Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(10)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(10)
Alexandra Bracken

And then she was looking at me, and all I wanted was for her to turn away again. Her eyes flashed, darker than I had ever seen before.

“They can say horrible things, hurt you, but you never fight back—and I know, Ruby, I know, that’s just how you are, but sometimes I wonder if you even care. Why can’t you stand up for yourself, just once?”

Her voice was barely above a whisper, but the ragged quality to it made me think she was either going to scream or burst out into hysterical tears. I glanced down to where her hands were tugging at the edges of her shorts, moving so fast and frantic that I almost didn’t see the angry red marks that circled her wrists.


“I want—” She swallowed, hard. Her tears caught in her eyelashes, but didn’t fall. “I want to be alone now. Just for a while.”

I shouldn’t have reached for her, not with fever and exhaustion pressing down on me. Not while I was trembling with a bone-deep hate for myself. But I thought, then, that if I could tell her the truth, if I could explain, she wouldn’t look at me that way again. She would know that the last thing—the absolute last thing—I ever wanted was for her to be hurt because of me. She was the only thing I had here.

But the second my fingers touched her shoulder, the world dropped out from under me. I felt a fire start at the ends of my hair and burn its way through my skull. The fever I thought I had kicked suddenly painted the world a fuzzy shade of gray. I was seeing Sam’s blank face, and she was gone, replaced by white-hot memories that didn’t belong to me—a whiteboard at school filled with math problems, a golden retriever digging in a garden, the world rising and falling from the perspective of a swing, the roots of the vegetables in the Garden being pulled free, the brick wall at the back of the Mess Hall against my face as another fist swung down toward me—a quick assault from every side, like a series of camera flashes.

And when I finally came back to myself, we were still staring at each other. For a second, I thought I saw my horrified face reflected in her dark, glassy eyes. Sam wasn’t looking at me; she didn’t seem to be looking at anything beyond the dust floating lazy and free through the air to my right. I knew that blank look. I’d seen my mother wear it years before.

“Are you new here?” she demanded, suddenly defensive and startled. Her eyes flicked down from my face to my bony knees, then back up again. She sucked in a deep breath, as if coming up for air after a long time beneath dark waters. “Do you have a name at least?”

“Ruby,” I whispered. It was the last word I spoke for nearly a year.


I WOKE TO COLD WATER and a woman’s soft voice. “You’re all right,” she was saying. “You’ll be fine.” I’m not sure who she thought she was fooling with her sweet little B.S., but it wasn’t me.

I let her bring the wet towel up to my face again, savoring her warmth as she leaned in closer. She smelled of rosemary and past things. For a second, just one, her hand came to rest against mine, and it was almost more than I could take.

I wasn’t at home, and this woman wasn’t my mother. I started gasping, desperate to keep everything inside me. I couldn’t cry, not in front of her, or any of the other adults. I wouldn’t give them the pleasure.

“Are you still in pain?”

The only reason I opened my eyes was because she pulled them open herself. One at a time, shining an intense light in each. I tried to throw my hands up to shield them, but they had strapped me down in Velcro cuffs. Fighting against the restraints was pointless.

The woman clucked her tongue and stepped back, taking her flowery fragrance with her. The smell of antiseptic and peroxide flooded the air, and I knew exactly where I was.

The sounds of Thurmond’s infirmary faded in and out in uneven waves. Some kid crying out in pain, boots clipping against the white tile floors, the creak of wheelchair wheels…I felt like I was standing above a tunnel with my ear to the ground, listening to the hum of cars passing beneath me.


The woman was wearing blue scrubs and a white coat. With her pale skin and white-blond hair she all but disappeared into the thin curtain that had been pulled around my bed. She caught me staring and smiled, so wide and so pretty.

The woman was the youngest doctor I’d ever seen in Thurmond—though admittedly I could count my trips to the Infirmary on one hand. I went once for the stomach flu and dehydration after what Sam called my Gut Puking Spectacular, and once for a sprained wrist. Both times I felt far worse after being groped by a pair of wrinkled hands than I had before I’d come in. Nothing cures a cold faster than the thought of an old perv wearing a cologne of alcohol and lemon hand soap.

This woman—she was unreal. Everything about her.

“My name is Dr. Begbie. I’m a volunteer with the Leda Corporation.”

I nodded, glancing at the gold swan insignia on her coat pocket.

She leaned in closer. “We’re a big medical company that does research and sends doctors in to help care for you guys at the camps. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you’re more than welcome to call me Cate and leave off the doctor business.”

Sure I was. I stared at the hand she extended toward me. Silence hung between us, punctuated by the pounding in my head. After an awkward moment, Dr. Begbie stuffed her hand back into the pocket of her lab coat, but not before letting it stray over the restraint securing my left hand to the bed’s guardrail.

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