Flawed (Flawed, #1)(4)

Written By: Cecelia Ahern



“Get your hands off my sons!” Bob yells, attacking them, but he’s pushed to the ground, pinned down by two large Whistleblowers as Angelina screams wildly with desperation not to be taken away from her babies. I have never heard a human cry out like that before, have never heard a sound like it before. She stumbles and the Whistleblowers catch her and she limps along, the heel of her shoe broken.

Bob shouts at them from the ground. “Let her have some dignity, goddammit.”

She’s taken inside the van. The door slides shut. The whistles stop.

I’ve never heard a man cry like Bob. The Whistleblowers holding him down speak to him in low, calm voices. He stops yelling, but his crying continues. They finally let him go and disappear into the second van. They drive away.

My heart is pounding, and I can barely breathe. I cannot believe what I’m seeing.

I wait for the outpouring of love from my neighbors. We are a tight, close-knit community; we have many community days; we support one another. I look around and wait. People watch Bob sit up in the grass, pulling his children close and crying. Nobody moves. I want to ask why no one is doing anything, but it seems stupid, because I’m not, either. I can’t bring myself to. Even though being Flawed isn’t a crime, aiding or assisting a Flawed carries the punishment of imprisonment. Bob isn’t Flawed—his wife is accused—but still, everyone is afraid to get involved. Our neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Miller turn around and head back into their house, and most of the others follow suit. My mouth falls open, shocked.

“Damn you!” Bob shouts across the road. It is quiet at first, and I think he’s saying it to himself, and then I think as he says it louder he’s saying it to the vans that have disappeared, but as he gets even louder and the anger increases, I see he’s directing it at us. What did we do?

“Stay here,” Dad says to us, then he gives Mom a long look. “Everybody, back inside. Keep it calm, yes?”

Mom nods, and her face is serene as if nothing has happened; the mask is back on, the loose strands of hair already back in place, though I don’t recall her fixing them.

As I turn around to look back into my house, I see Bosco standing inside at the window, arms crossed, watching the scene unfold. And I realize it’s him that Bob is shouting at. Bosco, the head of the Guild, is the head of the organization that took Angelina away.

He can help; I know it. He’s the head of the Flawed court. He will be able to help. It will be all okay. Normality can resume. The world will be turned the right way around again. Things will make sense. Knowing this, my breathing starts to return to normal again.

As Dad nears Bob, the shouting dies down, but the crying continues, a heartbreaking sound.

When you see something, it can’t be unseen. When you hear a sound, it can never be unheard. I know, deep down, that this evening I have learned something that can never be unlearned. And the part of my world that is altered will never be the same.





FIVE

“LET’S ADDRESS THE elephant in the room,” Bosco says suddenly, reaching for the red wine and filling his glass generously. He had insisted we all sit back down at the table, though there isn’t anyone who feels hungry after what we’ve just witnessed. Dad is still with Bob. Mom is in the kitchen preparing the main course.

“I don’t understand,” I say to Bosco. “Angelina Tinder is accused of being Flawed?”

“Mm-hmm,” he says good-naturedly, his blue eyes dancing as he looks at me. It’s almost as if he is enjoying my reaction.

“But Angelina is—”

Mom drops a plate in the kitchen, and it smashes and it stops me in my tracks. Was that a warning from her? To tell me to stop talking?

“I’m okay!” she calls, too chirpily.

“What were you going to say about Angelina, Celestine?” Bosco eyes me carefully.

I swallow. I was going to say that she is nice, that she is kind, that she has young children and she’s a great mom and that they need her, that she has never said or done anything wrong in all the moments I’ve spent time with her. That she’s the most talented piano player I’ve ever heard, that I hoped I could play just like her when I’m older. But I don’t because of the way Bosco is looking at me and because Mom never usually breaks anything. Instead I say, “But she teaches me piano.”

Juniper tuts beside me in disgust. I can’t even look at Art, I’m so disappointed in myself.

Bosco laughs. “We can find you a new teacher, dear Celestine. Though you raise a good point. Perhaps we should think about stopping her from playing piano. Instruments are a luxury the Flawed don’t deserve.” He tucks into his starter and takes a huge bite of carpaccio, the only person at the table even holding his cutlery. “Come to think of it, I hope that’s all she was teaching you,” Bosco says, his smiling eyes gone.

“Yes, of course,” I say, frowning, confused that he would even question that of me. “What did she do wrong?”

“Taught you the piano,” Art teases. “Her downfall, if anyone’s heard you.”

Ewan giggles. I smile at Art, thankful for the break in nervous tension in the room.

“It’s not funny,” Juniper says beside me, quietly but firmly.

Bosco’s eyes move to her immediately. “You’re correct, Juniper. It’s not funny.”

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