I never ended up feeling better. I ended up feeling worse with every step I took. The family I kept thinking of not having reminded me of the family that had been taken from me and the group that I’d just run away from. Nothing was working. I kept trying to fix all my problems, but everything just made it worse.
By the time I got past the market square, I was ready to curl up and cry. I found a tree and slowed to a walk before falling onto the ground next to it. For a moment, I just stared at the starry sky and pondered the use of life. We came to these places and we met these people, but for what purpose? Why do we feel things? Why do we need other people to turn to when everything is breaking?
Why can’t I do everything myself?
After a while, there was a snapping sound, which I suppose was normal around trees, but it startled me to my feet.
“Sorry,” Devin said from somewhere nearby. I couldn’t see very far in front of me.
“You followed me.” My heart rate slowed back down and I sat against the tree again.
“That wasn’t a question.” He observed.
“No.” I sighed. “It wasn’t.” I fell silent, looking at the stars.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked finally.
I scoffed. “And have you, what? Try to comfort me? Act like you care? Ooh, how about say you’ll keep my secret as you tell everyone in the group. No thanks. I’d rather be the one everyone’s afraid of.”
“That’s not... I wouldn’t do that.” Devin didn’t sound hurt, but he didn’t sound frustrated either. He sounded somewhere along the grey line between it all. “I kind of have to care about you after chasing after you in the middle of the night.”
I didn’t give him his point.
“We aren’t afraid of you.” He finished.
I rolled my eyes, but he couldn’t see me in the dark. “Sure they aren’t. I don’t know when someone hasn’t been afraid of me. Then I get mad, I get feral. I don’t yell; I hiss and I growl. I don’t act human.”
“Sometimes, people can’t be human anymore after living a certain way for so long.” Devin still didn’t sound patronizing.
“You mean after living on the streets, not even knowing who your family was until a gang took you in? Yeah. I think I was fine until they got caught, though.”
Devin didn’t say anything, but I had the feeling he was waiting for me to let him speak. Or maybe to say more. I didn’t entirely feel bad about doing so. After all, what happens in the dark stays in the dark, right?
“They weren’t a good gang,” I said, stating what should’ve been obvious. “I was... They raised me to be the keeper of their secrets of sorts. If someone got information, they only told me. If something happened to them, I was hidden. I didn’t see daylight that often simply because it was too dangerous to. I didn’t mind it, but when they were caught, that also meant I had nowhere to go.”
I paused to take a breath. “I wasn’t supposed to be out. I was rebelling a bit. I ran into town for the fun of it. I was tired of them telling me what to do. When I got back, they were gone. There was a half-scribbled message addressed to me, but other than that, there wasn’t anything left. I’m surprised I even managed to get in. The police must’ve been waiting to see if more members came to rope the area off.”
For a little bit, all I heard was our breaths. The cold was starting to make my fingers feel achy. I tucked them into my pockets, hating the memories just that brought back.
“That sounds rough,” Devin said, understating it all.
I managed a humorless laugh. “Thanks.”
“You know, some of us had it rough too.” Devin tried.
I snorted. “No, of course, you all chose to live in an old warehouse with unsanitary conditions and unlawful ways of making a living.”
Devin chuckled. “Yeah, no one did that.” He sighed. “Here, I guess a story for a story. My dad... he was abusive, right? My mom never really did anything to stop him, so I was almost always injured. No one ever saw the bruises that he left, but I always hurt. It didn’t take long for me to become depressed and start thinking that I deserved it.”
My breath caught in my throat as I thought of it. Without realizing, my hands clenched into fists.
“One day, I was going to school in town when I noticed a boy was watching us. I looked over and motioned for him to come along with us, but he didn’t come. We would get in trouble for anyone who didn’t come, so I went to go get him. He led me deeper into the city until I didn’t know where I was anymore. At that point, I was mad. I tried to lash out at him, but he ended up stopping me and talking some sense into me.”
Devin paused, his breath rattling out of him. “He brought me to the group and I’ve never looked back. I feel bad for whatever happened to the kids I went to school with, but I don’t regret leaving. My parents were horrible.”
I sat there, thinking. I didn’t say ‘I’m sorry’ because I’d been on the receiving end of pity enough times to know I didn’t want it. “I didn’t realize,” I said finally, realizing that it wasn’t adequate. I couldn’t come up with a better option.
“No one knows,” Devin said. “Only you, Russ, and the boy who had recruited me. I’m not even sure he knew the full story.”
I blinked in his general direction, for once thankful for the dark. I hated people to see me surprised. “Wow. I... I’m honored, I guess.” I closed my eyes. “No one knows. About the real story. Not really, anyway.” I took a couple of breaths before standing. “Sorry for dragging you all the way out here.”
I heard the sound of Devin standing up, too. “It’s fine. Just, if you need to talk or something, we can go somewhere closer.”
I hesitated. “I don’t like people to see me as...”
“Weak?” Devin guessed.
I nodded before I remembered he couldn’t see me. “Yeah.”
“Well, next time, wake me and I’ll show you a closer quiet place.” Even in the dark, I could hear a slight smile in his voice.
I laughed. “You didn’t like the long run, did you?”
“No.” Devin laughed with me. “I’ve felt a lot better, trust me.”
“We’ll go back slower, then.” I shook my head at myself for laughing. It felt better than it should’ve. I felt lighter, somehow.
“Oh, don’t stop on my account.” Devin seemed amused still.
I grinned. “I’m not. I’m seeing if you know the way back.”
“You’re lost!” Devin exclaimed, laughing again.
“Am not!” I protested. I flailed my arms out to find him and try to push him. “Ugh. You know what? Never mind. Let’s go!” I jogged forward lightly and paused, waiting for him to follow.
Devin didn’t move. I kept listening, but he didn’t move. “Devin?”
“I’m right here.” He said from behind me.
I whirled, my arm reaching up to protect myself. Devin managed to grab it before I had put it between us.
“Chill! I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“How did you manage to move without making a sound?” I asked curiously.
“Devin,” I repeated suspiciously.
“I may have grabbed some gear before I left.” He admitted.
“I can see you because of these night vision goggles?”
I growled. “Ah, so you weren’t actually being honest, were you?”
“What do you mean? I was!”
“You saw me the whole time! And I told you that I...” My breath hissed out my mouth in frustration. “You probably saw everything that crossed my face, didn’t you?” I began walking off.
“Calypso! I didn’t! Wait.” I heard him follow me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d get upset. I promise I didn’t see whatever expressions you were making. I’m still figuring out what everything looks like through these.”
I hesitated, then slowed down. “Fine. Just don’t talk to me, okay?”
“Okay.” Devin agreed. “Just one more thing, I need to lead, since you’re heading in the wrong direction.”