Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)


by Tahereh Mafi

ONE

I am an hourglass.

My seventeen years have collapsed and buried me from the inside out. My legs feel full of sand and stapled together, my mind overflowing with grains of indecision, choices unmade and impatient as time runs out of my body. The small hand of a clock taps me at one and two, three and four, whispering hello, get up, stand up, it’s time to

wake up

wake up

“Wake up,” he whispers.

A sharp intake of breath and I’m awake but not up, surprised but not scared, somehow staring into the very desperately green eyes that seem to know too much, too well. Aaron Warner Anderson is bent over me, his worried eyes inspecting me, his hand caught in the air like he might’ve been about to touch me.

He jerks back.

He stares, unblinking, chest rising and falling.

“Good morning,” I assume. I’m unsure of my voice, of the hour and this day, of these words leaving my lips and this body that contains me.

I notice he’s wearing a white button-down, half untucked into his curiously unrumpled black slacks. His shirtsleeves are folded, pushed up past his elbows.

His smile looks like it hurts.

I pull myself into a seated position and Warner shifts to accommodate me. I have to close my eyes to steady the sudden dizziness, but I force myself to remain still until the feeling passes.

I’m tired and weak from hunger, but other than a few general aches, I seem to be fine. I’m alive. I’m breathing and blinking and feeling human and I know exactly why.

I meet his eyes. “You saved my life.”

I was shot in the chest.

Warner’s father put a bullet in my body and I can still feel the echoes of it. If I focus, I can relive the exact moment it happened; the pain: so intense, so excruciating; I’ll never be able to forget it.

I suck in a startled breath.

I’m finally aware of the familiar foreignness of this room and I’m quickly seized by a panic that screams I did not wake up where I fell asleep. My heart is racing and I’m inching away from him, hitting my back against the headboard, clutching at these sheets, trying not to stare at the chandelier I remember all too well—

“It’s okay—” Warner is saying. “It’s all right—”

“What am I doing here?” Panic, panic; terror clouds my consciousness. “Why did you bring me here again—?”

“Juliette, please, I’m not going to hurt you—”

“Then why did you bring me here?” My voice is starting to break and I’m struggling to keep it steady. “Why bring me back to this hellhole—”

“I had to hide you.” He exhales, looks up at the wall.

“What? Why?”

“No one knows you’re alive.” He turns to look at me. “I had to get back to base. I needed to pretend everything was back to normal and I was running out of time.”

I force myself to lock away the fear.

I study his face and analyze his patient, earnest tone. I remember him last night—it must’ve been last night—I remember his face, remember him lying next to me in the dark. He was tender and kind and gentle and he saved me, saved my life. Probably carried me into bed. Tucked me in beside him. It must’ve been him.

But when I glance down at my body I realize I’m wearing clean clothes, no blood or holes or anything anywhere and I wonder who washed me, wonder who changed me, and worry that might’ve been Warner, too.

“Did you . . .” I hesitate, touching the hem of the shirt I’m wearing. “Did—I mean—my clothes—”

He smiles. He stares until I’m blushing and I decide I hate him a little and then he shakes his head. Looks into his palms. “No,” he says. “The girls took care of that. I just carried you to bed.”

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