Rule 5: It is in everyone's best interest to stay inside the SaBu. The Minister will decide when the Wilds are safe.
My father. I could still hear his deep, silky-as-honey voice now, 5 years on.
"That's a beautiful drawing, Kate. What is it?"
"It's a butterfly, Daddy"
"A butterfly. The sign of freedom."
"Nothing, sweetie. Just your old dad dreaming."
Of course, I had been too young then to notice the signs. And what with mum pregnant, I had other worries, I told myself. But guilt still pricked at my insides.
"Kate?" Alec's voice was laced with concern, and abruptly brought me back to the present. I looked down at our hands, my pale skin contrasting with his bronze one.
"I'm sure you know the story." I said flatly.
"The official one, sure. And the rumours that came with it." He paused, waiting for me to look him in the eye. "But not the one that matters...the real one." Unable to resist those puppy dog eyes, I relented.
"Fine." I leaned back, trying to figure out how to begin the complicated tale.
"I loved my dad more than anything in the world." I started, at first not realising I had spoken. Suddenly, it seemed like there was a voice inside me, one that had been waiting for years to speak out. And I knew I couldn't stop the rest from flowing out:
"Ever since he was a boy, my father dreamed of freedom. He dreamed of the skies and the wind and the rain and the sun. He would tell me enchanting stories, all about what the world used to be like; how outside of these dreaded walls was a brilliant blue sky, looking down upon lime-green grass that glistened in the morning sun. Of course, he got this all from forbidden books, and Grandma Libby. But those stories took hold of him, grasped his mind and wouldn't let go. He started saying that the Government were lying, that we could somehow be free of the buildings. My mum knew he was unhealthily obssessed, but she was pregnant and work made her too tired to see..." Guilt and anger flared up inside me, and I said the words I had supressed for years.
"I should've stopped him! I should've realised - if I had then he would be alive, and Max would have a father. It's all my fault!" Tears started to well up, but I was to tired to wipe them away.
"It's not your fault." Alec's low voice was soothing, but couldn't comfort me. I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off. "You were only 11." I knew he was right, and didn't have the heart to argue as his kind eyes searched mine, his warm hands reassuring. Instead, I carried on.
"The day he died, five years ago...well I knew something was wrong. He wasn't himself and kept pacing our room. I asked him what was wrong, he sat down next to me and told me the story of a bird that was trapped in a cage. And then-" I faltered, my voice catching. "Then he told me he loved me and some day I would understand. And then he broke out of the SaBu, climbed onto the roof and tried to jump the fence. No one knew it was electric."
I could remember that day in every last detail. When he ran out the SaBu, my little eleven year old self was right on his heels. I can see my father's face in my minds eye, even now. As he jumped, his eyes were closed, face calm and mouth upturned into a smile. he was happy. And i knew he got his wish. Right then, for a few moments, he was free. Like a butterfly.
"My father died free. But my family are disgraced. Why should anyone forsake the safety of the SaBu? Maybe my father was right, that freedom is worth the highest price. But I can never forgive him for leaving us." I finished my story bitterly. To my surprise, silent tears were running slowly down my cheeks. Seeing Alec staring, I wiped them away, embarrassed. We sat in silence for a long moment, my words still echoeing around the room and through my head.
Then, so quietly I almost doubted he spoke, Alec said "Your father was a brave man." I looked into his eyes and instead of seeing the horrible sympathy I get from everyone else, something else was burning deep inside his blue eyes. There was kindness there, but also something wild that I couldn't put my finger on. Taking him by surprise, I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him close. Caught off guard, he was rigid at first, but then relaxed and wrapped his arms around me. I had a feeling he hadn't been hugged in a long time.
"Thank you," I whispered in his ear. I could feel his soft hair tickling my shoulder, and for the first time in 5 years, I was truly happy.