“I know.” Like that the extended quiet and peace was broken.
“It’s okay. I think I can walk now.” I looked up at Quinn’s face. His brow was knitted together over yellow eyes. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
Opening my eyes again I tugged gently on his shirt to get his attention, “Hey.” He looked down at me with gray eyes and smiled.
“Feeling better?” What the hell am I seeing here? Gray and yellow? Whatever is going on, there is no way he would hurt me. If he wanted to, he could have many times over. Right?
“Yes. I think I can walk now.”
He ignored my comment.
“You should be around here somewhere, right?” He looked around in confusion.
“Put me down and I’ll show you.”
He stopped walking, took a deep breath, and looked down.
“Look we just did something that is going to take a lot of explaining. I don’t think we need to add more by me not making sure you don’t get home safe. I promise I’m not going to try anything.”
“Hey! I didn’t think you were.” I exclaimed looking up at him. He smiled and began walking again.
“So, where are you?”
“You have passed it twice.” He turned around.
“26.” He turned around and walked back to my residence.
“Okay.” He shifted me and opened the door. Slipping inside he closed the door.
“Wait,” I exclaimed reaching for the door as it swung shut. I winced pushing my injured arm into his firm chest. He sighed and gently put me on the couch.
“You need to pay more attention to yourself, Rose.” He walked over to the small kitchen turning on a light. Quickly I got up and turned it off.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Carter. I don’t use the lights unless I have too.”
“So, what do you use? And you're going to have to stop calling me Mr. Carter.” I reached up with one hand to open the curtain.
“Electric is expensive here. I’m saving my credits. And why shouldn’t I call you Mr. Carter? It’s the appropriate title.” He chuckled.
“Did you forget so quickly. I just told a higher up that we were together.” I stopped fighting the curtain and glanced at him.
“It will go away, right? If we pretend things didn’t work out.” I resumed fighting the curtain. He sighed. Reaching above me he opened the curtains in one swift move. I looked up.
“Thank you.” Blushing I looked down. Wow, this place is a mess. Frowning I began picking up dishes and putting them in the sink.
“You’ll have to forgive the mess. I don’t have people over…… often.” I frowned. If he knows he is the first one his head will grow big.
“Don’t worry your place is clean compared to some of the places I’ve been. Now go sit down.” He took a dish out of my hand.
“No. I should offer you something to drink.” I shifted getting a clean cup out of the cabinet. He took the cup from me, sighing.
“Go sit down willingly or I’ll make it an order from a supervisor.” I frowned at him and placed my hand on my hip.
“We’re off the clock. That doesn’t work out here.” He sighed nodding his head.
“Rose, please. We need to talk.” He said turning around, scanning his band, and filling the cup. I frowned as I watched him. What the hell is he thinking about? Well, only one way to know. Sighing, I turned around and set down on the couch. Reaching down I took my shoes off. Smiling to myself I stretched out my toes. Barefooted is so much better than shoes.
“So,” I flinched and looked up as Quinn’s voice interrupts my thoughts. How the hell did I forget he was here?
“Are you ready for this?” He asked sliding the cup to me. I frowned at it. Then looked up at him.
“Ready for what?”
“We need to come up with answers. A backstory. We are going to get called in and it's not going to go away.”
I groaned. “I’m tired. Can we do it tomorrow?”
“Yeah. I’ll stay right here, and we will talk when you first wake.” He started to stretch.
“Are you nuts? You can’t stay here! This is a singles residential home, not a couples.” I stood up and grabbed his covered arm and pulled, “You have to go.”
“Do you honestly think you can force me out?”
I stared at him in exasperation. Dropping his arm. I turned around muttering to myself. I had to find a way for him to get out. I had to be really tired to see what I have been seeing.
“Fine,” I said sitting down, “What do we do?”
“You wanna talk now?” he asked grinning, “I thought you were tired.”
“Quinn,” I paused for a minute how weird it felt to say his first name out loud, “if talking now means you go to your residence and people don’t think we slept together. Then I am all ears.”
“OH,” he smiled leaning back and stretching his legs out, “I’m not leaving. I have to make sure my match doesn’t need my help recovering. Hey, why do you have nothing in here but books?”
I ignored his question, “No. No. No. You can not stay here. We have been fighting and I made you leave. There covered. Next?”
“You do know we need to know more about each other.”
“Like why don’t you have anything other than books from the library in your residence? Why haven’t you chosen a match?” He sat up. “You do know they will force one on you if you don’t choose right?”
My jaw dropped. Force one? What the hell does that mean? I don’t want anything, or anyone forced on me!
He smiled sadly.
“You didn’t know. So, you were planning on staying single,” He said in a soft voice and looked down in thought. I watched him. Are his eyes yellow now? I chewed on my lip. Why did they turn yellow? Wait, wasn’t I just saying I was seeing things? But that was twice now, and, on the street, it wasn’t a flash and there was no light to mess with it. So, what I saw was true, right?
“So, we will start there.” I jumped as his voice cut off my thoughts. I looked at him. Gray eyes.
“Are you alright?” he asked standing up and gesturing, “Come, sit down, please. I’ll stand over there.”
I blinked, “No, it's alright. I was just thinking. Sorry.”
Quickly, I sat down. Reaching for the water, I gasped. Damn! I forgot about that. I slowly flexed my elbow. The swelling had gone down. Guess that doctor was over exaggerating.
“How’s the elbow?” Quinn sat on the center table and reached for my arm I started to pull back until I realized he had covered his hands again. I looked at him.
“How did you know?” I asked as he looked my arm over.
He stopped and looked at me, “Know what?”
“Your hands they’re covered. How did you know?”
“I told you. I like you. So, I watched, and I saw a pattern.” He gently examined my elbow while pulling out the ice pack that I had dropped at some point. Carefully, he put it back on, “You got very tense and uncomfortable when people touched, which wasn’t very often. But when you receive bare skin contact you get dizzy or sick,” he looked up at me and whispered, “why?”
“I –” I cleared my throat and reached over him for the glass of water. Picking it up I raised it to my mouth and stopped. Quinn sat back watching me. Didn’t one of the books say something about drugs in drinks? Slowly, I sat the cup back down without taking a drink. Quinn reached forward and grabbed the cup before it hit the table. Turning so I could see he took a large gulp of water and handed the cup back. I looked up at him in surprise.
“Those drugs you read about. The knowledge for them is currently lost. At least the knowledge is lost to those in this compound.”
I looked down in the cup of water and quickly took a drink. Geez, I hope I wouldn’t regret that later. I cleared my throat again, “You said ‘we will start there’ start where?”
“You not knowing. You got moved from the transition unit to this residence about 2 years ago. It makes sense that you didn’t know about the rules. I noticed you because of your dark brown hair on your first day. Hair like yours isn’t common in any of the compounds. Ever since then I have been trying to get you to go out for drinks. After repeated turn downs I decided to look at your file. See if there was something I missed. Finding out you were pretty much new to the area plus the turn downs to not only me, but many others made me curious if you knew the rules. They don’t exactly have a tutorial for people that come from the outside. So, I asked you. You said you didn’t know, and I offered to help you learn the other rules missed and you said yes. The relationship grew from there. As for hiding it. We weren’t hiding the relationship. We were hiding me teaching you for fear of people getting the wrong idea. It was just recently that you agreed to try a relationship with me and we haven’t had a chance to fill out the paperwork. Tah-Dah!” He leaned back proud of himself.
I nodded my head and looked at the ground thinking.
“Seems pretty simple.” I looked back at him. “Am I missing any more rules? How do they choose a mate? I mean it ridiculous enough that they insist that each woman have at least one kid to keep up the numbers. They don’t want numbers. They want soldiers to go to the front lines and die. Just so they can continue this dictated, rationed society that no one is supposed to be able to leave…” I froze looking at this man that I just rambled at. I dropped my hand that I had been gesturing with as he stared at me.
I looked down. That’s it. I’m done. You’re not supposed to oppose the system. All I wanted to do was save the credits and buy my way out of this place. I know these places are supposed to keep the human race alive but I would rather take my chance out there where I don’t have to yield to everyone or worry for my life.
“So, for your first question. I don’t know what rules you may be missing,” Quinn said. I looked up at Quinn. He was calm leaning forward with his hands clasped and his elbows on his knees appearing to not have heard what was said. There was no way he didn’t hear me, “I need to find out what you know. The second question is a little more difficult.” I leaned back a little. The proximity between me sitting on the couch and him on the center table was a little overwhelming. “It’s a kind of…” Quinn paused “…lottery. When a woman hits a certain age, a man is randomly selected. Then the enforcers make sure they move into a couple’s residence together and stays there. There was a case right before you got here where a woman kept trying to leave the guy that got selected for her. They executed her for defying a direct order.”
“What’s the age?” My voice came out a whisper.
“There isn’t a set one. There are factors that they use to determine if a woman needs a helping hand.” He looked angry for a moment. He was hiding something as well. I looked down at his hands. Slowly, I reached out and placed my fingertips on the back of his hands. I took a deep breath as his unique waves gently slid up my arm stopping at the injury. I looked up at him. I found him watching me. I swallowed.
“I can’t—” I looked back down at my fingertips that were skimming his skin then back at him, “We can help each other by doing this.”
A smile stretched across his face, “And what exactly would we be helping each other with?”
I didn’t look away, “With what each of us is hiding.”
I watched as his smile fell and his jaw clenched. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so safe. Quickly, I drew back as he stood up and started closing the curtains. Shooting up, I bolted toward the door. Just as I got to the door a blanket wrapped around me protecting me from contact with Quinn’s arms that joined the blanket. I opened my mouth to scream. Quinn’s hand covered with my blanket clamped down over my mouth. I tried biting him through the blanket as I wiggled trying to escape. He tightened his grip around my waist.