Having power changed everything, just as I knew it would. Monroe wasn't content to sit on it and only use it for protection. He wanted to fight. Reports of rebel camps being wiped off the map came in every day. I didn't say anything, the rebels had killed Garrett, and they didn't deserve my help anymore than Monroe did. In fact I stayed away from Bass too; instead I sat at home with Julia. Tom and Jason were busy with the air strikes and had been gone for the past week.
I walked downstairs one day to find Julia standing at the window just looking outside. "You should have let him die," she said quietly.
"I tried, but I couldn't do it," I told her.
"You're a good person," Julia told me. "A better person than me."
"People are dying because I couldn't let one man be killed. I don't think that makes me a good person."
"People die every day. If it wasn't Monroe killing them it would be someone else."
I was called to Monroe's office when Tom returned. When I arrived I was ushered inside where Tom and Monroe were standing. "What's going on?" I asked.
"It's Jason, while we were doing recon after an air strike a group of rebels attacked. He was shot and killed right in front of me," Tom told me.
"He's dead?" I asked quietly. Tom nodded. I turned and went towards the exit.
"Ciara-" Tom called.
"I need to be alone." I left the building and walked as far as I could until I was too tired to move and just sat down in an alley. I couldn't even cry I just felt numb.
The rebels were supposed to be on the right side of things but yet they had killed two people who didn't deserve it. I was tired of the politics of war. Neither side cared who lived nor died as long as they came out of top in the end, the ends justifies the means I guess. I leaned back against the building.
Garrett had been right people were expendable in war.
It was late before I returned home and Tom and Julia had already gone to bed. When I fell asleep I dreamt that I was back in Georgia. I was sitting at a table next to Sarah Braxton and her parents at a huge dinner with all the representatives. Sarah and I were pinching each other to stay awake through the long boring speeches.
"Miss Jackson," a voice said behind me.
"Yes?" I turned to see Garrett.
"Come with me please, there's something you need to see." I followed him outside and suddenly we were standing in Forsyth Park. Jason was sitting in front of one of the Spanish moss covered trees.
"Jason?" I glanced at Garrett. "What is he doing here?"
"Look," he pointed. I turned back around and saw that Jason was bleeding from several bullet wounds. I turned back to Garrett and screamed. He was a rotting corpse. "You could have stopped this."
"Stop, stop!" I yelled. I backed away and tripped over Jason's body.
I woke up tangled in my sheets, crying. I got out of bed and went down to the living room. There was no way I was getting any more sleep that night. I sat on the couch and flipped through books by candlelight without really reading them until my eyes were tired and then I just sat on the couch and tried not to think too much.
That was how Julia found me the next morning, sitting with my knees drawn up to my chest staring out the window. She sat next to me and put an arm around me. I ended up dozing off but I kept waking up afraid I was going to have another nightmare. Tom put a hand on my shoulder, startling me; I must have fallen asleep again for a moment. "Monroe wants you to come back to his office, if you're up to it."
I nodded. "I should change clothes." I reached up and touched my hair, which was tangled and messy.
"I'll comb your hair," Julia said. She stood up and offered me a hand. "Come on." I let her lead me to my room and pick out a clean outfit. Then I sat patiently as she combed out the mess that was my hair and braided it to keep it out of my eyes. "There, done." I nodded and stood up.
When we got downstairs Tom was waiting on me. I walked with him to Bass's office. "You'll be fine. It's going to be ok."
"What happens to me now?" I asked.
"I don't know, but like I said, you'll be fine."
He seemed certain but at this point I probably wouldn't have listened to anyone. I walked up the stairs slowly and listened to the creaks of the old wood. The more steps I took the more anxious I got. Monroe didn't need me anymore, which meant I was just expendable as the next person. He could kill me or he could ship me home, where I'd surely be blown up later when the air strikes moved on from the rebels. I stood right outside Bass's door trying to compose myself and finally pushed it open. "You asked to see me?" I said confidentially, as if I hadn't just been picturing my own death a hundred different ways before I'd walked in.
"I'm very sorry for your loss," Monroe said.
"Sure." I nodded. I wasn't sure what the appropriate response was to someone offering their condolences. Thanks? That sounded too optimistic. Me too? That sounded selfish, it wasn't just my loss.
"How are you?"
"Fine," I tried to say strongly but my voice faltered and just like that the entire façade I'd built up came crumbling down and I started crying. I expected him to ignore it but instead he stepped around the desk and hugged me. It was the most human thing I'd ever seen him do and it just made me cry more. I'm not sure how long I cried but when I finally stopped sobbing Monroe stepped back to look at me but he didn't remove his hands from my arms.
"You're safe, I promise you nothing is going to happen to you," he told me. He wiped the tears away from my eyes.
"Can I go home?" I asked quietly. "Back to Georgia."
"I still want to maintain the peace between the Republic and the Federation," he told me. I nodded; I hadn't really been expecting him to let me go. "I still want you to marry into the Republic."
"What?" I asked confused. "But Jason is dead."
"Marry me instead," he said. I started to say something but he continued before I got the chance. "You would be safe here. You could have whatever you want, a whole amplifier just for your own use here if you want power. You said yourself you want to help the Republic, stay here and do that. You could have a good life, even if you never love me."
I was a too surprised to say much of anything. "Can I think about it?" I asked. He nodded and released me. I started to leave but then stopped and just stood in the middle of the room. Monroe watched me as I stood silently. "Do you love me?" I asked.
"It doesn't matter," he said. I nodded, he was right. I wondered if he was too much of a monster to love anyone. Then I thought about how he had shown his human side to me twice now and rethought that, maybe he just wants everyone to think he's a monster. You can't be hurt if you don't feel anything.
I nodded. "Ok, I'll marry you."
The next afternoon Julia and I had several of the other wives over for tea, or more they invited themselves over for tea. They were all interested in me suddenly, the Georgian girl who was going to marry General Monroe. I sat uncomfortably as the women gossiped. I hated that Julia was expected to socialize so soon after the death of her only son, though she surprisingly didn't look that shaken up.
"You know," one of the women, Katharine Newport a lieutenant's wife, started to say, "I've always thought General Monroe was incredibly handsome. Of course I'd never say that in front of my husband of course."
I tried not to roll my eyes. "I suppose he isn't hideous," I said. Julia shot me a look that said I needed to perk up and play my part better.
"Oh he's gorgeous," another one of the wives said. She and Katharine laughed together while I shifted awkwardly.
"You're just the luckiest girl in the Monroe Republic," Katharine said.
The door opened suddenly saving me from needing to respond to the women. Tom walked into the room looking rather anxious. "Excuse me but I'm going to have to ask you all to leave," Julia told the wives.
"Please do, and quickly," I mumbled. Katharine overheard me and gave me an annoyed look. Once they were gone I was alone with the Nevilles.
"What is it, Tom?" Julia asked.
"We need to leave immediately," Tom told Julia. She nodded like she understood.
"Leave?" I asked.
"We need to get out of the Republic, we'll go to Georgia. Ciara, you have a choice," Tom said.
"Come with us," Julia said. "You can't honestly want this life."
"You two should leave during dinnertime, I'll keep Monroe busy and he won't know you've gone until tomorrow. That will give you a day's advantage."
"Ciara-" Julia started.
"You need to get ready to leave, there isn't much time."