Home > Firstlife (Everlife #1)(5)

Firstlife (Everlife #1)(5)
Gena Showalter

“You might want to stop mentioning the realms,” I finally say. “It’ll get you punished.”

She pushes out a breath. “Fine. I’ll talk about something else. Something fascinating. Like the food. I’m pretty sure it’s going to look the same coming out as it does going in.”

She isn’t wrong. “If you want a change of menu, the bugs in our room are always an option. Side note. Spiders taste like shrimp and cockroaches taste like greasy chicken.”

“Okay, I now want to gag and hug you at the same time.” She thinks for a moment, releases a dreamy sigh. “Maybe I’ll have dessert snuck in.”

“Good luck with that.” Others have tried. Others have failed. “You’ll be caught and—”

“Punished. Yeah, yeah. I know.”

We’re both given a tray. As we search for a table, a group of boys gives Bow a once-over. Snickers abound.

I stiffen, but Bow winks at them as we claim the empty table to their right.

“I think I heard the guards say her name’s Bow,” one of them says, not even trying to be quiet.

“It fits—unlike her uniform. Fatty Bow Batty,” another mutters, spurring outright laughter from his friends.

Bow ignores them and stirs her slop as if she hasn’t a care. She’s short and big-boned, a little plain, but she’s a person with feelings.

I find myself snapping, “Integrity matters more than size, dreg.” A derogatory name for someone neither realm wants.

He blows me a kiss. “Why don’t you come sit on my lap, Nutter? I’ll show you just how sizable I am.”

Innuendos are always on the menu at Prynne, and I usually overlook them. Today, my fingers tighten around my spoon. We aren’t given forks or knives, ever. Not that it matters. I can do bad, bad things with a spoon.

I glare at him and say, “Do you like having a tongue?”

He sticks his out and wags it at me.

I don’t want to fight him—I’m too sore—but I will. If I lose, I lose, but at least I’ll leave an impression.

Bow pats my hand. “Forget about him, Sperm Bank. He doesn’t yet understand the outside is a shell for all of us. My beauty is on the inside, where it never fades.”

She can’t be this nice. She just can’t be.

The boys return to their conversation, whispering among themselves, pretending what almost happened didn’t almost happen.

“Plus,” Bow adds, “he isn’t even close to my type.”

“Which is?”

She wiggles her brows. “Female.”

Ah. Got it.

We lapse into silence. I remain aware of the people around us, always on alert, as I clean my tray. Gotta stay as strong as possible. Bow merely picks at the meal. One day soon, hunger will get the better of her and she’ll be thankful for the slop.

One of the boys is trying to snag a bite off his friend’s tray as we stand.

“Touch my food and die.” The friend’s snarl is pure menace.

“Here. You can have mine,” Bow says.

The boy scowls at her. “Mind your own business, cow.”

Trust no one. Question everything.

She shrugs, unaffected. “Your loss.”

I’m not sure where to lump her in my mental files. Too good to be true? The real deal? Worth emulating? Or to be disregarded?

As we file out of the cafeteria, I’m sent to the commons for early morning therapy of the mind—have to get my day started right, I mentally sneer—and Bow is sent to the gym for early morning therapy of the body.

Sloan shoves another girl out of the way to claim the chair next to me. “You need to put your roommate on a shorter leash.”

Going to pretend we didn’t threaten each other? Fine.

“I’m not her keeper,” I say. Her actions, her consequences.

“Don’t be stupid,” Sloan snaps. “In this place, your roomie should be your best friend. She’s the one who’s going to watch your back when yours is bruised.” With a smirk, she presses on my shoulder, drawing a hiss from me. “Like now.”

I bat her arm away, which only makes my pain worse. “I don’t need your advice.” Trust no one...

“Obviously you do. Word is, Vans will be gone tonight. Two guards have decided there’s no better time to retaliate against you for choking their friend.”

I stiffen. The choking incident happened four months ago, and the memory still haunts me. The guard in question snuck into my room. He thought I should earn his goodwill. I thought differently.

He left in a body bag.

I didn’t enjoy killing him, even in self-defense, but I also didn’t feel more than a few twinges of remorse. I’ve endured one too many beatings, or maybe I’ve witnessed one too many murders. Kids killing other kids. Guards killing kids. Vans killing James. We’re desensitized fast. Here, it’s survival of the fittest.

Guess Myriad and I agree on something. Might Equals Right.

“Thanks for the warning,” I say, my stomach beginning to churn. I’m not ready for another battle. Not one of this magnitude. I’m not strong enough.

Doesn’t matter. I have to find a way.

She scowls at me. “I didn’t do it for you. The more prepared you are, the better your chances of killing two more of Vans’s men.”

Bloodthirsty girl. As always. “Also the better my chances of spending another thirty days in the pit, giving you a chance to strike at Bow without my interference, eh.” The pit is a frigid hole in the basement where the only source of water is a rusty tap, and a bucket is the only piece of furniture.

“Hey. It’s a small price to pay.”

“Of course you’d think so. You’ve never spent any time down there.”

“Not for lack of trying!”

I can’t argue with that. I’ve often wondered why she’s singular to Vans. Is she sleeping with him?

I’ve heard rumors about girls earning special privileges with their bodies. I’ve also heard about girls being threatened with harsher punishments if they refuse. Even the thought fills me with rage.

From time to time, a guard has propositioned me. I said no, flat out, every time. I’ve never had sex and my first time won’t be a freaking business transaction. In my old life, some of my friends had often hit-it-and-quit-it, and it hadn’t taken me long to notice most grumbled with disappointment while only a rare few sighed dreamily.

The loss of my virginity is a memory I’m going to carry into my Secondlife and dang it, I’m going to be one of the ones who sighs dreamily.

“You boning the boss?” I ask her.

Color blooms in her cheeks. Embarrassment? Shame? Both? She jumps up and snarls at me. “Oh, go to Many Ends, dreg!”

“And leave these luxurious accommodations? Nah.”

She flounces off and chooses a new seat.

I remain on a razor’s edge of calm through therapy...my different classes...lunch...and finally dinner. No one strikes at me, but all the guards are a little too nice. They smile every time I pass. They ask if I need help with anything.

That night, after Bow and I are locked in our cell, our lights out, I rush to cover the camera with a sheet—just in case—and gather my stash of shivs made from spoons and toothbrushes, hidden behind a stone in the wall.

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