Rejected Mate and Following Fate

Chapter 24: I Don't Know

That quietens me into submission, and I don't fight him. Colton leads the way, grasping my hand and tugs me with him through the hall. It's busy, filled with Santos coming and going from the mess hall, in all states of sports attire as training started today, and everyone seems to either be rushing about or completely immobile in groups, chatting. There's a sense of confusion with some, urgency with others, and a holiday vibe with a more. I guess some don't realize the seriousness of why everything has changed, and some are overwhelmed with anxiety and rushing around doing whatever they're told with prompt action. It's chaotic, and overwhelming, and I close down and allow him to lead me through.

Colton takes me away from the swarm of moving groups and heads towards the corridor to the communal room on this floor. He walks fast and I fall in step obediently. It only takes a silent minute to turn into the passage and head down towards the room where everything seems strangely hushed.

As soon as he hits the digits on the keypad, the door clicks open and the lights flicker on. I blink at the change from dull to bright and follow him inside quietly, waiting for him to move me in and shut the door. He locks it behind us, and it only adds to the tension rising inside of me that he clearly doesn't want anyone else to eavesdrop.

He motions for me to sit, his manner different, Mr. serious on show in the form of the commander that came here last night and heads to the bar. He pulls it open and grabs two sodas for us before coming back and choosing to sit on the floor in front of my armchair. He hands me a can once he opens it for me, and opens his own, taking a long drink before saying anything. I can tell he's delaying this, regaining composure, or turning something over in his mind and I wait, patiently. Perched in the seat a little stiffer than I should be, cradling my drink between my hands.

It's something he thinks I should know, so I'm not going to hurry him. Trying to scan my memories in the long pause between us, but it's such a jumble when it comes to his mother, of snips and bits of conversations, that I don't get a clear understanding of where she is. It's been something I noticed but I assumed it held no real importance in the grand scheme of things.

"She's not here." He points out blankly as though reading my thoughts, after a moment of staring at his own can. I don't recognize his raw, raspy voice, and the strangled way the words come out, telling me this is more painful than he can bear. "I haven't seen her for nine years."

It's not the answer I expected, and I gawp, heart skipping a beat, my eyes widening with surprise and I have no words at all. Head trying to pull that together and wondering if I missed some sort of public announcement that the Santo Luna had left the mountain that long ago, I mean, I was still a kid. This was something the people had a right to know. I just didn't realize it had been that long, almost a decade without our Luna.

"She's in a…. place, sort of... care home, I guess. A medical facility. Has been since a few weeks after they came home from the war." He leans forward so his gaze is more heavily focused on the floor, yet I catch the glow of amber before he tilts away, enough that I can only see the top of his head. His emotions spiraling out and consuming me as I feed on his despair. My stomach clenches with it.

"Why?" I can sense his distancing emotionally, in a bid to stop me feeling his pain, cutting off to save me, and I can tell it's because this causes him a mass amount of it. I still get a huge wave of grief, regardless, not too dissimilar to how I felt when my parents never returned. He isn't pushing me away because he's ashamed, this is something that rips him up inside and he's aware he can't control the intensity.

"Her mind's broken. My mom never came home as the person she left. She isn't who she was, and my father said it's because she wasn't strong enough to endure the horrors of the war. That it was too much, and she faded away. She doesn't talk, or move, or do anything anymore. He said she stares into nothing and it's like her body lives on, but her soul's gone." He chokes on the words, his eyes glazing over, and it slices my stomach in response.