“I know you can do this,” Toby mumbles lamely as I slowly pull myself to my feet, grimacing at the pain in my feet.
“Toby, do me a favour would you? Shut up.”
“Alice said to use words of encouragement.”
“It’s have the opposite affect,” I hold out my hands towards him. “Just hold onto me and I’ll get there.”
I’m lying when I tell Alice it doesn’t hurt “that much”. Ever since I’ve had that labour dream, I’ve been having these slow painful throbs at the base of my spine that worsen when I try to walk.
The feeling of being stuck nearly sent me to madness so I knew the only way for them to give me a chance would be to lie about my own pain. I have to get used to it. As nurse Florence said, I may be stuck with it for the rest of my life.
Alice is off to some important meeting with Amelia hence why I’m stuck with Toby as my therapist.
“How’s the ankle?” I try not to wheeze to loudly as I slowly head towards the other side of the hospital, each step sending a stab of pain through my entire body.
“Getting there,” he mutters, barely audible. “I hate being hurt.”
“You think?” I raise my eyebrows at him. “If I wasn’t hurt or paralysed, odds are Jackson would still be alive.”
“You’re doing it too I see.”
His water calm voice makes me want to punch him.
“Blaming yourself, trying to think up how it MAY have ended. Keyword, may. First Amelia, than Alice and now you.”
“You don’t at least wonder what could have happened if?”
“Sure I do,” he shrugs, “but I don’t blame myself. We’re in a war, Eliza. People we love will die.”
Weirdly enough, sarcasm noted, I don’t get the news of the declaration of war from Alice. It comes from my new hospital buddy, a man who stuck himself with a pickaxe by accident. At first I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but than knowledge dawned and I nearly started to scream. Hence now why I’m doing as much therapy as I absolutely can. There’s no way I’m letting my best friend go into a war zone without me.
That night when she came to visit, I sat still and calm, smiling synthetically as she went on and on about the different things in the camp like Toby’s stupid foot, the break in at the shed and something about a brawl at one edge of the camp. Anything but the war.
“You look happy today,” she looked me up and down, smiling herself.
“Oh, love, but I’m not.”
“Don’t call me that. You know I hate that nickname. Why are you smiling than?”
“Oh I don’t know,” I said as breezily as possible, throwing in hand gestures, animated facial expressions. “I was just told by that man of there, no, not that one, the other one. Yes! Him! Well we had this wonderful conversation earlier about this… this war declaration Amelia has made.”
Her face literally crumbled and I lost the act.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me this, Alice? This whole thing means something to me, too, you know. You’re not the only one that cares what’s going on. Have you even told Toby? He’ll flip.”
“I have,” she had bit her lip, turning her face away to hide her pained expression.
“Why not me?” I demanded.
“Because I knew you’d want to go with, go up there and fight.”
“You’re hurt,” she gestured her hands weakly.
“Yes, I know. Well so is Toby and we both know he’ll do his best to fight. The moral? You should have told me!”
After that, she left pretty quickly, apologising only when I shut up enough to let her. I get why she didn’t, but it was wrong for her not to tell me.
The rebel camp is now readying themselves for this combat or whatever it is they’re planning on doing. Sometimes Florence will help me outside the make shift tent so I can watch the people buzzing around.
I’d thought other people saw wars as bad things, like me. However, every person that rushes past and I lay eyes on look more happy than upset.
They all think this is it, that this’ll be the time the Chocolate Society falls. I want to believe that, but I just can’t. I’m not saying we won’t capture the city and take it hostage, I mean the actual Society.
Everyone in the world has had their needles, minus the rebels who so choose not to. Every single country and city has a queen bee like Margaret and if our people think they’ll just lay down their weapons when they see we took control of one small city, they’re fooling themselves. God knows, they might even send back up for Margaret and it’ll be the end of everything.
Hence now why I’m doing my best to walk normally again. Surely once I’m out of here, Amelia will let me go along with Alice and Toby who’s doing the same.
Collin comes visit me sometimes, just to check how I’m doing as well as chat about random things like the new inventions he’s creating, the mess up in a snitch registration that led to a fight between two twins and the destruction and mayhem we caused back at the Office.
“I’ve never seen Margaret so stirred up,” he tells me one afternoon as he laid down next to me, practically shoving me aside so his small twiggy figure could fit. I tried to shove him off since I had no interest in any guy sleeping in my bed, but he stood his ground, putting his hands behind his hand and smiling at the ceiling evilly. “She’s scared now, won’t even eat her found.”
“She shouldn’t even be alive. Maybe you should poison her.”
“Someone else would just take charge. She got mobbed the other day, did you know?”
He tells me the tale of poor insolent Margaret who was forced to leave the Office and make a speech to the Society during a moment of treaty. You can imagine what he blonde hair and pale skin did to the crowds. Treaty over. Apparently a heap of the Society jumped onto the stage, dragged her into the crowds and demanded to know why, why, why.
It’s a question I’m asking myself daily now. I question everything, wanting to know why, why, why. Knowledge, whilst it can be good, is also dangerous. Once you have a taste of it, you want more and sometimes that’s not a very good thing.
I’m taking my usual painful stroll around the hospital with a quiet Alice when Amelia waltzes in all smiles and rainbows.
“Hey,” she hugs me and I quickly hug her back before she tries to escape.
“Hey. Long time no see.”
It’s been two weeks and frankly, I’ve missed her.
“Been busy,” she shrugs. “I didn’t think running these things would be hard.”
“When are you setting everyone on the officials? “ I ask as I turn around slowly, ready to head back. Ten minutes has been my best. I’ve been standing and walking now for fifteen.
“Sometime tomorrow or the day after,” she rubs her head, frowning at a soldier who lies on one of the beds, snoring softly. “We sent out another round of weapons to the people. They’ve happily joined with us. People are ready to fight.”
“Any chance I can go, too?”
“When you can walk on yourself,” she smiles, taking my other arm. This whole time Alice has stayed quiet. She doesn’t have to say anything. I know what’s going on.
“Is Toby going?” I turn to her now and she shakes her head.
“He can’t. We’re only using the men and women who are strongest for now. He’s still hobbling around.”
I can just imagine how he’s feeling right now. Angry, sullen, spiteful. I wonder if he’ll come visit me tomorrow while our loved ones are off fighting in a war. We can bond over our sorrows.
“He’s going to be so mad,” I say aloud, almost cheerfully, too.
“Oh he is,” Alice snorts, helping Amelia to lower me onto the mattress. I scoot to the middle where I’m most comfortable and close my eyes. My heads developed a head ache over the past few minutes. Combine that with the painful shots from my spine and I’m ready for a nap.
“Eliza, I have to tell you something,” Alice says quietly, taking my hand. I’m glad my eyes are closed because otherwise I might start crying. I know what it is of course.
She voices my thoughts.
“I’m going to be fighting with Amelia.”
I glare at Toby as he paces backwards and forwards in front of my bed, occasionally kicking it and sending the wheels spinning and me sliding away until he grabs onto it and puts it back in it’s rightful place, only to attack it again moments later.
“I can walk, you know?” he repeats for nearly the hundredth time.
“And kick beds,” I grumble as I again go sliding for the next hospital bed. “Did Alice say anything before she left?”
I’m doing my very best not to think of Alice up there, firing a gun and dodging other bullets.
Please let them win this, please.
“Just that she loved me and promised she’ll back in no time,” his voice softens for a moment before hardening again. “I can’t believe her!”
It’s the same thing she told me. I, at least, have hope she’ll be coming out of the war-zone alive. She and Amelia aren’t on the front line, but they’re still in serious trouble.
I wish I could see the official’s faces when hundreds of people join their already large number of rebels.
“She’ll be fine,” I pat the bed, gesturing for him to come sit down. He makes me uneasy when he’s all panicky.
“People we love die in wars,” he repeats from the other day.
“Glad to see your positive.”
“Well forgive me for imagining the worse.”
I don’t know why we hang out since we always end up fighting, but I do find his presence reassuring. At least he’s stayed here. I shove aside the thought that says if he did have the choice, he wouldn’t be.
I’m just trying to stay positive here.
“She loves you,” the words fly out my mouth before I can stop them and he looks up at me.
“She did say that.”
“Do you love her?” I turn my focus to the dirt under my nails. I’m not a fan of these conversations.
“Yes,” he says immediately. “I adore her.”
“Good because if you ever break her heart, I’ll break you.”
“We’re having this conversation again?” he raises his eyebrows.
“You can expect it for the rest of your life.”
“I look forward to it. Really, I do.”
We’re playing an epic game of snap with handmade cards Toby forged when we hear the first one.
“Was that a gun fire?” I frown, staring up at the tent’s roof like I can see what’s going.
“No,” Toby’s frowning too, confused. “No, it was much to loud. We’d never hear a gun shot.”
We stare at the ceiling for a few more moments before going back to the game. Maybe it was nothing.
The next one jerks me to the side and I nearly fall of the bed, only to have Toby grab onto my arm quickly before standing up.
“We have to get everyone out,” he mutters quickly, running fingers through his hair and looking around panicky.
“Toby, what’s going on?”
“We have to get everyone out,” he says louder. Than he starts to yell it. “Out! If you can move, get up and out right now and head for a tunnel exit, got it?”
“Don’t leave me!” I reach towards him just as he’s about to make a break for it. He whirls back to me.
“I have to go get the men working on the tunnel,” he grabs hold of my hands, looking me in the eye. “Liz, if it’s okay to call you that, you stay here and get these people out, okay?”
“What is it? Tell me!”
There’s another bang, a bit further off, but there never the less.
So the men in the tunnel that day, sharing their theories, were wrong. They never planned on smoking us out, they never planned on getting their hands on us.
They weren’t waiting around for more information, they were just waiting for the right time and now the wars on, what a better time to do it?
What a better time to bomb the tunnels?