Authors: Anya Monroe
book three of
THE SHINE ON TRILOGY
by anya monroe
Copyright @2015 by Anya Monroe
All rights reserved
This edition published by arrangement with
The Lovely Messy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, either living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
for julie hawkins,
for talking me (and lukas) off the ledge more times than I can count.
I stand motionless until all that’s left is ash. What remained of my family is now gone, powdery dust climbs toward the sky from the blackened ground. There is no fantastical phoenix rising from the charred apple tree. Nothing is coming back to give me a second chance at a family. The only people I have left in this world are the ones behind me. I’m no longer willing to hold tight to the past.
It only gets in the way.
I let go of Lukas’ hand. As I do, our cocoon of rainbow light fades. He held on to me, steadied me, while we watched the tree become engulfed in flames, and I’m grateful for that. But I’m not going to give in to him any longer just because he’s the person next to me. The person who has held the spot closest to my heart.
He lost that privilege when he let Perfection’s lips cover his. When he let her hand touch his face, and when he brought her here.
My center of gravity is now solely mine. I don’t share it with anyone.
“Lucy...” Lukas starts. I hold up my hand, stopping him before he can fully begin. My heart twisting as I stop the person who gave me my first real start at life.
I turn, not wanting to address him alone; we’re all equal in this now. The eight other people who’ve followed me to this vacant place deserve to understand why we’re here as much as he does.
“I want to stay here for a while, at least until we decide what we want to do next. This is my old home, where I grew up, until my life changed and I left this compound and joined The Light with my mom.”
“Do you think it’s safe?” Junie asks, forever a thoughtful and considerate person.
“This place is pretty far out, any vigilantes would never know to come looking here,” I answer her.
“She’s right. This region has been scouted, there’s hardly anyone left, anywhere. We haven’t run into a single person since we left the Safe House three days ago. The Headquarters don’t count, we knew about them,” Colton says.
A chill settles over us as we take that in, we’re among the last people left in the area. We don’t know what it’s like farther out, none of us have ventured further than this peninsula. There is no one; the world is a desolate place, and we’re some of the sole survivors.
“So, we all agree?” Junie clarifies. “For the record, it feels safe to me, too.”
“Okay, so no one wants to go, right?” When no one answers, I raise my eyebrows mischievously and smile, wanting so badly to have reason to claim a smile. The last week has been exhausting in every sense of the word. “Great, I know where Mom hid the key.”
“You don’t need a key, Lucy,” Charlie says. “You can do this all on your own.” His face beams even though there is no fabricated light emitting from him as speaks. He words give me confidence.
I can do this.
I press my fingers to my lips as I remember our stolen kiss from earlier. Looking at him reminds me of his brother Lukas and instantly the smile leaves my face, realizing it’s impossible to separate these two, to have one and not the other. My only choice is to walk away from them both.
Bitterly, I think it shouldn’t be hard to keep walking from Lukas. He forgot me days ago.
“You’re right, I’m still not used to this light.” I hold up my arms that are surrounded in a halo of emerald green light, in front of my face. In disbelief that my hands carry so much power, so much strength. I can understand Lukas a little better now; the weight he carries is multiplied by infinity. His light keeps three entire Refuges of people alive.
I led us across the field toward the large domed house. The outside is bare bones, and not pretty. On our trek here I’ve seen houses that would have been beautiful twenty years ago, with wide porches and stone paths leading up to the front, but my home was created with only one purpose. Shelter. It was constructed with heavy insulation, thick bulletproof windows, and an air-lock entrance.
It will keep us safe, from anything. It did for sixteen years. The only thing this house didn’t keep the compound members safe from was themselves. Sometimes fighting to protect yourself ends up hurting you the most. People weren’t made to be invincible. Even Lukas, who’s the most god-like of us all, has weaknesses. He needs help to stay protected, to stay alive. Help from me.
I put my hand on the doorknob. It’s a regular door, and my green, glimmering hand quickly releases the locking mechanism.
“Nice work, Lucy!” Duke says, surprising me. He doesn’t use a lot of words, so it means more coming from him. I bite my lip as I swing open the door, as it opens it reveals the
. The heavy steel one that keeps predators at bay. Not that any predators have come knocking.
This second door has a different kind of lock, it’s coded and I suddenly feel like a fool, my light doesn’t work here. I press my hand against the keypad but nothing happens. Apparently there are limits to what I can do, as if I didn’t know that already. I don’t know which buttons to press, and the hidden key was only for the outer door. Mom’s sarcastic voice rings in my ears, “This was a worthless investment
right before we left the house for good, but at the time it never entered my mind to ask Mom what it was. Back then I never thought about questioning anything. Now Mom’s gone, and the code died with her.
“Crap. I don’t know the code to unlock it. I’m such an idiot.” It’s embarrassing, I’ve led everyone all this way, I know they’re as exhausted as me, especially Timid and Hana. The nine-year-old girls have got to be worn out.
“Hey, don’t worry. I can help.” Lukas is right, he can. I just wish I could do this on my own, to prove to myself that I was capable.
But I guess I’m not invincible either.
Lucy looks over at Lukas with sad eyes. How it’s possible to have gloomy eyes when they are so brilliantly green is beyond me, but man, she looks like she was in a fight and lost. Her hair’s a tangled mess, her clothes rumpled and dusty. If it weren’t weird to say so, I’d tell her to rub her hands over her face and use her healing powers to ease up on herself.
I want to tell her this is all going to be okay.
But before I can, Lukas steps in. Of course he does. With the wave of his hand he can penetrate the locked security door. With one look he can have Lucy back.
He’s always been able to do the things I can’t.
“Can I help, Lucy?” he asks, as we all look at her struggling.
“Of course. I just wanted….”
To be your own person
, I want to finish for her, but of course I don’t because the instant Lukas returned, it felt like I rewound six years, and was once again second fiddle, the background noise, the one who there, but not the one needed.
Clearly I have some issues I need to revisit. Lucy coming to Headquarters brought it all up for me again. I’ve spent years trying to carve my way, be my own person apart from my family, but she came here and changed the course of my blade.
Lukas puts his hands on the door with his eyes closed. I watch as he pulls in a deep breath and then releases it once more allowing an abundant Light to pour out, overwhelming us all.
He put on a big show, and as bitter as it sounds, I bet he did it for her. As frustrating as it is that we’re pining after the same girl -- it would be a lie to say what Lukas does is anything short of amazing. He is amazing. I don’t resent Lucy for her draw to him.
Especially since they have more in common than I’d like to admit.
“Welcome to my home,” Lucy says, after thanking Lukas with a smile. She pushes open the door, walking into her past.
I don’t follow, I need to breathe, and there will be time to oohhh and ahhh over this compound with the rest of the crew. I just want to stay out here with Lucky, the horse named after my little brother’s nickname. I never imagined, after all those years of wishing to see Lukas again, when I finally got to I’d be filled with so much jealousy.
But I am. And I feel like crap because of it.
I sit down on the rock I sat on so many weeks ago, when I first made my way to this plot of land, looking for a girl I still didn’t know existed. Everything was so different then. I was working for Mom and Dad, hadn’t met Lucy, content staying at the Safe House, doing my patrol rotations out there. Before Reagan starting losing his cool, before Mom and Dad stopped listening.
Before Lucy came back.
I look up at the sky, blue and full of clouds. I want to float away on one of them, and never return. It always comes back to that for me.
Wanting to run away, wanting to be free.
Lucy pushes open the door and steps inside. I’m glad I could help, anything to get her to remember that I’m on her side; I’m here for her as much as she’s here for me.
“Lukas, come here,” she says smiling, reaching out, waving her hand toward me. “Perfection, you too.” Then in an effort to explain to the rest of us, with eyebrows raised at her words, she adds, “She’s never been in a house … neither of them has….” She falters, slightly, but only because there’s a group watching her every move.
Perfection and I walk right behind her. Perfection looking intensely at me, and when I turn toward her, she swivels her head away fast. I’m so sick of Vessel games.
“This was my world,” Lucy says softly, leading us into the entryway. Compared to the foyer at the great room, this is miniscule. But even just looking at Lucy’s face for a moment, it’s clear that tiny or not, being here comforts her in a way the Refuge never has.
“So you never got to leave?” Basil asks, incredulously, as we all cram into the space. I do a head count and realize Charles isn’t here. With the door wide open, I see him walking away, toward the horses.
“No, I mean maybe once a month or so I got to go outside, but it was a very big deal … like we wore suits and everything. And I had to go through lots of sanitizing after … my family was really scared. Of everything….” Her words trail off.
Colton and Junie’s eyes grow big, it must be hard to imagine a world confined when you’re used to doing anything you want, forge your own way. I can’t imagine that sort of freedom. I don’t think Lucy could either, that’s why she romanticizes it.
“Did you have a bedroom, Lucy?” Hana asks. I still can’t look at her without feeling like I’m the reason she almost died. I wonder if Lucy feels the same way.
“Yes. I did. I’ll show you. And guys, make yourself comfortable, there’s beds if people want to sleep.” She sounds tired, and I’m sure she is. We all are.
“Can we just follow you on the tour first? It feels strange to be poking around your house without you,” Colton says. I’m glad he said it, because I was thinking the same thing.
Lucy nods her head, and we follow as she points out things as we walk to the right in this circular home.
“That was my parents’ room, and this was Forests. This is the bathroom in the center. But the water’s freezing I’m sure.” Her eyes flicker to me, knowing what I know. I can heat it in a flash. But she doesn’t ask and I don’t offer. “Oh, and this was Diane’s room. And this … this was my room. I mean, after Shelby died it became my room.”
The rooms she shows us are all plain, basic blue bedding, linoleum floors, and practical bureaus. Quite similar to the Refuges Vessel quarters actually. Nothing like my chambers, where canopied beds and plush pillows graced my space.
Hana smiles. “You have a clean room, and a big one. I mean, not big like The Light, but bigger than the place Basil and I used to share.” She seems much more alive than the girl in the car last night, half-dead and creeping towards infinite nothingness.
“Where did you live?” I ask. I want to know more about her and Basil. More about everyone, actually. I feel several steps behind the rest of this group. Forever an outsider.
“It was a camp. Like tents and….” Her eyes dart to Basil, who shrugs her shoulders. “And lots of men. Not nice ones. Not like you.”
If she and Basil grew up in a camp with unkind men, I understand why Basil tried to run away from being Bound to one she didn’t know. Relief floods over me, knowing that had she married the same Humbleman Lucy’s mom did, she’d probably be dead right now too.
“Well, you’re safe here, safe now,” Lucy tells her. “And we can stay as long as you want. All of us can.”
It isn’t what I want to hear her say, because I need us to go. We need to go back to where we just came from, and we need to go soon.
I have nine days to get home before the power is out.