They all told me time and time again at some point I had to choose a side. So maybe I had. And really I chose the side they wanted me to. Apparently I just didn’t believe enough to follow my brother and save the world.
I thought about the day I told Isoli in desperation that Olivia was a rebel; that I thought she dragged my brother into the cause. One of my stupid, misguided attempts to save Micah from death. I was wrong about her. I was wrong about Isoli. I was wrong about everything in life. Even now that I seemed to have figured out I didn’t want my old life back anymore I couldn’t please them.
“Eve? Are you going to talk to me?”
“Sorry, Darion.” I sighed, pushing the green beans around my plate. Fresh. Grown on the base. They should’ve been good, but they felt like tasteless mush in my mouth so I’d stopped trying to eat them.
“Nobody blames you for...what happened,” he insisted. He rubbed at the base of my neck.
“Micah does. And he should.”
“You’ve always done what you thought was right for Micah. You’re still trying to do it. You made a mistake. Micah will get past it. He’s a good kid.”
He sighed. “Just let him cool down, and you two can talk this out.”
I pushed my plate away and turned to face Darion. “So we can have the same argument? I meant everything I said, Darion. I really did.”
Darion bit his lip. “All of it?”
I nodded. “All of it.” I swallowed, preparing myself for the hardest part because I already knew it wouldn’t do any good to try and convince Darion. “Isoli is an awful man. I’m not deluded about that at all. What the rebels want is good. They’re just trying to save people. I believe all that. But this is going to get a lot of people killed.” He opened his mouth to interrupt, but I waved my hand at him. “And you believe it’s worth it. Maybe you’ll win...” I let the sentence drop off. I didn’t believe that. Even deep down. “I’m going to the Eastern States.”
Darion stared at me. He stood up, took my hand, and led me out of the cafeteria. When he’d pulled me into a private corner he stopped. He put his hands on my shoulders. “Eve--”
“I’m going to the Eastern States,” I repeated. “And I know you’re not coming with me.”
They gave me a pile of clean, sturdy clothes when I checked in at the base. I felt guilty about taking all of them. I chose a few pairs of jeans and some shirts from the pile, leaving the majority in the dresser.
“I didn’t believe it. I was so sure Darion was kidding.”
I turned to the door, not surprised that my roommate returned from her dinner to try and stop me. “Don’t start, Gloria.”
She put her hands on her hips. “I knew I shouldn’t have cut your hair like that. I let all that pent up sass out.”
A faint smile crossed my lips. “It’s your fault, I guess.” I shoved some socks down into the backpack. “I know you tried to make me look the part. It just wasn’t enough.”
“You think getting out is going to be any easier than the fight down in Phoenix, Eve?” Gloria plopped onto her bed and folded her arms. “Especially with all the president’s men on the lookout for you.”
“Thanks to you, none of them will recognize me.”
“You ever considered why everyone in Phoenix hasn’t up and migrated to Rhode Island?” Gloria snapped. “It’s hard to get out. Fine. You don’t want to go fight. Can’t you just stay here? This place is nice.”
“This place is for people who believe, Gloria. I’m not one of them. I’m a waste of space if I stay here. I can make a difference if I go to the Eastern States. People there can’t know what life is like here. Somebody has to tell them.” I shoved the clothes in deeper, trying to make room for food.
“Wow, Eve. You jumped from one naive pool into the next.”
A knock interrupted my retort. Gloria hopped off the bed and opened the door. When I saw Darion I sighed. I thought he understood and wouldn’t try again to talk me out of going.
He chuckled when he saw my face. “Don’t worry. I’m not here to argue with you anymore. Micah left this for you.” He held out a folded sheet of paper toward me.
“Left for me?”
“Don’t tell me it surprises you that Robin Hood up and left to go after Olivia.” Gloria cocked an eyebrow. “That boy is risking everything for a girl. Tanner is going to blow a gasket. That boy is risking everything for a girl. And I’m not one bit surprised.”
Darion put his hand on Gloria’s. “Come on. I think Eve wants to be alone for this.”
“I hope he tells her how stupid she’s being for trying to go east,” Gloria muttered, leaving with him.
“I don’t think it’s that kind of letter.” Darion shut the door behind him.
I opened the note, dropping distractedly onto Gloria’s bed as I read.
I probably don’t have to tell you I’m going to Phoenix to get Olivia. Don’t blame yourself anymore for it. It’s okay. You probably thought you were helping me somehow. Probably the same way you thought all those pancakes would keep me from being hungry.
I laughed to myself, remembering how much I wanted to cook him eggs.
We had different lives, and I’m not just talking about the three years we spent apart. Even before that we saw the world differently. Maybe I’ll die, Eve. That doesn’t mean you failed in any way to protect me. I’m going because I love Olivia. Just like you tried to “save” me time and time again because you loved me.
I’ll look you up out east. I hope you have a better life than you have here.