Bray shoots back “If you don’t think its him why were you so scared earlier?”
I laugh straight out loud, amazed that Bray doesn’t get it. Sarcastically and condescending, I say “Well, this guy is claiming to be Zoot, and on the chance, no matter how remote it may be, it actually is him, I’d rather not have Trudy and Brady be left alone.” To hurt him, I say “and some of us seem to care a little more for that baby’s safety than do others.”
Amber breaks in “That was low Wolf.”
“Look,” I say “Do with me what you will. I was just trying to look out for safety and keep things peaceful at the same time.”
I go outside because I’m in a mood to throw things I won’t have to clean up. I’ve been at this a while when from behind me I hear “Aren’t you a little old to be throwing tantrums?”
I grunt. “I’d rather not talk to you right now Amber.”
“Fine then, don’t” she says. “I’ll talk, you throw things and listen.”
I let my voice overpower hers. “What do you WANT Amber?”
she grabs me by the arm and forcefully turns me to face her. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself Jaymes! We just wanted to talk and you expected the worst of us all.” Then she says “You probably think I’m here to tell you we voted you out, don’t you?”
“Aren’t you? Where did I ever have a place?”
Softer, calmer, she says “No Jaymes, we never even talked about that. Bray and Danni wouldn’t hear it, said they’d leave the tribe with you. That was before you and Trudy had even come back.”
“And what would you have done Amber?” I ask her
“I would have stayed. Even for you I can’t let down the people in my care.” she said.
“How’s Trudy taking this?” I ask.
Amber hugs me softly as a friend and says “she doesn’t understand why you ran out here instead of talking to her.”
“How do I explain this to her Amber?” I beg, “What can I say to her?”
She takes my hand and says “Just go to her. The words will come. It really doesn’t matter what you say, she needs YOU, Jaymes. She’s my best friend. All she’s ever had were fears, you ease them.”
I go to Trudy’s room, and find her hugging Brady close to her. There is anger and hurt in her voice as she says “What do you want?”
“I’d like to talk if you’d let me.” She doesn’t say anything, so I continue. “You know I’d never do anything to put her in danger.”
Sarcastically, she shoots back “Oh, really?”
“Trudy, whoever this guy is, he’s never even mentioned her except that first time.” I say before she overpowers me, half frantic, asking “How could you make a deal with him! If it’s him? You remember what he was like, I know you do. What on earth possessed you to make a deal with him?”
With an amount of sorrow in me I say “I just have to get them back Trudy. I owe it to Salene and the others to get them back. If I have to make a pact with the devil to do it…so be it. I’ve been in hell before.”
Trudy’s mood changes like a light switch. She’s much calmer and more like the Trudy I’ve spent the last few weeks with. “So, you don’t really believe its Martin then?”
“I don’t know Trudy, I just don’t know. I’ve never seen his face, the voice is strange, but could be him.” I take a breath and say “Whoever he is, his information is good. All three times he’s come I’ve looked where he said and there are signs of a recent campsite. If it’s him, he’ll never touch you…or her.”
Time for a change of subject. “So, I guess we won’t be going on that trip now?”
With a furtive smile she says “Oh, yes we are little boy. It’ll take more than scaring the hell out of me to get out of going on vacation with me.”
“Brady?” I ask.
I kiss Trudy and then leave her to look after her daughter.
“Bray, I need your help with something.” I say cautiously, not sure about how he feels after the meeting.
“What is it Jaymes?” he inquires.
“On his next visit, I want to catch whoever this guy is and find out what his game is.”
That hangs in the air a second, “And I need to apologize to you for saying you didn’t care about Brady’s safety. It was wrong to say it, especially in front of everybody.”
“Yeah, so how will we know when this guy’s next visit is?” Bray asks.
I answer “he always leaves a signal outside the sewer entrance. I’ll know, then I’ll tell you.”
“Okay,” he said. “well the next question is, how do we pull it off?”
Back to Trudy. “Hi sweetie, how are you feeling?”
“I’m exhausted.” She says. “It’s been a long day.”
I sit on the bed and Trudy lays her head on my leg, looking up at me so sweetly. “Why did you leave? I wanted you to stay.” she asked.
“I needed to talk to Bray. He’s going to be helping me with a few things.” I say.
“Oh,” she asks, “What things are those?”
I reply “Whoever this guy is, Zoot or not, I want to capture him next time he comes.”
This ends the sweet moment. “WHAT? No, you can’t…I don’t want him…”
I stop her by wrapping my arms around her and saying “Trudy, don’t be afraid. Brady won’t be anywhere around. He won’t hurt her.”
Still scared, she says “But what if he…” I stop her again. “Trudy, I mean it. She’ll be fine. It’s me and Bray. There’s only one other person who cares more about that little girl more than we do.”
“I still don’t like it” she says softly.
“Everything will be fine Trudy. Lex will be with us too.” She calms down and directly she falls asleep. I stay so I can watch over Brady and let Trudy rest. The only time Trudy wakes up is when I’m trying to change the baby. Watching me fumble around in the dark she has a little giggle fit.
She gets up and says “Here, let me show you.” I stand behind her and wrap my arms around her and kiss her neck. So I think to myself, This is what being happy is.
Lex and Tai-San return the next day. It must have been a good trip cause Lex even looks happy, that almost never happens. I’m in my room, but not yet asleep, checking my weapons belts and vest to see that everything is all secure, when Lex and Tai-San come to my door and knock.
“Can we come in?” Lex asks.
“Sure guys, come on in” I motion to the chairs.
They enter and they sit. “So Jaymes, word is you’ve got Zoot coming down on us all over again.”
“LEX!” Tai-San chides him.
“Sorry babe, Sorry. Just trying to joke a bit.”
“Anyway,” Tai-San begins “We just came to see how you were and to give you this.” Lex tosses me an amethyst stone, and Tai-San starts “Its your power stone” she says. “It will give you inner strength when you need it most. It will keep your dreams safe too. Sharing of power stones is a mark of friendship and of deep respect.”
Gazing at the stone, I say to her “Thank you Tai-San. I will keep it with me always.”
“Don’t thank me, you have Lex to thank for this one. He found it and thought it would be right for you.”
Silently impressed I say “Well then, thank you Lex. Its an honor.”
Looking seriously Lex says “The honor’s mine” Looking to Tai-San and holding her hand he says “You took care of her when I wasn’t able. This rock is nowhere near the debt paid.” At this, Tai-San smiles and says “Well, we should go, you’ve got your guard duty tonight.”
Night falls and my guard duty shift begins. I check the sewers carefully, and upon confirming twice that they’re clear I do a bed check.
Trudy and Brady are secure, Lex is fast asleep. Tai-San is working late but is fine, Salene is sleeping sound, talking about Ryan in her sleep, a happy date from the sound of things.
All is good until I get to Ellie’s room, I hear her crying softly, so I peek my head in and ask “Are you alright Ellie?”
“I’m fine,” she says “These are happy tears. Someone left a rose on my pillow tonight with a note that said ‘a flower for you to make beautiful by wearing it in your hair’.
“An admirer, eh?” I ask her.
“Yeah.” she said, and As I go back to my checking I think “Good man Jack.”
I repeat the pattern of sewer and bed checks all through the night, on the third trip, Tai-San asks me to sit with her a moment.
“What’s up?” I ask
“I hear you got pretty upset at the meeting the other day.” When I don’t say anything she adds “Something about throwing a tantrum?”
“So,” I say “Its Amber you’ve been talking to.”
She nods her head “Would you like to talk about it Jaymes?”
“I just don’t see why they couldn’t leave it be ‘San.” Then say “If they’d needed to know, I would have told them.”
She smiles a smile that makes her face look so wise and says “If you spend enough time here, you’ll find that they have an odd way of deciding for themselves what is, and what is not, their business.”
“But ‘San, its…” I start to say, then she stops me “Jaymes, Zoot hurt all of us, Ebony much more than others, and Trudy is always scared he’s going to come back and try and steal Brady.”
She lets this sink in and says “Zoot, or his memory, hurt both your loves horribly. You owed it to them, if not the rest of us, not to keep this to yourself.”
I reach in and take out the stone that Tai-San and Lex gave me earlier and run it around in my hands. “See,” she says “It’s helping you already.”
I ask Tai-San if Lex really found this himself. “He did find it himself. Searched for it really, two days.” She stops a moment then she says “He wanted to give it to you as a show of support without actually having to say it. You know how he is. He says you remind him of the way he was when Zandra died. All the pain and the hurt that won’t stop. He doesn’t want you to walk down the same path he did.”
“Really?” I ask, amazed. “I wouldn’t have thought of Lex as a man with regrets.”
Tai-San just says “I’m finding him a man full of surprises.”
The night is quiet and event free after I talk to Tai-San, Amber gets up once, just says hi and goes back to bed. Trudy wakes up to check Brady, I watch, but I don’t let her know I’m there…she’ll want to stay up and talk if she sees me and she needs her sleep.
I wake up just after midday to Trudy there with me “Hi. How long have you been there?”
“I just walked in. I was enjoying looking at you there.” she smiled.
“I’m gonna get something to eat.” I tell her. I’m in a bad mood this morning. I’m not telling her that, but I don’t feel like talking.
“Let me get you something.” She says.
“I’d rather get it myself.” I tell her,
“No, come on…let me do it. You were up all night.” she said sweetly.
“TRUDY, I’m not completely helpless, I can get my own food.”
She actually jerks back in fear. “What’s wrong with you Jaymes!” then more softly she says “Did you have the dream again?”
“No Trudy, not THAT one it was…a different one. I’m just in a horrible mood. I shouldn’t be taking it out on you. I just need to be by myself a while is all.” I confess.
“Okay, if that’s what you need. I was hoping to talk about our trip today.” She says. She’s trying to brighten my mood, but it doesn’t work. “Not today, okay?” I asked.
After breakfast, which I take from the kitchen to the sewers, I climb out the hole, to find Bray just coming back. At the same time I see him, I see the marker. My mood dissolves into a pure analytical one. I pick up the marker and stop Bray as he goes to walk past me. “Bray. Tomorrow night…we have to be ready.”
He says “Okay, I have to talk to Danni then I’ll find you.”
“Okay Bray, I better get back in and find Trudy and tell her about this.”
I go back in almost afraid to talk to her after the way I treated her. It’s a hard thing to tell her, my face reflects it apparently, as I have a look of pure dread on it. “Jaymes, what is it? Are you okay?” she asks concerned.
“Trudy, I just found the marker. He’ll be here tomorrow night.” I tell her with my lips pressed together.
Her fear is evident on her face. “Jaymes, I want you with me.”
“I can’t Trudy, it won’t work.” I tell her. “Please Jaymes, I won’t feel safe unless you’re there.” She begs.
Trying to make her feel better I tell her “Okay sweetie, I’ll figure out something.” I kiss her on top of the head and tell her I love her. “I have to go Trudy, I need to get my weapons together.”
“I’ll go with you.” she says. She’s scared and doesn’t want to be alone, though she’d never say it.
When we get to my room and I pull out my weapon box it frightens Trudy a little. It is not in her nature to be violent, so weapons are foreign to her. I lay out the full contents of the box on the floor. Twelve throwing knives, four throwing stars, one large knife. Two large containers of powder, one for blinding, one that restricts breathing when inhaled…powdered pepper spray, Two steel rods made with sharpened hooked spikes, a pack of special steel spikes to slow down someone chasing me, and several flash grenades I got my hands on once.
“Maybe I should have left Brady with somebody.”Trudy says.
“She’ll be fine Trudy.” I hold up the lung restrictive powder and say “This is all we need to watch. This’ll kill her if it’s handled wrong. It’ll kill us too.”
She stares at me and says “If its dangerous to you then why do you use it?”
“Small amounts aren’t bad, at least to adults. If you throw it at an opponent and then move you’ll be okay.” I set the powders aside “I like to mix the two together so you get the double effect. I’ll do that when you leave.”
She isn’t talking, just staring at the gear. I grab one of the steel rods and hand it to her.
“I don’t want it.” She says, nervous and afraid.
“Trudy, I want you to get a feel for this. In a few minutes you’re taking Brady to Salene then we’re going to the sewers and I’m going to show you a few basic moves with this.”
Shocked, she looks and me and half laughing says “Oh no I’m not! I’m not touching that.”
I don’t have time to argue with her so I take on a mean tone, almost sounding like Ebony and say “Now you listen to me, I won’t be able to be everywhere tomorrow night, You’re taking this and I’m showing you how to use it! I may not be able to protect you and that little girl, so I’m going to go to sleep tonight knowing you can hold somebody off long enough to yell for help, is that understood!”
she looks at me with rage and says “How DARE you speak to me like that Jaymes! What right do you have!”
Still in the mean mode I half scream “TRUDY! We’re not back at school here! This person may try to kill you, and I don’t have time to be sweet to you about it and convince you.”
She says something next so vindictive I actually scream at her and leave “Knowing how to fight didn’t help you keep Ebony safe, DID IT!”
Trudy saying this hits me like a brick, and before I think about it I remember what Tai-San told me last night and more loudly than ever I scream at her “It’d serve you right if this guy was Martin and he came and took Brady away and made her as wild as HE is!”
I collect my gear and I leave her there shocked and crying. I have too much anger and fear of what will happen to Trudy and Brady tomorrow night to care what I said to her.
I must have screamed at Trudy a bit too loud, because as I walk to the sewers everyone, absolutely everyone is out glaring at me like I was pure evil. Dal is looking particularly mad. Trudy is special to him, Brady too. When I get to the sewers I decide I want some real practice, so I go outside and go to the river and to the tree line. I’ve taken my harmless powder for the throwing practice. I tack a target to the side of a tree and begin with some evasive throwing, flipping and throwing in mid air. Not as good as I’d like, but getting there. After two hours I take a break. I was so into it that I didn’t notice Bray had been there most of the time.
“Bray! I’d expected them to send Amber to talk me down from this one.” I smirk.
He says to me “Not here to talk about that unless you want to. I think you handled it wrong, but your point was dead on, she needs to learn. I’m here to talk about what we’ll do tomorrow.”
“Ah.” I nod “Well, I am going to hook a couple of Sprites up on a wire to my room, this’ll disorient him, wake me up if I actually fall asleep and will serve as a signal to you and Lex.”
“Sprites?” he asks.
I tell him I call my flash grenades ‘sprites’ “Sort of a play on that weird upper atmosphere lightning effect.”
He looks at me blankly and asks “Did you have sex in high school?”
“Girl named Erika” I say then I explain that Lex needs to be on one side of the hall, Bray on the other, so if this guy runs, we have him covered either way.
“Okay, well, how do we take him down?” Bray asks.
“As non violent as possible, but I will hurt him if I have to.” I say hard.
“Bray, was there another way I could have got my point across to her?” I ask.
Bray just says “Probably.” I just look at him very oddly
“Don’t get me wrong Jaymes, she needs to get the point, but Martin coming for Brady is still one of her worst fears…it was low to say that to her. Dal’s not too happy either.”
“Yeah, I just said it cause I was hurt. You heard what she said to me?” I ask.
“Yes, I talked to her about it.” he said
“Shouldn’t have done that Bray.” I shake my head.
“I think I needed to. She was in the wrong.” He says.
“Bray, I don’t need you to run behind me every time I have a fight with someone.” I reply.
“Well, I wanted to see how bad she was hurt too.” Bray says, then asks “Are you going to apologize to her?”
“Haven’t decided, really depends on if she does or not.” Bray just shakes his head, and we finalize plans to catch our visitor. Then I go back in, Bray has places to be, so he says.
When I come back in I pass the food court, Trudy and Brady are there, I notice out of the corner of my eye, but I don’t make eye contact. I go to my room, where I decide to lay down for a while.
Just as I’m about to fall asleep Trudy comes in. I actually ignore her though. She goes on and on about the old days how they affected her, what the world had done to her, and how bad everything was for Trudy.
It makes me angry and I say “I’ve known you for so many years, loved you, watched over you, tried to protect you and then Brady when you brought her into the world. The one thing I never thought I could do was hate you, right now though, that’s all I can do. Now get out, I want to sleep.”
She begs “Please Jaymes, I want to stay with you.”
“Well Trudy, I’ll see what Ebony thinks…oh wait, I wasn’t good enough to save her while I kept you and Brady from being taken. NOW GET OUT BEFORE I THROW YOU OVER THE RAILING!”
Pleading with me, she takes my hands in her own. “Please Jaymes, Please. What do I have to say? Just tell me and I’ll say it! I’m so scared.”
“Trudy! If I have to tell you what to say, then you don’t mean it, now get out before I say something else I’ll regret.” I growl, slowly losing what’s left of my temper.
“Is that an apology Jaymes?”
“Oh god!, yes Trudy, fine its an apology, I’m sorry for what I said. Now will you PLEASE leave so I can get some rest.” I ask her, nearly at my breaking point.
“Jaymes”, she says “Please just let me lay here with you. I don’t want to be alone.”
Exasperated I say “Fine Trudy, just lay down and don’t say anything, I’m tired. Brady is with Salene?”
quietly, she says “Yes.” I don’t speak to her again, I just turn over away from her, and I hear her crying though. When she thinks I’m asleep she says “I’m sorry Jaymes…I never should have said that bit about Ebony.” Then adds “I know you were only trying to teach me how to protect myself.”
I turn to her and ask, “Does that mean you’ll do it then?”
“Yes.” she says through a sniffle.
I say to her softly, “I’m sorry I said what I did, and I’ve acted the way I have. I love you Trudy.” When I fall asleep, we are in each other’s arms.
Trudy wakes me after an hour, asking if I’m ready to teach her yet. “I should have given you the choice earlier Trudy, so are you sure you want to do this?”
“No,” she says, “But if it helps protect Brady, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“Okay Trudy, give me a minute to get ready.” I grab my vest, belts and gear from the box, including the spiked rods that caused the argument earlier, then we walk outside. As we do so, I note that Dal looks at Trudy and I walking arm in arm and smiles. As a way to get Trudy a little more comfortable with the whole idea I ask loudly to all present “Anyone else want to come see me get my butt kicked by a girl?”
Everyone laughs and Salene takes me up on the offer and Lex comes out saying he needs the air.
I spend three hours teaching Trudy and Salene some moves with the weapons. She may not like them, but Trudy is a natural weapons girl. She was doing center ring throws with the knives after an hour, and was doing blind kill shots with the spike rod after the second.
“Good thing you didn’t have this in your hand when we started fighting.” I jokingly say. Salene laughs at this.
“Is this good?” Trudy asks.
“Took me six months to get to this level.” I tell her.
I hug her as a way to get close to her, and get her a small distance from the others, then softly I say “Can I ask a question Trudy?”
“Of course Jaymes.” She said with a small kiss to my cheek.
I take her off to the side a bit, and in a soft whisper I ask “What kind of weapons did the Chosen train you with?”
Laughing nervously she says “What? They didn’t…I’ve never touched a weapon before.”
“Trudy,” I say softly, adding a hug for calming effect “Your time with the Chosen was a long time ago, it doesn’t matter now, and nobody picks up a weapon the first time and learns that fast.”
Hanging her head in shame, and afraid to look at either Salene, Lex or I she says “I was trained on knives like yours and on long swords…staff” quietly she adds “I was trained to use poisons as well.” She adds, “You don’t even want to know what they did to my people skills.”
I feel like I should apologize, so I say “I’m sorry Trudy, I didn’t mean to…”
Crying, she says “Its okay Jaymes, I was just remembering something I did to Cloe once.” She seems disturbed by it, so I ask “Do you want to talk about it?” She doesn’t answer, but the look on her face says no, so we don’t. “I love you Trudy.” I say with a warm hug.
Knowing that Trudy can do what she needs to, we just go back inside. I set down on the edge of the bed then I start to burst out laughing.
“What Jaymes?” Trudy asks.
I still continue to laugh, almost not able to help it. After nearly two minutes, she finally gets me calmed down. “What was it that was so funny Jaymes?”
“I’m sorry, I was just remembering our fight. We were fighting because you didn’t want to learn to do something you already knew how to do. I just think that’s hilarious.” and I end up laughing for another three minutes.
Trudy asks me about my weapons, where I found them.
“Well, I looted a store when the virus hit, that’s where I got the throwers. The sprites came from a weapons locker in an old police station. That reminds me I need to check my stockpile. The powders came from a device called a “Pepperball” gun. Modified paint ball gun to shoot pellets of powdered tear gas. I added a couple of other powdered components to increase the effect. The Eco’s blacksmith taught me how to make the Chasers from scratch. I have a knife here I carry with me, the knife was a gift from a friend. I used to have swords, those were broken a long time ago. Eventually I’m going to make myself a set of hand claws, and a better spike rod.
She throws me a large can from under her bed. “nobody else knows about this.” She tells me.
“What is it Trudy.”
“It’s a powder you can add to your collection if you like. You have to wear gloves with this one, it’s a Guardian special blend He was pretty good in chemistry class too. It mixes with sweat and causes blisters and sores. He used it in ceremonies.”
“Ah,” I say “wear a glove covered with the powder and make boils and blisters appear on those who’ve offended Zoot.”
“uh-huh.” she agrees.
“I’m sorry to have called up bad memories for you Trudy.”
She shakes her head. “I hurt so many people.”
“Trudy?” I say, and she answers “Yes Jaymes?”
“Is this still about the Cloe thing?”
“Uh-huh.” she said absently.
“Are you ready to talk about it?”
“No.” We leave it at that.
Meal time, and I talk to Bray and Lex about how we’re going to do this. Lex thinks we should have a net on a trip cord in my room, Bray thinks it’s a bad idea. I actually think Lex has a good plan, but there’s no guarantee that I won’t get caught in the net also.
“Lex, grab KC and go to the hardware store. Get as many 20 pound sledgehammers and the longest four two by fours that you can find and as many nails as you can carry.” I tell him.
“What’s the idea?” Lex asks.
“Well, still using a trip cord, but instead of a net we’re going to make a nice little device that ought to hurt him like hell.”
Bray kind of raises an eyebrow and says “I like it.”
“Its settled then. Okay, I’m heading out to take a look around.” I say, then I leave.
I make my way to the old factory where all this started at, inspect the blast lines from the explosion. The pain of losing Ebony has been coming back lately, but I can’t talk to Trudy about it, it isn’t fair to her, so I’ve been coming here to meditate and deal with my pain. Today though, I don’t get to do that because Salene has followed me from the mall to here.
“Can I ask you a question Jaymes?” Salene asks, quietly, almost mousy.
“Certainly my dear friend.” I tell her.
“I miss Ryan so much, how have you made the pain of missing Ebony go away?”
Salene hasn’t been talking about it for a while, I thought she was getting on okay. “I’ll tell you a secret Salene, the pain never goes away, but with work to do, and friends who are there if you go to them, the pain gets a little bit less.”
Salene looks around and sees the spot on the floor where I usually meditate, the first time I was here I drew a circle, with lines from four points and wrote the names of the missing, one for Patsy, one for Ebony, one for Cloe and one for Ryan. “What’s this for?” She asks.
“The last few weeks I’ve been hurting again, but I won’t talk to Trudy about it…so I come here to the factory to meditate on everyone coming home. Each time I come I face a different name and I send my thoughts out to them.” I admit to her.
“Whose day was this?” she asks.
“Today was Patsy, I mediated for Cloe last time and Ryan the time before that.”
Salene hangs her head a bit and starts to sob. “I wish I could make this pain go away Salene, wish I could make it go away for us all. Is there anything one old friend can do to help another?”
“Trudy helps some, but I have a hard time talking to her since…” I look at her waiting for her to continue, but she doesn’t.
“Since what Salene?” I ask gently.
“Its nothing Jaymes.” She answers.
“Please Salene, tell me.” I try to sway her.
“Don’t worry Jaymes. You want me to leave so you can send your thoughts to Patsy?”
“It’s okay Salene, they know.”
Trudy asked me to be with her tonight. She’s had a bad day and she’s scared about what’s coming, so I arrive at her room carrying a rose for her and a daisy for Brady. I think she was happier that I brought little Brady a flower than with the rose I brought her.
“You’re so good with her Jaymes. Did your parents have another baby before the virus?” before I can speak she says “That’s silly, of course they didn’t or you’d be taking care of it now, wouldn’t you.”
“Actually Trudy I did have a baby brother, and I was taking care of him, but he passed away.” I say quietly.
“Oh Jaymes, I’m sorry. How did it happen?”
Sadness fills my eyes as I say “It was a raid on The Gaians. The men were on a hunting trip and our women wouldn’t share supplies, so they killed them and the children. Nothing left when we came home. Scorched flesh and black bones”
Trudy shudders and says “Oh Jaymes, I’m sorry. Did you know what tribe it was?”
I can’t bring myself to do more than shake my head and say yes.
“Jaymes,” she asks, “who was it.”
“Its not important Trudy.” I tell her.
“It’ll help to talk about it Jaymes.” She says to me, caringly.
“No it won’t Trudy…no it won’t.” Trudy looks at me so lovingly and says “It’ll be okay, just tell me.”
She won’t be satisfied until I answer, so I close my eyes, not bearing to see her face, and I tell her the truth “It was The Chosen.”
When I open my eyes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pain on someone’s face. “It was a long time ago Trudy.”
She gets off the bed and picks up Brady and starts to walk out. “Where are you going?” I ask.
she looks at me with so much sorrow in her eyes and says “I’ll see if Salene will let me stay with her tonight.”
I jump up and grab her by the shoulders and say to her “Why are you leaving?.”
“I’m sorry Jaymes, I just have to go…I can’t bear it, knowing what I did.” she cries.
“What’s changed Trudy?”
“All the pain I caused, to them, to you, I can’t…” she can’t finish her thought.
“It was a long time ago. Nothin’ to be done about it now. No reason for you to leave.”
“How can you say that? He was your brother and you’re here with the woman that killed him!”
“You didn’t kill him. Probably weren’t even there honey.” I tell her.
“I ordered it though. And I was there.” She said, moving away as I tried to hold her.
I look at her softly gazing in her eyes and say “I fell in love with Trudy before the virus ever hit. I hate The Supreme Mother, but I understand that even though there’s only one body that Trudy and The Supreme Mother are two different people…and I don’t blame Trudy for what the other one did.”
“But Jaymes…” she says before I stop her with a kiss.
“Its getting dark Trudy, get back in here and lay down. Besides, I’m scared to be here alone.”
Through the flowing tears she says “Are you making fun of me?”
“Never Trudy,” I say. “What I’m saying is you did what you had to so you could keep your daughter safe, and what they did wasn’t your fault. That, and I can’t bear it when you’re not with me."
She still walks to her door to leave. I smile and grab her, smacking her butt playfully. “Trudy, get in that bed. If you go to Salene’s tonight we’ll just have to get over this in the morning.”
As night falls completely, Trudy is still blaming herself for my brother’s death, but I’m trying to get her talking about something else.
“That night we danced on the roof Trudy, what did you mean when you said ‘I was right’. She just frowns through her wet eyes and says “That’s hardly a conversation to have tonight. Ask me again sometime.”
I’m not ready to give up so I place my hands on her face and kiss her gently, “I want to know now.” I say to her.
Smiling despite her hurt she says “Ask me again.”
Ah, so we’re making a game of it. I maneuver myself behind her, take her arm and kiss her hand then as I work my way up her arm to her neck, I ask “What….were….you….right….about?”
a soft moan from Trudy and she says “That dance…I should have gone with you. I thought so then, and that night on the roof just proved it.”
Like it was planned, Brady stirs and coos in her bed. “No, Trudy,” I tell her “Fate worked out better for you. If something had changed then, you might not have that little miracle now.”
“Maybe you’re right. Lets just sleep, its been a rough day." I wrap her up in my arms and kiss her neck and behind her ears, before going to sleep.
From a deep sleep where I’m actually dreaming a happy dream about a home on a mountain somewhere with Trudy and Brady and other little ones running in the yard while Trudy and I sit on the porch watching them. I hear Brady scream. Trudy and I both wake at the same time to see a hooded figure holding Brady. Trudy screams and I grab one of my powder packs.
she’s right, I could have hurt her. My mind is working at light speed and I grab at one of my steel rods I trained Trudy with. She actually grabs the other. The figure says “STOP! Move again and I’ll break her in half!”
Trudy is shocked. It’s the first time anyone other than I have heard him speak. “MARTIN!” she says, and the person just laughs, says nothing else.
In the darkness, I see Bray and Lex sneak up behind him. He hears it too and starts to run. He runs into Lex and Lex grabs the baby from him.
Knowing he’s lost, he starts running. That’s all I needed, I start running after him. Actually knocking Lex off balance and Bray to the floor I found out later. I didn’t see anything other than the person who tried to steal Brady. I catch him just outside Alice and Ellie’s room and hit his knees to knock him down. I drop the rod and start hitting him bare handed, all I can think is how he tried to steal Brady.
I hit him and hit him, over and over. I surprise myself with the fact that even in my state I don’t hit him in the head or face…that makes identification difficult.
Finally I stop, fists covered in blood. Everyone but Salene is there, she went to be with Trudy and Brady. I remember seeing Ellie throwing up and Lex and Bray come and pull me off the body. The rest of the night is a blur.