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

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For the first time in a very long time, I want to call Simon. It's usually a duty I don't care for, one I perform just to check in with him so he can tell my mom I'm okay. There's a very small piece of me resigned to the life I live now, to running forever. I don't rely on the government to take care of my problem.

Tonight, I really, really want Simon to tell me something good is happening. Or maybe to give me more than his normal response about how slow progress is with the government.

I want Todd to have the chance to date a girl. I want to go to the Thanksgiving feast without feeling guilty knowing I'm going to walk away from everyone here without so much as a farewell.

Picking up the phone, I go to my room and close the door. My stomach is twisting once more, my emotions in turmoil. I dial the number to Simon's office and am transferred to him.

"Hey, it's me," I say with a quick glance to ensure the door is closed.

"Good to hear from you, Claudia," Simon replies warmly. "Your mother wanted me to tell you she loves and misses you both."

I smile, eyes watering at the thought of my mother. I haven't seen her since we started running. "Tell her we love and miss her, too, Simon," I whisper. "Any news?" I hold my breath, afraid to hope for good news and equally aware I'll be devastated if there is none.

"I'm afraid not, Claudia."

"No worries."

"Call back in a week? After Thanksgiving."

I should've considered things would be slower this week and probably for the next month as well, until after the New Year. "Sure."

"Take care."

I hang up.

This time, the news I'm expecting disturbs me. I've heard the same story for years now. It rarely pierces the wall around my emotions. I'm accustomed to being disappointed, to acknowledging the truth of my situation: I made one bad decision and my penance will probably last until I die.

Lying back on my bed, I stare at the ceiling. I want to cry, but the tears won't come. I have the confirmation I needed, though. Whatever Petr's intention is at the diner, I need to push him away. There's no need for him to be affected when I leave.

I'm not worth remembering. I'm also not worth the risk.

"Hey, Claud!" Todd pounds on my door.

Sitting up, I do what I can to suppress my roiling emotions. "Yeah?"

"Can I go to Maya's for dinner tomorrow night?"

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