Gemma embarks on an unexpected personal journey
|Bobby was tidying her bed and sorting her belongings, the few she had with her. Her parents Jamie and Paul expected a lot from both Bobby and her sister, Lucy. This was because Jamie and Paul both worked full time; they had encouraged the girls to be as independent as possible while attempting not to put too much pressure on them. Both girls were expected to complete chores and in the place they now found themselves in, that meant more than just making their beds; it included helping their mum in the main kitchen. Bobby spent her time in the kitchen serving people their meals; she'd quickly discovered that cooking wasn't her strong point. This was much more in the realm of her sister Lucy who was thrilled to be putting ingredients together to produce something. Bobby was a natural with people, with a lightning smile and quick wit she was popular. Lucy was content to be behind the scenes, she didn't like attention and avoided it if possible; this was difficult because as a twin she was often confused with Bobby and thrust into spotlights she wasn't prepared for before people realised their mistake.
Gemma had been watching Bobby and Lucy; she was fascinated by how much they looked alike, yet how they were so different. At ten, they were obviously older than Gemma, both with long dark hair and hazel eyes, slim and of average height for their age. They were constant companions and from what Gemma could see they had no other friends, just each other, they felt very insular to her. She wondered though, if this might be because of the situation they'd found themselves in, that their friends were elsewhere. She saw that their mum and dad could easily tell them apart, strangely, so could Gemma. Bobby appeared confident and determined to get what she wanted, Lucy seemed somewhat quieter, a little shy even, but both seemed comfortable with where and who they were. Gemma sensed something in the twins, and the connection appeared to go both ways, she'd noticed them looking at her several times. She thought 'it's probably because we came in on the same truck together', so she would smile at them and they would smile in return.
All three girls were in a school hall that held mostly families and a few separated children. Beds were just mattresses on the floor and everyone tried to pull together. Gemma thought 'how strange it was that it took an emergency to make everyone the same, not rich, not poor, just a group of people living together, dealing with the same situation'. There were several main centres set up, schools, the church hall and hotels; however, there were also many people living in local people's homes. Inlet Bay may not have been a large town but it's surprising how big it appears when you're trying to squeeze it into another one. The evacuation had started smoothly and people's destinations had been logged, but once panic had set in then all the planning was sent haywire and so people weren't logged as well as they should have been.
On the fourth day of their stay, it was obvious that the initial emergency was over but there was going to be a little time before people would be allowed back into their homes. The lava from the volcano hadn't reached Inlet Bay; however, everywhere was covered in a thick layer of ash, much of it blocking roads. It had fallen in the south of the island as well but it wasn't as heavy as it was in the north.
When Gemma had arrived, it had soon become obvious that she was unable to speak. However, because of her cards and notebook, she'd been able to give them clear details of where she'd been living and where she'd been heading when was found. This meant that as soon as it was possible, it would be easier to find where they'd taken the children from the home, or at least trace her last foster family. This wasn't going to be possible for a while as movement was still restricted. They did have working phone lines but finding people wasn't that easy. Locating those staying in larger places wasn't so bad, but finding those staying in people's homes was somewhat harder.
Gemma, it appeared for the moment, was alone.
It was just before breakfast as Gemma was returning from the bathroom that she spotted Bobby making her bed, she stopped to watch her, just for a moment. Bobby wasn't aware of her; she had her back to Gemma and was engrossed in what she was doing. Watching Bobby brought back memories of Sophie, her older sister, she was pondering on the relationship that Bobby and Lucy had, she thought to herself 'I wish my sister was here'.
Bobby spoke half-heartedly 'where is she?'
'She's with another family', Gemma had thought an answer before she'd realised what had happened.
Then, Bobby turned around and the two children locked eyes; Bobby then averted her eyes around Gemma as if she was looking for someone. She knew someone had spoken to her but the only person there was Gemma. Her mum had told her she couldn't speak so Bobby was confused. She thought to herself 'It can't be that's impossible'.
'I know' the voice gently lilted again, but Gemma clearly wasn't speaking, Bobby couldn't figure out what was happening at all.
Gemma, in the meantime, was just looking at Bobby in amazement, she'd tried so hard to speak to people before but no sound ever came out. It was as if she had no knowledge in her head how to sound the words with her mouth, yet, she had always known the words from when she was very young. This was the first time anyone had answered her and she hadn't even been talking on purpose, she was wishing that she could be as close to Sophie as Bobby and Lucy were to each other. It was a thought, thrown away into empty space!
She didn't know what to do, her mind floated somewhere between moments. Bobby was looking at her intently, Gemma dropped her head, she didn't want to be looked at, it felt wrong. Until now, she had been someone people got used to and then didn't. They would take her in, be kind to her, make a fuss but this would wear off and for an unknown reason, they would then send her back. The waves of emotions could be intense for Gemma so she learned early to pack them away as she had at breakfast, on the day of the eruption. She didn't store memories like the average person did, she could almost physically, within her mind, file things into places and find them later if she needed them. Sometimes this was a useful tool, giving her, what appeared to be a photographic memory. Other things she put away and closed the doors on never to retrieve them, never seeing a reason to. Emotional trauma was put away like this so staying and leaving families just became the part of her life that Gemma filed away.
This! This was beyond anything she'd ever dealt with, even the memories of her mother's drug and drink-fuelled rages were nothing compared to this. The moment held her in its arms, cradling her, it spoke as if to say this is a new start, take hold of it, let it happen. Slowly she raised her head, the girls' eyes met again and Gemma felt herself smile, Bobby smiled back, the connection was sealed, they had a secret, that for now, they would tell to no-one. At last, Gemma had a voice.