Echo of Chaos: Ch. 2

**Don't forget to read Chapter 1 first!**

The Forrest I loved could most accurately be described as a walking deception. 

At first glance, you’d see the looks of the typical “bad boy” which was a trademark of Execution Executives; tall, bronzed, and covered in tattoos. 

There was a tattoo of a dagger that more closely resembled a cross on the inside of his left wrist; a skull with wings and a halo across his powerfully built chest; the Dutch word ziel flawlessly scripted on each of his bulging biceps; a busty heart encased in prickly thorns and surrounded by flames with flares that stretched across his left shoulder; a glistening mermaid blowing a kiss up his left forearm; a rather disturbing outline of his spine that ran all the way up his back until it fanned out in prickly branches and rose petals around his neck and collarbone; and his most recent addition that we had acquired together: a sharply jagged line that resembled a heartbeat on the inside of his right wrist and my left wrist. 

If you had never spoken to him before, you’d probably find the intense gaze of his silvery hazel eyes along with his indomitable figure rather intimidating. 

However, if you were lucky enough (as I so often happened to be), you’d more than likely find yourself swooning at his quirky habit of pinching the tips of his dark, cropped hair when he was nervous. Or the way his lips would have a flicker of a grimace at the realization that his profession eliminated the right to the shoulder-length hair he’d had for the majority of his life.

If you managed to stop swooning long enough to listen to what he had to say, you’d learn that he was an orphan raised and softened by his angelic older sister, Eve, who told him stories of a miracle man who had once walked the planet Earth, curing illness, preventing disaster, and creating equality.

I had been lucky enough to hear her tell the stories more than a few times, and the way she would describe each detail with such love and admiration could almost make me forget that she was talking about Captain Fancy Pants.

Since unauthorized relationships were forbidden, Forrest and I had to be extremely careful about our interactions with each other. Having to keep a neutral face at work all day was always excruciating. Sometimes, I could feel the connection between us so intensely, I worried others might trip over it like a rope.  

When Forrest would walk me home at the end of the day, I would make sure we walked a whole foot apart from each other the entire time. It was a respectable albeit torturous distance. To anyone else, we would appear as two work colleagues heading in the same direction, nothing more.

At least until we reached my door.

I’d type in the code as quickly as I could, and unable to resist the temptation any longer, I’d pull Forrest in with me as the door opened. I was always home before dinner, typically arriving a few minutes before my mom would return home with Max. 

As soon as the door shut behind us, he would press me against it and kiss me like our lives depended on it. The moment would always be achingly short as he would have to leave before my mother returned home with Max, but every second was always worth it.

Until the day my mother came home early. 

That day, she opened the door just as our lips met. I fell onto the floor, Forrest toppling over me. We quickly scrambled to our feet, but there was no chance for denial, no time to construct a proper excuse or explanation.

We had been caught.

I saw my mother’s eyes widen as she looked from me to Forrest and back, her lips parted slightly in shock. I looked at Forrest, and saw his face turning red, his whole body giving off heat. There was a split second when I was sure this was the last day Forrest and I would ever know. My mother would have to turn us in. There was no way she wouldn't. It would be too dangerous for her not to.

I met my mother’s gaze, expecting an expression of anger or disapproval, but finding sadness instead. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. This would be the end of us, I could tell. 

“Please, be careful,” she had said.

Then, she turned around and walked to her room, as if nothing unusual had taken place.

I'd never been so happy to be wrong.

“I heard you got lucky yesterday,” Forrest said, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile. “Two more years before you have to face the slow, miserable death of a marriage with mere reproductive harmony.”

“Lucky you,” I teased, and he allowed the smile to spread across his face.

After verifying there weren’t any Inspection Pods scheduled to pass by the windows, he grabbed my face and kissed me, the contact of our lips sending heat spiraling through my veins. 

We were in his personal chambers. A room like every other, made completely out of glass with mirrored floors and three windowed walls that presented the mesmerizing view of twinkling stars and the giant blue orb our ship had been orbiting for years. Looking at it, it was hard to believe the blue planet had once contained splotches of green life. 

Thankfully, ever since Eve had been Coupled, Forrest had the place to himself, making it the perfect place for our after-hours rendez-vous.

“I would have killed him, you know,” Forrest said.



“You mean Felix?” I asked, and he shrugged.

“Felix. Arizona. Same thing. Same place.”

I knew from Max that the capital of Arizona was Phoenix, not Felix, but didn’t see the point in correcting him.

“You think Felix is my Compatible Companion?” I asked, wrinkling my nose in disgust.

There was nothing wrong with Felix, really. He was what we called a "Triple E", his official title being an Elite Execution Executive which basically made him our boss. He was in charge of leading all the drills, and making sure everyone performed their executions correctly, though his status had more to do with intimidation than skill. 

Felix had an intimidating presence, all six-foot-four of bulky muscle, a hard, angular jaw, thin lips, and bushy eyebrows.

“You think he’s not?” Forrest grinned, raising his eyebrows. “It’s decided upon skill and intelligence, and I think you can agree on the equality between you two. Plus, I heard it was his birthday yesterday. Same as you. Seems like he meets all the boxes to me.”

Forrest was right, of course. While Felix and I possessed completely different personalities, we were equal in our abilities, so if we also had the same birthday, the Congruity Team definitely would have Coupled us. 

Breeding brilliant killers would be all our relationship was built for, though. The passion, the fire, the love, and everything else I felt with Forrest could never be felt with Felix. It wasn’t supposed to, though. 

According to Captain Fancy Pants, love was a useless emotion. Why would love matter if every child you produced was unsuccessful? Love, after all, did not determine success. Love alone could not guarantee a Perfect Coupling. 

Their logic was based on statistics and complicated probability equations and even more complicated, lengthly research, but I was proof that their logic was flawed. I was the product of a faithful, loving marriage, and yet I often set the standards for high expectations.

“What if it had been you they chose for me?” I asked.

“It wasn’t.”

“How do you know?”

 He kissed me again, his arms circling around my waist.

“Besides the fact we don't have the same birthday?” he asked.

"Yes," I said, "besides that."

"Then, it would've been because I love you, Echo."

“And I love you too,” I said, “but the Congruity Team doesn’t know that.”

He smiled, and lifted me into the air so he could carry me to the bed. Once there, I curled into his arms, laying my head against his chest, my arm across his torso, and our legs intertwined. 

“I wish we could stay like this,” I said.

“Me too.”

“One day,” I said. 

“In another world,” he added.

“On another planet,” I finished.

He pressed his lips against my forehead, and tucked an unruly, black tendril behind my ear. 

“You have to leave soon,” he said.

I sighed.

“I know,” I said. “Let’s just stay here a little longer.”

Before I fell asleep that night, after stealthily returning home, I imagined our world on another planet. 

I imagined it was a place where little brothers aren’t scheduled to be murdered by their older sisters, and where love and truth are valued over lies and ideals of perfection.

What a shame it was that it didn’t exist.

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