Unremarkable (Anything But #2)(4)By: Lindy Zart
Every part of Ryder chilled, a strange feeling with the sun beating down on him as it was. “Of course I do,” he said with a smirk. “I want to be Superior, like you.”
Head tipped back as he laughed, August said, “Keep pushing yourself like you are and you will, son, you will. You’ve got the makings to be a great Superior.”
Those words made him feel sick. It was an insult that anything about him could be portrayed as ‘great Superior’ material. But then, his previous, misguided actions had made it all possible. No one to blame but yourself.
“When can I transfer back to the Wisconsin facility?”
A bird swooped past as they began down the dirt trail that connected the wooded area to the training center. Ryder paused so August could go around him down the narrow path.
“You’re not. There’s no reason for you to. This is one of the best centers in the United States, much better than the Wisconsin one. You won’t get what you need there.”
Ryder swallowed, swiping a drop of sweat from his brow. He stared at August’s square-shaped head and imagined putting a bullet through it. At first the thought shocked him, but he quickly embraced it. It had to be done, eventually. He might as well adapt to the idea.
“There’s nothing for you there,” August continued.
He glanced over his shoulder. “Your mom is no good to you now, Ryder. You know that. Don’t beat yourself up over what you want, because what you want and what you need are two very different things. You want your mother, but you don’t need her.
“And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize you don’t even really want her that much anymore either. She’s broken. We remove the broken pieces from our lives, son, so that they don’t break us along with them. You’ll learn. You’re already learning.”
Hands fisted at his sides, he struggled for the control he felt slipping away. Honor. He was talking about Honor. The sick feeling escalated until it was hard to breathe.
August paused, turning partially to look at Ryder. “You did the right thing, shooting that UDK. She was damaged, broken. She wasn’t right for the cause. She was a sympathizer. Sympathizers are just as bad as UDs.”
Most days he tried to forget what he’d done, but as the days since he’d shot Honor Rochester had grown, so had his self-hatred. He’d shot and killed an innocent girl—a girl with more courage than he’d ever had.
Bile rose in his throat and he choked it down. He felt so lost, like he was floundering in the middle of an ocean with no rescue in sight. The only thing that kept him going was what he had designated as his purpose—that was it.
Those ice blue eyes drilled into his green ones, trying to see inside his head, wanting to know his thoughts. “You don’t regret what you did, do you, son?”
With every breath I take.
“No. It had to be done,” he said in a toneless voice.
Superior August nodded brusquely. “That’s right. It did. Get some grub. We’ll talk later.”
It wasn’t until Ryder got to his room that he was able to let the pain out. He slammed his fist into the cement wall, again and again and again, until his knuckles cracked and were bleeding, until his breaths came out ragged, until his heart raced so fast he wondered if it would just stop, until he’d punished himself for taking someone’s, Honor’s, life. It wasn’t enough, would never be enough.
Chest heaving, he stood in the middle of the room, forcing his breaths to steady, his pulse to slow down to normal. Ryder closed his eyes, exhaling slowly. He grabbed a washcloth from the shelf near the sink and wet it with water from the faucet. Calmly, numbly, he wiped the wall clean of blood, but he knew he could never wipe clean the blood of a life taken by his hand from his soul. That was tattooed there, forever.
Honor’s mind was stuck on something August had said—about the UDKs rejecting UD blood. It wasn’t necessarily an alarming statement, but coming from him, it made waves of chills go through her. Honor didn’t know much about him—she didn’t even know enough to feel the way she did about him, not really.