Never Fade Page 50

Chubs’s eyes slid over to meet mine. “Exactly how much did you tell them?”

“Exactly nothing,” Vida said. “And if it stays that way, I will make you regret it.”

This time I rolled my eyes. “Sure. Whatever you say.”

I felt the familiar warm tingling at the center of my chest and had just enough time to gasp as some invisible hand yanked me forward, smacking my forehead against the dashboard with enough force to stun me dumb.

Chubs slammed on the brakes, forcing my seat belt to do its job and lock against my chest. I was thrown back into my seat, an explosion of colors bursting in my vision.

“Oh, hell no!” Chubs roared, slamming a hand against the steering wheel. “That’s it! We do not use our abilities on one another, goddammit! Behave yourself!”

“Chill the f**k out, Grannie,” Vida said. “You’re going to give yourself a stroke.”

“You cannot give yourself—” Chubs began in a growl but caught himself.

Jude let out a nervous laugh behind us, but I only pressed a hand to my stinging forehead. She had made her point.

“Zu was a friend of ours,” I said. “We traveled together for a while.”

“I thought Cate got you out, though,” Jude said. “Did you guys get separated or something? It seems like it would be dangerous just to be out wandering around.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Chubs said. “After the three of us broke out of camp—”

He might as well have told the others that he was a wizard. Even Vida leaned forward, suddenly so much more interested. “You?” she began. “You broke out of a camp?”

“Liam planned it,” Chubs gritted out. “But yes. I did.”

“Does that kid think he’s some kind of expert in getaways?” Vida muttered. “Goddamn.”

Jude’s eyes were bright with interest. “What was that like? Did you have your own room, like a little prison cell? Did they make you do hard labor? I heard that—”

The kids in the League knew about the camps—vaguely. There were only a few of us who had actually lived in one and experienced the life firsthand, but there was an unspoken rule we didn’t talk about it. Everyone knew the truth, but the truth didn’t live inside them the same way it did for us. They’d heard about the sorting machines, the cabins, the testing, but most of their stories were gossip, completely wrong. These kids had never stood for hours on end in an assembly line. They didn’t know fear came in the shape of a small black camera lens, an eye that followed you everywhere, at all times.

My chest tightened with the effort of keeping silent. One by one, my fingers closed around the seat belt’s silver fabric until I was all but choking it.

“Do you not remember it or something?” Jude asked. “Were you only there for a little while—is that why you can’t talk about it, because there’s nothing to say?”

“I would shut your mouth,” Chubs advised.

“Come on,” Jude whined. “If she’d just talk to us—”

“What?” The word exploded out of me. “What do you want me to tell you? You want to hear about how they tied us up like animals to bring us into the camp—or, hey! How about that time a PSF once beat in a girl’s skull so badly she actually lost an eye? You want to know what it was like to drink rotten water for an entire summer until new pipes finally came? How I woke up afraid and went to bed in terror every single day for six years? For God’s sake, leave me alone! Why do you always have to dig and dig when you know I don’t want to talk about it?”

I regretted the outburst halfway through, but the speech tumbled out, one vile, traitorous word after another. Chubs only glanced at the glowing blue clock, then back up at the soggy road. In the backseat, Jude was as silent as snow falling on asphalt, his mouth opening and closing, like he was trying to taste the burn of his words after they left his lips.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d be up for hearing about the one-eyed chick,” Vida said with a shrug.

“You are actually the worst person I have ever met,” Chubs said.

“And people like you are the reason we have middle fingers.”

“Guys…” I started.

Cate had told me once, a long time ago, that the only way to survive your past was to find a way to close it off behind you, to shut one door before passing into another, brighter room. I was afraid. That was the truth. I was terrified of the guilt and shame that would come flooding in when I retraced my steps, turned the lock, and found the girl I had abandoned. I didn’t want to know what the darkness there had done to her, if she would even recognize herself in my face.

I didn’t want to know what Chubs would think of me after he found out what I’d done for the League.

I didn’t want to know what Liam would think of me or of the smell of smoke in my hair that never went away, no matter how many times I washed it.

“At least tell us about how you ended up splitting with Liam,” Jude said. “If you guys were traveling together, why did you…um, stop? Cate came to get you when you pushed the panic button, I know, but was Liam gone by then? What about him?” He pointed at Chubs.

Those memories weren’t any less painful, but they were important.

“All right,” I said. “You know that we traveled together—Liam, Chubs, Zu, and me. But what you don’t know is that we were looking for a place, a safe haven called East River. To understand why I did it and how he ended up on his own, I have to start there.”

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