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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 26

Twenty-Six

Read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 26

Adam finds me curled into a ball on the shower floor.

I’ve been crying for so long I’m certain the hot water is made of nothing but my tears. My clothes are stuck to my skin, wet and useless. I want to wash them away. I want to drown in ignorance. I want to be stupid, dumb, mute, completely devoid of a brain. I want to cut off my own limbs. I want to be rid of this skin that can kill and these hands that destroy and this body I don’t even know how to understand.

Everything is falling apart.

“Juliette . . .” He presses his hand against the glass. I can hardly hear him.

When I don’t respond he opens the shower door. He’s pelted with rebel raindrops and kicks his boots off before falling to his knees on the tile floor. He reaches in to touch my arms and the feeling only makes me more desperate to die. He sighs and pulls me up, just enough to lift my head. His hands trap my face and his eyes search me, search through me until I look away.

“I know what happened,” he says softly.

My throat is a reptile, covered in scales. “Someone should just kill me,” I croak, cracking with every word.

Adam’s arms wrap around me until he’s tugged me up and I’m wobbling on my legs and we’re both standing upright. He steps into the shower and slides the door shut behind him.

I gasp.

He holds me up against the wall and I see nothing but his white T-shirt soaked through, nothing but the water dancing down his face, nothing but his eyes full of a world I’m dying to be a part of.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he whispers.

“It’s what I am,” I choke.

“No. Warner’s wrong about you,” Adam says. “He wants you to be someone you’re not, and you can’t let him break you. Don’t let him get into your head. He wants you to think you’re a monster. He wants you to think you have no choice but to join him. He wants you to think you’ll never be able to live a normal life

—”

“But I won’t live a normal life.” I swallow a hiccup. “Not ever—I’ll n-never—”

Adam is shaking his head. “You will. We’re going to get out of here. I won’t let this happen to you.”

“H-how could you possibly care about someone . . . like me?” I’m barely breathing, nervous and petrified but somehow staring at his lips, studying the shape, counting the drops of water tumbling over the hills and valleys of his mouth.

“Because I’m in love with you.”

I swallow my stomach. My eyes snap up to read his face but I’m a mess of electricity, humming with life and lightning, hot and cold and my heart is erratic.

I’m shaking in his arms and my lips have parted for no reason at all.

His mouth softens into a smile. My bones have disappeared.

I’m spinning with delirium.

His nose is touching my nose, his lips one breath away, his eyes devouring me already and I’m a puddle with no arms and no legs. I can smell him everywhere; I feel every point of his figure pressed against mine. His hands at my waist, gripping my hips, his legs flush against my own, his chest

by bricks of desire. The taste of his words lingers on my lips.

“Really . . . ?” I have one whisper of incredulity, one conscious effort to believe what’s never been done. I’m flushed through my feet, filled with unspoken everything.

He looks at me with so much emotion I nearly crack in half. “God, Juliette—” And he’s kissing me.

Once, twice, until I’ve had a taste and realize I’ll never have enough. He’s everywhere up my back and over my arms and suddenly he’s kissing me harder, deeper, with a fervent urgent need I’ve never known before. He breaks for air only to bury his lips in my neck, along my collarbone, up my chin and cheeks and I’m gasping for oxygen and he’s destroying me with his hands and we’re drenched in water and beauty and the exhilaration of a moment I never knew was possible.

He pulls back with a low groan and I want him to take his shirt off.

I need to see the bird. I need to tell him about the bird.

My fingers are tugging at the hem of his wet clothes and his eyes widen for only a second before he rips the material off himself. He grabs my hands and lifts my arms above my head and pins me against the wall, kissing me until I’m sure I’m dreaming, drinking in my lips with his lips and he tastes like rain and sweet musk and I’m about to explode.

My knees are knocking together and my heart is beating so fast I don’t understand why it’s still working. He’s kissing away the pain, the hurt, the years of self-loathing, the insecurities, the dashed hopes for a future I always pictured as obsolete. He’s lighting me on fire, burning away the torture of Warner’s games, the anguish that poisons me every single day. The intensity of our bodies could shatter these glass walls.

It nearly does.

For a moment we’re just staring at each other, breathing hard until I’m blushing, until he closes his eyes and takes one ragged, steadying breath and I place my hand on his chest. I dare to trace the outline of the bird soaring across his skin, I dare to trail my fingers down the length of his abdomen.

“You’re my bird,” I tell him. “You’re my bird and you’re going to help me fly away.”

Adam is gone by the time I get out of the shower.

He wrung his clothes out and dried himself off and granted me privacy to change. Privacy I’m not sure I care about anymore. I touch 2 fingers to my lips and taste him everywhere.

But when I step into the room he’s not anywhere. He had to report downstairs.

I stare at the clothes in my closet.

I always choose a dress with pockets because I don’t know where else to store my notebook. It doesn’t carry any incriminating information, and the one piece of paper that bore Adam’s handwriting has since been destroyed and flushed down the toilet, but I like to keep it close to me. It represents so much more than a few words scribbled on paper. It’s a small token of my resistance.

I tuck the notebook into a pocket and decide I’m finally ready to face myself. I take a deep breath, push the wet strands of hair away from my eyes, and pad into the bathroom. The steam from the shower has clouded the mirror. I reach out a tentative hand to wipe away a small circle. Just big enough.

A scared face stares back at me.

I touch my cheeks and study the reflective surface, study the image of a girl who’s simultaneously strange and familiar to me. My face is thinner, paler, my cheekbones

higher than I remember them, my eyebrows perched above 2 wide eyes not blue not green but somewhere in between. My skin is flushed with heat and something named Adam. My lips are too pink. My teeth are unusually straight. My finger is trailing down the length of my nose, tracing the shape of my chin when I see a movement in the corner of my eye.

“You’re so beautiful,” he says to me.

I’m pink and red and maroon all at once. I duck my head and trip away from the mirror only to have him catch me in his arms. “I’d forgotten my own face,” I whisper.

“Just don’t forget who you are,” he says. “I don’t even know.”

“Yes you do.” He tilts my face up. “I do.”

I stare at the strength in his jaw, in his eyes, in his body. I try to understand the confidence he has in who he thinks I am and realize his reassurance is the only thing stopping me from diving into a pool of my own insanity. He’s always believed in me. Even soundlessly, silently, he fought for me. Always.

He’s my only friend.

I take his hand and hold it to my lips. “I’ve loved you forever,” I tell him.

The sun rises, rests, shines in his face and he almost smiles, almost can’t meet my eyes. His muscles relax, his shoulders find relief in the weight of a new kind of wonder and he exhales. He touches my cheek, touches my lips, touches the tip of my chin and I blink and he’s kissing me, he’s pulling me into his arms and into the air and somehow we’re on the bed and tangled in each other and I’m drugged with emotion, drugged by each tender moment. His fingers skim my shoulder, trail down my silhouette, rest at my hips. He pulls me closer, whispers my name, drops kisses down my throat

and struggles with the stiff fabric of my dress. His hands are shaking so slightly, his eyes brimming with feeling, his heart thrumming with pain and affection and I want to live here, in his arms, in his eyes for the rest of my life.

I slip my hands under his shirt and he chokes on a moan that turns into a kiss that needs me and wants me and has to have me so desperately it’s like the most acute form of torture. His weight is pressed into mine, on top of mine, infinite points of feeling for every nerve ending in my body and his right hand is behind my neck and his left hand is reeling me in and his lips are falling down my shirt and I don’t understand why I need to wear clothes anymore and I’m a cumulonimbus existence of thunder and lightning and the possibility of exploding into tears at any inopportune moment. Bliss Bliss Bliss is beating through my chest.

I don’t remember what it means to breathe.

I never

ever

ever

knew what it meant to feel.

An alarm is hammering through the walls.

The room beeps and blares to life and Adam stiffens, pulls back; his face collapses.

“This is a CODE SEVEN. All soldiers must report to the Quadrant immediately. This is a CODE SEVEN. All soldiers must report to the Quadrant immediately. This is a CODE SEVEN. All soldiers must report to the Quadra—”

Adam is on his feet and pulling me up and the voice is still shouting orders through a speaker system wired into the building. “There’s been a breach,” he says, his voice broken and breathy, his eyes darting between me and the door.

“Jesus. I can’t just leave you here—”

“Go,” I tell him. “You have to go—I’ll be fine—”

Footsteps are thundering through the halls and soldiers are barking at each other so loudly I can hear it through the walls. Adam is still on duty. He has to perform. He has to keep up appearances until we can leave. I know this.

He pulls me close. “This isn’t a joke, Juliette—I don’t know what’s happening—it could be anything—”

A metal click. A mechanical switch. The door slides open and Adam and I jump 10 feet apart.

Adam rushes to exit just as Warner is walking in. They both freeze.

“I’m pretty sure that alarm has been going off for at least a minute, soldier.”

“Yes sir. I wasn’t sure what to do about her.” He’s suddenly composed, a perfect statue. He nods at me like

I’m an afterthought but I know he’s just slightly too stiff in the shoulders. Breathing just a beat too fast.

“Lucky for you, I’m here to take care of that. You may report to your commanding officer.”

“Sir.” Adam nods, pivots on one heel, and darts out the door. I hope Warner didn’t notice his hesitation.

Warner turns to face me with a smile so calm and casual I begin to question whether the building is actually in chaos. He studies my face. My hair. Glances at the rumpled sheets behind me and I feel like I’ve swallowed a spider. “You took a nap?”

“I couldn’t sleep last night.”

“You’ve ripped your dress.”

“What are you doing here?” I need him to stop staring at me, I need him to stop drinking in the details of my existence.

“If you don’t like the dress, you can always choose a different one, you know. I picked them out for you myself.”

“That’s okay. The dress is fine.” I glance at the clock for no real reason. It’s already 4:30 in the afternoon. “Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”

He’s too close. He’s standing too close and he’s looking at me and my lungs are failing to expand. “You should really change.”

“I don’t want to change.” I don’t know why I’m so nervous. Why he’s making me so nervous. Why the space between us is closing too quickly.

He hooks a finger in the rip close to the drop-waist of my dress and I bite back a scream. “This just won’t do.”

“It’s fine—”

He tugs so hard on the rip that it splits open the fabric and creates a slit up the side of my leg. “That’s a bit better.”

“What are you doing—”

His hands snake up my waist and clamp my arms in place and I know I need to defend myself but I’m frozen and I want to scream but my voice is broken broken broken. I’m a ragged breath of desperation.

“I have a question,” he says, and I try to kick him in this worthless dress and he just squeezes me up against the wall, the weight of his body pressing me into place, every inch of him covered in clothing, a protective layer between us. “I said I have a question, Juliette.”

His hand slips into my pocket so quickly it takes me a moment to realize what he’s done. I’m panting up against the wall, shaking and trying to find my head.

“I’m curious,” he says. “What is this?” He’s holding my notebook between 2 fingers.

Oh God.

This dress is too tight to hide the outline of the notebook and I was too busy looking at my face to check the dress in the mirror. This is all my fault all my fault all my fault all my fault I can’t believe it. This is all my fault. I should’ve known better.

I say nothing.

He cocks his head. “I don’t recall giving you a notebook. I certainly don’t remember granting you allowance for any possessions, either.” “I brought it with me.” My voice catches.

“Now you’re lying.”

“What do you want from me?” I panic.

“That’s a stupid question, Juliette.”

The soft sound of smooth metal slipping out of place. Someone has opened my door.

Click.

“Get your hands off of her before I bury a bullet in your head.”

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