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Turn the page for the All-new

EPıl o gue !

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I pulled down the last of Pippa’s drawings from the

living room wall. It had a few skyscrapers on it, some


dotted with red lights, one that was shaped like the
Stratosphere Tower. Maybe it was silly to take them, but
I couldn’t leave them there. I had to make sure they were
all stacked neatly in the top of the suitcase. They were
some of the few things that had made the apartment feel
like home.
She’d drawn it one night several weeks ago, before
everything happened. Caleb and I had been reading on
the sofa—I, some student exams from school, and he, the
City paper that had just been released that morning. He

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had summarized another story about the elections for me.


Even though the newspaper was published independently
now, the mention had been hidden in the back. He had
tried not to raise his voice in front of her, but he was
angry.
Pippa was stretched out on her stomach by the win-
dow. I remembered it so clearly, because when I’d looked
up, seeing her there, it seemed for an instant like she was
floating in space. The curtains were drawn all the way
back. She was pressed up against a wall of glass, looking
out over the City. Every building was a sparkling, perfect
thing.
I held that memory a moment, then set the drawing
on top of the others. I put a few more small items in the
bag—a bracelet Arden had given me for my birthday, a
doll Pippa had grown out of (I’d never been able to throw
it away), and a journal with two blades of grass pressed
between the pages. I was pulling the tacks from the wall
when I heard Caleb behind me.
“They’re not going to care if we leave those there,” he
said. “I promise, Eve.”
“Can’t hurt to take them down, though, right? I keep
imagining who’ll be here next. What they’ll put up . . . if
anything.”

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Caleb came toward me, sitting on the edge of the


sofa. Five years later and he still limped from his injuries,
though it wasn’t as noticeable to me—it had just become
part of who he was. He patted the seat beside him. “Let
me see our last bag,” he said. “Is there any room left for
my things? Do I at least get to bring a shirt or two?”
He smiled, his green eyes lighting up. When I got to
him he pressed his face into my neck, kissing me once,
staying there for a few breaths before pulling away.
I set the smaller suitcase next to him and he thumbed
through it, laughing at the doll with one eye. Then he
opened up the journal, pressing his fingers against the
dry, bent blades of grass. One was still twisted in a circle.
“Our wedding rings. I’m glad someone remembered
these.” He grabbed my side and pulled me to him, holding
me there for a moment.
“Pippa would be mad if I forgot.”
“Maybe when we reach Califia you’ll let me marry you
for real.”
“Maybe.” I closed the journal, tucking it in the top.
After marrying Charles, going through the engagement
and the parties and the ceremony, after doing so much
pretending, a wedding didn’t feel like it meant anything
anymore. I’d always belonged to Caleb and he had always

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belonged to me. I’d never needed any ring or piece of


paper to prove that.
It was Pippa who wanted us to have rings. She’d been
the flower girl in Clara’s wedding. Clara was getting her
law degree when she met Ethan, a tall, quiet man who
seemed always to be thinking, taking everything in. After
the ceremony, Pippa seemed deeply concerned that we
didn’t have the same rings Clara and Ethan had. So when
we were in the park one day, we made some. We’d tried to
wear them as long as we could, but they kept falling off.
I zipped the suitcase, setting it by the door. It was hard
to look at the four bags we’d put together—the sum of
our life in the City. In a few hours we’d be moving west,
back through the wild, the lights disappearing behind us.
“We can’t stay, we can’t do anything else,” I said. “But
after so many years here, I can’t help but think of this as
home. This is where I found you, where Pippa was born,
where we lived together, where we built a life.”
“We might be able to come back,” Caleb said. “It’s just
too dangerous now.”
“I keep wondering what would’ve happened if Rumo
hadn’t gotten elected. If Stanton had a second term there
would’ve been more progress. We’d only just started to
see the positives of what he’d done.”

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“More people are coming to the City, there’s more


competition for jobs. I keep trying to pinpoint the exact
moment when things changed. Most people weren’t
happy with the new housing policies—even the ones who
benefitted. It doesn’t matter how fair they were. No one
wanted to be uprooted. And then the power outage hap-
pened. Two days of panic. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but
people are too scared now to keep moving forward. They
just want to go back.”
“What was it all for?” I said. “I keep wondering: What
difference did it make?”
Caleb grabbed my hand and squeezed. Most people
referred to the siege that way, talking about all that had
been sacrificed, of all the lives lost. Caleb knew that I
thought of Moss, of the boys from the dugout . . . but the
stakes of the election had felt different for me. I’d stood
outside the old palace and cried when Rumo won. No
matter how long it had been, or how much I tried, I could
not forget my father.
Peter Rumo, the New American president, had been
my father’s head of finance. He’d sat beside my father
for years, knowing the truth about the schools and labor
camps, and yet the entire election he’d denied this knowl-
edge. We’d had four years with President Stanton—a

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rebel leader from the colonies. Four years of progress, of


moving forward with new policies. The Outlands were
revitalized under Charles’s supervision. My father’s sup-
porters had gone silent. The labor camps and schools were
closed, and the orphans from the plague were finding
lives inside the City. There were programs and support
in place for them. And now everything was sliding back-
ward, everything was so unsure.
We’d both enrolled in the City’s only college, which
had expanded as the population inside the walls grew.
We’d graduated college in three years, and Caleb worked
for Stanton the entire time, eventually for his reelec-
tion campaign. I took a job teaching history in a high
school off the main strip. After a life inside a compound
(I couldn’t think of it as a school anymore), of studying
nonsense, I enjoyed the dates and timelines, how there
were facts to hang on to. It felt real.
Sometimes when I walked Caleb to work in the morn-
ing, I’d wonder if what I was doing was big enough,
important enough. Arden was working with Stanton as
well. Clara was pursuing law. Charles was in charge of
rebuilding the Outlands. I was finishing my teaching pro-
gram and raising Pippa. But it felt like the only course I’d
wanted. I savored how private it felt, how I finally had a

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life—and a family—all my own.


That privacy felt crucial in the wake of the revolution.
The first time it happened was right after I’d had Pippa.
We were walking in the Venetian Gardens. She was bun-
dled against my chest. An older woman recognized me,
despite the sunglasses I always wore outside. She grabbed
my arm and leaned in so close her hair brushed against
my shoulder. You’re the one who did it, she said. You
were so brave to kill him.
She said it so conspiratorially, and as much as I wanted
to believe I had done something brave and just, I kept
thinking of the words she’d used. Kill him. She didn’t
mention that he was my father, the only family I had then.
People approached me over and over again in the years
after the siege, and I hated all the congratulations. I hated
hearing how right I was, how good it was. In my thoughts
and dreams I still harbored guilt.
Caleb squeezed my hand, bringing me back to our
apartment—to him. It was nearly four in the morning.
We were supposed to meet Arden at the Jeep soon. “Do
you want to get her, or should I?” I asked.
“Why don’t you get her? I’ll bring the bags to the ele-
vator.”
I grabbed my sweater from the sofa and went into

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Pippa’s bedroom, keeping the lights off. She had this


way of sleeping, one leg bent at the knee, like a ballerina
paused in a pirouette. I just stood there, watching her for
a moment. People say she has my coloring, but it’s Caleb
who she really looks like. Even sleeping, I see so much of
him in her. She has his lips, his nose, the shape of his eyes.
I picked her up, and she instinctually wrapped her
arms around my neck, her body heavy from sleep. “It’s
time to go,” I whispered. “The car is waiting.”
She rubbed her eyes. “I dreamed about the school
again.”
“What did you dream?”
“It was scary. The man was there.”
“Well, you’re safe now,” I said. “We’re going to see
your friends Benny and Silas. Do you remember Quinn?
We’re going to stay with her for a while.”
I stepped out into the living room, glancing around one
last time. It looked like any of the other hotel rooms off the
main strip. Plain gray sofa, glass table, black leather chairs.
We’d only been here for two months, so there weren’t the
memories we’d had at our old apartment. Our time here
was marked by anxiety. After the threats grew more fre-
quent, they’d moved us to another hotel a mile off the main
strip, closer to the Outlands, and assigned us a soldier. I’d

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always gotten death threats from those who still secretly


supported my father’s regime, but as the election turned in
Rumo’s favor, people were bolder. For every person who
thought I was brave and had done the right thing, there
was another who thought I’d ruined the country.
Caleb was already in the hallway, holding the elevator
doors open. Our bags were stacked inside. I hugged Pippa
closer, feeling the weight of her in my arms, breathing in
the smell of her skin. She never actually saw the man who
came into her school, but in the weeks after the bomb-
ing she kept talking about him—everyone did. She’d have
nightmares about him being in the apartment. Sometimes
we’d be out somewhere and she’d become convinced he
was there. Caleb and I tried to stay strong in front of
her, but when we spoke of it after Pippa went to bed, we
couldn’t keep the fear from our voices. What if she had
been in that particular classroom? What if the bombing
wasn’t random—what if he had come for her?
“How long will we be in the car?” Pippa asked the
question into my neck.
“We’ll stop on the way, but it’ll probably take us a
whole day or more.” Caleb stroked her hair as he said it.
“You’re going to love it there,” I said. “Benny and Silas
missed it so much they wanted to go back.”

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Quinn had moved Silas and Benny to the City for


a year, but they never liked the crowded streets, riding
the train, or sitting in a classroom all day. After several
months they were restless, and I could tell Quinn was,
too. Whatever life under the new president could provide,
she missed the autonomy of Califia. When my father was
overthrown, more women left for the City, so Maeve
loosened the settlement rules. Some of the women were
married now, others living with men there.
The elevator doors opened and Gerard, the soldier
who was always stationed outside, gave us a nod as we
walked to the curb. Arden was standing beside the Jeep.
It always took me a moment to recognize her. Her new
job suited her well. She’d grown her hair long and always
looked so polished. Even now, she was wearing a sleek
black turtleneck and skirt.
“My little mushball,” she said, squeezing Pippa’s sides.
“What am I going to do without my girl? Who’s going to
play Zonkers with me?”
“Zonkers?” I asked. Arden would take Pippa some
nights when I was at school. What they did was never
clear, but Pippa always came back happy and giggling,
speaking some language I didn’t understand.
“Inside joke,” Arden said. “Have you seen Clara or

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Beatrice? I waited a few minutes in front of the apart-


ments, but no luck.”
I shook my head. “We said good-bye to them this
afternoon. Beatrice might come stay with us once we’re
settled. No sign of Charles?”
“Are you surprised?”
Caleb loaded the suitcases into the back of the govern-
ment Jeep, then double-checked the supplies Arden had
secured for us, counting the tanks of gas, the containers
of dried food and water. I could tell he was relieved to
leave the conversation. After our marriage was annulled,
Charles had become obsessed with his work restoring the
Outlands. He created a training program for new work-
ers and was responsible for getting them a fair wage. He
also seemed to be intent on proving to everyone in the
City that he had never loved me, that he hadn’t wanted
the marriage any more than I had. A week didn’t go by
without a picture of him somewhere with some beautiful
woman—the latest was President Stanton’s daughter.
“I thought he might come to say good-bye,” I said.
“That’s all.”
Arden lowered her voice. “I was surprised he reached
out after the incident. I didn’t even expect that much . . .”
Caleb reappeared at the back of the Jeep. “This is

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incredible, Arden, thank you. I’ll find some way to get the
car back to you as soon as possible. There may be more
people traveling to Califia.”
“Consider it on permanent loan. I know a guy who
knows a guy.” Arden laughed.
“Well, then we’ll drive around Califia and think of
you.”
Arden shuffled her feet against the pavement, and I
could tell she was thinking of what else she could say,
how anything could come close to feeling adequate. For
the first time in a long time, there was silence between
us. “You’ll tell Quinn and the boys I say hi, right?” she
finally asked.
“Of course.”
Then Caleb hugged her, squeezing her shoulder before
climbing into the car. “Stay safe, Arden. We’ll be back as
soon as we can.”
“Be careful,” I added. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”
Arden turned her head, her face glowing in the street-
light. Her eyes were red and wet, her lips twisting to one
side the way they always did when she was trying not to
cry. “You, too. You have to promise, too.”
She leaned down and kissed Pippa on the back of her
head. Pippa twisted away from me, slinging her arms

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around Arden, her legs wrapping around her waist. “Bye-


bye, my little mushball,” Arden whispered. “I’ll miss you
so much.”
I felt how it could happen, how if I stayed there for
even a minute longer I would be there forever, that I could
grow roots in that very spot. I wrapped my arms around
Arden, resting my head next to Pippa’s. I tried, so gently,
to pull her away.
Her arms were my arms—clinging, needing. Her legs
were tense as they came undone. “I don’t want to go,” she
said. Then she began to cry.
I pulled her into the passenger seat, folding her into
my lap. As Caleb started the engine, I reached out my
hand, grabbing for Arden’s. I wanted to give her another
warning—Be safe, don’t take any chances, send us a
message whenever you can—but I knew words couldn’t
protect either of us. Not now. Not ever.
As the Jeep pulled away, I turned back, looking out the
window. She was lit up there, under the streetlight, her
hand raised in good-bye.
She stood there, watching as the Jeep drove toward the
City gates. Pippa’s cheeks were wet with tears. She kept
wiping them away but they only came faster, her chest
heaving.

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“Come on, Pip, let’s play our game,” I whispered.


“Lean forward.”
Caleb smiled as Pippa relaxed in my arms. He’d seen
me use the trick so many times before, a simple distrac-
tion that seemed to take her away from whatever she was
feeling. It cured bruised elbows and splinters, lost toys
and bad moods.
I dragged my finger along her back, tracing the outline
of a star. I went slowly to help her, then outlined it again.
“A star,” she said. “That’s too easy.”
“You’ll have to do better than that.” Caleb laughed.
The Jeep approached the wall. I still grew nervous when
I saw the soldiers at their posts, even though they weren’t
there to question or check paperwork. The gates had
been open for years now. Caleb waved the soldiers off,
and then we were free, speeding away, with only the open
road ahead.
I tried not to look at the lights behind us, tried not
to think about how it had felt that first night I’d passed
through these gates, how much had changed since that
time. I pressed my finger into Pippa’s back and began to
draw.
The mountains rose up in the distance. The road was
so dark. Even with the headlights on, we couldn’t see

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very far in front of us. Caleb reached across the seat and
grabbed my hand, pulling it to his heart.
My finger kept moving, drawing the circle on Pippa’s
back. I squeezed Caleb’s hand tight and put in more
details, tiny lines that burst over her shoulder blades and
down her spine.
The Jeep barreled on. We looked forward and ahead,
into the black horizon, until Pippa sat up in her seat. She
laughed, the sound of it filling the car. “I know!” she said.
“It’s the sun, Mom. You’re drawing a sun.”

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