Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 34

Thirty-Four

Read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi Chapter 34

Adam and I forced ourselves 5 feet apart last night, but somehow I wake up in his arms. He’s breathing softly, evenly, steadily, a warm hum in the morning air. I blink, peering into the daylight only to be met by a set of big blue eyes on a 10year-old’s face.

“How come you can touch him?” James is standing over us with his arms crossed, back to the stubborn boy I remember. There’s no trace of fear, no hint of tears threatening to spill down his face. It’s like last night never happened. “Well?” His impatience startles me.

I jump away from Adam’s uncovered upper half so quickly it jolts him awake. A little.

He reaches for me. “Juliette . . . ?”

“You’re touching a girl!”

Adam sits up so quickly he tangles in the sheets and falls back on his elbows.

“Jesus, James—”

“You were sleeping next to a girl!”

Adam opens and closes his mouth several times. He glances at me. Glances at his brother. Shuts his eyes and finally sighs. Runs a hand through his morning hair. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“I thought you said she couldn’t touch anyone.” James is staring at me now, suspicious.

“She can’t.”

“Except for you?” “Right. Except for me.” And Warner.

“She can’t touch anyone except for you.” And Warner.

“Right.”

“That seems awfully convenient.” James narrows his eyes.

Adam laughs out loud. “Where’d you learn to talk like that?”

James frowns. “Benny says that a lot. She says my excuses are ‘awfully convenient.’” He makes air quotes with two fingers. “She says it means I don’t believe you. And I don’t believe you.”

Adam gets to his feet. The early morning light filters through the small windows at the perfect angle, the perfect moment. He’s bathed in gold, his muscles taut, his pants still a little low on his hips and I have to force myself to think straight. I’m shocked by my own lack of self-control, but I’m not sure I know how to contain these feelings. Adam makes me hungry for things I never knew I could have.

I watch as he drapes an arm over his brother’s shoulders before squatting down to meet his gaze. “Can I talk to you about something?” he says.

“Privately?”

“Just me and you?” James glances at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeah. Just me and you.”

“Okay.”

I watch the two of them disappear into James’ room and wonder what Adam is going to tell him. It takes me a moment to realize James must feel threatened by my sudden appearance. He finally sees his brother after nearly 6 months only to have him come home with a strange girl with crazy magical powers. I nearly laugh at the idea. If only it were magic that made me this way.

I don’t want James to think I’m taking Adam away from him.

I slip back under the covers and wait. The morning is cool and brisk and my thoughts begin to wander to Warner. I need to remember that we’re not safe. Not yet, maybe not ever. I need to remember never to get too comfortable. I sit up.

Pull my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around my ankles.

I wonder if Adam has a plan.

James’ door squeaks open. The two brothers step out, the younger before the older. James looks a little pink and he can hardly meet my eyes. He looks embarrassed and I wonder if Adam punished him.

My heart fails for a moment.

Adam claps James on the shoulder. Squeezes. “You okay?”

“I know what a girlfriend is—”

“I never said you didn’t—”

“So you’re his girlfriend?” James crosses his arms, looks at me.

There are 400 cotton b***s caught in my windpipe. I look at Adam because I don’t know what else to do.

Hey, maybe you should be getting ready for school, huh?” Adam opens the refrigerator and hands James a new foil package. I assume it’s his breakfast.

“I don’t have to go,” James protests. “It’s not like a real school, no one has to—”

“I want you to,” Adam cuts him off. He turns back to his brother with a small smile. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get back.”

James hesitates. “You promise?”

“Yeah.” Another grin. Nods him over. “Come here.”

James runs forward and clings to Adam like he’s afraid he’ll disappear. Adam pops the foil food into the Automat and presses a button. He musses

James’ hair. “You need to get a haircut, kid.”

James wrinkles his nose. “I like it.”

“It’s a little long, don’t you think?”

James lowers his voice. “I think her hair is really long.”

James and Adam glance back at me and I melt into pink Play-Doh. I touch my hair without intending to, suddenly self-conscious. I look down. I’ve never had a reason to cut my hair. I’ve never even had the tools. No one offers me sharp objects.

I chance a peek and see Adam is still staring at me. James is staring at the Automat.

“I like her hair,” Adam says, and I’m not sure who he’s talking to.

I watch the two of them as Adam helps his brother get ready for school. James is so full of life, so full of energy, so excited to have his brother around. It makes me wonder what it must be like for a 10-year-old to live on his own. What it must be like for all the kids who live on this street.

I’m itching to get up and change, but I’m not sure what I should do. I don’t want to take up the bathroom in case James needs it, or if Adam needs it. I don’t want to take up any more space than I already have. It feels so private, so personal, this relationship between Adam and James. It’s the kind of bond I’ve never had, will never have. But being around so much love has managed to thaw my frozen parts into something human. I feel human. Like maybe I could be a part of this world. Like maybe I don’t have to be a monster. Maybe I’m not a monster.

Maybe things can change.


Options

not work with dark mode
Reset