Disclaimer: I do not own the Delirium world or any of the characters. Those belong to Lauren Oliver.
It took years, forever it seems, to take down all the walls, to change the government, to make love legal again. When I think of it, I still think of death. Dead and dying and injured bodies lying in the grass by the cove. On roads. Piled in graves. So many people gone, cured and uncured, adults and children, the innocent and guilty alike.
I still feel the guilt. Guilt for so many things and so many people. When I chose to escape, so long ago with Alex, to not be cured, to keep feeling, I never expected to feel so much guilt. I never realized how strongly guilt is interwoven with love.
Guilt for the people I killed, regulators and guards and soldiers. Guilt for the people I didn't save. I think of watching as Raven died, shot because she acted while I was too frozen to shout. I think of Tack, fighting in battle after battle, trying to live by Raven's mantra that the past is dead, until he finally died, a strange smile on his face as he went to join her. Guilt for the people I harmed as I reached for love. Abandoning Grace. Leaving my aunt and sister and even little Jenny to be outcasts, to have their lives be ground into dust under the label Sympathizer. I had to escape, but I know now what it did to them. I knew even then what it would do, but I didn't care, didn't care. Didn't care enough, anyway, not enough to let them take Alex from me. Amor deliria nervosa, the deadliest of all deadly things.
At least the guilt over Julian has eased. I still feel a small twinge in my stomach when I see him on television, or at government events, but it's milder now, so much easier to handle. It was overwhelming at first, knowing I'd broken his heart. It was even worse when he went on to form the Anti Deliria-Free America movement, doing more for the Resistance than probably any other single person. The R kidnapped him, tricked him into loving me, left him to die until Raven saved him, saved him for me. And then I left him, stomped on his heart and left him alone while I moved on with Alex. And he turned that around, took the pain and betrayal and used it to build and move forward and bring us all towards freedom. He deserved so much better than we gave him. No wonder it took so long for the guilt to fade.
It probably would never have faded if he hadn't moved on. For a long time, I think he must have been like Thomas, Rachel's Thomas, living from the pain, hanging onto it as a memory of what it is to live, to love. I don't know when he fell in love with Coral. I was stunned the first time they kissed at a public event, showing the nation that passion is not a disease. I shouldn't have been surprised. She helped him start the ADFA, worked side by side with him while I moved on to my life with Alex. At first, I thought it was because she had no one left, nowhere to go, and she wanted to be part of the R. But maybe she felt drawn to him even then. I've come to realize that I'm a terrible judge of how other people feel. I was glad, though. Not at first – even though I'm the one who left Julian, I still felt jealous the first time I saw them together. As if he was still mine to lose. But as I watched him become alive again, watched Coral turn into the amazing leader she is now, watched the fire between them, I was glad. They have what Alex and I have. Finally, they have what they both deserve.
And I have Alex. Amazing, amazing Alex. Even after all this time, I still feel the same lift inside me when he kisses me, brushing his lips softly over mine. When he touches me, holds me. I can't imagine life without him. He is the one who erases the guilt, or at least blocks it when he's near. When I'm with him, I can pretend the whole world is right. And in many ways, it is. Grace is growing, sweet and beautiful and strong and everything we hoped for in our new world. Our son, Warren, toddles around the house, exploring and playing and loving in a way I never could as a child, a way that was forbidden to me. I play games with them, Grace and Warren, the games my mother played with us. And Alex, who grew up free in the Wilds, teaches them games I never knew existed. Games that take my breath away with their energy, their imagination, their enthusiasm. We love them, always, these children who have become part of our hearts. They show me what love should be, and can be now.
My mother visits us often. Seeing the children makes her both happy and sad, of course. She will never have our childhoods back again, Rachel's and mine, but she grasps at the time she has now, pulls it close to her heart, and holds it there fiercely, loving these children as she tried to love us. Rachel and Aunt Carol and even Jenny visit sometimes. The children find them strange but try to engage them anyway, to connect with them in this world where the cured and uncured must find a way to live together.
I see it only rarely, but Hana says that the cured do feel emotions, just not the grand sweeps that we do. She says they feel the little things more intensely than we do, that's why they see more emotion in each other than we can see, looking at them. It's hard to believe that sometimes, but I suppose she knows.
Hana has become a bridge of sorts, between the cured and the uncured. I suppose that's the benefit of a partial cure, one that didn't work as intended. They always said that each person is different, so each cure works differently. She and my mother certainly prove that. Hana doesn't feel as intensely as Annabel, but she certainly feels. She says the cure blunted her strongest feelings, eased her memories, made it seem like they all occurred years ago but didn't otherwise touch them. Now that time has passed, and real years separate those memories for me, we seem more alike again. We've become friends again.
Hana is still mayor. At first, she was appointed by the cured population, a desperate attempt to maintain a dying system, to pretend they still had control over the city. No one else regarded her as having any authority, but when I talked to my mother, explained that Hana let me go, helped me even, while ensuring that Fred died, the R began to take her seriously. And when they saw how she understood both sides and could help the city move forward in a unified form, they backed her. Her first major act was to open the Crypts, to evaluate every prisoner to see who could be released, and to reform every aspect of how the remainder were treated. She kept the cell, though, the one my mother and Alex both inhabited, the one where every part of the walls is covered with the word love. She turned it into a museum of sorts, a lesson to all that love should not, can not, be imprisoned – it will always find the way to freedom. It may cause pain on the way, but it will get there in the end. For that I'm glad.
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