Look at me. Open your life, open your hands.
~ “I don’t want to live a small life” by Mary Oliver
The forest is not silent in the aftermath of the gunshot. Around her, Hanna can hear the flutter of a dozen wings as birds take to the sky. A few stay in the trees but shriek in alarm.
She stands there long after the birds have fled or settled back on their perches. The only sounds then are the rustling of the leaves on the trees and her slow, even breaths. Her right side throbs from where the bullet grazed her; she presses her free hand where it hurts the most, feels her blood, warm and sticky, where it’s seeped through her clothes.
The gun is heavy in her hand, but she doesn’t let go. The weight of it, the pain in her side, both momentarily ground her and ease the empty feeling in her heart, in her head.
Her grandmother is dead. Mr. Grimm is dead. Her father who was not her biological father is dead. Marissa is dead. Her already small world, composed of family, enemies, and allies has dwindled to—
It is, Hanna thinks, entirely possible that Sophie and her family are dead. They spent too much time with her, became liabilities. If they are dead, then there are four more deaths on her conscience.
Hanna remembers the warmth of Sophie’s lips against hers, the candy-sweet taste of her mouth. Kissing requires a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles. Hanna had thought kissing would be difficult when she read that in her book, but it had been easy, kissing Sophie.
Hanna wipes her prints off the gun with a part of her shirt not stained by her own blood and drops the gun next to Marissa’s body. She’s not going to hurt anyone else, not ever. After a moment, she wipes her prints from the arrow as well.
Then she turns away. Let those that find Marissa’s body bury her; Hanna will not waste her strength. Hanna will bury her father and tend to her wounds, and then she will look for Sophie and her family. If they are dead, she will bury them as well. (Although perhaps they would have preferred cremation; she will have to study the preference rates of cremation versus burial for Great Britain.)
If they are alive, she will—
She pauses, her mind blank. Her father had taught her to survive in the wild, to speak many languages, to defend herself, to kill. He had not taught her what to do once Marissa was dead. Perhaps he had not known himself. Then again, perhaps he had thought he would survive and they could learn together what came next.
Her future stretches out before her, her path uncertain and full of decisions that only she can make for herself. Hanna takes in another breath, lets it out slowly. It is strange, she finds, having choices, being able to decide between more than two options (flip the switch or don’t, kill Marissa or die).
She speaks her options softly to the warm air. “Find Sophie. Discover more about my DNA. Listen to as much music as I can.” Each choice seems to have a sweet taste on her tongue, even though she knows, objectively, that the words have no flavor.
Her side throbs and she winces. “Tend to my wounds,” she amends. “Then find Sophie.”
At this particular moment in time, waking in a cold sweat in a bed that’s still unfamiliar even after three months, Sophie hates everything and everyone.
Her parents took the whole “we picked up a hitchhiking teenage freak with a creepy government woman after her” thing pretty hard, dragging Sophie and Miles back to the UK and settling them down in what her mum calls a “stable environment” and Sophie calls dead boring.
Being stuck in one place for more than a month is awful. Sophie doesn’t understand how people can go about their dull lives with their dull routines and not die of fucking boredom.
What really takes the cake, though, is that after the third or fourth time Sophie wakes up screaming from nightmares, her parents decide she’s been traumatized and needs therapy.
Sophie could have told them that therapy is even more traumatic than watching Hanna slit someone’s throat, but no one listens to her. She finds herself subjected to a pair of idiotic therapists who want her to talk about her feelings.
Sophie veers between two ways of driving both therapists up the wall—being absolutely silent the entire session, or describing in slow, awful detail the way the knife had slid across that man’s throat. One therapist actually looks like she’s going to vomit, which Sophie counts as a win.
Sophie doesn’t bother telling them that the nightmares aren’t about Hanna killing that man. The nightmares are about Hanna seeing her and hesitating, about the man turning the knife on Hanna instead while Sophie runs towards them, always too late to stop him.
Some of the nightmares aren’t even about Hanna and that man. Some are about Hanna standing in a vague, dark room that must be Grimm’s house, with that creepy red-haired woman standing in the shadows, waiting for her to turn around.
God, Sophie is never going to forgive Miles for telling that woman where Hanna went. Some nights Sophie wakes up and thinks about stealing some money out of her mum’s purse and just going. She could get to Germany easily, she thinks, find Grimm’s house, see if Hanna’s there, and maybe even learn if that red-haired woman caught her.
Most of those nights she doesn’t get any further than halfway down the stairs before she realizes she’s being stupid. If Hanna hasn’t been caught by that woman, then she’s probably on the run. She doesn’t need Sophie getting in the way.
Right now, though, she hates everything. She’s just woken up from another nightmare where the red-haired woman had caught Hanna. Everyone else is asleep—when she goes out into the hallway, the lights are off in her parents’ bedroom and she can hear Miles snoring loud, snuffling sounds that means he’s probably getting a cold.
The house is always too small after one of her nightmares, the walls pressing in from all around. She needs to get outside, get some fresh air, or she’s going to scream, and then her parents will hire a third useless therapist.
She takes the stairs carefully, stepping over the loose board that always creaks and wakes her dad. She goes outside, breathes in the autumn air. Someone must have burned their leaves earlier; she can smell the smoke in the air.
Sophie doesn’t smoke, mostly because she hates the smell and how it gets into everything, but right now she wishes she had a cigarette. She wants to keep her hands busy, have something to do other than pace around her front yard at two in the morning like a crazy person.
“I am a crazy person,” she says. She rolls her eyes. “Great, now I’m talking to myself like an even crazier person. Brilliant.”
“Is it considered a sign of mental instability to speak to yourself?” a quiet, familiar voice asks from the shadows, sounding puzzled.
Sophie doesn’t shriek, but it’s a very near thing. Her heart leaps into her throat and for a moment she can’t breathe, too busy turning to stare wildly into the shadows of the tree. The moon’s nearly full; when Hanna steps out into the moonlight, her pale hair and even paler face shine like a beacon.
“You,” Sophie says when she gets her voice back. “I thought you were— Miles told her where you were going, it wasn’t me, I swear— I thought she’d found you—” God, she’s not going to do something as ridiculous as cry, she tells herself, but there are tears in her eyes anyway and her breath comes out as a sob.
“She did find me,” Hanna says simply.
“What happened?” Sophie asks though she’s not certain she wants to know.
“She killed my father. I killed her.”
“Oh.” Sophie doesn’t know what to say to that. It’s not funny like the way Hanna had explained her mum’s death and made Sophie’s dad choke on his drink. Hanna spoke in the same quiet tone she did before, but now her frame’s gone tense, her body curling in on itself like she’s in pain.
Sophie steps forward, wraps her arms around Hanna. Hanna’s stiff in her arms for a second, still and unyielding like stone, and then she gives out a little sigh and lets her head drop to Sophie’s shoulder.
“Just so you know, killing people is not what normal teenagers do,” Sophie says, her lips brushing Hanna’s hair. “But it sounds like that woman deserved it.”
Hanna makes a soft sound, though whether it’s agreement or just a murmur of acknowledgement that Sophie’s talking, Sophie can’t tell.
“You’re not going to be going round killing anyone else, right?” Sophie asks. Hanna’s not here to kill them all in their beds, she knows, not when she remembers the pained look in Hanna’s eyes when she’d turned from the man she’d killed and seen Sophie staring at her.
“No,” Hanna says. “I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I told Marissa that, but she wouldn’t listen.” She’s quiet for a moment, and then says, almost matter-of-factly, “I have looked for you for some time. I didn’t think you’d come back to Great Britain.”
“Yeah, well, Mum and Dad got freaked and decided Miles and I needed to have some roots or some other nonsense.”
“Yeah, you know, live in one place for a while and make some friends that you know for longer than two weeks. Well, maybe you don’t know. You probably traveled all over the world with your dad.”
“That sounds nice,” Hanna says, still resting her head against Sophie’s shoulder. "And my father and I lived in the same cabin for my entire life until I met you." Hanna’s practically leaning her entire frame against Sophie, nearly dead weight. Sophie wonders if Hanna’s about to fall asleep, a suspicion which is confirmed in about two seconds by Hanna saying, “I’m tired.”
Sophie huffs out an exasperated sigh. “Then come in, idiot. I’ve got a bed and everything, which is probably better than whatever bed of leaves you slept in last night.”
Hanna raises her head at that, blinks her pale blue eyes at her in that befuddled way Sophie remembers so well. “I didn’t sleep on a bed of leaves. I slept on a park bench,” she says.
“Oh yeah, because that’s much better,” Sophie scoffs. She takes Hanna’s hand, gives it a tug. “Come on, let’s go to bed. Nobody should be awake at 2 in the morning.”
“Okay,” Hanna agrees. She follows along obediently, avoiding the same step that Sophie does. It isn’t until they get into Sophie’s room that she speaks again. “Will your parents be upset with me?”
Sophie snorts. “Who cares? Mum hated the red-haired woman, though, so you’ve got her sympathy. Just don’t mention the whole killing people thing and we’ll be set.” She tugs Hanna onto the bed, unwilling to let go, even if it makes getting off her shoes a little awkward. “Come on, take off your shoes and let’s go to sleep. I’m tired and I need my beauty sleep.”
They crawl under the covers, lying face to face. Sophie can feel Hanna’s breath on her lips. It’s a weird feeling, but sort of nice, in a way that makes Sophie’s stomach flutter.
“Being a lesbian wouldn’t be too bad, if it was with you,” she whispers, watches the way the moonlight catches on Hanna’s lashes as Hanna blinks and shifts closer.
“So we are still friends?” Hanna asks.
“Of course, dummy. Why wouldn’t we be?”
“You saw me kill someone,” Hanna says flatly. “You looked upset.”
“Course I was upset, that was the first time I’d ever seen someone die, much less—” Be murdered, Sophie’s going to say, but then thinks better of it. “—in front of me. It was a shock, that’s all. We’re still friends.”
Hanna’s silent for a moment, and Sophie wishes she could read her expression. “Good,” Hanna says at last, and rests her hand on Sophie’s hip. Her hand’s warm, the heat of her skin soaking through the thin fabric of Sophie's pajama bottoms.
Sophie leans forward, kisses her. It’s a soft kiss, nothing like when she snogged that Spanish boy or the boy in Greece; this one's slow and sleepy. When they break off the kiss, they just stay close. Sophie finds herself slowing her breathing to mimic Hanna’s until they’re breathing in sync.
“I’m glad you came here,” she confides. “Everything was dead boring.”
“I’m glad I came here too,” Hanna says. She’s silent for so long that Sophie’s half-asleep when she speaks again. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I would like to listen to music.”
“Sure,” Sophie says sleepily, “I’ve got loads of music.”
Hanna’s smile is the last thing she sees before she falls asleep.