"You saw what?"
Myah sighed and looked like she was about to repeat herself but I raised a hand to stop her.
"Once is enough. Sorry Nix, but the last thing we need is to have someone walking by hear this."
Lisette looked shocked. I wondered briefly if it was true or feigned.
She was too chummy with Sandra and Sandra was way too chummy with Wiseacre. Our little secret circle had only been home to her for a short while, and I didn't even remember why she joined it.
Maybe I was being paranoid, but I smelled a rat. Lisette was nothing like Bruno and I wouldn't put much past her.
More likely that she thought of this as some kind of whimsical adventure she could use to try and weasel into our clique. I hated to be the one to point out reality, but she hadn't seen anything of what was really going on.
But now it was much too late and kicking her rudely out of the information loop might make her go running to Wiseacre in retaliation.
Honestly, as if things couldn't get more complicated.
"Let's end the conversation right here," I said under my breath, trying to refrain from grinding my teeth, "And as of now, it never happened. That means don't tell anybody about it for God's sake."
Lisette seemed to pick up on my agitation and looked somewhat hurt. In that moment I saw Bruno's sincerity in her and my fears started to dissolve.
My eyes literally shot daggers at anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path and I stalked off, taking a few seconds to revert my posture to normal and assume a bored face.
I wish I had the nerve to go back and apologize, but my pride was already suffering too much for me to do that. Later, if I was still alive to do it.
After I had cooled down a bit I resolved to tell Eli absolutely everything, tell him to get the hell out of Wiseacre's sick parade. I couldn't stand hiding this from him anymore, damn it.
I jogged and then started to run, the sensation of being followed invading my senses.
It was dark, and the buses were just about to leave, but Eli hadn't been in the parking lot. Using the process of elimination I could guess he was in the practice tent, doing what I didn't know. It was on the other side of the grounds, though, and I didn't have the sense to tell him afterwards.
The need for secrecy was finally overcome by panic, and I constantly glanced behind me with my eyes widened to the size of saucers.
My breaths were ragged now, strange visions of Jackson Lee and Wiseacre's faces appearing wherever I turned.
There was nobody around to see me, but it was too dark to tell, really. Every shadow became a burly Wiseacre crony, every piece of light seemed to be seeking me out accusingly.
And then I ran into something, someONE, and my adrenaline kicked into overdrive.
The past few nights of sleeping pill sleeps and days of mad freakishness were taking their toll. I had already tackled the form in front of me to the ground with a battle cry, pinning their muscled limbs to the ground and gripping their neck in my hands, before I recognized the protesting voice
I scuttled back in shock, hundreds of apologies falling from my mouth subconsciously. My own thoughts were starting to disturb me. What if I had hurt him seriously? What if I had killed him?
My legs didn't want to help me stand. Bruno had gotten to his feet and was looking down at me with a concerned expression. He held out a hand to help me up and the gesture made me snap.
For the first time in a long time, I buried my head in my hands and sobbed, splayed out onto the pavement, hair scattered everywhere and a cut along my cheek starting to trickle warm blood.
Within seconds Bruno had knelt down beside me and gently cradled my form to him, murmuring reassurances into my ear. My forehead rested on his leather-covered shoulder a moment before I regained some control.
I moved my hands from my face and looked into his friendly chocolate eyes with a sigh.
"You probably think I'm crazy right now, but it's a long, long story."
Bruno wiped my tears away and gave a small smile.
"I have all the time to listen."
And so, without bothering to take a breath, I told him everything, too out of my right mind to realize that I was putting him in danger or to care.
"I'm scared, Bruno. He's going to kill us all, I know it."
He shook his head and looked at me with a fierce protectiveness.
"So long as I'm here, I won't let that monster touch you."
I chuckled and brushed my hair from my face, an eyebrow raised teasingly.
"You do realize that you're offering to protect someone who can do a good three hundred pushups on one arm before getting tired, right? And that's after a hundred mid-air pull-ups. Wiseacre can get ahold of anyone he chooses by sheer numbers."
Bruno chuckled too, dimples becoming apparent in both sides of his face.
"Don't forget that I can breathe fire, Camille. I might not have a trapezer's body but I do have a fire-twirler's brain."
I scoffed loudly and started to tie my hair with a band from around my hand.
"Are you saying I'm some kind of birdbrain?"
"Well," he retorted mischievously, "Birds do fly, and so do you."
He paused, looking at me with my hand still fixing a ponytail, and sat down, crossing his legs.
"You shouldn't stay here, Camille."
"That would be giving up," I replied simply, "And I couldn't stand to give up to Wiseacre."
Bruno sighed and stood up.
"Well, at least leave this empty circus and get back to your train car. You clearly need some sleep."
I got up, brushed myself off, and walked with Bruno to the curb, where we managed to hail a taxi to get us to the train station. It was likely that I'd just missed Eli, that he'd boarded a bus before I caught sight of him. Man, was I becoming paranoid as anything.
"Why were you out so late?" I asked the instant I realized the oddness of it.
Bruno didn't reply. He was asleep on my shoulder.
What was even odder was that I could swear I heard other people in the dark grounds we were leaving.