Monday, 7 September 2009 - 8:49 pm


Everyone works here. No exceptions, I was told in no uncertain terms. As if I might refuse. I had to make an effort not to be offended.

Stella, the matronly lady who oversees the girls’ dorms, collared me this morning. I was lost when everyone else filtered off to do whatever it is they normally do after breakfast, but she wasn’t going to leave me feeling that way for long. She started to quiz me on what I could do – what use I might be, is the way she put it – and I tried to answer her questions honestly.

It came down to two things – fixing cars and first aid. The only skilled things I could do passably Before and have been forced to learn in a lot more detail in the time After. Somehow, I didn’t think my deftness with a cash register or a love of books would be of any help here.

“We have enough mechanics,” Stella told me with a grunt and a roll of her eyes. I guess the army must have its fair share, and from what she was saying, the boys outnumber the girls five or six to one here. There’s bound to be plenty of grease-monkeys among that number. “We’ll have to check if the infirmary needs any more hands. Go help out in the kitchens for now.”

I wanted to argue, but really, what was the point? It rankles that the kitchen is full of girls, but everyone has to help somehow and the General was firm in defending his segregation policy. For our own good, he said. I feel like those words have been said a lot in history and I don’t particularly want to know what else they have been used to excuse.

I just know that I’m going to bounce off the walls if I have to work in the kitchens for too long. When there’s no water to clean anything, knowing what goes on before the food hits the plate is sometimes way too much. By the time lunch came around, I really didn’t feel like eating.

Tia and Jersey are both on kitchen detail, too. Seems they’re about as much use as me in other departments. Tia is very much in her element; she’s falling in with the other women easily and already making friends. The security and stability of the place have lifted a weight off her. Sometimes when I look at her, I’m jealous; I wish I could relax here so quickly.

Jersey is a little more like me. She hates the kitchens with a vicious tongue and spent most of the day grumbling. When I heard her mutter that she should have pretended she was a boy again, I grinned. I couldn’t help it and I didn’t blame her at all. At lunch, she sat and sighed at her plate, poking at the indeterminate contents with a fork.

Just a few days ago, we were starving. Now we’re considering turning food down. It’s startling when I stop and think about it. Jersey stared at me when I pointed that out, then we both ate our portions. It’s no worse than anything else we’ve forced ourselves to put in our mouths, if we don’t think about it too hard.


I miss the boys. This schedule is strange and the beds are hard to sleep on. I keep coming awake, missing the sound of Thorpe’s barely-there snoring or a familiar sleepy murmur. I lie there listening for the breathing patterns I’ve grown so used to, but they’re all gone. Even Jersey and Tia are lost in the wheezing of this room.

We’ve stopped but my legs haven’t caught up; they still want to be on the road. I don’t think they can quite believe that we might have reached the end of our journey. Neither can the rest of me.