The Wall (The Woodlands)

The Wall (The Woodlands) by Lauren Nicolle Taylor Read Free Book Online

Book: The Wall (The Woodlands) by Lauren Nicolle Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
died… No I wouldn’t think it.
    I pulled the sheets up over my knees. Sitting. I was too scared to sleep. I shuddered as the memory of Cal’s slobbering lips on mine. It sent sharp shakes of disgust right through me. I didn’t feel guilty. I was just plain angry. Why would anyone do such a thing? Maybe there was something wrong with me that made him believe I was an easy target. I wanted to scrub the memory off my face and take a layer of skin with it. No one was allowed to touch me like that, not without my permission.
    A nurse came in and gave me an update. My angry face gave her pause. I tried to relax it, forcing it into a calmer set, but it felt like trying to push air from a barely blown-up balloon, squishing things to the sides awkwardly. She looked tired, her light brown hair pinned back messily, and her eyes squinting as she talked. The operation was going well, very well. Then she said a whole pile of medical stuff I didn’t understand. I just nodded. I didn’t need to hear anything other than ‘going well’. She said they were halfway through and then she hurried off. I sighed. It would be a long wait.
    I wandered across the hall. Orlando’s eyes were half open but he was asleep, his little chest moving up and down faster than an adult’s. I grimaced at the thought that Cal had helped me name him. But it was his name now. Hopefully, I would forget the rest. I picked him up and brought him to my room. Lying on my side, I placed him in the crook of my arm and watched him sleep. He had been a good baby so far. Better than I deserved. He had more personality than I remember Hessa having at this age, but maybe that’s what a mother sees in her own child. A mother. The word made me feel deathly frightened and comforted at the same time. The responsibility of it was heavy in my chest.
    I whispered to him, “You’ll look after me, won’t you? We defectives have to stick together.” He sucked in a breath and shivered. I pulled him closer.
    I recalled my conversation with Alexei, when he told me that if my baby had my eyes, we both would have been ‘disposed’ of. A small fire started inside me that grew to a blue-and-white flame. A rage I couldn’t name. I smiled, a solid sternness to it. If this is what it felt like to be a mother, maybe I was more suited to it than I thought.

    There was never any easy way to tell whether it was morning or night in here. The lights always glowed, footsteps travelling softly past the door. Someone was always busy doing something, but what? I didn’t know.
    I had been watching Orlando sleep, breathing in and out, rolling his little eyes, the pink of his cheeks strange compared to my dark ones. He was so warm and comfortable. I was quite the opposite, wound up like a tight coil ready to spring headfirst into the rocks above me. My mind wandered in different directions. I worried about what Joseph would be like when he woke up—would he be weak? Would he be upset? Would he still want me? The last question, I didn’t dwell on too much. I had in my mind that I would remind him he did, somehow. When my thoughts went to Cal, my hands turned to fists—a hard feeling wrapped around a soft one. I wondered what he was after. If I hadn’t stopped him, what would he have done? Strangled by the idea of telling Joseph, I became angrier still.
    And Apella. How was she feeling right now? It felt odd to worry about her. I had spent so much time hating her, despising every single thing she did, and taking pleasure in her discomfort. All these new feelings assaulted me like a spray of cold water. Things I never thought I would feel, waking me up, making me want to defend my old self, hold onto it, even as I watched it wash away. It was impossible. I used to say nothing changes, but I was so wrong. Everything changes so fast you feel like you’re grabbing the edge of the train as it takes off, your feet scrabbling to lift up onto the platform, your hair swirling about your face. I

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