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Glass lifted her head from LukeвЂ™s chest, trying not to be frightened by how much effort it required. He smiled as she pushed herself into a sitting position and let her long legs spill over the side of the couch. Glass wasnвЂ™t sure whether the lack of oxygen was making her drowsy, or whether she was just tired from staying up most of the night. Lying in bed with Luke, the last thing she wanted to do was sleep. They didnвЂ™t know how much time they had left, so every moment was precious. She and Luke had spent the last few nights wrapped in each otherвЂ™s arms: whispering their fleeting, half-formed thoughts, or just lying silently, memorizing the sound of each otherвЂ™s heartbeats.
вЂњI should probably go out and look for more supplies.вЂќ Luke spoke lightly, but they both knew the gravity of what he was proposing. Ever since the skybridge between the ships had closed, the chaos on Walden had reached a fever pitch. The WaldenitesвЂ™ desperate attempts to find and hoard food had turned violent. Armed with a meager handful of protein packets, Glass and Luke had barred themselves inside LukeвЂ™s tiny flat, doing their best to ignore the sounds echoing from the corridorsвЂ”the angry shouts of neighbors fighting over supplies, the frantic cries of mothers searching for lost children, the ragged wheezes of those struggling to breathe the increasingly thin air.
вЂњItвЂ™s okay,вЂќ Glass said. вЂњWe have enough for a few days, and after thatвЂ¦вЂќ She cut herself off, looking away.
вЂњYouвЂ™re really too good at keeping calm under pressure. ItвЂ™s a little scary. You should have been a guard.вЂќ He tapped his finger under her chin. вЂњIвЂ™m serious,вЂќ he said in response to her look of skepticism. вЂњIвЂ™ve always thought women make the best guards. ItвЂ™s a shame girls on Phoenix never really consider it.вЂќ
Glass smiled inwardly, imagining her best friend WellsвЂ™s surprise if sheвЂ™d shown up to the first day of officer training. While he probably wouldвЂ™ve been too shocked to speak at first, she was sure heвЂ™d have supported her. Before she met Luke, Wells was the one person whoвЂ™d always treated her seriously, who believed she had talents beyond flirting and styling her hair.
вЂњI guess I couldвЂ™ve given it a shot, as long as no one tried to make me spacewalk.вЂќ The word alone was enough to make her nauseated as she imagined stepping into weightlessness.
Luke cleared his throat. вЂњYou know they donвЂ™t let just anyone spacewalk,вЂќ he said with mock grandiosity. Luke was part of the elite corps of guards who were also trained as engineers, responsible for making crucialвЂ”and dangerousвЂ”repairs to the ship. She would never forget how terrified she had felt a few weeks ago, when sheвЂ™d watched Luke go outside the ship to examine a malfunctioning airlock. For twenty heart-racing minutes, a thin cord had been all that kept him from being lost in the emptiness of space. The cord, and GlassвЂ™s fervent prayers.
вЂњNot to mention, you wouldвЂ™ve looked pretty cute in the uniform.вЂќ
вЂњWant me to try on yours, to see?вЂќ Glass asked innocently.
He grinned. вЂњMaybe later.вЂќ But as soon as the words left his mouth, his face fell. They both knew there wasnвЂ™t going to be a вЂњlater.вЂќ
Glass jumped to her feet and tossed her long hair over her shoulder. вЂњCome on,вЂќ she said, grabbing LukeвЂ™s hand. вЂњI have an idea for dinner.вЂќ
вЂњReally? You managed to decide between two-day-old protein paste and three-day-old protein paste?вЂќ
вЂњIвЂ™m serious. LetвЂ™s make it special. Why donвЂ™t we use the plates?вЂќ Earthmade relics were rare on Walden, but LukeвЂ™s family had held on to two beautiful plates an ancestor had carried onto the ship.
Luke hesitated for a fraction of a second, then rose to his feet. вЂњThat sounds like a nice idea. IвЂ™ll go get them.вЂќ He squeezed GlassвЂ™s hand before disappearing into his room, where he kept the valuable relics hidden away.
Glass went into the tiny bathroom and looked at herself in the sliver of scratched mirror above the sink. In the past, sheвЂ™d found the lack of grooming space endlessly frustrating, but now she was grateful not to know what she looked like after three days in the same clothes. She finger-combed her hair and washed her face with the tepid water.
She didnвЂ™t think sheвЂ™d taken very long, but when she stepped back into the living space, Glass found the flat transformed. The flickering lights near the table werenвЂ™t flashbeamsвЂ”they were candles. вЂњWhere did you get those?вЂќ Glass asked in surprise, padding over for a closer look. There werenвЂ™t many candles left anywhere on the Colony, let alone on Walden.
вЂњI was saving them for a special occasion,вЂќ Luke said, coming out of his room. As GlassвЂ™s eyes adjusted to the darkness, her breath caught in her chest. Luke had changed into dark pants and what seemed to be a matching jacket. Could it be a real suit? They rarely appeared in the Exchange. Even the men on Phoenix had trouble tracking them down.
Glass had seen Luke straight-backed and serious-faced in his guard uniform. SheвЂ™d seen him casual and laughing in his civilian clothes, playing catch with the little kids in his corridor. In the suit, he looked as confident as soldier-Luke, but he held himself differently. More relaxed.
вЂњIвЂ™m underdressed,вЂќ Glass said, tugging at the sleeve of her slightly dingy shirt.
Luke tilted his head to the side and surveyed her for a long moment. вЂњYou look perfect.вЂќ There was a note of admiration in his voice that made Glass grateful for the candles, for the flickering light that obscured her old clothes and her sudden blush.
She took a few steps forward and ran her finger along LukeвЂ™s sleeve. вЂњWhere did you get this?вЂќ
вЂњIt was CarterвЂ™s, actually.вЂќ
The name made Glass snatch her hand away, as if sheвЂ™d been burned.
вЂњAre you okay?вЂќ Luke asked.
вЂњYes, fine,вЂќ Glass said quickly. вЂњI was just surprised. Carter never struck me as a suit guy.вЂќ Carter was an older boy whoвЂ™d taken Luke in after his mother diedвЂ”out of charity, heвЂ™d claimed, but Glass had always suspected it was for the extra ration points. He was lazy, manipulative, and dangerous, and had once tried to assault Glass when she was waiting in their flat. Yet while Luke was generally far from naГЇve, his childhood admiration for Carter blinded him to his faults, and Glass had never been able to make him see the truth about the man he saw as a sort of mentor.
Luke shrugged. вЂњHe wasnвЂ™t. He was short on points one month, so I bought the suit from him. It was pretty generous of him, actually. He couldвЂ™ve gotten a lot more at the Exchange.вЂќ
No, he couldnвЂ™t have, Glass thought. Because he wouldвЂ™ve been arrested for selling stolen goods. But then she felt a pang of guilt. Carter had been a scumbag, but now he was deadвЂ”executed for a crime he hadnвЂ™t committed.
And it was GlassвЂ™s fault.
Last year, Glass had made the terrifying discovery that she was pregnantвЂ”a violation of the ColonyвЂ™s rigid population control law that was punishable by Confinement for minorsвЂ¦ and death for anyone over eighteen.
Desperate to keep Luke safe, Glass had done her best to hide her condition. But when her pregnancy was discovered, sheвЂ™d been arrested and forced to name the father. Glass knew that if she told the truth, nineteen-year-old Luke would be put to death. So, in a moment of panic, she gave the name of a man who made her skin crawl, a man she knew would be arrested sooner or later, anyway: Carter.
Luke didnвЂ™t know what Glass had done. No one on Walden had any idea why Carter had been dragged away in the middle of the night. At least, thatвЂ™s what Glass had thought until two days ago, when LukeвЂ™s best friend and ex-girlfriend, Camille, had threatened to expose GlassвЂ™s secret if she didnвЂ™t do anything and everything Camille asked.
вЂњShould we eat?вЂќ Glass asked weakly, desperate to change the subject.
Luke placed the two plates on the table with a clink. вЂњDinner is served.вЂќ
There was laughably little protein paste, but Glass noticed that Luke had given her a far larger serving. The upside to the meager portions was that they allowed Glass to admire the scenes painted on the platesвЂ”one depicted a couple in front of the Eiffel Tower, while the other showed the same couple walking a dog in a park. Luke didnвЂ™t know the story behind the relics, but Glass liked to imagine that a real couple had bought the plates on their honeymoon, and then brought them up to the Colony as keepsakes.
вЂњIs it strange to dress up to eat protein paste?вЂќ Luke asked as he scooped some up with his spoon.
вЂњI donвЂ™t think so. For a while, Wells was obsessed with this book about a famous boat crash. Apparently, everyone put on their best clothes and then listened to music while the ship was going down.вЂќ
Glass was proud to know this little fact about Earth history, but instead of looking impressed, Luke winced. вЂњYou shouldвЂ™ve stayed on Phoenix,вЂќ he said softly. вЂњComing here was like boarding a sinking ship.вЂќ Although Walden and Arcadia had been abandoned by the CouncilвЂ”left to die as their oxygen supplies dwindledвЂ”Phoenix, the central ship, still had oxygen reserves. Glass had fled the safety of her home ship to come be with Luke on Walden.
вЂњDo you think Camille made it across?вЂќ Luke asked as he used his spoon to trace a pattern in the protein paste.
Glass suppressed a wince of her own. When sheвЂ™d arrived on Walden, LukeвЂ™s ex-girlfriend Camille had demanded Glass show her how sheвЂ™d snuck from ship to ship. And when Glass had hesitated, knowing that the guards would likely shoot a Waldenite trespassing on Phoenix now that the skybridge had been closed, Camille had whispered the most terrifying threat Glass could imagine: If Glass didnвЂ™t help her, Camille would tell Luke about Carter. Glass had no idea how the other girl discovered her secret, but she hadnвЂ™t wasted time trying to find out as she hurried Camille to the secret air vent that connected Walden to Phoenix.
вЂњI hope so,вЂќ Glass said in answer to LukeвЂ™s question, turning away to avoid meeting his eye.
вЂњItвЂ™s not too late for you,вЂќ Luke said carefully. He had begged Glass to return with Camille, but she refused. вЂњYou could climb through the vent andвЂ”вЂќ
GlassвЂ™s spoon fell from her hand onto her plate. вЂњNo,вЂќ she said, a little more sharply than sheвЂ™d meant. вЂњWe talked about this.вЂќ
Luke sighed. вЂњOkay, how about this?вЂќ He took a breath to speak, but then he caught GlassвЂ™s eye and let out a sputtering laugh.
вЂњWhat?вЂќ Glass asked. вЂњWhatвЂ™s so funny?вЂќ
вЂњYou were scowling at me.вЂќ
Glass sat up straighter. вЂњWell, IвЂ™m upset. IвЂ™m not sure why you find it so amusing.вЂќ
вЂњBecause IвЂ™m sure it was the exact expression you used to make when you were a little kid and didnвЂ™t get your way.вЂќ
вЂњLuke, come on. IвЂ™m trying to be serious.вЂќ