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Anti-Hero: Chapter 27

ANT

Even though I’ve brushed my hair, washed my face, and worn nice clothes, Gael still makes fun of me throughout breakfast. He has to be sneaky about it because of Abuela, but he definitely lets me know that he knows what we got up to this morning.

“There’s no way you know anything. I didn’t make a sound.”

He shakes his head. “I’m talking about the look on your face. You look like somebody who’s just had a Nordic giant take excellent care of him.”

“Shut up,” I say, throwing a breakfast biscuit at him.

He grins. “I’m happy for you, cousin.” He looks down, tracing his fingers along the table’s wood grain. “I’m a little jealous, to be honest.”

I reach out and grab his hand. “You are such an amazing man. You’ve been through a lot too. I know there’s someone out there who is just perfect for you.”

“From your lips to God’s ears,” he says, grinning. I’m surprised at the sadness behind his eyes and realize I might not understand how lonely he feels.

My thoughts are interrupted by a knock at the door, and when I open it, a grin splits my face.

“Hedy!” I shout, giving her a huge hug.

I step back and let her and Edison, her grumpy redhead, into the living room.

“What brings you here?”

“I wanted to check in on you. Maybe we can go for a walk together?”

I nod, and Edison speaks up, “I’m here to discuss what your family wants to do next. We would recommend they not go back to Mexico since we can’t provide the same level of protection there. Obviously, it’s up to them, but…”

Yaya and Emil walk up with Gael.

“I just want my family to be safe,” Yaya says, reaching for me. “When they took our Ant again, it was even worse than the first time. Whatever we can do to protect the family, we will do.”

“Good, good. I have a few things to discuss since we need to get your paperwork in order.”

They meet back at the table with my grandparents, and I’m a little surprised to hear perfect Spanish come from Edison’s lips.

Hedy, whose mom is Mexican American, shakes her head. “I swear he was a Spanish noble in a previous life. It’s embarrassing how much better his Spanish is than mine.”

“Fuck, it’s better than mine.” I laugh.

She holds out her arm, and I link mine with hers.

We step outside and walk in silence as we make our way to the barn, which is still mostly empty. Bram and Levy are in their offices preparing for the day, and while they both wave in our direction, they’re also allowing Hedy and me room to talk.

Lyle Underwood is taking Sparkle for a walk around the training area.

“Damn, I’ve missed being around the horses,” I admit, walking up and giving Sparkle’s nose a rub. “Do you mind if I take over from here?” I ask Lyle.

“Not at all. I’ll go clean out his stall while you hang with him.”

We exchange high fives, and I walk around the training space with Hedy at my side. Not sure why, but something about walking with the horse lets me speak more freely.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I state quietly.

Hedy pauses, looking me in the eyes. “Yeah?”

I shake my head. “I had a hard time with the planned kills. It should’ve been easier.”

“Why? Why should it have been easier?”

“Because I’m like Hopper and Anders, and it’s easy for them.”

She tilts her head from side to side. “What if you’re not exactly like Hopper or Anders? What if you’re just Ant?”

I tense my jaw, not sure how I feel about that. “Then I don’t know who Ant is,” I admit, my voice barely above a whisper.

“Then that’s a good place to start, don’t you think?”

I shake my head. “I have no idea…of anything, really.”

“Well, yesterday, when you were defending yourself, how did that feel?”

I bite my lip, thinking it over. “I wasn’t afraid. I’m never afraid in those situations.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Because I was defending myself and my family. That made the decision pretty damn easy for me.”

“But it’s not so easy when you’re proactively going after someone who harmed you?” she asks.

I shake my head, leaning against Sparkle’s neck.

“What was hard about that?”

I let out a long breath. “I thought it would be some sort of dish best served cold situation. I thought I had moved on enough from what they did to me that I could kill them… What’s the word that means, like, without feeling it?”

“Dispassionately?”

“Exactly. I thought I could be cold about it, but I wasn’t. I was the furthest thing from it.”

“What was happening inside when you were confronting them?”

“I was remembering everything they did and how it felt. Which was somehow worse because I was a lot more numb back then.”

She nods. “Now that you’re protected, surrounded by support, you’re safe enough to feel all the things you weren’t safe enough to feel back then.”

“Well, who made that fucking rule?” I ask, kicking a bit of dirt.

“It sucks. There is no other way to put it.” She looks me over, considering. “You seem disappointed in yourself for having these emotions.”

“I’m telling you I wanted to be like Hopper. He doesn’t feel anything when he kills people.”

Hedy shakes her head. “That’s not true. Hopper and Anders have given me permission to share some limited things from our sessions, and I can tell you that Hop feels intense joy when he kills. Especially if it’s a very, very bad person. However, the guy who did the worst things to him? Hopper didn’t take him down.”

I nod. “That’s true. Liam did. Hopper was only there at the end, but the guy started saying his name, and I know that’s bad because Hop has never once told me what his given name is.”

“That’s true. It disturbs him. After the guy said his name, Hop called me.”

“Really? So he did feel something.”

“Very deeply.”

I shake my head.

“What’s this? Why are you shaking your head?”

“Something tells me it wasn’t just that I was going after the people who hurt me. It wasn’t just that I was reliving things. Planning and instigating the violence… In the end, I didn’t like that. I thought I would. I’d planned this down to the letter.”

“So what I’m hearing you say is to defend is one thing, but to attack is another.”

I nod, shivering. Hedy lifts her chin, questioning.

I look up for the words, petting Sparkle’s mane. “Attacking makes me feel like I’m one of them. Defending makes me feel like I’m one of you guys.”

“Makes sense. Tell me, when you see Hopper and Anders go on the attack, what do you feel about them?”

“I’ve only ever seen them kill people when they were defending us. So…I feel like I’m glad they’re on our side.”

“And you don’t judge them for the times they’ve initiated or gone on the attack.”

I shake my head. “I don’t. Me and Hopper have some of the same experiences, but…” I pause to think through what I want to say. “It’s weird that our reactions are so different, right?”

Hedy shakes her head. “You’re two separate people. You’re bound to have anywhere from slightly to vastly different reactions, even if you had the same experiences.”

I let out a huff, laughing at a silly thought.

“What’s that about?”

“The thing I’m most worried about is that they’re going to kick me out of our little murder group chat.”

She laughs. “They would never. They love you too much.”

“That’s what Erik said.”

She smiles warmly. “Erik is good for you, isn’t he?”

I can’t help the size of my smile, thinking back to this morning’s sex and how he respected me enough to get so fucking disrespectful. “He really is.”

“Does anything about that scare you?”

I shake my head. “He was the scared one, at least initially. He was so afraid of ever treating me like those men treated me.”

“Did he finally figure out not wanting to do that meant he would never do that?”

“Pretty much.”

We walk for a little bit, then Hedy turns to me, her eyes sparkling with amusement.

“So if I had a job offer from Wimberley for you,” she starts, and I’m already shaking my head.

“No, thank you. Though I hope that doesn’t make them mad at me.”

It’s her turn to shake her head. “Not at all. There are plenty of things to do at Wimberley that don’t involve violence. Or too much violence, I should say. But…maybe it’s best for you to take a few months and figure out what it is you want to do and be.”

I nod. “That sounds good. I feel better knowing I don’t have to decide right now.”

“You have all the time in the world, my friend,” she says, stopping to hug me.

We take Sparkle back to his stall and rejoin my family for breakfast. I may not know what my next move is, but I know I’ll have the support I need when I’m ready.


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