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World in Tatters Ch 36

By Kevin Barkman

By Kevin BarkmanPublished about a month ago 10 min read
2
World in Tatters Ch 36
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

I sit across from my mother, impatiently waiting for her to give me one reason not to walk out of the tent never to see her again. My body is getting as restless as my mind. I feel my foot start to bounce against the dirt. I focus on my fingers, picking at my nails. For some reason, it’s helping me hold myself together.

“You going to say anything?” I mutter.

“Steven, be patient.” Kiera admonishes. “I’m sure this is just as hard for her as it is for you.”

“It’s alright, Kiera.” Charlotte raises her hand to Kiera, a deliberately gentle tone to her voice. My mother’s voice conjures distant memories from deep in my past. Flashes of days spent on the floor of the living room, haunting melodies emanating from the piano, her eyes closed as her fingers danced across the keys. I feel my breathing quicken and my nails dig into my palm. I force my mind back into the present as she finally speaks again. “Five years. I guess it really has been that long. I guess I’ve been so distracted by the fighting, I hadn’t thought about it in quite a while.”

“Haven’t thought about what? Your kids?” I snipe.

“My sweet boy.” I flinch away as she reaches out to touch my leg. I immediately feel a pang of guilt for my reaction as she pulls her hand away. Her tone calm and metered, “I have thought about you and Rachel and your father every day. Every single day since I was taken from you.”

I can’t bring myself to say anything. The mention of my father sends dark thoughts spiraling. I sit there quietly waiting. I can’t even keep eye contact with her for more than a second at a time.

After what feels like forever, “I assume you know about the true nature of our trip to Seattle?”

“Yeah. Jason told me. I also know you were approached by soldiers a few days before… I know you were meeting with them that night. Jason said you got shot while trying to get away. That’s about it.”

“Well, it’s all true. We did meet with those men. We had our plan—”

“And then you started shooting, as Jason tells it.”

“That’s not exactly how that went down…I mean, I did pull my weapon, but only after I saw one of them go for theirs.” A smirk dancing across her face. “Your mom just happened to be a little faster.” Her smile vanishing, “We got about halfway to the tree line. Jason kept running. I stopped to return fire. Jason yelped when he got hit. I turned around and…” Charlotte pulls her shirt collar aside revealing a flat round scar just below her clavicle. “The shot went clean through. I passed out from pain and blood loss shortly after. Didn’t wake up for a couple days.”

“Days? How could you survive for days with that kind of wound?”

“Because I was a captive…a prisoner. Apparently a valuable one, at that. Because they took me to their medic immediately. They realized they couldn’t move me without killing me, so they kept us camped maybe ten miles from the abandoned school. We stayed there for weeks. They kept me cuffed to a cot. When I was finally strong enough, I stole a scalpel from the doctor. I cut his throat, picked the lock on the cuffs and ran. I was able to get to a nearby town and disappear. For a while.”

“And you never tried to find us?”

“My story is a little more complicated than that.” A dark expression falls on her. The shadows below her eyes deepen as she drops her gaze. “In that town I mentioned, I met someone I thought was a friend. She helped me. Sheltered me for months while I finished recovering. By then, I figured you guys would have been long gone. I figured you would have headed back to Atlanta, so I was going to head straight there.”

“But?”

Charlotte lifts herself from her seat. “But my ‘friend’ sold me out.” She turns her face away from me. I see her fists clenching at her sides, anger rising in her voice. “More accurately, she sold me.”

She looks back to me, with an all too familiar glint in her eyes. I know that rage. I know it, because I’ve seen it in the mirror more times than I care to count. But as quickly as it appears, it vanishes. Hidden but not gone, I suspect. She dons a strained smile, flexing the tension from her hands as she crosses them in front of her.

“Well, clearly, that didn’t take either. Considering that you’re here now.”

“Hm. Is that what you think?” She scoffs. “You have no idea.”

“You’re right. I don’t.” Stabbing back, “That’s kinda why I’m asking.”

“It took me two-and-a-half years to get out of captivity.” Calm finally returning to her voice.

“How did you do it?”

“Opportunism. I was purchased by the family of a rich old man to be his nursemaid. When he died, I made myself disappear again. Came back to Atlanta hoping you were here, but found out Drum had already taken the city. I helped organize some of the defectors into a fighting force.” Gesturing to everything around her. “All of this developed from there.” She pauses for a moment, a self-satisfied smirk across her lips. “But enough about me. How is your sister? Where is she? Where is Rachel? Where’s your father?”

“Um… Rachel is here in Birmingham.” Trying to avoid the last question. “So’s Jason. Alice too.”

“Alice? Alice Falstrom? Nora’s kid?”

“Yeah. We ran into each other a couple weeks ago. She’s been with us since.”

I notice a shift at the mention of Alice’s presence. It’s subtle, but her brow creases and her muscles tense. “That’s great. I’d love to see her.” Her tone says otherwise, though I don’t understand why. Rapidly changing the subject, “What about your father? Where is he?”

I shift uncomfortably in my chair, clutching my arms across my chest. “He…uh…he…”

“Oh. I see.” A sadness falls over my mother. It lasts only a moment before she suppresses that too. “When did it happen? How?”

“A couple months after you disappeared. He uh…He wanted to fin—”

I barely register the tent flaps opening in my periphery, “Hey, Bro, how long is thi—” My eyes snap wide open as my head whips around in time to see Rachel coming through the door. “Mom?”

The expression of pure shock quickly shifts. When her gaze drifts to me, her look of betrayal shatters my heart. Before I can stop her, Rachel backs out of the tent, turning her back and running off into the night.

Seconds later, Chris rushes in, shouting, “I’m sorry, Steven. I couldn’t stop her.”

“It’s alright, Chris. This is my fault.”

“Let me go after her.” Kiera offers. “I’ll try to get her to come back.”

“No. Thank you, Kiera, but no. I have to talk to her.”

As I start toward the exit, “Steven, wait.”

Impatiently, “What is it, mom?”

“Tell Rachel that I love her, and that I’ll be here whenever she’s ready to see me.”

Without another word, I rush out of the tent. I scan the area, but don’t see Rachel anywhere. I turn to the guards manning the command tent. “Which way did she go?”

“The girl? She took off toward town. Better hurry.” The man laughs, “She was running pretty quick.”

“Shit.”

I take off back the way we came into camp. Only stopping occasionally to ask directions. After a while, searching around some of the buildings at the edge of town, I hear a faint sound from around the corner. Someone’s crying. When I peek around, I find Rachel sitting with her back against the wall, knees pulled up to her chest. I pull back behind the corner. I close my eyes and take a deep breath of the cool night air, preparing myself for the conversation ahead.

Steeling my nerve, I round the corner. “Hey, Rach.”

“Walk away, Steven. I really don’t want to talk to you right now.”

“Understandable. But you know me.” Plopping onto the ground beside her. “I’m not going anywhere until we talk.”

We sit in silence for a few minutes, while Rachel very pointedly keeps her back turned to me. The cold shoulder. I’ve gotten used to it with her over the last few years, but this time is different.

When she finally speaks, it catches me off guard. Her voice raspy from the tears, “How long did you know?”

“About mom? Not long. A day or two. Richard was the one who told me, the night we walked into the woods.”

“Why didn’t you tell us…tell me then?”

“I probably should have. But I wasn’t sure if I trusted Richard yet. I thought it might be some ruse. Didn’t want to get your hopes up.”

“Does anyone else know?”

“I told Jason yesterday.” Getting a little defensive, “But only because I needed him to answer some questions about the night she left.”

“And what’d you find out?”

“Too much to really explain.” With that, a thought crosses my mind. I reach inside my coat pocket and pull out my mother’s journal. I hold it out to her, “Here.” As sympathetic as I can muster. “Look. I know you may not be ready to see her. I don’t blame you. But you should read some of this. It might help explain some things.”

Rachel looks over just enough to see the leather tome clutched in my hand. “What is that?”

“Mom’s journal. From before.”

“Oh. Have you had this all along?”

“Pretty much. Never could bring myself to read it. Not until Richard told me.”

Rachel reaches out, snatching the journal from me. Keeping her back to me, she thumbs through the book, occasionally pausing to try and read entries. After a moment of futile effort, Rachel closes it, setting it in her lap.

“It’s too dark to read it.” She mumbles, dejected

“Well, I could have told you that.” I chuckle. “You know, you could just come back with me. Ask her about it yourself.”

“I don’t think so.” She scoffs. “I mean…I …”

“I get it. I’m mad at her too. I’m a lot of things at her right now. I almost didn’t go to her tonight. My curiosity or my need to know got the better of me. You really should talk to her.” I stand up, dusting off my back and bum, “But only when you’re ready. For now, though, we should get some rest. Jedd was supposed to set us up a place to crash.”

“Who’s Jedd?”

“Oh, yeah. Forgot you weren’t with me earlier. Jedd…Jedidiah is Richard’s grandfather. One of the elders around here. Seems like a nice enough old man. Kinda intense sometimes, though.”

“Oh. Okay. Did he tell you where?”

“Where what?”

“Where Jedd’s putting us up for the night. Duh.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry, it’s been a weird couple of days.”

Rachel lets out a strained chuckle. “Yeah. Y’think?”

“But, no. He didn’t actually mention where we’re supposed to stay.”

“Guess we should probably go find out.” Rachel gets up, back still turned to me. When she finally turns around, she keeps her head down trying to hide her face. I only get a glimpse, but as she passes by me I see where her tears cut through the dirt on her cheeks. When she notices me looking, she turns away again, wiping the remnants away. “You coming?”

“Yeah. Yeah, let’s go.”

Rachel and I decide it’s best we head back to the hospital to get Alice and Jason before finding Jedd. For a little while, we walk in comfortable silence. Well, comfortable for me. Rachel seems lost in thought. Can’t really blame her, but I just hope she knows that she can talk to me about it.

“Hey.” Rachel’s soft voice surprises me. “Do you…do you remember that time mom took us hunting?”

“Which time? You’ll have to be more specific.”

“The only time I got to go with you guys. Remember? It was always just the two of you. I was ‘too young.’”

“Oh, yeah. I remember. I was kinda mad at you. It was our thing, mom and me. I thought you were intruding.”

“Yeah. You were a bit of a jerk about it too. At first.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. We were just kids.”

“You’re still a kid.” I nudge.

“And you aren’t?”

“Rude…What’s your point?”

“Nothing really…It’s just one of the last good memories of have of mom.”

“What do you mean? That was like…Two years before we left Atlanta?”

“Something like that. It was the first time I saw a living deer in the wild. She was going to shoot it. I mean…we were supposed to be hunting,” She shrugs, “You stopped her. You said that deer were too rare to kill. Not when we didn’t need the food. You begged her not to do it.”

“I remember. It was the first one I’d seen in months—”

“But it was shortly before things got bad in Atlanta. Mom kinda changed after that. Or maybe that’s just when I started noticing. After all that started, she was mad all the time…”

“Well, now that she’s here, I’m sure we’ll get to make more good memories with her. Right?”

“That’s not what I’m getting at.”

“Then what—?”

“Forget it. It’s nothing.” She deflects.

That was the end of it before she changed the subject. While making the rest of the hike back, we reminisced about some of our time back then. Some of the good times we had when we were younger. Some of the fights we had. We joke around until we make it back to the hospital.

After we pick up Jason and Alice, exhausted near to her breaking point, we find Jedd at the soup kitchen. Chris rejoins us shortly after, relieved that I’d been able to catch up to Rachel. Once we eat, Jedd takes us to the tenement building where I first met him and sets us up in a small room. As soon as Alice’s head hits the pillow, she’s out. Jason and Chris follow shortly after. I encourage Rachel to get some rest, but I understand that she has a lot on her mind right now.

As tired as I am, I should have been able to crash right away, but I still can’t help thinking about what Rachel said to me before dinner. It just left a weird feeling, a pit in my stomach that I couldn’t shake. Eventually, I do drift off, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a restful sleep.

Young AdultSeriesSci FiLovefamilyExcerptAdventure
2

About the Creator

Kevin Barkman

Somehow, my most popular story is smut. I don't usually write smut. I did it once, and look what happened. Ugh.

Anyway, Hope you enjoy my work. I do pour my heart, soul, sweat and tears into it.

PS: Please read more than my smut story.I beg

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