It was closing in on midnight when Camille finally found herself outside of the Ark and the apartment building. 

Before she had even escaped the studio, Camille felt awful for blowing up at Charlotte in the way that she did. Charlotte wasn't doing any of the things Camille had accused her of. In fact, Charlotte was just being a good friend and Camille had overreacted. So, wracked with guilt for not only blowing up at Charlotte but also for a whole list of other reasons, Camille had gone for a walk. Around her central Manhattan was buzzing with life in the same ways it was portrayed in movies. Yellow cabs were bumper to tail as the traffic on the roads were virtually static. The lit up signs of various businesses hung proudly over the sidewalk as thousands of people went about their lives. People headed to dinner or stood outside of bodegas smoking cigarettes, the soft rumble of a train passing underneath joined the chaotic tune of the city.

Camille walked for hours, her eyes taking in the array of sights and yet her mind was still ticking through the usual remunerations or memories, trying to put all the pieces back into the compartments they belonged in. She would deal with them one by one when she was ready to. However, she knew it wasn't that simple. It had only been days since she had escaped her prison and the nightmare that was her life for four years. She still struggled with believing any of this was real or that her life was now hers to do with as she pleased. 


Charlotte was sitting on her bed with the dividing curtain pulled back to give her a clear view of the door. Camille felt a pang of guilt for making Charlotte worry. Just another thing to add the list of reasons why Camille's heart was so heavy with shame. 

"Hey." Camille replied, shutting the door to the apartment behind her and letting her bag slide off her shoulder. “Sorry I was out so late. I kind of lost track of time.” 

Charlotte gave a small nod but said nothing so an awkward silence quickly settled between them. 

“I’m sorry about earlier.” Camille finally spoke up. “I know you weren’t trying to embarrass me, I just…” 

Camille didn’t get a chance to finish because Charlotte had practically flown across the room and was suddenly engulfing Camille in a hug. 

“I’m sorry I pushed you into going to that stupid class and for making you spar with Sid.” Charlotte mumbled. “I just remembered how much you loved it all when we were kids and wanted to do something fun. I never meant to make you feel like you were being judged for what happened to you at the hands of that asshole.” 

“I know.” Camille whispered.

Eventually Charlotte pulled away, grey eyes glimmering with tears that threatened to spill. “Can you forgive me?” 

“There’s nothing to forgive.” Camille replied. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” 

“So you’re not mad at me?” Charlotte asked. 

Camille sighed, managing a small but sad smile. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself.” 

Camille dragged herself to the couch. She only realised now that her feet ached from all the walking and she was cold. She hadn’t taken a jacket with her when they went to the class earlier in the day and while it had been pleasantly warm when the sun was out, it had turned much colder when darkness descended over the city. Grabbing her sweater, Camille pulled it on as Charlotte came to sit next to her on the small seat. 

“You know that no one blames you for any of this, right?” Charlotte finally spoke up. “He fooled everyone into thinking he was a nice guy.” 

“I know,” Camille answered quietly. “But I haven't ever been able to stop thinking about what would have happened if I just fought a little harder or why it took me four years to get away from him. I just felt… I just felt so embarrassed."

Charlotte didn't respond, her dark eyebrows pinched in the middle as she frowned. Camille could see the anger burning in her friend's eyes but it wasn't directed at her. Charlotte had always worn her heart on her sleeve whether it be love or anger. It was why so many people were drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She emanated a warmth and brightness that people found comforting and appealing. However it also meant her anger and upset were as turbulent as a storm at sea. Camille never thought silver eyes could burn with the intensity of a wildfire but Charlotte's did just as they did now.

"The fucker." Charlotte hissed and shook her head. Taking a breath, she forced her rage down before looking back at Camille. "Anyone in your situation would feel that way but you have no reason to be embarrassed. Nathan does and if I ever see him, I'm going to kick his ass."

Camille couldn't help but laugh at this. Now that she would happily see but Camille had already decided she would never do anything to draw Nathan's attention to her. She had also decided that if she ever found herself in a situation like that again, she would fight until the end. She would not be cowed again. 

"I didn't mean it about not going to the class again." Camille finally spoke up. "Of course I will go with you." 

"Well I was thinking that maybe that class isn't for us." Charlotte wrinkled her nose. "How about Krai-Na?"

"Okay." Camille replied slowly. "But we know nothing about it." 

"Exactly." Charlotte grinned. "It will be a brand new adventure and that's not all. We are going to the watering hole Friday night for a girls night. Shots, music…" 

"And let me guess, a really hot bartender?" Camille raised an eyebrow. 

"Maybe." Charlotte smirked. "Come on, it'll be fun. I need a wing woman." 

"Okay, okay." Camille laughed. "Let's have a girls night." 


Camille had to admit, she had been convinced she was going to hate her new job and yet surprisingly, she found it strangely therapeutic. Her first day was easy enough thanks to Charlotte being her work buddy but trying to remember what every floor required what was going to take getting used to. It wasn't like a cleaning job in a hotel or an office. While they didn't deal with the personal quarters of the residence, they still dealt with offices, board rooms, corridors, hallways and passages and even some of the outside areas. While Camille wouldn't necessarily deal with it right away, they also dealt with the heavy duty cleaning of the workshops and hangers. It was one hell of an outfit and coupled with the maintenance crew, catering crew and civilian security, it was no wonder the apartments were full (and not everyone lived there!). 

"So would it be okay if some of the others joined us on Friday?" Charlotte asked as the pair headed to the twentieth floor. "Shelly, Mark, Lee, Adele and Tina. They have been dying to meet you." 

Camille recalled Charlotte telling her a little about the friends she had made in New York especially since coming to work at the Ark. At the time, Camille had been so disassociated that she hadn't really been able to fully comprehend what Charlotte was saying. It had simply been nice to hear someone talk to her in any way that was cruel, angry and abusive. It had often felt like a dream and it took a long time for Camille to realise that this was in fact real life. She still felt herself hesitate though. Her automatic reaction was to make up some excuse why she couldn't attend. That was what Nathan had conditioned her to do because he wouldn't ever let her spend time with anyone of her choosing. So it took a second to let the pieces fall into place and for her to remember she could do what she wanted. 

She was free. 

"Sure." Camille nodded, pushing her trolley off the elevator when the doors opened. "But we will have to figure out the name thing." 

It was Camille's first time on the twentieth floor having worked the lower floors mostly on her first few days on the job. There were still plenty of floors above them as well but luckily Camille and Charlotte were on their last floor of the day. This one, compared to all of the others, seemed distinctly void of life. Light poured in from the windows at either end of the hallway which was a mixture of the sleek white and brushed steel panelling that made up nearly all of the decor. This particular floor was carpeted with a dense slate grey carpet that absorbed any sound which only added the unsettling silence. 

"Most of the top brass are off-world attending some annual meeting." Charlotte explained when she saw Camille's puzzled look. "Normally there are dozens of stressed out and over eager PAs running around but today it's just us." 

"Okay, but it doesn't seem like there is much that needs doing." Camille looked around. 

"Which is the best part." Charlotte smirked. "We just need to straighten up and dust the offices and then we are done for the day!" 

"In that case, I will start at that end." Camille motioned to the western part of the floor. 

The girls quickly split up, the prospect of finishing a little earlier spurring them on. Camille quickly learned that Charlotte hadn't been joking about it being an easy task. While the offices were large with seating areas and bathrooms, because they hadn't been used for a few days, they weren't in need of a deep clean. The routine of wiping away the nearly non-existent layer of dust from everything and straightening out any furniture relaxed Camille. The view from most of the offices was also amazing and she wished she had a camera or phone to take a picture. It took no more than half an hour to get through all but one of the offices. The last one sat right at the end of the hall nearest the ceiling to floor windows facing the second building in the Ark. 

Opening the door, Camille blinked in surprise when she saw that the office looked a lot more lived in than the other ones had. She remembered Charlotte said most of the commanding officers were away but Camille never thought to ask how many hadn't attended their special meeting. Not that it would have mattered because Camille would still need to do her job. Parking the trolley by the door, Camille quickly set to work emptying the trash can, changing the towels in the bathroom and replacing the glasses and mugs for fresh ones. The chairs around a large glass coffee table required straightening out and the coffee table wiped down from where someone had put a glass down without using a mat.

The last thing was to dust the shelves, wall lights and desk without moving anything too much. 


Except it wasn't. 

Perhaps it was because Camille was rushing a little or just karma but either way disaster struck at the last hurdle. Moving the cloth over the desk too quickly, Camille's elbow glanced against some strange looking object that was far too close to the edge of the desk. It had a small circular base with a thin pole coming out of the middle before disappearing into a large cylinder-like vessel. While the stand was made of some form of dark metal, the cylinder was like glass and yet liquid at the same time. It looked like a lamp but there was no cord or bulb. Despite its sturdy appearance, it toppled easily, clattering to the carpeted floor with a muffled thud. 

"Shit!" Camille whispered, cornflower blue eyes going wide in panic. "Please don't be broken!" 

The strange lamp had come apart but amazingly the glass-like shade hadn't shattered. However, the base had come away from the rest of the object and rolled like a penny on its edge under the gap between the floor and the base of one of the shelves. Huffing from frustration and the anxiety climbing up her throat, Camille scrambled after the piece, desperately trying to squeeze her hand into the gap so she could grab the missing part. All she had to do was get this, put the thing back together and leave before the owner of the office turned up and discovered her. 

Camille let out a sigh of relief when her fingers finally touched the cool metal object but before she could move, the sound of the office door opening had her heart leaping into her mouth. 

"What are you doing?" 

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status