Three days spent cooped up.
Three miserable days of sitting on my hands. Kickback had taken the liberty to confiscate my electronics. I had Chuan’s gift which I plowed through in one evening and television which I wasn’t the biggest fan of. Probably hardest of all was not being able to see, talk to or touch Kenzie once school was over. Chuan had apparently been suspended for a few days for disobeying Kickback’s order of not helping me.
On the third day, Kickback knocked on my door. “Can I come in?” She asked.
“Okay.” I said morosely, lowering the volume on the tv and sitting on my bed, knees glued to my chin.
She came in, wearing civilian duds.
“How are you doing?”
“Did you stay in your room as I instructed?”
“I left once to stockpile snacks because I was starving, but other than that, I stayed here.”
“Alright, I appreciate the honesty. Did you take the time to reflect on why I imposed this punishment?”
“Just in case; I’ll make myself clear.” Kickback said. “I am extremely disappointed in you Paige, you were doing well at first but over the last week, you’ve made horrendously poor decisions, you haven’t thought about the consequences of your action, you’ve avoided dealing with them and you’ve disobeyed orders during vital moments. This tells me that maybe you aren’t mature enough to be trusted with the amount of responsibility expected of a young guardian, which means I should be terminating your probation.”
I didn’t stay strong, instead I collapsed inside and started crying. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t find the words. My life was crumbling around me. I wasn’t just going to not be a guardian, I was going to spend the next two years in jail…
Kickback evidently waited for me to answer her, her eyes staying firmly set on me.
“I’m sorry…” I finally said. “I don’t want to go to jail…”
“Listen to me carefully; I’m giving you one more chance and I’m only doing it to you because of the effort you’ve put in getting yourself off the ground and that you’ve gone along with your punishment despite it relying on the honor system. But now, it’s time to grow up Paige. You’re almost fourteen and it’s time you learn responsibility or face up to your mistakes, being a guardian isn’t about fun, it’s about honoring your duties; The guardians are a military unit, you have to behave like it from now on or I’ll have to discharge you.”
“Alright, starting now your confinement is over. I want you to think about what I said and then follow it. Make me proud of you again.”
“I swear I will.”
She left and I took a few minutes to dry my tears, my eyes were still puffy when I came out of the room and into the common room. Kenzie was there, I ran toward her and hugged her so tightly I thought she would pop like a balloon.
“I take it your punishment is over?”
“Yeah, I missed you so much.”
She chuckled. “We saw each other this morning.”
“Yeah, but it’s not the same thing, we can’t do anything at school.”
“Alright, now that you’re free, what do you want to do?”
“I just want to be outside and walk, then get something cheap and greasy to eat, I’m tired of the cafeteria's health food and finally snuggle with you up all night.”
“That sounds like a plan. I know a place that's in my walking distance.” She said, going for her coat.
We went out and she guided me to a small greek family run greasy spoon in the docks where I gorged on cheeseburgers and fries along with her. We then walked a bit along the seaside. Anchorage didn’t really have a presentable shore, it was all long trecherous mudflaps but it was still a welcome change of scenery. When Kenzie got tired we sat down, legs hanging off the docks and cuddled in the mid february cold until she was ready to head home.
When we came back, Kenzie went to take a shower and I waited for her in the living room. After a few minutes, Stan walked out of his room with a towel on his shoulder.
“Hey Stan, is it safe to assume you speak Russian?”
“Kak vy dumayete?” He answered. Which I assumed to mean yes. “Why?”
“I have a favor to ask. There’s something I want to know. Do we have access to the security footage of the lower levels?”
“I do, anything specific you’re looking for?”
“Corner of C&C and prison wing entrance, during the attack.”
He opened the security panel, chose the right camera and moved it to the moment Koshei and hacker guy had met.
“What did they say?”
“The mook’s words It translate to something along the line of ‘That’s the bitch who put my brother in a coma.’ Koshei says he doesn’t care and to follow order.”
The word made me nauseous. On my first night out, I’d broken a man’s skull by accident and put him in a persistent coma, I didn’t know much about medicine, but Coma weren’t something you came out of easily, especially not after about a month, now I had met the man’s brother…
The thought that I hadn’t hurt some random goon, I’d hurt a person with a family fucked me up inside.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” I lied. “Thanks for the help.”
Kenzie came out of the shower a few minutes later and we settled down in her room, I couldn’t stand being in mine any longer. I sat down first and she sat leaning against my chest, I wrapped my arms around her waist, keeping her close.
“Hey, Can I ask you something really important?”
“Of course, what’s the matter?”
“Have you ever hurt someone for real?”
“I have, it’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re a guardian. What brought this on?”
“I’m just thinking about what I did on my first night in costume, I mean with the Russians. I hurt a man and I mean seriously, last I heard he’s in a coma which he probably won’t ever wake up from… I didn’t want to hurt him… The world make it look so easy; that if you aren’t killing people then there’s no harm done, but it’s not true…”
Kenzie switched position, coming to a kneel facing me and she wrapped her arms around me.
“Hurting someone is hard, our powers make it a lot easier to deliver the blow, but living with it is the hardest part because you have to live with the guilt of what you’ve done and constantly asking yourself how differently you could have done it and no ability can make that easier.”
“How do you cope with it?”
“By remembering the lives I’ve saved, the people I’ve helped.”
“I haven’t done either, all I’ve done were mistakes… I couldn’t stop Koshei or Skedaddle, the only thing I did was damage our living space and destroy any confidence Kickback had in me.”
“Give yourself some time, you’ve barely begun your journey.”
“Have you ever killed someone?” I asked after a pause.
“Was it an accident?”
“No. The first time I killed someone was during a small time robbery on patrol. The guy wasn’t right, he was erratic and jittery because of the drugs he was on. When we came in, he took the owner of the store hostage, she was pregnant and he pointed a gun at her head, threatening to hurt her if we did something. He was too far, I couldn’t just rip the gun out of his hand and Molecular was my sponsor. There was nothing we could do, he was going to drag her into a car and drive, possibly kill her. I made the decision to use my power to accelerate one of my beads and hit him right in the skull. He was dead by the time he hit the ground.
After that, I went home for some time, I thought over my life; I wanted to quit the program at first, but I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I did, I had a duty to the world, that man I killed, I had to make up for it.”
“It was a while ago, I’ve had time to heal. Now, it’s your turn to make that choice. You can go back and decide the pain is too much to handle or you can bear it proudly knowing that you’ll help people.”
“I don’t have a choice; I can’t stop if I do I’ll go to juvie. I’ll lose you, I’ll lose everyone else.”
“You always have a choice Paige, two years isn’t that long a time, especially since you could probably get released much earlier for good behavior. I would visit and it wouldn’t change a thing between us. I know the others would come too, because no matter what happen we’re your friends, it not conditional on you being a guardian. In the end, it’s for you to decide. You have to pick the option that will make you happy, you have see to your mental health above everything else.”
“Thank you. I love you so much right now.”
“I hope you’ll stay with us, but whatever you do, I’m one hundred percent behind you.”
We lied down next to each other and went to sleep quickly, she was tired from our walk and the emotional rollercoaster of the day had left me drained.