The Deadly Nightshade

The Deadly Nightshade by Justine Ashford

Book: The Deadly Nightshade by Justine Ashford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Justine Ashford
can see I’ve lightened the mood,” he says, clapping his hands together. “Okay, last question. This one isn’t as morbid as the last two, I promise. What’s your favorite book?”
    I think for a moment, recalling every book my father ever made me read. Although I loved each one of them for some reason or another, one title in particular comes to mind. “ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens,” I say. “Ever read it?”
    He shakes his head.
    “It’s a really great book. When my father was alive—before we moved to the asylum—he would go out and bring me back books to read, said it would keep my mind sharp. He loved the classics, so I ended up with a lot of Hugo and Brontë and Austin and Hemingway. But for some reason A Tale of Two Cities was always my go-to novel. I don’t know why, really—maybe because it’s about how the whole world goes kind of crazy, like ours did, and it’s all about rebirth and how people can change for the better despite the chaos. I don’t know. It’s just nice to know that the world can turn you into one thing but that doesn’t mean you have to be like that forever.”
    “And do you like what this world has turned you into?”
    I stare at Connor for a long time, and for the first time since I met him I find him beautiful—not in a romantic way, but a sad kind of beautiful. His sickly ashen skin and scrawny body not only serve as a grim reminder of his former days of hunger, but also as evidence of his ability to survive on his own in the face of starvation. His large blue eyes, which shine with fire despite the misfortunes he has lived through, are proof of his resilience and stubbornness even toward death. We sit on that bank together, two tragic souls lost in a world we were not born into and have learned to navigate alone up until now. For the first time, I am thankful that he found me.
    “I’ve already answered your five questions,” I say. “That’s one for another day.”             

    Chapter 17
    We sit in that spot for a while longer to allow ample time for prey to fall into our traps. After Connor has made sure to lick every last remnant of pineapple juice from his fingertips, he lies back on a bed of dead leaves with his arms folded behind his head and stares up at the sky. I sit a few feet away, watching his eyelids flutter and fight to stay open. He appears only a few seconds from dozing off, so I pick a twig off the ground and toss it at his face. My projectile hits him right between the eyes, successfully startling him back to consciousness. Dazed and unsure of what just happened, he jumps up in alarm, looking around wildly, and I am forced to stifle my laughter. Realizing what I have done, he glowers at me.
    “Good, you’re up,” I say. “We ought to get moving. Let’s check the snares to see if we’ve caught anything.”
    “See, Nightshade, that’s your problem,” he says, laying back down. “Everything with you is get on the road, never stop moving, don’t settle in one place for too long. You need to learn to be patient, to slow down, to relax and take in the scenery every once in a while—there isn’t much else to do nowadays.”
    “Well my way of doing things has kept me alive on my own for four years now, so . . .”
    “Touché. But, then again, what’s the point of surviving if you can’t even enjoy it?”
    “I enjoy it,” I say.
    Still eager to leave, I insist we check the traps. After some mild protesting, Connor grudgingly gets back on his feet and we head for the locations of our snares. Upon reaching the first, we are greeted with a fat squirrel struggling wildly to free itself from our noose.
    “Look at that,” I say. “You’ve already caught something. See how easy it is?”
    “So this is all there is to it? You just set up a trap, wait a while, and hope something happens to fall for it?”
    “I never said it was a science. But yeah, all that’s left to do now is kill it.”

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