'Any questions?' Jacqueline asked.
We were all sat on the veranda of the chalet. Jacqueline had spent the last hour explaining what the resistance had planned for us in the next week. To the delight of Ahlaam and Prez the movellians were going to aid the resistance efforts on their next activity. Prez had practically bounced up and down at this thought. You could see the joy on her face. To see her happy was wonderful, I knew she was still carrying the death of Reubus and Sinead personally. Although I didn't go along with her lust for destruction, I admired the passion she had for the fight. After all both her and Zee were Americans and this wasn't her fight. I did wonder what was the pull behind getting both her and Zee into the country to help us.
When we'd come back to the chalet from the field, it was obvious that Zee had told them about what I'd attempted, as Prez ran at me slinging her arms around my body, before kicking me on the shins. The others had stood around looking at floor wondering what to say.
'I'm fine, honest' I said eventually.
'That's just as well Squonk, you're all needed for this assignment' Jacqueline said appearing from the kitchen with a mug of tea.
We'd filed outside after her to listen to what she said. The air in the hut was a little stuffy, and the mattresses were strewed across the floor. The veranda was a much better place, especially in these summer months. In winter and autumn, it could be really cool though. Another memory of Sinead drifting across my mind, this place was becoming a giant pensieve.
Jacqueline went over the plans for the forthcoming activity. The camp we'd reconnoitred the other week was to be the target. Megities was being held there along with some other movellians. The idea was to pull them out and get them away. Meg knew a great number of secrets about the resistance. She had probably been responsible for leaking the information about the movellian camp, although it was now thought that some mole in the organisation had informed them of the wedding. That's probably why we'd been targeted. Some very important members had attended the event in the woods. However, Meg didn't know about the wedding as she'd been arrested before it happened. There was a traitor in the movellian circle. I was pretty sure it wasn't anyone here.
The raid would take place the night after next. We were to be slipped into the enclosure and it would be our job to locate Meg and try to get her out. We would be provided with the clothing that the prisoners wore and the idea was to get in and out without anyone knowing. Members of the resistance would be on hand if things turned badly to hopefully rescue us.
I glanced across at the others while Jacqueline spoke. Prez was twitching on her seat as usual, her feet gently tapping the wooden slated floor under the chair. Her head bobbed slightly and her face bore a smile from ear to ear. Prez had come over to fight and fight was what she intended to do. I saw her frown slightly at the stealth element. No doubt Prez would have preferred to go in with all guns blazing, an automatic in each hand and a cigar between her teeth. This way we might actually get out of this without a shot being fired.
Ahlaam was sat with her arms crossed at the side of Prez looking thoughtful. Ahlaam had sort of withdrawn into her shell a little since the killing. Her normal bounciness and light-hearted mood had slipped and I don't think I'd seen her laugh this last week. She followed Prez around, no longer discussing with anyone what to do. Her leadership of the small group seemed to have waned and the leadership split between the two camps. Prez had taken over as the group’s radical voice whilst Lily had taken up the leadership of the group as a whole.
I looked at Lily next. She was sat in her chair staring forward leaning slightly on her sister Crissy. Lily was one of those people who nothing was too much trouble. She was listening with interest, not giving any emotion away. Over the past few weeks I'd come to know Lily more. She was one of those extraordinary people who could show one face to the outside world and another in private. She had took on a kind of mother role to the group, always there to assist those who went to her, always got smile to everyone. She was the one who'd made sure that we had enough food and did most of the cooking. I however could sense sadness to her, once I'd caught her silently crying alone in the kitchen. Whatever her sadness, it was deep rooted and not related at all to our current situation. Lily was a person you couldn't help but admire.
Next to her was her sister Crissy. I'd learned a lot about her during this past week. Our conversations had revealed an intelligent and thoughtful person. In many ways she was like Lily, the same calm exterior, the same slightly aloof manner that was really just a wall against the world getting in. I don't think anyone could fail to admire her. There was something about her, maybe it was her shyness or maybe something I couldn't quite put my finger on. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind, a pacifist; I wondered why she was here in this camp. At first because of the great friendship between her and Lily I thought she'd come because of that, but now I wasn't sure. There was so much I wanted to find out about her. Lily had been right, we had got on well together. Those long nights talking had built a bond that made me question bits of my life.
Sat next the two sisters was EH, or Tay as she liked to be called. She was the baby of the group really, a couple of years younger than Lily. She wasn't however a lightweight. She was quite reserved at times but spoke when necessary and then everyone listened. It was refreshing to meet such a person. Most people I knew would rabbit on and on and then when they said something of earth shattering importance it was lost in the crackle. Lily and her had been the best of friends, still were, but with Crissy now here the whole situation had changed. Lily, being the sort of girl she was, didn't neglect her, always drawing her towards the pair of them. However, EH seemed to have withdrawn even more into her shell these last few days, you sensed the sensitive side with her, how the events of the last week had taken their toll on her. Her eyes looked empty, devoid of any life. The spark they once held had been extinguished. She was a difficult person to connect with at times, a little aside from the others. I knew her as warm and friendly but that had gone. She and Ahlaam were the ones who seemed most affected by the deaths.
Then there was Zee, my constant companion, someone I'd got to know so well since I met her on the moors in northern England. At times she was a prickly character, not afraid to tell me off when she thought I was feeling sorry for myself. Whilst Jacqueline mumbled on I thought of what Prez had said. Was I relying too much on her, were we being drawn inexplicitly towards a relationship? I wasn't sure. I was certainly comfortable in her presence, and I felt she was as well. As for anything else, well that was too hard for me to think of. If we hadn't been thrown together into this situation I'm not sure where we might have gone, the attraction between us was there but was it enough? Time would tell I suppose, although I knew we didn’t have much time. As if sensing I was looking at her she glanced my way, her smile melting my heart as usual. She motioned with her head at Jacqueline as if to say, listen idiot.
I listened intently to the instructions from that moment on. After a while Jacqueline made her excuses and left us all together. In the chalet I noticed a few more automatic weapons lying on a table.
'It’s OK Squonk, you don't have to carry one if you don't want' I heard Prez say beside me.
'Thanks,' I said and felt her fist in my arm in return.
That evening you could feel the tension building up between the groups. In twenty-four hours time we would be embarking on the operation. We needed something to keep us busy, something to take our minds off the impending raid. After tea, a wonderful vegetable pie cooked by Lily, Crissy suggested we go to the Long Field and play rounder’s’. I saw Prez initially flinch at the idea of such a childish game, however she soon threw herself into it with the usual zeal, she gave everything. It was a wonderful late summers evening. The motorway hummed away in the distance occasionally drowned out by the squeals and laughter of the movellians as we played rounder’s. As the sun set above the slagheap, we wandered back to the chalet. The game had brought us together as a group. There was real laughter in our midst. Even Ahlaam and Tay were joining in, animated for the first time in days.
That night sensing that this might be the last night we were together we all sat up on the veranda chatting, the bonhomie still prevelant. Slowly one by one people drifted off to sleep in the main hall until it was just Crissy and I left outside. The heat was rapidly disappearing from the day and I shivered slightly as a breeze came from nowhere and brushed past my body.
‘Are you OK’, Crissy asked.
I looked across at her seeing her light brown hair hanging slightly over her face, hazel eyes stared intensely back at mine. I could see the concern in her facial features.
‘Just the cold’, I said quietly, ‘might turn in now’
‘Are you worried about tomorrow?’ she asked.
I nodded my head slowly contemplating what it might be like. My experience of being under fire was horrific. It had happened twice, both times I’d seen someone die before my eyes. I shuddered again the memories flooding back.
‘You know it’s OK to mourn, ok to cry’ Crissy said
‘I know, just seem to do it a lot recently’
We sat silently for a few moments.
‘Is there anything between you and Zee’ Crissy asked, changing the subject, ‘you don’t have to answer if you don’t want’
It was the question I’d been asking myself, this girl seemed to know what was in my head. I shrugged my shoulders. I really must sit down and talk to Zee about it; we were sort of falling into a relationship, maybe without realising it. I think I’d wait though until after the operation tomorrow night.
‘I’m not sure’ I answered after a moment.
‘You know; you have to carry on with life. Everyone comes with baggage; the right person will help you carry that baggage’ she said.
I looked at her; she flushed slightly and stood up.
‘Look Crissy, life is bad, my whole life has fallen apart. I still love the girl who left me. I always will. She meant the world to me, inspired me to be myself. It’s hard to think I’ll never see her again. I doubt that I will ever love anyone more than I loved her. She left me way too early, we had so much planned that we can never do. If she walked in now I’d welcome her back with so much love, but it’ll never happen. I’m not sure I could contemplate moving on to someone else, I’m a mess at this moment. If I’m perfectly honest, I wish I was dead, not sure what is left for me here. When you love someone that much and they leave you, life doesn’t seem worth anything.’
Crissy looked at me as if she was going to say something.
‘I’m going to bed now, sleep well Squonk’ she said as she walked past me leaving me on my own.
I sat for a few moments contemplating before following her in and finding my blanket. Sleep came slowly that night, strange thoughts buzzing around my head. A mismatch of people and places, my home, my cats, Sinead, Zee, Lily, trees, Crissy, my dad all whirled around randomly appearing and disappearing. Then I woke with a shock as Sinead once again exploded before my eyes, a fairy leading me away from the chaos. It was still dark as I sat bolt upright, sweat pouring off my brow. Was this a portent to the future? I felt scared, really scared for the first time in my life.