Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 54

Pamela stares at me with wide, unbelieving eyes. “Natalie…?”

Her voice is just like I remember. She’s barely changed at all.

Her eyes snap to Darren. I’m half aware of his own staring, the clarity of his shock. My pulse crashes through my ears like waves on the sea. Pamela takes a step forward, reaching out her hand.

“Natalie, I-“

“Don’t touch me!” I jerk away from her.

“Please, listen to me-“

I don’t let her finish. Instead, I run.

She calls my name, but I ignore her. Light swims over my eyes as I stumble down the stairs leading down from the room.

She’s alive. She’s here - a rebel, a leader.

How? Why?

My foot catches on a step, and I tumble down the rest of the way, slamming my knee against the worn floor. The pain doesn’t register - I’m filled with numbness.

Footsteps grow closer. I want to move, to leave, can’t seem to muster the strength to pick myself up.

A figure kneels next to me, and I feel a warm hand on my shoulder.

“Natalie…please, listen to me.”

I pull away, pushing myself to my feet. Pamela looks at me. She’s…she’s smiling. As if she’s actually glad to see me. As if she didn’t make the choice to abandon me in the first place.

“Get away from me.” The words come out stronger than I expect them to.

Footsteps pound down the stairs as Darren arrives. He comes up next to me and takes my arm, guiding me away from our mother like he wants to somehow protect me from her.

“Darren,” Pamela says softly. “Please listen.”

My brother looks back at her with cold eyes.

“I…” She takes in a deep breath, moving closer to us. “I made a mistake. I know that. You have no idea how sorry I am.”

“Oh, I think we do,” I say. “So sorry that you never even bothered to come back to us. So very sorry that you never even told us where you went.”

“Nat-“

“Don’t call me that,” I snap.

She draws away. “Natalie,” she corrects herself. “Please give me a chance to explain.”

Heat rises to my face, but I hold my tongue and move closer to Darren. His arm tightens around mine.

“I know I hurt you two,” she says. “And for that I’m very, very sorry.” Her voice is full of remorse, but it only fills me with rage and disgust. “I wanted to come back – believe me when I say that. But after I became the leader of this colony, I just couldn’t.”

“The leader,” Darren repeats. “How, Pamela?”

“When I was a Redeemer, I knew what they were doing to the Flawed. I had never actually witnessed a Cleansing, but I knew, and I…I hated it. I kept the job to support our family.” She pauses, looking at us. “I’m guessing you two know the truth about the Cleansings?”

“We do,” Darren answers for both of us. His voice holds no emotion – no anger or surprise. He sounds just like a Redeemer.

“That’s why I left to join the Truth. I planned to come back for you once it was safe.”

“Then why didn’t you?” I spit.

She sighs. “When I joined this colony, my experience with the Redeemers made me a valuable member. My rank rose. And when our leader was killed, they voted for me to replace him. I…I couldn’t come back to you.” Her eyes rise, and they’re heavy. “It would have been too dangerous. My hands were tied. I’m so sorry.”

“We all thought that you had…” My voice trails off, and I swallow, trying to keep tears at bay and emotions locked away.

She moves closer and takes my hand in hers. “I never planned to abandon you, Natalie.”

I stare at her hands. They’re still the same as they were when I was younger - thin and delicate. For a moment, I wish that I could forgive her. That the gaping chasm of hurt would seal shut, letting us be mother and daughter again.

She did it to protect us. She wanted to come back.

But she didn’t. She left us.

She’s the reason Dad gave up on life, the reason for so much of the suffering Darren and I have gone through.

I draw my hand away and step back. Anger makes my heart pound against my ribs and my face grow hot.

“You left us,” I say. “You deserted your family.”

“But I-“

“You did! You left us all alone to fend for ourselves.”

“You had your father…”

I stiffen at the mention of Dad. Darren’s grip on my arm trembles with what seems like anger.

“And you left him, too,” he says.

My mother looks to Darren. “I’m sorry,” she says again, slowly. “I made a mistake.” She pauses. “Your father…” she begins. “How is he?” Her eyes light up for a moment. “Is he here with you?”

A knot of emotion tightens in my chest. I stare at her, tears brimming, anger boiling. I want…I want to hit her, to cause her pain.

Pamela looks from Darren to me, confused. “Where is he? Is he alright?”

I can’t take it. It’s too much. I have to get away from her.

I spin around and take off across to the room, towards the closest door out and shove it open. I know that Pamela is calling to me, but her voice is lost. Darren is following me, but I can’t even focus on that. Everything is clouding.

Outside, I take in a deep breath, leaning against the building for support. Tears well in my eyes but I blink them away, focusing on breathing.

I start walking. I don’t know where – I just walk up the mountain, closer to the sky. My footsteps crunch against the rough earth. The sound calms me, giving me a rhythm, something to follow.

I make it to the cliff edge a few minutes later. Treetops stretch out in front of me. They seem close enough to touch.

After a long moment, Darren comes up from behind me. He doesn’t say anything – there’s nothing to say.

So we just stand there, looking into the distance, listening to the wind rustle through the trees below. Eventually he puts his arm around me and pulls me closer. I lean my head against his shoulder, and my anger begins to melt.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

He nods. After a long, quiet moment, he says, “We need to head back soon.”

“I’m not sure I can handle seeing her again.”

“You have to. I’m sorry, Nat, but the cause is more important than our feelings. We have to work with her. That’s...that’s just how it is.” He breathes in, the sound shallow, like his chest is tight. This is just as bad for him as it is for me. There’s a comfort in that - in knowing that we both understand each other’s pain and emotions. We’re not alone.

“You’re right,” I murmur. And he is. He always is. His words from earlier come back to me: Remember, Nat – you’re a solider. A solider puts their cause before their emotions. They make sacrifices. They push through. That’s what I have to do. And for the Truth? For the Flawed? I’ll do it.

So, I steel myself, take a moment to clear away my emotions, and nod. “Let’s go back.”

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