…*What’s wrong with the path you chose?” I asked sincerely, she had to have had an eventful life, she had to have had experienced so many amazing things through the years.
“I’d have to start from the beginning, when I was still but a girl, yet becoming a woman. It was before I married the boy’s grandfather, before I had given up.. everything. I’d given up my goals, I’d given up my dreams, I left my desires and true love behind, I sacrificed my sanity, I sacrificed my morals, And when I thought I had nothing left… My life was taken from me and given to another.”*…
《 Present 》
“You just left your family.. After all that? How could you just walk away?”
“Loki.. You don’t understand, my father would have led a witch hunt to our front door, the government would have taken them. I couldn’t live with myself if that had happened, I wouldn’t have been able to go on knowing I didn’t give them a chance.”
Me leaving, would be the only way they could live free of fear, and the only way my boy could have some semblance of a normal life.
“Well.. What happened then?”
“I went back home with Big Daddy, knowing I had basically signed my life away, you see, there were no Rights for women then. We were objects to be owned and bartered for, and I was soon to wed to a man of my father’s choosing, one that would boost the legitimacy of our household. I was given a choice, as a sign of good will from my father, between three men he had decided upon. All three of them were most notably white, wealthy, and of good standing occupation wise and I knew a recommendation to any one of them from my father would cause their career prospects to skyrocket. Of the three, I decided to go with the devil I knew, not trying to leave my fate to chance with any of the other bachelors. So it would only be a few weeks before I was to marry Reginald in the spring, and my mother had already had the entire wedding planned out, everything just went so fast.”
I could feel Loki’s simmering brown eyes watching me intently, looking at him, I could understand why my grandsons were smitten with him. His features were regal, as if in another time he would have been a king, the smoothness of his deep chocolate complexion was a marvel, and one would think, an impossible trait to maintain in a post apocalyptic world. Even his hair, the locks cut in a interesting style, one that accentuated his jawline. He looked strong, even though there was a softness to him that made him something quite beautiful to look at, and as gorgeous as he was I knew he could be very dangerous. I’d seen this boy do things only people like Baxter could do, but he was bitten, he wasn’t born that way. He had gone through so much in such a short time, his bad luck was rivaling my own, and I hoped his path would be nothing like mine.
“Three weeks after we returned from our honeymoon in Panama, I was home alone, playing the dutiful housewife. Father had gotten Reginald promoted to a Major, using his connections to give the man the boost he needed to advance professionally, so he was gone all day until it was time for dinner. There was a knock on the door, and I went white as a sheet when I answered it, it was an envoy from the army. I knew my father had pulled some strings to try and get me discharged but the paperwork was only just recently filed, I thought they were there to take me to jail, but the look in the man’s eye was too gloomy and remorseful.”
My heart ache as I thought of that day, it was so clear and lucid to me like I could relive the moment, I had long learned the bad memories were the ones that never went away no matter how gone my mind was.
“The man said he was there to report the death of my husband, Petty Officer Woodrow, who was KIA by friendly fire while serving in The Vietnam War. We never had married but I guess it was his only way of contacting me in case of the worst, and it was here, it was like I opened the door and got slapped across the face. I was informed that I was the only other person listed as next of kin besides his mother, and I broke down knowing my father had betrayed me.. I pressured Reginald that night, wanting to know the truth, every brutal detail. He was easy to coerce, as he was always soft on me from the very beginning. It seemed my father let the military know where our house was, and they took him away for going AWOL all those years ago. They demoted him and put him back in combat on the front lines with the new draftees. The war was as dangerous and as unpopular as ever, and our boys were still dying for nothing.”
“Where was Gailen? Did he end up in the system?” Loki asked regrettably, almost as if he didn’t want to hear the answer.
“No, luckily when they came to get Baxter, he was away visiting his grandmother, the woman wound up getting custody of him soon after. I tried desperately to make contact, over and over again, but Baxter’s mother refuse to let me see him, she said I had abandoned him and I was fully responsible for her son’s death. It didn’t matter that Baxter was labeled a hero for bringing down Sarin and winning a long fought battle. Though he died, every man in his troop went home alive. I took solace in that, but she couldn’t.” I paused to think of that stubborn old woman, and how she had never liked me from day one, she was spiteful enough to rob me of my son. “Several years later, while I was pregnant with Guinevere, I happen to be reading the paper before Reginald could get his hands on it, there was an article about a terrible house fire. Where a grandmother was burned alive, and the three children, two older girls and a young boy were missing. The little clip was so small and short, one almost could have missed it.”
“Oh no.. I’m so sorry. Do you think it was really them? He might not have turned out like his father at all.” Loki tried to rationalize for me, but I knew it to be true.
“Hattie’s funeral was the following Sunday, her body was too scorched to have her viewing with an open casket.. They still hadn’t found the children, some rumored they ran off because the woman was too strict, somehow my boy still got the blame even though no one knew his secret, they just automatically assumed. Reginald demanded I stop obsessing over the past and focus on the future for our daughters sake, but I was in such a depressed state I was faltering on my medicinal regimen. I didn’t know the dioxin could affect her, the doctor didn’t have enough information to warn me any differently either, the poor girl was never right from the start. The pristine picture of perfection, so beautiful, so blonde, so lovely, yet she see seem to take after Big Daddy more than me in some of the most perverse ways. Even when it wasn’t temper tantrums, or violent outbursts on play dates, she was still an absolute terror. I practiced as much patience as I could, taking her to all kinds of therapists, but that made things worse. As she got older she acted out terribly, and once her father died, she began her substance and physical abuse. She started to take my meds, hide them or hold them ransom for cash, I couldn’t tell you when she started the drugs. At one point she got clean, that’s when she had the boys, but she messed up with the father and they broke up. So she dropped them off on my doorstep, knowing full well my condition was getting worse and worse.”
“How did Guinne pass away?”
“I don’t know.. that’s the worst part, I don’t know if she was out there strung out on smack or if she started a whole new life, with somebody that got her in trouble. The coroner said she had weed and alcohol in her system, but they didn’t attribute it to her death. She had somehow managed to suffocate, out of the blue, she just stopped breathing.”
“Gran, I didn’t know you had it that bad.. I’m so sorry for all you had to go through. Life can be so unfair.” Loki started to cry, unable to hold the tears back, while I was having trouble myself.
“C’mere baby.” I said, pulling him in for a hug. “I didn’t tell you my story for you to feel sorry for me, all that mess is for me and that bitch karma to deal with, I just wanted you to see that life is hard, but as long as we’re still here, this shit ain’t over.”
At that very moment, my grandson walked in carrying some food and drinks, I could tell he immediately noticed we were crying, his eyes were pools of blue and green, a trait that ran in the men in my family. He was the spitting image of his mother, the only one of her boys to take after her so strongly. I didn’t need him getting worried so I quickly dabbed at my cheeks, attempting to dry them, and Loki stood up to leave, no doubt losing his appetite.
The truth could do that to you, it had a way of overwhelming the senses, and often caused more hurt than satisfaction, yet the awful truth was necessary. Loki and I caught eyes before he stepped off the Betty, and a million words were exchanged without a breath passing through our lips.
“Granny, what’s wrong?” The blonde asked, before turning to the man leaving. “Loki, where are you going? What the hell happened?! I was only gone for fifteen minutes, Christ!”
“We were just having a little chat and things got a bit heavy.. don’t make such a fuss.” I replied, trying to let him know to leave it alone, but I knew he’d go following after his Adonis to get answers.
Hell, he’d be a fool not to, Loki just might be among the last hot piece of ass left on the entire continent, the apocalypse only left slim pickings for guys like them. What did that fiend from from before say.. ‘The rarest of things’, sick bastard just might be right. Caiden went chasing after him out the door, I knew he would, and I didn’t blame the kid.
I thought of Baxter, wishing we could have grown old together, I thought of my son and daughter, wondering what life would have been like to raise them like a woman of today could have, on second thought.. maybe it was just meant to be.
As I cry alone, I thought of how I still owe karma one more debt, this one I didn’t reveal, though I might as well have. I closed my eyes, trying in vain to block out flashes of blood and screams of terror, I shook away images of faces long gone. So many ghosts from the past still haunt me, never letting me forget the day I had finally lost my soul.
Memories seem to meld and merge together, the fogginess and forgetfulness returning. I kept hearing Big Daddy’s voice, saying a phrase he couldn’t possibly have known.
“In real life, there are no happy ending for any of us.”
I had to find Patience, she’s the only one that can help me, I felt a flush of shame I had become so dependent on the girl, like an addict to the needle. I didn’t want to exploit her gift, but she seem to always know when I needed her. I could hear a dog howling from behind one of the doors, and I knew it was Buster, I opened the door to one of the suites to find Sera and the younger girl. They were packing what little they had taken off the Betty, and we’re just about to go downstairs to wait to depart.
“Patience, I found you, I know I promised to fix your hair before we left.. Well here I am, I didn’t forget.” I said, sounding slightly winded and nervous, maybe it was because I was lying, I had always been a terrible liar.
“Her hair looks fine, quite good given the circumstances we’ve been under.. were you the one that’s been styling her hair like that?” Sera asked looking absolutely astounded, she must have been talking about the cornrows I had laced the child’s hair with, in all these years people were still surprised to find out I could manage african hair texture.
“I just need to redo one or two of the braids, it won’t take long so you can go on ahead downstairs.”
The young brunette seem to know I was rushing her out the room, but was willing to give me the privacy I needed. She never seem to ask too many questions, I liked that. I had long began to consider her one of the group, even though every time I look at her she remind me of the carnival freak shows that Big Daddy used to take me to. He enjoyed ridiculing the people in the shows, and he often had me throw tomatoes or some other messy fruit at them.
For years I thought they were monsters, until I grew older and learn it was an unfortunate handicap they had to live with. Even with her missing limb, she was still quite stunning, with such a glow about her.
This was a different time, a different place, a different world, I had to keep reminding myself of that. I sat on the bed and waited till I was certain she was gone, I cried and massage my temple, unable to get rid of an incessant ringing that was giving me a migraine.
“Granny, it’s gonna be okay.. Don’t worry.”
“Child, I just don’t know how much more of this I can take.. I can barely hold it together anymore.” I hadn’t opened my tired eyes, but I could feel her sit next to me on the bed, and soon she began stroking my hair, unraveling it from the tight bun I had it styled in. I let her soothing touch relax me, as her small nimble fingers began to braid my hair, she started to hum the familiar melody to a song I hadn’t heard in years, I couldn’t quite think of the name of it.
“Can I sing for you Granny? No one else is around now..”
“Would you please? I don’t mean to ask so much of you but it’s starting to hurt again.. I can tell I’m losing myself.” I replied, barely able to think straight, it felt as if my brain was being split in two.
“What ya want me to sing for you?” She asked giddily, as she knit a fishtail french braid in my hair, exactly like I had shown her.
“Something I would know..”
“So something old then?
“Yes, something old, really old.. Something from the 60s would be perfect.”
“I know just the song!” She said with such mirth in her voice, I couldn’t help but smile.
“You know records from all the way back then? You couldn’t have even been born yet.” Kids her age were listening to all kinds of crap before the world went to Hell, I was mildly surprised someone so young actually knew a song or two from that era in music.
“Yea, of course! My uncle.. He was such’a huge Motown fan, you have no idea!” She replied, giggling like the little school girl she was, one could almost forget the status of the outside world. “He would spend all day singing.. He’s the one that showed me I could help people with just my voice alone, he always used to say the healing was in the music but the power was in my voice.”
I truly loved this little girl, she had a way of making everything feel normal, like we still, even after the world’s end, had a chance to make it. We couldn’t take for granted how important she was, this little girl will be one of the mothers of the new world, we had to protect the fragility of that promise. She started to hum again, the melody was the same one from before but I still couldn’t place the tune, yet once she opened her mouth to sing, I immediately recognized the sweet melody.
~ ☆ “When you’re far away, from me my love.. And just as sure my, my baby.. as there are stars above! I wanna say, I wanna say, I wanna say it. Someday.. Mmmm, We’ll be together.. Yes we will, yes we will.. Some sweet day, we’ll be together.. I know, I know, I know, I know, Long time ago my, my sweet thing.. I made a big mistake, honey! Ahhaiii, I said goodbye.” ~
As she sang, a sense of euphoria washed over me, like a gentle tide of soothing waves. I felt a slight cooling sensation, that settled just under my skin, taming the jagged edges of my nerves. It seem to travel up my spine and settle at the base of my skull, before fully engulfing my mind in its healing aura.
~ ☆ “And Oh, Oh baby ever ever, ever since that day.. now, now all I, all I wanna do, woah!.. is cry, cry, CRY! Oh hey, hey, hey.. Ya’know my love is yours, baby.. Oh, right from the start.. YOU, you, YOU possess my soul now honey, and.. I know, I know you won my heart, And I wanna say… SOMEDAY we’ll be together.. Awww, YES we will, yes we will.. Tell everybody now, We’ll be together.. Awww, yes we will, yes we will.” ~
I felt a high so addictive, it would make a heroin junkie drop the needle and come running, it was almost scary how good it felt. It almost seem as if her rich and vibrant voice echo in your bones, permeating the inner depths of your very soul, my brain felt as if fireworks were going off inside.
~ ☆ “I long for you.. EVERY, every, night.. Ooooh, Just to kiss your sweet, sweet lips, baby.. Hold ya ever, ever so tight.. and I wanna say it, SOMEDAY we’ll be together.. Oh, yes we will, yes we will.. SOMEDAY we’ll be TOGETHER.. Yes we will, yes we will.. SOMEDAY we’ll be together.. Awww, honey, honey, honey, Hon’ay I know it! SOMEDAY we’ll be Togethahhhh!” ~
I thought of Baxter, and hoped that we would somehow be together in the afterlife, even if it was in a Hell worse than this, I’d gladly spend the rest of eternity with him dancing in the fires and flames. I was about to compliment the young girl on her amazing singing, but someone by the door started clapping, dammit, I hadn’t even noticed it was open. I cringed when that bastard Jerry walked into the room, followed by Balthazar and that annoying Hispanic guy, sure, he was very good looking but that was until he opened his mouth.
“Patience honey, that was fantastic!” Tzar cried, like a fangirl crying for Michael Jackson, I noticed his pupils were fully dilated. “Please, sing more.. please!”
“Relax, she’s not going anywhere papi, she’s coming on the bus with us.” Bloodhound said, trying to hold him still, but Tzar looked totally out of it. “Why you smiling like that? Wait, look at your eyes.. what the fuck?!”
“Don’t you guys feel it? I’m all jittery, like I can’t sit still.. It’s like I’ve been struck by lightning, but in a good way.” Jerry claimed, looking at his trembling fingers in front his face, his blue eyes so dilated they looked black instead of blue.
“Something is not right with her.. What did she do to us? It was the singing wasn’t it?!”
“You sound crazy, her singing is beautiful.” Tzar scolded the merc, pushing him away from me.
“Then where’s the scar you keep crying about.. We were just talking about it last night but look!” He replied as he pulled the fabric of Balthazar’s tank top step to the side, missing was the bullet wound scarring that used to be glaringly present.
“Holy shit, it’s gone!” He exclaimed, looking frightened and gleefully excited at the same time, his gaze then fell to the young girl I was now blocking with my body.
“Look at my hand! The knife wound I had is healed over.. it didn’t even scar! It was just bleeding yesterday, now it’s all gone.” Jerry cried, and they all started to make a big commotion that was scaring Patience, I knew I had to divert, quickly.
“You fools sound insane, how dare you assault this little girl with such accusations.. they don’t even make sense!” I chastised them hoping my role reversal would work, and I chided myself, for being so careless enough to get caught when we’ve hidden her ability from them for so long.
“Make her sing again, that’ll prove..” The mercenary started again, but I cut him off.
“Absolutely not, you’ve traumatized this child enough!”
I grabbed Patience and her belongings, then lead her towards the door, pushing past Bloodhound on my way. I knew this would happen, that’s why I had the dear child hide her gift in the first place, it’s why I had gone so long without the healing properties of her resplendent voice. For once they knew the truth about her, they would treat her as they do Loki.
Like she was something strange, something dangerous, something not entirely human. I couldn’t expect them to understand, when even I, myself, was hard pressed to explain. My thoughts went back to Sarin, and how he had described Baxter and himself as something superior to homo-sapiens, as if the existence of these gifted beings was somehow primordial to mankind.
“Granny slow down.. you’re going too fast.” Patience complained, as I pulled her along behind me, I gave a sympathetic look and slowed my pace.
“Sorry honey, we just had to make a quick get away.. now you see why you can’t sing in front of everybody, just look at how they behaved.” I kneeled down, on my old achy knees till I was eye to eye with her. “You’re something special, baby girl. And this big bad world ain’t ready for someone like you, not yet, but you’ll know when. For now, you need to be extra careful.. as eyes will be on you at all times, just watchin’ an waitin’ to pounce, you understand me?”
She nodded sadly, near to tears, I knew all she wanted to do was sing but it just wasn’t possible. After pulling her into a tight hug, I stood back to my feet and lead her the rest of the way outside.
I was sipping my brandy spiked tea as we traveled toward West Virginia, Sera was next to me at the bar and we watched as the young Ebony skinned girl play with Buster on the floor. I made sure they had given him a good bath at Sandra Dee’s place, so his coat was shiny and smooth and that lingering smell of dog was gone.
Sera turned to me and nodded her head toward the front cabin, Caiden was behind the wheel and Doctor Jhedav was in the passenger seat, Jerry was behind her and they were having a deep conversation. I down the rest of the liquid in my glass and feigned as if I were tired, slowly I made my way toward the the cubbies, taking extra time to fluff my pillow and straighten up the sheets as I strain my ear toward their conversation.
“I swear you guys, something was really weird when she was singing”
“I’ve heard her sing before Jerry, she’s amazing.. No doubt she would have have gotten a record deal before all this.” Caiden replied, watching the road, but I could tell he was fully engaged in their conversation. “I felt weird the first time she sang because I was so amazed at the musicality and talent she possessed, it was captivating, to point she got my Gran to sit still in the middle of one of her fits. Sure she’s a little too good for her age, but that was it, there was nothing more.”
“No, this was like the Fourth of July going off in my head.. I never felt like that before and I used to be a hardcore raver in my teens, this was a trip like you wouldn’t believe.” Jerry protest, but Caiden just shook his head at him, the Doctor was just sitting there silent as she scribbled in her notebook frantically.
“Why are you guys so interested in her anyways? She’s just a kid.. she means too much to Loki, so it better not be anything funny.”
“Remember when I told you I recognized her last name, all this time I couldn’t place it, Rosén, it was stuck in my head. So I looked at some of my oldest notes, I’m talking things I had journaled YEARS ago.” Karishma held up a page she had removed from her book, and let Caiden read it, I tried to squint my eyes to see, but I would have had to have been an eagle to read it. “If she’s related to Peace Rosén, there’s a strong possibility she could have been born with a hereditary gene only found in thirteen percent of the pre-apocalyptic worlds population. She could be more important to my work than Loki.”
Suddenly, Caiden hit the brake sharply, causing me to jerk forward and bang my knee, I couldn’t hold in the loud “fuck!” that came out of my mouth. It caused all of them to look back, and notice me for the first time, Karishma looked at me skeptically, no doubt wondering how much of their little colloquial I had overheard.
“Sorry Gran, I should have shouted a warning but Loki stopped so short I almost rammed into them.”
“Don’t worry about it honey, these ol’bones have been through allot over the years, this little bump is nothing.” I reassured him as I nursed my kneecap, there was a knock on the side door, and since I was the closest I went to open it.
It was the Wolf, and what a wolf he was..
There was no doubt how easy on the eyes he was, those cinnamon colored eyes, those plush full lips, the strength of his jaw. His deep sable complexion had a smoothness that rivaled Loki’s, it had such a luster to it, but he was all man, with the ruggedness to prove it.
“Granny, we need you..”
“Baby, if I was about thirty five years younger you could have all of me.” I replied, pinching his cheek as I pass by him, he looked shocked and dare I say, he blushed slightly. “So what’s the big deal, why have we stopped? I’m sick and tired of fucking Ohio.. I never liked this state, even way back when.”
I spit on the ground and looked at him expectantly, he just smiled at me with those dazzling white teeth of his, this one was the charmer, that’s why I always liked him.
“As much as I want to continue this conversation Gran, we have some pressing matters to attend, look behind you, out towards the bridge.” He replied pointing east, I followed his line of sight, and gasp when I could see the General’s full battalion blocking up the center of the Silver Memorial.
This man wanted a fight, we needed to take it to him, I turned to the charming mercenary with a steely glint in my eye.
“So what’s the plan?”