One Forty-Five stopped in the doorway to her quarters, placing her and Nine just outside the range of both of the cameras in the halls and the one in the room. She grabbed Nine’s hand, slipping the badge into it, which was quickly deposited into a pocket.
She started over.
“I am sorry that I yelled at you.”
Nine gave a weak smile, wrapped her arms around One Forty-Five’s waist and placed her head on her chest.
“I know. You care a lot about your sister.”
She took in and let out a deep breath.
“Kinda makes me wish I had one.”
One Forty-Five slid one arm over her back.
“You have no family?”
Nine started to shake her head but decided not to.
“No. I was the only one that survived, if you could call it that.”
She turned her head up to where her chin was resting on the collarbone.
“Seven years later, here I am. Compared to you though, that was just a field trip to the Collective.”
Nine laid her head back down.
“But you have family, and I don’t. Weird how that works out, huh?”
One Forty-Five did not respond. She was desperately trying to enjoy the moment, but she could not stop thinking about her sister. She was abandoned on that dirty cot, locked away, but unwilling to leave.
She rubbed her hand up and down Nine’s back. If there was one thing good that had come out of this whole nightmarish affair, she was holding it.
She released Nine.
“You should return that badge and go back to your quarters before it gets too late.”
Nine let go as well.
“Probably should. I have to meet with my counselor tomorrow morning. My six months are up next week and I’ll be having a diagnosis to see if I can leave.”
One Forty-Five smiled at Nine and squeezed her shoulder.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine. You’re more human than anyone else here.”
Nine leaned in and grabbed a quick kiss.
“I could say the same about you.”
As she walked away, One Forty-Five turned and took a few steps into her room towards the bathroom to get a cup of water. The red star-shaped flower sat at the center of her table and had yet to be fed today. The plant had been looking sicker and sicker for the past week and nothing that she did seemed to have any effect.
She poured the water in the pot and placed a nutritional supplement in the soil. It was probably a wasted gesture, but she knew of nothing else to do with it.
Laying down on her bed, One Forty-Five rolled over so she could see the flower in its place on the table. It never asked anything except for time and attention, and it freely gave her everything worth having. Perhaps she could nurture it back; bring it back to life if she just willed it hard enough.
But in the end she knew this was a lie. The end of this masquerade would be coming soon, and it would drag them both into a mire of her creation. That flower was going to slowly wilt in front of her, and there was nothing she could do to save it.