Antithetical

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Chapter 23 - Isaac

I knock on the door.

Amanda answers almost immediately, her face flushed and her eyes wide. When she sees me, she seems to deflate.

“Is Isolde there?” I ask.

She shakes her head. There is something off about her expression. “I don’t know where she went,” Amanda tells me. “She can’t have gone into the forest . . .”

I remember the newspaper article about an Antithetical in the forest. Isolde may not despise all the Antithetical like I do, but she wouldn’t be stupid enough to go there.

“Maybe she went running somewhere else,” I suggest.

Amanda doesn’t look convinced. Isolde was here yesterday, so she can’t have been gone for long. Why would Amanda be so worried because of a few hours of absence? It’s not like Isolde doesn’t usually go running in the morning . . . unless that’s changed since I left.

“I’ll tell you if she comes back,” Amanda says, and closes the door.

I frown, questioning her use of ‘if’ instead of ‘when’. Brushing it off, I begin to walk back home.

*

Because I got back late last night, Mum and I didn’t have much time to talk. When I woke up this morning, she was still asleep, but now she’s awake, slowly draining a mug of hot chocolate.

“You went out early,” she comments when I enter, making straight for the radiator.

“Yeah,” I say, touching my toes to the heater. “Went to see Isolde, but she’s not there. I think she went out running somewhere.”

Mum nods.

“So, how’s it been?” I ask her.

“Fine,” she says. “Your dad has been . . . civil enough, and I got a job at the newspapers.”
I know that she has wanted to be a journalist for the last year or so. “That’s great,” I congratulate her.

She smiles and sets down her mug. “Thank you. How has it been at the Arc?”

I think of the wild beating I gave that Antithetical, and how I nearly died last week . . . but those things didn’t actually happen at the Base. “Hard,” I say vaguely. “The training was intense. But I don’t mind. I like what I do.”

She nods slowly. “But do you actually like it there?”

“Yes,” I say. “So far.”

For some reason, neither of us can think of anything else to say, so we stay in a comfortable silence for a while.

“I was thinking of going into town today,” I mention after a while.

“If you don’t mind your mammy, I could do with a day out.”

I smile. “’Course I don’t. When should we leave?”

“An hour?”

“That’s fine.”
“Right.” She stands up, blanket in one hand, cup in other. “I’ll go get ready.”

Mum disappears up the steps. I go over to the kitchen and look in the cupboards for something to eat. I would probably dine out in town later, but I’m ravenous.

I butter two slices of bread, and place some cheese and lettuce inside. My hands make the sandwich without any thought; I am far away, thinking about Isolde. She refused to see me yesterday – still bitter about me going off to become an Antithetical Hunter. I sigh and take a bite out of the sandwich. My fortune has been good so far. I’m still alive, Mum’s alright. But I’m still tense – I feel like this luck is going to run out when I least expect it.

“Stop being so paranoid,” I mutter to myself.

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