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Memoirs From the End of the World
When RC stretched out, her feet touched one wall while her hands touched another. They’d been tossed into a modestly sized closet.
Then she remembered her backpack filled with foraged food, first aid supplies, and Romero. They’d surely be able to survive if their captors stole their food, but if they read Romero . . . RC couldn’t remember for certain if her diary entries would give away an exact location for their house, but the possibility was horrifying. She could only hope none of the goons liked to read.
“This is great,” she mumbled to herself.
“Try not to panic,” Alyx said in a soothing whisper. “We’re still alive. That’s worth something.”
This much was true, but she had her doubts about how long that would continue to be the case. “I was hoping you had a plan,” RC said. She was searching for something, anything to keep a flame of hope flickering.
“My plan hinged on not being locked in a closet,” Alyx replied. His voice betrayed regret. He clearly felt bad about this turn of events.
She wished she could offer him a smile, but there in the dark, such gestures would be pointless. After a moment of thought, she reached out. Though they were wedged tightly together, it took a moment of searching before she found his face. Resting her palm against his cheek, she tried to speak with the confidence she only wished she felt. “We’ll figure this out together. I promise.”
“I should have been able to get us out of this,” he mumbled. “What good am I to you if I can’t even keep you safe? And with Ollie sick, the others need us. If we don’t make it back, I’ve failed them too.”
RC might have been able to write that off as an understandable level of despair given their current predicament. It couldn’t be easy for him knowing that his actions could determine her fate as well as his. Yet, she sensed something that went far deeper. “You were brave out there. You tackled that jerk even though he’s twice your size, and you actually knocked him down. Not to mention that you’ve faced plenty of other dangerous situations, and you keep making it out again. That’s worth a lot. Why do you expect so much more of yourself than anyone else would?”
Alyx covered her hand with his. “The same reason why Ollie said I wasn’t man enough for any woman. If I can’t be enough on my own, I have to be even more in every other way. If I can’t do that, I’ll never be able to have any of the things I want from life.” His voice trembled as he spoke, and she knew he was on the brink of saying something that terrified him.
“If this is about you being sterile, a lot of women could deal with that.”
He sighed. “It’s more than that.”
Her heart jumped as she absorbed his apprehension. “How much more?”
“Alyx, you can trust me,” RC insisted.
He leaned his forehead against hers. “I know I can. It’s just difficult to talk about certain things.”
RC wished she could see his face. She wanted to read his feelings from the way he looked at her. As it was, she’d have to rely solely on nonvisual cues. Knowing he could only read her in the same way, she stroked his hair. “Take your time.”
Alyx nodded, as if giving himself permission to move forward. “I was born different. When my biological mother was pregnant with me, my body got confused. At least, that’s the best way I can think of to explain it. I’m male, but that part of my anatomy didn’t develop the way it should have. I went partway in between, mostly one way, but not completely. That’s why Ollie said I’m not man enough.”
She opened her mouth to respond, then closed it again when the words didn’t come. She needed to know more about the implications, though it felt awkward to ask. “Does that mean you can’t . . . at all?”
Wow, you can’t even say the word aloud, you dork, she chastised.
“What I do have is functional,” Alyx said hurriedly. “I just don’t look like most guys, and I can’t have kids. I . . . uh . . .” Then he pulled away from her. “This is so embarrassing. There’s a reason I don’t tell people.”
Though she couldn’t help wondering exactly what was different about him, hearing the pain in his voice forced her to focus on what was actually important. “If you’re ever going to be with anyone, you have to.”
“I know that.”
She wondered if she should even ask the question, but in the end, it nagged her too much not to ask it. “Is that why you walked away after we kissed?”
“Yes. Rose, you’re amazing. I like everything about you, but I was scared. My biological parents weren’t sure if they wanted me, and they didn’t want a child with any problems, so that’s what helped them decide to give me up. If they couldn’t take it, how would anyone else?”
So he did care about her. Right there, huddled beside him in that closet, she realized that was the only detail that mattered. They’d figure out everything else out later. Finding his face again with her hands, she pulled herself to him and pressed her lips to his. A feeling blossomed in her chest as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. This time, he didn’t pull away. He didn’t hesitate.
There, in the dark, they found comfort in one another. RC fell asleep in his arms, happy that at least one thing in life was still good.
Hours later, Alyx and RC woke to the sound of the door opening.
A bruised and bloody Isabel stood over them with coats in hand. “Come on,” she whispered. “We’re getting out of here.”
Go to Entry #21
Go to Entry #21