Day 320 of the 186th Generation
I would probably get a lot more chances to risk my life.
I had just talked to Hannah and told her it was my intent to serve as a Protector in the 187th Generation.
I decided to go for a run. But after a few miles, and a few passes by the rock garden, I stopped.
Maybe if I told George I spent some time in the rock garden, he would think that was cleansing or healthy or something. He would be mad. Livid. I feared only his reaction at this point.
I wanted to feel strong in my decision, so I was avoiding him.
But one look into the rock garden…and I knew it wouldn’t make me stronger.
I stared at Heather’s name etched in rock. My arms felt empty again.
I looked at Emmy’s rock, and suddenly my breaths got even shorter.
Nothing hurt more. I remember coming in and seeing her name on the chart for the shelter. I had no clue why she hadn’t been adopted, and thought I had no time to investigate. I didn’t want to seem overly concerned. Hannah wouldn’t like that.
But a cloud of worry fell. I breathed quickly, in short spurts, and then I swallowed.
“Is that how you avoid crying?”
The voice behind me startled me. I’d never heard it until that moment.
“Eva? What are you doing here?”
“Long story. I starts with my mom’s first lecture and ends with my mom’s last lecture.”
I took in her details. She was slightly bouncy, never quite still, and yet her posture was perfect. Now, standing in the silence of my stare, she was still.
“I’m sorry. I’m sure she just wants you to be…”
I stopped for a minute. Should I say happy? No. I didn’t think the person in front of me was happy and was certain that her happiness was never a priority.
Strong? The girl in front of me was perhaps the strongest, smartest 13-year-old I had ever met.
Well-behaved? Perhaps. Eva certainly did bend every rule. She just succeeded past every expectation so much that her occasional rebellion was overlooked. I finally finished my sentence, defeated.
“She just wants you to be…” I stopped. My words would sound stupid if they weren’t true. “To be something you’re not.”
“Well,” Eva said smiling, “it’s rare that someone calls that out.”
I swallowed. I wondered why she was waiting for more awkward silence, but she spoke.
“I was supposed to be this epic, amazing person, Brie. Always.”
“I’m sure she’s hard on you, Eva, but you’re her daughter.”
“My mother doesn’t want a daughter. She wants a legacy. You’re more promising in that department.”
“Eva,” I swallowed, trying to choose my words carefully. “I trust Hannah. She trusts me, I think, enough to tell me things I never thought she’d trust me with.” I had to pause to push the secrets of Zander and Eric out of my mind. “But I don’t trust her…with you. Can I still respect her, and hate how she might treat you?”
Eva looked at me, looking a little vulnerable.
“I’d like that. Because I like you. I really do.”
“I like the idea that someone can live through what you’ve lived through, and not let anyone tell them who they are or what they should do. And apply to serve again.”
This is usually the part where I looked away. When I tried to hide or deny my pain. But I didn’t.
“Your mom told you I signed up again?”
“Yeah, that was the lecture in the middle, about what real commitment looks like.”
“Well, my trainer either thinks I’m strong or I have a death wish because…well you know. I know you know that I’m…broken.”
“Do you have a death wish? Is that why you signed up again?”
“No,” I said. I lied. But I wouldn’t want her to think that. I had no clue what Hannah had told her, and the poor girl had enough on her mind. “I just don’t want to stop saving lives.”
I smiled. “Maybe a little. I was thinking of Caleigh. How the last time…thinking of only one was too painful. I wish I could, but then it makes me care too much. Then I get distracted…”
I was about to keep talking, probably about to share more than I should. I saw her face drop.
“They didn’t tell you, did they? My mom would probably think it would distract you.”
“What? That she hasn’t been adopted?”
“No. Why she hasn’t been adopted.”
My eyes went from calm to piercing: my harshest of stares.
She looked around, nervously.
“I’ll lie,” I said quickly. “I’ll say I asked someone else. Hannah won’t yell at you for telling me, I promise. George is the best at finding out stuff, right?”
“Then you should tell George…to take a stroll through medical. That’s where Caleigh is. And I’m telling you…because I think you’re the only one that can help.”
“Like you said. You’re broken.”
Moments became blurs again.
I had found George. I had told him what Eva had said.
George had left to investigate. I stared at a mat.
George came back up. He said that Caleigh was admitted.
I ran down to see Dr. Swanson’s strange glare, compassionate and yet evaluating.
“What’s wrong with Caleigh?” I asked him. My words came out calm, as I forced my body to be still. I tried to avoid being too rigid, or he would know I was faking it.
“Newborn Anemia. It’s difficult to treat. We’re giving her some minimal−”
“Don’t talk to me about treatments. Transfuse her. It’s easy.”
“It’s not easy at all. She’s a rare blood type. O negative. And all of our blood in the bank is from those who have the Shield Vaccine. We don’t have the ability to test her yet. It’s too young for her to be exposed to it. And her immune system is off.”
He looked at me knowingly…and calculating.
George reached out and grabbed my elbow.
“You’d have to stay a few days. Even if it’s not a lot of blood. You can’t go back out without waiting at least a week.”
I looked back at Dr. Swanson again. He looked apologetic. “I was going to tell you that you were a match, but then… you never came back for months. This should work. She should recover in a few months.”
“Okay. I’ll do it. Will you sign off, George?”
“Of course.” He didn’t hesitate. He reached for the clipboard and started writing.
Caleigh was in the infant bed sleeping. It was a reflex to stop my emotions from flooding me, but I let them. Not by crying or falling over myself, but by doing the one thing I promised myself I’d never do again.
I reached her and lifted her up in my arms.
“It’s okay, Caleigh. I’m here now. And I’m going to save you. One more time.”
I laid her down. George pulled a bed in the room. Dr. Swanson was giving him some instructions. I nodded and responded with the right words and barely listened as he spoke to George. I laid down and saw the blood begin to flow from my port to the filter, and then to her port.
And I breathed in deep.
And then I breathed in deep again. And again.
I breathed as if the air was cleaner. I breathed in the freedom that I could love her. I could love her here, away from the war and my mission, without anyone judging me. I could breathe knowing that George was probably feeling fine, not knowing anything I had decided.
George touched my hand. I turned as he spoke. “We’ll be right outside the room. She only needs a little. It won’t take a lot of time.”
I turned back to Caleigh, thinking about his words as I whispered to her.
“It doesn’t matter you know. How long it would take, Caleigh, to save you.”
Everything was calm and perfect, and I couldn’t believe that this truth had somehow made me able to breathe again.
“I’ll bleed forever.”