Thursday, 22 October 2009 - 8:47 pm

Reluctant saboteur

I’ve been dreading and looking forward to the next time my dad came to see me. The last time we talked, I got upset with him because he refused to tell me the truth. When we part, we hugged in that stiff way that shows we don’t really want to but aren’t upset enough to break the tradition.

Since then, I learned that Dad didn’t refuse to tell me what was going on at all. He told me the truth but I didn’t hear him. I had been upset over nothing and made him feel bad. Guilt gnawed at my guts with tiny teeth over it.

Dad brought me dinner today. We’re settling into a pattern – he makes it over here every three days or so, and we spend time together while the rain has us trapped. Neither of us wants to push our luck with Haven’s powers that be, so we’re making do with this.

I took the tray from him and led the way into the office, where we could talk in relative privacy. I put the food down and turned around, my apology queued up behind my teeth, but he stopped me. He was busy fumbling around under his jacket and said that he had something for me. I have no idea how he managed to hide it under his coat like that.

It was a car battery. Freshly charged, just come off the generator loop. He knew why I was being followed around by Jonah – the power leeching – and he guessed that I was trying to keep my laptop charged up.

“Probably getting low again by now,” he said. He wasn’t wrong; I’ve been trying not to worry about it lately. “This is safer, for everyone. No more plugging in, hm?”

I didn’t know what to say. Everything I had prepared garbled in my throat and it was all I could do to throw my arms around his neck. I said thank you and sorry and I love you, over and over in varying patterns. My chest felt like it would burst and I barely managed to stave off tears. I think that was better for both of us. He stopped me finally by patting my back and telling me it was all right, solid as a rock.

There was peace between us again and a part of me relaxed. It’s like that with Dad: we don’t always need to talk about what was really bothering us. We move on without raking the unpleasant stuff up.

I was still nervous when I told him about what Matt and I had decided. He stared at me and asked if I was sure that it was what I wanted.

“There has to be somewhere better than this,” I said. “We came here looking for security and a future. We’re still looking.”

He fell quiet, chewing on his meal. I gave him space to think about it and quickly got lost in all of the things we need to do. I had almost forgotten he was there until he touched my wrist to make me look up.

“What do you need to do it?”

At times like this, I think I have the best dad in the whole world. He wasn’t happy about it – he had the two little creases between his eyebrows that he gets when he’s thinking about something he doesn’t like, and sometimes his jaw muscle twitched. But he was offering to help anyway.

I was grateful for the opportunity to talk about it with someone, to go through all the issues that had been buzzing around in my head and try to make sense of it. I was still groping for what was possible and what would get us into trouble. Between the two of us, we managed to work out most of the questions and a couple of the answers. It didn’t matter that we didn’t answer everything; at least I had a better idea about what we needed to sort out.

Like weapons. I hadn’t even thought about weapons. The notion of trying to steal guns and ammunition terrifies me – I don’t want to give the cutouts any more excuses to shoot us than they already have. There’s no way we could stand up against them in a fight and win anyway. But at the same time, we’d be crazy not to arm ourselves somehow, if not against other people, then to protect ourselves from the shamblers.

And sabotage. That hadn’t occurred to me, either. I was worried about being followed and missed the step where we could delay pursuit by making sure their vehicles didn’t work.

A little part of my brain plugged those two factors together into a solution that turns my stomach. I don’t think I can live with crippling Haven so we can get away. Is it foolish to want to tie their shoelaces together long enough to get clear, rather than cutting off their feet so they’ll never be able to chase us? I know which one would be safer for us.

I don’t hate them. I don’t want to hurt them. I just don’t want to be here any more.

We have options. We have Dad and Thorpe working in the garages, with access to vehicles and tools. It doesn’t have to come to explosives and a bloody mess in our rear-view mirrors.

I was still worrying about it all when Dad left. He smiled and kissed my forehead, and said, “Don’t worry, Faithy. We’ll work it out.”

That was what I needed to hear. I feel lighter now, as if we might actually be able to do this. Unlike most of the time After, this is going to take more than sheer determination, but we can make it work. Without blowing everything up.