Chapter 7: Bumps, bruises, and scrapes.
Training time in the dome. This was a fun part to write. I loved creating Aurora, and experimenting with what went where. My absolute favorite part was creating the training room. When I wrote it down I pictured the cover of Stephen Kings novel, Under the Dome, and went from there.

So a little background to Henly, and the excerpt. Henly's a runner, but after spending months in quarantine it's hard for her to learn all of these new survival tricks that are supposed to save her life. This is where Henly learns how to become a Militaris, but through it all she still gets beat up pretty good. Here's a small excerpt and some great photos...

Everything here is so fast paced that my days go by in a blur of bruises, scrapes, gashes, and several trips to Ellie. She is starting to think I have a death wish, which after everything I’ve been through, would be absurd. My body is still adjusting from the months I spent deteriorating in quarantine. I thought it would be easier for me to adjust to all of this training, but it’s taken weeks for me to get back to what I used to be, and still I'm not even close. The air around the dome is getting warmer, I close my eyes for a moment and try to picture it, but with no luck I fall in line with the others. Some look to be in their mid to late forties while others look as young as thirteen, fourteen. At the table there are several different kinds of guns, knives, grenades, bows, and arrows. I hear the trainer explain how to use the smaller weapons in hand-to-hand combat against the Deviations. That’s what they call them, Deviations. The televisions around the dome show both what the Deviations look like, and the proper ways to attack one.

Chapter 15: Hints of summer

The sky is dark and clouded over. I grab my fair share of bags and toss a few more pieces of jerky to the dog in hopes that he’ll follow us, which he does at his own discretion. We move into the canyons that are deep and narrow, the river below us runs rapidly. The hints of summer are on the horizon as the yellow weeds thin out into fields of green. I lick my lips when the first few drops of rain drizzle down. Soon my limbs begin to tremble as the rain smashes into me. My desire and courage evaporate into nothing as lightening cracks in the sky, the river below us crashing violently against its rock walls. All I want to do is crawl into a hole and wait out the storm.

Chapter 17: Real Freedom

I force myself up and out of my room before the sun rises. Following the river below that flows on the other side of the fence I find a hole that’s big enough for me to fit through, and escape. As soon as I’m free I take off into a full sprint, it feels good to be free again. Of course, not in the sense of real freedom, but for now, this will do. I don’t know where I am going exactly, but I find it easier to breathe today, my legs hurt less, and my body explodes with the endorphins that have been absent for too long. 

Chapter 18: A date gone wrong...

I silently start packing. I refuse to admit that I am, in fact, afraid of a little rain. Soon the wind rips through the trees, forcing them to lash into each other as they fight back and forth. I keep my hands on the hem of my dress as Renner pulls me along toward the fence. There are figures in the distance that sway with the wind. I let the basket fall and pull my doused hair out of my face for a better look. The closer I get, the harder it becomes to decipher the sways that clump together. Dry lightning cracks across the sky as one takes a step out of the woods. Rain pours down on me and the rustling of the wind draws my focus closer to its disfigured face. I glance behind them and see more clearly, through the trees into the clearing.
“What are you doing?” he yells over the wind, and then falls eerily silent.
“Go!” I turn and cling to his arm and pull him toward the gate, “They found us!”
Before I know it he’s in front of me, pulling me as fast as he can. A few yards from the gate, my feet slip on the muddy grass and I plummet to the earth, “I’m fine.” I yell to Renner, “Go! Get the gate open!”

Renner and Henly
We watch as the convoy drives off the compound, weaving through the empty streets. Almost instantly images of what could happen to him flash before my eyes and I have to force myself to stay planted. Behind us the group has started a new game, and I suddenly feel drained as if I haven’t slept in years. I decide that it’d be best if I went inside to rest. 
I turn around when I hear Renner, “What are you doing tonight?” He shifts his weight as he uncrosses his arms. 
“What?” I ask, wondering if he’s testing to see if I am going to go after them. “Sleep mostly.” 
He exhales and rubs his palms together nervously, “Will you—” His exhale is deep, “Will you go on a date with me? Tonight?” 
I follow his gaze to my boots. I look up, and around to whom he’s talking to. I mean sure, we kissed a few times, but back in school it was a common occurrence to kiss and it not mean anything. Plus, I kind of ended it with him earlier so I doubt he’d be talking about me. So of course I don’t think it through when I respond.
“Who me?” I say pointing at myself. 
“Who else?” The corners of his lips twitch into a smile. 
“You want to take me on a date?” I ask, looking around confused. 
His confidence wavers with his shaky laugh, “Yes.”
I raise an eyebrow in curiosity by his unusual bashfulness and decide to have a little fun with it, “Why?” 
His exhale is shaky when he answers, “Because in any other world this is how I’d do it, how it’d all start. I'd take you somewhere nice, then a movie, drive around or play a game. I don't know,” he laughs in between, “We’d talk about things that didn’t revolve around the virus, Deviations, or death.” He licks his lips as his nerves take control, “Then I’d drop you off late, worried about your dad killing me because we lost track of time.” He pauses as if regaining his credence, “And even if the world’s gone to Hell, I don’t want to lose that.” 
I stand completely still, overwhelmed by this version of him that I hadn’t seen before. And it enters my mind—maybe chivalry isn’t dead. 
“Okay,” I respond calmly. “I’ll see you at eight.” 
He smiles, “See you at eight.” 
The knock is a few minutes early and I feel my stomach twitch, tumbling into itself. 
I open the door and see him standing awkwardly clean. His faded unbuttoned shirt is opened to a plain white tee. He’s dressed down in dark denim and his outdated Vans pull his California-casual look together. I laugh at the weeds gathered in his hands. 
“This is all I could find.” He laughs presenting them to me. 
“Thanks.” I smile and set them on the small side table by the door. 
“You look nice.” 
“Thanks. You too.” I say eyeing his opulent hair. 
Thanks to Alba, who loaned me one of her dresses—a burnt orange color covered with white lace. My hair falls in loose waves down my shoulders. I feel goose bumps under the thick straps as the breeze seeps in through the door. The tan flats aren’t something I’d wear, but Alba insisted that it pulled the outfit together. She also insisted that she help get me ready. I caught a glimpse earlier of what Alba did with my face. I was amazed at how she made small specks of emerald appear around the irises of my eyes, making my green eyes more vibrant—more appealing. I pat at the dress to keep it from swaying in the breeze and instantly wish I had worn jeans, standing in front of Renner I suddenly feel overdressed. 
"Ready?” He extends his hand out.
“Where are we going?” I ask. 
“It’s a surprise.” He smiles.

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