Sunday, 15 March 2009 - 5:55 pm

What about the rest

I sat with Dillon when we stopped for a break today; the kid looked like he could use some company. Alice is usually near him, but she’s closed in on herself, putting up distance in the smallest physical gap. And besides, it has been a while since I had a proper chat with the boy.

I asked him how he was getting on now that Alice was with us again, and with us to stay. He gave me a smile full of false brightness and said he was pleased, but he knew I wasn’t fooled. The facade dropped with a sigh and, I suspect, some relief.

“She’s different,” he said, struggling to find the right words. “And not just… not just because of, you know.” He made a gesture towards his face rather than mention her maiming in words.

“Yeah, I know,” I told him. I talked about Matt, about how changed he was when we found him, how he wasn’t the same person that I’d known and loved for years. I didn’t go into detail about why he had changed; the kid doesn’t need to know that stuff. And yet, my Matt was still in there, just quieter than before. There’s a lot more noise to distract us now from the shards of things we know. “Give her time. She’s still getting used to us again, too. At least she’s got you to look out for her, huh?”

“Yeah.” He seemed heartened by that, but there was still a shadow on his expression. I nudged him about it and he shrugged, mumbling that he wished everyone was as lucky as he was.

“Is this about Alice’s family?”

“Her dad was really nice. And I used to look after her sister with her sometimes. Claire.”

I put an arm around him and he leaned in. He’s not too old to do that yet. “I’m sorry, Dillon.”

“What about the rest, Faith? What about everyone else?”

I looked at him and didn’t know what to say. I wanted to reassure him, but I didn’t want to lie. He’d know and I’d know, and it wouldn’t help at all. “It’s easier to believe that they’re okay and are doing the same as we are, huh,” I said. “I don’t know, Dillon. I guess all we can do is hope they made it, and that they’re still making it, somewhere. That one day we’ll see them again.”

“Like your dad?”

I gave him a surprised look; I don’t talk about Dad much, but he knew anyway. I guess I mentioned him more than I thought I had. “Yeah, like my dad.”

He nodded and leaned on me for a second more before sitting up straight again. I gave him some of my water and he looked at me sideways.

“How come your arm’s not better yet?”

I looked at my braced forearm and shrugged. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time; I was just used to wearing the brace. “I’m not sure. Been a while since I smacked it on anything. Maybe it is better.” Now that I thought about it, it hadn’t ached over the last few days. We haven’t had a big fight in some time, and I suppose that made the difference. The brace seemed like a target to people we tussled with.

So I took the brace off and flexed my arm and hand gingerly. It felt okay, surprisingly enough. I ran fingertips down the bones of my forearm, and there are a couple of ridges under the skin there that are still a litte bit tender, but no blinding pain any more.

“I guess it’s okay now.”

“Oh, good.” He smiled at me, and I believe it this time.

I put the brace in my pack, in case I – or anyone else – need it again sometime. My arm feels naked without it, and is paler than the other one. It’s odd not to feel the hug of the brace on it; the freedom is going to take some getting used to. I guess we’re all learning to walk without crutches these days.