Mon, 28 December 2009 - 8:11 pm

Who to be

Everyone is still recovering from the events of the past few days. Some of us are healing physical wounds; most of us are healing some other part of ourselves. I feel shaky. Not in myself, but in everything around me.

Shortage of supplies forced us to send out foragers again. We can’t afford not to, and we can’t afford to send all our protection away as well. I decided to stay behind today; I think I’m more use mending what I can here at the Farm right now.

Bobby and Jonah have been spending a lot of time together, talking about things. Jonah is still in a lot of pain, pale and sweaty most of the time, but he’s starting to seek distractions now. They have volunteered to be in charge of our defenses and I haven’t had a reason to refuse them. They’re best qualified for it and Bobby seems to be relishing the trust now that he has it.

Kostoya is upset over the damage to his equipment in the barn. I heard him muttering about changes and reductions and needing to do more tests – he has been talking about things like that for the past week, but now he’s more frantic because he can’t do his tests. Conroy is usually on hand, patting the professor’s arm and telling him that it’ll be all right. They’ll fix up the barn and get the experiments going again.

It’s a strange reversal. Kostoya looked after Conroy following the head injury, and now the brain-injured one has to look after the smart fella.

Of everyone, I think the kids are the ones taking all of this with the most ease. So I sent Nugget and Estebar to help them, fetching and carrying and sweeping up the glass. Kostoya was bewildered by the sudden aid and turned to his faithful assistant.

“Will you keep an eye on them, son?” he said. “They might… hurt themselves.”

Conroy was all reassurance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Kostoya call him that before.

Bree is grieving for Mira. I’ll be honest – I’m surprised by how hard the girl’s death has hit her. It makes me feel ashamed of myself; I know it’s our personal history interfering with my judgement, but I can’t help it. I keep remembering how much Bree has hurt me in the past and how heartless she could be, and it doesn’t tally with the depth of her current pain. I tried to push past it today, tried to be a better person towards her. I asked her how she was, if she needed anything.

She shook her head. “No,” she said, in that quiet way of someone who can’t think of a single thing that might make it better.

I nodded and was about to leave her to it, when she caught my sleeve. She was earnest all of a sudden.

“Thank you.”

I didn’t know what to make of it. I still don’t. “You’re welcome,” I said, and then I moved on. There wasn’t anything else to say. It feels like a door has opened a crack but I don’t know whether or not I want to push it open any further.

Masterson and Sally are still keeping to themselves, with the baby. I went up to check on them, knowing that their help was gone and Bree has been too busy to come up to give them a hand. Sally was cradling Felix, singing to him softly to get him to fall asleep. She was smiling at him in a way that reminded me of Iona – Chrissy. She has been so vague lately and today it bothered me.

Masterson didn’t ask me why I was there. His greeting was, “We’re fine. You don’t need to be here.” Nothing like making me feel welcome.

“What’s she on?” I asked.

He met my eye for a second and then looked away. Of course he couldn’t maintain that kind of contact. “She’s fine.”

“You have painkillers? Anti-depressants?” It had to be something like that.

He didn’t answer and I thought about asking where he got them. Then I recalled that Mira had come foraging with us the day the shamblers attacked. She hadn’t left the Farm before or since, and it was shortly after that that I saw Sally downstairs, apparently recovered from her depression. It made sense that the doctor would send someone else out to forage for him.

I was suddenly so angry that I could barely speak, but I managed to force the words out. I didn’t want to hold them back from him.

“When were you planning on telling the rest of us, huh? When were you planning to share them? Maybe with the man who lost his leg and is sitting down there in pain every single day?”

“And what about the pain up here? There isn’t enough to go around.”

“There is never enough. The least you could have done was offer some relief, you selfish bastard.”

He drew breath to defend himself, but I didn’t want to listen to him. I didn’t care what he had to say. I turned on my heel and walked out, aching all the way through as if the knowledge had scoured something away from inside me. I remembered how we found him, high in his hospital on a cloud of drugs. I remembered how Sally had run away to that. Months on, and that’s still where they want to be, even though she’s holding their consequences in her arms and there aren’t enough drugs to sustain them.

I was so angry with them that I felt like snapping off the first head I came across. That’s when I walked into Iona – Chrissy. I literally barrelled straight into her, rounding a corner too fast to stop. Pain nailed me through my healing forearm and stopped any words from escaping my throat. I couldn’t breathe for a moment, gripping it and blinking in surprise.

She recovered her balance and smiled at me. “Whoops,” she said, quite cheerfully. As if that didn’t hurt. As if she didn’t kill someone yesterday. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew what she had done. Surely, somewhere in there, she knew. But did she know it was wrong?

“Sorry, Chrissy.” I couldn’t be angry with her, not after what we had learned. All we know is how badly she was broken, not how they did it, and I don’t ever want to know. I can’t look at her serenity and want to look into that dark place.

The use of that name tugged at her expression, like a memory that was bobbing to the surface.

“Would you rather that we didn’t call you that?” I had thought it was better than ‘Iona’, the name that had grown out of a terrible misunderstanding.

“She’s gone. She went with the flowers, wanted to be mulch.” She was wistful about that, as if she was talking about the Little Mermaid turning into froth on the ocean.

She didn’t want to be the girl who was broken, and we couldn’t call her by a symbol of that breaking.

“What would you like us to call you, then?” I asked.

She blinked at me, as if she couldn’t understand the question.

“You should pick a name. Pick one that you like.”

“I don’t know what I like.”

I should have known that it would be difficult. How was I supposed to know what she liked? There was only one thing she ever talked about consistently. “What’s your favourite flower?”

“What?”

“You like flowers.” I took her by the hand and led her to the flower farm’s boards. They had been stacked up in a hallway, their pictures and prices no use to us. That wasn’t what we were growing. I pointed the nameless girl at them. “Which is your favourite?”

She stared at me, and then went to start looking over the boards. She handled them so carefully, as if her light fingers might bruise them. As if they were petals of the flowers they held pictures of. She took her time and I started to wonder if she had forgotten what I had asked her to do, but finally she turned to me and pointed at a board. She looked hopeful, like a child. I suppose that was fitting.

“What is that, a lily? You like lilies?”

“Is that right?” She sounded like she thought it was a test.

“It’s up to you.” I gave her a smile and she relaxed. “It’s a pretty name. Do you want us to call you Lily?”

She nodded, and suddenly she was hugging me so hard I thought I’d choke. I was patting her back awkwardly when Jersey walked into the hallway and saw us. Her expression clamped down on unpleasantness as she stomped over to see what was going on. I explained while I peeled Lily off me, and the girl gave us both blinding smiles. She looked like she might bounce on her toes at any moment.

Jersey was surprised, taking the news silently. She frowned at Lily, untouched by that smile. Lily didn’t seem to notice or mind her reticence.

“So you want to be Lily.” Jersey didn’t make it a question, but the girl nodded anyway. She patted Jersey’s arm as if to say, it’s all right now. Don’t worry. Then she turned and floated off down the hall.

I think Jersey is taking all this stuff with Lily very personally. She protected the girl at Haven and has been keeping a close eye on her ever since. She doesn’t want to show just how much this matters to her, and when she does, it’s in shouting and smacking. Yesterday, after Dale disarmed her, Jersey was quick to pull her out of range of anyone who might hurt her. If she hadn’t had her hands full with Lily, she probably would have gone over to kick the man with the dreadlocks, just to make sure he stayed down. She’s probably still wishing she had had the chance to do that.

“You all right?” I asked when Lily was gone.

Jersey scowled at me. “Yeah, ‘course.” Then she stomped off after the girl, probably to make sure she wasn’t getting herself into trouble again.

I checked in on Dale and Thorpe next. They’re are doing all right, though the big fireman is struggling with the gash on his side. It’s not the wound itself; it’s his partner insisting on him resting it. Dale is trying to take care of him but Thorpe doesn’t want to allow it. I’d like to knock both their heads together. For once, I’m not getting involved; this is something they need to work out. Maybe, just maybe, Thorpe will finally let his guard down when it comes to that stuff, but I don’t have the heart to force him, even if I could. That’s going to have to be his choice.

That just left Matt and me. We’re doing better than we were; we’re not so paranoid about being able to protect each other any more. The shambler attack helped with that. We needed a victory, even if it was small and personal against the bigger picture, and that’s what we had that day. We fought them and we won. We came out battered but okay, and we took care of each other.

Even so, it’s still a relief to see him and to know he’s all right. That little reflexive smile he gives when he sees me makes me relax inside, and he still rests a hand on my belly whenever he slips his arms around me.

All that has happened lately only makes me want to hold onto him tighter. But there’s something missing. There’s something more we need – something more he needs, though he hasn’t asked me for anything.

I think I finally know what that is. I think I know who he wants me to be.

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