He’s my dad?
What the hell?
How? How can I have found him without meaning to? Why am I so pissed off at myself and at him? Why am I annoyed at the fact that I can’t remember my own dad?
Oh my god! Can I believe what he’s saying? Why didn’t he find me earlier? I have so many questions which I am owed answers to. That he can answer now. I am halfway between crying and wanting to break something, so I compromise. I kick my leg. If I focus on the pain, I won’t cry. At least, I think that’s what the method is, isn’t it?
“Elektra? Are you still with us?”
“Yes. How? How are you here? You were dead and then John told me you were alive and then... how?”
“John. I knew it. I will kill the bastard when I get my hands on him. He stole you from us. You were frightened, didn’t know how to cope on the outside and then he took you. You don’t know how many years we have searched for you. From the moment you left, we never stopped looking. I couldn’t believe you were gone; you have to listen to me, darling.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t have to believe you. I don’t have to believe a word that comes out of your mouth because I don’t know you. I have no recollection of you!”
“I understand. This must be a shock but there is no need to overreact.”
“Overreact. This is not overreacting! This is me being calm and rational! Do not tell me you understand because you don’t have a fucking clue! I have believed I was an orphan for ten years! You have no idea and I will overreact if I please!”
I am so melodramatic but can you tell me that I am wrong? Don’t I have that right? My anger is not directed to the right person but it pisses me off that people think they understand what I am going through. Who can honestly say that they have thought themselves an orphan for ten years, then to find their father and not to recognise them? Not many.
I am angry with John which makes me annoyed at myself. John raised me for over half of my life; he taught me everything I know and, most importantly, he kept me alive. He must have had a reason. For taking me away. He must have thought it in my best interest. I can’t think of John so badly but I have to, to truly hear what this man who claims to be my father says.
“If you need more time before we can talk, you can go to room 118. Linda will take you. You know where I am when you are ready.”
“Thank you,” I whisper, my voice barely audible.
I walk out of this office. He thinks I hate him. I must seem like the biggest bitch imaginable to come out with that, to a man who probably thought his daughter was dead or worse. How could I do that to anyone, never mind the father I always wanted to know? But this raises a question, where is my mother?
Were they not together when I was born?
Did she succumb to illness while I was gone?
I am a terrible, terrible person.
Linda walks with me in silence, which I am thankful for. I can feel her eyes burning into the back of my head. It appears that she and Marcus are close in some capacity so it’s natural she may jump to his defence. After walking for what seemed like hours but was, in reality, about five minutes, we arrive at room 118. Linda takes out a key and unlocks the door.
“This room is an en-suite. Hot water from 7pm to 11pm. Lights out at 11:30pm. Breakfast is at 8am but it is not mandatory. See you in the morning Elektra.”
“Wait. Could you tell Marcus that I didn’t mean what I said?”
“You can tell him yourself. Tomorrow. Goodnight. Marcus is a good man who has always done what he could for this group. He would move Heaven and Earth for you and he nearly did. He deserves more respect from a little bitch like you. Good night.”
Well, don’t hold back Linda. She storms off. I guess I deserve the lecture but she didn’t have to be so coarse about it. Damn.
I walk into the room. It’s not too bad. Whitewashed with a sense of asepticness. Seriously, it looks like it is so clean that bacteria has no colonies here. It’s too clean. Too clean. There is a bed with a metal frame and posts. There is a metal table and, you guessed it, a metal chair. There is nothing about this room that feels warm. It feels too...antiseptic and hostile. Harsh.
I walk straight to the bathroom. I need to wash, to finally feel clean after having weeks' worth of grime staining my flesh. Everything seems to be made of metal and corrugated iron, including the shower. The shower curtain appears to be a sheet of silver foil but it is too strong and not as ductile.
I undress. Ugh...I feel unsanitary and disgusting. I must have caught myself at some point because my knees have been cut to shreds. I enter the shower and twist every one of the knobs in the hope that water will flow and remove the scum from me. It starts as drips and then develops into a steady flow. It feels breath taking. The warmth hits my skin like a tonne of bricks and seems to liberate me.
I stand there for a minute, allowing the temperate conditions to consume me and seduce me. I watch as the aqueous dirt runs down the drain. I take the loofah, that sits on one of the shelves in the shower, and apply soap to it. It smells like lavender mixed with synthetic lemon. It smells delectable.
After thoroughly cleaning my body, I take this bottle of milky white liquid with a plastic label, saying ‘shampoo’, and pour it onto my hair. It lathers immediately, conditioning and removing four months’ worth of grease and atmospheric grime.
After five minutes, I get out of the shower and towel dry myself. For the first time in a long time, I feel clean and I don’t feel consumed and suffocated by a constant layer of pollution. I wipe the condensation off of the mirror and look at myself for the first time in a while. Without of the grime, I look younger. Clean. Innocent almost. I’ve always looked young for my age which is why I have always felt that I had to defend myself. Like a chihuahua trying to be aggressive to prove themselves. A yappy puppy.
I put on my bra and a pair of knickers I found in one of the drawers. I always thought I was quite muscular but I have lost a great deal of weight; illness has robbed me of most of my curves. I still have relatively big hips and my breast size seems to be the same. My six pack has all but vanished and I can see my ribs poking through my flesh, like a skeletal glockenspiel. The only thing I have eaten in the past three days has been a gum-ball so it is only natural that I would lose a few pounds but this is drastic. Over analysing myself. Not the best thing I must admit. Not the best for the self-esteem.
My nose is slightly off centre but my black eyes are fading and are no longer swollen. I look brutal; I don’t see what people see in me. The bruising that paints around my eyes only makes the green more vibrant. I guess I inherited the crystalline nature of my father’s eyes. I have his mouth as well. I do resemble him in some ways. Logically, I must have inherited his hair colour as he has streaks of my shade in his hair. With my hair wet, it appears so much longer than before. I don’t look so ratty or bemused; I actually look like a normal human being for the first time in forever.
Then again, I don’t know that. I know nothing about my past and now, I have met the first person who may be able to answer my questions about what I was like before. I believe him when he says he’s my father. I guess I want to believe him because I want to feel like there is someone out there that may know me better than I know myself. Someone who knew me as a child. I made him think that I hate him or maybe he understands why I may be pissed. I’m hoping it’s the latter. I will speak to him in the morning and, I don’t know, clarify things.
He holds the key to my past.
I lay a towel down onto the pillow and sit on the bed. I run a comb through my hair that I have found in a drawer. I have to tug at my hair a few times to get it through but my hair feels softer and more manageable. I feel so dead. The warmth of the shower has lulled me into tiredness. A full sense of security. I will allow myself a few hours of sleep and then, I re-evaluate things.
I lay my head back and stare at the ceiling. The lack of colour and texture makes it the perfect canvas on which to project my thoughts. Everything that is going on inside my mind. I found him. I had little faith that I would ever find other colonies of survivors, but the one I do is the one I have always been trying to find. Where I have always belonged.
But how have they achieved all of this? How? This feels like a piece of civilisation in a broken world. Thinking about how they could have established this compound causes a profound ache to form in the centre of my head. I slide off of the bed and enter the bathroom. I open the medicine cabinet and examine the items within. There is a 330ml bottle of TCP, bandages, fabric plasters and a box of paracetamol. I look at the box. Its expiration date hasn’t passed yet so it should be safe. I run the tap to fill a glass of water and take two tablets. I have always had issues swallowing tablets, hence why I prefer paste medicinal relief. Or injections.
I go back to the bed and lie down. I feel drowsy but for the first time, I am not fighting for consciousness. Sleeping with one eye open. Fighting for survival.
I am so exhausted.
I allow the darkness of sleep consume me.
I wake to the sound of a knock at the door. I don’t feel dead but I don’t appreciate the wake-up call. The warm silk of sleep has been ripped away from me and now...I have to face reality once again. I roll my way out of the bed and groggily make my way to the door. I scrabble to open the door.
“I hate to disturb you but I thought you may want to know breakfast is being served and Marcus wants to see you in his office at 11am,” Jason says, keeping his eyes pointed at the floor. I must be embarrassing him, I mean I am half naked.
“Oh, yeah. Thank you,” I say as I reach down to put a white vest that lay on the top of this laundry basket. I can’t find trousers at the moment but that should make it less embarrassing on both our behalf’s. I guess I am so used to people having such a casual attitude towards nudity that I forget that others are not used to it.
“I could bring you something, if you don’t want to socialise. I have time before my ‘patrol’ begins,” he smiles at me and begins to wring his hands, “so what do you say?”
“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind. Thanks, Jason.”
“Don’t feel you have to get dressed on my account,” he winks at me and then walks down the corridor. He is a little devil, I swear. Why is he so nice? I mean, since the moment I first met him, he has been nothing but nice and gentlemanly. Anyone would think he was trying to impress me or win me over. Probably because he is.
I find a pair of tracksuit bottoms and put them on. They are a little bit big but they will do for the moment. It’s now that I realise how sweaty I am. The humidity continues to cling to me. The black tracksuit bottoms attract heat but I am hoping it will be balanced out by the white vest, reflecting the heat.
I decide to make my bed. It will give me something to do for the moment. I have reached the point of hunger where I can feel bile rising up through my throat like an alkaline serpent. Maybe food will vanquish the feeling of my nausea. I just need to maintain my general focus on not emptying the minimal contents of my stomach.
I pick up the half full glass of water, that I used to take the paracetamol last night, and walk to the sink once again. I pour the stale water into the sink and watch it swirl down the plughole. I fill up the glass and take a slip. That tips me over the edge and the bile makes an appearance. Luckily, I made it to the toilet in time. The vile alkaline solution almost flies into the water in the toilet. My stomach muscles contract and relax, forcing more of the liquid out of my mouth. It’s okay. I usually feel much better once I have vomited, when it comes to extreme hunger.
I take another sip of water and sit down on the toilet to try and regain my balance; my coordination is seriously lacking. I need to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale...exhale. I am brought back into focus by a knock at the door. I look in the mirror to make sure I don’t have any dribble hanging from my chin or draped on the corner of my mouth. I’m good.
It is Jason. I open the door and am greeted to the sight of two pieces of toast on a plastic plate and, what appears to be, a cup of coffee or tea. It doesn’t turn my stomach which is a good sign.
“I didn’t know what you’d like so I got the general kind of stuff. You do like black coffee, right? We haven’t had milk for years on reflection,” he says, trying to analyse my reaction and to seek my approval.
“Yes, thank you. You didn’t have to get me food; I really appreciate it,” I flash a smile and take the plate and coffee from him. Jason stands there for a few moments, smiling at me before I realise what he wants.
“Please, come in. Come on, you’ve earned it soldier,” I say, ending the sentence with a wink. I don’t know why I feel so comfortable with him. More comfortable than I every truly felt with Roman or any other man I’ve been around. I feel like we are old friends who have known each other for years.
“Thank you, ma’am!” He salutes me and follows me into the room. I place the plate and mug on the steel end table and turn around to see him looking at me.
“Have you eaten? My stomach’s been a little unsettled so I don’t know if I can get through all of this,” I declare, placing my right hand on my stomach and walking over to the bed. I continue to look at him and he gazes at me.
“I couldn’t unless you insist. Are you feeling ill or...?”
“No, it’s just been a while since I had anything in my system that wasn’t water. It’s my body’s way of telling me to eat, don’t worry about me and I insist.”
I take the plate and place it on my lap. I offer him one of the pieces that had a great deal of excess butter on it, which is turning my stomach to look at, and he takes it. He smiles as he rips a chunk out of the fragment of fried bread. A dribble of butter slides down his chin. I reach out to wipe it; he is clean shaven which is strange. His skin is smooth like silk. No traces of acne scars or any scars in general. I can feel heat radiating from his skin.
There is a moment of silence. I keep my hand there for a moment. The moment begins to become awkward. I draw my hand away after a few seconds. Jason then wipes his chin for himself, while stifling a laugh. He’s laughing at me. He’s actually laughing at me. Last time I show any form of tenderness. This I beseech to myself.
I, then, decide to take a bite of the lukewarm toast which settles my abdomen a tad. I take the time to savour the tastes; the sweetness of the butter and the grainy elements of the bread. I continue to nibble at the bread; it’s an annoying habit I have developed, I don’t bite, I nibble. A scarcity of food will do that to you I guess.
After a few minutes of silence, Jason finally speaks:
“Do you feel better?”
“Yes, thanks. I should be fine. Do you know when I can see Marcus? I have some questions that I want answered and I know he can answer them,” I try to assert myself but my voice deceives me.
“After you’ve finished, I can take you to him. He doesn’t really sleep and I get the sense that he wants to speak to you as well.”
I take a sip of the coffee. It tastes like aqueous ground dirt. Cold aqueous dirt. I chug the stale liquid, hoping it won’t come straight back up. There is still half of it left but the caffeine is starting to ignite my synapses.
I stand up and put on my boots. I turn around and look at Jason.
“Alright. Your wish is my command, madam.”
“Please, call me Elektra or Lexi. I am not superior to you in any way; it’s probably the other way around, to be honest.”
“Your wish is my command, Lexi,” he grins and offers his hand to me. I accept and link my fingers between his. We begin to walk. I stop to lock the door and then we continue on. There are many people walking around the corridors, wearing overly white, almost military-esque, uniforms. There is something...peculiar about this place.
We continue to walk until we reach the door I recognise. Marcus’ office. I can hear the murmur of voices; I never usually get so anxious but this is different. This man is my father if I choose to believe him. A man who I have yearned for ever since I can remember. The man with the key to unlock the riddles of my past.
I take a deep breath.
“Don’t worry. You are his daughter, remember that. He loves you otherwise he wouldn’t have spent the last ten years searching for you. Have faith in that. If there is something that Marcus holds above everything, it’s family.”
“Thanks for the reassurance, Jason.”
“Feel free to call me Jace. If I can call you Lexi, I may return the favour,” he says with a smile. He is genuinely trying to win me over but it is futile. I do not need male intervention in my life at the current time. When I was asleep, I had time to think about my situation. I don’t need a man. I genuinely don’t. There is one thing that I do need and that is friends. I guess what I really want is a friend to confide in, not some half-arsed romance that could never be any more than that. What I felt for Roman was not romantic love but something more than that. Something purer that cannot be articulated by the likes of me.
I push open the door to see Marcus sitting in the egg chair. There are no other people in here so I am guessing...he talks to himself? Or there was someone in here who has perfected the art of teleportation and has got the hell out of dodge.
“Elektra, this is a pleasant surprise. Please take a seat, we have much to discuss,” he says with a forced pleasant tone, from what I can infer.
“That we do,” I reply in kind.
“I will leave you two to it,” Jason whispers as he leaves the room.