Reveal Me Page 4

But Nazeera is unmoved. Her eyes go cold. “You clearly have no idea what I’m dealing with,” she says quietly, “if you really think it was that simple. I couldn’t risk—”

“And you clearly have no idea how to work in a group,” I say, cutting her off. “Which makes you nothing more than a liability.”

Her eyes go wide with rage.

“You fly solo, Nazeera. You live by a moral code I don’t understand, which basically means you do whatever you want, and you change allegiances whenever it feels right or convenient. You cover your hair sometimes—and only when you think it’s safe—because it’s rebellious, but there’s no real commitment in it. You don’t actually align yourself with any group, and you still do whatever your dad tells you to do until you decide, for a little while, that you don’t want to listen to The Reestablishment.

“You’re unpredictable,” I say to her. “All over the place. Today, you’re on our side—but what about tomorrow?” I shake my head. “I have no idea what your real motivations are. I never know what you’re really thinking. And I can never let my guard down around you—because I have no way of knowing whether you’re just using me. I can’t trust you.”

She stares at me, still as stone, and says nothing for what feels like a century. Finally, she takes a step back. Her eyes are inscrutable.

“You should be careful,” she says. “That’s a dangerous speech to give to someone you can’t trust.”

But I’m not buying it. Not this time.

“Bullshit,” I say. “If you were going to kill me, you’d have done it a long time ago.”

“I might change my mind. Apparently I’m unpredictable. All over the place.”

“Whatever,” I mutter. “I’m done here.”

I shake my head and I’m gone, already walking away, five steps closer to sleep and quiet, when she shouts angrily—

“I opened up to you! I let my guard down around you, even if you can’t do it for me.”

That stops me in my tracks.

I spin around. “When?” I shout back, throwing up my hands in frustration. “When have you ever trusted me? When have you ever opened up to me? Never. No— You just do your own thing, whatever and however you want, consequences be damned, and you expect everyone to be cool with it. Well I call bullshit, okay? I’m not into it.”

“I told you about my powers!” she cries, her hands in fists at her sides. “I told you guys everything I knew about Ella and Emmaline!”

I let out a long, exhausted breath. I take a few steps toward her, but only because I don’t want to shout anymore.

“I don’t know how to explain this,” I say, steadying my voice. “I mean, I’m trying. I really am. But I don’t know how to— Like, listen, I get that you telling me you can be invisible was a big deal. I get that. But there’s a huge difference between you sharing a bunch of classified information with a large group of people and you actually opening up to me. I don’t— I don’t want—” I cut myself off, clenching my teeth too hard. “You know what? Never mind.”

“No, go ahead,” she says, her own anger barely contained. “Say it. What don’t you want?”

Finally, I meet her eyes. They’re bright. Angry. And I don’t know what happens, exactly, but staring at her cuts something loose in my brain. Something unkind. Unfiltered.

“I don’t want this sterilized version of you,” I say. “I don’t want the cold, calculating person you have to be for everyone else. This version of you is cruel and unfeeling and loyal to no one. You’re not a nice person, Nazeera. You’re mean and condescending and arrogant. But all of that would be tolerable, I swear, if I felt like you had a heart in there somewhere. Because if we’re going to be friends—if we’re going to be anything—I need to be able to trust you. And I don’t trust friendships of convenience. I don’t trust machines.”

Too late, I realize my mistake.

Nazeera looks stunned.

She blinks and blinks, and for one long, excruciating second her stony exterior gives way to raw, trembling emotion that makes her look like a child. She stares up at me and suddenly she looks small—young and scared and small. Her eyes glitter, wet with feeling, and the whole picture is so heartbreaking it hits me hard, like a punch to the gut.

A moment later, it’s gone.

She turns away, locks the feelings away, slips the mask back on.

I feel frozen.

I just messed up on some cosmic scale and I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what protocol to follow. I also don’t know how or when, exactly, I turned into such a grade A douchebag, but I think hanging out with Warner all the time hasn’t done me any favors.

I’m not this guy. I don’t make girls cry.

But I don’t know how to undo this, either. Maybe if I say nothing. Maybe if I just stand here, blinking at outer space, I can turn back the clock. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I only know that I must be a real piece of shit, because anyone who can make Nazeera Ibrahim cry is probably some kind of monster. I didn’t even think Nazeera could cry. I didn’t know she still did that.

That’s how stupid I am.

I just made the daughter of the supreme commander of Asia cry.

When she finally faces me, the tears are gone but her voice is cold. Hollow. And it’s almost like she can’t even believe she’s saying the words when she says, “I kissed you. Did you think I was a machine then, too?”

My mind goes suddenly blank. “Maybe?”

I hear her sharp intake of breath. Pain flashes across her face.

Oh my God, I’m worse than stupid.

I’m a bad human being.

I have no idea what’s wrong with me. I need to stop talking. I want to not be doing this. Not be here. I want to go back to my room and go to sleep and not be here. But something is broken—my brain, my mouth, my general motor controls.

Worse: I don’t know how to get out of here. Where is the eject button for escape from conversations with terrifying, beautiful women?

She says: “You honestly think I would do something like that—you think I would kiss you like that—just to manipulate you?”

I blink at her.

I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare. Guilt and confusion and exhaustion and anger fuse together, escalating the chaos in my brain to the point of pain and suddenly, incomprehensibly, my head pops off.

Desperate, stupid—

I can’t stop shouting.

“How am I supposed to know what you would or wouldn’t do to manipulate someone?” I shout. “How am I supposed to know anything about you? How do I even get to be in the same room as someone like you? This whole situation is bananas.” I’m still shouting. Still trying to figure out how to calm down. “I mean, not only do you know how to murder me in a thousand different ways, but, considering the fact that you’re, like, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life— I mean, yeah, it makes a lot more sense that you were just messing with me than it does for me to believe in some alternate universe where you actually find me attractive.”

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