Back To You

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Chapter 14 - Sophie

One time I was about sixteen years old and I fell off a tree, ten feet to the ground. It was as if the impact had knocked every wisp of air from my lungs, and I lay there struggling to inhale, to exhale, to do anything. That’s how I feel now, trying to remember how to breathe, unable to speak, totally stunned as Alina’s words bounce around inside my skull.

“WHAT?” Keefe jolts up, so quick it looked like he got dizzy. “You can’t do that!”

“I’m afraid we just did,” Alina implies

“She did nothing!” Keefe yells, his hands flying

“She attacked a Councillor,” Alina verifies

Wait- how do they know that?

Goblins

I slightly cursed them

“T-that was because... she did it for a REASON!” I saw Keefe look at me at the corner of my eye. I was staring at my hands unsure what to say. This was both bad and great.

“Sophie, are you going to say anything!?” Keefe asks, shaking his head

I twist my fingers in response

Keefe looks back at the Councillors who all looked uncomfortable except for Alina. “There has to be something other than Exile! Like any other punishment!” Keefe looks at Oralie. “Are you seriously going to let that happen?”

I look up, curious what she’ll say but all she does is stare at the floor. I sigh and look back at my hands. “I-it’s fine Keefe, I honestly don’t care,”

“Fine? No, Sophie, it’s NOT fine!”

Alina crosses her arms. “I don’t get why you care so much about this,”

Keefe groaned. “Because she’s my...” I looked up as Keefe gestured to us, struggling for the right words. “I’m her b-b....” Keefe let out a frustrated groan. “It doesn’t matter! This is absolutely unnecessary. EXILE IS UNNECESSARY!”

A few of the Councillors looked offended, and some looked ashamed.

“Maybe this is a little un-” I look up to see who spoke and.... It was Councillor Terik. I didn’t even notice him a few minutes ago.

“It is,” Alina interrupted, she gestures to some other Councillors. “We had a vote,”

Councillor Terik steps back, looking at the floor

Alina looks back at Keefe. “I suggest you keep quiet. Do you want to go to Exile too?”

My legs jolt me up as if they had a mind of their own. I grab Keefe’s soft, familiar hand, Keefe turns his head to look at me and I shake my head no.

He sighs and clenches my hand tighter; I give him a reassuring smile- a one we both know is fake.

Keefe sighs again. “When.... When is- are y-you,” Keefe shook his head, and he cleared his throat. He grumbles, “nevermind,”

“Today at 4,” Oralie chokes out.

I look at the clock and it’s three

Maybe I should just count down to my doom

An hour

I rub my sore eyes and sit back down at the bench letting go of Keefe’s hand.

“Today?” Keefe manages and clears his throat

Bronte nods and I let out a shaky breath. I can feel my heart feel heavy and tears coat my eyes but I quickly blink them away.

“A-at least let me stay with her,” Keefe says. “Before you take her Exile,”

Alina opens her mouth but Oralie cuts her off. “Of course,”

Keefe grumbles something under his breath about Oralie

“We.... we should g-go,” Councillor Terik said, awkwardly

“Yeah you should,” Keefe spits and crossed his arms, glaring

My eyes grow wide. ”Keefe,” I hiss

Keefe slumps his shoulders and runs his hand down his face. “I-I yeah, sorry,”

The Councilors nod and leave one by one while Oralie refuses to meet my gaze

Keefe drops next to me when they leave. I rest my head on his shoulder.

“I-I can’t believe this,” Keefe’s voice cracks. He rests his head on mine. “You’re going to go to Exile in less than an hour,”

I just sit still because I’m afraid if I move I’ll burst into tears

Keefe wraps his arms around me

As much as I tried to hold it in, the pain came out like an uproar from my throat in the form of a silent scream. The beads of water started falling one after another, without a sign of stopping.

I’ve dreamt of going to Exile.

I thought I’d be happy

Relieved

But right now I don’t feel any of those emotions

I felt inconsolable

I don’t want to leave Keefe.

I tried to muffle my soft whimpers. “I-I don’t want to leave... you,” I rest my head on his chest, tears falling onto him

“I don’t either, Sophie,” Keefe says into my hair and his grip tightened

Sadness and I are best friends

When my joy departs

It.... just hangs over my head and follows me everywhere

Sadness is for free

The tears that drown me are like relief for it but for me, it’s a thief. Stealing all the joy and obliterating it with its robbery.

“I-I can’t do this,” this time I didn’t say it; it was Keefe

I look up to face Keefe and I wipe my eyes with my hands. “W-what do you mean?”

“Let’s run away, again,” he whispers

“No!” I blurt. I shake my head, and I straighten still in Keefe’s arms. “That will solve nothing,”

“But-”

“They found us once, they’ll find us again and once they do, they’ll Exile both of us!” I interrupted

Keefe sighed, and his grip loosened. “B-but I c-can’t live without you,” his eyes glisten with tears, and as he blinks they slide down his cheeks. He bites his lip, tightly in an attempt to hide any sound that wants to escape; my heart sinks

I quickly wipe his tears and engulf him with a hug. I rest my head on his shoulder and stare at the light blue wall as tears blur my vision. I take a shaky breath before saying, “it will be fine,”

Keefe’s body trembles against mine. “No, it will never be fine without you,”

Tears roll down my cheeks. This melancholy is a cloak I can’t simply let fall to the floor, and though I hold it so tight I can’t find the warmth I need, yet it clings. It is the anchor to my feet, the reason I can’t find the surface or the sunshine, that feeling of soft joy that lives in memories that can’t rise within.

Keefe buries his head on my shoulder and I can feel his tears against my skin. A sob escapes my mouth while everything feels dead. This felt like stabs to the heart but I’m not dying- it’s a hundred times worse. I won’t be able to feel Keefe starting in a few hours.

His soft hair

Melting into his eyes

Tracing his skin

Laughing

Teasing

Keefe’s hugs are warm, and his big, muscular arms seem very protective when wrapped around my frail body.

“I wish.... I wish we could stay like this forever,” Keefe says into my shoulder.

I hiccuped and nodded, squeezing my eyes shut. My heart feels heavy and I can’t handle the weight.

I lean back to stare into Keefe’s bloodshot eyes. Without hesitation, I move forward and my lips meet Keefe’s. His taste explodes in my mouth and I feel our tears collide as I move closer. My hands reach Keefe’s face as we kiss, wiping his tears away. My hand travels down to rest at his chest and the other in his hair. Keefe cups my face with his hand, his thumb sweeps tears away as they fall.

When we break apart tears rain down Keefe’s cheek and I quickly smear it away. I give him a bitter smile and glance at the clock

3:45

15 minutes

Keefe follows my gaze and I look back at him, tears drenching my tunic. “I-I c-can’t,” I grab his shirt and bury my head into it. I let out a shaky breath as Keefe wraps me into his protective arms.

A familiar voice but not Keefe’s

I look up to see who it was. It was Linh, Tam, and Dex. Since the door was already open, they barged in

Me and Keefe pull away and I rub my eyes.

“And.... Keefe,” Tam adds, and Keefe doesn’t smirk at him or make fun of him. He just stares at their shoes while I try to swallow the lump in my throat, looking anywhere but them

Linh walks forward, drops to her knees, and tilts my chin to face her. “We heard the news,” she whispered, gesturing towards Tam and Dex

I nod and choke back tears as she hugged me as delicately as anyone ever can and I ultimately hug her back. Linh pulls away with tears in her eyes. “You’re finally here and now you have to leave?”

My bottom lip trembles and I hide it with my hand as I nod. “I-I’m sorry,”

Linh shook her head. “Don’t be sorry, Sophie- wasn’t it guilt who got here in the first place?”

I nod.

“Then don’t be guilty,” Linh says before pulling me into a hug

After Linh pulled away, she gave me a reassuring smile and went to Keefe and gave him a quick hug while Tam and Dex came up to me

Dex instantly dropped to his knees like Linh and pulled me into a hug. It surprised me at first before hugging him back. After a while, Tam made it into a group hug.

“You know I can use my shadow flux on the Councillors,” Tam offered as we broke apart, trying to lighten the mood.

I give him a fake smile- a smile I’ve been working on. “No thanks, Tam,”

“Are you sure, Soph? Because I would love to see that,” Dex says

Another forced smile

I opened my mouth to speak but someone opened the door- Oralie and Terik.

Councillor Terik looks at Oralie who was struggling to speak as she stares at the floor. He looks at us. “You all have t-ten minutes,”

My heart sinks

I guess this is it

This is where my story ends

Dex, Linh, Tam, and Keefe thrust up as I struggle but eventually do

Their eyes look heavy as I find the courage to hug them one last time.

I start with Tam. “I’ll miss you, Sophie. I’ll never forget the time we met,” he whispers into my ear and I give him a bitter smile as I try to remember how to let go. “I’ll miss you so much, Tam,” I squeeze his hand as tears slide down his and my face

I went to Linh who was close to tears. Tears slide down my face as I blink and pull her into a hug. “I-I’ll miss you so much, Linh,” I manage as I squeeze her tighter. A sob escaped Linh’s mouth. “You’ve changed me forever, Sophie. And I’ll never forget you,” I whimper as those words left her mouth. I pull away from Linh and tears coat my tear duct.

I take a shaky breath and move on to Dex who cheeks glistened with tears. Dex pulled me in the tightest hug possible. I tremble as I wrap my arms around him. “Thank you, Sophie,” Dex croaks. My tears drip down my chin into my tunic. “For what?” I manage between breaths. “For shaping me into who I am now,” Dex answers his voice horse. I squeeze my eyes shut and make myself pull away. My heart aches as I stare into Dex’s periwinkle eyes now filled with tears. “I’ll miss you, Dex. So much,” Dex’s lip trembled and nodded.

I turn to a shaking Keefe

It was time. The time I knew would come eventually but dreaded. I had to say goodbye to the only person who I felt cared for, to the only person who I felt happy with. How was I supposed to just do it without feeling like I’ve lost a part of me? All those times where we would just talk and laugh. When I had forgotten how to live, he was the one who showed me the way. When I felt like the world was falling apart around me, he made me feel as though it wasn’t so bad. When I felt like nothing could make me feel better, he somehow put even the slightest of simper on my face. I wish I could go back to when I first met him so I could do it all over again. I can’t help but feel so isolated and companionless. I need him because without him I’m a nobody. I have this feeling in my chest where it just feels empty, like a black hole, pitch black and barren. I’m lost and the only way for me to be found again is if I would see him again.

I grab his hands and stare into his bloodshot eyes

“Come on, guys,” Linh whispers and she pulls Tam and Dex away. Me and Dex lock eyes then me and Tam and then Linh. I stare at them until they’re gone completely.

For the last time

The pain I carry in my chest is inexplicable as I turn back to Keefe. His breathing is shallow, and he’s trembling with tears. I squeeze my eyes shut and I wrap my arms around his neck as I’m on my toes. Keefe has his arms around my waist and his head on my shoulder, his tears leaking into my tunic.

“I d-don’t want you to... leave,” Keefe says, shaking his head. Sobs escape my mouth as I try to speak but the words won’t come. Sadness flowed through me flowing through my veins and it deadened to my mind. It affects my tongue, keeping it from moving.

“Sophie... don’t,” Keefe says through his shallow breathing. As I squeeze my eyes tighter- the faster my tears fall. I pull away even though my muscles ache when I do. My hand reaches up to wipe Keefe’s tears away. Every sound that escapes his mouth breaks my heart. I lean forward to kiss him, softly but long. His lips feel soft under mine as he presses harder. His tears leak onto my cheeks while I softly pull away. Our sobs echo through the cage and I hug him again. “I-I’ll miss so much, Keefe,” Keefe’s chin trembles against my shoulder.

“I’ll miss you too, Sophie more t-than you’ll ever know.” My heart aches as I pull away.

I reach to cup Keefe’s red cheek and I force myself to say what is about to escape my mouth. “P-promise me... promise me, Keefe, that you’ll try to... try to move on,”

“W-what?” Keefe asks but I ignore him and continue.

“Don’t spend all your time mourning over me,” I say and use my thumb to clean Keefe’s cheek

He looks away. “I-I can’t promise that,”

“You have to, Keefe,” I grab his chin and make him face me. “Promise me you’ll try,”

Keefe opens his mouth to speak but Oralie cuts him off. “We... we have to go, Sophie,”

My breath catches as I process her words

Keefe grabs my hands, and his eyes drop fresh tears. “Sophie if you go.... I don’t know what I’ll do,”

I press my lips together in an attempt to block any sound. “I love you, Keefe,” and I hug him

“I’ll always love you, Sophie,” Keefe’s voice cracks and as I pull away I stare into his heavy eyes

I give him a rueful smile and lean in to kiss him, quickly before I get sent away to Exile. “When I’m gone, do nothing to yourself- for me,” I whisper into his ear as I pulled away

Tears fall onto Keefe’s cheeks as I walk towards the door but Keefe grabs my arm and pulls me closer. Keefe pulls close and pushes his lips against mine; he deepens it, parting my lips. We kiss harder than ever as I run my fingers through his soft locks, not caring if Oralie was watching. Before I go to Exile, I have to remember his taste and his touch. I could feel Keefe’s tears trickling down my cheeks

I pull away but Keefe kisses me again. “Keefe, I have to go,” I pull away but Keefe kisses me again. “No, you don’t,” his voice was hoarse. I pull away and before Keefe could lean in again, I embrace him while he sobs into my shoulder and my tears don’t come.

He’s not going to let me go.

If only I had a crystal.

Oralie probably has one.

I stretch my conscious to Oralie and push myself into her mind

Give me your crystal, I transmit and then I add: And your imparter.

I squeeze Keefe tighter because I know this is the last hug

Oralie comes in front of me and presses a crystal and imparter into my hand while I try to avoid eye contact.

I lean forward and whisper into Keefe’s ear, “I’m always with you,” and I pull away, holding the crystal to the light and hand Keefe the imparter before he could open his mouth. I cut him off. “Goodbye, Keefe,” I push him into the light and he disappears just like my heart.

I let out a shaky breath, I ran out of tears to shed.

And I realize Keefe never promised.

Councillor Oralie steps in front of me and whispers, “I’m so sorry Sophie,” before I could react she presses a cold glass against my lips and I instantly know what it is- a sedative.

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