"Where is he?" I asked demandingly as I pushed General Raye's shoulders back forcefully, barely moving him an inch. I contemplated giving him a nice red mark across his cheek from a stinging slap, but I bit back my anger knowing that if I did he might hold back the information that I so desperately needed.
He brushed off dirt from his coat that my muddy gloves left causing an imprint, "I would watch that temper if I were you, because one day someone might sew that pretty little mouth up and that would be a shame."
I swallowed my disgust but my face still showed my disinterest, "Answer my question.'
"I assume your asking about Zander, but unfortunately I am not his keeper so I do not know."
"Lies!" I screeched and got in his face to get the truth out of him one way or another. I grabbed the lapels of his jacket and tugged them hard until we stood face to face with one another.
"You should take better care of your pets so they don't go running off joining protests." He whispered in to my ear.
I pushed him back and this time it caused him to stumble into the crumbling wall of what use to be the outskirts of Autozam before the war, He laughed as he hit the remains.
"You sick bastard, you did it again!" I yelled at him as I marched to where he stood leaning against the wall, "I told you the rebellion has nothing to do with us, but you somehow manage to keep looping Zander into your crazy renegade schemes that might cause him to get hurt!"
"He comes to me on his own and why should I deny a strapping young lad like him if he insists on joining the cause."
I poked him in the chest, "This is not our war!"
He grabbed my finger and began to crush it in his fist, "This is everyone's war!" he yelled.
"Ariel?" came a small confused voice from behind me. I turned to find a dirt streaked Zander in a worn down uniform. Relief flooded through me, but pain began to take its place. The finger the general had been crushing started to take full priority.
"Ah.." I whimpered in pain and my face twisted into one of discomfort. Zander looked confused then noticed my left pointer finger in a vine like grip. Zander marched over, pulled my hand from the general's hand, and pulled me to his side to glare at him. My left hand became noticeably warm and I tried to pull it away from his grip but Zander held tightly.
"What were you doing to Arielle?" Zander asked demandingly.
The general regained his composure and pushed a dark brown strand behind his ear before answering, "We were just talking."
I tugged Zander away, "Let's go."
Zander gave him one more look and left tugging me along with him. Half way home I spoke up, "Zander, stop."
Zander only trudged along with a stern face.
"Zander!' I called, my voice raising, causing him to regain his thoughts and turn towards me, "What were you doing with him?"
I slapped him across his cheek. He stood in shock and I pulled him into my embrace tightly and in a way desperately, "Why did you go? Haven't I told you that their war is nothing to get yourself into?"
He stood for a moment before wrapping his arms around me in silence. He pressed his cheek to my shoulder and closed his eyes.
"Please, Zander. I can't lose you too. You're all I have left."
Moments passed and I finally regained my senses. The fear of losing the last part of me that was Zander vanished and I began to pull away from his embrace but he only held on to me tighter, "Can we stay like this? Just for a moment."
I took a deep breath and stood stone cold while he held on to me. I hovered my hands over his back, not knowing where to place them. The strange sensation of anxiety filled me as my body began to melt into his touch. I yanked myself away before the foreign feeling muddled my head any further. I slipped on my tough mask, "Let's have a nice chat about your recent extra curricular activities, shall we?."
Zander sighed, "Moment ruined. Here it comes."
"What were you thinking? What were you trying to prove?" I shook my head in disbelief as the anger from earlier rushed back to me, "You could have gotten yourself killed!"
"Look, I just-"
"This is the third time you ran off while my back was turned to prance around with weapon wielding muscle heads, even though I deliberately told you to not get involved with them!"
"Their problems are not our own. Why can't you understand that? We are only here to make enough money to get us safely back to my home country where we will be safe from wars and all this carnage. If you would only listen to me this once! I-"
"Do you ever listen to anything else besides the sound of your own voice!?" Zander yelled cutting my speech mid sentence. His outburst shocked me, not only because he never raised his voice to me before, but his eyes held something that wielded power over me with that one glare.
He continued, "I am no longer a child! I am seventeen, so you don't need to follow me around any more! I am strong, smart, and have my own mind. You cannot take my choices away from me!" He ran his hand through his hair in frustration, "Not our fight? Why not? People are suffering and we're going to sit around and watch all these people in pain because they are not our own? Well, guess what? Then that means you no longer need to care for me."
I rolled my eyes, "What do you mean by that? I will always care for you."
"I am not one of your own either. I'm from Windom and you're from Inowa. That means you shouldn't give a damn about me either, yet that day six years ago, when Windom was under attack from Autozam, the missile that strayed and headed for me..."
Zander took a deep breath, tears welling up but never once slipping down his cheeks as he recalled the painful past, "You could have left me there. Someone you had no connection to, no blood to connect us, nor country, yet you shielded me from the blast that took my parents... and your right hand."
I held my right hand in my left and felt the medal bit of the artificial appendage on my skin. I remembered, but in that moment I could never recall why I couldn't leave that small boy behind. The memory twisted my heart inside.
Zander came face to face with me, "For that I will always be grateful that is why I have stayed with you for all these years but, Arielle, you don't know how much you mean to me."
I shook my head, "No, I do. I understand that the only thing keeping you with me is your feeling of debt that you owe me, but I do have an overwhelming urge to protected you. Gods know why, but please as long as your with me, for how ever long you wish, do not disobey me."
My heart could no longer take the past and I turned on my heels, headed home. Zander stood for a moment before whispering, "Even now, you still don't understand."