I shoot one last glance at Apollo. He’s incredibly knowledgeable, yet he doesn’t get my obvious hint of sarcasm. How he works is a complete mystery to me. He needs to loosen up a bit, and maybe enjoy himself.
I focus my mind on him, trying to find his thoughts, but instead, I find nothing but blank space. Am I really the only one who fails so much at multi-tasking that I can’t have a shield up at all times, while listening to other people’s thoughts?
“Yeah, you are,” Artemis laughs, teasing me.
“Okay, it’s a bit creepy that you always seem to be spying on my thoughts,” I tease back.
“Well, maybe you should try to hide them better. You’re lucky I’m a friend and not an enemy, or I could know your darkest secrets.” A sly grin creeps across his face.
“You wouldn’t,” I hiss. I can bet my expression was malicious.
“Oh, Apollo is so smart, but he’s so weird sometimes!” Artemis says in an unnaturally high-pitched voice.
“First of all, I don’t sound like that!” I roll my eyes. “And secondly, I never said that!” I lie. Apollo stiffens ahead of us, still keeping his pace. I feel horrible. “Apollo, I never said that.”
“No, but you thought it,” I hear him mumble in front of us.
I focus my mind once more, trying to reach into Apollo’s mind, but as always, it’s out of my grasp. I look at him, pleading for him to turn around, knowing that he’s listening in on my thoughts. He doesn’t.
Why do you care so much what he thinks? Artemis’s voice is inside my head. I look at him in shock. Yeah, I’m in your thoughts. Is that such a big surprise? I shake my head no. Oh, and I’d recommend keeping Apollo out of this conversation. There’s a reason I’m not saying any of this out loud.
I nod, blocking myself from Apollo. I can feel his presence in my mind, so I force the barrier closer to myself, pushing him away. So he was ignoring my pleas after all. Embarrassment overcomes me again as I realize how often they might be listening in my private thoughts.
Like I said, Selene, Artemis’s voice startles me, you really need to be more careful. Still, it’s better that it’s us and not an enemy. Again, I nod. I understand. Selene, you are aware that you don’t have to just nod, and you can reply, right? It’s starting to feel like a one-way conversation. Oh. More embarrassment. And one more thing, you get embarrassed way too easily.
I can feel a blush coming in. I can’t help it. Trying to shake away the feeling lingering on me, I focus my thoughts. CAN YOU HEAR ME? I push the words into his mind.
Artemis jumps. Jeez! YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY SO HARD AND YELL!
Even though his voice is in my head, my ears ache as though he were yelling straight into them. Sorry. I’m not quite used to this yet. I still give my thoughts a bit of emphasis, in case he can’t understand me, even though he’s probably an expert at finding even the smallest thoughts in my mind.
I am an expert. You know, you can be so dull sometimes. I can still hear your thoughts, as I have been able to hear them for forever. He winks at me.
I quickly change the topic, So what was all of this about? I’m sure you didn’t start this whole conversation just so that you could teach me how to talk to you in my mind?
Artemis takes in a deep breath and looks ahead to make sure Apollo is far away. He’s quite far ahead, oblivious to the fact that we’re so far behind… or maybe he’s a much better actor than I think.
I can’t do this anymore, he states. I can’t not live. I have been given a life, and I know there’s a reason, but why do I need to do what they tell me? They gave me a life, so they should expect me to try and live it! Selene, come with me. We can live. We can actually live.
I skid to a stop, unable to look at Artemis. I’ve learned from experience, and I build walls around my mind. “Apollo,” I try to speak in a calm tone, but it comes out forced, “we’re stopping to rest. We need to sleep.”
Obediently, he walks over to a pine tree, and leans against it, sagging down. He gives me a sad look, ripping me apart, but I have more important things to do right now. The sad look disappears shortly, replaced once more by his usual blank expression.
“Selene, Artemis?” He glances at me to make sure I’m listening. “I just want to let you know one thing. I would rather know what you are talking about than be in the dark. Your words do not hurt me, for words mean nothing. I simply do not see why you cannot tell me what you are talking about.”
“Apollo, just because you pretend they don’t hurt you doesn’t mean they don’t,” I reply. For a moment we hold each other’s stares, and then he turns away, closing his eyes.
The moment his eyes close, I turn back to Artemis. I feel terrible for not waiting until Apollo is asleep, but some things can’t wait, and I don’t have the patience to leave this a second more.
You can’t leave me, I plead with my eyes.
You know I don’t respond to orders, Selene, Artemis replies. Besides, you’ll be coming with me, won’t you? I won’t be leaving you; we’ll simply be leaving him. He nods towards Apollo.
I look at Apollo. He still isn’t asleep. He isn’t as good of an actor as I thought. I continue to stare at him. I don’t know how much time passes in silence, but slowly his breathing grows slow and deep.
What would he do if he woke up tomorrow only to find us gone? He’s the brain of the three of us though… surely he can manage to do all of this on his own. No. The three of us can’t be separated. I’m almost positive of that. Apollo couldn’t even find the sarcasm in my voice, so how can I expect him to find the dangers that lie in the world? How can I expect him to be able to be the Destiny of Eclipse, Talon, and my Rain? The three of us together feels almost as right as Rain and me being together.
I look back at Artemis. Being with him feels so right, but being with Rain feels even more right.
I can’t, I reply. I can’t leave Rain, and, believe it or not, Apollo. They need me. Talon needs you too, Artemis. Don’t you understand?
I can’t believe that after all this, you’re still only thinking about your Destined and Apollo. You don’t know her yet, and you already love her more than you love me? My breath catches in my throat. I know you love me, Selene. We’ve already broken almost every rule there is to break. What’s the difference of breaking one more?
My throat chokes up, leaving me unable to speak… but I’m not even speaking. My chest is clenched so tightly that I can’t think straight. I do love him… and that is a sin. Destinies shouldn’t be able to feel emotions. They interfere with our jobs.
You sound like Apollo. Artemis already knows he’s fighting a lost cause. I can feel it. Selene, come with me. What if we aren’t Destinies? What if all the things we’ve been told before are lies?
But what if they aren’t? I look at him, straight into those eyes. What if they aren’t, Artemis? What then? Lies wouldn’t feel so right, Artemis. The thought of Rain feels right, unlike lies, and unlike the thoughts you’re putting inside my head. I stop once again, trying to figure out what’s going on. Love… doesn’t feel right. It’s just tearing me apart from the inside. Are you willing to sacrifice yourself and your Destined just for something inside your head… for something that is wrong?
It’s all inside my head, Selene. He steps closer to me. Everything that happens is inside my head, and I can only trust myself. I am right. I honestly thought that you could be like me, Selene. We could create our own destiny... He sees my expression. I suppose not. He turns away. Good-bye.
The transition is so sudden and so cold. The connection between our minds breaks, and his thoughts exit mine, leaving me behind, empty. I’ve felt this before, the absence of everything when I was first assigned the tasks. There wasn’t such a thing as love. There wasn’t such a thing as life, but now I had a taste of them, and I wanted them desperately.
“Wait,” I whisper, only a thread of my voice left. “Artemis… think it through one more time.”
He whips around, his eyes burning. Even with the fire in his eyes, I don’t see the warmth that I saw in Apollo’s eyes. It’s a cold, harsh, icy blaze in Artemis’s eyes.
Suddenly, he is on me, his lips against mine. I feel my eyes widen, and I push away for a moment. This is all wrong!
Then, I taste the sweetness, the goodness. It feels right. Love is right. It is perfect. Everything fits together. We will be together forever. This can’t be wrong. He loves me. I love him. Thank you.
The next thing I know, he is gone, leaving nothing behind. I try to call out to him, but he has taken my voice as well. He has stripped away everything I had, everything I ever will have.
Good-bye, Selene. His thoughts touch mine one last time.
A shriek pierces the silence. It cannot be me… because he stole my voice. The ear-splitting scream rings in my ears and splits me apart until my soul runs down my face in streaks.
Continue to Chapter 4