The light went out. The virus came and wiped out 80% of the population. What would you do?
That's what I can see in his face. Reluctance as well but primarily, pain. He doesn't want to say it but he knows it's too late for silence on the issue.
“It's complicated,” he grimaces.
“I can follow Roman.”
He takes a deep breath and begins.
“You have to understand. I am a weasel and a scum bag. I'm everything you think of me-” I try to interject but Roman just shoots me a glare.
“I know you really hate me. If Isla had hated me, she might still be alive. When you first moved out, I lost a scavenging partner and someone I loved being around, even when you were being a stubborn bitch.
You know I was always close to Isla because in some ways, we were the same. Both trying to earn acceptance, both trying to survive and protect the people we loved. We began to start hanging out together and going on runs and we got closer. I started forgetting my feelings towards you and my feelings for Isla were amplified. She was only seventeen but she was older than her years. Mature. I loved her, Elektra. She loved me. I never even imagined how it would change me, you know not having my love unrequited. Isla never judged me.
I did love her. We began to plan a life together, a typical life surviving everything together. We even contemplated having kids, Elektra. How could we do that? We had quite a...physical relationship. I didn't force her, believe me when I say this. She was the one who wanted sex even though she knew what could happen. I knew what could happen. Yet we both shagged like rabbits on heat. John had no idea what was going on, he thought we were just friends, but I think if he did know, I would have lost my manhood by now. I thought so many times about telling him, he'd have to find out eventually but we were just living for the moment.
I wanted her. You would pop out every now and then and I begin to remember that you were still there. You seem detached as if you needed someone to be there for you. I would have come to you this week even if Annie hadn't been hurt; I missed you and after Isla, I just needed some form of companionship. Isla was jealous. She thought that you meant more to me. I reassured her constantly but she was never convinced. I should have been with her every moment, not worrying about your detachment because ,let's face it ,you have never really been right in the head. You were born for this world, Ellie.
I am a dickhead. I am a douche bag. I didn't make her feel as if she was the only girl in my world but she wasn't.
Isla had been getting sick. John had been getting worried about her but I guess she knew exactly what it was. Rita had stock piled pregnancy tests so I stole one. I was scared but ecstatic; I was going to be a father. It would be difficult but I had never been so excited. John would probably have hung, drawn and quartered me. When she confirmed it, I was elated and I swore to protect her and the baby. She kept talking about sticking a coat hanger up there and scooping the little ball of cells out; we fought about it. Our last fight. I guess I wouldn't have the same reluctance as she would, I wouldn't have had to push a baby with a twelve inch head out a one or two inch hole.
I wish I'd just relented; whatever happened, the baby wasn't supposed to be born. Maybe it would have been the kindest thing to let her abort the pregnancy but I was too stubborn and pig headed to see beyond my own desire. I have always wanted to be a dad. You think I look after the girls for extra credit with the powers that be but that is not close to the reason. I do it because I love the kids.
After our last fight, she went out on a run. I told her not to, that she could get hurt and that I should go with her but she wouldn't have it. She told me to piss off and that if she wanted to put herself in danger that she would. I should have stopped her. I should have grabbed hold of her or at least, told her that I loved her. When she came back, she wouldn't talk to me or even look at me.
I didn't even know she was sick until Rita told me that Isla was close to death and that she was bleeding heavily. She was miscarrying and dying. Miscarrying and dying. Then, she was dead. She died thinking that I was a possessive dick. She died hating me. It was my fault, she went out to cool off after an argument with me. If I had just relented, she wouldn't have gone out and probably would have miscarried naturally. I wouldn't have lost yet another person I care about.
You wanted to know about what happened with Isla. Now you know Elektra. Now it's time for you to talk. I've bared my soul, now it's your turn.”
I am in shock. Isla was...pregnant? I cannot believe the both of them were so reckless and downright stupid. Ah! How could they be so stupid?
I should probably have responded with reassurance like I don't hate you, you were right to be persistent because it was your child too. But I can't respond like that. I can't reassure him because whatever I say would never be enough. He talked about how I was responsible for some of the conflict with Isla because he wanted to be there for me. No, he didn't. He wanted to be more than just 'there for me'. One of his lamest excuses to date. In essence, he blames me partly for her death which is not fair. How was I supposed to know about the entirety of their bullshit brigade?
Oh and he wants me to talk now?
What the hell does he expect me to talk about? Does he just want me to spout off pathetic remarks of sympathy and empathy. I feel differently about him now but I am still repulsed by what he, what they, did.
I look up.
“What do you want me to say Roman? You want sympathy or empathy? You know I'm not the one to go to for that crap. You get your leg up, she was baking a bun in her oven and then she got sick. Is there really anymore to be said?”
He just looks at me as if I killed a puppy. I was asking a question. I'm guessing he wanted some melodramatic performance or an argument but why would I give him that? He can torture himself just fine, he doesn't need by intervention.
“You really don't care about it, do you?” he says dejectedly.
“I do care but it's done. Nothing can be done to change it now, she's dead and gone. You can't take anything back which I see as punishment enough. Plus, I'm still quite mellow from the morphine but that will change soon. What did you want to know?”
“ I guess you're right. You didn't have to be such a bitch about it but you're right. I want to know what you really think about me. Why you left me yesterday. Everything.”
“What do I really think? I think you are a self righteous dick head with such a little understanding of the world that I'm surprised you're not dead yet. But, I...I...I think you are a decent human being who doesn't deserve the hand he's been dealt and I don't hate you. Far from it. If anything I respect you. That's the truth about it. I left because I was bored and I didn't want to wait for you to wake up.”
Bluntness is by far the best method of articulation. I think that's shocked him into silence for a few minutes. It does take his little brain quite along time to process things. Why did I tell him I respected him? He will never let me forget that I said that. I could never tell him I feel anything but respect for him otherwise I would never live that down. Then again, I shouldn't want to live it down should I? If I have any stronger feelings then I should want to tell him but now is not the time, not by any means.
“God. Don't hold back Elektra. You respect me? You. Respect. Me?”
“Oh don't worry, I won't and shut up.”
“So you don't hate me? Well, I will admit you give mixed signals. You must be an amazing actress then to keep me in ignorance for so long...”
“I may not be able to get up but I can still strangle you with my shoe laces if you don't shut up.”
“Okay, whatever you so Lex”
“Wait, since when have you called me Lex? Nobody calls me Lex; I just about tolerate being called Ellie, but Lex?”
In truth, it might grow on me. Lex. A new nickname long overdue. Lex. Yeah, that might work for me. I will show disdain when he uses it but I actually quite like it. But why after all this time is he electing to call me a new name. Has he got bored of it or is it now too childish after nearly dying. I also used to find being called Ellie patronising because it seemed like such a youthful name, a name befitting a child who hasn't witnessed bloodshed. I don't really think it suits me anymore. I can't be classified as innocent and I haven't been innocent for a long time. Maybe Lex is the new me. Someone baptised in blood and fire. Someone who has faced death and fought against it. Yeah, Lex is the new me, a new beginning if you will. Uh, how melodramatic did that sound? Did those words genuinely come of out of my mouth.
I guess the saying becomes true; new me, new rules.
New me, new rules.
John still hasn't reappeared.
Now I'm starting to get worried. It's been over a fortnight since he went missing. Over a two weeks since I got a bullet through the gut.
I'm fine though. I'm being wheened off of the morphine which means I am in a constant state of pain at the moment. It's not as bad as when it first happened. The pain is no longer sharp and searing but more of a dull ache that won't go away. If I could compare it to anything I would compare it to a tooth abscess.
However, I've been told to 'embrace the pain' as pain is a sign that I'm alive. Roman showed me a picture of my stitches with John's old polaroid camera that he keeps locked in his safe box in his bedroom. I look absolutely brutal even though I am going to have a beautiful ragged scar. Rita is brilliant at what she does but she can't sew stitches for shit. A war ravaged torso. Rita's hands shake a lot which is why she was training as an apprentice. It is dangerous for her to have so much power over someone's life when her talent is being stolen by arthritis.
Roman and I have been on good terms since our conversation a few days ago; he hasn't really left my side which has been okay. I haven't been as painfully bored as per usual which is great. The more time we spend together, the more I begin to enjoy his company. He knows how to make me laugh, really laugh. I never realised it before but he is genuinely funny. He knows how to make me truly belly laugh, which is incredibly painful as laughing involves abdominal muscle movement. I never really enjoyed his company before because I guess I didn't want to. I didn't want to affiliate with anyone with a pulse...or no pulse. I haven't just gained a necrophiliac tendency. Necrophiliac tendencies, ew.
Even though I've had the company of Roman, the bloody part time comedian, I can't help but worry about John. As far as he's concerned, I'm still on death's doorstep and getting closer to the pearly gates every second. I hope he hasn't done anything stupid. Or reckless. He's not as young as he used to be; his immunity is pretty bad which means he gets illness that goes around. That's why he rarely leaves the base because if he were to be in close proximity to an infected. Please John, don't be dead.
My death could have been the one thing that finally tipped him over the edge. At the end of the day, I could never have allowed myself to die. I genuinely believe that he may have topped himself. If he had killed himself, I would never have been able to forgive myself. Not that I would be able to do anything when I entered the eternal slumber but I still wouldn't be able to cope with that. You know, if there is something beyond life that encompasses some form of being.
“That scar is brutal, fitting for an ice maiden. Brutal but refined. Beautiful like its wearer.”
He smiles at me as he always does. I begin to blush. I'm not pretty. I don't know how to accept any form of compliment, especially when his hand is so close to my who-ha. He notices my blushing which makes him giggle even more. His giggle makes me giggle. Next thing you know, we're both laughing again. I guess the reason I am so willing to bear my soul to someone is because I need someone. I need solid proof that I am needed . That I have a reason for living and I have not taken the difficult route for no viable reason.
“It still aches, you know. It feels nice having your cold hand on a injury that feels like it is burning. How massive are your hands?”
“You know what they say. Big hands, big...”
“I don't need you to finish that sentence. Ha, I thought you were going to say the other saying, you know 'cold hands, warm heart'.”
“That would explain your freakishly warm hands, ice maiden.”
“Ha ha, very funny. It would fit. I hate when you're right, you dickhead.”
We continue to giggle and we we stop, we just stare at each other. This is awkward. I have never felt this awkward around him and I think he can sense it as well. Something changed the moment that bullet tore through me. It's for the better in some cases, Roman, but bad in other cases. At the moment, I am at my most vulnerable and I'm becoming more emotionally bonded to people. Damn it. It feels like a better thing, more human, but it is the kind of thing that will get me killed, for real this time. A head injury or something.
“Roman, can you help me with something in here? You can continue flirting later.” I introduce to Rita, the cock blocker. He grunts. I can't help but giggle at the way he rolls his eyes and grunts like a bloody farmyard animal. He smiles. Roman gets up and leans over to kiss my head, yet again, and I act on impulse. I lean up and my lips touch his. We stay like that for a few seconds, just our lips touching, and then he backs away. I've shocked him. I've shocked myself. Did I actually just kiss him?
Yes, I think I did. I kissed Roman. Oh god, I shouldn't have done it. Played right into his hands. Uh, I'm screwed. Screwed. Screwed.
“Wait a minute,” I hear him say from the kitchen.
He walks back into the living room and kisses me again. This time with more...passion. I can't believe this actually happening. I would blame it on the morphine is Rita had given me any. I want this. I actually want this. It seems John was always right; I was just too stubborn to even consider it. When he finally breaks away for air, he just smiles and kisses me on the nose. I've never been kissed on the nose before. I don't like it but then again, I have a ticklish spot on my nose. Who has a ticklish spot on their nose? In my defence, it is my only ticklish spot. Well, there and my feet but the last person who touched my feet ended up dead so take from that what you will.
He walks into the kitchen again, with a beaming smile plastered on his face. This must be what he has wanted for the longest time. The longest time. If I hadn't of been shot, I would never have allowed the thought to cross my mind. I would have spent the rest of my life mindlessly resenting him due to fear. The way I figure it, I have survived death. Fought it and won. I've done it once, I can do it again. So, death can come at me and take its best shot because I'm stronger than even I know. I have no reason to be frightened of dying anymore. Loss is still a threat but death itself is something I no longer fear because I know I have a choice. I'll always have a choice and I'll always choose life until I can't anymore.
“Miss Milton, good to see you looking so lively.”
The dulcet northern tones continues to linger after the last syllable is uttered. Erin. Everyone's favourite ex social worker. She still believes that she still serves a purpose even though what is the point of having someone to safeguard children when they're dropping down like flies? I don't understand but John felt she needed a reason to go on. She feels like she has to protect all of the children because she couldn't protect her own. She lost her son a month into the outbreak and she has never forgiven herself. I think that's why she's always had a soft spot for Roman; they would have been the same age and he could pass for Erin's son. They have the same eyes.
“Erin, I was wondering when you were going to make an appearance to brighten my life. So, where's my get well present, you bitch?”
She goes bright red; I don't think she understands the concept of sarcasm. I think that's why I enjoy tormenting her so much? So gullible. I've tried the whole 'gullible's written on the ceiling' and she falls for it every single time. I shouldn't torment her but I get so much satisfaction out of it. My way of taking pain out on others. Oh, I am evil bitch when I want to be.
“I'm kidding, Erin. Sarcasm. Sarcasm, Erin.”
“Oh, yes of course. I'm sorry it took me so long; I had some business to take care of, looking for some more flats or places of accommodation. I've found a lovely little bungalow if you would like to exchange. There's more room and it's closer...”
“Thank you, Erin. Yes, if you can sort it out. The amount of blood and...hm...other bodily discharges freak me out as I have told you many times. I want the bungalow...please.”
“I know but this bungalow is perfect. Perfect for you to start off. I was surprised to find it, it had been ransacked but it is sufficient. It is perfect for you to settle down. You know, have children...”
“No,” I interrupt “ The bungalow would just be a starting point. Is John with you? Have you seen him? Did he come with you?”
“No Elektra. I haven't seen him in a while; I know everyone's worried about him but he can look after himself. I've seen that man survive things I 'int thought possible. He'll be fine.”
What she says reassures me. She has known him for twenty one, eleven years longer than I have so she must know a thing or two. She been there when he's been through loss and joy. He's been through a lot, we all have, but he hasn't given up yet so he'll be fine. I mean, he has to be otherwise it's not just going to be Rita and I that are affected. John and Erin, before the outbreak, had a brief romantic relationship. It was complicated because Erin had a son and John had a wife. But it still happened. However, that the thing about the end of days; it's a bit of a romance killer especially when death becomes involved. Recalling old times. That's the reason he wanted Erin to feel like she had a purpose. He was protecting her because he knew what grief could do to a sane person, not built for this kind of a world. A world where it is dangerous to cough or sneeze. Where you can't step outside of the house without being terrified that the virus may have become air borne overnight. Where death is common place.
I'm not the only one that John saved from the flames.
“Rita tells me you should be able to walk about soon. That will nice for you, being mobile again. Not be trapped in bed.”
“Yeah, it will be. I am sick of the sight of this room. They're planning to shove me in the garden for a few hours to take my mind off of things. Is it warm out there? Are they shoving me out there to give me hypothermia in the hopes of killing me off?”
“No, they are not trying to kill you to my knowledge. You don't seem to understand how much your injury has traumatised people. The younger children look up to you and Roman. The poster people of survival. It scared them to know you're just human.”
“Well, we're not invincible. Nobody is and they need to learn that, Erin. Never let them become complacent or think anyone is above dying. Anyone can die. Anyone. Including the 'poster people'.”
I may have come across as harsh but it is the gospel truth. Nobody is above dying and everyone does. There is no point in placing faith in people to live for eternity just because they have constructed a tougher shell. The moment you find yourself above death is the moment you expose your vulnerability. Fate hates complacency. The kids look up to Roman and I? Why would they? Roman okay, he protects them and acts as eye candy for the girls and a role model for the boys but me? Me? What the hell have I done to deserve being admired? I'm hardly ever around. I'm obnoxious, bitchy, sarcastic and detached, I think that sums me up sufficiently, so why would kids look at me and think 'damn, I want to be like her when I grow up'?
That is seriously messed up.
The awkward silence. I don't know how to follow up my previous comment and Erin is looking at me as if I have committed genocide. Why do people keep looking at me as if I am some evil neo-Nazi who kills puppies? They say the kids look up to me? The way people look at me would suggest otherwise. They look at me as if I am some sort of pariah. Am I a pariah? Maybe I am. Maybe. However the definition of a pariah is ' a person who is generally despised or avoided. I am not avoided. There have been times when I have desired to be avoided but that never happens; something always drags me back here. A catch up or an accident. I can never avoid this place and I guess, I wouldn't change that for anything. Maybe I'm not a pariah but I may just be a virago with a sociopathic nature. That could fit with me. Plus I like the word 'virago' better than 'pariah'.
“You are right Elektra. They need to accept that but I won't be the one to tell them. If you feel so strongly about it, you tell them. You might not see yourself as influential but they listen to you. I'd better go, check on the bungalow. I'm glad you're okay. It's a miracle you are.”
“Fine. You know me Erin, miracle worker- London division. I do love to defy odds especially when I'm needed. I'm too loyal for my own good. Too loyal to die, I guess. Bye.”
She opens her mouth as if to say something but closes it. I don't think she can find anything to say. I seem to be shocking people a lot lately, some people for better reasons than others. But then again, what is a good reason?
She wants me to talk to the kids. She wants...me...to talk to the kids. Me? Yes, I feel strongly about it, granted, but I'm not the only one. She knows talking to the kids is my own form of torture; having all of those faces, still full of hope, believing in me and I have to destroy their faith and scare them. I will say it again, torture. The sadistic bitch.
Roman waits in the door way, watching Erin leave out of the back door. He is too nosy for his own good, he's not stupid. Well, I'm conflicted on that one; he eavesdrops everything. He's not stupid but I wouldn't call him the brains of Britain if you get my drift. He just turns to me and smiles. I am dreading this moment; now I have to answer for my actions. Oh god. He is going to relish in this.
“Rita's sent me to come and get you. She's even got the wheelchair out for you, you lucky thing you. You ready, Lex?”
“I am not worthy, I am not worthy. Of the decrepit wheelchair. Yes, I'm guess I'm going to have to be.”
“Let me help you up. Get them little feet working.”
“Little feet, my feet are bigger than yours. You and your dainty little ballerina feet.”
“I'm still growing. My feet are just in a period of stagnation. Ballerina feet. Ballerina feet?”
“A little help please? You know if you don't topple over because you're too tall for your feet; the base not being wide enough.”
“I'm going to get you for that.”
He comes closer to be and begins to kiss me again. He said Isla was the one who wanted a physical relationship. I finding that to be false but then again, I was never in a relationship with Isla. At least I don't think I was. Alcohol does release inhibitions but that's the curse, you can't remember which inhibitions have been released and onto whom. Ha, I'm kidding. Well, maybe. As I said, alcohol what a bastard. He seems to put more pressure onto my lips as if he is trying to get into my knickers. He is a passionate person anyway but ...whoa. Aye aye. He begins to move his hands from on my face to my chest to my stomach to my... I pull away. I have only just kissed him; god, I'm not a slut. If he wants that then he's got to put a ring on it. I have a feeling I'm going to die a virgin at this rate.
“I'm sorry. I just get so...pent up.”
“I know you do, considering you were just about to try and mount me. Wow.”
We both look at each other and burst out laughing yet again. Maybe being with Roman will be easier than I anticipated. He still hasn't questioned me which gives me some form of reassurance. I guess he's just satisfied to be able to get that close to me; to be so close to getting into my knickers. Men may deny it but that's the ultimate aim at the end of the day, isn't it? I just go on what I've heard growing up. The many men that have left have only been interested in their next shag. Procreation and all that jazz.
Maybe this is the right thing? To just take things slowly with Roman? Just getting to know him for who he truly is?
For the first time ever, it's not actually raining. It's warm. I know that is definitive proof it's the end. Sun in England, who have thought it? The wheelchair isn't exactly comfortable and stinks of vomit but it serves a purpose. Getting into it was difficult. My legs were numb after spending two weeks not being allowed to move so even moving an inch is pretty much impossible. I feel like I have undergone temporary paralysis in my legs, my only salvation is that Rita has shoved a pin in my foot many times which has made me react. A sign that I am not paralysed.
Roman had to lift me. By the waist. Where my scar is. You can imagine how that went down. It's all fun and games until someone touches the scar, then all hell breaks loose. The pain was pretty bad but I played it up, giving Roman the guilt trip of a lifetime. I think I convinced him I was dying again. I still get so much pleasure bedevilling his ass. I should probably stop...Nah.
Once I finally got into the chair, the smell made me gag. How many people have puked up onto the chair? How do you do that anyway, when you are actually in the chair?Do you part your legs and then just release the contents of your stomach? It smells so bad, so bad. It's vile, on the verge of setting off my gag reflex which when unable to escape from the aforementioned smell, you can imagine. I understand such items as wheelchairs are a rarity, I understand that, but really? Can you not replace it? I don't know, get a chair and attach wheels to it. I can't be the only one that is bothered by it. When they're not trying to give me hypothermia, they're trying to make me vomit my damaged organs up through my mouth.
Rita was saying, earlier, how my intestines did suffer quite severe damage that may 'cause discomfort' for a while. The organs' functions may be impaired which means there is still the chance of an internal infection. C'est magnifique. Oh the irony ; surviving the initial impact to die because of my body fighting against me. I'll be fine ; I always am. I've been eating and everything seems to be in order which is a positive sign. However, I have to face that possibility. My body can turn on me at any time. I was shot with a magnum for god's sake. I'm lucky I didn't have a chunk blown out of me. I'm lucky I didn't die right then and there. Carpe diem, right ?
The landscape is fairly minimal but I finally have the distraction I've been looking for. The garden is relatively small in comparison to the dimensions of the house. Yes, I don't think this place is going to be looking like Old McDonald's farm any time soon. The garden's borders are marked by a large wooden fence which makes the garden seem like a corridor. When there is the rare occasion of a warm day, it seems somewhat darker than it should. It's been painted white so that helps reflect some of the light and heat but it is still a minimal amount. The grass is well maintained but then again, John always was fond of a garden he could be proud of. During the warm days, he would have all of us out in the garden tending to the it. Cutting the grass, dealing with the weeds, tending to the vegetable patch. Ah, the infamous vegetable patch.
John was so determined to make that patch work. A natural supply of food ; living off of 'the fatta the land', if you'll pardon the Steinbeck quote. He had everyone out in force, planting and maintaining these little cabbage, carrot and pea plants. I was about thirteen at the time. I went through a kind of existential crisis at that point. Everyone does ; what is the point in living ? I'm an insignificant little blip on the grand scheme of things, I can be eradicated without any repercussions. Yeah, we all have that thought at least once and if you haven't, you are lying through your teeth. Anyway, tending to this garden, this insignificant item that could go on to do things bigger than itself. What I mean is that one of those plants could feed a person that would go on to change the world, conquer the virus. They could give someone the strength to survive. Shame they could keep up their end of the bargain.
If you're wondering what happened to the plants, if you are so enamoured with the story of the vegetables, they may have been drowned. By accident. They may have been trodden on too. Well, I say trodden, I mean stamped on. Fire may have been involved but that's not important. John never found out the assailant. The assailant who murdered his poor little plants. Oh how my heart breaks for those poor minute...vegetables.