I have been riding for about half an hour and that’s when I see the first person. Annie. It’s good to see her up and about. She looks pale and sickly but alive. My handiwork turned out pretty good. She’s using crutches but at least she can use her legs. Oh damn, they’ve sent out a damn search party out after me. I’m in trouble. Deep trouble.
“Elektra! Where have you been? Rita and Roman have been looking all night since you left. Where did you go? Who’s that on the back of the horse? Can I have the horse?”
“I’ve had some things to take care off; none of your business nosy. It doesn’t matter, don’t look at it, Annie. Yeah, I got the horse for all of us so we have to take care of it, okay?”
“Oh okay, yay! Shall I go back and tell the others that you’re back? I think you’re going to be in trouble, though; Rita didn’t look happy.”
“No. No. I’m heading back anyway. I know I am. Tell the other kids on patrol to come back to the camp. I have to say something important, okay? Don’t question it, just do it.”
“Okay. See you later Elektra.”
Of course, I’m in trouble. I ran away. I did what John did. I knew the implications of my choice and what my disobedience would bring but I still went. I’m glad I did or I may have missed the last chance to say goodbye to the best man I’ve ever known. I regret nothing. I ride a little further until I’m right outside. I take a deep breath. I have to go into this as serenely as possible.
I dismount the horse and open the front door. Shit’s about to go down, I can feel it in my waters. The first sight to greet me is Roman. He’s holding a plate or something and he just instinctively drops it. We just stand staring at each other, like in a Western standoff. Last Chance Saloon and all that stuff. He runs to me and embraces me. He’s not mad? I escaped from his grip, scared him and he has nothing to say. Why isn’t he saying anything? Why isn’t he screaming at me? I just want someone to blame me. I deserve to be blamed.
“Don’t ever do that again, you bitch. I have never been so worried about you as I have been the past month. I need you, don’t leave me again.”
“Roman, he’s...dead. John...he’s...dead.”
He draws away from me. My emotions are deceiving me yet again because I can feel tears on my cheeks again. He looks as shocked as I’ve ever seen him. I shouldn’t have sprung it on him so early but I could lie to him and convince him everything was alright when it’s not.
“How do you know?” He wipes the tears off of my cheeks.
“That’s where I went. I found him and he...he...was dying. So I did what he asked of me. He begged me, Roman. I...I...helped him.”
“Oh my god. We have to tell the others. How did you help him? I won’t judge you, Lex. I’m sure you did what you had to.”
“He needed help opening pill bottles. I unscrewed the lid. I might have well as shoved the pills down his throat. What are we going to do?”
“John was a good man. If he asked you to do something, you did it. Don’t feel sorry, honey. Come here, it’s going to be alright.”
I step back.
“How the hell is everything going to be alright? He’s dead, Roman! Dead! He’s not coming back, end of! How can you say that?”
I let out a scream at the top of my lungs. I’ve needed release. How am I supposed to keep control when people spout off such bullshit. It’s an insult to think everything’s going to be fine; he’s called me callous in the past. The only problem with the volume of my voice: I’m met with four pairs of confused eyes. Shit, shit, shittity, shit, shit.
This isn’t how they should have found out. I must look half crazed. I’ve never shouted like that before in front of them but do I care? Yes. I do. Damn. Most of them have run off but one stays, just glaring at me. David. He’s twelve. Twelve with the mind of a forty-year-old. He’s shown promise as a doctor or a scientist. Rita’s taught him how to produce morphine and basic antibiotics that are easy to produce naturally. We’re all orphans here but he lost his parents when he was a year old. If what John said is true, then I’m not. My parents may still be out there, wondering what happened to their daughter. That doesn’t matter anyway. John was the only father I’ve ever had and will ever have. As far as I’m concerned, my dad is dead. My biological father is just blood; it takes more than blood to be a father.
“Calm down Lex. First thing, where is he?”
I take a few deep breaths to keep myself from hyperventilating.
“He’s on the horse. Outside. I couldn’t leave him there...I couldn’t.”
“You have a horse? How’d you swing that one? Anyway, we bring him in and then we...we go from there, okay? There’s no need for a breakdown.”
“You said everything’s going to be fine when it’s not. It’s not. It can’t be. That’s the truth of it all. Lie to me all you want but don’t lie to yourself ,Roman.”
I brush past him and walk up the stairs. I can’t deal with this. I thought I could be strong and keep my emotions at bay but no. I’m not strong enough to deal with this. I’ve never been strong enough to deal with this. I can only see one positive, well two. John is at peace and if I can let John go, I can kill anyone if I have to. I can say that with confidence. Roman will go outside and bring him in. I just want to sleep. I’ve done my part. I just want to be on my own right now. I was there when he died, that is on me. I’m the only one who knows what it was like to watch John die. Only me. I think I’ve earned the right to wallow.
I collapse down on the bed. I want to feel numb. That’s all I want but I can’t. I drank that vile liquid to be lost in an alcoholic haze but nothing. Nothing. This day has been the worst of my life. How can I cope with this? How can he expect that of me? He can’t. He can’t. Why would he do that to me? The bastard. Why did the only thing he asked of me have to be the toughest thing I’ve ever down? I can’t even feel this way about the man I murdered but I do about just opening a bottle. I can’t be detached. I want to be. I don’t want to feel loss or pain but I guess I don’t have a choice. Nobody gets the break from that. No one can be that detached. That’s life. Bastarding life.
I am exhausted.
I am in pain.
I just want a release. I want sleep.
I hear the door open. Then a few minutes later, it closes. I feel sick. I hadn’t realised how sick until now. I rush to the bin and release the contents of my stomach. I can’t control it. Like I can’t control the tears coming out of my eyes. My insides are burning, just like my outsides. Bile and out of date whiskey. That’s all there is in my stomach. I just want an end to all this. I have no dignity left. I could die like this. Folded over a cheap, decrepit paper bin. The inside of my nostrils and throat burn like someone has shoved a flaming torch down my windpipe.
I am sick. I am tired. I just need to go to sleep. I just need to forget.
I had hoarded Valerian at one point. I have my own supplies. Sometimes my kleptomania is a good thing. I chew the root, begging for relief. I am a hundred percent done. I'm done with all the bullshit. This is never getting better. Just when it looks like it is, some other shit or piss comes raining down.
I can feel myself getting more and more light headed but I can’t let go. I hear the door open. Oh my god, why does he not get the hint? If I wanted human company, I wouldn’t have come up here. I desire to be left alone. Why does no one understand that? I hate it.
“Elektra, can I talk to you?”
“No. Piss off.”
He walks in anyway and sits on the ground next to me. He begins to rub my back. If he doesn’t get his hands off of me, I will break his hand. It’s been that kind of day; it wouldn’t be a hardship. I feel more bile rising in the back of my throat. I’m about to bring up the Valerian. Damn it. I regurgitate the contents of my stomach again.
“It’s okay, bring it all up. Sh...that’s it. Come on, get it all up.”
I can’t stop vomiting. I don’t know why. There is nothing for me to throw up and yet it keeps coming up. I don’t want Roman here. I want to be left alone to wallow in self-pity. I don’t need a bloody audience.
“I’ll get Rita, see if she can get you anything for the sickness. Don’t move.”
Where the hell am I going to go? Mars?
What a stupid bloody thing to say.
But at least I’m alone again. I can hear a the girls next door sobbing; I would say it’s pitiful but they have a right to grieve. We all do. I do need something. The Valerian must have irritated my stomach. If I felt like death before, now I feel like death on a crap day.
I can hear footsteps. It’s probably Roman again. If I take the bin back to the bed with me, I may be able to sleep or something. Sleep deprived and chucking up. Damn. Damn. Damn.
“I have peppermint, ginger and spearmint. It’s all she has. They should ease the vomiting. Here.”
I gaze up at him and, cautiously, accept the herbs. I chew the spearmint, I cannot stand peppermint. The smell of the spearmint is almost refreshing. Still making me gag but I’m willing to do anything to make the regurgitation cease. I feel slightly better. I’m trying to hold down the mint. That and the peppermint and whiskey would be a gag worthy concoction. This is taking my mind off of things but my injury feels like fire. It feels like it’s burning me.
I walk over to the bed. I place the bin by the side of the bed and I lay on my side. It’s the only way I can get somewhat comfortable, if that’s even possible. Roman comes and sits next to me on the bed. He continues to rub my back as if he is winding a baby. It’s really not helping.
“We’re thinking about how we deal with John. Whether we bury him and cremate him. When you’re ready.”
I don’t need to think about that now.
“We cremate him, Roman. It’s what we always do. Why should it be any different?”
“Are you sure you’re okay with that? I mean-”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Okay. If you’re sure Lex.”
I want to be alone but I also want him here. I want comfort. I need comfort or reassurance. I want blame but I want reassurance.
I let my eyes close. If I will for sleep, maybe it will work. Roman sits, staring at me while stroking my back. John was right; he’s a good man. Decent. I don’t deserve him at all. He begins to trace the line of my spine, drawing patterns across my back. I feel safe with Roman. I can let myself fall asleep, I think.
He doesn’t take his eyes off of me. The last time he did, I escaped. I ran to a dying man. He’s not going to let that happen again, I can tell. I have to let myself go. I’m too tired to cry. Shittest day of my life so far.
“Just go to sleep Lex. It’ll look better in the morning. Somehow. You’ve been through a trauma. You’ve been traumatised too many times in the past few weeks. I will never let anything bad happen to you again, Lex. I swear to you. I’m going to protect you if I can. Will you let me? Will you let me protect you Lex?”
He thinks he can protect me. How naïve is he? There is nothing in this world that can keep any of us safe. He thinks there is a choice to safety and protection as if by muttering an answer I’ll be exempt from all harm.
But the offer does make me think. He wants to be there for me. Why? Why does he want to protect me? Why does he even fancy me in the first place? I’m a stubborn, spiteful, vindictive venomous bitch with no control over my emotions. I can’t choose not to feel because the day I do is the day I lose the right to call myself human.
I don’t deserve the offer of companionship. I don’t deserve companionship full stop. The thing is I can’t stop thinking about my answer.
“Yes,” I mutter.
“Good, I love you, Lex.”