The First Wave
Author: Hollie Leanne

Chapter 12
Chapter Twelve

A day and a night passed, and less than a dozen words were spoken between us. Perhaps I should have left, a deep urge to run away throbbing in my chest; I doubted Levi would have stopped me. However, the further we got away from home, the less I wanted to venture out on my own. Levi had proven his point without even trying; there were people out there worse than him, and he was my only chance against them. I tried to tell myself to get away from him, though it was hard to deny that he had done what he did in my aid. What troubled me more was, why? It also didn’t help that, despite everything, I hadn’t realised just how much I had actually missed human contact. Maybe I was getting Stockholm Syndrome

Oh, how weak us humans were. The idea of it made me think back, reaching for a memory that teased my subconscious, but I just couldn’t grab it. I knew it was a memory from my life before, I just couldn’t pinpoint where. Frankly, it irked me. The more I thought, the further away it went, disappearing into the depths of what must have been mild amnesia. It seemed that the more stress I was put under, the more my past refused to help me. 

No, leaving now would not do me any favours. So I followed Levi, silent and confused. 

My confusion led me to my curiosity. He seemed to know so much, which was as equally fascinating as it was infuriating. And since he… stopped those men, he looked less sharp, less poised. I bet he didn’t even realise, but I noticed the change almost immediately. Everything about his demeanor changed, aggression giving way to a stubborn silence. Almost vulnerable. It was hard not to watch; observing him felt like a bigger win than fighting him with petty jabs and futile questions. It was the small gestures, from his fingers raking agitatedly though his hair, to his back slowly but surely slouching with exhaustion. When his eyes found mine, checking I was still following, I couldn’t help smirk when his guard flew up, his scowl all too satisfying. He was confused as to why I was still following, the notion vexing him… no, distracting him. 

Perhaps the reality of his situation was beginning to dawn on him, causing him to be at war with himself. He’d given himself a responsibility, an added problem to already complicated circumstances. Perhaps I should have been worried that he would turn on me and have at it. Given earlier events, however, I was no longer convinced that he was going to hurt me. His emotions were clearly more perplexing than I’d first thought. It was, oddly, enthralling. It didn’t make me any less wary of him, though. 

After walking relentlessly, he allowed me to sleep in the safety of the trees, away from the road. I didn’t ask questions, no matter how much I wanted to; his dark, liquid eyes seemed black, a warning there that prickled the hairs on my skin. So I settled, nestled against a tree, my back away from the road. I hugged my backpack to my chest, listening as Levi stalked towards the road, keeping watch. Though sleep evaded me; my mind danced between sleep and consciousness, but when I did, I saw only blood and Levi’s face. I missed when I didn’t have dreams at all. 

I woke to Levi tossing me an apple, red and irresistable in my hands. Confused, I sat up, blinded by the light filtering through the trees above. A brief moment passed where I thought he had poisoned the apple in my grasp, but then the better half of me said, Don’t be so ridiculous. So I sat up straighter still, wiped the apple on my sleeve, and sank my teeth into the red, shining skin. The crunch was satisfying as the juices flooded my mouth, fresh and wet and devine in a sweetened explosion, so much so I actually shivered. I relished in the taste and the smell, momentarily forgetting where I was, my head swimming. I hadn’t eaten anything this fresh in weeks, only canned foods that soon became so bland they lost their flavour all together. My head fell back as I chewed, thinking that if it was poisoned, at least it tasted better than good. 

Levi sat opposite me, slouched against another tree. He watched me as he toyed with his own apple, tossing it into the air and catching it in his palm. It was lazy in the way he did it, as if bored, and it made me feel self conscious all of a sudden. I chewed hesitantly, before swallowing loudly. He continued to toy with his food, his eyes never leaving my face, but once again I thought he wasn’t actually seeing me. He was trying to read me, though whether he found a result to his analysis was hard to tell.  

“It’s rude to stare,” I muttered, taking another bite. I felt a trickle of juice trail down my chin; Levi seemed to see it, too, his eyes coming back into focus. I shifted uncomfortably. 

He smirked, cocking his head. “Still scared of me?” 

I couldn’t help it; I glared right back. “Do you find that funny?” 

He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, straightening a long leg as he stretched the muscles there. “Not funny,” he said, meeting my gaze once again. He straightened up against the tree, drawing his leg back. “Interesting.” 

It was my turn to cock my head. “How so?” 

“You haven’t said a word to me since we left the farm,” he said, finally taking a bite of his own apple, the crunch as gratifying as stilettos on a marble floor. “You could have run. You could have snuck away and gone home, just like you wanted.” Another bite, and a brow rose in question. “But you haven’t.” 

“I guess not,” I murmured, spinning the apple to pierce another layer of skin. 

“Why?” he pressed, leaning forward. I swallowed, grimacing when I realised that the chunk was too big as it scratched at my throat. It was all I could do not to choke. 

I thought about this, deciding there was no point in lying anymore. “I am scared of you,” I said, “But I’m terrified of out there.” I tilted my chin, gesturing towards the road behind me. 

He rubbed his jaw again, grinning now. I hadn’t seen him grin before, but this one wasn’t out of humour. I was coming to learn that when he rubbed his jaw, it was because he was thinking hard about something; it was another one of my observations. I couldn’t help the small smirk that played on my mouth, hiding it behind the apple. 

“So you’ve decided I can keep you safe, now? You think I’m trustworthy?” he pried, sounding troubled by the second question. 

No. “I think you’re an arsehole who unfortunately knows more than I do about the current... situation.” I retorted, talking with my mouth full. 

He laughed. I was taken aback, for it sounded genuine. I froze mid-chew. “I see; you want me around for my knowledge.” 

“I don’t want you around,” I snapped. “If I knew as much as you do, I would have gone the second we left that house.”

“But you don’t know,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “Because you don’t remember.” He battled a smile, but it wasn’t playful. He was smirking because he knew he was right, and he clearly loved it when he was right the first time around. “Did you hit your head in that little accident of yours? Or were you just too stupid to pay attention before everything went to Hell?” 

Instead of answering, I jumped to my feet and launched what remained of my apple at him, aiming for his face. He ducked; the core bounced from the trunk above his head. He shook with laughter, angering me further. I was angry because both of his accusations were true. I was furious because he found it funny. I was enraged because he was pleased he could get under my skin, despite the bigger things going on around us. I didn’t have the strength to argue, though, instead kicking up dirt with my foot, hoping it would blind him. It didn’t. He laughed harder, so I snatched my things and stormed off. 

“Ah, come on!” he groaned, trying to contain his laughter in the drawl of his voice. I heard him clambour to his feet, so I kept moving. “It was a joke!”

“Liar,” I said, shaking with anger. 

“Okay, maybe not a joke.” he said as he jogged alongside me. “But surely you know how ridiculous it sounds? Not remembering how it all came to this?” he was still grinning. “It’s daft. Better yet, you’ve survived weeks without knowing a thing!” 

“And what have you been doing?” I yelled, whirling to face him. He stopped dead, the grin wiped off his face as he tilted his head down to look at me. “What have you done to survive this long, if everything is as shit as you say it is?” I couldn’t stop. “How many people have you killed in comparison to me?”

The anger resurfaced, and his jaw clenched. That muscle jumped again, making me swallow in unease. “Careful,” he said slowly, stepping closer, attempting to threaten me. 

“Oh, come off it,” I sneered. “You made it look easy; it wasn’t hard to tell that you had done it before.” I shoved him back, palms against his chest, knocking the wind out of him. “At least I went weeks without killing anyone!” 

He froze, glaring at me. I glared back. “You don’t know anything about what I’ve been through or what I’ve had to do.” 

It was my turn to laugh, though it was bitter. “Neither do you.”

We fell into silence once again, walking along the road, both seething. He stalked ahead, and I followed a little ways behind, my head down. I couldn’t even listen to my music, for the iPod had died the day before. I could only sulk in silence, for a split second thinking now was a better time than ever to slip away. I wouldn’t survive, though, and I knew it. I had only made it in Haddon because I knew the place like the back of my hand; out here, in this vast landscape of hills, woods and moors, I was way out of my depth. 

“You’ll have to learn,” he said suddenly, his voice calmer than before. 

“What?” I replied, unable to keep the surprise out of my voice. Was he a mind-reader now?

“To kill,” he told me, turning back. His face looked weird, as if the very thought troubled him. It was a brief moment of weakness, for he turned his head away as he added, “The first one is the hardest, but it gets easier.” 

I paused, absorbing his words, before I said, “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” 

He chuckled darkly, not looking back. 

 

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