Monday, 21 December 2009 - 8:44 pm

The only thing

I think I like going out with the foraging party better than staying at the farm. I don’t know if it’s the movement, the purpose in our searching that makes me feel like a Seeker, or if it’s just being away from somewhere where everyone looks to me for answers. Out on the road, things are simpler. We all know what we’re doing and where we’re going – we get the maps out every morning and plan a circuit that brings us back to the farm each night.

It’s not that I dislike the farm – I don’t. I am glad we’re here and I’m always pleased when I hear about the progress we’re making. Conroy is damaged but there’s nothing wrong with his cognitive abilities: he’s getting the water system hooked up with extra tanks so that we have enough for us and the plants.

Janice found worms in one of the troughs and got everyone excited about them. It’s the first non-human life we’ve seen in such a long time, and it’ll make growing food easier. Nugget and Estebar were running around with them today, chasing each other with little wiggly creatures and laughing. I don’t think I’ve heard Nugget laugh like that before.

The buildings are gradually becoming more functional and more like a home; every morning while we’re pouring over the maps, we get at least one request to keep an eye out for something in our travels. Something not food or tools, not essential. But nice. Pillows and blankets. Extra shirts. Cleaning supplies – cloths, sponges, bleach.

The farm means hope for us. It’s only just starting, but right now I don’t have any reason to think it won’t work. Things are falling into place. Even things with our slave Warren are calming down.

When I was heading back towards the kitchens to return a pile of dishes tonight, I heard a noise from one of the storerooms we haven’t had much use for. I wasn’t sure what to do – my hands were full, but I wanted to know what it was. It could be someone in trouble. It could be a couple of someones making out. It could be rats.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t think that it was a good noise. It was sharp and angry, a punch against a wall made by something hard. Not a fist, I was sure about that – whatever it was had edges not softened by flesh. I paused and listened, but it didn’t repeat. After a couple of heartbeats, there was a softer sliding noise and something padded thudded onto the floor.

I didn’t like it. It sounded like a body – a person – and it was too quiet. I put the stack of plates down on the floor and rapped on the door before I opened it. What I found inside was far from anything I might have expected.

It smelled sharply of fresh urine in the little storeroom. There were no windows; instead, it was lit by a hurricane lamp. The flame bounced calmly in its glass case, oblivious to the mess in the room. Little cardboard boxes littered the floor, each one with an end torn open, each one scrunched in the middle as if caught in a closed fist. They were gathered up towards one end of the room after being thrown at the wall there. In amongst them were little white plastic shards.

I didn’t have time to take in what they were – I was distracted by the shape huddled at the other end of the room. Sitting on the floor, booted feet planted solidly, head bowed behind bent knees, she didn’t notice me enter at first. Then her head lifted and I saw that it was, in fact, Jersey. Only she could look so angry, and hurt, and pissed off, and as if she might punch anyone who asked if she was crying.

“What the fuck do you want.” She didn’t even pitch it as a question.

“I came to make sure everything was all right.”

“I’m fine. Get lost.”

It’s not like we’ve ever been the best of friends, but it still isn’t fun to be rebuffed like that. I cast around for something else to say and my gaze fell to the floor again. The floor and those little plastic sticks. Then a scrap of crumpled packet caught my eye – …Test – and I put the pieces together. I blinked, then quietly closed the door behind me. No wonder she was hiding.

“Jersey, are you pregnant?” There was a little part of me that soared at the idea. If someone else was pregnant, maybe it would be a little less weird for me to be carrying a baby too. I could have someone to share the journey with.

She huffed and shoved herself to her feet. She moves in short, hard bursts, with more effort than grace, and she stamped as she stood up. She’s about my height, but always seems bigger.

“No, I’m not.”

She seemed furious in a way that didn’t fit the words. The Jersey I had grown to know would despise being pregnant; she isn’t that kind of girl. Until recently, when she started latching onto Jonah, I wasn’t even sure that she liked men.

Then I looked at the mess on the floor again. There were a lot of them, twenty maybe, all torn open and used. How long has she been doing this, coming in here and checking? Because she was afraid she was pregnant, or to see if it had happened yet?

She was trying to push past me to get to the door, but I caught her arm. It was there when I looked into her face: the fear, buried deep under the angry barriers she keeps up.

“Are you trying to get pregnant?”

She tore her arm out of my hand hard enough to make my fingers smart. “It’s none of your business.”


“It’s the only thing that works! Okay? Are you happy? The only thing.”

I stared at her, at a loss for what she meant for the longest time. Then I remembered the Sickness. Jersey was burned by the rain weeks ago – months now? – and must be due to get Sick soon. The only person to survive it – to get burned and never get Sick – was Sally. The baby was blamed, and now here was our punch-happy tomboy trying to get pregnant. To save her own life.

It made perfect sense, but it still made me feel ill. She must be so scared; the negative tests on the floor were testament to that. She saw my expression change and hated it. She isn’t close to anyone, isn’t used to sharing this kind of stuff.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Not to be funny, Faith, but you don’t exactly have the equipment I need. So unless you want to lend Matt to me, the best thing you can do is stay out of it.”

Hell no. “Have you talked to Masterson?”

“Are you kidding?”

I didn’t blame her – I wouldn’t wish that examination on anyone, not from him and his cold hands. “You might want to think about it. I–” I looked at her and knew there wasn’t anything I could give her. Helplessness blossomed in my chest in a lukewarm seeping. “Good luck,” I wished her instead. It was the best I could offer.

Her shoulders slumped a tiny bit – this weighed on her more than she could hide. I tried not to think about how pale she looked, or about how she didn’t look well. I stepped aside and she stamped past me. The door bounced off the wall, wavering like it was sorry it got in her way, and she was gone.

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised she had no idea that I was pregnant. I’m glad of it now. I don’t need another person throwing resentment at me, and I wouldn’t blame her for it. I’m terrified to have this baby and she’s terrified not to have one. Luck isn’t fair.

I can’t give her what she’s looking for, but I hope she finds it.