Songbird Trilogy Book 1: The Maze Girl (complete)
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 18
Family Matters

  I panic. Where can I go? I dive back into the forest, my eyes needing all the more time to adjust. I keep my eye on the fence to keep my direction steady; I use it as a guide in the dark.

I don't know where I'm supposed to be going, though, because the fence never drops from my view or loses it's electric current. I'm going to get out the hard way. I dark back towards the fence. There has to be a way!

I wheel around at the sound of breathing behind me. It's Rory. It looks like he's never reached the fence before, because I see him rub his eyes, gaze up, and involuntarily take a step back.

"What was your plan?" he asks me.

I can't really answer that, because I didn't have a plan. "I don't really know."

"Climb over?"

"Yeah," I say. "I thought of that, but it might be dangerous."

"Anything here is dangerous. I'll climb that tree and drop down on the other side. If it's safe, you'll follow."

I shake my head in protest. "I'll climb that tree and drop down on the other side. If it's safe, you'll follow."

He sighs but agrees to let me go first. I dig my nails into the tree. It's tall--taller than the fence. There aren't any branches to hold onto near the bottom that I can reach right away, but I can still manage to climb with the grip provided by my hands and feet.

I'm wrapping my arm around a higher branch and pulling myself up, but my foot doesn't find a good place to stay. First I feel the pain in my leg as it scrapes the rouch bark, then the warm sensation of blood flowing from the scrape.

I wince but keep going. I'm into the branches now, but not high enough to jump the fence. I manage a few more branches before taking the time to glance at my wound. My pants are torn through and blood-stained. But I can take care of that when I am over the wall; it's not that serious.

I swing like a monkey from a high branch until I am on the other side of the fence. I yell, to let Rory know (he's watched silently this whole time) and to let myself know that I'm going to drop. "One!" I pause. "Two!" another pause. "Three!" I swing myself hard over the fence.

I land on my back and elbows. I think I'll have pretty significant bruises by tomorrow. "You can go if you want to, Rory!" I call to him.

But then my earpiece buzzes. "Ellery has won the challenge!" The fence retracts into the ground. I'm angry. I climbed that tree for nothing! I jumped the fence for nothing! But all feelings of anger recede when I think, I've won.

Rory runs to look at my wound, but before we do anything about it, the train is pulling in on an invisible track towards us. The doors open. Rory walks, and I limp inside. Dmitria shows me to a place where a short woman stands at the door, and I bet anything she's a nurse. Hesitantly, I follow.

I sit patiently while she bandages by leg. But then a thought hits me. Where's Soren? I bet he's here, I just didn't see him since I'm in this room. That's it, I tell myself.

The nurse nods to tell me I'm free to go see Rory and Soren. Dmitria is driving, or Julius, I suppose. Rory, Soren and I are alone. I ask Soren, "Who was that?"

His unsmiling gaze meets mine. "My dad."

I take in a hopefully inaudible gasp. "You killed Orion?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. Is he dead?"

I nod. The nurse mumbled something about it to Dmitria while they were with me. "Why did you kill him to save me? Or Rory?" I add quickly.

"Family matters," he answers. But he thinks for a moment, reluctant to tell me what comes next. "Ellery, he wanted you dead. You turned him in for stealing."

I sigh. This all links back to that. "I remember that day."

"He wants you dead, too." He looks across towards Rory.

He doesn't change his expression at all. "I figured."

I can't help but smile. Even here, Rory shows his humor. There's not much more said the whole way back. This time, I don't fall asleep, but Soren does. I can feel Rory looking at me while I stare out the opposite window. He grasps my hand in his. I smile, feeling his warmth spreading through me. His free hand brushes my hair back and I turn around.

"Are you still thinking about that maybe?" he says sheepishly.

"Maybe," I say, very matter-of-factly, and let him kiss me.


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