Sunday, 25 October 2009 - 8:24 pm

Options open

I finally managed to catch up with Tia today. She’s usually up and gone with the bulk of the female population, but this morning she dithered long enough for the dorm to empty out and leave her behind. Jonah was late, so I wasn’t dragged off either.

She listened to my proposition with solemn eyes, giving little away. I knew that she was weighing things in her head – all the benefits and security of Haven against the freedom of the Seekers. Freedom from many things.

“Can Jaye come?” she asked. I had to ask who that was, afraid she wanted to bring one of her new friends with her. They all believe in Haven – pregnant Phoebe is one of them, and they’re even more bright-eyed with the hope of it all now. But no, Jaye was the girl that Jersey got beat up over, the one that was abused and almost raped. I haven’t seen anything of her – she certainly didn’t bring her bruises to the infirmary – and apparently she keeps to herself now. I don’t blame her.

I had no idea that Tia even spoke to her. I only ever see the young Seeker with her gaggle of friends, or desperately trying to be with the gaggle.

“We’ll see,” I told her. I felt like someone’s parent – it’s the sort of thing my dad would say. Tia’s expression gathered into clouds, so I added, “We have to be careful, Tia. This has to stay secret. If she wants to come, I’d like her to, but… carefully, y’know?”

“We can trust her.”

“I hope so. I’ll talk to her, okay?”

Tia seemed satisfied with that. Then she asked a question that no-one else had thought to: “Where are we going?”

I was so startled that I just stared at her for a moment. It’s an obvious thing to ask but I hadn’t given it a single thought until then. I had been focussed on not being in Haven any more, getting out and away from the cutouts without getting anyone killed. We’d go back to the University initially – that was a given. We wanted to hook up with our old friends again and bring them news of what we found at the other end of the radio signal. From there… our options were open. Frighteningly open.

Tia frowned when I told her that. I could tell that she was thinking over the time before we reached Haven, how hard to was to find food and water, the threat of the shamblers dogging our heels. She wasn’t eager to risk all of that again, but she wasn’t saying no, either.

One of her gaggle of friends poked her head around the door to see where Tia had got to.

“Just think about it,” I told her. “And keep it to yourself. You have options, Tia.”

She nodded and hurried off. It didn’t occur to me until Jonah turned up that she hadn’t asked about her brother and if he wanted to come. I don’t know if she assumed he’d follow her lead or if she was too caught up in her own issues to include him. I don’t know when they saw each other last.


Figuring out who Jaye was wasn’t easy. I had to try to find a quiet voice among the rabble of chattering women that filled the dorm tonight. If I hadn’t been looking for her, I would never have noticed her when she slipped out. I caught sight of a scrap of auburn hair ducking through a back door and followed it.

She’s a tall girl, all long limbs that she tries to keep folded close to make herself look smaller. She has a scar cutting through one eyebrow and another marring the line of her lower lip, both fairly recent. She probably got them in the incident that got Jersey in so much trouble.

She assumed that I was going to ask her to join Mama Prusco’s group tonight, off to meet a contingent of men for entertainment. After I had told her my name, she believed me when I said I would never do that. Apparently, I’m a well-known troublemaker.

I didn’t ask Jaye if she wanted to leave Haven. There was something shifty in the way her eyes kept darting past me as we talked, as if she was looking for a way out or an excuse to leave. She kept pulling her sleeves down over her hands and hunching her shoulders, which made me wonder what she was hiding. Something about her posture reminded me of the girl I saw after the bombs went off, cutting stripes into her arm because she didn’t know how to deal with it all. I wasn’t sure how to handle that, then or now.

I tried to let Jaye know that she could come to me if she ever needed help or if she was hurt. I told her that I understood why she hid and I’d be there if she ever needed support against Mama Prusco’s pressure. She nodded and tugged at her cuffs, but I’m not sure that she believed me.

She’s far from happy here in Haven, but I don’t know if she’ll want to brave the world outside it with us. I don’t know her well enough yet. We have until the Seekers are ready to leave to sort it out.

I hope that’s enough time for all of us.