by Lucy Piontek
Alex and Cee fight back against the government that used children to settle their debates.
I knew everything there was to know about the infirmary. Where things were, how to calm the chaos, how to train nurses, and what to do when I didn’t know what to do. Two fighters brought in an unconscious teenager which was an oddity for our small compound. Most of the bigger compounds have serious injuries fairly often, but not here. We knew how far to push our fighters here.
“We found him outside, where do you want him?” the taller of the two fighters holding the teenager asked.
“Put him in the backroom,” I told them and followed behind them after I gave my clipboard to another nurse.
“Do you know who he is?” I asked.
“He doesn’t look like one of us, but take his fingerprints and blood. We’ll search the system.” The other one said.
“I need to fix his head and leg first.”
“Not if he isn’t one of us. Our supplies go to our fighters,” the shorter of the two told me.
“What do you do with him if he isn’t one of us?”
“We leave him outside the hospital. Now, get his blood and we can do his fingerprints.” The tall one told me.
I went to the cabinet for what I would need to take a blood sample then gave it to a first-year nurse to take to the lab for DNA testing. The two guys left to take the fingerprints to the security office which left me alone with the mystery guy.
I started searching his pockets for anything to ID him but couldn’t find a wallet or anything. He was probably just the victim of a robbery gone wrong. His head had clearly been hit against a wall, his knuckles showed that he tried to fight back, his leg was broken, and I think he had a few broken ribs.
‘Our supplies go to our fighters’ the one guy had told me. What does someone in the security section even know about how we run things in the infirmary? I cleaned his cuts so that they wouldn’t be infected if we had to take him to the hospital and cleaned the blood off his leg so I could see if it was coming from his leg or if it had just spread from his other cuts. I had just started when one of the security fighters came back in.
“Do what you need to fix him up. He just joined us last week and the idiot already signed up for a fight. We need him ready,” he said.
“Do you have his information?”
“Right here,” he handed me the folder with the kid's name.
His name is Alan Finden.
“When’s the fight?” I asked.
“There’s no way he can fight. His leg is broken, I don’t know how bad yet, and with his concussion, he won’t even be able to use crutches for a few weeks. I don’t even know if he’ll wake up by tonight,” I told him.
“So what are we supposed to do? Forfeit?”
“Use his backup.”
I’d been here for years and it always amazed me that some people here completely lacked common sense.
“I don’t know how good his backup is, I don’t even know how good the kid is!” he yelled.
“So train him better,” I said.
“Listen, my job is to make sure no one is trying to find out what happens here, your job is to heal our fighters. I did my part now you do yours.”
“Your job is making sure no one finds out what happens, not telling nurses that they have to do something impossible. It’s not like I have magical powers to heal him with a snap of my fingers,” I said sarcastically. Clearly, he didn’t appreciate it.
“Whoever is above you needs to have a talk with you about your attitude,” he told me.
“I don’t think my nurses would like if I gave myself a stern talking to.”
“Whatever, get him better,” he said as he walked away.
If he hadn’t walked away I would’ve kicked him out soon.
“Hey Gracie,” I called for my sister, “If he ever comes in hurt make sure you forget to give him painkillers and remember about the people with more serious injuries.”
“Will do Cee,” she told me.
I had two of the support nurses take him for x-rays then a CT scan. While they were gone I went back to the main room to check that everything was okay and since no one was waiting I looked at Alan’s information.
Name: Alan Finden
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 147.2 lb
All the other information that most people have is filled out as they train and fight. Their record is updated at the end of the month.
“You should be getting everything sent to you in a few minutes,” One of the nurses told me as they brought him back.
"What's the emergency?" I asked Gracie when I got down to the infirmary early the next morning.
Alan had a nasty concussion and his leg was broken in two places. I set his leg and made sure the overnight shift nurses knew to check on him once an hour.
"I wasn't the one who called you down here," She told me.
"Who did then?"
"I did," Amanda said from the doorway of the small room Alan was in.
"What's the emergency?" I asked her.
"Well, I was checking everything then he woke up, or maybe he was awake and waiting for someone to come in, but I've never dealt with anything like this so I panicked and called you. I should've just dealt with it myself like an older nurse would have,” she explained.
"Or any better nurse," Riley said from nearby.
"I'm sure you would have done the same thing," I told Riley.
"Actually, I memorized the protocol for when someone wakes up from a concussion so I would've known what to do,” Riley told me proudly.
"Everyone thinks they know what they would do in a situation until it happens and they panic," I turned to Amanda. "Let's go see how he's doing."
"So you're the one that knows what happened to me?" he asked when he saw us.
"Amanda, close the door, please. I know what happened to you medically, but I don't know how it happened to you. We were actually hoping that you might remember," I told him.
"I think I was on my way to something and someone tried to rob me."
"Do you know where you are?" I asked.
"You're at the infirmary of the place you live. Two security guards brought you in yesterday morning with a nasty concussion and a badly broken leg."
"I was supposed to compete yesterday. How mad is everyone that we had to forfeit?"
"Your backup won the fight, but it was stupid for you to sign up, to begin with. You've been here a week and have had barely any training or muscle building. Even if you're a great fighter most of your opponents have more muscle than you do and can crush you like a bug,” I told him.
"I've never lost a fight,” he said proudly.
"Clearly you did, it just wasn't one that goes on your record."
"What would a doctor know about fighting anyway?" he asked defensively.
"Before I was old enough to be a nurse, I was a fighter, and I never lost a fight. Even unrecorded ones,” I told him.
"Aren't we supposed to be making sure he's okay?" Amanda asked quietly.
Amanda was one of my favorite patients when she was a fighter. She's sweet and can make anyone smile, but that's not what makes a good fighter. She was always afraid of her opponent and lost every fight, so she was told to find a different area to be trained in. When she told me I immediately told her that she should get training as a nurse. Most of the other nurses already knew her and loved her, except Riley, who's one of her old opponents.
"Yes, we are. I'm going to check a few things to make sure you're ok to start getting up and moving," I told him.
I showed Amanda the test to do for a patient with a concussion.
"So, you want me to get up and start walking around?" Alan asked when I was done.
"You have a broken leg and a concussion bad enough that you were unconscious for possibly over 24 hours. You're not getting up for a few days," I told him then left the room.
I gave Amanda some more directions and told her to ignore Riley. Riley has been bugging her since they both showed up for training. There was still a while before my official shift started but not enough time for me to go back to sleep so I went to the mess hall to see if breakfast was set up yet.
"Hey, Cee. Are you doing any training tonight?" My friend Alex asked.
Alex and I used to fight together but he kept fighting when I started getting my nursing training. I have a required number of hours I have to train every week so I usually do them after my shift with Alex. He's gotten a lot more muscle and skill since we were kids fighting together, but I can still beat him even though he has the best record of any of the fighters our age.
"No, I have the night shift. It's really gonna suck since I was in there early,” I told him.
"Was there an emergency?"
"Yesterday a guy with a broken leg and a bad concussion was brought in and Amanda didn't know what to do when he woke up so she called me in. I would rather have her calling me in than freaking him out."
"So, you've already been awake for a few hours and you have to be awake for 24 hours once your shift starts?"
"Yeah, feel free to come by and bring me some coffee."
"Don't worry, I will. I have to go to practice, see you later."
“Bye, Alex,” I said as he started to walk away.
When I was finished eating, I threw away my trash then went back to my room to get ready for my shift in half an hour.
"How're you feeling?" I asked Alan when I came to check on him.
"Those lights are annoying and why does that child doctor keep coming in to check on me and not saying anything?"
"Gracie's one of the nurses here and she checks on you once every hour to make sure you don't have any brain damage and the lights are because of your concussion/"
"She's a nurse? She's just a kid."
"Gracie's 12, so she's still young but we start training nurses when they're 12 if they're here. I started training at 12 and a few other nurses but the rest didn't get here until after they were 12 and went through the mandatory fighting training,” I explained.
"You were here when you were 12?"
"I've been here since I was 7."
"How do you even get in here when you're that young?"
"Did you ever have a kid in your class that was supposed to be put in the foster system but you never saw them again?" I asked.
"I think there was one."
"Well, they came here and were taught how to fight until they were old enough to choose to go to a different area."
"And that's when they're 12?"
"Yeah, they can choose to go to a different area or stay a fighter."
"And you chose to become a nurse?" he asked.
"I'm smaller than all my opponents."
"Sometimes the small fighters are the best. They can move quickly and they may not be able to punch hard but they can outsmart their opponent."
"I hate fighting, anyway, I have other patients I need to take care of. I'll check back in another hour," I told alan as I walked out.
The rest of the infirmary was full of fighters with bad records that we saw all the time or good fighters that had an equally good or better opponent. Alex came in about an hour into my shift with a finger that needed to be set and hung around and talked with me until the infirmary got busy again.
The infirmary gets a huge wave of patients every two hours as practices let out and fighters who fought through their injuries decide they're serious that they need to be treated. By dinner time I was exhausted but Alex pulled through and ate dinner in the lounge with me and brought me some coffee a little later in the night. He couldn't fight so it didn't hurt him to stay up later than the other fighters.
I checked on Alan a few more times but he didn't try to talk to me about why I became a nurse again or why I'd been there since I was 7. He fell asleep in the afternoon because of the effect of his pain killers and his concussion.
"Cee?" Gracie, who was working the night shift with me, called for me around midnight.
She wasn't used to the night shifts and was almost asleep in the lounge when I came in there.
"Yeah, Gracie?" I asked her.
"Do you think I'll be here next year?"
At the end of every year our leader decided who wasn’t cut out to be in their department. I was confident that Gracie would still be there since our leader saw her as her own kid, but you could never be sure about anything in the Compound.
"I don't know who'll be here next year and who won't and I don't know if my reviews even have any influence over who stays, but I think you'll stay. You have a great bedside manner, you're friendly with patients, you know how to treat cuts and colds better than anyone, and almost all the other nurses love you. I don't think you have a reason to worry."
"No problem little sis."
My next shift wasn’t until two mornings later to give me a chance to sleep and do a bit of training. Even though I’m a nurse I still have a set number of hours per week I have to practice in case something happens and our leaders need everyone to fight. As head nurse, it’s almost guaranteed that if anything like that ever happened, I wouldn’t be fighting, but you never know. Our political situation can change in an instant so it’s always best to assume nothing is permanent.
“How are you today, Alan?” I asked when I checked on him.
“The lights aren’t as annoying but that one nurse that always seems like she’s better than everyone else is really annoying. I’d rather have the kid checking on me than her,” he said.
“Do you remember her name?”
“I didn’t care enough to remember it.”
“I think you’re talking about Riley. She’s actually the same age as Gracie and disliked by almost every nurse and patient.”
“So why is she a nurse?”
“We don’t fire people here. She passed the initial nursing exam after her 8 weeks of training at the beginning of the year so unless she did something illegal, she can’t be removed until the end of the year when our leader decides who to keep and who to send back to the fighters.”
“So, you can either be a nurse or a fighter?”
“There are other places you can go but you have to choose them when you’re 12 or when you get here after going through your mandatory training. Once you’re in a section you have to keep your performance up,” I explained.
“And fighters just train all day then eat and sleep?”
“We also have sports teams.”
“Soccer, hockey, basketball, and probably more that I don’t pay attention to.”
“Do you think the girl I went to school with is on the soccer team? I think she used to play soccer before she left.”
“Do you remember her name?”
“No, I just remember that she had super light hair, green-blue eyes, she was pretty short, hardly talked, played soccer, and I think she had a little sister.”
I didn’t recognize anyone with that description but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t there. She could’ve been in a section that I never worked with or she might be in a different compound.
“Maybe you’ll find her, but I don’t think she’s here,” I told him.
“Do you think there’s a chance I’ll see her again?”
“At this point, it’s been about ten years so you probably wouldn’t recognize each other anymore.”
I left him after that and went back to the main room and saw a crazy dude doing the macarena. Like what the fuck dude, this is an infirmary. Unfortunately, I recognized the idiot right away.
“What are you doing, Alex?” I asked when I went up to him.
“I wanted to make sure no one was having a bad day, besides, it’s not like I have anything else to do,” he told me.
Alex had broken a few fingers at practice yesterday and wasn’t able to train until I allowed him to, and there was no way he could talk me giving him permission to fight before I knew he would be okay.
“You have nothing else to do so you decided to hang around an infirmary?” I asked.
“Well, you’re here.”
“Unless you’re injured or a nurse I can’t allow you to stay here, it doesn’t matter that you’re my friend,” I went to the desk to see if there were any patient clipboards in my pile.
“Does it matter that my mom’s the boss?” he asked hopefully.
“I’m pretty sure she would agree with me on this one.”
“Come one, Cee. I have nothing else to do,” he begged.
“What if I let you organize stuff?”
“Sure, anything’s better than sitting around watching everyone else practice.”
“Come with me,” I led him to the stock room where we still needed to organize the supplies that had come in the night before.
I explained how we organize things then went back out and saw the people who were waiting for me. I had just finished when I saw Alex waiting for me at the desk.
“What now, shorty,” Alex teased.
“Why? What’ll you do to me?”
“I’ll punch you,” I threatened.
“I’d like to see you try.”
“I would, but you’d punch me back and hurt your hand even more.”
“Oh please, you’ve broken fingers before and it didn’t stop you from doing stuff.”
“I’m the doctor here and I’m not putting you in a position where you could possibly hurt yourself more,” I told him.
“Technically you’re only a nurse.”
“SHUT UP,” I yelled at him.
“Make me,” he answered calmly.
Alex should be glad that he’s injured because it was the only thing stopping me from proving, again, that even though I was a nurse I would always be a better fighter than him. That and I was working. It probably wouldn’t be very good if the head nurse was seen fighting someone in the infirmary. Even if the person was her best friend that annoyed her constantly.
The timer on the desk went off and I went to the backroom to check on Alan after telling Alex to go away.
“So, who were you yelling at in there?” Alan asked when I walked in.
“A friend,” I told him.
“Do you usually yell at your friends.”
“I usually yell at that friend,” I muttered.
“You’re not very friendly, are you?”
“Does this conversation have a purpose?” I asked.
“I talk to one person every hour, humor me.”
“Fine, what would you like to talk about?”
“When can I get out of this room?”
“You don’t need constant monitoring for your concussion anymore but you also can’t walk on your leg so we have to get you some crutches, but we have plenty here,” I explained to him.
“You have 3 sets,” I heard Alex shout from the other room. He shouldn’t be able to hear me through the door.
I opened the door and of course, there was Alex.
“I told you to go,” I said to him.
“I have nothing else to do. There has to be something else for me to do here, anything” he begged.
Suddenly an idea came to me. Alan desperately wanted to get out and Alex needed something to do, so I think I could solve both those problems.
“Go to the supply room and get a wheelchair,” I told Alex.
“It’s your lucky day Alan, you get to get out of here for a while. Have fun with Alex,” I told Alan.
“Wait, what’s happening?” Alex asked.
“We’re gonna get Alan into the wheelchair then you’re taking him around to show him everything.”
By the time they got back, Alex didn't want me to make him do anything else and Alan fell asleep almost right away because of his concussion.
"That was fun for you, wasn't it?" Alex asked me.
"You wanted something to do so I gave you something to do."
"But you knew he would annoy me, didn't you?"
"What do you mean? You didn't find his constant questions entertaining?" I asked innocently.
"Goodnight, Cee," he said then walked out of the infirmary for the night.
I went back to my apartment after my shift ready to shower then crawl into bed. Instead, I found a notebook on my bed with a list made in Alex’s handwriting. I showered quickly then went up to Alex’s apartment to talk to him about whatever the list was for.
“You better not be doing anything that could hurt your hand more,” I said when I walked in on him working out and doing stuff that could definitely hurt his hand.
“What makes you think I would ever do something like that?” he asked.
“Well, you wrote out a list for me so I assume you’re using your hand a lot.”
“I expected you to take a little longer to pack.”
“Pack for what?” I asked.
“You didn’t figure it out?” he asked like it was supposed to be obvious.
“I’m supposed to be able to figure out what a list you left on my bed means?”
“Did you look at it?”
“No,” I said a bit embarrassed. Reading the list is the most obvious thing to do and I hadn’t done it yet.
“Read the list and see if you can figure it out. I’m going to go shower.”
I looked down and started reading.
- 3 shirts
- 3 pants
- 3 pairs of socks
- 3 pairs of pajamas
- However much soap you use
“Well, there isn’t much on here for me to go off of,” I shouted to him through his bathroom door.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious that I’m taking you somewhere that you need to pack for,” He was still fully clothed so he came out of the bathroom to talk to me.
“But I have daily shifts in the infirmary,” I protested.
“Don’t worry, my mom worked everything out. The infirmary is in good hands.”
“But what if Gracie needs me at some point.”
“She’ll be fine. Everything’s all planned out and I probably forgot something on that list so just pack what you need to go away for 3 days,” he reassured me.
“Why did you plan this?”
“Don’t worry about why, just go get packed. Come back up here when you’re ready.”
“Fine, but if something happens while I’m not here I’m blaming you.”
“I’m fine with that. Come find me when you’re ready to go,” he said one last time before he went back into the bathroom.
I went back to my apartment to get ready for Alex’s secret get away. I didn’t know where we were going so I didn’t really know what to pack, but it isn’t like I had many options. I had a weekly supply of undergarments, shirts, pants, and a few of Alex’s old sweatshirts that he had grown out of. I grabbed enough clothes for three days and went to my bathroom for soap. I went around my apartment thinking of anything else I would need then went up to Alex’s apartment.
The journey to Alex’s apartment is a bit annoying. I have to go to the other side of the floor to get to the elevator or stairs, go up a few floors, then walk across his floor to get to his apartment.
“So, are you ready to take me to the mystery location where you hopefully aren’t killing me?” I asked him when I walked into his apartment.
“I would never kill you,” he scoffed.
“Really? I’m not too sure I would be able to say the same for you.”
“Oh, please, you love me too much to kill me.”
“Maybe, but no matter what I’ll always be willing to beat your ass,” I told him.
“I haven’t annoyed you to the point of you hurting me since we were 10.”
“If you weren’t injured, I would’ve definitely punched you last week.”
“What’d I do?” he asked confusedly.
“You were stupid enough to get injured.”
“Whatever, let’s go,” he said as he rolled his eyes.
We made a short stop in the kitchen to steal some snacks before Alex led us out of the compound and to the train station in the city. We waited for about 10 minutes before we boarded an empty train that Alex told me would take us out of the city.
“You know, this is my first time this far from the compound in 9 years,” I told him after about half an hour on the train.
“It’s not that ridiculous. You’ve gone places with your mom, but in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t exactly have a mom to travel around with.”
“Well, you’ve never really told me about your mom. I just know that you and Gracie were put in the compound when you were 7 and she was 3.”
“I don’t want to talk about my mom,” I said coldly.
“How about why you and Gracie were put in the compound when you were so young?”
I couldn’t really blame Alex for being curious when I had known him for so long and never told him anything about my life before the compound, but that just meant that he knew I didn’t want to talk about it. I had told him some things because of my nightmares, but I never told him anything unless I needed to.
“You should know the answer to that one. No one wanted us and the social workers had to move on to other cases. They spent a long time with my family and got 5 of the 7 children into homes. I think they did pretty well. Gracie and I were just the ones that no one wanted,” I told him dismissively.
“Wait, you have 6 siblings?”
“7 actually. One had already aged out when we were taken.”
“Do you know what happened to them?” he asked.
“No. I haven’t seen or heard from any of them which I think is a good thing actually.”
“How’s it a good thing?”
“If I had seen them at the compound it means that they were put with a family that they couldn’t live with. They might’ve had to go through more when they were supposed to be somewhere safe,” I explained.
“Do you ever think about them?”
“Why are we even talking about them?” I really wanted to talk about anything other than my siblings that I hadn’t seen or talked to in 9 years.
“Because I’ve known you for 9 years and this is the first time I’m hearing about them.”
“Well then maybe we should find something else to talk about. How long is the train ride to wherever we’re going?” I asked.
“A few hours.”
“Then I’m taking a nap,” I told him.
Unfortunately, my only options for a pillow was the train window I was sitting next to or Alex. I chose Alex.
“Cee. Cee, wake up,” Alex was saying to me a few hours later. We had clearly gone pretty far since there were a few inches of snow on the ground and it was still coming down.
“Where are we?”
“Somewhere in the northern United States, I don’t really know for sure.”
“You don’t know where we are?”
“I come here for a weekend with my mom every year but she’s busy and we already had it booked so she told me I could go alone but the room is for two so I talked her into letting you come with me,” he explained.
“So you basically kidnapped me so that I could replace your mom?”
“No, that’s not what I said at all.”
“Are you sure?”
“Shut up and grab your bag.”
“I thought you were being nice to me this weekend?’ I teased. Clearly Alex was too tired to joke around with me.
“I’m being very nice to you. I haven’t yelled at you yet.”
“So, I do get on your nerves.”
“Yes, I never said you didn’t. I said that I’ve never wanted to kill you.”
“Hopefully that doesn’t change by the end of this weekend.”
“I highly doubt it will,” he said then helped me off the train and to the hotel shuttle that would take us from the train station to the hotel.
I didn’t know when the next time I would be out of the compound would be, so I tried to pay attention to everything on the ride there. It was actually very beautiful. The snow was still coming down on bare trees and full evergreen trees. There were also hills covered in undisturbed snow. Even though it was snowing, I could see the stars in the sky. The entire ride was so beautiful that I almost forgot about the grumpy Alex beside me. Instead of staring at everything we were passing in awe like I was, he started to fall asleep.
When we got to the hotel we got out of the shuttle and I remembered that even though snow is beautiful, it’s also very cold. Alex and I rushed to check in as quickly as we could.
Let me start by saying that Alex and I have been each other’s only friend for about 10 years and over that course of time we’ve gotten close to the point where people can’t tell if we’re dating or siblings, and sometimes I can’t tell if he thinks of me as his sister or his girlfriend. I'm perfectly fine with all of that since I don’t know if I see him more as my brother or someone I might want to date.
Anyway, it was around midnight since we didn’t leave until around nine o'clock so the only thing either of us wanted to do was sleep, even though I had slept for most of the ride here, wherever here is. Once again, we’re super close, so sharing a bed didn’t bother either of us. It was actually kinda nice since I usually had nightmares. It was nice to have someone there when I woke up and needed to calm down.
We woke up in the morning to a lot more snow and empty stomachs. We were staying at a private room in a building that had a skywalk to the main building that was serving breakfast, which I would’ve been ready for if Alex hadn’t been getting in my way to annoy me.
“You’re aware that I can hurt you easily, right?” I told him after he had hidden my toothpaste.
He had also stolen my hairbrush and hidden my shoes.
“You wouldn’t dare, you love me too much to purposely hurt me.”
“Bet,” I said then punched him in the stomach as hard as I could.
He coughed for a few minutes while I laughed at him and brushed my teeth. He was still glaring at me when I was getting my shoes on and we started walking to get some food.
“Alex, I heard your mom couldn’t be here this year. Is she doing ok?” Someone we saw in the hallway stopped and said to Alex and me.
“Yeah, she’s between assistants right now and a bit overworked so she didn’t feel like she could justify taking a weekend away, no matter how important the event is,” Alex told the mystery man.
“Oh, how rude of me, I’m Michael, director of the first compound of District 1,” The man said when he noticed me.
“Cee,” I said, introducing myself to Michael.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night, Alex. You two have fun and make sure to take the trails. They’re beautiful right after it snows,” Michael turned and walked away.
Alex started walking but I quickly stopped him. He didn’t really expect me to not have questions, did he? What’s the director of another compound doing here? And why was he asking about Alex’s mom?
“Alex, what was he talking about?” I asked.
“I’ll explain it to you later but I’m guessing there are going to be more at the breakfast area so if any of them ask why I brought you just tell them you’re my date for tomorrow and you can tell them you’re the head nurse of compound 3 in district 2, but make sure they know you’re with me,” he told me.
“Alex, please, what’s going on? Who are you talking about?”
“Once a year the leaders of the compounds and their kids meet to talk about how things are going and see if we can help each other. My mom is dealing with other stuff this year so she had to send me but I got her to agree that I could bring you. It doesn’t happen very often but occasionally the leaders aren’t able to make it so they send their kids in their place. No one knows this meeting exists and we would probably get in a lot of trouble for it if the political leaders found out that we don’t all hate each other,” he explained.
“So basically, you kidnapped me for a weekend but didn’t tell me that we would be going to a secret illegal meeting,” I summarized.
“Pretty much, now can we go get some food?”
We didn’t have to walk much farther and Alex was definitely right when he said that there would be more leaders here. I found out that each section of the city had between three and five compounds. Alex knew almost everyone and I had no problem with just standing next to him while most of them ignored me. I was still trying to figure out why this meeting was such a big secret.
Alex and I ate breakfast then instead of going back to our room where we had nothing to do, we rented some skis and snow gear to explore the trails like Michael suggested. He was right about it being beautiful right after it snows.
I'd never seen anything like the trails. The way the snow glittered on the bare trees and in front of us. We were the first ones of the day to use the trails.
"Alex, look," I said and pointed to a rabbit in the snow.
We never saw stuff like this in the city.
"Yeah, they're all around but usually they don't come by people."
The trails were mostly flat but there were a few parts that we had to take a lift to the next section of the trail. One of them was long enough that I was able to ask Alex more questions since it was just me and him sitting together.
“Why is it so bad that you’re all meeting? Aren’t you allowed to communicate with other compounds?” I asked.
“If it’s a compound within our own district then it’s fine, but between districts, the talking is strictly about setting up fights. When we meet here, we can talk about anything without it being monitored.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is that a lot of people are unhappy with how everything is set up right now and want something to change. Every year the talk gets more and more serious, and with what my mom’s doing, I think this year it’s really important that the conversation isn’t monitored.”
Is he talking about a revolution? The public would never support it and the government could strike it down easily. There’s no way there can be a revolution. It’s impossible. But I didn’t tell Alex any of that.
“You’re still not making any sense,” I told him.
“Look, Cecelia, the fighters talk a lot too. Haven’t you noticed that a lot of injuries are a bit more serious than just regular fighting injuries?”
I have noticed that there’s a lot more concussions, stitches, and broken bones than normal. Of course, they would happen anyway, but they’re a lot more serious and frequent than they were before.
“I guess, I thought it was just because I’m in the infirmary more,” I told him.
“No, it’s because we’ve been getting ready, and from what I’ve heard from other compounds, so have they. Cee, if something happens, I need you to promise that you’ll be by my side helping. I know you hate fighting, but please. If things escalate, I don’t want to constantly be worrying about whether or not you’re ok,” he said as we got to the top of the ski lift.
I was prepared for him to be quiet since there were a few people around us, but he pulled me aside so that I could answer him.
“If something happens, I won’t leave your side. I promise,” I told him.
He was satisfied after that so we went back to exploring the trails. We spent most of the day on the different trails then went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. We went back to our room and found a movie to watch after we had both showered.
We were sitting on the couch watching the movie, but I wasn’t really watching it. I couldn’t focus on the movie, my brain kept drifting to the questions I still had.
“Do you mind if I ask a few more questions?” I asked Alex about halfway through the movie.
“I don’t know if I can answer all of them but go for it.”
“Why do people want a revolution?” I asked.
He took a few seconds to think then said “I think everyone has their own reasons. Some people might be tired of fighting for people they don’t agree with or being forced to fight. I only started supporting it recently but some people have wanted it for years and for a lot of different reasons.”
“Why do you support it?”
“There were some documents released that got a lot of people upset,” he said dismissively.
“That’s very vague.”
“I don’t think you want the details.”
“I don’t think you can make that decision for me.”
Alex knew I hated people telling me what I think and deciding what's best for me. I hated being told what to believe and what I had to do. I needed to make the choices for myself which couldn't happen if people weren't honest. Alex had been my friend for years so I knew whatever he wasn't telling me was important. He knew it would make me upset and was trying to prevent that.
“As the person who knows you better than anyone else, I think I have pretty good judgment when I say that you don’t want to know the details.”
We were both starting to get upset with each other. It’s pretty obvious why I was getting upset, he says he’s the person that knows me better than anyone else yet won’t tell me, but I had no clue why he was getting upset.
“Alex, just tell me,” I begged.
“Why are you so hellbent on me telling you?”
“Why are you so hellbent on not telling me?”
“Will you tell me now?”
“Are you going to keep bugging me until I do?”
“Or maybe not talk to you depending on how long I have to bug you to tell me,” I told him.
“We’re sharing a room and you’re my date for tomorrow night, do you really think you could not talk to me?”
“I just have to follow your lead since you’re not telling me so many things.”
“That was uncalled for.”
He was starting to get pissed off. I don’t know why, but it only made me keep ignoring him.
“Not talking to me won’t give you the information,” he told me.
“It will actually.”
“You’ll feel guilty and tell me and probably not get whatever reaction you’re afraid of.”
“I doubt that.”
Obviously, I had to prove him wrong, so I ignored him. It didn’t take him long to realize what I was doing and I guess he thought that if he annoyed me then I would eventually talk to him again. He was very wrong. Instead of talking to him I started punching him lightly. This is one of those situations where we quickly go from a meaningful conversation to a sibling type situation. Instead of ignoring me or punching me back, he started tickling me.
“Stop, stop, stop. Please, stop,” I begged Alex.
“Will you talk to me again?”
“Will you tell me whatever it is you’re keeping from me?”
“No. I told you that I can’t answer all your questions and this is something I can’t tell you.”
“Not being able to answer all my questions implies that you don’t know that answer to it. Choosing not to tell me something is keeping something from me and we don’t keep stuff from each other.”
“But we do keep stuff from each other!” he yelled.
“You never tell me about what happened before you came to the compound and I’m not telling you what the documents were about.”
“Alex, those are two extremely different things. Me not telling you why I was taken from everyone but my little sister and you not telling me what was in a document that was released are two completely different things.”
“Ok, maybe it was uncalled for of me to say that, but I’m still not telling you.”
“Because after I found out about it I was willing to support a revolution. I know you better than anyone else and I know that this is going to be personal for you and I just don’t want to hurt you,” he explained.
“So you think keeping it from me is a better option?”
“I think I never should’ve mentioned it.”
“Well you did, so please, tell me and if I do end up falling apart afterward, which won’t happen, you’ll be here to help me. You know better than anyone that you can’t protect me.”
“There was a document released that gave statistics about the people in the compounds. 56% of people in the compounds were either supposed to be put in homes or were put in homes then taken out because of false accusations. The person who put the document together works, or worked since he was probably fired, for social services. He put together a list of people in compounds that were supposed to be put in homes then sent it to the leaders and explained that they never were put where they should’ve been because the government leaders felt like the compounds needed more fighters and more young people being trained to fight that would grow up in it. The family that took your brother was also willing to take you and Gracie to try to keep the three of you together,” he explained to me.
“Are you ok?” Alex asked me after I had been quiet for a few minutes.
I was still processing everything Alex had just told me. Someone in social services knows what's happening and tried to stop it. People in the public would support a revolution once they find out what's happening. Mostly, I was thinking about my brothers. I don't know which brother Alex was talking about since I have 3, but only 2 of them were taken with Gracie and I. I think the family wanted to keep me and Connor together since we're twins, but I still wasn't sure. I just know that the government decided to send me to the compound instead of a possibly loving family where I could be kept with my actual family.
“Yeah, just thinking,” I told him.
“I don’t really know. Can we just go back to the movie?”
“Yeah,” but neither of us were paying attention to the movie.
I was too busy thinking and processing everything and Alex was busy watching me from the corner of his eye to make sure I was okay.