Dinner consisted of oatmeal, with other foraged foods tossed in to make a thick gruel. Since it was filling and there was plenty of it, no one complained, although some of the allied groups grumbled when Julilla refused to allow alcohol. Cassie thought Julilla’s decision a wise one, although she suspected some groups, like the Thespians, would disobey orders once they went to their tents. Well, that was their business. For her part, she was going to turn in early.
She walked through the darkness toward the latrines they had dug on their arrival, but found them inadequate and smelly. After glancing around for signs of danger, she struck out toward a line of overgrown hedges. She had just finished her business and was taking a few minutes to walk the hedge line and enjoy the peaceful night when a shadow detached itself from the darkness.
“What’d you think of dinner?”
Cassie sucked in her breath and was glad she had a pistol at her hip. “Good job,” she said in neutral tones. “I knew you wouldn’t need my help out here.”
“I didn’t need your help,” David agreed, “But I would’ve liked your company.”
“Why? When have we ever been friends?”
“That’s the problem. We should’ve been friends long ago.” He moved closer and reached a hand toward her hair, but recoiled with a scowl when she jerked away. “Don’t be prissy with me. You’ve already had one Kevork, so why not another? I can do things your goody boyfriend would never dream of trying.”
“I wouldn’t go to bed with you if you were the last guy on the planet. You aren’t fit to lick Jay’s boots.”
“I was thinking I’d like to lick something else.” He pushed his face close to hers. “But maybe you’re the type who likes to be forced, so you can keep pretending you’re a good girl who doesn’t really want to get laid.”
He grabbed her shoulder and Cassie felt his breath, hot and sour in her face.
“Is that the way you want it, babe?”
His fingers dug into her flesh and for a moment, Cassie went light-headed with fear. Then in a rush, her training came back to her and so did her confidence. “Get your hands off me.” With her free hand, she reached for her gun.
David grabbed her arm and they struggled in the darkness, David cursing and Cassie breathing hard as she kicked and tried to jerk away. Somewhere in the confusion, she found an opportunity. She squeezed the trigger and felt the shock of the pistol’s kick, even though she couldn’t hear the shot for the rushing in her ears. David dropped her arm and stepped back in confusion. Cassie aimed and fired again. With a gasp of surprise, David fell bleeding at her feet.
EXCERPT FROM CASSIE’S JOURNAL:
I killed David. I had to do it and luckily we were far enough away from camp that no one heard. At first I was just glad I had done it and I waited for an opportunity to drag him into the latrine pit. But now that I’m back in my tent, I’m worried.
David’s foraging smarts kept the Regents fed, so I have a feeling there would be no sympathy for me if anyone found out what I did. Considering what guys like Eleven do to girls like Rochelle, some would probably say I should’ve let David do whatever he wanted. Make him happy so he’ll keep finding noodles, canned beans, and stale ginger snaps. Take one for the team, and all that. But I won’t sell myself, not even for the good of the group. Is that wrong? I wish I knew.
I’m glad David is dead, even if it means I’ll never have an answer for why he wanted to cause trouble for me and Jay. I may not be sure if Jay can be trusted, but it’s a fact that I couldn’t trust David.
It’s late and I should be trying to sleep. I won’t succeed, but I’ll lie here and close my eyes anyway. Any kind of rest will be good, since I have a big job tomorrow. It seems like I should write some sort of grand farewell—my final words of wisdom in case the worst happens. But I’m not wise and who would those words be for?
My best dream for the future of my journal is that it should end up in some enterprising post-Telo farmer’s compost. My thoughts won’t help anyone living in the future, but the idea that they might nourish potatoes, quince, or snap peas, gives me comfort. When all this is over, I’m going to find my family’s retreat, whether I’m cured of Telo or not. Asphalt and turf wars aren’t for me. I want to spend the rest of my life, whether it’s measured in days or decades, watching green leaves unfurling in the sun.