Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 31

Thirty-One

Read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 31

His brother.

I try to shake off the nerves. I try to smile at the boy studying my face, studying the pathetic pieces of fabric barely covering my body. How did I not know Adam had a brother? How could I have never known?

James turns to Adam. “This is Juliette?”

I’m standing here like a lump of nonsense. I don’t remember my manners.

“You know who I am?”

James spins back in my direction. “Oh yeah. Adam talks about you a lot.”

I flush and can’t help but glance at Adam. He’s staring at a point on the floor. He clears his throat.

“It’s really nice to meet you,” I manage.

James c***s his head. “So do you always dress like that?” I’d like to d*e a little.

“Hey, kid,” Adam interrupts. “Juliette is going to be staying with us for a little while. Why don’t you go make sure you don’t have any underwear lying on the floor, huh?”

James looks horrified. He darts into the darkness without another word.

It’s quiet for so many seconds I lose count. I hear some kind of drip in the distance.

I take a deep breath. Bite my bottom lip. Try to find the right words. Fail. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”

Adam hesitates. “Is it okay . . . that I do? We’ll all be sharing the same space and I—”

My stomach drops onto my knees. “Of course it’s okay! I just—I mean—are you sure it’s okay—for him? If I’m here?”

“There’s no underwear anywhere,” James announces, marching forward into the light. I wonder where he disappeared to, where the house is. He looks at me.

“So you’re going to be staying with us?”

Adam intervenes. “Yeah. She’s going to crash with us for a bit.”

James looks from me to Adam back to me again. He sticks out his hand.

“Well, it’s nice to finally meet you.”

All the color drains from my face. My heart is pounding in my ears. My knees are about to break. I can’t stop staring at his small hand outstretched, offered to me.

“James,” Adam says a little curtly.

James starts laughing. “I was only kidding.” He drops his hand.

“What?” I can barely breathe. My head is spinning, confused.

“Don’t worry,” James says, still chuckling. “I won’t touch you. Adam told me all about your magical powers.” He rolls his eyes.

“Adam—told—he—what?”

“Hey, maybe we should go inside.” Adam clears his throat a little too loudly. “I’ll just grab our bags real quick—” And he jogs off toward the tank. I’m left staring at James. He doesn’t conceal his curiosity.

“How old are you?” he asks me. “Seventeen.”

He nods. “That’s what Adam said.”

I bristle. “What else did Adam tell you about me?”

“He said you don’t have parents, either. He said you’re like us.”

My heart is a stick of butter, melting recklessly on a hot summer day. My voice softens. “How old are you?”

“I’ll be eleven next year.”

I grin. “So you’re ten years old?”

He crosses his arms. Frowns. “I’ll be twelve in two years.” I think I already love this kid.

The cabin light shuts off and for a moment we’re immersed in absolute darkness. A soft click and a faint circular glow illuminates the view. Adam has a flashlight.

“Hey, James? Why don’t you lead the way for us?”

“Yes, sir!” He skids to a halt in front of Adam’s feet, offers us an exaggerated salute, and runs off so quickly there’s no possible way to follow him. I can’t help the smile spreading across my face.

Adam’s hand slips into mine as we move forward. “You okay?”

I squeeze his fingers. “You told your ten-year-old brother about my magical powers?”

He laughs. “I tell him a lot of things.”

“Adam?”

“Yeah?”

“Isn’t your house the first place Warner will go looking for you? Isn’t this dangerous?”

“It would be. But according to public records, I don’t have a home.”

“And your brother?”

“Would be Warner’s first target. It’s safer for him where I can watch over him. Warner knows I have

a brother, he just doesn’t know where. And until he figures it out—which he will—we have to prepare.”

“To fight?”

“To fight back. Yeah.” Even in the dim light of this foreign space I can see the determination holding him together. It makes me want to sing.

I close my eyes. “Good.”

“What’s taking you so long?” James shouts in the distance. And we’re off.

The parking garage is located underneath an old abandoned office building buried in the shadows. A fire exit leads directly up to the main floor.

James is so excited he’s jumping up and down the stairs, running forward a few steps only to run back to complain we’re not coming fast enough. Adam catches him from behind and lifts him off the floor. He laughs. “You’re going to break your neck.”

James protests but only halfheartedly. He’s all too happy to have his brother back.

A sharp pang of some distant kind of emotion hits me in the heart. It hurts in a bittersweet way I can’t place. I feel oddly warm and numb at the same time.

Adam punches a pass code into a keypad by a massive steel door. There’s a soft click, a short beep, and he turns the handle.

I’m stunned by what I see inside.


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