Everything was drenched in an unnatural scarlet tinged light but that didn't stop me from exploring the small house, only four rooms in total.
First, there was the living room where I had collapsed on the standard issue couch of worn gray leather the previous night. All of the furniture and building layouts were exactly the same in each house in Korehtz so I used my memories from visiting a distant relative from the city many years ago to navigate around the empty home.
There was a kitchen on the opposite side of the hallway. I placed my rucksack on the counter, emptied out the contents and refilled it with useful supplies: hard plastic bottles full of water, fresh food that could be carried easily, tinned food that didn't need much cooking, a torch, batteries, matches, paper towels.
In the bedroom, I found black leggings and a t-shirt that looked as if they might fit my birdlike frame and carried them into the bathroom where I took my time washing my body and hair in the shower. At first, I couldn't get to grips with the separate taps and went through phases of scalding and freezing water.
It didn't take long for me to rub my body dry and dress in the clothes, twisting my hair into something that barely counted as a braid. I considered cutting it back to the length that the hospital preferred but I decided not to. Having longer hair reminded me of my childhood, of the girl I saw the last time I looked in the mirror.
Now, I saw layers of my personality seeping through my skin instead of the childish appearance that rested on top.
I saw Laurali: the afraid, the daughter and the sister who was caught up in the past. She was the part of me that was still a little girl and came across as sensitive and shy, almost or actually afraid at some points in her story. She wanted emotional security and to nurture, only to be loved in return. I was still Laurali, seeking comfort and afraid of what was going to happen.
I saw Laure: the fighter, she knew what she wanted and why she wanted it. She was wise and practical and thought before she acted, bringing completion to anything that she started. She was bold, independent, inquisitive and interested in knowing what and why. She stood up for what she believed in and never gave up. I was still Laure, fighting for what I believed in and refusing to stop unless I surrendered.
I also saw Ali: the protector. Ali was powerful and complete. She had pain in her life but used it to make her stronger. She wasn't a builder but a planner: she wanted others to help her and knew she wouldn't do well on her own. Her prime desire was to protect people even if she appeared too stubborn or critical in the process. I was now Ali too, protecting people even if it meant I had to sacrifice a few things.
I was afraid.
I was a fighter.
I was the protector.
Around midday, I had climbed onto the roof of the house and gazed across the city, soaked in ruby sunlight. The ocean stretched across my vision in the South and the West. The mountains towered behind me in the North. When I turned to the face east, an endless army of trees conquered the land, each plant stood straight like a soldier. I knew from geography lessons that the forest crept up to the ocean on the East side of Acire. I was willing to bet that Lukas had been taken to a forest camp over there...
*An extract from the book of Lukas Rosser*
Two-day, 29, April
The Stolen are supposed to usurp the city at some point today. Due to the timing of the other attacks, I presume that this one will take place late at night. Hopefully it will so Laure has time to prepare for it.
Every time I think of her facing this alone, a stabbing guilt is in my chest. She is fighting for her life, and everyone else’s, while I gave up too easily and allowed myself to be dragged away to the safe camp. I won't be able to forgive myself if I can see her face to face, even if it is for the last time. I can't bring myself to think about what the last time seeing her will be like.
The camp is right by the ocean, tucked away slightly into the forest. There are large tents for many things: collecting food, seating for eating, changing clothes, washing, sleeping, and socializing. Corey Hidimin, the man who we saved in the schoolroom, is here. I spend most of my time by his bedside even though he is unconscious from medication.
He turned up about two days before me. The Scouts, the people who dragged me in, said that they found him at the mouth of a cave by the edge of the woods. They think that he went in there to shelter for the night but wolves got to him in his sleep. They had to fight off the wolf pack to make sure that it was only mauled limbs that were damaged.
Seeing him again makes me realize what Laure saw the first time she saw him. She didn't find him trustworthy. Now I know that he ran from the problem, I find him a coward. He wanted other people to do the work while he hid.
If / when I see Laure again, I'll tell her that I was wrong about my original thoughts of Corey. I'll tell her that he's a coward, almost a traitor to us. I'll tell her how I trust her. I trust Laure because I know that she'll be able to protect us.