Series: Cimmerian Moon #2
Genres: Young Adult
We’re at war against the aliens that have invaded Earth, fighting the only way we can—by surviving. I have more than most people do, but although I know it’s stupid to hold on, I can’t let go of what might have been—can’t help dreaming of something more. No matter how I tell myself it would be easier to do what everyone else wants me to, there’s a part of me that can’t give in. Making the best of the situation is one thing. Settling, even to make other people happy, is something else.
Then we hear the alien mother ships have disappeared. Of course we have to go and investigate. What we find lands us in a huge mess that we somehow have to clean up and, as our little enclave is rocked to the core with even more changes, I’m learning a hard lesson.
The more things change—for the better or the worse—there’s no fighting human nature, and building on the ashes that remain will take everything we have. And maybe more.
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“Ridiculous. Forget about everyone else here, okay? What about Mia and me?” I can hear the crack in my voice as it rises. “Do you think we’d be able to go along pretending life could be the same without you?” I reach out for his hands and hold them. “Every time you go up top I pray you come back safely. I’m not talking about close my eyes and say a silent prayer, I’m talking about getting on my knees, clasping my hands and praying—loudly.”
MJ chuckles low. “You sound like Shayla. She was always praying about something or another.”
I give his hands a squeeze and let them go. “That’s where I got it from. That girl knew how to pray away any kind of anxiety I was feeling.”
“A lot of good it did her in the end.”
“Hey! Don’t say that. Don’t you dare do that to her memory. She prayed because it gave her strength and peace of mind. Praying or not praying had nothing to do with the aliens killing her.”
“When the lizards were attacking you guys, Mia and I held hands and prayed for you two. We couldn’t say anything out loud, but we prayed silently. And praying didn’t work. They killed her and took you anyway.”
I can hear the pain in his voice and my chest constricts just thinking about the amount of guilt he places on himself. “MJ, please. She enjoyed praying and she encouraged everyone around her to pray. It would’ve made her happy that you and Mia were praying for her.”
“Sometimes when I think back on it, I think my prayer wasn’t good enough. Like I didn’t pray hard enough… And, because of that, it was my fault.”
I narrow my eyes on him and pull back. “I really feel like slapping some sense into you right now.”
His head shoots up. “What?”
“You heard me. First you come in here telling me I shouldn’t go because I might die and Ian shouldn’t go because Mia is pregnant. Then you say Shayla died because you didn’t pray hard enough. Do you understand how crazy you’re talking right now?”
“It’s not crazy. I’m speaking the truth.”
“I miss Shayla too. Just because I wasn’t friends with her as long as you were doesn’t mean I miss her any less. Are you forgetting that I was there when the lizards attacked? It stepped over me to get to her. Do you realize the guilt I feel every day?” I take in a breath that seems to burn my lungs. “Do you even want to know about the nightmares I still have?” I whisper.
He watches me with wide eyes and shakes his head.
“I should’ve snapped out of my paralyzing fear and crawled to my sword and stuck that thing right in its back. If I hadn’t been so scared Shayla might still be alive today. There was nothing you could’ve done to save her, but I could’ve done plenty.” By the time I finish, my voice cracks and tears burn my cheeks.
I get up and head to my locker, leaving MJ to stare after me. When I open my locker door, I do with it with such force that the door swings and clangs against the side, making the sound of metal ring out through my room.
I snatch up my clothes, not caring if they’re clean or dirty. Right now I just want to go to the showers and sit and let the cool water rain over me to help drown out my tears.
Before I can step away from my locker, MJ’s arms are around my neck. He leans down to bury his face on my shoulder. Right then, all of the anger I feel toward him dissipates. I drop my clothes, freeing my hands to hold onto his arms and rest my head on the side of his.
“Do you think we’ll ever be okay again?” I ask softly.
“I don’t know.”
Neither one of us move as he cries softly on my shoulder and I rub his arms, giving him comfort. MJ hardly ever talks about Shayla or her death but he knows that I’m always here for him. He doesn’t say anything else, he just cries softly and I let him.
I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from anything we’ve been through, but I pray that we will.