Vikki groaned at the pain that struck when she tried to get up. A male voice sent an adrenaline rush to her leaded limbs.
“Don’t worry bout me, I’m just getting a change of clothes.” the man said. Her vision was cloudy in one eye and almost gone in the other.
“Who are you? You’d better stay back.” She said and pressed into the wall behind her. She was so scared, Seth had pity in his voice when he answered, ” I’m not going to hurt you. Ma put you in my room and I just needed to get some clean clothes. Dang pigs put their muddy noses all over these. I’ll get going. You want me to send in Ma?”
The small woman shook her head no but Seth decided to let his mother know anyway. The tiny woman looked like she might jump out a window to get away.
“Your safe here Miss. I promise,” he said softy.
Vikki scoffed at his promise when he shut the door behind him. She had been told that before, only to be handed over the very second Harold came for her. Everyone was frightened of Harold. He had connections. That’s all he would say on the matter, but Vikki knew that it meant he was Government. The government knew all about the Other community, they just turned a blind eye mostly. At least until they felt it necessary to round up a few Others for testing and experimentation. No one wanted to be on the gather list, so no one crossed Harold.
Pulling back the covers, Vikki planted her feet on a smooth plank floor. The ground was firmly in place, but she felt like the room was spinning. Her body began leaning forward and she fought to keep herself from toppling head first into the wood floor. A woman’s soft scent came just before thin arms wrapped around Vikki’s shoulders and directed her back into the bed.
“Come now, you don’t need to get up just yet. Your still healing. I got ya, just lie still.” The woman’s voice was new but familiar, like from a dream.
“Where am I?” Vikki asked. The soft knit blanket was tucked under her chin. She wished her vision was able to see more than just blobs of color that moved around the room. It was like looking through frosted glass.
The voice that must belong the man’s Ma said, “Your safe here in the Upmount Settlement, where were you coming from?”
Vikki shook her head, she wasn’t entirely sure, “East, as least I figure it was.”
The woman took her hand and squeezed, “I can tell you’ve been through a lot, so if you want to talk about any of it, just let it out. I’m always an open ear. I’m Ruby or Ma which ever you like, I answer to both. My husband’s Theo and you met our youngest, Seth this morning. There’s also Kevin, Derek, Josh, and Kyle.”
Vikki said “Thank you” to her offer then pretended to fall sleep again. This didn’t stop Ruby from chatting away as she moved around the room.
“Well don’t you worry about remembering the boy’s names, I barely get them right, most days. I just call them all Boy” She giggled beautifully, “Though to tell the truth their all pretty well grown. Kevin’s fixin to have his own family next spring. Seth’s my baby, probably why he’s such a handful. I coddled him and let him get away with too much, I suppose.”
She let out a long sigh and walked to the bedside. Sweeping Vikki’s hair back, she checked her blind eye, then turned to leave. “You sleep now Dear, your safe. I don’t want to find you up again. I’ll be back later with some soup.” Ruby spoke to her like she knew that she was awake. Turning red with shame, Vikki realized that having raised five boys Ruby could most likely tell when someone was faking.
Ruby shut the door softly and hurried to the kitchen. She stirred her pot of beef stock and held back her emotions. Physically the girl was so broken, Ruby could only pray that her mind was strong enough to recover fully. Time would tell. Right now she needed care and normalcy, not pity and pampering. Even though Ruby’s first instinct was to cradle the young woman and sob about what had been done to her.
A shadow fell over the stove and Ruby leaned back into her husband. Nothing made her feel as calm as being in the circle of his arms.
“How’s she doing?” he asks, knowing his wife and how she worried over others. Her answer was a firm hug.
“That bad, huh?”
“Theo, Seth said she cowered in the bed when he spoke. I can only imagine the horrors she’s been through and it’s tearing me up.”
“Did she speak at all? Tell you her name?” he rubbed her back for comfort; his as well as for hers.
“She didn’t say and I was worried to push her just yet. She was trying to get up and almost fell over when I went to check on her last. At least she’s awake, her body is working faster than I thought it would.”
“There’s that blessing.” Theo said and gave her a kiss. Leaving Ruby to finish the soup, he went to chop another cord of wood. Winter was coming fast this year. The temperatures had already dropped lower than they should. He was worried over their crop of pumpkins and squash. Now this.
Mid swing, his friend Scott popped around the corner of the cabin. He laughed at making Theo jump, then helped by setting up the logs. All he needed to do was chop. They worked silently as a team until the larger rounds had been split, then Scott spoke up. “Shelly and her man, Gene went to town this morning to sell that dried up cow.”
Theo stopped and sat on a log to rest, leaving the ax to rest in his next woody victim. He turned to Scott, sensing that there was more to the story. “Oh yeah, did they get a good price then?”
Scott nodded, then kicked at the dirt, “Shelly got ’em a great deal, she always does. You know Gene, he just nods along after her. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to tell you really.”
“What did Seth do now?” Theo asked
“Ah, no, no, it isn’t Seth. Not this time anyhow. It’s about that new woman you found on the road. Shelly is running around the community telling everyone how she saw a poster and it said that the government was looking for her. As in.. The Government.”
Theo shook his head, “They wouldn’t risk putting up posters asking about her, it’s got to be about someone else. That don’t sound right to me.”
“Unless their real desperate to get at her. Either way, Shelly has everyone worried that the Government’s on their way to round ’em all up.
“Shit. Well, I guess I’ll have to do something about it. Call a meeting, Scott. Five minutes.”
More to come…