‘Don’t mind if I hide in here for a bit, do you? Of course, you don’t, you’re asleep. I’m pretty certain that’s a sign you’ve gone mad Rita, you’re talking to a dead dude. I guess it’s better than talking to myself. Wait I’m doing that as well. Oh well, who cares? I know I don’t.’
For a moment there is silence, I know they are still there though, I can hear them crying. I could open my eyes, but I don’t want to, I am so comfy not fully awake but not asleep either I sigh and hear a chair creak as they move. I turn my head and open my eyes, I look into the face of a girl, I open my mouth to speak but it would seem that is proving difficult and not part of my current skill set. She is tiny curled in the chair a curtain of long pale hair half coving her face. She looks over at me while using the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her face.
‘Hello little dude, nice to see you awake. That Gillian found out I was your match. So, my damn mother sent me to meet you. Waste of time that was as you look like you might die. That would save me a lot of hassle, no offence. I’ll see you around Aaron. Get well soon I guess, or don’t. I’m not bothered either way to be fair,’ Rita drags herself out the chair and I watch her leave, her shoulders are slumped as she shuffles out the room. So, she is my match, I don’t really know what that means to be honest.
I have no concept of time passing, have I been here long? I hear the door and then a deep sigh of exasperation. A chair creaks across the room and I hear someone slump into it.
‘You still here hey buddy? God this place is boring. Can you imagine how much it sucks to be stuck here in hillbilly hell? I am a bloody princess for goodness sake,’ I hear the chair as Rita shifts getting comfortable.
After a brief pause Rita speaks up again. ‘It’s actually quite nice talking to you...probably because you don’t talk back. They say not to disturb you and that you’re really sick. I have to say I agree, I’m no doctor but you look bloody awful old chap,’ I hear the door and it sounds like someone jumps to their feet as the clatter of the chair toppling echoes around the room.
‘There you are honey, what are you doing in here?’ I hear footsteps and a faint gasp.
‘I like it in here,’ I hear Rita’s voice and it is suddenly defensive and reserved.
‘Why don’t you come and help us, I know how good you are with horses,’ Naomi cajoles her voice soft.
‘Maybe, I dunno yeah, yeah I will.’
‘Thanks,’ I hear footfalls on the carpet and the door open and close. Silence shrouds the room and I drift off again. I surface to Naomi’s voice.
‘Rita, I knew I would find you in here, he needs to sleep.’
’Yeah, I know, but I like it in here away from you, and everyone really. He is my match and I thought he was dead, to be fair he doesn’t look that alive at the moment, but he was the only thing that made our situation bearable. You know I used to dream about finding my match. All romantic and stuff, you know. Gillian, she hasn’t harmed him, has she?”
‘No amazingly she adores him and from what his bodyguard says he likes Gillian, how weird is that someone who understands Gillian,’ Naomi chuckles.
‘What is the other one like?’ Rita asks sitting on my bed I feel it dip under her weight.
‘Oh Adam,’ she chuckles. ‘He is a moody, obstreperous little git with far too much intelligence for his own good. Been driving Celina and Emma to distraction,’ Naomi kneels on the floor in front of Rita taking her hands. 'He is pretty like Aaron though, all innocent blue eyes and blond hair. Looks like an angel. They were adorable when they were little always full of mischief,’ Naomi smiles her expression wistful.
‘Make nice babies then?’ Rita’s head is bowed, and I can’t see her face, but I suspect she is crying.
‘Rita why don’t you tell me, I want to understand, I want to help you?’
Rita sighs and wipes her eyes with her hand. ‘Naomi you don’t need it in your head.’
‘If you share it might ease the pain a little, I love you Rita you can tell me anything and I will understand,’ Naomi cajoles her.
She sighs again and I hear the chair creek as she shifts in it, trying to decide, I don’t envy her I know how persuasive Naomi can be when she wants you to tell her something you would rather not.
‘They hurt me, when they found out I was a princess of Tribe. Played with me, talked about euthanizing me. Made me into nothing just an object,’ She snarls, angry, and I wish I hadn’t heard, she sounds so broken. ‘I have never been so afraid, and I didn’t know how to cope, we aren’t prepared for that. I felt degraded and humiliated. How can I be matched to someone so pure and beautiful when I am so broken?’ I hear her sniffle and I guess she is crying, that was shocking what she said. I wonder what happened what the circumstances were that she was in that position. ‘They held me captive hunting for a suitable match. Hunting him so they could breed us, like farm animals,’ she lifts her head. ‘I don’t want him to be hurt because of me,’ her single sob seems loud in the quiet of the room.
‘Oh sweetheart, come here,’ I can hear Rita crying, proper crying like I did when I thought Adam was dead. ‘I won’t let anything like that ever happen to you again I promise. Come on Aaron needs his sleep, let’s go and have dinner?’ Naomi answers gently, she sighs.
‘I’m glad he has Andrea looking out for him and you and Thomas.’ She sniffs. ‘Will Thom find the other one?’
‘Yes, he has a firm lead already,’
‘Good, Naomi I don’t know if…if I can be what everyone wants, what Tribe need. Florence would be so much better than me,’
‘I know Rita, its fine, you take all the time you need, and I will help you,’ Naomi leans up and gently kisses her before taking Rita’s hand and leading her across the room to the door.
‘Will he pull through,’ Rita asks.
‘Yes, he is making good progress, he is a fighter.’
‘Good, you like him don’t you, I mean like, like him,’
‘Yes, I like, like him, does that matter.’
'Nah, it’s okay,'
‘Yes, he is fragile we have to take care of him. As if he is one of your sisters,’ Oh, Naomi she is good, do I need a big sister? I watch them over the top of my oxygen mask; Rita nods.
I drift back to the nothingness it’s not sleep it is more complete than that, I think they are drugging me give my chest chance to heal.
‘Hi, it’s me again, you know I like it in your room it’s peaceful? That is a stupid thing to say, I hate it here, do you hate it here is that why you won’t wake up, I wouldn’t if I were you. I am rambling sorry,’ I hear her sit-down fidgeting to get comfortable. ‘Do you mind if I sit here for a bit, it won’t be long they will all be looking for me soon?’ I hear a sigh and it is so sad, Oh Rita what else happened to you, that made you like this.