Sunday, 20 December 2009 - 7:24 pm


Despite all the tensions and intrigue, things at the farm are coming along well. We have most of one of the long greenhouses dug out and rigged up to the water system, and the first seeds were planted a few days ago. We’re getting them in as quickly as we can and patching the rest up as we go, because we don’t know how long we’ll have supplies to last us.

There’s plenty of work to keep us all busy. The foraging party goes out every day to search for food, and it’s a chance for tense parties to spend time apart. The rest of us delve into the greenhouses and blot out worries and fears with mind-numbing exhaustion.

The problem is that Warren has been put to work in the greenhouses. Matt and I don’t want to be anywhere near him, so we opted to head out with the foragers today. It was good to get away from the farm for a while. Away from the familiar clutter of buildings and the endless troughs of the greenhouses. Open roads, clearer air. I felt like I could breathe deep for once.

Matt asked to write a post the other day but made me promise not to read it. “It’s just venting,” he told me. I’m respecting his wishes because we feel fragile right now. He hasn’t been right since Warren and the gun, but he won’t tell me what’s bothering him. He’s not usually secretive with me, so it’s either bad or something too deeply buried for him to know what it really is.

I keep wondering if the baby is freaking him out, but he was so happy about that. When I told him, my heart brimming in my mouth, his face lit up and he grabbed me in the biggest hug. He couldn’t have faked a reaction like that, even if he’d wanted to. He was bouncing on his toes, touching my belly with wondering fingertips; he had no idea how much he looked like a big kid.

No, I don’t think the baby is what’s bothering him. He won’t tell me, though. All I can do is hope that he comes out of wherever he is, comes back to me. I wish I could help him, but I can’t reach him in there.

The others are doing all right. Iona won’t come out of the house, but she takes care of everything in there. She even started doing laundry, by hand. I had to stop her the first time – she was scrubbing so hard that the shirt and her hands were being torn to shreds. I made her put everything down and drew her dripping hands out of the sink. They were raw and bleeding, but she hadn’t noticed. She just looked at me with wide green eyes.

“Need to make it clean,” she said. “Tomorrow the flowers must grow. Make it pretty like the flowers.”

“We can make it clean without hurting ourselves,” I told her, leading her gently to our makeshift infirmary. It’s just a room with a bench we can use as a bed to treat people and cupboards we’ve cleared out to keep the medical supplies in.

“I don’t think so.”

Her reply made me look at her face sharply. She sounded sad and her head had drooped. I started to say something, but she interrupted me.

“Hurts, always hurts. Have to make it clean.”

I asked her what hurt, but she wouldn’t answer me. She stood where I put her and let me bind her hands up. I was afraid she had hurt herself somewhere else, and she let me check her over. She didn’t flinch, not once, and I found myself overcome with awkwardness and embarrassment for her. My cheeks were burning by the time I was satisfied that ‘always hurts’ didn’t mean that she had another injury.

I think her hurts are a lot deeper than that.

I took her by the upper arms and tried to make her look at me. The third time I said her name, she finally lifted her gaze to my face.

“You need to look after yourself,” I said. “Don’t hurt yourself, not even to make things clean. All right?”

“It always hurts.”

“It doesn’t have to.” I didn’t feel like I was getting through, but I had to try.

She frowned and studied my face as if she’d never seen it before. Then she nodded with a trace of hopefulness; I’m not sure if she hoped I was right, or if she hoped that was the answer I was looking for. Either way, I let her go.

She has since soaked her bandages through while doing more laundry, but I don’t think she’s hurt herself again.

After I dealt with Iona, I went to see Bree and Mira. They take turns looking after the baby and helping out in the greenhouses. Bree’s head wound is healing – it’s a nasty red mark on her forehead now, just above her temple, stopping just an inch from her eye. The lump beneath it is fading slowly. She has been keeping out of Warren’s presence as well – we share that urge, her and I.

Things are still complicated between us. I tried to talk to the two girls about Iona, asked them to keep an eye on her. Mira started complaining immediately about having enough to do without babysitting yet another body, but Bree cut her off with a quiet agreement.

“We’ll check in on her,” she said. “We didn’t know she was hurting herself.”

Mira stared at Bree, but she didn’t argue.

I’m not used to having Bree agree with me. It felt wrong. It made me second-guess myself. It has been a long time since she betrayed me and set about destroying every part of my social life, but my defenses still come up every time I’m around her. I keep looking for the knife in her hands coming at my back, but it’s not there. I don’t know where she’s keeping it or when she’ll decide to get it out again. I have accepted that I can’t read her at all.

“Okay, thanks,” I said. “How are things up here?”

I haven’t been up to the room where Masterson has Sally esconced. He’s always prowling around up there, always ready to growl at me, and I haven’t wanted to face him. I hoped that Sally would forgive me. At the same time, I wanted to tell her about the pregnancy. I wanted to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to carry a baby in the After.

At first, the two of them fobbed me off, telling me that things were fine. I asked about Sally specifically, how she was and if we were likely to see her any time soon. Bree and Mira exchanged a glance, weighing up how much to tell me.

“David says she’s depressed,” Bree said.

I restrained the reflex to bridle at her use of the familiar name; no-one except Sally calls him that. Most of the group doesn’t even know his full name – he’s just Masterson or the doctor. I wanted to ask her if she was screwing him too, but the words didn’t quite make it to my teeth.

“He says it’s hormones,” Mira added. “And the infection.”


“She had an infection, after Felix was born,” Bree said. So, the name had stuck to the baby. I was glad about that, but worried by the rest. “David says it’s not uncommon. She was really sick for a while, but she’s over that now. He says she’s recovering, but now there’s post-natal depression to deal with.” She hesitated for a beat. “I don’t think we have any drugs for that.”

There wasn’t much for me to say. I told them to let me know if they needed anything, for her or the baby. They nodded and agreed in that offhand way that says they don’t expect to ever take me up on that. I left with empty hands and empty offers.

Bree has recovered from Warren’s attack, but Conroy hasn’t been so lucky. The lump on his head is shrinking slowly and his eyes are no longer uneven and out of focus, but there’s damage we can’t see. He doesn’t remember the incident at all, and he lost a few days before that, too. He has trouble recalling things now – if you ask him to do something, he’ll go off to do it, but when he’s finished, he sometimes forgets who asked him. Sometimes he forgets what he was supposd to do when he gets to his destination.

As far as I know, the doctor hasn’t put a label on it. Conroy is keeping to himself about it; I think he forgets more than he lets on. He’s scared to admit what’s really going on inside that skull of his and I don’t blame him: he’s lost something fundamental and he doesn’t know if he’ll get it back.

I don’t know anything about this kind of thing: all I know is that it’s complicated and no-one really understands it fully. Maybe it’s possible for him to heal. Maybe all he needs is time. Hopefully we can give him that much.

In the meantime, Kostoya is keeping a close eye on him. The biochemist is always nearby, chivvying Conroy on in his work, asking questions and wondering if he’s done yet. His questions are layered with reminders about what they’re doing; I’m not sure, but I think he’s doing it on purpose. If Conroy has noticed, he hasn’t said anything.

Maybe if no-one mentions it, they can carry on as if nothing has truly changed. As solutions go, that one’s pretty painless for everyone involved.

I wish there were more solutions like that for us. ‘Painless’ isn’t a word that I have had much chance to throw around. We make it work whatever way we can, and I guess that’s what matters.

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