, black, white, moving forward in bursts, in slow motion.

A face contorted into a terrible scream; a dog leaping from the left, teeth bared; someone shouting, “Take her down! Take her down!”

Can’t breathe, can’t breathe, can’t breathe.

A high whistling sound, a scream; a club frozen momentarily in the air.

A club falling; a dog jumping, snarling; searing pain, straight through me, like heat.

Then blackness.

When I open my eyes the world seems to have broken apart into a thousand pieces. All I see are tiny shards of light, fuzzy and swirling like they’ve been shaken up by a kaleidoscope. I blink several times, and slowly the shards resolve and rearrange themselves into a bell- shaped light and a cream-colored ceiling, marred by a large water stain in the shape of an owl. My room.

Home. I’m home.

For a second I feel relieved: My body is prickling, like I’ve been stuck with needles all over my skin, and all I want to do is lie back against the softness of my pillows and sink into the darkness and oblivion of sleep, wait for the sharp pain in my head to dissipate. Then I remember: the lock, the attack, the swarming shadows.

And Alex.

I don’t know what happened to Alex.

I flail, trying to sit up, but agonizing pain shoots from my head down to my neck and forces me back against the pillows, gasping. I close my eyes and hear the door to my room scrape open: Voices swell suddenly from downstairs. My aunt is talking to someone in the kitchen, a man whose voice I don’t recognize. A regulator, probably.

Footsteps cross the room. I keep my eyes squeezed tight, pretending to sleep, as someone leans across me. I feel a warm breath tickle the side of my neck.

Then more footsteps coming up the stairs, and Jenny’s voice, a hiss, at the door: “What are you doing here?

Aunt Carol told you to stay away. Now get downstairs before I tell.”

The weight eases off the bed, and light footsteps patter away, back into the hall. I crack my eyes open, the barest squint, just enough to make out Grace as she ducks around Jenny, who is standing in the doorway.

She must have been checking on me. I squeeze my eyes shut again as Jenny takes several tentative steps toward the bed.

Then she pivots abruptly, as though she can’t leave the room fast enough. I hear her call out, “Still asleep!” The door scrapes closed again. But not before I hear, from the kitchen, very clearly: “Who was it? Who infected her?”

This time, I force myself to sit, despite the pain knifing through my head and neck and the terrible sensation of swinging that accompanies every movement I make. I try to stand but find my legs won’t hold me. Instead I sink to the ground and crawl over to the door. Even on my hands and knees the effort is exhausting, and I lie down on the ground, shaking, as the room continues to rock back and forth like some diabolical seesaw.

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