The air tastes sweeter after days cooped up in a laboratory. Taking a deep breath, I hurry away from the doors and windows of the building, just so I'm not caught by the instructors for taking a break.
The professors have suddenly become extremely strict and relentless, more than their usual tolerable level. They're more snappish, and strangely, they've been attempting to segregate everyone to their individual PH lecture rooms. I haven't seen Wolfe this week, or been able to squeeze in a piano lesson.
Sprinting, I duck behind one of the oaks on the courtyard, leaning back into the bark to breathe. Peeking over my shoulder at the Science building, I catch Professor Rougeau making his daily sweep of the halls through the second story window. He doesn't seem to have seen me, so when he disappears I scan the courtyard for anyone else that may have seen me, and I'm pleasantly surprised.
Salvador? What's Salvador doing by the fences? The fences are never ventured, I mean, why would they be?
Anyways, so this is where he's been hiding. The gossip, of those I've caught through chance encounters with the others in the halls and through my bedroom door, is that he's fighting the professors and not showing up to his lectures or appointments. With a quick check, I take bounding strides towards him, aiming for the bushes he has half hidden himself in.
He snaps his neck to watch me make the last couple of steps toward him and I'm still spooked by his appearance. His face is extremely pale, and his black eye has been overshadowed by the hollows, deepening his eye sockets. His hair and clothes look unwashed and disheveled like he hasn't slept in days.
"Marie, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in lecture?"
His voice is not familiar; dull and cold.
"I-uh, I was taking a break, and then I saw you here," I explain, feeling small under his stare.
My heart lurches when his arm swoops down onto me, pulling me into him and down into the nearby bushes. "Ssh," he whispers, but I can't see what he's watching through the thick leaves. "I was inspecting the fence."
Well, of course. I can see that.
He catches me rolling my eyes. "For an escape route."
Of course, all clones have a desire to leave, I mean, there are the lucky few that do make it out.
"Do you remember Amelia? Amelia Earhart?" he asks, eyes flitting around us nervously. When I nod, he continues. "She wanted to leave, and she was always trying to find some way to escape. Remember how she finally got permission for her flight tour of the world? Remember how ecstatic she was?"
I remember. That was 8 years ago, and I was only 7. She used to steal me away from the instructors with some silly excuse and we would end up chasing each other, pretending we were planes traveling through imaginary mountain terrains and desert dunes.
"Marie, where is she now?" he interrupts.
"She's on her flight tour," I reply, but that doesn't sound right. Where are the postcards she promised? Why hasn't she called or written letters? Why hasn't she kept in contact or visited? Her room has been emptied, does she know that? None of the professors want to talk about her.
"Marie, she's gone. They got rid of her, like Martha."
It can't be true, but the words to rebuttal his statement falls empty off my lips. Amelia promised. She was so excited to see the world. But the professors had been extremely strict about her worldliness. Of her devious ways to escape the campus. Then they were all suspiciously eager to see her off on her long awaited tour.
"All of her escape routes in the fence have been sealed off and the fence is electric. I'm positive she's got some more routes from inside the building but I haven’t checked yet."
"So you have a plan?" I ask quietly and I'm surprised by my interest. Goose bumps prickle up my arms at the notion that something crucial has just been initiated.
"All I know is I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to go see where Amelia dreamed, and what Martha told us was out there. I'm going to live for myself."
I have to look away at the far off look on his face, suddenly overcome with a worry that what he's doing is wrong.
Chewing my lip as I pull away from him to head back to my lab, I have to worry why I'm overcome with the desire to follow him.