+ Chapter Three
Megan looked at Liam. He looked lost. Like he had given up hope. He was laying back on the couch with a beer in one hand and rubbing his temple with the other. She could sense that now was not the best time to ask questions. But nothing made sense. It was hard to just accept a death sentence for no reason. Liam placed the beer in his hand on the coffee table in front of him and leaned over putting his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands. Megan watched him, worried. She had seen him express his emotions in many ways, but right now, she couldn’t read him at all. And that made her feel helpless. She wanted to help him but she didn’t know-how. So she watched and tried to see if she could understand. But he looked like he started to cry. She felt like she was invading his space and decided to look out the window instead and give him some privacy.
After some time she heard a sniffle and a sigh from his direction and turned to look back. Liam was wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “I’m sorry Megan. I really am. And I know I’m acting like an ass. I’m just… I don’t know how we are going to get out of this one. And it scares me shitless…. I’m a foreman turned contractor, not a governor. I don’t know anything about leading people like this. I’m going to get us killed.”
Megan moved to get out of bed. Liam raised his hand to stop her. “No, you’re not feeling well… and you just died…. You fucking died. Jesus christ….. Don’t get up. You need to rest.”
Megan sighed, ”Come here then.” She opened her arms wide, inviting him over. Liam sighed and shook his head then got up and came over to the bed. He put the beer bottle on the bedside table and laid down on top of the duvet, ignoring Megan’s offer for a hug. She could tell that he had been crying. She assumed he didn’t want a hug because he didn’t want to cry again. So, she moved next to him, lifting his arm and cuddling up against him. She said “You are not alone. We are going to get through this together. I can help you. You know I have experience in these things.”
He chuckled and said, “Right because student government is experience in leading grown-ass adults.”
Megan said “Well, it’s a start, but I am confident that we will be fine. I think… I think we care enough about people more than status… that we could make a difference. Maybe earn our way back.”
Liam shook his head and said, “We can’t earn our way back. When those gates close, that’s it. You know that.”
Megan said, “But I also know I have hope. It will be ok.”
Liam wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close, and kissed her forehead. He lingered there for a while. Then softly said, “I won’t let anything happen to you, ok? I’ll keep you safe…. I…. I love you.”
She hugged him back and kissed his chest through his shirt and said, “I love you too. Whatever happens.” There was some silence. Megan started to pluck at the nice clothing he was wearing and asked, “Why are you wearing this? I don’t remember you wearing this when you were at the hospital.”
He said, “What? You don’t like it?”
Megan ran her fingers over the fabric, moving her fingers to the open part of his shirt, through the hair on his chest. She muttered and said “I didn’t say that. You know I like it when you dress up. I’m just curious”
Liam reached down and grabbed the hand that was exploring his chest and held it in his. He said “I had to meet with the governors… and the head of the Phoenix Hive…. To sign our lives away… sign that we will uphold the laws and all that shit.”
Megan made a noise in disgust and said, “So you signed a deal with the devil himself.”
Liam said “I’m not that important… no, the king is enjoying his whores in Florida. But I did meet with the demon of this hive… and all of his dick sucking monkeys…. There’s no backing out now. Signed my name in blood.”
Megan sat up and looked down at him seriously. “You did not.”
He smiled up at her in a joking way and said “No, I used a pen but it felt like I was signing in blood.” Megan shook her head and sighed laying back down on his chest. Liam said “how are you feeling?”
“Like I was never sick in the first place. It’s… weird... bizarre. I have no symptoms.”
He looked down at her in confusion. “How is that possible. I saw you earlier today. You were half dead.”
She shook her head.“I have no idea. It’s freaking me out too.”
Liam and Megan talked for a bit longer before they both fell asleep from the exhaustion of the situation. The next morning they moved out of the room and went back to their fraction. They were escorted home in fancy vehicles. When they arrived at their home, the chauffeur looked back at them and said, “I was told to tell you that your departure has been moved up. You have until tomorrow at 10 am.”
Megan looked at the man as if he was an alien. Things were moving so quickly, she didn’t feel like she had a second to breathe. Liam nodded to the man and said, “Thank you for the information, and the ride.” Then opened the door and moved out of the vehicle. He walked around to the vehicle and opened Megan’s door. He looked down at her in confusion. She sat there in shock. In a trance. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Liam put his hand out and said, “Megan? Are you coming?”
Megan shook her head trying to gather her thoughts and stuttered, “Y... Yeah.. sorry. I… I lost myself there for a minute.” Liam nodded. She grabbed his hand and let him pull her gently out of the car. He closed the door behind her and waved to the chauffeur as the vehicle drove away.
Liam looked down at Megan as if he was trying to understand what was going through her head. He cleared his throat and said, “Love, it’s going to be ok. We will figure this out. But we don’t have a lot of time to… to… do whatever you are doing… this… frozen thing. We have to pack… we have to call your family.”
She nodded. “You’re right. It’s just hitting me pretty hard. I… I want to fall apart but… you’re right.. I gotta pull myself together. I can break in the sorrows.”
Liam said, “ I wouldn’t put it like that. I wouldn’t take it that far. What I need you to be is your strong self. The one you have hidden for so long to survive this new system. You need strength where we are going. Not etiquette or proper words or kiss ass tactics. You don’t need to be kind where we are going. You can show your teeth. Bring out that side of you I miss so much.”
She looked at him in thought, trying to understand what he meant. Letting his words sink in. The gender rules still applied to the sorrows… so she thought…. But maybe he was right…. She didn’t need to be the polite, quiet, submissive person she had become in the past few years. She could be the strong, powerful, successful woman she was in her old life.
Was that possible in the sorrows?
Liam sighed and said, “This could be our new start. A place where we don’t have to hide who we are because we can’t get any lower than where we are. It can’t get any worse. What more could they do to us?”
She nodded, letting those words settle too.
He was right. This could be their new start.
“You’re right. It just hard… to think about this as a positive. But maybe it is. A blessing… I’m not… I’m not happy about leaving my family…. Our home… our dog… but… this… this could maybe give me my freedom back.”
Liam nodded and said “See? Silver linings. Now, let’s get inside. We have a lot to do and not a lot of time.” Megan nodded and followed him into the house.
Once inside, Megan started to make a list of what they needed to do. She started to call her friends and family, notifying them of the situation and that they needed to give their things away… including her fur child… their dog. Her family was equally mad as they were devastated. They realized that they were sending her off to die. And Megan understood that this would be the last time she would ever see her family no matter what ended up happening. They all decided to come over and help pack and take some of their things that they could not take to the Sorrows. Her friends and family spent the whole day together helping. They couldn’t bring furniture or anything big, they could bring clothes, and some other personal items… jewelry, books, photos… smaller hobby items…. They had to give their pets to Megan’s parents as well. Giving up her dog felt like it broke her heart more than saying goodbye to her parents.
While Megan was packing with her family, Liam figured he would take a break from the death stares, and the abundance of apologies he kept saying, and go tell his boss of the news. Liam walked into his boss’s office. Before he could say a word his boss said, “ Here to break the news?”
Liam was surprised and stopped saying, “Sounds like you already know.”
His boss, Marty said,“Word travels fast. Have a seat.” He motioned to the two seats in front of his desk. Liam sat down and Marty continued. “I’m really beside myself about it. You were successful because you really bridged the gap here. That’s nothing to send you away for. I’m going to be hurting big time when you are gone.”
Liam moved his hand behind him to rub his neck and said “I appreciate it, I’m glad that I have earned your high praises… honestly I don’t understand this… this whole thing either. Megan swears we were targeted.”
Marty leaned back in his chair, looking away from what he was working on, and said “Well, you were. You know that.”
Liam looked at him in a scrutinizing way, his forehead creased in confusion. But his anger rose.
What the hell did he mean by that?
“No, I did not know that.”
Marty said, “I thought everyone knew, My bad son.” Liam stared at Marty as if waiting for him to speak. Marty sighed and said, “Hang on.” And walked over to his bar car in the corner of the room and said, “Can I pour you something?”
Liam was shocked. The shock caused his anger to grow at an alarming rate. He clenched his jaw and muttered, “No. thank you though.”
Marty poured himself a shot of whiskey and said “Right then.” And took a drink. He sighed and said, “Remember that gala your lady was really excited about… the one on the border of the fractions?” Liam nodded. Marty continued. “Do you remember that man that was harassing your lady, and that she kept refusing him? And he got mad and you have to intervene?”
Liam’s hands turned into fists and he scowled. “Of course I do. I have that man on a hit list for trying to pull that shit.”
Marty took a drink and said, “Well you might want to take him off a hit list because you won’t get him.”
Liam shook his head looking at him in confusion. “I don’t understand, what do you mean?”
Marty said “He is from the Dynasty Fraction. He’s on the council. When your lady denied his advances... For a quick fuck in the back room, he... Let’s just say I didn’t like that very much. And he really didn’t like that you… looking as you do… in all your mixed ways… got in the way of a rich white man’s business…. So he put you on his hit list.”
Liam opened his mouth about to speak, he felt the scowl growing on his face.
This man… this disgusting excuse for a human was mad at him for getting in the way of him touching Megan? This had to be a sick joke.
Marty put his hand up as if to pause Liam and said “....And probably your lady too. He started a campaign and investigation about you two until your records came up about your origins. How you adopted her status. On your own, you would have been in the 6th or 7th fraction.”
Marty took another drink and sighed and said “I knew a while ago because he came here... looking for dirt on you. Wanting me to throw you under the bus. But I couldn’t... I mean shit even if I wanted to… what am I supposed to say?” Marty shrugged, looking at the wall, shaking his head. “The man occasionally says I love you to his girl? That’s all I got. …. And I assume, he got the same dead ends from everyone else.”
He paused and turned to Liam, looking him straight in the eyes. He looked like he was afraid of Liam. At that moment Liam didn’t care if Marty was about to piss himself from fear. He needed to keep talking. Marty swallowed as if trying to gain composure and continued. “Everyone liked you two. There was no dirt on the two of you for him to use against you except for your past. And because of that… he staged a…. I don’t even know what you would call it.”
Marty moved his arms around him as if trying to exaggerate his confusion. “But the fuck hired someone to line Megan’s drink with a bug, a manmade virus. That would get her sick, pretty bad. And pretty quick, and when she went to the hospital, they would be able to use her against you… to do as they wanted... And I guess what that was… I guess it was sending you to the Sorrows.”
Marty stopped talking, looking at Liam as if wondering if he was about to explode or if he was going to speak. More like he was afraid that Liam was a bomb set to blow at any minute. When Liam didn’t speak or react Marty took another drink and said “Honestly, I thought all he would do is fuck your lady in front of you and call it even. Maybe take her to the dynasty fraction, kidnap her, and use her as a slave…..”
Liam glared at Marty. He saw red. He knew that Marty was not saying that he would do those things. But just the thought of any of those things occurring made Liam made enough to chew steel and spit out bullets. Marty noticed the tension and Liam could see the blood drain from his face. Liam couldn’t suppress his rage. He was looking at Marty through pure red. He wanted to tear the office he sat into the studs. He wanted to hint down the fuck that did this and make him sorry for existing at the same time he did. He wanted to go back in time and tell that man to fuck off correctly. That would undoubtedly have put him away, if not have gotten him killed, but would have kept Megan safe.
Marty stumbled and said “M...my bad ...my bad. I….i’m just saying that those things made more sense….. than sending you both to The Sorrows. You can say I’m wrong about that.”
Liam shook his head, trying to control his anger. He needed more information. He couldn’t leave yet and the only way he was going to get answers is if he kept himself composed and his anger in check. “So... at the party the other night…”
Marty nodded. Liam cursed. After a while, Marty said, “Do you want a drink now?” Liam nodded. And then yelled out another curse in anger. Marty said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Liam said grabbed the drink from Marty and said “No. fuck, no. I want to wring that pig’s neck.” Liam took a large drink hoping the liquor would calm his rage.“He tried to rape… my girlfriend… and I refused him. So he kills us instead? Fuck him. I’m going to kill him.”
Marty said “I know.. It doesn’t make sense to me either.”
Liam said, “And everyone knows this?”
Marty nodded indifferently. He said “Not everyone but a good group of us that are invited to the same functions you are.”
Liam cursed, “And not one of you shits decided to tell us? Warn us?”
Marty said “….We couldn’t... You know that. They…. would kill us off. We... couldn’t say a damn thing. And we all wanted to. You gotta understand we were all trying to lead him off the scent. Trying to get him to leave you two be. But we obviously failed at that. I’m sorry Liam. I really am.”
Liam shot the whiskey and stood. “Thanks for the drink and the information. I really did enjoy working for you. Thank you for giving me a chance.” And walked out closing the door on his way out.
Marty muttered “Fuck. That kid is going to get himself killed.”
Liam drove around town for a bit trying to calm his rage. He knew he couldn’t go home to Megan in that state. He sped around, yelling at people. His rage over the situation being pushed on the drivers around him. He swerved around a slower car and was almost hit by another car turning. He had almost been t-boned. He muttered a curse and pulled into a grocery store parking lot to calm down. He couldn’t drive like this. It wasn’t safe. He tried to breathe and not think about the things Marty had just told him. But it was impossible. The words Marty said floated around his head like a song on repeat. He yelled out hitting the steering wheel of the car. And then slumped in his seat and sighed. “Fuck.”
After a while, he started to look around to see where he was. He decided to go take a walk to calm down and ended up in the grocery store. He thought, maybe he could buy Megan a few of her favorite things.
Who knew if they would have them in the Sorrows.
He felt the guilt of her being forced there with him heavy on his shoulders.
Shit at this rate he was going to end up buying out the store in an attempt to beg her forgiveness.
He walked the isles, grabbing flowers, candies, cakes, ice cream, drinks, and food that she loved. When he got to the register, the cashier looked down at his selection and chuckled. Liam rolled his eyes. The man said, “Looks like someone messed up.”
Liam scowled at the man and then shook himself.
This man didn’t know what he was going through and was not responsible for his bad fortune.
Liam sighed, releasing his anger and said, “More than you know.”
The man chuckled and said, “I figured. You forgot the candy bars.”
Liam sighed and said, “She’s not really into candy bars… more of a cupcake and ice cream kinda girl.”
The man said, “My daughter is like that. It’s been hard the last few years. But we always try to find a way to get her a cake on her birthday. A sure way to make her cry… happy tears of course.”
Liam looked down. The reality of the fraction system was cruel. His heart broke for this man and his daughter. At that moment he thought to himself,
Thank God we don’t have to worry about that….
And then froze, realizing that this was no longer their reality. Could he ever buy these things for Megan again? Probably not. She was going to have less than this man’s daughter did. The guilt and sadness started to eat at him again. He swallowed as his mind raced.
Liam shook himself out of his trance and said “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
The cashier said, “Your total, it’s $105.87.”
Liam nodded and paid. The man handed him his bags. Liam muttered a thank you and left the store. He sat in the car for a while. His anger had turned to dread, guilt, and sadness. He had screwed up big time. This wasn’t something he could fix. He might have not let it bother him as much as it had been bothering Megan up to this point… but now it hit him like someone had sucker-punched him. After a while something in the bags shifted, snapping Liam out of his trance. He muttered a curse and checked the bags. The ice cream was so melted, it was practically liquid at this point. He started the car realizing that he had been there for too long and needed to get back and drove back home.
When he got home Megan was sobbing on the couch among her things. He had seen her family’s cars leaving down the street as he drove up. He knew they had just said their last goodbyes before they left for the Sorrows tomorrow. He walked over, putting the things he bought for her on the floor, and pulled her into a tight hug. She sobbed. Ragged, heartbreaking sobs that shook him to his core. He knew the feeling. He also felt like his world was ending around him.
But unlike him, this was the first time she was losing her family. He had lost him so long ago, the pain was more like a dull numbness. But he remembered clearly the day they cut off all communication to lower fractions. He could no longer talk to his family. It nearly broke him. But at least then he knew that they were alive. That was all that kept him afloat with the pain. He knew they were fine. That was a luxury Megan’s family did not have. They knew she was going to her death sentence. Megan knew that too. She knew that she might not ever see them again. That she would most likely die in the next few months. She was leaving her life, her family, everything she knew. She was leaving her safety net. This safe haven he had built for her here in this chaotic time was gone. Shattered.
He held her until she stopped sobbing. Liam muttered, “I am sorry I took so long to get back here… but I did stop and get you some things….” She let him go and looked at him in confusion. Her big red puffy eyes were going to be the death of him. He would have given anything to make the sadness from her hazel eyes disappear. He smiled hoping to make her feel better. But her sadness remained.
Desperate for anything to try to make her happy, Liam reached behind him and grabbed the grocery bags. “I got you some of your favorite things…” He started to take them out of the bags and place them in front of him and her. She moved her hands to her mouth as if trying to cover her sobs. “Love.. don’t cry… it’s going to be ok…. Except maybe the ice cream... That might be lost.” She chuckled at his joke through her tears. “That’s my girl. Let’s have a happy night together. One last happy memory here.”
She started to sob again. He moved the things he had placed between them aside and pulled her back into his chest. “Sorry, I realized after I said it… bad choice of words…. It will be fine though. Let’s have a nice night. Let’s not think about anything bad ok?” She nodded into his chest and let go of him.
Megan whipped her eyes and nose. “What else did you get?”
Liam smiled and continued to take the things out of the bags. He tried to add little cute, funny remarks to each item to make her smile. When he had put everything out, Megan looked at them all around her. She said, “I can’t eat this all in one night.”
Liam looked like he was thinking about her concern and said, “Well we are going to try… and what we don’t finish we will sneak in with us.” Megan smiled. “I was thinking, for dinner we could order from all of our favorite places. What do you think?”
Megan nodded and said, “I’d love that.”
Liam took out his phone and opened the food delivery app and handed the phone to her. “Anything you want. Order the whole restaurant… from like 10 restaurants… do your worst.”
Megan chuckled and started to scroll through the options, creating her orders. Liam looked around the house. Most of the stuff was either missing or in boxes and suitcases. He started to notice what was taken when the realization hit him, that his dog was gone. His best friend should be sitting next to him, licking the ice cream off the bags. But he was gone. Liam clenched his jaw trying not to cry. His dog being gone hurt like a semi-truck was on his chest. He nodded to himself trying to remind himself that his dog was safe with Megan’s parents. He would be loved there for the rest of his life. He would miss him, but at least he was not in any danger like He and Megan were.
Hours later they sat in the empty living room of their home surrounded by takeout boxes, cupcake wrappers, and wine bottles. They had danced and cried. They had shared happy memories and talked about how they were going to be strong and hopeful. That this would be a new beginning for them and they were going to try to make it as positive as possible. They fell asleep in each other’s arms with tears in their eyes, praying that they would survive.