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Ordinary anything but se.., p.10

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 10

 

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)
 


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  Honor sucked in a sharp breath, debilitating pain stabbing her heart. She couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. She blinked her eyes, but warm tears formed regardless, slowly trailing down her cheeks.

  He swore, showing more emotion in that curse word than in anything else he’d said or done since she’d met him. He whirled around and stormed up the rest of the stairs, taking a little sliver of Honor’s dignity with him. She wiped the wetness from her eyes.

  Honor hadn’t thought he could be a father figure to her, for one thing he wasn’t that old, but she had kind of, for a moment, thought he was someone she could look up to. Obviously she had been wrong. He’d gone from Nealon to Agent Nealon and she’d gone from Honor back to Rochester. Fine. Who needed him anyway? Honor would be fine on her own. She didn’t need or want anyone. She could take care of herself. And she would.

  “Mom?”

  “Honor?” her mother whispered in a trembling voice.

  She tightened her grip on the track phone a guard had given her before moving outside the room she slept in. “Yes.”

  Her mother wept, her sobs tugging at Honor and making it hard for her not to break down herself. “I’m so sorry about all of this, Honor, so sorry. Your father…I…we were hoping…we hoped you’d never have to know any of this.”

  Honor stared at the brown blanket on the bed she was sitting cross-legged on, tears burning her eyes. “It sucks.”

  “Is everything going okay? Are they treating you well?”

  “Sure. The best.”

  “I spoke with Agent Nealon. He seems like a decent man.”

  She wiped her eyes with the back of a hand. “He’s nice,” she lied.

  She couldn’t tell her mother the truth. She couldn’t tell her any of it. The chasm between them was too great and would only widen with time, especially with Honor’s new life and new responsibilities. She couldn’t even think about all of that right now. Everything was different, would always be different from now on. What happened when she left the walls she was currently inside of?

  “How could you keep this from me?” she whispered, her voice.

  “Oh, Honor. We did it out of love. We did it with the belief it was better not to tell you in case it never affected you. We did what we thought was best. Your father, he so wanted you to have a normal life, for as long as you could, and he didn’t want to burden you with any of this if he didn’t have to.”

  “How…how old was Dad, when it happened? I want to know.” Honor could feel her mother’s hesitation. “Tell me. You at least owe me that.”

  “Seventeen. We had just started dating and then things got all weird. It was over the summer. He left for a few weeks and I didn’t know where he was. I never heard from him. I figured he was blowing me off, that maybe he had found another girl he’d rather be with. When he showed up again, he was different. I stayed away; thinking that whatever was going on with him wasn’t worth me getting upset over. We almost didn’t end up together.

  “But then I saw him at the store and when I looked at him, I knew whatever had happened, it had been bad, and it hadn’t been something he could have controlled, or something he could talk about. His eyes were so…haunted. I didn’t know what was going on, but I decided not to give up, I decided to fight for him. I didn’t find out the truth until years later, when we wanted to marry. He didn’t tell me, not until he had to, and by that time, I loved him so much I didn’t care. I wanted to be with him any way I could. He struggled with it, and it was a long time before he accepted things, but once he finally did, he was okay. We were okay. He had a good life, Honor, in spite of everything.”

  She thought of her father, pictured him locked up in a room, his body painfully dying, and she felt sick. “Can I talk to Scarlet?”

  There was a long pause. “Of course. Here she is. I love you, baby cakes.”

  She bit her lower lip. “I love you too.” The tears fell again and Honor let them.

  “Hi, Honor,” her little sister exclaimed. The sound of her voice was a balm to her wounded heart and soul.

  “Hey, you. What have you been drawing?”

  “I drew a unicorn and a Pegasus. The unicorn is pink and white polka dotted and I made her for you. The Pegasus is for Mom. I miss you. When are you coming back?”

  “Soon,” she lied again. “Soon.” Honor swallowed. She didn’t know what she would do when all of this was done, but she knew she wouldn’t be going back home. She couldn’t.

  “Okay. Mom and I are making cookies. ‘Bye.”

  “’Bye,” she whispered, turning the phone off. Honor stared down at it, saying a silent goodbye to her old life, to childish drawings and cookie-making and any kind of innocence.

  The guard came back and took the phone from her limp fingers.

  It was hard to know what time of day or night it was without a window to show her, without a clock to tell her. A short buzzer sounded at 6am every morning. Newbies were instructed to shower and dress for the day at that time.

  Honor was up before the alarm went off on her third day there, Monday, looking at the strangely intriguing book Nealon had commanded she read. She squinted her eyes in the grayness of dusk to make out the words and photographs in the book.

  She thought it had to be close to 6am, but Honor had no way of knowing for sure. Training and schooling of some kind started today at 8am. She was not excited. Honor wanted to go home, but at the same time, she felt like that girl she’d been a few short days ago was gone forever.

  Honor couldn’t go back and pretend nothing had happened. She knew that. So much had changed. She didn’t know what was expected of her when she walked out the doors of UD Headquarters, but she knew something would be. She’d been told as much, vaguely. The phone conversation with her mom the night before had been stilted and awkward. She could have called her Saturday, but Honor hadn’t been able to make herself pick up the phone, not until last night.

  There was so much Honor had wanted to say, to ask, about her father, about everything, but she had been unable to say much. It was all too much, too soon. What she had found out about him had made her feel worse.

  Honor stared down at the image in the book, trying to make out what it was. The lights clicked on and a short buzzer sounded. She jumped, knocking the book to the floor. Frowning, she crouched on the floor, staring at the open page of the book. She had no idea what she was looking at it. She glanced at the caption and sat back on her heels, swallowing with difficulty. It was the inside of a UD’s body.

  The veins, arteries; everything was silvery gray. Their bodies literally iced on the inside. Honor turned the page and found an image of a UDK’s internal organs. Everything looked like a normal human being’s body except for the pale gray hue to the organs and veins. It almost seemed like a UDK’s body might have been the first phase of a UD’s turning only something made the metamorphism stop in a UDK before it completed the transformation into a UD.

  What was it in Honor that wasn’t in Christian, and vice versa? They were the same, only altered. That slight variation between their DNA made one vast difference in how the UD virus affected them. That was what the inside of her body looked like, what she was looking at. It was creepy and unnatural. It was her.

  Honor stared at her arms and hands, trying to visualize the gray-tinged internal organs under her skin. It didn’t make her feel so well. She closed the book with a loud thump and got to her feet, suddenly ready to start what was sure to be a fun-filled day.

  There were three other girls in different stages of showering and dressing when she got to the girls’ shower room. She didn’t recognize any of them. They were quiet, somber. Being told you had a freak virus in your genetic makeup, and by default, were a freak, wasn’t exactly uplifting news. The room was full of steamed heat and smelled like generic soap and toothpaste. The only sounds were that of water running. It was eerie, especially when they all avoided each other’s gazes. Honor wanted to say something, anything, but every time she looked at one of them,
their eyes shifted away. They were probably in shock. She knew the feeling.

  She hadn’t seen the mean woman again since the first time she’d used the shower. She wondered what had happened to her, but only because Honor was glad she wasn’t around and was hoping it would stay that way. She’d been the female version of Burns. She shuddered and hurriedly showered, thoughts of Burns making her skin crawl. She couldn’t get dressed fast enough.

  The morning was spent in the room with the laptop computers and red-dotted map, a female agent droning on about proper procedure and protocol. The woman was squat and muscular with short brown hair and introduced herself as Agent Elaine Medina. The agent was intimidating, brusque. She went over the first five chapters of the handbook. It was boring, especially since Honor had already read a lot of the book, and every part Agent Medina made them read and discuss she already knew.

  There were only five of them in there. The shy black-haired girl from the loft was one of them. She sat by Honor, not speaking, although she did offer a hesitant smile when she first entered the room. The other three were boys she hadn’t seen yet.

  When they were dismissed, the girl introduced herself. “I’m Mindy Samson. You’re Honor, right?”

  She grabbed her handbook off the desk. “Yep. That’s me. No introduction necessary.” She started walking, but when Mindy hung back, she stopped. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to sound rude. Where are you from, Mindy?”

  Mindy’s blue eyes shifted behind her glasses as she walked beside Honor. “Magnus Pass.”

  “Ah, the capitol. How are you liking your stay here in Anderson Junction?”

  “It sucks.” Her mouth dropped open and she clapped a hand to it. “I’m sorry. I usually don’t talk like that.”

  Honor entered the cafeteria and set her book at a table before getting in line. Mindy did the same. The room smelled like tacos and was loud with young adult conversation.

  “If it sucks it sucks. Sometimes you have to say what you think. And it does suck. Big time. Who brought you in?”

  “My mother, actually.”

  Honor slid a glance at her, surprised that some parents actually did that. Just not hers, apparently.

  “She’s a UDK. We were at the store when…when I noticed an old man’s eyes. My mother knew what was happening. She explained everything to me. This is my third day here. I cannot wait to go home.”

  “Huh.” She turned away from Mindy and grabbed a tray from the stack of them, along with a fork and napkin. Something like envy tried to grab ahold of her and Honor wouldn’t let it. It was good that someone had been able to explain things to Mindy, so she wasn’t scared and confused. It was good her mother was around and was a UDK. She couldn’t fault her for having what she didn’t.

  She grabbed a soft shell and added the necessary makings to form a taco. She took an apple and a bottle of water from the counter, glancing behind her as she walked to a table. Mindy was standing near the drinks, looking lost.

  Honor motioned with her head for her to follow and the shy girl smiled. That smile brightened her otherwise plain features and made her eyes sparkle. Mindy started for the table, her eyes widening as she fell forward, her tray flying. She landed on her stomach with a grunt.

  She thought she must have tripped until she noticed the group of kids laughing at a table not far from where Mindy had stood a minute ago. High-fives were exchanged.

  She slammed her tray down on the table, shaking with fury, and strode toward Mindy. “Are you okay?” she quietly asked as she crouched beside her, a hand outstretched to help her up.

  Mindy didn’t move anything but her head. She looked up at Honor, glasses askew, her eyes full of embarrassment and sadness. “Yes. I’m fine.” There were tears in her eyes and her cheeks were red.

  “Come on.” Honor helped her to her feet. “Why don’t you get another tray?”

  She shook her head, her eyes downcast. “I’m not…I’m not really hungry anymore. I think I’ll just go to my room.” She hurried from the cafeteria, almost running. There was taco meat plastered to her white clothes.

  The laughter picked up in volume and Honor whirled around, ready to do battle. It wasn’t hard to single out the leader of the group. He was good-looking with a cocky grin on his face and brown curly hair and brown eyes.

  “You think that’s funny, picking on people?” she asked in a low voice.

  His smile faded. “Hey. I got no problem with you.”

  Honor slapped her hand down on the table, making him jump, and leaned toward him. The boy reared back. “Actually, you do. You bully other kids, then yes, you have a problem with me.”

  He shot to his feet, towering over her. “I heard about you. You’re a troublemaker, a UD lover.” The boy took a step toward her and she had to back up or be sandwiched to him. “You better watch it.”

  A UD lover? That’s what she was being called now? “Or what?”

  “Or—“

  “Connors, Rochester, what’s going on?” Nealon demanded from the doorway.

  He was in black slacks, a white buttoned-down shirt, and had a gun at his hip. Why did they all carry guns? To knock kids out? She kind of doubted that was why—more likely they had them to kill renegade UDs. Her thoughts went to Christian and her throat tightened.

  Connors quickly moved away to put space between him and Honor. “Nothing is going on. We were just talking.”

  Nealon turned his cold gaze to her. “Were you just talking, Rochester?”

  Her eyes narrowed on his closed features. What did he think she was going to do, tattle on the kid? “Yep.”

  He stared at her, his eyes saying he didn’t believe her. Too bad for him. She wasn’t going to rat some other kid out, especially to him. There was no shared confidence between them and he’d made sure there never would be. Whatever thin ties they’d had had been severed by the hand of Nealon and his razor sharp tongue.

  The agent turned his attention to Connors. “Get the mess cleaned up.”

  The boy didn’t even try to argue. In fact, he was fast to obey, on his knees picking up the food before she could blink.

  “Rochester, come with me.”

  Honor, unlike the Connors boy, wasn’t in such a hurry to do as commanded. “I—“

  “Now.”

  Tight-lipped, she approached him, glaring at him the whole time.

  “Can’t stay out of trouble, can you?” he murmured as she swept by.

  “What do you care?” she shot back, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall outside the cafeteria.

  “Hot-headed recruits don’t make it very far in this organization, Rochester.”

  She straightened. “Really? That’s too bad. I guess you better send me home.”

  He looked down at her. “They don’t get sent home either.”

  Honor swallowed, the anger slowly deflating. “So, what? They, like, get killed?”

  Nealon shoved his hands on his hips and turned his head to the side. He muttered, “What is it with you and your fixation on people killing people?”

  He looked at her. “No, they don’t, like, get killed.”

  She ignored his mocking tone. “What happens to them then?”

  “They get sent to the barracks, where the rejects go.”

  “Rejects?”

  “The UDKs that can’t follow orders. You go there for a couple months, go through UDK boot camp, then you go home, and you’re watched, like the UDs, forever. Sometimes you get a second chance, but usually not because you’re too much of a liability. Is that what you want?”

  “Gee, what’s my other option?”

  “Stop being a smart-ass, Rochester.”

  “Stop acting like it matters to you what happens to me.”

  Nealon stared down at her from his impressive height, his lips pressed into a thin line, like he was trying to figure her out. She could have told him not to bother.

  “You can’t save everyone,” he finally said.

  That struck a chord in her and
Honor swallowed, looking away. She thought of her father and Christian. She hadn’t been able to save her father and she’d failed Christian as well. There were her mother and sister to think about too. She had to stand up for people that couldn’t stand up for themselves. She had to help them, anyone, whoever she could. She didn’t know why, so she could make up for not being able to keep her dad alive maybe.

  “Some I can,” she argued, her voice pathetically weak.

  “No, Honor. The only person you need to worry about right now is you.”

  She gazed at Nealon, finally blinking and breaking the unspoken connection. “So now it’s Honor again? Make up your mind, Agent.”

  Honor spun on her heel and started to march away. A hand grabbed her arm and she came to a stop, staring at the long-fingered hand with short, clean nails. Nealon’s hand wasn’t gross like Burns. She looked up, into Nealon’s blank features.

  “I know about what you did last night, sticking up for that boy. What happened…it shouldn’t have and it’s been reported to the officials.” The hand fell away. “I thought you’d like to know.”

  She frowned, her eyes on the flesh still warm from his touch. “Answer me something, Nealon.” Honor felt him bristle beside her, but he remained quiet. “That lady who guarded the showers my first day here…” She looked up, caught his eye. “What happened to her?”

  Nealon didn’t answer, which was an answer.

  He walked away, stiff-backed and proud. Honor felt herself softening again toward him. She knew it was stupid. She knew he’d just lash out at her again and act like she was nothing but an annoyance. Nealon cared. He wasn’t as cold as she’d first thought.

  Oh, he was dangerous. That first impression she had had of him would never change. But he wasn’t as unfeeling as he wanted everyone to believe he was. Honor even thought he might be fair, might be just. And he might just care about her, even though he didn’t want to.

  “Is that the best you got, Rochester? I could sprint laps around you if I wanted to.”

  Honor ignored Ryder, but it was hard. She stared straight ahead, pretending he wasn’t running right along beside her, so close she could smell his cologne and feel the heat of his body. She knew he wore a sleeveless blue shirt and gray athletic shorts, his toned arm and leg muscles visible for all to gawk at. Even she had when she’d first seen him. The guy was ripped, but not too much; his body was just right in the muscle area.

 
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