Undiscovered: An Unremembered Novella (The Unremembered Trilogy) (5 page)

Some days I would get lucky. She would be waiting for me, a smile brightening her entire face. One time she remembered me for four days in a row.

These were the days that terrified me the most.

Because Diotech never did anything by accident. They didn’t make mistakes.

They were sustaining her memories on purpose. And that purpose—whatever it may have been—gave me nightmares.

As the months wore on, these “lucky” days became more and more frequent, making me feel as though they were leading up to something, preparing for something. I decided I needed a more concrete way to track their movements. I needed some data of my own.

“Sera,” I said, lightly touching her arm.

She looked up from the story she was reading, her eyes warm and inquisitive.

“I want to try something.”

She stayed silent, her eyebrows raising ever so slightly.

I glanced around the sparse front yard of her house, and my eyes fell on the marble bench. The one she’d lifted over her head one day to show me her strength. I pointed at it. “You see that bench?”

She nodded.

I struggled, trying to figure out the right way to word it. “Every time you get home, I want you to put something under that bench.”

I used the phrase “every time you get home” because I knew that’s the way she remembered her mysterious daily trips. As “outings” with the man she referred to as her father. I was beginning to wonder if she ever really went anywhere at all. Except maybe a lab somewhere in this sector.

But regardless of what really happened each day, she always seemed to remember going somewhere.

An artificial memory to hide the truth. To hide whatever Diotech didn’t want her to know.

She studied the bench. “What do you want me to put there?”

I shrugged and leaned back on my hands. “Anything you want.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I promise to explain it later. But for now, will you just agree to do it?”

“Yes.”

“Repeat it back to me,” I told her.

“Every time I come home I will place something under the bench. For you.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

The next day, I was anxious to see if there would be anything there. If there was, it meant her memory of me hadn’t been tampered with. If there wasn’t, it meant I would be starting over yet again.

It was a small enough memory. One line out of a four-hour conversation. I knew it could be easily missed in a review. And that’s what made it the perfect test.

When I climbed the wall the following afternoon, I found the space under the bench empty.

9: Departure

I arrived home that night to find my mother sitting at the kitchen table with her usual heaviness draped around her like a blanket. I felt my stomach drop to my knees as I quickly deduced the only reason she would have to be here. In this apartment.

They found out I was using her fingerprint to access the restricted sector.

She was going to ask me to stop seeing Seraphina.

The willful answer—a resolute
no
—was already building in my throat, ready to spew out with a spray of venom.

“Lyzender.” My mom’s voice was different than I’d ever heard it. Distant and small. “Sit down.”

I shook my head, knowing I’d have an easier time standing up to her if I was actually
standing
up.

She pointed to the chair. “Please?”

“Oh, do you live here now?” I asked, the sarcasm thick and sticky on my tongue.

She sighed and looked at me. “I have to leave the compound for a while.”

I blinked in surprise, losing control of my angry façade for only a moment. That was certainly not what I expected her to say.

“Why?” I asked, immediately feeling stupid, especially when I heard the crack in my own voice. It was pointless to give my mother access to any of the emotion I was feeling. I’d learned that a long time ago. My mother didn’t
do
emotion. She didn’t respond to it. She didn’t encourage it. And she certainly didn’t participate in it. She was a scientist through and through. Emotion was wasted energy that couldn’t be analyzed.

It was as though she were born without any maternal instinct whatsoever.

Why she even had a child was beyond me.

“Research,” she said simply, her face an unchanging blank page. And then, just when I expected her to elaborate, she stood up and walked toward the door.

That’s it?

A single glitching word and she’s gone?

“I’ve asked Dr. Rio to keep an eye on you,” she added.

I scoffed at that. “He’s not my father.”

She nodded. “No, he’s not.” And then she looked at me for a moment longer than usual and said, “Goodbye, Lyzender.”

As she reached for the doorknob I felt the panic rise up in me. I willed it to go away. I tried to swallow it down with all the strength that I had.

You don’t need her!
I screamed silently at myself.

But no matter how loud my mind screeched, how hard I fought, I still couldn’t make the feeling go away. I couldn’t stop myself from wanting her to stay.

The words began to form on my tongue.

Don’t,
I warned.
Don’t ask. It will only cause you disappointment.

But I didn’t listen. Couldn’t listen. The words came bubbling forth on their own. “How long will you be gone?” I cried out, hating the desperation in my tone as much as I hated myself for speaking. As much as I hated her for leaving without more than a one-word explanation.

She stopped, turned, and for a moment, I saw something flash in her eyes. Something unrecognizable.

Was it sympathy?

Was it regret?

I guess I would never know.

“However long it takes” was all she said as she slipped out the door.

10: Peace

I ran to her.

I couldn’t stay in that apartment. I couldn’t stay in that abandoned place with my mother’s empty departing words hanging in the air like stale vapor.

I stormed out the door and I ran the entire way there, my legs aching and my lungs burning.

I needed to see her, touch her, breathe her.

I needed to be next to her.

The entire time I ran, I felt the fear chasing me. The fear that I would arrive and her father would be there. The fear that they had already gotten to her memories and she would stare at me like she’d never seen me.

It only made me run faster.

The rain started as soon as I made it through the VersaScreen. I was actually surprised when my mother’s fingerprint and retina opened the door. I was almost certain her clearances would have been suspended while she was away on her research trip. But perhaps she simply hadn’t left yet.

I was soaked through by the time I landed on the other side of the wall. A single light illuminated the window. I strained to make out the identity of the shadow that moved within. Was it a man or was it her?

A moment later the porch light came on, the front door opened and I saw her. She was dressed in the same gray pants and shirt she always wore, but something about her was more radiant than ever.

I think it was the moonlight.

Or maybe it was simply the thrill of seeing her at this hour of the night.

And the adrenaline of knowing she might not be alone.

I waited for recognition to register on her face. It felt like an eternity. A million raindrops pelted me in the space between.

And then, I saw it.

The smile.

The knowing.

The remembering.

I ran to her. I sprinted across those twenty final steps until I was painfully close. Until she was all I could see. All I could smell.

She surprised me when she reached out and touched my rain-soaked face, catching one of the rivulets on her fingertip and studying it as though it contained every answer to every question in the world.

“Do you know what a kiss is?” I asked, breathless from the running, breathless from the waiting.

From being so near her.

She lowered her hand and looked at me, that same curious tilt to her head that accompanied all the new words and ideas that I’d brought her over the last few months.

“Kiss,” she repeated, rolling it over in her mind, trying to find a matching definition. I had a suspicion she wouldn’t find one.

“No,” she finally concluded. “Will you define it for me?”

“No,” I said adamantly, shaking my head.

My answer confused her. I’ve always provided her with definitions whenever she asked for them. She opened her mouth to speak—to protest—but I didn’t let her.

“I will show you,” I vowed.

I placed my wet, trembling hands on her warm cheeks and guided her lips to mine. I half expected her to fight, to pull away, and I was ready to release her the second I felt any opposition.

But she didn’t fight.

She didn’t pull away.

She let herself be drawn to me.

Our mouths met and her body shuddered at the collision. At the shock. But it quickly melted away and she softened beneath my lips. She gave in to me. Welcomed me to her.

Kissing Seraphina was more than anything I could have ever imagined. I’d always pictured fireworks. Music. An explosion of sights and sounds.

But there was none of that.

It was better.

It was as though the world simply went to sleep. Slipped away over a horizon and left us completely alone. Even though I knew this place wasn’t safe for either of us, even though I knew this memory would be stolen from her like every other memory, in that moment, I felt like I could protect her from anything.

And yet, I felt like there was nothing left to protect her from.

We were safe.

If only for a fleeting instant.

Her lips were warm and they started to move with mine. They started to reach for mine. Hunger for mine. It wasn’t something I could ever teach her or define for her or point to in a book.

It was something she just instinctively knew.

Perhaps something we all know.

Rainwater tangled between our lips, and I deepened into her. Her arms wrapped around me, pressing our bodies tightly together, sending shivers between us. The kiss—which had started out soft and tentative and testing—had grown stronger. More urgent.

More everything.

I didn’t ever want to stop. I didn’t ever want to pull away. But I wanted to make certain she was okay. I wanted to read her expression and know that she was enjoying this as much as I was.

When I reluctantly broke away, her purple eyes were ablaze. Her face was flushed. Her hair was tousled and drenched. I hadn’t even noticed I’d been twisting my fingers in it.

“Kiss,” she repeated, this time with more of an appreciation than a curiosity. A smile danced on her lips, which I longed to kiss again.

Kiss forever.

“Yes,” I replied, my breathing still heavy.

“I like it,” she decided.

“I love you.” The words came out of my mouth before I could think about them. Before I could stop them. But as soon as I’d said them, I knew I wouldn’t have stopped myself if I could.

Because it was the truth.

“I know you don’t understand what that means,” I rushed to say, “but just know that it means something important.
You
mean something important.”

“I understand,” she said quietly, and I felt the relief wash over me.

Because I knew, even if they took this—and they would—I would still have it. I would guard it with my life.

I would hold this memory safe. For both of us.

I kissed her again. This time with delicacy. As though I were being careful not to shatter this fragile moment.

“Zen,” she breathed as our lips parted.

I looked at her, my eyebrows furrowed.

“It’s a word,” she explained. “I read it in one of the texts you brought me. It means—”

“At peace,” I answered.

“Like you.”

I shook my head, still confused.

“Ly
zen
der.”

Hearing my name on her tongue nearly made me lose my balance.

“Are you saying
I’m
at peace?” I asked, a doubtful grin on my still-tingling lips. If anything I was the opposite. I was always angry. Always frustrated. Always
disturbing
the peace. Ask any authoritative figure on this compound.

“I’m saying you make
me
feel at peace.”

I closed my eyes, soaking in her words, her sweet voice. And that’s when I realized that she had never seen that other part of me. She didn’t know that angry, bitter person who terrorized the compound. Because whenever I was here, that part of me simply ceased to exist. It evaporated into the parched desert air. I was a better person here with her.

A zen person.

The memory of my mother’s departure flashed through my mind.

“However long it takes.”

Those were my mother’s last words to me. And I heard them ringing in my ears as I reluctantly left Seraphina alone on the porch and disappeared back into the dark night.

They were true for me, too.

I made a promise to myself that night. One that I swore I would keep no matter what happened.

I would protect her.

I would take her away from this place. I would set her free.

However long it took.

11: Convincing

Seraphina looked out of place in Paris. She was too beautiful. Too inquisitive. She walked down the Avenue de l’Opera, gazing wide-eyed into every shop window, gawking incredulously at every passing pedestrian. She was more than a tourist in the city. She was a tourist on the planet. And watching her stare in amazement at the grand opera house at the end of the street, I had the unsettling feeling that she would stand out no matter where she went. That her adorable awkwardness would attract attention everywhere we tried to hide.

But I couldn’t let that stop me.

I would just have to teach her to blend.

Fortunately, none of the people shuffling past her on the avenue right now knew she existed. At least not yet.

They weren’t real.

If they were, they might be stopping to gawk at her, too.

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