Tue, 29 December 2009 - 9:40 pm

Homemaking

It doesn’t feel much like a home here. Everyone is walking around armed with guns or bats, just in case. We’re keeping eyes on the perimeter. There have been talks of fences and lines of defense. Traps and trips. Lacing this place with nasty things to keep us safe.

All it does is remind me of the dangers surrounding us: shamblers and intruders; mindless and malicious. It makes me feel hemmed in, penned here like a butterfly on a board, waiting for the pin to nail me down.

I miss the road. I miss the feeling of going somewhere, I miss having a goal to strive for, even one that might not be there when we arrive. Even one that might turn out to be a huge disappointment, or shackles with a kind face.

We’re not Seeking any more. Does that mean we’re still Seekers? Does it matter what we call ourselves? If we change the name of the group, will other things change too? What about the things we’ve tried to hold onto – the aversion to killing, the way we try to help everyone that asks us for it? I don’t want to let go of any of that. I want to always remain a Seeker, searching for something better and never forgetting where we came from.

Whatever we’re called, we’re here and making a go of it. That’s a good thing – I believe in the Farm and what we’re building. There are green shoots poking up through the earth in the greenhouses, plants taking shape that will one day – hopefully soon – feed us. We can sustain a future here. We can build lives bigger than base survival. I truly believe that this place is what we’ve been looking for since the bomb went off.

The Farm is our hope. We have committed ourselves to it, throwing everything we have into it. We’ve promised to make it work. Some of us still go out every day to look for supplies, but this is where we come back to. This is where we rest our heads. Matt and I have our own room here in the main house. The foragers have been bringing back mattresses and bedding over the weeks we’ve been here, and we have our own bed now. We have drawers to put our clothes in and a mirror to brush our hair in front of. We’re gathering those small, personal things that make a place our own. This should be our home now. I’m trying to think of it that way, but for so long, home has been wherever the Seekers stop rather than a particular place. I keep forgetting that we’ve stopped.

Last night, after I finished writing my post, I thought about what it means. Home used to mean my father’s house. Home was the place where I could relax. I could wander around in my underwear. I could do whatever I wanted, be whoever I wanted, with no apologies. I could sleep, sweet and deep, knowing I belonged. I guess it still means that to me; now, it’s only the walls and roof that feel less important.

While I was thinking about all of that, I caught myself turning the ring on my finger. Dad’s wedding ring, the one he didn’t take off for thirty years until he said goodbye to me. It meant so much to him – a promise to his wife, then his family. Even when some of the family left us, he still wore it and kept those promises. I used to worry about him, about how he never went on dates or tried to move on from my mother. Now I think I understand him. I think I’m like him.

Family. I’ve thought about it so much over the past year. I’ve wondered if I love too easily, because of how much it hurts. I’ve found that blood doesn’t matter, not when we share it in different ways. I’ve tried to hold this family of Seekers together despite the After and all that it has done to us. I don’t regret any of it.

Now, I’ve got a closer piece of family growing inside me. I’m starting to look forward to it past the blind terror of the thought of being a mother. I’m not the only one caught up in this joy and fear, struggling to make sense of it: every day, Matt and I slip a little closer together, but neither of us wants to say. Neither of us wants to admit what it means.

We made promises once. In the confusion of Haven, we tried to place something solid between us, something that would hold us together. We had new names for each other: boyfriend; girlfriend; lover; partner. It was what we needed, our next step. But we’ve outgrown that now.

I said yesterday that I knew who Matt wanted me to be. What I didn’t say was that I wasn’t sure if he knew it. We’ve been coasting along for a while. Now it’s time to take another step.

When Matt came to bed last night, he knew that something was going on from the glance I gave him. He closed the door and sat down next to me, immediately concerned. He asked me what was wrong and I smiled at him. I couldn’t help it.

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Then what is it?”

I didn’t have the right words. My mouth opened and closed, but I didn’t have the elegance to speak. Instead, I reached over and took his hand. I turned it over so that I could place a small object in his palm. Releasing it was like letting go of a great weight. My throat loosened enough for me to get a few words out.

“I think this belongs to you now.”

He stared at my dad’s ring as if he had no idea what it meant. I thought he might laugh, or stare at me, or ask me what the hell; I didn’t know if he would understand. I wanted it to be enough, a simple ring that meant the world to me, a symbol that would say everything I wanted to say but couldn’t get past the lump in my chest. It’s me, it’s my family. It’s his.

It took me a minute to realise he was crying. I didn’t know what to do – I wasn’t expecting that. I touched his cheek and said I was sorry. I doubted everything – the way I’d read his feelings, his readiness to accept a commitment like this. He’d spent his whole life avoiding commitment.

“You don’t have to take it,” I said.

I reached for the ring but his hand closed over it, scraped knuckles turning white. He shook his head. When he looked at me, there was a defensive barrier between us, overrun by tears but still trying to protect him.

“Because of the baby?” he asked.

“No.” I couldn’t answer quick enough. “We don’t need that, not out here. No-one cares about that stuff any more.” I realised that I was starting to babble. Answer the question, Faith. “Because of you, Matt. Because of you and me.”

He looked down at his closed fist as if it was all that was holding him together. “Are you sure?” He wasn’t asking about the baby that time.

“Yeah.” I covered his hand with mine. I couldn’t bear to sit there and not touch him. He was so stricken and I didn’t know how to comfort him. “I love you.” He knew that already, but I thought he might need to hear it. Words matter.

He closed his eyes and let out a sharp huff, somewhere between a breath of laughter and exasperation. He shook his head and my stomach clenched; was that a no? I couldn’t take my eyes off his face even though I was terrified of what I was going to see.

“Isn’t this a bit backwards?” he said. Was he making a joke? He looked like he was kidding, like the lighter Matt was trying to poke through. I could only hope.

“Well, the ring doesn’t fit me,” I replied lamely. “And you’re a bit slow.”

He laughed shakily, like I hoped he would, and it was real this time. He took my hand and gripped it tightly. “Guess I’ll have to tell all my girlfriends.”

“And all your boyfriends.”

“Jeez, you want the whole world.”

“Just this bit of it.” I wanted to say ‘just you’, but that felt like too much and too cheesy to be real. He understood, though. We both felt the solemnity underneath the banter. It was just easier that way.

His hand unfurled so he could see the ring again. “Shit, Faith. You really know how to ambush a guy.” He was coming around to the subject again, trying to make sense of it.

I couldn’t tell if I was pressuring him or not. I hadn’t thought this through enough. “You don’t have to decide right now.”

He glanced up at me with surprise. “You think I’d say no?”

I was so sure when he walked in. I had known what his answer would be. But like any battle plan, my assumptions failed at the first encounter. I felt like I didn’t know anything any more, nothing except the hope burning in my chest, the one outlined in fire and neon.

“I’m asking. It’s… it’s your choice. You have to– you should– it’s up to you.”

He shook his head slowly. “Sometimes, you’re an idiot.”

“Does that mean you’re saying yes?” I couldn’t stand any more dancing around; I needed to hear him say it.

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” I stared at him. “Don’t call me an idiot.”

“Can I call you my idiot?”

“Okay.”

We laughed, the tension making us both tremble on its way out. He pulled me over to him so he could loop his arms around me and look at the gold in his palm at the same time. He managed to put it on without letting me go.

“Shit,” he said into my ear.

Then he kissed the bride.

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