Monday, 5 October 2009 - 8:52 pm

Paying the price

The General came down to see me today. Well, to see us, but mostly me.

He looked more put-upon than angry. That gave me hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I feared. He eyed Matt’s new haircut – it really does look a lot better than before, even if it is rough around the edges – and then he ordered the cutouts to wait outside.

He started off by making sure that we knew about the rules regarding power usage. I put on my best innocent face and shrugged, thinking that no-one would mind a small use of the clippers. Didn’t the army approve of things like that?

“Not any more,” was the short reply.

Matt and I glanced at each other and apologised. Promised never to do it again. I knew this was a one-shot deal when we tried it; how I’ll charge the laptop when it runs down again, I don’t know. The General didn’t look like he thought we were sorry enough.

“How were we supposed to know?” I asked. “We only find this stuff out when we get in trouble.”

“And now I have to figure out what to do with you.”

He looked at us and I can just imagine how his cutouts felt at parade inspections. I was abruptly aware of every frayed thread of my clothing and how my hair kept escaping from my ponytail. I felt like a kid in front of him.

I wonder if they even have parade inspections any more. I haven’t ever seen one. Maybe he misses making people feel like dirty insects he’d like to step on.

Finally, he started to speak, telling us exactly what we would and would not do. No using power unless there was an emergency – and no, a haircut didn’t count. I saw the corners of Matt’s mouth twitch as he restrained a comeback – he’s definitely feeling more like himself – and had to restrain a smile. Somehow, I didn’t think the General would appreciate an overly-effeminate exclamation about how sometimes, a haircut really is an emergency, for all our sakes.

We are also not allowed to go out without permission. There will be a cutout (he called it ‘security’) posted at the infirmary at all times. Our meals will be brought to the infirmary for us – I don’t have to go fetch them any more. I am to go back to the dorm at night, now that Matt doesn’t need around-the-clock nursing.

Most of it was nothing new, but it was the presence of the cutout to enforce it all that bothered me most. That’s going to make things awkward, especially if I want to keep my laptop and this blog a secret. Right now, Matt’s keeping watch for me while I tap away. I don’t like being watched, not like that. I don’t like the idea that someone is reporting my every move – someone who isn’t me, to ears outside of this blog.


The General finally wrung muted agreements out of Matt and me, along with a promise that we would behave ourselves, and then he huffed off. I felt duly chastised and deflated into a seat. There was the sharp clip of boots outside in the main room of the infirmary and the murmur of quiet voices; Simon was catching up on the gossip with our new guard. That was a complication I didn’t want to deal with.

I saw the medic briefly, and he was smug and eye-rolling at the same time. He thanked me for making things more difficult for everyone in the infirmary. I hadn’t considered that this would affect him. Maybe I would have if he had been nicer to me.

Dad brought us dinner, though, and that perked me up. I still don’t see him nearly enough. After this, I’m not sure I’ll see him very often at all.

He has never told me off like the General did. He has never made me feel small and silly. He never made me feel like an obstacle he had to overcome. And he’s the one who has taken the most of my crap, when I was teenaged and thoroughly misunderstood, when I was upset and he was the closest person to lash out at.

I spent most of his visit leaning on his arm or shoulder, enjoying his solidity. For a while, he put his arm around me: more demonstrative than he usually is in company, but Matt doesn’t really count. It helped me feel better. Now we have security lurking around, this kind of thing will be harder. Seeing each other will be harder.

I’m not so sure that yesterday’s stunt will be worth it. I can post, so I can vent about how much I can’t do anything or see my friends. I’ll be more stuck here than I was before.

The General knew what he was doing. I’d better go – have to say goodnight to Matt and get to the dorms now it’s stopped raining.