Ch. 16: Hand In Hand
Ally had just left and Drake and I were alone.. It was a little quiet, to say the least, but I believe Drake was just thinking really hard by how his fingers tapped against his knee relentlessly and by how his gaze towards the floor was so intense that I could count on one hand how many times he blinked in a single minute.. I wanted to know what he was thinking about, I always did, but I was always too afraid to ask.. I’ve known Drake since I was thirteen and ever since I met him, he’s been nothing but sweet to me and it wasn’t just because Quinton made him be. He did it all by himself and there have even been a few times where he’d smile at me when Quinton and Nagi weren’t looking.. I’ve had a crush on him this whole time, but.. I never thought we’d be in a position like this one day, alone and on the run together.. It was kind of like the desperate situations you only see in the romantic yet scary movies that I’ve spent watching locked away in the house. I’ve seen so many of them that I can say that there’s a fifty-fifty chance we’ll either get away or get caught..
I didn’t like those odds.
Drake then suddenly stood up and I watched him curiously, seeing him walk over towards the windows in the front of Ally’s home and he stood there for a long moment.
“What are you looking for?” I ask quietly, watching him continue to look out the window as I waited for an answer.
“Making sure Ally isn’t coming back for anything so we can leave,” he eventually replied and my eyes widened.
“B-But, she.. She said to stay here.. This is the safest place for me, for us, right now.. We can’t leave, Drake,” I tried to convince him, though it didn’t seem to work when he looked back at me with determination in his eyes and he walked back into the living room with a stride of confidence I rarely see.
“Zuri, we can’t stay here. Yeah, it’s safe for now, but what if things change and Ally isn’t the next one to come through that door? Do you really think that we have hours before Nagi finds out where we are? We need to go now,” he pushed once more.. I knew Nagaharu was the best of the best when it came to- well, whatever it was that he was good at.. Only Quinton knew what he was truly capable of since they hardly ever dealt with business in front of me, but I hoped I’d never be able to find out first hand and leaving was sounding a lot more tempting.. However..
“I can’t.. I can’t just leave.. She’s done so much for me and I barely know her.. She’s risked a lot to help me.. I trust her, Drake-“
“And I really don’t think you should,” he cut me off, “Zuri, that’s my point though, too, you trust people way too easily.. You barely know her. Hell, the whole town barely knows her! This town is pretty small and tightly knit, but when the hell did she even get here? When did she even move in? Whenever she did, we all would’ve known about it, so how did she convince an entire town like this one that she’s been here ever since the rest of us have? It doesn’t make any sense. She’s the witch that everyone’s been rumoring about and from what I’ve heard about them, they’re sadistic, unpredictable people that practice their spells on innocents and can become really hostile.. Do you really want to be around her when that happens?” He asked and I got a little tongue tied. Ally has used magic on me already more than once, but, it was all for a good reason.. Wasn’t it?
“B-But, she hasn’t done or been any of those things.. Where did you hear all of this from? She’s not sadistic and so far the only spells I know she’s used is to help.. How can you say such things when she’s done none of the stuff you claim witches do and she’s done nothing but help me?” I asked in return and I could see the worry in his eyes, but.. What was he so worried about? These fears of his were ridiculous..
I stood up from the couch and stepped closer to him, “Drake, I know you’re worried, but she’s not what you think she is.. She’s sweet and kind and I’ve never seen such hospitality before in my entire life! And her spells have only helped me! She helped me escape from Nagi, she went out to find you for me, she even bought us time so we could think of a plan! How is that sadistic? How is that hostile?” I continued to question and Drake sighed. I could tell he was aggravated, but at what? Me, or Ally?
Drake shook his head, “Zuri, you don’t understand-“
“Then help me understand,” I insisted and his expression went softer, yet more worrisome, at the same time.
I watched as Drake then stepped up to me and took my hands within his own and I could feel him trembling.. Or was that me trembling?
“Zuri.. I want nothing more than to help you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do now. I need you to see that, and I need you to trust me, not Ally,” he replied and I stared into his eyes as I felt my cheeks get warm.
I quickly looked away from his gaze and down to his chest, my heart racing faster when I felt his thumbs caressing the tops of my hands and tried to ignore it as I thought of what to do.. What was the best choice? Should I stay, or should I leave? I had always imagined myself running away from all of this.. From everything.. But, running away with Drake? ..I dreamed of it.
Drake spoke up once more, “This is what you’ve always wanted, right? A way out?” He asked and I looked back up to him, surprised he had guessed exactly what I was thinking, but I suppose it’s always been obvious no matter who saw the situation I was in with my brother.. Everyone thought the exact same and they all had the same look in their eyes.. I could tell they pitied me, I could tell they thought I was weak and frail and I hate that every glance I got read as if to say ‘that poor girl’..
“Yes.. I’ve always wanted that,” I admitted quietly.
“Well, then let’s go, okay? Now’s our chance, right? ..Let’s just go,” he continued and a slight smile spread across my lips, nodding to his words.
“Okay,” I couldn’t believe I was agreeing to this, “Okay, let’s go,” I added and he smirked, watching him stare at me for a moment and I could feel my cheeks warming up again, “What..?” I asked in slight embarrassment.
“N-Nothing, it’s nothing..” Drake answered, though I could tell he was a little uncomfortable standing so close to me, hearing him clear his throat and watching him step away from me and walk into Ally’s bedroom..
I understood why he did it, he was still under the impression that he was being watched, that we were being watched.. I didn’t blame him for getting away from me when he’s been doing it for the past five years, it’s only natural for him at this point, but it felt nice being able to touch his hands and stand that close without worrying about getting caught.
I followed him and watched him go to her dresser, “What are you doing..?”
“You don’t think Ally would mind if you borrowed more of her clothes, right?” He asked and I shrugged.
“I mean.. I don’t know.. I don’t think so, but.. How can I just abandon her like this, while also stealing some of her clothes?” I asked as he continued to rifle through her belongings.
“You’re not abandoning her, Zuri, you’re just looking out for yourself, okay? It’s about time, too, don’t you think?” He wondered, “You finally have the chance to leave all of this, you finally have a chance to get away from Quinton and Nagi.. You’re not going to give it all up just because you feel a little guilty about borrowing some of Ally’s things, are you?” He continued, going through Ally’s drawers some more and I shook my head.
“No.. I’m sorry, I just can’t help but feel bad for doing this to her.. She’s been so nice to me, I feel so guilty..”
“How is it even possible?” He asked to himself and I smirked softly.
“Even after everything you’ve been through in this cruel place, you’re still so caring and sweet.. It’s what I always liked most about you,” he answered and I felt my entire face grow warm, “Just think of it as she’s played her part in helping you and her time protecting you has reached its end.. Now, I’m taking over for her,” he expressed, though I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to happen again at a later time..
“So, will I be forced to eventually abandon you, too?” I asked and his expression changed from happy to completely blank, shutting Ally’s drawers and then going to her clothes rack to continue his search.
“Of course not.. Not unless you wanted to, and whenever you do, just say the word,” he implied and I shook my head.
“N-No.. I don’t think I’d ever want that,” I replied and I saw him smile again before he went back to going through Ally’s clothes. Drake and I weren’t close in the normal definition of being friends, we were more-so close in the aspect of how similar our situations were with how trapped and alone we both felt.. We hardly ever talked because he was never allowed to come too close to me, but occasionally I’d try to talk to him to let him know it was okay to do it, just so long as Quin and Nagi weren’t around. But, no matter how much I talked to him, he usually remained quiet or only spoke a handful of words and that was it.. I never truly heard the depth of his voice until today.. It was really nice to hear it.
I understood why he did it, though.. He didn’t want my brother to think anything was going on between us because he knew he’d be punished and he knew I was off limits.. Even a normal conversation was off limits and so was looking at me for more than ten seconds without even exaggerating. My brother was like a crooked warden in a prison full of innocent people and he stopped at nothing in order to get his way and to keep his pests in line.. That included his own flesh and blood.
When he had found something for me to wear, he brought it over to me and handed it off, “Here, change into this, tie your hair up and we’ll leave.. Do it quickly, too, I want to be ahead of everyone, not just Quinton and Nagi,” he instructed and I knew he still didn’t trust Ally, but I trusted him and I nodded, taking the clothes he handed me and quickly going to the bathroom to change.
As I got dressed, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to what had started all of this, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was all my fault.. I knew it was.. I knew Drake and I weren’t allowed to talk, but I encouraged it anyways.. I even went as far as to cry about the situation he was already completely aware of and he gave me comfort regardless if it was or wasn’t allowed and we got caught.. The one time we finally came into contact with one another and just for a simple, nurturing hug, we get caught.. I was so scared when I saw Nagi standing there, silently staring at Drake as if he were a peasant holding royalty that deserved to be beheaded and I was so scared that I had gotten my one friend in this world killed, but what ended up happening to him was worse.. Even though I wasn’t there to hear him cry out in pain like I did every time he got punished by my brother, and since I had ran away like a coward, Quinton only ever punished Drake one way, so I already knew what he had been forced to go through because of me.. All of his pain, blood and tears were because of me and how foolish I was.
When I was done changing, I came out of the bathroom and I noticed that Drake had found a bag and was putting supplies into it, but he stopped and looked to me with worry in his eyes.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked and I assumed I had a disheveled expression on my face from my thoughts in the bathroom, but I quickly got rid of them.. Now was not the time to talk about it.
I put a gentle smile on my lips, “Nothing.. What are you taking? We really are stealing from her now, not just borrowing,” I pointed out and he sighed, his face showing disappointment in himself.
“Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.. I promise I’ll replace everything, but I don’t have any money on me right now and this is stuff that we’re obviously going to need. All I grabbed were a few more clothes for you and some water bottles.. When we get to the next town, I’ll find an ATM and take out some money for us and I’ll pay back Ally when I can, okay? I promise.. Really,” he promised a second time and my heart was warmed again by his want and need to please me.. Or, at least that’s what it seemed like he was trying to do.
“Okay,” I agreed and he smiled as he then zipped up the backpack he found and threw it onto his back.
Drake turned to face me, watching as he then reached up and grabbed the edges of the hood over my head and he pulled it gently to help cover my face a little more.
“Make sure to keep your head down and your face hidden, all right? Even though your hair and eyes have changed, you’re still you, you know?” He advised, but I couldn’t help the worry and fear that suddenly washed over me at the thought of leaving Ally’s house.
“I will, but.. Don’t you think traveling right now is a bad idea? What if we’re seen? I don’t want to go back, Drake,” my eyes started to tear up a little and I reached to grab the front of his jacket, “I’m scared.. I-I don’t ever want to go back.. I can’t go back,” I continued and his face filled with worry, wrapping his arms around me and he held me just as gently as he had the first time we had hugged like this.. The hug that started all of this mess.
“Hey, hey.. Don’t worry and don’t cry.. I know you’re scared, I am, too, but it’s already a little dark out and Ally said they’ll be unconscious for another hour or more.. And if I’m being honest, it doesn’t matter what time of day we leave, you know it doesn’t matter to Nagi.. What matters is that we leave as soon as we can while we can since he’s still unconscious for the next few hours.. Zuri, you won’t go back, you hear me? I won’t let them take you back.. Not ever,” he spoke softly, yet he had no idea how strong his words truly were and how badly I needed to hear them.
I held him tighter, forcing myself to repeat his words in my head over and over and it helped calm me down a little, though it was still difficult to abandon those worries completely.. I couldn’t forget my worst fears, I knew I couldn’t escape them, but one thing I could escape was living in that horrible house and I needed to look forward to making it through this all without getting caught.. This was my chance to be free and to be free with Drake.
“All right, let’s get the hell out of here, huh?” He added and I nodded again, pulling away from Drake’s chest to look up at him, “Head down, stay behind me, and if anyone sees us or starts following us, or if anything happens at all, I want you to run. Don’t even think of me for a split second and run, okay?” He instructed and although I knew I’d never leave him behind, I eventually nodded to his request.. He really did only care about me.
Without saying another word, he took hold of my hand and led me to the front door, opening it and looking around carefully before I came out behind him and when it was clear, I closed Ally’s door behind me and we were gone.