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Tough


(Catch up, here)

“You hope not?” Barrett sounds disgusted. “What I know could get everyone in trouble,” I snap. “Even you.” “Huh.” Barrett leans back in his chair and crosses his ankle over a knee. He looks at me like he’s waitin’ for me to go on. Stupid youth of today. No respect. I pat around at my various pockets, looking for one of my antacids. Then I remember. I took the last one when I escaped. I glare at Barrett. He’s the reason I had to take my last one this morning. He’s the reason I need one now. “You owe me a new pack of antacids,” I growl at him. This only makes his lips twitch in a smile. He pushes the grin away but I see it light up his eyes instead. “Look,” I say, a little impatiently. If Ruthy were still in the room, she’d chide me. I guess it’s a good thing she went to have herself a little nap. “Junebug’s as safe as she can get. She works for them. They trusted her to bring them me. As long as she’s stays herself, she’ll be fine.” Seems like a simple enough thing to do, huh? Stayin’ yourself. But it ain’t that easy. If I’d just stayed myself, I wouldn’t be in this mess. I’d’ve married Ruthy. We would’ve had a dang good life together. But I didn’t choose that path. I chose to be somethin’ I’m not, and I’ve had to live with that for my entire life. Eighty-plus long years. I shake my head and with it, the thought breaks apart and scatters. “Did you hear me?” Barrett’s leanin’ forward now. “What?” “I said, if June gets into trouble with all this, I’m going in. I don’t care the risks, I’ll get her out.” I scoff at him, slappin’ my knees. “You? Against the corporation Ha!” I have to give the boy credit; he’s keepin’ his cool pretty good. But I see the spark of pride ignite his eyes. He thinks he can do it. And he could probably hold his own. I think, maybe, I like this kid. “Better than you can,” Barrett says. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’ve been a part of the organization since before you were born!” “Exactly. And you’re what, one-hundred and three, now?” “Disrespectful little—” “Look, all I’m saying is that you aren’t in the ‘prime of your life’ right now. I’m young. I’m strong; I can fight and handle a gun. As well as various other weapons.” I raise an eyebrow. What kinds of weapons? I wonder. “Maybe so, but I have all the experience.” I say instead. “So let’s work together then. Not against each other. You’re not the only one who cares about June.” A wild dog bristles inside me. “Don’t say that,” I snap. “Don’t ever say that.” Barrett glares at me for a while, his lips pressed together, his jaw tight. “Fine. But that doesn’t change what I’m going to do if I have to.” “Fine. But know this, Barrett, you’re not good enough for my Junebug. You’ll never be good enough.” He gets up out of his chair and goes to the kitchen.



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