Chapter Twenty Three
‘I have to go and talk to the Elders,’ Florence smiles at me and I scowl back. We are with the Romani people apparently, and completely safe.
I sit on the bed; I am nervous Florence is leaving me and I am not sure I like the idea. I know she said I was safe here, but I still don’t know anyone, and I am certainly not used to all these people. I really don’t want her to leave me on my own. Baby is with Naomi and it is giving me the jitters as I worry about him, he is sick like me he is struggling to cope his little body unable to fight.
‘Can’t I come?’ I grumble as Florence brushes her hair and generally tidies herself up.
‘No, I need to talk to the elders. I won’t be long you will be fine I will send someone to look after you,’ she turns and smiles at me I scowl back.
‘I am not a baby, I don’t need a babysitter,’ I growl glaring at her.
‘If that’s the case why are you behaving like one,’ she glares back at me her mouth in a thin line. I have really annoyed her.
‘Can I see baby?’
‘Yes, that would be good he needs your scent,’
‘I will be fine I s’pose,’ I mutter, looking away from her.
‘Good,’ she leaves the caravan and I sit and brood for a bit before getting babies things and go outside to collect him.
I wander across the field, no one takes any notice of me which is good I suppose. I noticed a small copse of trees when I left the caravan we had been allotted and I am making my way there. I am going to sit and read to baby, until someone comes to find me. I don’t want some stupid babysitter, I’m not a baby. I huff and stuff my hands in my pockets as I brood. Baby in his sling against my chest so he can hear my heartbeat. He is sleeping but it is fitful, and I stroke his soft hair to sooth him. I can’t lose him now it would destroy me.
I choose a large oak tree to sit under. I gaze upward at the soaring trunks around me that seem to be teaming with life even though it is winter. There branches are so intermingled that they still form a canopy despite not having any leaves. I scrape away what little snow there is and sit down with my book.
This isn’t what Florence wanted me to do, she wants me to make friends talk to people, but I don’t know how to do that. If I tell her she will laugh at me. I am getting tired of being laughed at, because I don’t understand this world, I am having to be part of. Don’t get me wrong I want to learn about it. What little I have seen and been told about it is fascinating, but I feel I need help adjusting not leaving to cope on my own. I sigh and rub my face with my hands and start to read. Baby is asleep his little hand inside my shirt. I have undone a couple of buttons, so he has skin contact.
I am momentarily distracted from my book when a girl walks over to me. Well walking isn’t quite right she sort of glides, well that is how it looks as the long colourful skirt she is wearing swishes around her legs concealing her feet. She sits down beside me and peers at baby flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. She smells like vanilla ice cream as she sits to close to me. I would move but the tree root is stopping me.
‘Oh, he is just so cute,’ she looks up at me and I stare into a pair of luminous green eyes. Her pink lips turn up in a smile and reveals a pair of dimples on her cheeks she is really cute, and I blush.
‘Thanks,’ I mumble feeling embarrassed and look away from her.
‘You are so lovely, Naomi said you were pretty. My names Marina, um Florence thought you might like to come shopping with me and get something to eat. There is a town with a market not far from here a group of us are going. You could get some bits for baby,’ her gaze slides over me as if she is taking in every detail before she eats me or something. She has that hungry look in her eyes. I swallow she makes me edgy; do I want to spend time with her?
‘Oh, um yeah is it safe for me, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble,’ I mumble, this girl makes me nervous and self-conscious, I blush again.
‘Yeah, it’s safe with us, besides you are so pretty you would never guess you’re a boy. Not compared to some of the girls here, very masculine some of them,’ She giggles at the look of shock on my face at her statement. I think I should be offended by that remark definitely took a hit to my masculinity.
She climbs to her feet and holds out her hand, I take it and she pulls me up, I stand awkwardly she is far too close to me, her eyes slide down and study my lips as if she is contemplating whether or not to kiss me. Please don’t I silently pray as I realise the damn tree is trapping me again and I can’t step back.
‘I just need to take baby back,’ I mumble, she hasn’t let go of my hand yet, or moved away from me, I can feel her heat and I don’t want to pull away as that might seem rude, or is that just an excuse and I just don’t want to pull away, break the contact. She holds my hand firmly I like that. I hate it when people hold my hand limply it makes me wonder why bother.
She does let go of my hand and steps away from me allowing me space to collect up babies’ things and put them in his bag, more importantly a chance to get a grip.
‘May I hold him?’
‘Erm of course,’ I untie his sling and carefully pass him to her.
‘Oh, he is so lite and pretty like you,’ her gaze slides over me again.
‘Yeah, he looks like me,’ I answer and yeah, I know that sounded feeble.
‘We move tomorrow. I can’t wait until we get to Tribe, I love the Capital it is so vibrant nothing like here,’ she chatters away as we walk.
‘You have been before then?’ I am intrigued by this.
‘Oh yes we have a treaty with them. I am getting an Adam as I am clean and fertile isn’t that exciting,’ her eyes shine.
‘You are matched then?’ I am surprised by this.
She snorts. ‘Oh no, the elders will select some that are for sale,’ I stop walking in shock.
‘You will just buy them?’
‘Well yes, how else will we acquire them,’ we start walking again as I mull that over. ‘You are upset about that aren’t you?’
‘I…um well sort of. I mean I know we are bought and sold if we don’t match,’ I stutter out. ‘The way you said it was more shocking. Like you were buying your lunch or a new pair of shoes not an actual person,’ my explanation isn’t very good I appreciate that.
‘So, you would prefer they are just euthanised the spare ones. The ones no one wants!’
‘No, no of course not,’ she is cross I can tell.
‘They have a good life with us,’ she huffs. ‘You know I have no choice either,’ she sighs. ‘I was tested when I became a woman and I am clean of the contaminate and fertile, so it is my duty to breed with the Adam chosen for me. You know how babies are made obviously,’ her gaze drifts to baby asleep in her arms. ‘I will have to do that with a stranger. Not only that he will be scared, and it takes time to break through the indoctrination of his previous life. I would prefer to fall in love, but that choice has been taken from me as I have to do my duty,’ she huffs.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I didn’t know that happened. I mean I know we are sold. Rita and Andrea had to fend off prospective offers for me,’ I smile. ‘I didn’t know you didn’t want or like the arrangement,’ I shrug.
‘I don’t not like the idea it just isn’t ideal. I view it as I am saving his life,’ she shrugs. We are at the caravan Naomi is using and where she cares for baby.
Giving baby a kiss, I hand him over to one of the ladies that helps look after him. Her name is Heidi and she has a baby of her own and kindly feeds baby for me. Naomi thinks breast milk is better for him than the powdered stuff.