“Hey. You’ve been sitting out here for almost thirty-six hours now...” Crys called as she approached Annie, lingering a few steps behind her. “You want to talk?”
Annie remained silent for a very long moment. Only when she noticed Crys was about to leave, she finally spoke up. “It doesn’t matter, does it? We’re not going to stop this in time.”
Crys heaved a lengthy sigh and walked closer, standing beside Annie for a few seconds before sitting down on the grass next to the girl, her fingers reaching out to touch the letters engraved on the white tombstone. “Sitting here, being angry with her, it’s not going to help matters much.”
“No, but I tried everything else, so why not?” Annie muttered.
Crys snorted a chuckle.
“I just don’t understand, if whatever is in that journal was so important, why couldn’t she just tell me? Why couldn’t she just talk to me? I was right there.”
“I’m sure she trusted you to figure this out. You were always a smart kid.”
“I’m not a kid. I haven’t been a kid in about ten years. This... Is too much. The possibility that I can’t figure this out. That I can’t fix this no matter what I do and I’m just fated to watch more and more of you die until this sickness is kind enough to take me.” Annie buried her face in her hands, sobs shaking her from head to toe. “Ethan, Isaac, Kieran, my mom... Al... I can’t live with their ghosts anymore... I can’t... Live with Ali’s ghost, or Jake’s, or yours... Luckas, Ess...” Annie fell silent, lifting her head and staring blankly at her mother’s grave for a few moments, tears trailing down her cheeks. She held out her hand to pick up one of the little blue flowers growing around the tombstone, crushing its petals between her fingers. “...Darren,” she mumbled. “I want to be angry, I should be angry and fighting until the last possible second. That’s what a leader should do, but I’m just...”
“I know.” Crys sighed, resting a reassuring hand on Annie’s shoulder. They both remained silent for a long moment, Annie still quietly sobbing, until Crys eventually spoke again. “Growing up around death, seeing so much of it, you kind of just wait for the day when it won’t affect you anymore, don’t you? You think a day will come when you’ll finally be indifferent; when the pain will finally numb to the point of inexistence... But it never does, does it? Every blade just cuts you deeper and deeper. And everyone you know and love in life is just another possible knife to your heart. But you know the truth just as well as I do, Annie... We’re going to die sooner or later. We’re all constantly dying from the moment we’re born. The question is always what we’ll do with our time. Is this what you want to do with your time?”
Annie sighed, not answering the question and simply shrugging in silence.
“I spent the good part of three years sitting in the desert and wallowing in self-pity, drowning in my guilt... Hating Sean for his betrayal, hating myself for my failures, my mother for putting me in that position to begin with... Telling myself that none of this would have happened if I’d done a better job, if I’d been a better leader. Sean did what he did because I let him. The Wolfpack broke down because of my inability to keep it together. Every life lost at Evin’s hands, Ali’s, Jake’s... Were in my hands too. And there’s nothing I can do about that. The past is written, Time won’t bend to my will no matter how deeply I wish for it. And Lionel, Owen, Katelyn... Franklin... Sean... And countless others... Their ghosts are just another part of me now. I’ll never be able to part with them.”
“How can you handle that?” Annie muttered, wiping the tears from her eyes.
“I tell myself that I have to, that someone has to.” Crys smirked. “This kind of responsibility... It’s a burden we bear because, in the end of the day, we could never place it on anyone else. Like it or not, it’s already a part of who we are.”