Chapter 1: Knocking on Death's Door
The morning light struggled to take shape through my window as it filtered through the clouds above turning them the red of Autumn leaves. It was Autumn again.
“Hack! Hack!” I coughed into my hand, drops of blood flecking my hand; a much darker shade than the red of the clouds this morning. My cough had never quite gone away, and recently it had become this nasty blood filled thing.
Sunrise was the term for the beautiful skyline as the sun peeked over the edge to let everyone know it was time to begin work. I loved the sunrise, the beautiful blue sky that was unmatched in the quality of its blue by even the prettiest light blue eyes, and sunset when the sky streamed its most brilliant yellow, orange, red, and purple banners across the sky. I never tired of these views that the people here took for granted.
It was when I was telling Dan about how much I loved the sky that he told me about the names for the time when the sun rose and when it set. He then told me that this village was named sunrise for the fact that it was on the eastern edge of settable land. The idea of places having names other than what they were seemed strange. He told me that there were many villages and cities, and naming them helped people navigate to them. Dan had taught me so many things about this place.
Things such as seasons. I admired how beautifully the red and yellow leaves looked with the sun slowly sparkling its golden rays onto them to bring out the luster in their dying gasps.
I had come here in late summer, right before the beginning of Autumn. The first snow hit early, and I had no idea how to survive. No one had told me about snow or ice. I was cold and the only one who lived with me was Jade, who tried to explain to me that I needed to build a fire, but my mind had been preoccupied with the white stuff lying outside my window and just how cold I was. Dan had come tramping in carrying an armload of wood.
“Your chimney isn’t going!” He’d proclaimed like I was somehow supposed to understand that. Then he seemed to notice me standing there looking completely lost, grabbed a blanket and draped it over my shoulders, and proceeded to start a fire all before I could get my mind wrapped around the fact that he had even entered the small cottage Jade and I lived in. That day he taught me what winter was. That winter Dan had stayed with me whenever it was cold insisting that I would die if he didn’t help me.
The second winter had gone much better. I’d known to prepare and I stocked jackets and wood. Jade was getting older and was able to help monitor the fire better, but Dan had still come and lived part time in the cottage as if he still didn’t trust me to keep us alive through the winter and into that beautifully brief season of spring when the world turned pastel with blossoms.
“Hack! Hack!” I wiped the blood splattering my hand onto the black handkerchief I made for myself. People couldn’t see the blood on it. I probably wouldn’t live to see another spring. Winter was hard, and I felt so tired already. I was losing weight, and I knew I needed to eat more, but every bite I was reminded of the taste of blood in my mouth, and I really didn’t feel like eating.
But Jade still needed to eat. I climbed down the ladder out of the loft where I slept and put the tea kettle over the stove that already had a fire going. Dan started the fire in the stove for me every morning before I was up so that it was easy for me to prepare oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal was always a good hearty breakfast, and was easy for me to make.
Jade descended the ladder. “Good morning Liiiiiiivv,” she yawned through my name, stretching at the end of it. She said this to me every morning, and it lit up the dim cottage with her little morning greeting.
I couldn’t help but grin so wide it felt like my cheeks were being pulled, “Good morning Jade. You rest well?”
“Not really. I was cold.” She pulled a blanket from a stack I had brought from my work at weaving, and wrapped the blanket around her shoulder.
“Make sure to take that blanket up to the loft with you tomorrow then. It’s unhealthy to be cold.” Dan always kept telling me how dangerous the cold is. The village lost people every year to the cold. I glanced at the black square of fabric tied to my arm. I would probably be one of them this year.
I would tell Dan tonight when he came over for dinner. Every evening he came over with food and then stayed to talk with me. Some evenings we would just chat about the day. Some evenings we would help Jade with her homework. As we got closer to winter, many evenings were spent making sure we were ready for winter. And then there were some evenings when he would ask me about the City. I felt as if at this point he knew as much about the city as I did. He’d even made me draw a map of the city as I knew it.
I’d never end up being able to go back and fulfill my purpose as an exile now, but I shouldn’t let myself feel so down about it.
The hot water was boiling, so I pulled it off and poured it into our oatmeal bowls. I put the kettle on a rack to the vents on the stove so the fire would go out. I wished Dan could just live with us permanently, but I’d never had the strength to ask him, and he had never volunteered. It was always this tenuous give and take of him coming and going, but always treating me as if with the wrong move I would take flight and leave him. I wanted to tell him how much I cared for him and how grateful I was before I died, but would that be wrong? Would that be holding on to him when he had a life to live outside of looking after me? Maybe he saw me as an obligation to take care of, and that was why he had never said anything beyond coming over to give me the obligatory company and help he felt that the useless me needed.
I was quite useless. I still couldn’t fight very well. Every attack I just hid away like the coward I was. The only thing I could do was look after Jade and weave.
I smiled and waved at Jade as she headed off for school, “Have fun at school! Hack! Hack!” I called out to her in the loudest voice I could followed by my cursed cough.
Normally I would train with Dan in the mornings after Jade left, but not this week. Till the leaves fell he would be out hunting at dawn and so I was left with going straight to weaving instead.
I then made my way through the crisp air of the village to the familiar weaving shed I went to each day. Apparently our village’s weavings traded well with other villages and brought in a large number of supplies. Being a weaver was a decent occupation, and it was easy. Something an outsider like me could easily pick up. Food came at midday, and I picked through it before quickly getting back to work. It didn’t really interest me anymore since the flavor was so dulled by the iron taste of blood in my mouth.
It wasn’t long before the orange rays of sunset began to show and we all left our posts for the day. It was time to head home and face Dan.
He was already at my place with a dinner of eggs and leafy greens on the plates ready and waiting as I arrived. His cooking was always delicious, and I used to look forward to it, but now I couldn’t really taste the distinctive flavors anymore. Jade was already eating.
“Good evening Dan. Do anything interesting today?” I asked as I sat down for the meal.
“I got a deer today and we have it smoking in the smokehouse for meat for the winter this year. Anything interesting from school, Jade?” He gently shoveled a piece of lettuce onto his fork and ate it.
Jade shrugged. “Not much. No homework tonight. I did enjoy Sandy’s dagger lesson today!” she finished an excited gleam coming into her eyes with the wide smile on her face from her weapons lessons. She would probably become a weapons expert and a village guard, or so everyone kept telling me. I hoped for her sake that wouldn’t happen.
Jade quickly finished dinner. “Mind if I go over to Sandy’s house to play with her son?” She quite enjoyed hanging out with Sandy and Kevin’s son, and Sandy always made sure to send her back around bedtime. It would also allow me to tell Dan about my prognosis without Jade around.
“Sure. Make sure to be back before bedtime! Hack Hack!” I called, my voice weakening on the last part before giving out to the familiar cough.
Dan’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing and pulled out the map of the city to lay it on the table.
I had a long, slow, and brutal death ahead of me according to the physician in the town who probably knew less about actual medicine than…
“Hack! Hack!” I coughed again, and the coughing wouldn’t stop as it tore through my lungs and spat them up on my arm. Eventually it stopped, but each breath was a wheezing struggle. My chest heart from the exertion of breathing.
“Liv?” I jumped when I heard Dan’s voice. His mouth was slightly open with the question in his voice dangling off his lips showing the gap in his front teeth. “Is everything all right? Your cough sounds like it’s gotten worse. If there’s anything…?”
I could still hear his different accent, but he used less shortened words now… I had to tell him. He would want to know. I had to tell him, first. Before it was town gossip. I’d promised myself I would tell him tonight. “Dan - I.”
I didn’t want to tell him, but I should tell him first. I didn’t have anyone else I could confide in. Kevin lived with Sandy, and Rod… Rod was a crazy son of a bitch. I found myself longing for Fire. I had known her for such a short time, but she had affected me so strongly.
“What is it Liv? You can tell me anything.” His gray eyes held worry and confusion. I had told him everything. Everything except one thing. Well, actually two things but I was about to make it one again.
“Dan,” I started again and looked down at my hands tangled together on my lap. He sat there, waiting for me to speak with that worried look in his eyes and his curly brown hair falling over his forehead.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “I’m dying. Maybe this winter, maybe next. Rod would know better - But - I don’t.”
I opened my eyes and I could see the denial written across his face, “No. You can’t be dying. You’re perfectly healthy. You have lots to live for. You have promises to fulfill.”
I reached over and grasped his flailing hands in my own and held them tightly. “I know. I have an old disease. A disease most people in this town are immune to called tuberculosis. Apparently it’s rare but sometimes pops back up in the population. I will slowly cough up my lungs…”
“No. There has to be some sort of cure. I know- I know you can’t stand him. I know you hate him more than anything, but…”
“No. I won’t talk to him. Not now. Not ever. I would cross the radiation again before talking to him again.” I had kicked Rod out. I hated even thinking about him. I hated how thoughts of him still confused me, and the nausea that rose in my stomach when I thought about him. I hated how he would look at me. I hated myself for looking at him, for watching him. I saw him play to the rules of this new community freely hooking up with any girl that wanted him. Each one was like a dagger.
A long time ago a girl, his sister, told me he had waited. He had waited years refusing all the other girls in the wall. Who was he? Whenever my eyes met his I could see anger clouding his face. I’d take a deep breath and keep going, but I felt like it was my fault. I should have forgiven him. Maybe if I could find it in myself to forgive him he would… what, be happy? I had never given him a chance afterward for forgiveness. I had kicked him out that night and tried to avoid speaking to him at all costs. Then again, he didn’t deserve forgiveness.
Dan’s hand was on my shoulder and he was kneeling next to me, “Are you doing ok, do ya... need anything?”
I shook my head. No. I wasn’t dead yet. I wasn’t so weak yet that I was an invalid. But I liked his hand on my shoulder, his nearness. I leaned into him and inhaled. God I was a fickle creature. How could I love Dan as well as Rod? Why couldn’t I be as cold as everyone thought I was? Why couldn’t I be the ice queen inside like they called me? “I’m afraid Dan. I don’t want to die. I… What will happen to Jade, and all my promises?”
And I would never have a chance to have a family. When I lived in a cell I never dreamed I would one day be free. I never really thought about a life beyond my revenge and the cell, but now, now I had Jade and I could remember Fire smiling as she told me she was pregnant. My own goals had changed so much. I wanted a child, but I couldn’t even let emotion escape the wall I had built.
I pulled back and away from him. “I’ll be fine. Go home Dan, to your father.” I found my eyes traveling to the floor out of habit. “I’ll still be here tomorrow, and the day after… I’ll even keep training with you in the mornings once we start training again till I grow too weak.”
“Why don’t you go back to your city, to the wall?” He was right. I’d asked that of myself before as well, but I was afraid. I was afraid to face the radiation again. I was afraid I wouldn’t find the city. I was afraid… I was afraid they wouldn’t accept me and they would turn me away. I ran my fingers over the scar burned into my cheek. The exile or execution mark.
“I… I should go back. I made a promise to go back, but I’m not sure if they would actually want me back.” Were these unfounded fears? Would the city welcome me back as a hero and release my family, and what about Kevin’s family? He had a new family here. He couldn’t go back.
“Tell me if you decide to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He stood up and headed for the door, and I stood up gripping the back of the chair for support. I couldn’t drag him into my problems and into the city. I had destroyed Rod by dragging him here. If I left, I would leave suddenly and without any notice in the middle of the night. I would go on my own so I didn’t drag anyone else down with me again.
Jade stepped back in as Dan left.
“Jade, aren’t you supposed to be over with Sandy?” Why was she still here? Her silence scared me. Was an eight, almost nine year old child supposed to be so quiet?
“I knew something was wrong, so I practiced being sneaky like the assassin stories you told me. I have to practice to get good enough to kill the raiders,” Her words made me feel cold. The town thought she would be a weapons instructor. I prayed she’d lose her love of fighting, but the older the got the more she became obsessed with the stories of warriors who were experts at killing and silently taking out a target and disappearing.
“Are you sure being an assassin is the best way to find and kill the raiders?” She was obsessed with them and her desire to kill them scared even me. I had long planned to take revenge on a king that killed my father as she longed to kill these raiders, but I didn’t remember being as obsessed as she was.
If I went back I would have a chance to enact that revenge on the King. What a strange thought. I hadn’t thought about revenge in a while.
Jade sat down at the dinner table, and glared at me. “I heard. I overheard him asking you what was wrong and then I heard…”
I sighed, “What did you hear Jade?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were dying? When did you plan to tell me you were going to leave me the same way as my parents? Did you think this wasn’t important to me?” All her self-righteous eight year old anger was focused on me.
“I just found out, Jade. I was going to tell you… soon. I just…” She spun around and climbed up the ladder. I chased after her just to find the hatch we installed over the ladder locked.
“Jade, let me in. I swear I was going to tell you!” I could hear muffled sobbing from the loft and I didn’t know what to do or where to go.
Slowly I climbed down onto the floor and let myself sit down against the ladder.
I wanted to cry. I knew I should feel horrified that I was dying, but I felt nothing. I coughed into my hand and stared at the flecks of blood on my hands. Coughing up my lungs. Who would have ever thought that such a disease would exist?
I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. I wanted to see Jade grow up. I wanted to marry and have a family. I had to fulfill my promise to the city. There was so much left for me, but some little thing I couldn’t see was stealing my future from me.
I forced myself to stand up and stumble to a chair. It was such a large cottage and it was just Jade and I living in it now. So empty. And poor Jade. Everyone she grew close to died. Why was I sick? Why had the world conspired against us? I collapsed against the chair and pulled myself up onto it. I was locked out of the loft, so I simply let my head rest on the table, and fell asleep.
I awoke to the roosters crowing the next morning before the sun was even up. Those damn roosters. They never understood that they weren’t supposed to wake people till after the first rays of the sun could be seen.
I pushed myself up and out of the chair stumbling away from the pounding in my head. I clutched at it, stumbled to the pile of cushions near the stove meant for people to sit near the stove during the winter, threw myself down on them, and covered my head with one of the pillows. Damn headaches. I hated them. Couldn’t I just sleep the day away, never move… I had an excuse. I was dying. That was a good excuse right?
No, I had to keep going on, like I wasn’t dying. I pushed myself off the ground, and noticed I was in yesterday’s clothing. Oh well. I looked down at the pillow I had buried my face into and noticed it had a speck of blood. I shuddered. God, why were there reminders of my condition everywhere?
The fire was already going. Dan had been in here before going hunting as usual. That meant all I had to do was get the teapot on the stove and let the hot water boil.
Jade wasn’t down yet with her normal good morning. “Jade, are you up?” Ach, why was my own voice so loud and painful.
“Yes, I’m up. Happy?” she barked from beyond the trapdoor. I guess last night wasn’t kind to either of us.
“Yup, I expect you to see you down here soon. I better not have to come up the ladder and wake you up.” Normally I didn’t have to, but on mornings when she was grouchy like this, sometimes I had to go get her up.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.” I flinched at the sharp tones in her voice. I really had no clue what I was doing raising a young girl. I was twenty one, and people my age weren’t supposed to be raising an eight year old. Maybe a two or three year old, but not an almost pre-teen girl.
I would add eggs to the oatmeal today. Maybe that would help as a sort of apology?
I went down the stairs and outside to the chicken coup that I and some neighbors shared. The cool breath of early morning air filled my lungs and I coughed from the sharpness in my lungs. One of my neighbors, Kayla Winterborn, was already there collecting eggs for her family’s breakfast, but she didn’t notice.
“Morning Kayla.” I smiled and waved at her.
She turned and stared at me and blinked with a blank look on her face. Her body shuddered, she blinked and then there was recognition in her eyes, “Morning Liv. Out getting’ ye eggs early I see.”
I nodded but she didn’t notice. Her face was blank and she was staring off into the distance as she walked away. She recently lost her little girl and she wasn’t quite in this world anymore. She wandered in her own world where her daughter was still alive.
I pushed the chicken at the gate out of the way and entered. I snatched two eggs from nests that hens had already left and quickly went back inside to prepare the eggs.
Jade came down the ladder just as I was finishing up cooking, “I’m sorry Liv, I didn’t mean... I’m sorry, I just don’t… I don’t want ya ta die too.” And suddenly her arms were clutched around me and I could hear sobs muffled against my t-shirt. I bent down and held her close to me.
“Remember what I told you when your mother died? I will live on in your memory. I will always be in your heart. As long as you remember your loved ones and hold them dear they live on in your heart. And you will always have the blanket I wove for you just as you have your mother’s dagger. Remember what I told you about that blanket?”
Her crying became sniffling and I could feel her nodding, “You said… You said we would always be together… that the blanket was a scene from your childhood city, and that it would bind us together, forever, no matter where we went.”
I smiled at her and smoothed back her hair, “Yes my dear child. Death is just another journey. One day after you have done many great deeds you will take that road too. We all have to face it, one day. I gently kissed her on the forehead.
Sometimes I could forget she was still a child. It seemed like nothing would ever faze her. She glared at death and dared it to try and touch her. She was a loner. Most of the other kids her age would hang out and play, but she avoided them. Instead she practiced fighting every spare second, except for when she went to Sandy’s to play with Sandy’s son. It wasn’t normal behavior for a child, but I didn’t know what to do. Maybe she was afraid to grow close to people, but she had let me in. Of course, this must seem like the ultimate betrayal. She had let me in and grown close to me, and I simply planned to go off and die. Why had fate chosen to unleash this awful disease on me?
When the crying was over I pushed her away but held onto her shoulder, “Well look at that face. We need to get you cleaned up. You don’t want anyone to see that the tough girl’s cryin’ do you?”
She silently shook her head, staring at me with those accusing eyes.
“Go wash your face and then come back in and eat your breakfast. I’ve added eggs for this morning.” I waited for her to come back, and then we both sat down to breakfast.
I was just clearing up the dishes when I heard a knock on my door. “Yes?” I called out as I approached. Who would be visiting this early in the morning?
“It’s Dan, I wanted to talk to you.”
Dan. Wasn’t he supposed to be out hunting? My stomach fluttered and I realized my hair was a mess and I still looked like I had just gotten up. Was there any blood on my lips? I wiped my face quickly with my arm and ran my fingers through my hair before opening the door, “Sorry, I umm, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I know. I thought about your… condition, and it would be best if you don’t exercise anymore. Exercise could be really bad for your lungs. It could make you die even sooner.” He was staring directly at me with this dead serious face.
A rumble started in my stomach and suddenly I was laughing. I wasn’t sure what was so funny. It was just… so… ironic? Oh God. I was dying and he was worrying about how long I would last. I realized my laughter sounded hysterical and false even to my own ears. Pain bloomed across my chest and suddenly I was coughing. I collapsed to my knees clutching at my ribs. Water streamed down my face out of my eyes.
And then there were hands steadying me, holding my shoulders and tingles shot through my arms. His hands. “Sorry, I just… I found it funny.”
“I…” He stuttered, lost for words his face so shocked that I found it hard not to laugh again. “This is serious Liv!”
Oh God. Deep breaths. Nice and calm. Don’t want to cough anymore. No laughing for you. Deep breaths. A giggle escaped. Deep breaths. There. I had it under control.
“Sorry Dan, I know. I just… How can I be dying?” I hadn’t meant to say it, but it was the truth. I was so young. How? I couldn’t be dying. I had so much to live for. In all the stories the characters don’t die till after they complete their quests and missions in life.
“You’re human, just like the rest of us Liv. You are made of flesh and blood.”
“I know that, it’s just I’ve outwitted death so many times before, and now to be killed by a disease?”
His arms wrapped close around me and I let him pull me against him. “I don’t want to lose you Liv. I… I’ve wanted to say this for a long time, but I’ve been afraid ya weren’t ready… and now… I have to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” I mumbled against his firm and muscular chest. He was so warm and felt so nice just to relax against him.
“I… well, umm, I don’t know how to say this…”
“Just go on, say it.” I was starting to get annoyed with his stuttering and yammering. Was he about to say what I wanted to hear so desperately?
He took a deep breath and then all at once let it out, “I think you should go back to the city.”
“What?” I drew back from him. I hadn’t been expecting that. He just wanted to get rid of me! I was going to stay here, with Jade. I would die and my ashes would be scattered on the wind.
“Instead of going straight to weaving this morning, I want you to find Rod, and I want you to ask him if the Wall would be able to cure you. Once you have the answer you should take it easy today. Just work at the weaving shed and not exercise. I really don’t want to strain your lungs.”
“But- But-” How could he want me to talk to Rod? Rod was… Rod was crazy. Rod had moods that changed lightning quick, and I could still remember stumbling across him coming back from the weaving shed late one night, and he was stumbling around drunk.
“Look, it’s Liv who’s too good for me!” he’d called out and blocked my path home.
“Rod, please, move. I need to get home.”
“Thought you were too good huh! I loved you! I loved you and you just walked away.”
“You cheated on me. Please move.” Even now I could remember the fear and panic as he growled at me and came closer. I turned and ran blindly like prey being chased through the streets by the hungry predator, and then he cornered me, and his fist came flying at my face…
“LIV!” It was Dan standing there in front of me.
“I know, I know you want nothing to do with him, so I will go with you. He won’t hurt you. It’s light outside and he won’t be drunk so he won’t be crazy and angry.” Some people cry when they are drunk. Some people laugh. And some throw punches.
I chewed on my lip and nodded. I would agree to go and talk only because Dan seemed so desperate for me to do this.
Jade came running out the door and waved at me as she ran toward school with her school bag flapping against her side. She didn’t seem surprised to see Dan with me.
Dan took my hand and led me away toward where Rod was currently staying with a woman named Ivy. Dan knocked on the plain door of the one story house. A woman with extremely curly brown hair, light brown skin, and startlingly dark green eyes answered the door. For a second she looked down her long nose at us, and then she spoke in a deep, husky voice, “What can I do for you?”
I hadn’t really met her before. I normally avoided the evening gatherings, and if it wasn’t for Dan and Kevin I might have become a hermit. I realized it was the green gown she was wearing that was making her eyes pop. That and the black eye make-up. How and why was she already looking like a goddess of something when it was so early in the morning?
“Umm, Can we speak to Rod?” Dan seemed as stunned as me, except he wasn’t also speechless.
“Yes, of course. I’ll get him.” She swayed her hips as she turned and glided away.
I looked over and saw Dan staring at her back as she walked away. Ugh. I bumped Dan and he jumped. At least he looked decently shamed for being caught staring.
Before I had time to say anything though, Rod was there. His white hair reached his shoulders, and a couple locks fell over his pale face. He looked so similar, but so different. Dark pits collected under his eyes and his brow was furrowed in a frown. He looked angry instead of wise or innocent as he had once seemed to me. I guess I was now the more innocent one. I had seen so much, but I hadn’t become haunted the way he looked.
I couldn’t speak. I felt helpless, and at the same time I could remember kissing him, and loving him. I could remember him gently holding me close. The memories made me feel nauseous and I pushed them down.
“Roderick, Liv is sick. She has tuberculosis according to the physician.” Thank God Dan was here. I couldn’t have done this without him.
“And, What do you want from me? That old physician’s a quack anyway. And Liv left me after I left my home in the Wall just to follow her, or don’t you remember.”
How dare he speak as if I wasn’t there. I felt strength enter my bones. I was strong. I had crossed the radiation waste land before. I had survived being dishonored. I could survive this. I stood as straight as I could. “How dare you speak as if I’m not here? I left you? Ha. As if you crazy bastard. You left the Wall out of your own free will, and you cheated on me out of your own damn free will! Don’t you dare…” Coughs exploded from lungs as I turned away from the men to cough into my hand. When I finished coughing I looked at my hand and stared at the flecks of blood.
I looked back and saw worry on Dan’s face, but a strange excitement lit Rod’s face, “I’ve never seen it before. I’ve read about the coughing blood, but I never thought I would see a real live case. We still have the medicine in the Wall, but we haven’t treated it in so long… To think I got to see it!”
“So the Wall does have medicine to treat her then?” Rod blinked as if he had forgotten Dan was there.
“Of course. They have medicine for everything. Don’t know if it will work still or if it’s any good, but they have it. Oh, and Liv, if I read your symptoms right, you only have a couple months to live if that.” That last part was spoken with a gleeful malice as if this made him happy.
I turned and took off only to find myself in a heap coughing more blood. Dan was there, holding me as I sobbed into his chest. I was only twenty one. I didn’t want to die.
“Shhh Liv. We’ll go back to the city. Remember, I promised you I would go with you, back to your city one day. Well, looks like it’s simply sooner than later. We’ll go back and get you all fixed up, and then you can come back…”
“That’s… that’s the… the thing Dan. It’s.. it’s a one… one… one way trip for me.” I couldn’t get any more words out. I simply cried until the tears dried up and the hiccups came and went.
Then I heard Dan’s quiet voice as his stubble brushed against my cheek, “Why’s it a one way trip?”
“Because… because I will have been exposed to too much radiation. A third trip would kill me. You can come back though.” My heart clenched at the thought, but I wouldn’t force him to stay with me. Rod had followed me, and he had gone crazy and demented.
“No. I will stay with you. You need protecting. You still barely qualify as passable with a sword. More like laughable.”
I feebly swatted at him, but he easily avoided my weak arm’s attack. “Come on, I think that’s enough excitement for today. I think you can spend today at your loom.”
For a second I wanted to fight him, to insist that I wasn’t an invalid yet, but I was too tired to put up any struggle. Instead I took the hand he was holding out to me and let him pull me onto my feet and guide me to the building where my loom waited.