After about 10 minutes of Livi talking on the phone, and another 10 minutes of asking Livi exactly what the Gray man had said, word for word, Jamia was ready to start back towards the city. Jamia had yelled at Livi about how they weren't sleeping out in the open. Because they would be vulnerable if they did so. Livi had rolled her eyes at this multiple times as Jamia demanded Livi obeyed her as she was the one with the weapon, and the one with more street-smarts.
"We both know that's not true," Livi replied.
"Really? You've been on your own this whole time, and I've had to look out for Julian too. How do you have more street smarts exactly?"
"Because I'm older." Livi stated simply.
"Bullshit. You act like a 10-year-old and you didn't grow up in the slums." Jamia countered.
"Just because you act like an 'adult' doesn't mean you have street smarts. Maybe you're book smart-"
"Nope. I'm really not that book smart. That's Julian. I was the one who beat up any bully that got anywhere near him. He was the one who helped me with my homework." Jamia explained in a tone that conveyed known superiority, but also a touch of embarrassment.
"Good to know." Livi replied.
"But, anyway, we can sleep when we get back to the city. You said the prison's located near the slums?" Jamia asked.
"Yeah, the president thought it would be a good idea to hold the Red prisoners right near the slums. That way they don't need to waste money on gas to get the prisoners to jail. BRILLIANT!" Livi declared sarcastically, her actual anger at the situation obvious in the tone of her voice, "Meanwhile, any Grays who are actual criminals can get away with anything as long as they don't harbor Reds. They can commit murder and get away with it as long as they don't harbor Reds."
"But if a Red gets even a little mad at a police officer for the treatment they get, BAM they're in jail for the next 18 months. This is all bullshit. When I'm president I'm gonna fix this." Jamia replied.
"I'll vote for you." Livi smiled warmly.
Jamia blushed at Livi's offered support. It made her happy that Livi had no intention of either leaving her behind nor letting her take the lead.
"Anyway, let's focus. So, here's the plan." Livi reached into her filthy coat and pulled out a pistol. "You take this and hide it. Jake will be the guard to take you in, so he'll tell them that you have no weapons. Then, once you're in, you pull it out and demand they take you to your brother. Then Jake, me, and some of his friends who owe me just as much, if not more will come busting in and save your asses. How does that sound?" Livi explained.
"Wait. You had a pistol in your coat... and I was gonna go in with a dart launcher?"
"Don't worry, I wasn't gonna let you go in with that thing."
"When were you gonna tell me you had that?" Jamia asked, narrowing her eyes.
"Exactly now." Livi replied.
'She had a gun the whole time. She could have killed me whenever she wanted to. But she didn't.'
'She just wants to use you.'
'What evidence do you have of that?'
'She's a Gray.'
'All our goals and ideals rest on the fact that hair and eyes don't matter. If we judge her because she's a Gray, all we are are hypocrites. Mom didn't want me to be like that. Mom wanted me to show how I don't care what they say, and that I can do it regardless of the way they treat me, or put me down. Mom wanted me to stick up for myself and all other Reds without putting others down. They may deserve it. I may want to do it. But I won't sink to their level. I won't judge Livi because of something she has nothing to do with. I won't judge her because Julian's caught. It's not her fault the president's an asshole. Let's just fix this stupid system.'
"You okay Jamia?" Livi asked.
"Oh, yeah." Jamia replied, ending the conversation in her head.
"So, any questions about the plan?"
"Yeah, how will you find us in the prison?" Jamia asked.
"I'll worry about that." Livi said, pointing at herself with her left thumb.
Jamia gave her a look that demanded to know the answer.
"Fine, Jake is gonna put a tracker on you. Then when you go in, we'll know exactly where you are." Livi replied, suspecting that Jamia would not be happy about a Gray putting a tracker on her.
Jamia didn't respond for a few minutes before finally nodding in acceptance.
"If it means getting Julian back."
Julian had been sitting alone for the past four hours, trying to stop himself from crying or screaming from the pain and throbbing that refused to exit his limbs. He was fairly certain that one of the wounds had started bleeding again from the metallic smell and the sticky feeling on his left arm.
Finally the Gray man threw the door open. The wood slammed against the wall. Julian was surprised the solid surface hadn't shattered into a million pieces.
The man stomped over to him before grabbing Julian by the collar and yanking him up.
"You lying little bastard!" The man shouted, punching Julian in the gut.
"You have one more chance. If you don't tell me where she is, I slit your throat right here and now." The man shouted, pulling out a small knife and pressing it against Julian's throat.
"I don't know. I told where I thought she would be." Julian lied. He was always the better liar of the two of them.
"You have 10 seconds to stop with the bullshit before I kill you." The man shouted.
Julian thought about what his motivation behind the initial lie had been. He wanted to stop them from finding Jamia at any cost. Jamia still had things she had to do. She still had to become president and fix this country. She still had somewhere she was going. All Julian would have done was get in the way, be something else for Jamia to worry about. Another concern in a list a mile long.
She had always been the one to take care of him. The one to save him. She had always put him first. She had always thought that he was her responsibility. Ever since Mom and Dad died, she worried about food, she worried about shelter, she worried about water, she worried about staying hidden. She was the adult, and he was the child. The stupid naïve little child who thought he could get away with anything.
And now, as the Gray man dragged the knife across his throat, he realized how stupid he had actually been.
And how much he wished he could have apologized to Jamia for being so weak and needy. And thank her, for taking care of him for so long.
And he wanted to hug her. He wanted to hug her and laugh with her, and help her with her homework and watch her beat someone up for saying something mean to him. He wanted to watch her declare out loud at the dinner table that she would be president and he wanted to see his parents laugh. He wanted them to be whole again.
And he then he thought of Stephanie as the man dropped him to the ground. Stephanie, the only person who seemed to care about him in the entire building. He felt a sudden urge to keep going, to fight back. To stop the bleeding in his throat, no matter how futile it was to try.
What would Stephanie do when she found out about this? Would she be sad? Would she cry? Julian didn't want her to cry. But he wasn't sure she would. Would she be happy? Happy she didn't have to put on an act. Pretend to care about a Red? If she did cry, what would they do to her?
And what about Jamia? Jamia would probably snap, lose it right there, kill anyone who had been even remotely involved with this, or at least try. Then she'd probably spend the rest of her life depressed, or trying to forget. They had always had each other, but now she would be alone.
That's when Julian decided he was going to hold on.
He was going to keep his hands against his throat until he could at least apologize. He could tell Jamia that this wasn't her fault. Tell her he didn't blame her for anything.
"You can try and try. Hold on as long as you want. But you're not going to live. You Reds... you disgust me. You disgust me in every sense of the word. You kill and steal, and yet you still think that you're the ones being abused, terrorized, discriminated against." The man said, crouching next to Julian.
"Never...hurt...anyone..." Julian almost coughed out, starting to choke on the blood filling his throat.
"I have a hard time believing that. Even if it's true, what about your precious sister? Has she ever hurt anyone trying to protect you or herself?"
There came the memories.
All the times they'd used those tranquilizers to save themselves. All the times he'd watched Jamia beat the sh*t out of one of the bullies on the way home from school. All the guilt Julian had forgotten was flowing back.
The black surrounding Julian's vision grew. The man smiled.
"It seems you don't have much time left." He laughed, "I've always enjoyed watching you filthy Reds die. Bleed. Watch the rest of you turn the color of your hair and eyes. It's beautiful." He suddenly stopped laughing as the phone on his desk rang.
He stood and picked up the receiver.
"Yes?" He asked, "Oh? Really? I'd like to see her." He paused, listening to the person on the other end of the line, "Well, he doesn't have much time left. Yes, hurry." He put the phone down.
"Guess what? We found that sister of yours!"