Two days after the breakup, Cassie made her first appearance downstairs, going to the clinic after having breakfast in her room with Julilla. She was pleased to find Rochelle back on duty, after convincing Sid to make a nursery in a corner of the ward so she could mind the baby while she worked. Doc and Rochelle were thrilled to have Cassie back.
“I was ready to drag you out by force, if I had to,” Doc said.
She ducked her head, embarrassed, but happy, that she had been missed.
“Did Julilla tell you I stopped by yesterday? I had a sleeping pill for you, but she said you were already sleeping and that everything was under control.”
“She told me,” Cassie said, wondering how much everyone knew about the reason for her absence. Galahad wouldn’t have told, would he? It didn’t seem like the sort of thing he would do, given how concerned he was that everyone think him pure and noble. David must’ve told, in which case the stories being circulated were as likely to be lies as truth. “I didn’t have much trouble sleeping. I’m really okay.”
Doc nodded in relief, but Rochelle pressed her lips together and looked at her with skeptical eyes. She said nothing, though, and they settled into the business of checking on ward patients and administering treatments. Topper, the boy who had been vomiting blood, was doing better, although Doc wasn’t sure for how much longer and was annoyed he couldn’t get the right drugs to try some of the recommendations in his medical books. Zach, however, had taken a turn for the worse.
“I don’t have a body to extract a second dose from,” Doc said, after making some notes on his chart and motioning for Cassie to follow him to the next room. “He’s asked me to help him along this time, even if it means shooting him.”
Cassie sighed and looked at the floor. As if her own life wasn’t depressing enough, she didn’t need this, too.
“It’s not really our policy,” Doc went on. “But we’ve done it before. Usually we wait until the brain bleeding starts, since after that they don’t know who we are anyway, and—”
“I think I know the progression of the disease,” Cassie said testily.
Doc’s cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry. It’s just I need some help and I don’t know the right way to ask.”
“Just ask. And no, I’m not going to shoot him for you.”
“I wasn’t thinking that. I’ll find someone. But I was wondering if you’d back me up if anyone says anything. He was almost dead before, and since he asked me not to put him through all that again, I feel like I owe him.”
“I’ll support you,” Cassie said. “Honestly, I don’t think anyone will care.”
“You never know. This has been Mundo’s star project and gave us a lot of influence in the alliance.” He removed his glasses and wiped the lenses with the tail of his lab coat. “I’m getting sick of my patients dying.”
“Telo victims always die.”
“You know what I mean.” He shoved the glasses back on his nose but wouldn’t meet her eyes.
Cassie understood. So many deaths in such a short span of time had left him feeling like a failure. “I know,” she said. “But I still believe in you.”
Doc refused to be comforted and walked away.
* * *
Cassie spent the day working in the clinic, helping with the baby, and tending the garden. Everywhere she went she felt like a specimen under glass with everyone watching her, whispering and speculating about her breakup with Galahad. Why had she been so stupid as to make all that noise? And why had she been so dumb as to be so obviously, publicly in love with him? Everyone had their own theory as to what happened, and those who didn’t despise her pitied her. She hoped it wouldn’t take long for Julilla to convince Alex to put her on the guard register. She wanted to be someone new, and in a very public way. She couldn’t allow herself to become an object of scorn.
In the afternoon she went downstairs, thinking to find Alex or Mundo and plead her case herself. As she was crossing the lobby, she heard a squeal of tires and glanced toward the front windows in time to see the shuttle lurch past. What were the foragers doing back so early? She had an instinct to run to the curb and stand at the shuttle door with upturned face, waiting for Galahad to step down so she could see him and know he was okay. It was what she used to do, and she struggled against the pull of old habits.
She was still standing in the lobby, fighting with herself over whether to wait for a glimpse of him or flee to her room, when a series of shouts and crashes sent the lobby children rushing outside in a pack. Cassie moved cautiously toward the door, still not sure if she wanted to go near. Suddenly the driver ran toward her. “Get some backup! And Doc! Now!”
Cassie raced to do as she was told as the lobby and circular drive erupted in activity, most of it serving no purpose other than to amplify everyone’s sense of panic. “Your boyfriend’s killing David!” a boy shouted as he ran past, and now Cassie understood. She knew she should go out there and try to break it up, but instead she sank onto a dirty sofa and waited. They wouldn’t listen to her. Who was she to a couple of violent Kevorks, other than another random female to be traded back and forth for sex?
It took Alex and three of his guards to break up the fight, but finally David and Galahad were brought in under heavy guard and taken to Conference Suite A. The door slammed shut behind them and the whispers in the lobby and hallways began.
Cassie let the gossip swirl around her, unable to grab onto the meaning of anyone’s words. She didn’t need to hear the theories. She knew why they were fighting and she longed to pack her few belongings and leave. Maybe she could live with May, or keep house for the twins. Maybe she could scrounge enough food to walk to her family’s wilderness retreat. It was a couple hundred miles away, but after everything else she had endured, the distance seemed like a small matter.
She looked up, startled to see Jimmy, the van driver, standing in front of her. How had she not noticed him walk up?
“Do you think you could help us unload the van?” he asked. “We’re kind of short-handed.”