Soldier Mine (Chapter Eight: Claudia, page 2 of 4)

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"Todd," I whisper, my heart sinking.

There's only one reason he has it, and it's directly my fault. Todd has wanted to take care of me since he was waist high, and I've always told him it's the older sibling's responsibility. Resting the weapon in my lap, I can't take my eyes off it or shake off the cold chill working its way through my body.

I swore never to look at the contents of his Secrets Box. Now that I have - by accident - I feel trapped. There's no way in this life or the next that I'm going to let Todd shoot the man chasing us. This is my burden, and Todd bears too much of it already. I can't imagine how he was able to obtain the gun, but I'm guessing it was from someone at school. There's no other way. He doesn't leave my sight when not at school, except for tonight.

How do I handle this without alerting Todd that I broke my promise to him, even if it wasn't on purpose? The weapon is too dangerous for me to leave here. I mean, does the kid know how to shoot a gun?

It's moments like this when I want so much to call my mother but am afraid to. The Monster that ruined my life keeps tabs on her in case I make direct contact, and I won't risk putting her in danger.

I replace the contents of the box, return it to its place and stare at it.

I have no freaking clue what to do. I can't bear the thought of driving Todd away by confronting him. I'm already limiting what he can do with his life, who he can hang out with, what entertainment he's allowed to have. As Petr pointed out, Todd has no hobbies and doesn't play sports.

Petr's quiet words return to me, those he uttered the first day we met. He said he thought Todd was scared, and martial arts would help him become more confident. The gun was bought out of fear. Did Todd buy it because I refused to let him go to karate? How long has he had it?

Aching to talk to him but fearing the discussion, I finish cleaning his room, troubled and worried. After some internal debate, I empty out the contents of the Secrets Box and replace the empty container where it belongs.

The weapon I hide in my room under my mattress. It feels icky knowing I'm betraying Todd's trust, but I can't ignore something like this.

He returns around nine, as promised, grinning like a lovesick fool. I'm grateful for the distraction of Maya and hope she'll take his mind off the danger following us.

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