We stare at each other for a long time, her eyes filled with tears and mine with hate. So many possibilities run through my mind: strangling, punching more blackness onto her skin, ribbing the blood from her heart from her chest. I’ve thought about this moment countless times, but now I don’t know what to do.
After a moment more, I reach over towards her. She flinches, but I only rip the tape from her mouth.
“Save it,” I say to her quietly. “I don’t want to hear your appologies.”
“No you have to listen to me-“
I slam my fists into the bed, narrowly missing her leg. She shuts up and whimpers, her bottom lip quivering.
“Why would you do something like this and then talk to me like we’re still friends?” I demand. “You killed my wife, you bitch.”
I don’t swear often, but when I do it’s because I’m so far gone my rage that I can barely hold onto the humanity that lives inside me.
“I want to explain,” she pleads. “It’s not what you think it is.”
“What isn’t, huh?” I yell, not caring how loud I am. The walls are probably soundproof anyway. If the tests are in fact painful, then I could only imagine the screams of pain. I can’t wait to see Kirsty riddled with it. “I saw the files. You confessed to the attack.”
“But I wasn’t the only one!”
This shuts me up momentarily and I glare down at her, fists clenched. Hers strain against their bonds, but I choose to ignore them even though her skin looks red and purple. Anyone capable of killing innocent people is capable of handling pain.
“Alright,” I agree after a moment. “I’ll hear your story, but I’m not going to apologise if it gets to hard for me to handle and I.. lash out.”
Fear flickers again in her eyes and she nods quickly.
“You can sit down on the bed if you like.”
“I’d rather stand. Stop being so nice and hurry up and tell me your god damn story.”
She searches for her words before starting.
“You have to know that Danielle was involved too.”
With just that one line, I feel like I’ve been winded and I feel myself reach out to grab the wall, steadying me so I don’t fall over. Instantly my mind is alight with memories of her, talking of the injustice in the world, about ideas to fix it, one being the Chocolate Society. I always imagined she was arguing for the city’s rights to freedom and peace, but now I’m wondering if she was referring to the pain that was going on outside the city.
I’m reminded of the time when the boundary idea was first announced and she burst into tears in my arms. I thought at the time that it was for gratitude, just like my tears were. After all, it finally seemed like we were going to get away from all the violence, right? It made total sense that that’s what she was crying for, but with this one line, I’m wondering if they were tears of defeat and pain.
For all I know, Kirsty could be making this up to get this kind of reaction from me. I shouldn’t believe this lady’s words. She lied to me before, she can always lie now and what a cruel lie this is, but there’s a part of me, no matter how small, who tells me it new all along.
Kirsty can obviously see all this happening in my eyes because she gives me a sad, miserable smile.
“I don’t believe you,” I try to say clearly, but it comes out as a stammer. Not believable at all.
“Deep down you do. Before I continue I want you to know that she wrote a diary and it’s somewhere in the gallery. She wrote in it every day and hid it there everyday.”
“Shut up!” I yell. This time she doesn’t flinch. She must be used to my yelling and the yelling of others by now. “You’re a liar, a murderer and killer. You disgust me.”
“Calm down and just hear me out. I don’t care if you kill me. Quite frankly, death will be a welcomed treat, but just hear me out first.”
I want to oblige to her wish for death right this moment, but curiosity is running through my mind. I stumble away from the wall and fall heavily on the end of her bed. I nod for her to continue.
“Danielle and I had been working with city outsiders for a while before that attack. In fact everyone in that building new the attack was coming.”
“What?” I stare at her dumbfounded. “They were totally okay with it?”
“Of course they were,” Kirsty shakes her head. “You obviously haven’t been able to tell, but people have been quite stirred up by the separation since the moment it started. This wasn’t planned to kill anyone, but to get the ball rolling and hoping that others would follow.”
“Why would you want to wreck a perfectly peaceful city?” I ask and then swallow. “Why would.. why would Danielle want that?”
“Because it’s only a good world for those in the city. No one’s cared about the outside and that’s where the trouble lies. We don’t know if they’re starving, if there’s a war going on. This wasn’t done to protect us, but to keep us out of the know of what the rest of the world is doing.”
“You can’t know that,” I shake my head. “That’s just a crazy theory.”
“Maybe it’s a theory,” she agrees, “But it’s definitely not crazy. Whether you like it or not, the boundaries were a cruel idea for everyone.”
“Look at the mess you have caused,” again I pause before continuing. “That Danielle has caused. Now a new plan is in place.”
She narrows her eyes and scowls at me.
“I’m aware. I can’t believe you of all people would be responsible for such an idea as this.”
I shouldn’t be surprised by her response, but it still hurts.
“I don’t care what you think of me. Because of you, this city is in ruins and now desperate measures have to be taken to stop the wars from occurring.”
“There wouldn’t be any if the borders would just be opened up!”
We both stop arguing to take a breath, glaring at each other. Kirsty is the first to soften.
“I encourage you to go look for Danielle’s diary. It’s proof that she was involved.”
“Why would she do something that killed her?” I demand. “She loved Rose and she loved me. She would have never agreed to leaving her family behind.”
She nods in agreement.
“It really was an accident that she died. At the last minute she realised she had forgotten her diary and ran back in to retrieve it. We thought even if the bomb did explode she would still be okay. It was only a minor one, not meant to harm anyone. Just burn the building and spark a fire in the city. It’s quite horrific that it occurred.”
Tears well up and pour from eyes to quickly for me to stop them. I wipe my hands over them quickly but that doesn’t stop them.
“I know this is all very hard for you,” Kirsty states the obvious. “I know you’re not in a good place at the moment.”
“I wonder why,” I growl. “I’m standing in the middle of the room with my wife’s killer being told my wife played a part in the downfall of humanity.”
Kirsty’s eyes sadden.
“It wasn’t meant to have this outcome, the Changed Society. It was meant to allow the outsiders back in.”
“You both did a horrible job.”
I hate talking about Danielle so cruelly, but I can’t seem to stop. Even my mind has turned bad towards her to the point I imagine myself yelling and screaming at her for betraying us. For betraying Rose. For betraying me.
After a moment, Kirsty asks.
“What is the full scope of this Changed Society plan.”
“The Chocolate Society,” I correct. “Take away what makes people individual so they won’t have anything to fight about.”
Her eyes widen and her mouth turns into an O.
“You can’t do that.”
“Sorry,” I shrug. “You have no one to blame except yourself.”
“And Danielle,” she adds.
Blinding rage makes me reach out grip her throat in my hand. I lean over her face and glare into her eyes. Rather than fear, she just stares blankly back at me.
“Don’t make me do something I don’t want to do,” I tell her coldly.
“I’m simply telling you the truth,” she manages to gasp out and after a tighter squeeze I let go.
I turn away from her and start heading towards the door. The resentment towards Kirsty is still there, but rather than making me blind mad, I feel dead – empty even. I don’t want to believe her, but it makes total sense. I just need to find the diary and see for myself.
“Then what?” my mind asks. “Are you going to tell Riles?”
I shake my head. There’s no point worrying about it now.
Thomas awaits me outside the room, leaning up against the wall as he flips through his notes. When the door opens, he looks up, one of his signature cold smiles on his lips.
“I trust you had a good time.”
“She’s not dead,” I promise. “Although I might have squeezed her neck a bit too tight.”
His eyes brighten gleefully.
“Did she give you any information?”
“No,” I lie easily. “Just begged me to help her.”
“She’ll be thankful one day,” he pushes off from the wall and opens the door again. “The meeting has been cancelled because of a breach. You’re free to go home.”
“Breach?” I ask, but he’s already gone.
Mind swirling and hands curled into fists, I make my way back towards the elevator. I don’t know if I should go to the gallery now in search of the diary to put my mind to rest or go home and sleep it off to get a clear mind. Everything is getting to much for me to handle.
I jump into my car and rest my forehead on the steering wheel. I honestly don’t know what to do about anything. I don’t know what to believe or think. Everything feels like a lie.
“You loved her,” I remind myself aloud. “You still love her.”
I sigh deeply and turn the key in the ignition. I’m pulling out the car park when I look in my review mirror and jump out of my skin. I immediately slam my foot on the brake.
She stares back at me, her eyes filled with fear. She’s even visibly shaking.
“Daddy,” she whispers. “We need to leave.”
Sighing, I put my foot down.
I speed home, faster then usual. As soon as I pull into the garage Rose flies from the car and runs for the house at top speed. Even though I at first assume it’s because she’s scared of my anger, something feels wrong.
All thoughts of Danielle’s betrayal is now forgotten as I focus at the task on hand. I run in behind Rose.
By the time I’ve made it through the front door she’s already made it to her room and slammed the door. I hurry up the stairs, trying but fail to be quiet for Rosemary so she doesn’t get awoken by the noise.
When I throw open her bedroom door, Rose is rushing around the room, stuffing clothes into a backpack while she cries uncontrollably. My anger disappears and I’m filled with fear.
“Rose?” I grab her as she tries to dash past me. “What’s going on?”
“I followed you again,” she confesses. “I’ve been so worried.”
“Why are you crying?” I ask. “What happened?”
I’m wondering if maybe she found her way inside and somehow gathered information on The Chocolate Society without being caught but it can’t be possible. Not without being caught.
“You didn’t hear the alarms?” she asks around her tears. “I managed to get out and into the car before they could find me, but I’m so scared.”
I’m reminded of Thomas’ words. A breach.
“Hey come here,” I reach out to her and pull her against my chest. “Take deep breaths. It’s going to be okay.”
“You said yourself that they’ll kill us if I found out,” she sobs into my shirt. “I’m sorry dad, I’m sorry.”
“They won’t find out it was you,” I lie. I’m sure they’ll at least have video cameras with her image on it.
“Yes they will,” she pulls away and gets back to packing. “So I need to go and you need to come with me.”
“Rose,” I try to reason with her. I know I should be panicking too, but instead I feel a real sense of calmness. “Settle down.”
“Mum was right!” she wails. She marches over to her cupboards and rips them open. Reaching inside, she pulls out a book and tosses it to me. Before I can ask, she tells me, “It’s mum’s journal. I found it at the studio when we went looking for the paintings. Everything she says is right. The government is evil and destructive.”
I set the book down although now my heart is pounding wildly.
“What did you see in the facility?” I ask her calmly.
She turns on me, eyes red and wild.
“I saw a hospital room with all these people bound to hospital beds as they screamed in pain. I saw their skin change slowly in front of my eyes and the sound of bones cracking to reform a whole new face, ones that were all the same.”
I don’t know what to say so I just look down.
“The door was left open by some guy in a white coat. I managed to get out before he came back but he must have still noticed I had been there.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a piece of crumbled paper, throwing it at me. “I took that. It’s an a science report. Those people are test subjects, aren’t they?”
Eyes still down, I nod. It’s not like it’s going to make a difference if I lie. It’s not a matter of if Riles finds her identity, but when.
“It was my idea,” I admit. “I was reminded of a conversation we had years ago on what if the world was all the same. I thought maybe it would work in rebuilding peace in the world.”
“Did you know mum was an attacker?” Rose asks quietly and nods towards the book. “She wrote about it.”
“So Kirsty was right,” I sigh aloud with thinking. Rose stops crying.
“She was arrested. I was talking to her tonight.”
“What are they going to do to her?” fear riddles her voice. “She’s not a bad person. It wasn’t her fault things went wrong.”
“I know,” I say guiltily. “She’ll be a test subject.”
She starts to cry again and sinks to her knees in front of her bed.
“Why is all this happening?” she cries. “It’s not fair. None of this is right.”
“I’m sorry Rose. I didn’t realise.”
I move to wrap her in my arms, but just as I’m about to, the door flies open and Rosemary runs inside.
“The police are hear,” she says quietly. “They just pulled in.”
My heart beat picks up and I feel Rose’ do the same. I press my lips to her forehead.
“I’m going to protect you, just like I promised.” I look up at Rosemary. “Do you want to hide?”
She shakes her head.
“I have nothing to hide Mister Charles.”
It doesn’t take long for the police to break down the front door and start searching the house. They aren’t quiet about it either. We can hear them searching downstairs and many making their way up at. Rose clings to me desperately and I feel like I’m holding her like I did when she was four years old.
They find all three of us in Rose’s room. Rosemary sits on the bed politely waiting while I’m still kneeling on the floor with Rose curled into a ball. I don’t look up and nor does Rose as they walk towards us slowly. It’s Riles cool voice that gets my attention.
“Charles,” he says in a painful voice. “What have you done?”
Slowly, I stand to my feet, moving Rose behind me. Although I’m obviously showing dominance, I feel anything but.
“Let me explain, Riles,” I beg. “Please, she’s just a girl.”
“Do you think I want to do this?” Riles slams his fist into the wall, making it crack. Rosemary tuts under her breath and Rose jumps, whimpering like mad. “I don’t want to do this, especially not to you because I know if we take the girl, we lose you.”
“Please don’t kill her,” I beg. “Kill me instead. Rose won’t say anything.”
“No, dad!” she tries to cling but I nod to Rosemary and she pulls her away from me.
Rose struggles against her, crying even louder.
“Don’t kill my dad, please!”
Riles’ eyes flick backwards and forth between us. I can see he genuinely doesn’t want to hurt us, but I know where his loyalties lie.
“Is there any other way?” I ask finally. Riles nods slowly.
“We can take the girl and keep her locked in the facility.”
Everything within me yells against the idea, but I have to shake it off. I don’t care what it means to keep Rose alive, just as long as she’s not hurt.
“You can’t hurt her,” I tell him. “You can’t lay a finger on her.”
Riles starts to get a little teary as he surveys the scene before him. Rose has stopped struggling and cries quietly. Pain and fear. I reach over to touch her cheek.
“Very well,” he says finally and then turns to the authorities behind him. “Take the girl.”
It goes against my natural instincts to step aside, but I do. I have to. I know that whatever awaits Rose won’t be pleasant, but all I can think about is keeping her breathing. Even if she hates me for it.
“No!” she screams as they rip her from Rosemary’s arms, struggling and flailing wildly. “Dad don’t let them take me!”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper as I close my eyes against the tears. “I’m so sorry.”
Eventually they manage to get Rose under control and they remove her from the room, being quick to get her out of the house. Maybe I should follow behind, but my feet are glued to the ground. When I look up, I’m surprised to see Riles still standing in the doorway.
“I’m sorry Johnathan,” he says quietly. “This wasn’t meant to happen.”
“Just promise me no harm comes to her,” I tell him. “Please don’t hurt her.”
“She’s going to be changed, you know that right?” he says. “That’s the only way.”
With gritted teeth, I nod.
“We looked at footage from your time with Kirsty.”
I’m not even surprised. Instead I sigh and make my way across the room to where he stands. I bend down, eyes still on him, to reach for the diary.
I want to read it. More then anything I want to read the words that belonged to my wife, but I have an obligation to co-operate with these people to keep my daughter alive and well.
“Here,” I hand the book to him. “This was her diary.”
Riles stares into me a long time before opening the book.
“You got it already?”
“Rose had it.”
His lips harden into a tight line as he glances over the pages.
“How do you feel about all of this?”
“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “Everything’s happened so quickly.”
He reaches out to rest his hand on my arm.
“I’ve been where you are now. My wife was a traitor too.”
I flinch at his use of words, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him.
“What did she do?”
“Told a whole bunch of people. Nearly caused a riot.”
“What happened to her?” I ask and he shakes his head.
“She was shot instantly. I didn’t get to argue for her life.” He pauses and then continues. “Nor did I want to.”
His words are harsh, but not a surprise. This is Riles after all. His loyalty lies with the government.
“Listen,” he grips my shoulder. “I need to know if you’re still in this one hundred percent. I know you’ve been betrayed by your daughter and your wife, but I need to know.”
I look down.
“I don’t know. I can’t think.”
Riles sighs and nods.
“If you decide you don’t want anything more to do with this experiment, I expect you to show up at the facility. We won’t kill you, but we will keep you confined. If you don’t.. it might be a different story for you and your daughter.”
Oh Riles. Always the balancer of good and bad news. Of course I have no choice but to agree. There’s no where to run anyway and what if I don’t want to run? Up until recently I was so sure that this was the way to make things right. Now doubt is my mind’s constant companion of the matter.
“Yes sir,” I say. “I’ll be at work tomorrow.”
“I know,” he smiles wryly. “You never miss a day, do you?”
When he goes to leave, I catch hold of his wrist again.
“Please look after Rose. Don’t let her be hurt.”
“I don’t make a lot of promises, Charles, but I do promise you this. She’s a teenager, young and stupid. She’ll be fine and I promise to keep a watch. Maybe she might come to her senses.”
“She never did say she wasn’t against it,” I say unsurely.
“Either way, we can’t let her out in the world. Don’t worry about explaining her absence at the school. I’ll make sure all that’s sorted. Just get some rest and we’ll talk later.”