Whispers had followed them all day. School had been an impossible length and a waste. She’d wanted to stay away. He hadn’t. So, she’d attended classes she didn’t give a shit about. On her way into her second to last class a hand plucked at her sleeve and she turned to see Jory. He pulled her away from the door and towards the exit.
“Enough. You’ve done enough, Marcelina. Come on.”
Relief flooded through her as they slipped from the school. The cameras would have seen them, but neither cared. It wouldn’t matter. Not after today. Everyone had said it would be today.
They walked back to his house, hands clasped and neither speaking. His parents worked so they had the house to themselves. After ransacking the kitchen, they wound up in his bedroom. Another contest of wills then, but Marcelina won and they had frenzied, desperate sex in the silence of the house.
“We have time,” he pointed out when they were done and laid together in a jumble of sweaty limbs.
“Next time. I- I just needed that.”
He kissed her cheek with a grin.
Marcelina clung to him and hated the way she sobbed. A vow this morning not to do this exact thing had not kept it from happening. It would end today. Everything would. She didn’t want it to happen. It wasn’t fair.
Jory stroked her back and let her cry. With her face buried against his chest she could let him think she didn’t know he cried. He probably didn’t worry about such things.
“Eww. You’re wiping your nose on my chest.”
“I am not!”
Marcelina shoved away from him and he laughed. So, as he watched she did wipe her nose on his pillow. That done, she jerked it out from under his head and hit him with it. He grabbed for her and they tumbled off the bed together. The carpet did not protect them from the floor underneath.
“We can still run.”
He shook his head. He was right, but a tiny part of her still hated his denial of her offer. Jory stood and began to get dressed.
“Come on. I want to go somewhere.”
“I thought we were staying here?”
As if he had to ask. As if she would deny him anything. Except a life. She’d signed his death warrant. Guilt gnawed at her so she dressed and followed him from the house. She’d thought they’d go farther, but he only led her back to their old clubhouse. He climbed up first.
Which was good because when her head popped up through the trapdoor she froze with a gasp. The first thing to start working again was her nose. At least a hundred flowers were scattered on the floor and in buckets and vases along the walls. Two small lanterns lit the space and he’d hung red fabric on the walls. On their small table sat a collection of comic books.
Her fingers threatened to give free so she hauled herself up the rest of the way. Once she’d closed the trapdoor, Jory walked across the carpet of flowers towards her. More tears came as he took her hands in his.
“Marcelina, I know it won’t mean anything to anyone else, but it would mean the world to me if you would marry me. Now. Here. I’m not afraid of what’s to come.”
She was terrified. He squeezed her fingers and she nodded. They crossed the flowers and he knelt down at the table. She followed. In the back of her mind she wondered how, despite him always doing whatever crazy ideas she had, she always followed him for the important things. A smile broke the hold her tears had when she saw the stacks of Claw comics.
Jory laid his hand atop them and she followed suit. They joined their other hands together and she couldn’t help but laugh.
“Marcelina. My Marcelina. Quit laughing.” His eyes narrowed and she tried to be quiet. A giggle escaped at the end, but she managed. “Don’t be scared, Marcelina. I’m with you. I am always with you. Marcelina Beatrycze Couch, I love you and I’m yours.”
Dehydration was a real possibility if she couldn’t get her tears under control. Jory was silent as she struggled to get some control over her voice. She sucked in a deep breath and tried to find anything to say.
“Jory. I- It’s not fair. You had time to prepare!” He smirked, but also squeezed her fingers. It wouldn’t matter what she said. She only had to say something. “I love you. I always have. Nothing will keep us apart. Jory Daveth Couch, I love you and I’m yours.”
They didn’t rush this time. She would die any day now, but this memory would see her through whatever hell she was sent to in life and death. The rest of the afternoon they read old comics and made love. If death hadn’t hung over their heads it would have been perfect.
Towards evening they finally dressed again and climbed down, pockets stuffed with flowers. The neighborhood was quiet, everyone knew now. The announcement had reached even into their cocoon. Jory held her hand tight as they walked to the street and sat on the curb.
Marcelina thought about going home, but her mama would know. Siemowit had better take care of her now. There was no use going home and arguing with her brother. Instead, she laid her head on Jory’s shoulder and they sat to wait for the government van driving down the street.
Behind it a black car followed. Marcelina stood and pulled Jory up when the car stopped. She would not face him sitting down. He would not know how scared she felt.
“Couch. I am Marcelina Couch.”
The man from the car smiled at her. His attention turned to Jory and he inclined his head. Jory did nothing.
“Mr. Couch. You may go inside. Your name did not appear.”
Marcelina squeezed his hand tighter. He could go. He would live. Only, she knew he wouldn’t. If the man from the car thought to break them he was an idiot. She knew he was an idiot. And cruel.
Jory would follow Marcelina to their deaths.
And Marcelina would find a way to kill the President Dictator before she died.