“My father was a shit human being.” My gaze dropped to where his fingers were digging into my arm—the same arm that Micah had broken in this very parking lot.
Confusion poured into his face. “What? Your father was a hero, Evie.”
God, I wanted to vomit. He really had no idea. “Let go of me.”
He frowned. “Why? So you can run over to them and make sure they’re okay? Hold their hands? I heard about you escorting that little Luxen shit to class.”
“Let go of me so I don’t break my camera on your stupid face,” I said, tugging on my arm. His grip tightened, and I winced as a burst of sharp pain flared up my arm. “I’ll be really pissed if I break my camera, but if you don’t let go, it’ll be worth it.”
“Really?” Brandon exclaimed. His eyes widened with shock, but he didn’t let go. “You’d hurt me and not them?”
“I’d prefer to hurt no one, but if push comes to shove, I’d gladly hurt you over them.” I glanced at the group of protestors. They were on their feet, looking at one another nervously. “Want to know why? You’re the one grabbing me. Not them.”
“Dude, let go.” James was suddenly by my side, and even though he was a nonconfrontational teddy bear, he was bigger and broader than Brandon by far. James snatched my camera from my hands. “I really don’t want you breaking this over his face. You love your camera, Evie.”
That was true.
Brandon’s gaze darted to James, and then he dropped my aching arm. “I don’t get you guys. They killed Colleen and Amanda. They killed Andy, and you guys act like it’s not a big deal? What’s wrong with you all?”
“No, they didn’t, Brandon. They had nothing to do with their deaths.”
“How do you know that?” he fired back.
I wished I could tell him exactly how I knew, but I couldn’t. I’d known Brandon since I started going to this school, nearly four years. We hadn’t dated that long, only like three months, but we’d been friends before and after. Brandon had seemed like a good guy—smart and kind—but he looked like a complete stranger to me now. “What happened to you? You were never like this.”
“What happened to me?” he challenged. “I woke up, Evie. I saw what was really happening—what they’re doing to us.”
He was so asleep it wasn’t even funny. “What do you think is happening?”
“They’re taking our rights, Evie. They’re taking our jobs and government assistance from us,” he argued. “They’re making people sick. They’re killers.”
They could be killers—I’d seen it with my own eyes—and while there was a part of me that was beginning to wonder if there was something to this whole Luxen virus thing, Brandon was so wrong. “So are humans,” I told him. “We kill just as much as the Luxen do—more if you look at our history and look at all the diseases we pass to one another, mainly stupidity. They’re not shooting up schools or theaters. They’re not killing unarmed teens and hiding behind a badge. They’re not gassing innocent people or blowing up buildings. They’re not—”
“Human,” he cut me off. “They’re not human, Evie, and they are killing people—entire families. Watch the news.”
Disgusted, I shook my head. “They’re more human than you are right now.”
“Oh my God!” April shrieked, spinning around. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the Luxen were in their cars, and since the protestors had started to scatter, they were able to get out of the parking lot. “Look! They’re getting away. Dammit!”
Brandon whipped to the side, his cheeks flushing as the carful of Luxen left the parking lot. His head swung back at me, and I smiled brightly up at him.
“You guys can’t even protest efficiently.” Zoe flicked her fingers in April’s face, causing the girl to flinch. “Kind of pathetic.”
“Dammit,” Brandon growled.
“Just so you know, I have lots of secondhand embarrassment right now,” I told Brandon. “For you guys.” I paused. “And for myself, because I actually dated you.”
His face turned bright red. “You did more than just date me, you stupid—”
“Use nice words, Brandon.” James smiled at the smaller guy. “Very nice words.”
Brandon’s jaw flexed as he snapped his mouth shut, glaring at me. “Whatever,” he said.
I lifted my hand and extended my middle finger.
Turning away, he muttered something under his breath that sounded an awful lot like Luxen lover, the edges of his sign crinkling under his fingers.
“It’s okay.” April hurried to Brandon, looping her arm around his. “They’re not going to be a problem much longer.”
“Keep dreaming,” Zoe called after them as they stalked off.
April’s arm shot up. She flipped us off.
“Your nail polish is chipped!” Zoe added, grinning as her eyes flashed in my direction. “God, I want to hit her.”