I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of Abbie’s crying. I sat up and she crawled into my arms and laid her head against my chest. I clutched her close to me as she whimpered quietly. I quietly stroked her hair and moved it out of her face. My chest felt like it was going to explode with the pain I felt for her. I hated seeing Abbie in such a state...if only we could be normal people living normal lives. But that would never be, Abbie had suffered far too much to be able to heal without any kind of scar. I held her close to me, as if somehow my embrace could protect her from all the offending emotions on the inside and all the people on the out.
After a while Abbie drifted back into a sleep. A happier sleep by the feel of it because she nuzzled her head against my chest and sighed happily. I leaned my cheek against her head and closed my eyes. I was starting to get very used to sleeping in this position…should I be disturbed? …Nah, I quite like it actually.
I woke up in the morning with Abbie still curled up and sleeping happily against me. I began to stroke her hair thoughtfully, they were probably still going to send me out there…and there was no way that I was letting them have Abbie, even for just a little bit. She would freak out, and who knows what they might do to her. I would have to keep her with me and guard her. Yes, when they gave her her gun, she could just give it to me and I could do the shooting for both of us. I didn’t like causing so much damage to people either. Paintball is one thing; it barely hurts until afterward…this on the other hand broke people’s ribs. I grimaced and held Abbie tighter against me…for Abbie; I would keep it up for Abbie. I planted a soft kiss on her forehead and she smiled softly in her sleep.
The door to the chamber we had been put in was opened and a small man flanked by two guards came in. “You two have been chosen as the contestants to represent your new master in the coming tournament. You will please get up and follow me now,” informed me with a heavy Chinese accent.
I nodded and gently shook Abbie awake. She woke up immediately and pressed herself against me tightly. It was amazing how quickly her reaction had changed. A few days ago she would have tensed up for a second before taking in her situation and relaxing against me. Now she immediately pressed herself against me for protection.
I gave her a gentle squeeze. “It’s ok, we need to go follow this man now,” I told her.
Abbie relaxed and got up with me. She remained pressed up against me as we were led down the hall into a room. We were handed our breakfast, two fresh rolls with a small amount of honey on top each, and told to eat as we moved. We were taken out onto the field and our training began. We had to run around the field so many times that I felt I couldn’t run another step. Abbie collapsed on the floor of the arena and I decided that maybe I could run just a little farther. I ran to her and helped her up.
“I…can’t…do it…Zach,” she said between huge gulps of air, “I…can’t run…any…farther.”
“Come on Abbie…the man told us we only need to do one more lap...” I urged her breathlessly. I gave her a little bit of water. She nodded and got up. We made our way around the arena once more before we both collapsed in a heap in front of our instructor.
“Good,” he said. Then he handed us both guns and pointed at targets. “Shoot them.”
Abbie tensed up as we both stood again. “It’s ok Abbie, they’re just targets, not people, they don’t feel pain,” I whispered to her.
She nodded but didn’t look very assured. “Abbie, when it comes to shooting real people in the arena, I promise that I’ll do it, but you have to as the man says right now, please.” Abbie nodded again. “That’s my brave girl,” I told her proudly and lifted my hand to stroke her cheek. She smiled and brightened up a little bit.
At lunch the instructor pronounced us fit enough to participate in “The Games” and we were put in yet another moving van. This time though we were given a bowl of rice mixed with a little bit of pork to eat along the way. When we had finished Abbie curled up against my chest and I hugged her to me. “I was proud of you today,” I told her and emphasized it with a kiss on her forehead.
Abbie blushed and tucked her head deeper into my chest. “Thanks.”
I smiled as I began to slowly stroke her hair and hum a lullaby mother had always sung to me when I had been little. Before long, Abbie was asleep once again in my arms, and I was almost to the point of falling asleep as well. I decided I might as well give in and closed my eyes to let the blackness of sleep take me.