Swamped Chapter 38 Page 5

“Shorty kept trying to stop our fights. I always felt like he was trying to endear himself to the boss. So, y’know, that made it hard to get on well with him. Greeneye just seemed to be scared all the time. Sometimes I snapped at her when something really got to me, usually just ended with her in tears. Then there was Starling.”

You need to pause for a moment to explain this.

“I couldn’t stand Starling. She was just so damn cheerful all the time. I couldn’t remember ever feeling like that, thought she must be faking it. Damned if I could’ve guessed why, but I really resented her.”

You’re not sure you want to keep going… but it’s been a long time since you thought about this. You just can’t keep quiet.

“One day, I’d just had enough, snapped at ’em all, even snapped at Corvus for not doing a damn thing, and do you know what she said to me? You know what she said?”

Belle just shakes her head, but you barely even notice.

“‘What’s wrong, Rivers?’ And I just… I don’t even know. I thought she was making fun of me. I couldn’t help myself, just made a fist and was about to punch her right in the face…”

Gods, you’d nearly forgotten this part.

“And then, for the first time in weeks, Corvus does something. Out of nowhere, he gets up, jumps in front of my fist, and takes it right on the chin. Doesn’t say anything afterwards, just gives me a glare. And then! And then, as if nothing had happened, Starling says ‘it’s okay, you don’t have to talk about it if you’re not ready’, and I just feel lost. Confused. Like I don’t know how the world works any more.”

Belle offers you a handkerchief, and that’s when you realize you’ve started crying. The hell’s the last time you cried, even?

When you calm down, Belle speaks for the first time in a while.

“And what happened after that?”

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You realized you’d spent so long wrapped in your own bitterness that your world and the one out there were no longer in alignment. That bothered you. You always looked down on people like that, and suddenly, you were one of them–no better than your miserable, drunken brother…

It was a sobering revelation, but it gave you direction.