The Complication (The Program #6)

The Complication (The Program #6)

Suzanne Young

In loving memory of my grandmother

Josephine Parzych

Always for you, Gram






The knowledge is horrifying, devastating, crushing. I gulp in a breath and lower my eyes to the paper on my desk. Moments ago, my best friend told me something that upended my world. Nathan said I’d been in The Program last summer, only . . . it never happened. It’s not true.

But at the same time, the weight of it is there—a phantom pain in my chest.

The monitor, Dr. Wyatt, continues her slow pace around the classroom, arms folded over her chest, while she waits for us to fill out our weekly assessments—a relic from The Program hysteria. One the school has reinstituted on a voluntary basis. Voluntary for now, at least.

I read the first question on my paper.

Are you feeling sad or overwhelmed?

That would be an understatement.

“You think she’d take the hint,” Nathan murmurs from behind me, sliding his blank assessment across his desk. “We’re not going to be part of her experiment.” He pauses. “Right, Tatum? We’re done being experiments?”

He wants me to make a joke to show just how fine I am. I can’t let on that I don’t remember being in The Program; Nathan thinks I do. He might not have mentioned it otherwise.

But The Program never made its patients forget they were there. No—they wanted everyone to come out believing The Program had saved their lives. Patients were only supposed to forget the bad stuff.

I remember the bad stuff, or at least most of it. So, if I’d actually been a patient, why would the hurt still be here? Nathan claimed my grandfather got to me “early.” How early?

As I try to work it all out, there’s a shuffle of feet—Nathan waiting for my reply. I force myself to be normal, or some passing version—otherwise, he’ll know there’s a problem. He’ll want answers.

I look at Nathan and flash him a half smile. “Considering I’ve spent the better part of a year being the caged bunny rabbit in this scenario,” I tell him, “yeah—I’m done with unethical experiments.”

Nathan nods his agreement and leans back in his chair. His hazel eyes glide over me, and I quickly turn around, afraid he’ll see through my act. He should be able to. Then again, Nathan’s been lying to me since last summer. To which I’m sure he’d say, Keeping a secret isn’t the same as being a liar, Tatum. But in this case, it is. He is.

I was in The Program, and that means everyone I love is a liar.

My entire body shakes as I soak in my shock. I look up and find Weston Ambrose still watching me from his seat in the front of the room, concern creasing his forehead. He doesn’t know me anymore. He shouldn’t remember—

A sharp pain strikes behind my eyes, blooming so quickly and fiercely that it’s an explosion. I press my fingers against my temples, lowering my head as I grit my teeth. But I can’t seem to stop the pain—it spreads across my vision until everything goes black.

And I fall into a memory.

? ? ?

I was standing at the bottom of the stairs in the front entryway of my house, screaming for my grandparents, who were already in bed. Men in white coats, handlers, stood on either side of me, gripping my forearms, trying to pull me out the door. Blood began to seep again from the wounds on my knuckles, and it dripped in an arc around my feet as I fought.

They’d attempted to catch me on the moonlit porch first, but when I saw them coming, saw the lights of their van, I tried to race inside. I wasn’t fast enough. They nearly tackled me as I pushed open the door.

“Don’t fight, Miss Masterson,” the gray-haired handler said. “We just want to talk.”

Yeah, right. I knew there was no such thing with them. My head ached; my heart was broken. My hand bled. I fucking hated this life—I did. But it didn’t mean I was going to give it away to The Program. I wouldn’t let them erase me. I wouldn’t let them destroy me. This life was mine, and I wouldn’t let them decide how I’d live it.

“Stop!” I growled, kicking when I couldn’t free my arms. The handler with the scar on his cheek took the brunt of my sneaker, winced, and then slammed me hard against the wall, knocking the air out of my lungs. I gasped, but with my arm now free, I swung at him.

He caught me by the wrist and twisted my arm across my chest and spun me around, locking me against him. I screamed, my voice cracking. Tears streamed down my face. “Stop!” I cried out.

The bedroom door opened upstairs, and my heart soared. “Pop!” I screamed. “Pop, help me!”

There was a flash of movement, and the handler tightened his grip on my wrists. The older handler stepped forward, blocking my view as my grandparents stomped down the stairs.

“Remain calm,” the handler said soothingly to them. But it must not have gone over well, because I heard a scuffle, the sound of breaking glass, and saw shards of our entryway lamp spill across the floor.

My grandfather rushed past the handler, and I sobbed when I saw his face—alarmed, yet sleepy, his glasses left upstairs.

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