“Your parents? Never met them,” I replied with a smile. The mood lightened a little and he smiled up at me with his eyes still closed.
“You know what I mean,” I said.
“Every day, but sometimes more than others. I’ve never given up hope. They’re still alive, still out there. I can feel it. I just wish I knew where. Actually, scratch that, I don’t want to know where. That’d be too tempting.”
“Tempting to what?” Beckett’s eyes popped open. Though I expected him to be scared or angry at my admission, he seemed excited.
“To try to break them out,” I said. Waving my hand in the air, I added, “Yes, I know it’s crazy talk. I’m not really going to try to do it.”
“Why not?” He sat up on his knees, his face animated with excitement.
“Have you been inhaling while you solder again? Because it’s impossible, that’s why.” I raised my eyebrow at him. “Have you ever heard of someone breaking out of an Affinity camp? No. You haven’t. Why? Because it’s impossible.”
“Cressie, we conquer the impossible every day. We live in the wild, where the Affinity tells everyone it’s impossible to survive. You move in and out of the Collective without ever raising suspicion.”
I opened my mouth to interrupt him, but he talked right over me.
“You’ve been doing it for ten years, for crying out loud. The Affinity claims that’s impossible too, to be undetected, but you always have.”
“What exactly are you proposing?” I stared at him with incredulity, certain he couldn’t possibly be saying what he seemed to be.
“Let’s go get them.” He said it with such innocent definitiveness. As if we could just sashay into the Collective and politely knock on the doors of the camps inquiring as to the whereabouts of my parents.
I shook my head and stood to clean up the uneaten remains of Beckett’s breakfast. His hand wrapped around my arm and yanked me back toward him. I remembered another time when the odds seemed insurmountable. Beckett and I had stood in the Trade Path, his face etched with concern over my Outlier status as the blizzard alarm sounded, his pleading offer to keep me safe and my incomprehensible choice to trust him to do so.
Beckett had a positivity so foreign yet so infectious. In the months since we had returned to my cabin in the wild, since he’d given up all the comforts of the Collective to try his hand at true love, I learned he wasn’t naïve and foolish. His faith in himself, and in me, gave him the strength to face anything. He believed in possibilities. Sometimes, when I let down my defenses and allowed my heart to wander through dreams, I believed in them, too.
As he searched my face for a reflection of his own enthusiasm, I saw myself through his eyes. Instead of the hardened shell of a rebel, I found a woman impassioned with beliefs and the will to survive. I saw the woman he loved instead of the abandoned young girl I fought to protect. A wide, generous smile spread across my face as I realized for the first time I wasn’t that lost little girl anymore. I didn’t have to be alone anymore. Beckett stood by my side in this fight, willingly, and together we could do anything.
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