Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty

Chapter 20

May 20th -- Well, I’ll say the day has been interesting, I’ll give it that. I woke up to find my world covered in a very dense fog. It was freaky; I opened the window and shutter for Fraidy to go out and I could see, even in the dark, the fog tried to roll into the room. Fraidy wouldn’t go out into it so I shut everything back up and she followed me down stairs.

She went onto the lanai finally but she wasn’t acting real confident about that either; I think she had something against getting so wet. I still didn’t know how bad the fog was until morning started trying to trickle through the wet blanket that was wrapping everything up. That sounds poetic, like something I would have written for school, but the truth is it was just wet and nasty. It was only pretty when you didn’t have to be out in it.

I did my morning chores by lamplight. I had laid out what I wanted to wear but I must have changed my mind about ten times. I wasn’t sure whether to dress up, dress down, wear work clothes, don’t act like I had any spare clothes or just what. To be honest it’s not like I had a lot of different options, mostly it would have just meant the difference between wearing a nice scarf or wearing a bandana or wearing work boots or tennis shoes. I finally decided I was being awful silly and just wore jeans, a bandana to cover my braid, and work boots. I wore a decent t-shirt but I put a lightweight hunting vest over the top of it more because it had a bunch of pockets than anything else.

In the pockets of the vest I put some bullets for the rifle, a couple of plastic bags, a couple of Ziploc bags, and some odds and ends of snacks including some raisins that made me wonder if I can dry blueberries the way you can dry grapes to get raisins. I know Momma has a book on drying foods around here someplace, it’s just a matter of finding it.

I put a thermos of blueberry-lemonade together. That’s basically some blueberry juice, a little bit of sugar, a packet of TruLemon, and enough cold water to thin it out so you don’t suck your teeth in on the sour. I was going to put something more into my backpack but I decided against it because I fixed grits for breakfast which would hold me over and I didn’t know what other people would have with them. I learned fast once I got to highschool that it is better to not stand out until you’ve got the lay of the land. If people think you are too different they’ll gang up on you and make your life a misery.

It was light by the time I was ready to step outside but the fog had barely started to burn off. I went to the orchard and picked a bucket full of blueberries but quickly decided that I was only going to be able to carry one and not the two I had intended. One, my hand still hurt if it got hit or stretched too much, and two, that bucket and berries was going to get heavy quick. I decided to bring gloves just to be on the safe side. I also covered the open end of the bucket with a piece of cheese cloth and a piece of string to keep bugs out but let the berries breath so that they wouldn’t get nasty. Lastly, I had to carry the rifle. I was supposed to meet Rand at some point and I didn’t need a lecture. Just for good measure I put the Hi-Point and the bullets for it in my backpack.

I locked everything down and started walking about 6:30 am. The stupid bucket was already heavy by the time I got to the main gate at CR49. I had to stop for a break at CR49 and US90. It wasn’t long before I figured out that the farmer’s market was a big deal. In a matter of minutes of starting west on US90 I was walking in a drib and drab crowd of people all heading in the same direction. Some people were riding bikes and I wanted to give myself a dope-slap for not thinking of mine. There were enough people on horseback to remind me I wasn’t in Tampa anymore and the wagons made me realize there weren’t any cars or trucks around and that I hadn’t heard any since the work day.

It was people’s moods though that really kind of upset me. Hardly anyone was talking and if they did it was in whispers. No one was saying hello to each other, not even waving or nodding like they knew each other. It was totally different than at the work day. I didn’t understand what had happened to change things.

I was relieved to see Pastor Ken and he was driving an old-fashioned horse-drawn buggy. It reminded me of the one that “Doc” used to drive on that TV show Little House on the Prairie, it even had a black roof on it to keep sun and rain out. The pastor had people talking to him so I sort of hung back. I didn’t want to interrupt and draw attention to myself; besides, my manners are better than that. He pulled his buggy off to the side of the road to speak to some men and not be in the way of traffic so I just kept walking. I did manage to make eye-contact with him and he recognized me. It made me grin when his eyes got wide. He wasn’t really startled, he was just being silly. I found out later he does a killer Donald Duck impression that the little kids all love.

I got in line to go into the fenced off area used by the flea market when the rough looking guy at the gate pulled me out. “No one under 18 unless accompanied by an adult.”

Here was the first test of me being on my own. I could turn around and leave or I could stand my ground. In my best grown up I-have-to-deal-with-this-all-the-time voice I said, “People often mistake my age.” True, but not the way he took it.

He gave me a hard look and then said, “We need proof of residency and a picture ID.” I knew right there he was yanking my chain because no one else had shown any kind of papers or ID. That’s when Pastor Ken walked up behind me and said, “I can vouch for where she lives and any paperwork should be available through Major Sawyer’s office.”

The guy wasn’t happy. I didn’t get it at all. What was the big deal? Then someone else behind me asked, “What’s the problem Harbinger?”

The guy changed his tune pretty quick. “Oh nothing Mr. Henderson. This … lady … hasn’t got any proof that she is from around here and … “

“Don’t be an idiot Freddie. The Pastor’s already vouched for her and I know for a fact she is a resident of the county. My brother Sam and her parents were friends. Stop wasting everyone’s time, we’re here to do business even if you and your father aren’t.”

OK, pieces started falling into place. The guy was one of that Mr. Harbinger’s sons and was one of a pair that Rand warned me about. I kept my “bored adult” look on my face and tried to not give into the temper tantrum I felt coming on. I don’t know for sure whether the creep had pulled me out of line just to give a “young girl” a hard time or to do me a “favor” so he could have one in return. I don’t know whether Rand just dislikes the Harbingers – granted it sounds like for good reason – or exactly what is going on. What happened later kind of cleared things up but I still like to make my own opinions of people; gossip can be wrong and I ought to know that as well as anyone since I’ve been on the target of it often enough.

You could tell that “Freddie” didn’t like being called an idiot and I found out later that Mr. Henderson called him Freddie rather than Fred to make him feel like a kid. He wasn’t a kid though; he was about 25 I guess. But he was smart enough to know that Mr. Henderson isn’t the man to make into an enemy so he waived me through without another word. I noticed that just as soon as Mr. Henderson and his men were out of earshot ol’ Freddie went back to picking and choosing who he was going to be trouble for.

Pastor Ken came in and asked me how I was doing and told me where he would be if I wanted to stop by. He had a couple of camp chairs and a table and I guess from what I saw he just hangs around for people that might need someone to talk to.

I could already tell that the day was going to be a warm one. It wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning and I had sweat dotting my upper lip and I was noticing that a lot of folks must be out of deodorant. I wandered around looking at all the stalls that were set up. Some were really fancy with a big table and one of those folding sunshades big enough to have a picnic under. Some were nothing more than a blanket on the ground. There were some food stalls but mostly it looked like a giant garage sale.

I just looked around for a bit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Crenshaws or Rand but they weren’t there so I had to figure out things on my own. I noticed there was a huge line at this kiosk being run by guys in military fatigues. Every time I tried to get over there and look I’d get the “move along” look by the guards stationed on that end of the market area.

“Trying to figure out what is going on?”

I nearly came out of my skin. How a guy that big can move that quiet I don’t know. It was Major Sawyer and he was smiling like he’d pulled one over on me. The smile only got bigger when I rolled my eyes to let him know that I didn’t think his sneaking up on me was all that funny and that I wasn’t scared of him either.

At my “yes sir” he explained that people that still had money would line up and when it was their turn they’d have a chance to exchange it for something called “Sand Dollars.” It was the currency being used in Florida for local trade. I’m not certain of all the details but the Major said there is worldwide financial depression going on, that the dollar did something called devaluing, and even though every other country had the same thing or worse happen to them that it has caused a huge mess of epic proportions and that the old paper money means almost nothing so it is being collected at the state level. If I understand it correctly so many of the big wigs in Washington DC have died that there is a huge confusion and every state is having to do what it can just to get by.

He said more but most of it didn’t make any difference to me. I didn’t have any cash to exchange except for the jars of coins I found in Daddy’s stuff, just a bunch of dimes and nickels mostly except for that jar of silver dollars. I knew Momma collected some coins in her blue coin books and she collected all those state quarters that came out but I never knew Daddy did it too. I can’t imagine their hobby stuff is worth all that much and I wouldn’t want to trade them anyway. That would be like trying to trade my old stamp collection or my brother’s game card collection. It would just be too sad.

I looked around and then asked him about the ration books I had heard about. He said that a lot of stuff is in short supply but for special items like fuel, it wasn’t just in short supply the government was telling people how much and when they could buy it. The ration cards would get stamped at every purchase, kind of like a coupon. People got a new ration book each month when the old one was turned in.

That’s when he asked me if I had picked pick up my ration book yet. I said no and that it wouldn’t matter because I couldn’t buy anything anyway. I asked, “What am I supposed to buy things with, my looks?”

He got a real serious look on his face and said that he hoped I hadn’t said that to anyone else. I didn’t get it and I guess it must have been obvious because he pulled me to the side and explained something to me. He said that some women and girls were buying things “with their looks.” It took me a sec to understand what he was trying to tell me. I guess it isn’t that farfetched. You used to hear stories on the news all the time about women turning to prostitution because of drugs or dancing in one of those adults-only type clubs. I told him I’d watch my mouth better and that satisfied him; at least he acted like I had a brain in my head and wasn’t embarrassed about explaining the way things were to me. I think I can see why Missy likes him. He had to go handle some Major-type stuff but the last thing he mentioned was that at the end of the month, with enough ration points left, I could actually exchange the book for whatever items hadn’t been bought up. He said Missy had my book and that she’d explain everything else some other time but it might be a while until I saw her. I didn’t think much of what he said but looking back I guess he had assumed I knew what had happened.

I knew I needed to do something with the blueberries so I walked around for a while and listened to people haggle and barter. I honestly didn’t see too much that I needed or wanted. I just kept walking around and was staying out of trouble until I nearly got run over by some men that had started brawling.

I ducked into a booth and came up against someone and stepped on their foot. I turned around to apologize and had to look way up. It was Freddie Harbinger. I jumped back from him and almost landed in the middle of the brawl again when he grabbed my arms and pulled me back. Now most people would have just assumed he was saving me from getting trampled but I can guarantee that there was no reason to pull me in quite so close and hold my arms as long as he did, especially when I was trying to get loose from him.

I don’t know what would have happened if Mr. Henderson hadn’t come along again. He wasn’t there for me of course. He was kicking the backsides of the men that had been brawling and telling them to knock it off or take it outside the fence. He actually wound up grabbing the ;ast two guys by the scruff of their necks and banging their heads together twice before they’d stop fighting. Then he put his boot to their backsides again to get them gone from under foot. That’s when he noticed me.

“Girl, what’re you doing? Didn’t I tell you to stay out of trouble?”

I told him I was trying. “Sure you are. Freddie, from the look of things she’s trying to tell you she don’t need your help any more. Come over here girl right now.”

Good ol’ Freddie snickered but I didn’t care. I got behind Mr. Henderson as quick as I could, but I refused to rub my arms even though they felt bruised. I would have kicked Freddie if I thought I could have gotten away with it but I had my bucket and I didn’t want any more trouble than what I was already in.

“Are you finished with your business here girl?”

I told him I wasn’t trying to do business with the Harbingers, their booth was just next to the brawl and where I had jumped to keep from getting squashed like a bug.

Mr. Henderson said, “You might want to take off and go home now.” But I told him I was supposed to meet Rand there and pick something up from Missy; I added the last ‘cause it sounded better than if I had just said the first since people were being nosey and listening in.

Mr. Henderson got an odd look on his face and I could hear the people in the Harbinger stall snickering and laughing. I didn’t get the joke but Mr. Henderson said, “Joiner likely won’t be here today. There’s no need for you to hang around.”

I was going to ask him why but he had a look on his face that said it wouldn’t be a good question to ask at that moment. I turned around when I heard someone say, “Oh Fred, don’t.”

It was Julia … Rand’s Julia … only she was letting that big donkey’s behind Freddie Harbinger put his arm around her. The thing is she didn’t really sound all that sorry for the way Freddie was laughing, more like she was kind of acting like she was sorry but was really just showing off.

I swear, no matter how much things change there are some things that will always stay the same. It was just like being back in school and watching all of the stupid things girls and guys would do all in the name of “love.” About the only thing that Aunt Wilma and I never disagreed about was the fact that I never wanted to date or anything like that. I did once have a guy that I liked and I thought he liked me but then he stabbed me in the back and I found out he only acted like he liked me. He wanted help with a big school project that he had to pass because his dad said if he hadn’t brought he grades up his dad was going to take away his car and didn’t mind letting “the weird girl” think he liked her … at least for a while. That hurt, not as much as feeling stupid did but the things he said still hurt.. And that was all it took for me to really see some of the ignorant things that went on. Even my friends did the dumbest stuff. One day they were going to marry the person they were “in love” with and a couple of days later they were gonna die from heartbreak. What was stupid was that a couple of days after that it would be someone new they had the hots for and it would all start over again. I gave up understanding why, I just knew it happened. Aunt Wilma said that they’d out grow it when highschool was over but Julia was the same age as Rand and Freddie Harbinger was even older and it sure didn’t look like they had outgrown it to me.

I wanted to say something nasty but since I didn’t know what had happened I decided silence was better. I looked up at Mr. Henderson and noticed he had one eye cocked up like he was surprised at something and not necessarily in a bad way; only he wasn’t looking at Julia but over the heads of some people who had also turned to look at someone coming.

I turned around but was too short to see him until he was right there. Rand looked bad, worse than I did after my tussle with the gangbangers. He eye was black, his cheek was bruised, both his lips were split and he was walking slow like he hurt in other places too. His cousin Brendon was with him as was Jonathon.

I had lost track of what people were saying because I was concentrating on looking at all of Rand’s ouches but when it got real quiet I did her Rand say, “Yeah, and if you and your cousin hadn’t held me your brother wouldn’t have gotten in as many licks as he did. By the way, where is he? His face must be just about as pretty as mine.”

Freddie didn’t like that and I could see a fight brewing with Julia egging it on and eating it up so I decided to pick sides and go after the one that had started this whole thing in the first place. I was talking at Rand when I said, “Well, I guess I misjudged her all right. Any girl that would handle things the way Julia did isn’t to be trusted that’s for sure.” Then I turned to her and said, “And since you seem to be so comfy hanging all over Freddie like that in public you must be even getting more comfy with him in private. You make sure you use protection, word is he gets around if you know what I mean and he doesn’t seem the type to man up if you get pregnant. Better safe than sorry.”

Mr. Henderson started hustling us away while Julia started fussing at Freddie for letting me talk to her that way. Brendon was making this noise like he was trying really, really hard not to laugh while Rand and Jonathon looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“Girl, you something else. Rand, unless you’ve got business here I’d suggest you cut your visit short. You’ve made your point.”

Rand told Mr. Henderson, “As it happens I do have business. I need to give Sawyer a message from Missy and I have a couple of items to pick up as well.”

Mr. Henderson just shook his head. I’m sure he thought we were all crazy. “Well, do it quick. I’ll keep an eye on the Harbingers and their friends but I don’t plan on doing it all day.”

I tried to ask Rand what had happened but all he said was, “Later.” Jonathon shrugged while he kept an eye out. I thought maybe Brendon was going to tell me but all he could do was laugh every time he looked at me. That wasn’t helpful at all.

Major Sawyer was easy to find, he kind of stands out. The errands included exchanging some paper dollars for Sand Dollars (and they got back a whole lot fewer Sand Dollars than what they had handed over), buying a bag of rice and two of flour, and then stopping at a stall being run by this older lady who told Rand, “Boy, you look like something the cat dragged in.”

Rand called the woman Momma O and bent over and kissed her check where she sat even though you could tell it pained him to do it. He introduced me and I got the feeling she was weighing me up and down and decided that she’d hold off on making a decision until she was more certain of what I was worth. That was fine, I’m not quite sure what to make of her yet either. When Brendon handed her a package she said, “George always has made the best dried venison.” She handed Brendon a bag and said, “You tell Laurabeth to put those someplace they won’t get wet and out of the sunlight and that she needs to get those black eyed peas in the ground.”

Seeds, this woman had seeds for trade. Rand was hustling me off when the woman asked, “What you got in that bucket girl?”

“Blueberries.”

“Where’d you get them? I didn’t hear anyone was trading blueberries.”

“I brought them.” And when she gave me the eye like I was fibbing Rand finally stepped in and said, “She really did bring them Momma O. They are off some bushes her mother planted.”

“Well, let me see ‘em.”

I looked at Rand but he wasn’t much help. Even I could tell he was hurting so rather than make a fuss at the old woman I took the cheesecloth off the bucket and showed her what I had and told her they were picked fresh this morning.

“Hmmmm. Well, what will you take for them?”

I knew what I wanted and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, all she could say was no. “I want to plant some vegetables.”

She looked at the berries and ask, “Are they sweet?”

“Yes, ma’am. Even the ones that I canned without any sugar in them turned out good.”

Her eyebrows hit her wig. “You telling me you know how to can girl?”

“I don’t mean to be rude ma’am but my name is Kiri, not girl, and yes ma’am I know how to can. Momma showed me how when I was growing up and then I read her notes and figured out the rest.”

She made me explain everything to her and then seemed surprised that I’d done things right. “Well, you’ve missed just about everything except black eyed peas, ‘lopes, limas, and eggplants. You promise me you not gonna waste these seeds and I’ll give you a little of each one and take these berries off your hands so you don’t have to carry ‘em around.”

I told her, “Give me my bucket back and I’ll let you do me that favor.”

She laughed real big and said, “You’ll do girl, you’ll do. Rand, I expect to see this girl … Kiri … in church soon. You hear me?”

That was it. We left the market, picked up their horses from the corral that was being run by some of Mr. Henderson’s men, and headed east on US90 but no one was saying anything. Rand walked beside me but was hanging onto Hatchet’s saddle for support even though I don’t think I was supposed to notice.

“I see you remembered to bring the rifle.”

“Yeah, but you don’t look like you are in the mood to do any lessons.” He got a little hot under the collar like guys do when their pride has been upset but I cut him off. “I don’t mean anything bad by it. Your business is your business. I’m just saying I understand if you aren’t in the mood.”

“Daddy told him the same thing,” Brendon volunteered. Rand gave him the evil eye for his trouble but it slid off Brendon like burnt egg off a non-stick skillet.

“I promised her I was going to teach her to shoot and care for the guns. Now with Harbinger taking notice of her no thanks to her big mouth,” he said while staring right at me “it’s even more important. And how the heck do you know Henderson? I thought I told you to stay away from his place.”

I explained and by the time I was finished he was limping so bad he couldn’t hide it. I told him not to be stupid and get up on the horse but he just kept walking. Brendon was nice enough to say, “He probably can’t. We had to help him on at the house this morning.”

I don’t think Brendon is going to make it long in this world; he’s even worse than I am about opening his mouth when it would be better to leave it shut. Jonathon though just shook his head, dismounted, hefted Rand onto Hatchet before he could protest and then tossed me up behind him. “Look, I don’t have all day. I want to get back to Laurabeth.”

When we got to the intersection at CR49 they mumbled and grumbled about how long was Rand going to be. I had my own reasons for wanting Rand to stay so I asked, “Is there any reason you all can’t go on home and Rand can sleep at my place like he has before?”

The three of them looked at me real hard. Jonathon said, “That makes sense and you couldn’t really do any chores around the place in the shape you’re in anyway.”

I swear, if it isn’t their idea guys can be so slow to agree to a plan. Finally they gave in and Jonathon said he’d be by late tomorrow after delivering some stuff to the Henderson place and they’d ride back together. My take on that is that no one goes alone – especially Rand – for a while until this whole fight thing blows over.

Rand was silent all the way back to the house. When we got there he told me to get down and go do what I needed to and he’d take care of Hatchet. I figured out what the problem was when I came to the door to ask him something and saw him having a hard time getting down. I am not stupid. He obviously didn’t want me seeing how bad off he was so I stood there and let him be a total guy about the whole thing. He finally got down and caught his breath so I felt it was safe to come back out. Still, I checked him on my way to the wood pile. He was wobbly but not bad.

I asked if he was thirsty and when he finally answered yes I gave him a cup of my still cold blueberry lemonade. I almost laughed at the look on his face. I told him there was plenty more if he wanted it and left the thermos for him. I hadn’t planned on company but I figured he deserved something in exchange for teaching me to shoot so I grabbed the old box oven that had been in the camping gear and took it onto the lanai. I grabbed the small bag of charcoal and started some of them up. I also grabbed the fireplace shovel I’ve been using to dig out the ashes in my fire pit.

While Rand did whatever it was he did with Hatchet I mixed up a blueberry gingerbread recipe I found in Momma’s notes. It used a box of gingerbread mix (the only one I found while scrounging through the last house) and made it the way you are supposed to and then dumped in a cup of fresh blueberries. I dumped that mess into a prepared baking dish. The coals were ready so I put a coal in for every 45 degrees that I needed into the box and then set the cake rack in there on top of the little metal legs. That’s to keep the dish off the coals. It kind of looks like a regular oven only there are coals on the bottom instead of a heating element.

That done I boiled some water for rice and put some veggie bits to rehydrate. I also pulled out a can of chicken and set it on the counter. The pit was still hot but not burning so when I was done boiling water for cooking a set two metal buckets of water on there to catch the heat. By the time I was done with dinner prep the cake was finished and I set it on the counter to cool.

The smell of the cake had drawn Rand around back and he just sat there watching. When I got to a stopping point I asked him if he wanted to eat or if he wanted to shoot. His stomach growled but he said that he wanted to shoot for a while. And we did. I used up all of the ammo I had and then he made me use some of his. I’ve got to find some way to give it back without hurting his feelings and without letting on that I’ve got all that Daddy hid, I’m just not sure how to yet.

We didn’t stop until Rand was satisfied that I could load, aim, and shoot without hurting myself. I was feeling pretty good until I got a good look at him. There were dark smudges under his eyes and he was really hurting; I could tell, but he didn’t say anything.

I asked him could we stop because I was tired and he gave in without a fuss which told me how bad he must be feeling. We walked back to the house and I walked slow like I was pooped and played it up a bit by telling him I was up early and walked all the way to the flea market. When we got back to the house he was still awful quiet. I couldn’t tell which hurt worse, his body or his heart.

I took the buckets of water off that were steaming hot and put a couple of pieces of really dry wood into the pit and they started up right away and the flames licked at the old skillet I set on the fire grate. I drizzled in a little bit of oil that came from the work day bag and got it hot. Then I dumped in the cooked rice, canned chicken, the rehydrated veggies, and some soy sauce and stir fried it up real quick. It wasn’t like you would get from Little Panda but it was still good.

Rand ate and said thank you but I could tell he wasn’t real with it. The gingerbread blueberry cake perked him up a smidge but not much. He offered to help with the dishes but I told him to sit ‘cause this was a trade for the shooting lessons. He just nodded and sat. It was late afternoon and I was wondering what on earth I was going to do with Rand sitting around all mopey when I guess he just needed someone to talk to.

“Julia and I have been dating since highschool. I … I just can’t believe … I don’t understand what happened. It was all fine one day and the next I was getting the crap beat out of me by those Harbinger bast .. jerks. I know we’d been having problems but I thought we worked all of those out. Her father is friends with the Harbingers and he never was happy with us dating. The only thing that made him happy was when he found out I was going to college and getting a business degree. Lately he’d been giving me a hard time again about a lot of stuff, even more than before. He kept commenting that when Uncle George was gone I’d be living on my cousins’ charity like I always had. Julia … she agreed to give me time to … I can’t believe how she acted yesterday and today. That’s not the girl …“ and he just kind of slumped even further.

I didn’t know what to say to help my friend to feel better so I just told him the truth as I’d experienced it. “Big life events change people. A thing as big as what we’ve all been living through … well … that’s going to change people even more. I’m not the person I would have been if my family hadn’t been killed. I watched kids that were my friends avoid me like the bad things that I had gone through were somehow contagious; like since my parents died so could theirs. The last couple of months I watched people I liked lie, cheat, and steal for food. My best friend stole my bedding knowing I wouldn’t be able to replace it unless I stole some from someone else. And I sure haven’t always behaved the way I ought.”

He was listening so I said, “On the other hand, I found courage I didn’t know I had on my escape from Tampa. I’ve faced things that have made me stronger. I’m getting the chance to be better than I was, maybe a chance to be better than I ever could have been if this hadn’t happened. My Daddy always said it takes a lot of beating to make a sharp sword. Maybe that’s what we’re going through right now. The people that take what they think is the easy way in the end won’t be as sharp as the people that take the beating and keep on ticking.”

He was so tired but he said, “Are you positive you’re sixteen?”

I told him, “Almost seventeen thank you very much and I can go back to being snarky and telling you exactly what I think of Julia if you want me to?”

He smiled real sad like and it made me angry. But it also reminded me that I didn’t always make the greatest choices and that I’d been given more than a few second chances. “Look, if the Harbinger brothers are as rotten as you make them out to be then Julia ought to figure out real quick she goofed. If you care about her that much maybe you can let her know you’ll take her back.”

He didn’t say anything to that but that was maybe because he was three-quarters asleep. I remembered how I felt so I ran and got him some ibuprofen and he took a couple and then went to sleep sitting up on the sofa. I didn’t know what to do at that point so I just went about finishing my chores like normal, brought in some wood, planned tomorrow’s menu, planned what I wanted to accomplish tomorrow, and then since Rand was still snoring I snuck upstairs and brought my nightclothes and journal downstairs and I’ve been sitting at the breakfast table ever since. But the sun is going down and I need to lock things up and figure out some way to move Rand so he is at least laying down; he’s just kind of sprawled every which direction right now.

The juice out of the can of chicken and a few scraps from dinner convinced Fraidy to stay in tonight. I’m going to take the buckets of water to the bathroom, clean up real quick and then go to bed. I was going to give them to Rand to soak in but it’s not worth waking him up over. I hope he feels better tomorrow. I feel bad for Rand but on the other hand I hope he isn’t one of those guys that moons forever for a girl that he can’t … or shouldn’t … have. When my guy friends would do that it made me want to throw something at them. There might be a time and place for that but in the middle of the end of the world isn't one of them.

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