Father wasn’t at the tent when I got back. So I could cry all I needed to. But unfortunately my friend Jennifer, who was a nurse, heard me as she walked by.
"Rachael?" she whispered then entered. I wiped the tears from my eyes and sat up.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I’m fine."
"Why are you crying?"
"It’s nothing. Just that time of month."
"You said that last week."
"Did I? I’ve really got to keep track of my excuses."
"You should just tell me the truth."
"You don’t want to hear it, and I just want to forget about it."
"You can tell me can’t you?"
"I can’t tell anyone."
"Alright, but when you’re done crying, I want you to meet someone. A new boy has come to the camp. We’re keeping him away from Shaun, so you might have a chance to be friends. You said you wanted a friend your age right?"
"That’s sweet, but he’ll join the group anyways, just like all the others."
"Well, your father wants you to meet him too. He ordered me to come get you."
"Just let me clean up, and I’ll be there in a moment."
"You want me to walk with you?"
"No, I’ll be okay."
"Alright." She left the tent and I got up then washed my face with water we kept in a bowl. I looked at myself in a hand mirror. All better.
"Rachael, this is Robby." My father introduced. I shook his hand. "He’s seventeen, fine young man. And Robby, this is my daughter, Rachael, she’s sixteen." He introduced. Oh great, my father was trying to set me up. Sure, he was hot. But he couldn’t have picked a worse time… or maybe a better one. I was thoughtful for a moment. Maybe he could help me get my mind off of Danny. No such luck, because Danny showed up just then. I looked at the ground.
"Shit." I muttered to myself.
"There you are. Danny, meet Robby." Father said. I looked back up. Danny shook Robby’s hand. Father leaned over to Danny and whispered something in his ear. Danny’s face turned red at hearing it. Father elbowed him jokingly. It wasn’t hard to know he was talking about Robby and I.
"You think so?" he asked Danny.
"Yeah." Danny muttered then looked at me. I looked down at the ground again.
"Why don’t we all let Robby and Rachael get to know each other? Besides we all have work to do." Father said. He ushered everyone out the door. Danny stayed in place.
"Well, c’mon." said father.
"One moment General. I need to talk to Rachael for a moment. She asked me a question earlier. I told her I’d answer it as soon as I knew it."
"Alright, but don’t take too long." Father grumbled. He then left, my face turned white. Robby noticed, and looked at Danny suspiciously. He put a hand on my arm.
"Are you okay?" he asked. I couldn’t answer, because I couldn’t breathe. Danny walked over to me and pulled away from him.
"Do you know what’s going on?" he whispered. I nodded, still unable to speak.
"Are you okay with this? Is this what you were talking about?"
"I don’t know. I don’t know anything. How has everything fallen apart so quickly? I should have kept my mouth shut."
"It would have come out sooner or later."
"It would have been worse."
"But I would be happy now."
"Well, it happened, so you’ll just have to deal with it."
"As if I don’t have enough problems. You’d better go, before father gets angry. And for the last time, get some damn sleep!"
I sat across from Robby in silence. He fidgeted, not sure what to do.
"So, what’s it like being the General’s daughter? I mean, being the only sixteen year old girl here?" he asked. I looked up at him, and smiled. Then burst out into laughter. His eyes widened.
"What’s so funny?" he asked. I held up a finger. It took a minute to calm down.
"It’s complicated." I said, still trying not to laugh.
"Well, what’s it like living here?"
"Simple as this, welcome to hell."
"For me it is. And I’m not even in the war. But you still see a lot of people die. A lot of people you’ve come to know. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. It’s life and death around here. And if you’re not in the war yourself, then it’s all about watching your back."
"For me, it’s Shaun’s group. You probably haven’t met them, but you will. You’ll probably end up joining them too, just like the others, and if you do, we’ll be worst enemies."
"If you do join them you’ll figure it out."
"Then I won’t join them. I want to be your friend."
"Thanks, that means a lot. But it’s easier said than done." And then they came. All eight of them entered the tent. Right on cue, dammit. I stood up and backed away.
"Oh, I see you’ve already met the new guy." Said Shaun. He took a step toward me and I backed against the wall of the tent. He smiled. Then he closed in the space between us. He put a hand up and ran his fingers through my hair. Then he grasped it and pulled me from the wall. He led me over to the group.
"Guys, take her to our special spot while I talk to the new kid here. I’ll be there in a moment." He said. Allen took a hold of me and covered my mouth. I didn’t try to fight, knowing it would be useless. But then Robby stood up.
"I’ll ask you one time to let her go." He warned. They laughed at his threat.
"Hey, we’re here to offer you a deal. We’ll share her with you." Shaun promised.
"Is that a no?"
"Sure is." I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly Robby was punching Shaun and he was on the ground unconscious. Robby looked at the others. It was fast, and a little scary.
"Any one else going to refuse?" Allen let me go then. Then he pushed me toward Robby, who took my arm and pulled me to him.
"Now I’ll ask you one time. Leave, and I don’t want you to ever touch her again." All of them started to leave. They were nothing without their leader.
"Take him with you." He said, then nodded toward Shaun. They picked him up and carried him out of the tent. Robby released his grip on me. Then Danny came running in.
"Rachael, are you okay?" he said to me. "Why was Shaun being carried out? What happened?"
"They came in here to meet Robby. Then they tried to take me away. Robby knocked out Shaun. Danny, come here." I said. He quickly closed in the space between us and hugged me. I hugged him tightly for a minute then I pushed him away a little.
"I need to breathe." I lied. I waited for him to let his hands go to his sides, then I snatched his gun from his belt and bolted out of the tent.
It was breaking time.
I ran faster than I ever had before, and for once no one could catch me.
"Rachael don’t!" Danny shouted from behind me. I ran even faster.
"Someone stop her!" he shouted. People started coming out of their tents to see what was going on. I sped by them. Eventually they figured out something was wrong with me when they saw I was running with a gun, and started chasing after me.
"Stop Rachael!" I heard father shout. I did something I never did; I ignored him and kept running. Then I saw them. Shaun was walking with his arm around Ben. I was sweating as I stopped right behind the group. They heard the shouts coming from the mob that was after me and all turned around.
I raised the gun and pointed it at Shaun. He would be first. I fired the gun, and missed. All the boys ran in different directions as I shot again, and again, and again. I missed every time. I was about to shoot again when the gun was snatched from my hands. It was an officer. Officer Jones, I think.
"Are you crazy? What has gotten into you? I should put you under arrest." I saw the rest of the group was catching up, all of them sweaty and angry. So I did something stupid, I turned and started running again. Just as fast as last time. Maybe even faster. But I cried this time. I was well out of the boundaries of camp when I collapsed.
I put my hands in front of me to catch my fall. Then I turned onto my back and cried. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. But I almost didn’t care. Because I realized I was free now. Free from father, free from Shaun, free from Danny, Robby, the war. I was done.
I slowly stood up. So maybe I didn’t have much. No clothes, no food, no friends, no family and no money. But it was worth it. Yeah, I’d miss them. Without a doubt I’d miss them. But I had to get out. Besides, if I went back, I’d be put in jail for attempted murder. Wouldn’t I? Probably not, I was the General’s daughter after all.
I guess I just wasn’t good at handling my problems. So leaving them behind seemed like a good thing to do. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve to be scared, to be in love with someone I could never be with. I was only sixteen damn it! I had my whole life ahead of me. But the thing I wanted to get away from the most, was watching my friends die. I was thinking about promising myself I’d never go back, that I’d die before I would. But I knew it was a promise I couldn’t keep. I’d have to go back, to finally kill them, to see if he moved on, to let my father know I was safe. I’d write them I decided. No return address. Let them know I was alive. I at least owed them that.
© Copyright 2016 Cherie Arlavine . All rights reserved.
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