*Today's #fridayflash comes back to The Last Prophetess. In fact, it happens not long after this flash piece "Run," which you can read here. Zare has come across Phoenix not long after her parents were kidnapped by the Amoran Government. This piece takes place about 10 months before The Last Prophetess.*
Let Me Help You
I stood within the shadows. Her shoulders shuddered with each breath. Small noises emerged from her, like a mouse’s squeaking. I didn’t think I would hear such sounds from her. Phoenix appeared alone, lost. I didn’t want to see her this way.
I turned to leave, but I couldn’t. Something was wrong. Something terrible. I swallowed the lump in my throat and stepped forward.
“There you are, Phoenix.” I clomped my boots extra loud in the tunnel. Give her time to compose herself.
Her back stiffened and hands fluttered to her face. She’d been crying. Why? She didn’t stand, though. Just pulled her knees closer to her chest and kept her back toward me.
“What do you want, Zare?”
I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see the gesture. “Nothing, really. Just wondering where you were at. None of you came for dinner.”
I was worried, I wanted to add but didn’t.
She squeezed her legs closer and buried her face behind a curtain of blue-black hair. I sank down beside her and nudged her with my shoulder.
We had sat in silence for so long that her voice startled me. I blinked. “Captures? Who?”
“Mom. Dad. They got them.”
Numb tingles flowed over my head and down to my toes. A stone seemed to settle into my stomach. I didn’t need to ask who “they” was. I knew. The Guards had gotten them. Probably because they were rebels. Against the President. Weren’t we all? It still didn’t mean Phoenix should be left alone. She was strong, but only fifteen. I had two more summers ahead of her. I was almost of age.
“You’re welcome to stay with our family. We can spare a roll.”
“I’m fine on my own.” Her voice came out flat, harsh. She still wouldn’t look at me.
“Mom’ll want you to stay. When she hears, you know.”
I wanted to put my arms around her, tell her everything would be fine. I knew such platitudes would mean little. Nothing was fine in Amora. Hadn’t been for a long time. Instead, I sat close enough so my shoulder touched hers. We sat long enough that cold had seeped through our clothes until we shivered.
She finally stood, nearly stumbled against me when I rose from my position.
“Phoenix . . .”
“Well, you coming or not?” She stared at me, met my eyes for the first time since I found her. Her eyes were red-rimmed. It made the blue stand out more against them. She appeared harsher, colder, broken. She twisted on her heel and took out her hoverboard. She wouldn’t wait on me.
“Yeah, I’m coming.”
She already blasted down the tunnel, and all I could do was follow.