Hey, this is great!
We're back to the Ember story!
This one really excites me; I want to see where it goes!
Last night, I'd been bleeding to death in the street. Now I was being driven down that same street by the boy who had rescued me.
We'd gathered up whatever we could salvage and threw it in the back of the Bronco; food, water, photographs, even some clothes that belonged to Ember's mother.
I sat and stared out the window, wearing one of her shirts. It was surprisingly snug on me. No matter how many times I tried giving Ember his jacket back, he refused, insisting i keep it on. Snow had started falling, so I felt grateful to still be wearing it.
"What happened back there?" I asked, turning to Ember. "Who were they?"
He didn't say anything, just shrugged his perfect shoulders and continued looking at the road. He'd replaced his bloody shirt with a black one. I sat back, frustrated, and reached into the pocket of his jacket where I'd stuffed a bag of granola.
"I'll tell you when it's safe," he finally answered.
I choked on my partially chewed mouthful of granola and sat straight up.
”We’re not safe?” I gasped between coughs.
He glanced at me, smiling faintly as if amused.
His emphasis on "you're" chilled me. I remembered the feeling of his body against mine as he held me proactively in the hallway. I remembered the way he hustled me down the hall, then stayed behind to fight off the men. He saved me again and risked his life to do it. In that moment, I knew I'd be alright. I knew I'd be safe with him next to me.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To our real home." he said with a wink.
Our home? I didn't understand. He kept talking.
"It'll take us a few days to get there, so we'll have to stay in a hotel for a night or two, if that's alright."
"I-it's fine." I stuttered.
His generosity was overwhelming. Never in my life had I felt so cared for, so safe. And I never wanted those feelings, or this boy, to be taken from me.
We drove down the Interstate until the sky grew orange above the trees. We hardly spoke to one another, but I loved the silence, the moments where I could be alone with my thoughts. I could tell Ember did too. He seemed to go deeper into his head than I did. On occasion, he'd glance over at me before focusing on the road again. I would've given anything to know what he was thinking.
I didn't brush my teeth or take a shower when we reached the motel. I was so tired that I could've slept in the Bronco if Ember had let me. Instead, he scooped me into his arms, carried me to the room and laid me down on the bed. As I drifted to sleep, I felt an uneasiness creep over me, a combination of anxiety and nausea that never faded.
I felt sick when I woke up. The nausea that invaded my stomach as I fell asleep was now burning at the back of my throat. I was feverish. I wanted Ember. It felt so strange to want him; the boy I barely knew, but I did. Sitting up, I caught a glimpse of a pile of blankets and pillows spread out on the floor. I looked around the small room. I was in the only bed. Ember had slept on the floor.
The door to the bathroom was closed and I could hear water running from the sink. Waves of crippling nausea tore through my stomach when I stood and I collapsed back onto the bed. I sat on the edge, afraid I would faint. What was wrong with me? I hardly ever got sick. Now, my skin was on fire and I broke into a cold sweat that left me chilled to the bone. My stomach clenched and unclenched. I was going to throw up. My eyes scanned the room frantically for a garbage can, but there was none to be found. I graoned. What motel didn't have a garbage can? There was the bathroom, but Ember was in there, still washing up. Was I really about to invade his privacy? Yes, I was.
I stood and stumbled toward the bathroom, opening the door and falling in front of the toilet. My hands gripped the seat as I gagged and retched. Nothing came up. Nothing solid, anyway. A foul-tasting liquid burned my throat and tongue as it dripped from my mouth into the water; foamy and yellow. My eyes watered. My head ached.
A hand touched my back and I jumped in surprise. Ember was next to me, barefoot and shirtless, his hair wet from a shower. He wore only a pair of jeans.
"Sorry," I said, my words slippery.
He stroked my back.
"Don't be," he said, very quietly.
The softness of his voice, the gentleness of his touch, made my heart slow immediately. My body relaxed. I felt his arm wrap around my shoulders and I felt wonderfully at peace as I leaned back against him. Despite his shower, he still smelled like his jacket; a combination of damp pine needles and burning leaves.
"Let's get you something to eat," Ember said, helping me up.
He guided me to the bed and sat me down, then picked up the blankets and pillows from the floor. He still hadn't put on a shirt and I could see his bare chest and back from where I sat. I swallowed as I looked at him. His entire upper body was covered with scars. Jagged and uneven, it looked as though someone had attacked him, like he was cut by a knife over and over and over again. I shuddered. He turned his head tawords me and I looked away, praying he hadn't seen me stare.
"So, what's your story?" Ember asked, half smiling.
We’d made it to a local diner and were sitting in a booth, waiting for our waitress, when he asked me this question. I shrugged, tracing a finger over a crack in the table. I raised an eyebrow as I looked at him.
He mimicked my expression and folded his arms against the table.
"You really want to know?"
I nodded and his face grew hard and serious. I did want to know. I wanted to know this strange boy who wore scars like tattoos. Just as he started to answer, our waitress came, asking for our drink orders. Ember ordered for us both, a cola for me and a coffee for himself. When she returned with our drinks a few minutes later, he still hadn't answered me. Again, Ember spoke, ordering a plate of pancakes and hash browns for each of us. I was grateful he hadn't gotten eggs. My stomach was still churning, so I was grateful for the soda, too. I took a sip. The bubbly liquid felt good and cold going down my throat.
"Now will you tell me your story?" I asked when the waitress left.
Ember looked around the table as if he were deciding what to say, or what to do. His fingers hovered over a salt shaker that sat next to a dessert menu.
"No magnets, no strings, no mirrors." he said. "That's fair?"
I nodded, though I was confused by what he said. He looked at me, gaze intense when his bright amber eyes met my dull brown ones. When he spoke again, his voice was barely a whisper.
"Are you ready?"
He took in a deep ragged breath before I could answer. I looked at the salt shaker and saw that it's top was spinning, very slowly, under Ember's raised hand. I couldn't believe my eyes.
"How are you-" I began.
"Just watch," he interrupted.
With a graceful flick of his wrist, Ember sent the top flying into the air, letting it fall onto the hard surface of the table. I stared down at it, my mouth slightly agape. Ember sat back with a smile, clearly pleased at my dismay. I looked around us, wondering if anyone had noticed what he'd done. Families and couples sat at their tables, chatting about children and work and what they were having for brunch, while the servers moved about the diner.
I leaned in towards Ember and whispered, "How did you do that?"
He chuckled softly.
"A true freak never reveals his secrets." He linked his hands behind his head.