Thursday, 27 August 2009 - 5:54 pm


We are an even number again. There’s a part of me that wants to fight that one little fact, as if Dillon’s place with us could ever be filled. It can’t. It’s just our number that’s even, not our hearts.

Still, I can’t begrudge the one who has joined us. In fact, I was pleased; after the past few days, we needed something to pick us up again.

We were trying to fix the vehicles. Plastic sheeting over the rear windows and pock-marked panels, secured with the fabulous wrap of ductape. We switched to our last spare set of tyres, too; with all the acid on the roads, in ice or puddles, the treads have been wearing down far too quickly. It might be pointless unless we find more fuel to keep them running, but at least they’ll last a little while longer.

The sound of an engine approaching set us all on edge. We downed tools and ducked out of sight, taut as harpstrings. It wasn’t a big engine – in fact, it sounded thin and rattly – but you never know. These days, you just never know.

It almost went past us without comment. A single person on a motorcycle, anonymously helmeted, drifting slowly down the street. My first thought was that the guards were sending out scouts. Then Terry scowled and Dale leaned forward, staring at the back of the rider’s jacket. A design had been roughly painted on, one I found familiar but couldn’t make out.

Dale had no such problem. He ran out into the street, ignoring hissing and grabbing from the rest of us. With two fingers in his mouth, he whistled, brazen and piercing. We winced at the recklessness of it, while the rider heard and turned back. The rest of us quickly hurried out onto the road, forming up around Dale in case he needed our support.

As it turned out, he didn’t need us or any kind of protection. The rider stopped and shut off the engine, unworried by the mob of us standing there. When the helmet came off, we saw why. One of us, come back to the group, come back to the road.

The first thing I thought was that her hair’s grown and she looks more like a girl now.

Jersey. Most of us were pleased to see her. Dale was grinning and went to slap her on the shoulder; he has apparently forgiven her for the months of lying while they were running as the Wolverines. There were no hugs – she’s not really into that – but plenty of friendly buffets and what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here.

“Got sick of sitting on my ass at the university,” she told us, wheeling the bike towards where our vehicles were stashed. “So I thought I’d come see if you guys needed a hand out here. Heard where you were over the radio.” I know Dale and Dan have been talking to the ones we left behind fairly often, when we can get a signal.

There’s obviously more to it than that but none of us pressed her on it. She has her secrets; the difference now is that we all know they’re there, and that makes it okay. Almost. But a few cans of soup and beans soothe a lot of ruffled feathers. We ate well tonight because of her.

The only one who hung back from the greetings was Terry. He’s still bruised over believing that she was a guy and has been brooding since she turned up. It’s not like him and even Tia is worried. It’s putting bluster into Jersey’s attitude – no-one wants a fight right now, least of all her, so she’s trying to breeze right on past the unpleasantness. I can’t blame her for that.


Eight’s lucky, according to the Chinese. I don’t know if it’s lucky for us. My mind keeps wandering back to the eighth we lost; he’s never far away these days.

I miss the ones we left at the university. I miss the clutter and chatter of them, their faces around the fire. Their stories and the sussurrus of their voices. It’s good to see even just one of them again.

But eight will do. Eight feels right. Welcome back, Jersey.

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