12. Even If You Cannot Hear My Voice I'll Be Right Beside You
C A L E B
“Happy birthday, Caleb!”
I cringed and tried to duck away from the football team surrounding me. As I made a dash for the school doors, arms scooped me up and I was suddenly in the air. The group cheered, bouncing my body in their stretched up hands. My startled cries turned into loud laughter.
They carried me over to the school doors and set me down. Johnson, the best player the school had, clapped me gently on the back. Well, he probably thought it was gentle—I still jerked forwards from the impact.
“You’re a lucky man, Dwight,” he boomed, grinning at my band-free wrist.
I grinned back at him, my glasses sitting squint on my nose.
The football team whooped loudly and, slapping each other on the back, left me standing in the shadowed doorway. Arms wrapped around my waist from behind and I sighed, a smile curling my lips.
“Hey,” I said, turning to face Megan.
She grinned up at me. “Hey, yourself.” To my disappointment, she stepped back, arms behind her back. “Should I be more formal now that you’re an adult? Y’know, hand shaking and all that?”
Rolling my eyes, I fondly pulled her back into my arms. I pressed my lips to her soft hair and whispered, “No thanks. I’ll take this over hand shaking any day.”
I heard her muffle a laugh into my t-shirt.
Megan sat down in the chair next to me, in front of the Chairman of the Claiming. The man looked like he advertised underwear—even for me, that guy was gorgeous.
Smiling easily, he slipped a piece of paper across the desk towards us. I looked at the form; just two simple signatures were needed to conclude that this—whatever this was—was for life.
My gaze fell to Megan. Nothing about her looked uncertain, like she wasn’t ready for this. Feeling the weight of my eyes, she turned, hair tumbling over one shoulder. Her hand gently slipped into mine.
Her face broke into a smile. “Ready?”
I nodded. “Ready.”
Each of us took a pen and leaned over to sign the form. Her hand moved so much more fluidly than mine, her signature coming out so much better.
As we signed away our lives to each other, our hands remained together.
Just as we would.
I leaned back and heard a click.
The cool butt of a gun pressed to my head.
T H E E N D