Hettie leaned her head against the wall and squeezed her eyes shut. The heat of the explosion seared her nose, and all the different sorts of agony were too much. She didn’t want to add the pain of seeing whatever new threat lay in store.
“Here, sweetheart.” Said a soft voice.
Her eyes flew open. Swimming in her blurred vision was the handsome, snarky man.
“Hello, Hugo.” Hettie said. Why does my voice sound far off?
“And what, praytell, are you doing at The Dead Cog? Even an idiot like you should know that it’s hardly the popular hangout for vulnerable young ladies.”
“Looks like I’m more of an idiot than even you suspected.” Though still far-away, her voice was heavy.
Emery and Alan, or what was left of Emery and Alan, were blown against the dead-end of the ally-way. Most of the bodies were gone. She frowned. Actually, most of the bodies were still there… just in the form of piles of ash.
In Hugo’s hand was a rather large gun of sorts. It was too bulky to be a normal gun, and the end looked like it was threatening to melt at any moment it was so hot.
“What in the forge did you do to them?” Hettie asked.
“I blew them up, obviously.”
“How did you know where I was?”
“You weren’t in the house, but that letter of yours was.”
Hettie grimaced. I should apply for Idiot of the Week. Perhaps month.
“Let’s get you home.”
* * * * *
It wasn’t until they were back at Temper Mints that Hettie began to cry.
She was alone in her room, and the whole atrocious thing crashed down on her. Pain. Shame. Fury. There were any number of reasons to cry.
Geneve came into the room.
“I’m sorry!” Hettie blurted out. “I know I sh-sh-shouldn’t cry!”
She sat down on the edge of the bed, taking Hettie’s hand in her own freckled one. “Just cry your heart out.”
“Y-y-you said not to!” Hettie sobbed.
“And you shouldn’t! Bursting into tears at every moment is a good way to find yourself in another situation like today. So cry your heart out right now. Then you won’t feel it later.” Geneve said soothingly.
“I- I don’t-“
“I mean it! Cry your heart out. All your feelings. All your emotions.” Geneve tapped Hettie’s chest. “All of it. Out. Right now.”
With each tear, Hettie pictured a fraction of her heart sliding out of her eyes and down her cheeks. Each portion was replaced with cold, hard brass on the inside, an emotionless assortment of mechanical bits and pieces.
And the crying eased.
The raging feelings ebbed.
Steely eyes rimmed with red faced the frosty blue ones.
“I’m done.” She said. Her voice even felt colder.
Geneve nodded. “Good. Now don’t be an idiot again.”
Hettie didn’t feel indignance. She didn’t feel rage. She didn’t feel annoyed. She just nodded.
Hettie touched a wet cheek. On her fingertip was a single tear.
She tipped her hand and it fell to the floor.