Monday, November 10, 2014

Part 94


Not like it?  Yeah you could say that.  But I've spent too much of my life dealing with the consequences of things that were beyond my control; what was going to happen was just more of the same.  Was, not might.  Since it was, I might as well accept it.

"Fine.  Whatever.  But I swear if one tries to chomp on me I will do whatever I have to.  I'm gonna die one of these days but I don't want it to be because I became someone's snack cake."

Sarge and Cochran both scowled when I added, "And you can tell those loopy scientists that if they don't like it they can go ice fishing during the Spring thaw.  There is no way this ends well.  I bet some camps are demanding you evacuate them to someplace the puss brains aren't."

Sarge nodded.  "You know these people well.  Gwen has already had to deal with three delegations this morning demanding just that.  You think your friends from Singing Waters camp will do the same?"

"Them?  No.  They are tied here by generations.  I don't know what they'll do but it won't be a demand for evacuation."  In fact it worried me a little that I didn't know for sure what they would do.  I told them both, "You just be careful when you deal with them.  I like them.  They are good people.  But they aren't people that you fool with.  They can be ... hard.  Not mean but ... but hard.  Family is everything to them."

Cochran said somehow knowingly, "And you aren't family."

I looked at him and shrugged. "Not really.  Right after the horde they made noise about me coming to live with them but they were buried under a bunch of emotion having just lost one of the Misters - one of the brothers I mean.  Mr. Joe was kinda a bad boy but he was still family and ... well ... I'm not sure how they are going to take it."

Sarge said, "Understood."  He got off the floor and said, "I hate to break up the party but we gotta go."  I watched them both go to the door and then saw that Sarge had left his pack.

"Hey Sarge, you forgot something."

He looked back and then made an exaggerated act of looking around.  "I don't see anything.  You see anything Cochran?"

Cochran for his part picked up on it fast.  "Huh?  I don't see nothing.  DeeDee, you must be snow blind.  Go lay down and get some rest before you get really sick or something."

With that they left and I followed them slowly out after pulling my hood up and putting my mittens on.  I came up just in time to see them pull away ... but just barely because there was a big stack of wood sitting right by the tunnel's exit.

They didn't look back and I didn't wave.  But I did watch until I couldn't see them anymore.  I crawled all the way out of the hole and sat on the wood.  Things were awful quiet when the last of the sound of the motor disappeared.  Too quiet.

I raised my voiceand said, "OK ... Jamie, Shane, or whoever.  That's enough.  Do I look stupid or something?"

Shane came out of the bushes and called, "Or something."  He finished walking over and sat beside me.  "You ok?"

"Yeah, why shouldn't I be?"

"I don't know ... you look kind of bummed out."

I shrugged.  "Been a long, rough couple of days."

Shane scowled. "Did that guy ... bother you?"

"Which one?  Cochran?  No ... he actually saved my life.  I got treed by some feral dogs right as that last storm hit.  I was up a tree with only a tarp between me and the wind and had kinda ... Anyway, he got me down and got us in a snow shelter.  We just dug ourselves out yesterday and barely got back here before we crashed and burned."

He looked at me and then snorted.  "That's more words all strung together than we can usually pull out of you with both hands and a stick and prompting you every third word."

"Maybe I'm just tired of your prompting," I told him with a little snap to my voice.  Then, "What's the big idea of hiding out instead of coming out and saying something?"

"Don't know if we can trust that Major or not.  Lot of military activity around you all of a sudden."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means if you're going to come live with us ..."

"Who said I was?"

"Wellllll ... the family decided."

I was not in the mood for this.  "Shane, I appreciate what your family is offering but no way am I going to be part of asking that kind of sacrifice from them.  What was true in the beginning - where I live here and you all just keep an eye on me - is the way it is now and is gonna stay.  I like your family alot but I'm not one of you and I'd always feel it."

"But Dad and the Uncles said ..."

"And what they said can be unsaid.  I appreciate what they are offering but you've lost men ... you don't need another girl to worry about."

He looked at me and shook his head.  "You know, Aunt Ava of all people said you'd be this way."

"What way?"

"This way.  Stubborn.  She said you'd had too much freedom and that you wouldn't want to give it up to come live under our rules."

I just looked at him.  "Your rules or your rule?" I asked quietly.

It took him a few seconds to puzzle out what I'd said.  "Is that really the way you feel?"

"I'm not sure."  I sighed and then because I didn't want bad blood I tried to explain.  "Mrs. Svenson is kinda right and kinda not.  It's not rules that I have trouble with.  I can follow rules.  I've had to or I wouldn't have had a group to belong to in the city.  I didn't run away from there because of the rules.  Having rules makes sense even if you just make rules for yourself."

"Then what?"

"It's when people ... look ... rules are important but I don't want to get beat up with the rules to force me to change and ... and ... conform I guess ... just to fit someone else's idea of what I'm supposed to be."  I turned to look at him.  "Shane, how would you like it if I said that you had to come live with me in this cabin and even though I know you've got boatloads of commonsense that you had to live my way and my way only just because I didn't think you'd recently had the ... the structure and boundaries that I think you should have had.  That I think you worry way too much about not having a girl of your own, that you aren't allowed to hang out with Jamie because you two argue too much, and that your family's religion isn't my religion so you were going to have to change and do it my way."

He opened his mouth and then closed it as what I'd said started getting passed his instinct to tell me to stuff it.  "Is that the way you see us?"

"Not exactly because I know you all are good people and you'd only do those things because you want to ... to protect me and stuff.  But ... but all that I've been through Shane ... and I'm not going to go into it all because I'm just not going to ... has made me a person that is different from the kind of people you and your family are.  You still have each other.  You have family.  I don't Shane.  It doesn't mean that I'm mad that you do and I don't; it's just the facts.  I can understand why those men in your camp got to the point of being ... being growly. They weren't family and they knew it and they felt it.  You made sure they felt it to keep them in their place, not because you are bad people because you aren't but because family comes first no matter what.  They felt excluded.  I felt that when I first got here ... excluded.  I've dealt with it because I've had my own place and my own space.  It would be a lot harder to deal with if I lived in the camp."

"You make us sound ... I don't know ..."

"No, that's not what I mean.  It's right that family comes first ... whether it is your family or whatever.  Family comes first.  I don't have any problem with that.  And I don't have any problem with being excluded.  I just don't want a dose of it every time I turn around.  Put yourself in my shoes."

"I can't.  I don't understand.  Do you want to be alone?  Maybe for the rest of your life?  And maybe a short life at that?  Another horde - maybe more - is going to be thrown at us."

"I ... I don't want to be alone forever.  But living with you all ... it would make me feel alone ... more alone than I do right now when I really am alone most of the time.  Because I would feel that I was different ... left out.  You aren't mean people, you wouldn't want me to feel that way, but I would.  I like you and your family.  A lot.  I always have.  You guys are like ... like a connection to ... to my parents."

"But?"

"But you can't be my parents.  And that is what the Misters and their wives would want to be for me."  I bit the inside of my cheek and added, "I think I'm beyond that.  I need friends.  I have them.  I need people I can work with and learn from.  I have that too.  But I don't need anyone to be parents to me.  I had that and then I didn't and I had to learn to live without it.  It's been too long.  No matter how much your family is trying to be nice, they are trying to force something on me that I'm too far gone from.  I ... I just don't think I can ... can conform the way your family would need me to so that I didn't cause problems.  And in the end it would mess things up.  I don't want things to get messed up Shane."

Quietly he asked, "What ... what if ..."

I knew what he was trying to say and stopped him before we both got embarrassed.  "I'm not ready for what if.  I might not ever be ready for what if.  It doesn't matter how nice the guy is.  I'm sixteen.  Just like I'm not in a place to take on new parents, I'm not in a place that I can ... can ... deal with what if.  I think I might wish I could but I can't.  I've still got a lot to figure out and one of those things is how to survive the rest of this winter.  Beyond that, I just don't have a lot left to work with."

"What about Jamie?"

"What about Jamie?" I asked a little confused.

"You know he ... he thinks about you alot."

I shook my head.  "Well he doesn't have any business thinking about me.  He's already in a ... in a 'what if' and he should be dealing with that what if before he starts trying to find any more of it."

"So even though you won't go with me, you won't go with him either?"

I sighed, stood up and gave him a hard stare.  "Is this all your friendship has been?  A competition?  'Cause if it has you can leave and neither one of you need to come back again."

I grabbed some wood and tossed it down the tunnel and then started climbing down after it.  He tried to stop me but I shook him off.  I didn't come back up until I was sure he was gone.  I was mad.  Still am but not as mad as I was.  This getting back in touch with your emotions carp is for the birds.  You can't just pick and choose what you feel ... like you can't only feel the good things.  Oh no, you gotta feel it all, the good and the bad and that really, really, really sucks.

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