by Jackie Snax
Rising tides, the wreckage of a post war Philly, and one family's journey to reunite.
- Tye -
“Yo reconozco mis transgresiones; siempre tengo presente mi pecado.”
Solidity so cold and real it felt like pressure lined Tye’s spine, her back. Her temples throbbed in beat with her heart, which pumped in punches to her chest, thumpa thumpa thumpa. And another drumming, this one outside herself, this one wooden and quivering, desperate. A metallic film coated her tongue; eyes stinging; gas, she had been gassed.
“Contra ti he pecado, sólo contra ti, y he hecho lo que es malo ante tus ojos; por eso, tu sentencia es justa, y tu juicio-”
The voice was shaky, and familiar. “Martha?”
“Tye! Oh, Tye!” She felt Martha fall on top of her, sobs exploding out of that shaky voice, and Tye opened her eyes, struggling against the sterile, cold light. Martha looked gaunt and broken; a scrape on her chin, eyes bloodshot and exhausted. Guilt went through her in a cold shot, but she couldn’t quite remember why. Her thoughts were sludging along at the speed of molasses, and her head felt so heavy it might as well be pinned to the floor beneath it. But something soft, too - yellow at the split and spinning side of her vision - Martha’s sweater. She shut her eyes and still saw that yellow like a burn, spinning sickly.
“Where’re we?” Tye muttered after a moment, forcing herself consider this more. There were other people - most of them sleeping, some crying, leaning against stone, white-painted walls. One woman was up against a door with a small, barred window, hammering on it - that was the drumming noise, then. Beside her, a young man, barely more than a boy, lay unmoving. She shut her eyes again. Thumpathumpathumpathumpa. Made herself open them. Martha’s hands, flashing movement as she spoke.
“In ‘holding’ they said. Tye - they, you, you fell! And I fell on top of you, but then I saw it was you and I pulled you out, but you weren’t conscious and I couldn’t just - they started throwing these cans when the fighting started, gas, like I said, Tye! And I couldn’t leave you, so I stayed, I stayed and they tried to put me on the bus with the others who stayed to take to Nostamo but I told them my ankle was twisted and they let me come with -”
“Xena,” for a moment, there was only static, and the flash of that name, and the history of the situation suddenly lurched forward into stunning clarity, and she felt her daughter’s name fall from her mouth like her own living heart.
Tye pushed herself all the way up, the world tilting on an angle for a moment, her stomach lurching, but she felt purged from her own body, the pain and confusion had ceased to matter, every face around her flashed, face after familiar face, neighbors, friends, but not-
Face after face.
But really, she knew, knew Xena wouldn’t be here and not right by her side, knew, “Xena,” and this time, the word was dragged from her throat. She opened her mouth and did it again, though, and again, pouring agony and she must be screaming but all she could hear was a whisper, and Martha’s ragged sobs, and her hands were shaking Martha but she couldn’t still them, “Xena, where’s Xena? Martha? Where’s Xena?”
Martha’s eyes filled with tears again. She bit her lip and glanced down, and the Earth dropped beneath Tye’s body and fell, all past alignment insignificant before the gravity of that downward glance, pity - “She’s not with us, here,” Martha whispered, “She didn’t get on the buses either. I think - I mean, I know, I know she escaped with the others. I saw. They were running west when I saw them. Everyone - everyone says that they ran west; I saw her crawling over the blockade to Cecil B Moore and then… then I couldn’t see her anymore.”
Martha’s words faded to that static. There was nothing, nothing but her chest, the punching muscle of her heartbeat, and her breath was gone again, she was being trampled again, blood a river in her ears, no, stop, no-
No. Not right now.
She knew Martha was talking. She knew Martha’s hands were on her shoulders, and then arms around her, and Martha was crying, no - she shut her eyes.
Count. Count to ten.
One, two, three, four five sixseveneightnine-
No. No, shut up. Shut up and stop! Pull yourself together! This isn’t useful right now. This isn’t useful right now.
“You’re wasting time, soldier.” The voice, hard, amused.
You’re wasting time, Ma. The voice lilting, light.
Tye took a gulping breath, eyes shut. Run.
Xena had run. She’d run, like she’d needed to, and she hadn’t stopped. She’d run in a group, with others, their neighbors, who might not be too fond of Tye, but loved Xena, loved her like she was the whole town’s child, would protect her.
Xena was not in holding.
Xena had not been put on the buses.
In ways, this here’s the ideal world.
It was a sweeping, considering sentiment. A Xena-esque sentiment.
Her hands still shook, her heart still hammered, but when she opened her eyes Martha was sobbing, and so very young, and that helped, somehow, “Sorry,” Tye whispered, “sorry, buddy, it’s alright. I’m here.”
She acknowledged it - the yawning maw of horror, dark fear lapping at her toes, trying to suck her into it. And then she turned away.
Comfort Martha. Watch the door, with the woman hammering on it, sobbing, pleading, “My son won’t wake up!”
No, that’s bad.
Feel lucky, though, right? Feel lucky.
The door finally opened about an hour later, though it was hard to tell - the room had no windows beyond that one tiny one in the door, and the lights were cold and sterile, giving the impression of eternal daylight, though it must still be night, in the AM by now perhaps, but nighttime. Two people walked in - one police officer with a phasor and a young man who crouched next to the boy at last, scanning him. The woman thanked him again and again, hands gripping her son’s, and he glanced awkwardly up at her, reading the scan, “Uh, it’s fine,” he said, “He’s alive. But I need to take him for a more in-depth head scan; he definitely has a concussion.”
“Good, yes, thank you, thank you,” the woman said through her tears, and Tye remembered how they had all gone quiet when the mayor started talking, sacrificing their chant just to find out what happened next. This woman had sacrificed her rage. It was good. It was what Tye had to do.
Tye rose and shuffled up to the officer, legs quivering with the effort of moving. The officer cocked her weapon at Tye like she had her fists raised, though, and Tye swallowed, spoke as clear as she could, “My daughter,” he said, “my daughter - my young daughter, she’s out there alone, she ran with the others-”
“You didn’t stay with her?” The officer asked, eyebrows going up.
Tye swallowed, “I tried,” she whispered, “Please. She’s disabled. She’s by herself out there.”
The officer’s eyes narrowed behind her helmet visor, and Tye wondered helplessly if this woman thought she was lying to her, “Please,” Tye pleaded, heart clenching like a fist, “Please, her name is Xena, she’s sixteen, she’s diabetic and blind, she’s by herself, she needs-”
“I’ll see what I can do,” the cop interrupted her.
Tye stared at her, “Please,” she said again. Officer nodded, looking a little exasperated now.
Tye stared at the door behind her, wondering if-
The officer cocked her weapon again, gaze suddenly sharpening, zeroing in on her, and Tye swallowed, whispered, “Please. Thank you. Thank you, please,” and then forced herself to go back to Martha, collapse into Martha’s waiting arms, fists so so tight her nails bit into her palms.
A gurney was unrolled on the concrete floor and the boy lifted onto it, a button pressed and it glowed blue, lifting up into the air and trailing the doctor as he gathered his few things and then headed towards the door.
The cop stopped the boy’s mother at the door, “You wait here,” she said.
“What? But I - no! No! I have to stay with him!” She pushed forward after her son as the doctor turned and hesitated, a frantic energy starting around her like a tornado.
“She can’t come with me? I’m just going to scan him. Not much she could do.”
The cop glared, “Those are the rules.”
“Oh,” the doctor shuffled awkwardly, “ok.”
“Please,” the woman begged, and fell to her knees, gripping the cop’s free hand, “please, he’s all I have, just let me stay with my boy, please-”
The cop looked uncomfortable, the doctor even more so. But the officer pried her fingers free, muttering, “That’s simply not allowed.”
“Sorry,” the doctor said, voice forcibly light, so awkward, and the woman dove for the door as they shut it, slammed her head on it, sobbed, curled in on herself, and her breathing came fast, hysterical.
Tye watched, soul blank. Martha shivered beside her.
It was another hour before the doctor came back with the boy, who was now, thankfully, awake, though he was slurring his words. His mother just hugged him, crying, and the doctor called, “Who else was unconscious at some point?”
Martha turned to look at Tye, but she was already up, walking with purpose back to the doctor and guard, “Me, I was,” she said quickly, butting in front of an old man, “Please, my daughter-”
“There’s no blind girl in intensive care and no teenagers at all in the morgue, I checked,” the cop said shortly.
Tye felt her whole world turn upside-down for a moment, air leaving her. The morgue. She hadn’t even considered-
And then she swallowed and whispered, “I - good, that’s good, but I mean - she’s with the other… other refugees, she’s not-”
“Refugees isn’t the right word,” the cop snapped immediately.
“That’s right,” doctor said good naturedly, scanning her, “It implies you’re from out of the country. The correct term is Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs.”
“The correct term is squatters!” Officer snapped, “Or ‘cop killers.’ Twice over if my brother in blue’s surgery goes the way the doctor said it might. Did you know two officers were shot last night and even more beaten and trampled?”
There was silence for a moment after that. “Oh,” doctor said as the scanner beeped, “You’ve got a mild concussion and slight malnourishment, but otherwise, you’re fine.” He moved onto the next person in line.
Tye took a deep breath and said calmly, “She was with the other squatters, then. She ran with them - I need to get to her, please, she’s just a little girl, and she’s blind, she can’t-”
“I thought she was sixteen.”
“That’s a little girl! She’s a child, she’s my child-” Tye stopped talking, mouth gaping for a moment, and she felt it, felt a stone in her throat, felt a pressure behind her eyes, and thought at the same time, “maybe it would help” and “don’t give them the satisfaction.”
She gaped. Breathed. Didn’t cry.
The cop was staring at her. After a moment she let out a huff, and then said gruffly, “Listen, if you can prove you have somewhere to go, someone to stay with, someone who inhabits a legal, flood-defense-approved residence… and you can pay your medical bills, I mean, then you can go. They just don’t want folks going back to their squats.”
“Thank you,” Tye whispered, “thank you, thank you, thank you. I need - I need to make a call.”
The cop nodded and took out a cell. There was immediate uproar behind Tye, others yelling for the chance to make a call, and to her shock the cop grabbed her by the arm and pulled her outside. She took out a pair of handcuffs, attaching Tye to the handle as the door closed, “Regulation,” the guard said, then smirked at her, “Sort of.”
Tye blinked, recognition coming in a jolt, “Sandy?” She said, awestruck.
Sandy had worked at AedosDynamic. Her career there had only had a four month overlap with Tye’s, but they’d gotten to know one another in passing.
“That’s right! Man, I did not think it was you at first. I mean, you’re not looking your best right now. And also… well… I didn’t know where you were living, you know?”
Tye stared at her. Sandy, apparently at a loss, reverted back to her customary furrowed brow. “Well, hurry up then,” she said, gesturing at the phone.
Tye jumped, immediately dialing Xena’s number. It went straight to answering machine, however, and Tye realized with a sickening lurch that of course - Xena’s comp had been killed by that blast, of course her phone would be too. “I just need to make one more!” Tye said quickly when Sandy looked like she was about to argue. Sandy rolled her eyes, looking severely uncomfortable, and Tye realized that even this - cuffed outside, unable to leave - was special treatment. She was lucky, right now, extraordinarily lucky that she had barely known someone, that she was here in her dirty t-shirt and sneakers, allowed to make a phone call. Lucky.
Tye fiddled with her cuff with one hand, logging on quickly and whizzing through the AedosDynamic contacts directory, lips pursed, whole life sour with what she had to do now, though she knew she had to do it.
“Oh my GOD,”
Lemon stood in the doorway to their holding room like a piece from another puzzle, yellow hair sticking up in all directions, decked out in a pink sweatsuit and crocks.
Tye rose immediately, something huge rolling through her chest unexpectedly at the sight of her, “Lemon, I need a favor from you,” she whispered. Sandy shifted awkwardly by the door.
“Yeah, I mean, I figured that when you said where to pick you up,” Lemon said, giving Tye a once-over, eyes positively glinting, “You know, I knew it. I fucking knew it.”
Tye stared, “Lemon,” she started again.
“Not because… well, I mean, all different kinds of people live in the towers, so it wasn’t that, but I just mean you personally, you just always had something about you. Shit though, I didn’t know you lived in Mt. Danu, christ.”
Tye stopped breathing.
Her neighbors, her friends and not-friends, were all watching. And Tye took a deep breath, thought of her daughter, and said, “Lemon, please, I need your help. My daughter - my daughter ran with the other, uh, squatters. She’s out there by herself.”
Lemon’s eyes widened, “Shit, you mean she got sent to Nostamo housing without you?”
Tye shut her eyes, “No, no, that was - there were buses for that, and we got a choice first, but then that was when the fighting started and they started gassing the protesters.”
Lemon’s eyes were wide, “Why didn’t you guys just go with Nostamo? You wouldn’t have to stay, and at least there’s free livin there, right?”
Tye shut her eyes for a moment, “Lemon, my daughter! She’s by herself.”
“You want me to… what, go find her?”
“No! You wouldn’t know how to- I mean, please, I just need to, to be able to tell them I have somewhere to live.”
Lemon stared blankly at her. And then her eyes went wide and she mumbled awkwardly, “Oh. I mean. Shit, Tye, like on the one hand I’m psyched, but long-term... I dunno if like… we would make the best roommates? You’re kind of-”
“I won’t be there long,” Tye said through clenched teeth. And then she grabbed Lemon’s shoulder and leaned in, “In fact,” she hissed, “you would barely notice me.”
Lemon squinted, “I mean… I think I would. You’re not exactly hard to miss. And I only have a one bedroom apartment. And-”
“Lemon! I just mean-”
“She means she’s going to pretend she’s going with you because we require she has somewhere that’s not a squat in a flood zone to go, but then she’s going to go look for her daughter instead,” Sandy said in a pained voice.
“Oh!” Lemon said brightly. “Well, then. That’s alright.”
“Wait,” Martha’s tiny voice. Tye felt her stomach lurch. Martha. What about Martha? She couldn’t leave her behind again.
Yes you can, the Good Mother voice said, quietly.
“Lemon,” Tye said, voice shaking a little, “there’s also… this is Martha, she’d just help me, but if you could say that she’s staying with you, too-”
“Uh-uh,” Sandy said immediately, “I’m willing to overlook you, Tye, for old times’ sake, but you can’t ask me to break the rules for you any more than I’ve already done.”
“What about if! If she really stayed with Lemon, then!” Tye said, speaking quickly, “Yeah! I mean, Lemon, I’m - yeah, I’m difficult sometimes, I suppose, but Martha, Martha’s an angel, and she’s got no one else here, her parents moved up north last year, and you’d hardly notice her-”
“I could cook,” Martha said, “I can cook really well. And clean! I’m… not the best at that, but I could learn.”
Tye felt a boiling drop of acid in her gut at that meek little offer, made so hopefully, at Lemon considering it, but then Lemon shrugged meekly and said, “Well, alright. Don’t clean my house, but I’m not turning down food cooked by a pretty girl. One week, tops.”
“Two weeks.” Sandy said shortly, “and you need to sign paperwork for both of them.”
Lemon groaned, “Tye, this is becoming a thing.”
“Lemon, please.” Tye’s voice cracked, and Lemon’s eyes went wide, shocked, and Tye felt like screaming, pulling out her hair, pulling out Lemon’s hair, “please.”
Lemon signed the paperwork. Then there were the first payments of their medical bills, hefty and ridiculous, which Tye paid promptly, taking Martha’s away from her when she started saying “it’s fine, it’s fine” over and over again, a huge chunk of Tye’s savings flowing fruitlessly down the drain.
Not that it mattered, now.
Outside they piled into a taxi, Martha awkwardly maneuvering her sunflower bag, Tye butting in before Lemon could say her address into the little machine as soon as they were half-settled - “AedosDynamic.”
Lemon’s eyes widened, “You sure you wanna go into work like this, bud?”
Tye said nothing, just pushed her forehead against the cool glass of the cab window. Breathed.
When they got to AedosDynamic she used her card to swipe them in and then promptly threw it in the garbage, Lemon snorting, Martha trotting after her worriedly, looking around like she was going to get in trouble for existing, here.
“Ms Baker?” She heard a flabbergasted voice call from off to the side, but she ignored it, kept walking. The television blared - “while most went along with the housing the city provided, some of the Mt. Danu squatters turned dangerous during last night’s evacuation, forcing police to result to stunning after two officers were shot - Officer Sunner confirmed dead, Officer Miller still in intensive care. Rumors that gas was also used remain unconfirmed-”
Tye stood for a second in front of the Explorer SSX 5000. Stared at its gleaming nylon cleanliness. Then she took it, put it on, and it was hers. Along with the chugga-galon, the compass and comprehensive map of southeastern Pennsylvania, the granola bars, the instant noodles, the tiny stove, pot, and titanium spork. And the vest. That puffy orange vest.
“-this just in - a group of suspected Mt. Danu squatters has been spotted on the edge of the Manayunk ruins. Citizens - these stragglers were most likely involved in the violence during last night’s evacuation, and we urge you not to approach them. Instead, if you see anything, call the following emergency number! They will be taken in and processed into the Homeless Rehabilitation Center.”
Tye froze, staring at the screen. A map! A map of Philadelphia, with a dot near the edge where the park began. Gotcha, kid.
“Oh my god, Tye,” Lemon said as Tye started trotting fast towards the exit. No one stopped her, though everyone stared, mouths open. “Woo, suck on that!” Lemon yelled, “I quit!” She threw her own badge into the garbage.
They made it back to the taxi, shoved in, and then again, before Lemon could speak, Tye said, “Mt. Danu, please.”
Martha gasped, “Tye,” she said, “is that really… safe, yet?”
Lemon whistled, “I dunno, I kinda wanna see it. They’re saying a lot of conflicting things on the news, you know.”
Tye leaned forward and repeated to the taxi microphone, “Mt. Danu!”
A beep, and then an automated voice, “I’m sorry. That area is blocked.”
“This is so conspiracy theory,” Lemon whispered.
“Try the shopping center,” Martha said softly, “Then we could just hop down.”
Tye nodded, “Privex Shopping Center on 33rd and Tuatha Blvd,” she said clearly, and the taxi started off with a jolt, rising to join the other crafts like it in the automated driver lane.
There was no security at the jump down from high-rise to dumpster, though Tye’d seen a few copbots chugging along down below as they’d landed, so she figured they’d get here on their patrols soon enough. The three of them dropped down, sneaking along under awnings so as to not be seen from above, checking streets before they walked down them. Once they saw a few folks with a wagon full of junk - maybe looters, maybe people like her and Martha, residents come back to get more of their things. Twice they ducked into an alley to avoid copbots. There was a poisonous haze still resting close to the ground, like mist, and it stung at Tye’s scraped knees.
Construction equipment - or destruction equipment, she supposed - was being set up in the market square. She could see the great long necks of the trucks like animals, roving, could hear their beeps and steaming roars.
Besides that ruckus, Mt. Danu was silent, and still. It’s dead, she thought. And it was.
They passed a blocked street on their way around the market, and a blackened husk of a building that had burned, probably due to complications with the surge, it was known to happen with faulty wiring. The doors down all the streets were still open, and Tye stopped as she reached a bike, solar panels out, whole thing locked up with a fraying wire lock, abandoned.
She took her new serrated knife out of her new backpack and began to saw at the wire.
Martha gasped, “Tye, that’s not yours,” she said.
Tye almost laughed, but said nothing.
“Woooo, you’re on a roll, girl.” Lemon said.
Tye paused for the barest second, gritted her teeth, and kept going.
When she’d gotten the bike free, they went into the house, where she found the keys in a little bowl near the door, and Tye started up the bike, Lemon sitting on the back behind her and Martha on the handles as they took off down the few blocks to Tye’s house.
The door was wide open. The tv was gone. Her comp.
They’d had nothing else important, really. But her clothes were strewn everywhere, even messier than she normally left them, and drawers were all pulled out, like whoever had raided had been pissed that that was it, had been thinking ‘there must be something more’ when there wasn’t, there was nothing, nothing.
It smelled like home. It smelled like home and it also smelled like metal, smelled like something that made her dizzy, and Tye took a deep breath of all of it and began to work, changing first, immediately, into better clothes, more durable clothes.
And for some reason, that’s when Tye snapped.
“This is all one big fucking joke to you, isn’t it?” She said through gritted teeth.
Lemon laughed nervously, “Uh, no need to be snippy. I’m just trying to lighten the mood a bit.”
“This isn’t a mood that can be lightened. This isn’t a mood that should be lightened.”
“Hey, I just learned that my best friend came from a teeny tiny little ruin in some squatter flood-bait ground town, ok, I really think-”
“Mt. Danu was not a neighborhood of squatters.” Martha said, very quiet, very brave, and Lemon let out an annoyed huff.
“Ok, whatever, but still - some flood-bait ground-”
“Why do you keep doing that?” Tye snapped.
“Insulting Mt. Danu.”
“I’m not - I’m just stating the facts!”
“Mt. Danu is - Mt. Danu was a neighborhood where some people had owned their houses for generations. Where people ran shops without help from up above because no one gave a shit about the businesses down here. Where everyone knew each other, where there was always music coming from somewhere, where people weren’t fake and back-handed and full of shit!” Tye’s voice was rising, the hand clenching her shirt shaking. “This neighborhood was beautiful, it was beautiful, and classic, and full of art and culture and all that shit you people think you own up there, and I’m proud of it, I’m proud as fuck of where I come from, so you can just shut up. Go home, Lemon. Go back to your precious tower. Get out of my house.”
Lemon gaped at her, and then, very quickly, turned and left, slamming the door behind her.
There was quiet. Tye pulled her shirt on and started packing her bag, hands shaking, not really sure if that was the right thing to do from the standpoint of the manipulator, the puppet-master, the what-she-always-fucking-failed-to-be. She’d thought it before, about Lemon - a rich friend had to be useful. If she was smarter she’d make use of that. But she couldn’t find it in her to regret anything she’d said. She never could, really.
After a moment, Martha spoke, “You called Mt. Danu ‘where you came from,’” she said shyly, “you’ve never done that.”
Tye’s breath caught painfully, “Grab whatever you want, Martha,” she said softly, “We won’t be using anything here anymore.”
After collecting the rest of their supplies, Tye and Martha went outside and nearly tripped over Lemon who, to Tye’s shock, was sitting on the stoop waiting, her head in her hands.
For a second she thought Lemon was actually crying, which would have honestly just been too infuriating to deal with, but Lemon’s face was instead harder than Tye’d ever seen it, brows together and mouth a thin line. When she spoke, her voice was a little raw, but unwavering, “I’m sorry,” she said frankly, “you’re right. I’m just… I dunno, I’m just feeling weird I guess, and awkward, because this is horrible, and I don’t know how to… I’m just, I’m being an asshole. You’re right.”
Tye narrowed her eyes. This wasn’t a new thing. This dance was familiar, though her outburst this time had been a little more extreme than the usual ones. “For fuck’s sake, Lemon,” she muttered.
“Right. Ok. You uh, don’t have to forgive me right now. You’ve got a lot on your plate.” Lemon replied, dropping her head again.
“I forgive you!” Martha said, irritatingly.
Lemon beamed up at Martha. Tye sucked in a breath, let it out in a whistle, and then said, “Ok, well, I’m glad, I guess, cuz this is where I leave y’all.”
Instant uproar, “Don’t be stupid,” Lemon said immediately, rising quickly to her feet.
“I thought I was coming with you!” Martha shrieked at the same time.
This seemed to remind Lemon, “Yeah, wait, I kind of just assumed that we were pretending she was living with me to get her out? Uh I mean she can of course, you can too! I’m just full of shit, I was being full of shit, you can both stay-”
“Tye,” Martha said, and she looked so young, “I really think it’s a good idea if I come with you… you’ll be on your own otherwise, and, I mean. Well. I will be, too. Isn’t it better if we stick together? You wouldn’t… wouldn’t just leave me, would you?” Her lip was trembling, and Tye saw the flash of guilt in her eyes at the manipulation, but also sensed the helplessness - the girl was barely 24, her parents were up north, what was she supposed to do?
Tye shut her eyes. And when she opened them, she was stone, she was solid, she was impenetrable. “You would slow me down,” she said bluntly. It was really the only way, with Martha. She was good people, but unless faced with a wall, would try and twist anything towards what she wanted, “the bike is made for one person, really, and it’s going to be dangerous, and you don’t know how to live out there in the wilds. I don’t have time to teach you to, either. I have to find Xena.” Martha’s face froze, and then fell, shattered. She bit the inside of her cheek and sniffed, eyes glassy, and Tye felt her own dam break just a little, “I’m sorry, Sugar,” she whispered.
Martha nodded, and then she was in Tye’s arms and they were holding each other so tightly she could feel her breathing, her heart beating, her tiny life that Tye’d seen so much of. She’d known this girl since she was fourteen and starting up her babysitting business, and now, now she didn’t know if she’d see the rest, if she’d see her ever again, if-
She pulled away before the dam could really break, turned to Lemon, who looked hopeful for a hug, arms half raised, but Tye put her hands on her hips. “It’s been something, Lemon.” Tye said, surprising herself by how warm the words came out.
Lemon quirked a smile, recovering quickly, crossing her own arms like that was the plan all along, “That it has.”
She glanced at Martha, “Are you gonna stay with her? Cuz you can.”
Martha smiled a small smile through her tears. “I don’t think so,” she said after a moment, “I have an auntie who lives in a houseboat in Schuylkill. We’re not close, but I think she’d let me crash with her. Then I could keep an ear to the ground, too. Try and figure out what else is happening.”
Tye nodded, “Be safe, love,” she said softly, “and remember - Lemon’s always a backup if it doesn’t work out.”
“I am. And I’m, like. Here for you both anyway, too. Any way you need me.” Lemon said, a little strained, and Tye let out a huff and touched her arm, a small concession that made Lemon flush scarlet.
Tye smiled small at both of them, saluted them with two fingers, and with that, slung her backpack over her shoulder, buckled the two front supporting straps, started up the bike, and took off towards Cecil B Moore, the small bike roaring faithfully over the barricade with a hover-burst.
Their house gaped behind her. Door left wide open.
Don’t think about it.
Don’t think about it.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.