I opened my mouth and closed it again, glancing around. The humans probably recorded every word we said. They might be listening now. “You’re not gone,” I said very softly.
“Levi was dead,” she continued. “Before he tried to eat Callum. He’d been dead for days. He was still walking around but there was nothing there anymore. It was just a crazy-ass shell.” She grabbed the sleeves of her shirt, pulling on them so hard I thought they might rip. “And when he went for Callum, I understood. He smells so good. Like . . .” Her face twisted, and she whispered the next words. “Like meat.”
My stomach turned and I focused on my feet, hoping she wouldn’t see my discomfort. “It’ll pass. It’s probably just—”
“I’m sorry if I attack you tonight,” she said. She shot to her feet, her fists balled at her sides, and screamed the next words to our glass wall. “BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT!”
“Ever!” I looked out the glass nervously.
“What do they care?” she spat, throwing the comforter down the bed as she crawled in. “They’ve killed me.”
“You’re still here,” I whispered.
EVER POKED A FINGER INTO HER MOUTH, SHOVING THE dangling beef in. Her cheeks bulged with food, her eyes drooping even though she had slept the whole night.
I’d ignored the One-twenties table and sat next to her as soon as I’d walked into the cafeteria at lunch and seen how high she’d piled her tray with meat.
“You all right?” Callum asked as he took a bite of his peanut-butter sandwich.
She swallowed some of her food. “I’m a crazy-ass shell.”
Callum looked at me in confusion, but I avoided his eyes and stabbed at my own lunch with my fork.
I couldn’t explain anything. Not with Officer Mayer watching my every move.
Ever gripped the table as she swallowed her last mouthful of meat. She looked up from her empty tray with wild, unseeing eyes.
Her nostrils flared as she turned to Callum, baring her teeth as she let out a low growl. She grabbed his wrist and he dropped his sandwich, his eyes wide as he looked from me to her.
“Ever,” I said, yanking her hand off his arm as she leaned down to take a bite. “Stop.”
Callum jumped back as she lunged for him again, clutching his arms to his chest protectively. I got her by the waist as she tried to launch herself across the table. She thrashed against me and I held her tight with one arm, using the other to grab my beef and shove it in her mouth.
She snapped at my fingers but inhaled it with a little sigh of relief.
“Here,” Callum said, sliding his meat across the table as well.
I shoved it past Ever’s teeth and she chewed frantically, bits falling out of her open mouth. She began snapping at Callum again when she finished.
“Ever,” I said, tightening my arm around her waist. “Please stop.”
She stilled at the sound of my quiet words in her ear. I cautiously loosened my arm and she turned, her eyes shiny with tears and worry.
“Sorry,” she whispered, scanning the mess of empty trays and bits of food on the table. She staggered to her feet and rushed out of the cafeteria, her walk wobbly and unbalanced.
Callum watched her go, and when he turned to me his eyes were big and questioning. I gave him the tiniest of shrugs, my eyes darting to the camera on the wall. He took the hint and returned his attention to his sandwich.
We headed to the gym after lunch and took our usual spot on the mat. I put my hands on my hips as I looked at him. It was time for him to be better.
“We’re staying here today until you hit me,” I announced.
“You’ve never managed to make contact. You should be able to hit me by now. We’ll stay here until you do.”
“But I . . .” A sheepish smile spread across his face and he shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t want to hit you.”
“It’s not a choice. I’m your trainer.” I frowned up at him. “Have you not been giving it your all?”
“No, I have. Mostly, anyway.”
“There’s no more mostly. We will both stand here until you’re able to hit me. And I’m not letting down my defenses.”
He looked at me warily. He didn’t believe it.
“Come on,” I said, beckoning him over.
He took a cautious step forward, his smile slipping as he raised his hands in front of his face. But he made no move toward me.
“Go ahead,” I said.
His fist swung at me, but I easily ducked it.
“What have I told you? Fast. Don’t stop with one punch. I didn’t try and hit you. What should you have done?”
“Tried to hit you again.”
“Yes. Confuse me. Surprise me. Again.”
He tossed punch after punch at me, none of them coming close to connecting. He was slow and clumsy, his feet moving one way as his arms went another. I could practically see his brain working, and I found myself avoiding punches almost as soon as he decided to throw them.
“Stop,” I said with a sigh. He dropped his arms and gave me an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry, I’m trying—”
“I know you are.”
I pushed a piece of hair behind my ear and frowned at the floor as a thought occurred to me.
“What?” Callum asked.
“Am I doing something wrong?” I asked it quietly, ashamed to let the other trainers hear. I was the best. I shouldn’t be doing anything wrong.
“You’re the only one doing it right. I’m the one who sucks.”
“I must be explaining it wrong. Or not training you right. Do you want another trainer?”
“No,” he said immediately.
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to fail because of me.”
“You know it’s not because of you,” Callum said, bringing out his big eyes again. “Please don’t give me to someone else.”
“Then tell me what I’m doing wrong.”
He hesitated. “I don’t know. There’s not something wrong, exactly. . . . It’s more like I don’t understand how I’m supposed to move so quickly. It’s like I’m trying to remember all this stuff I’m supposed to be doing and I can’t keep it all straight and my body won’t keep up with my brain. It’s sort of like when you first learn to dance and your feet are all over the place and nothing makes sense.”