Summer Kids

When Lucas Tweedle, leader of Left Hand Private Investigators, receives a box containing a film he hasn't seen in years, he is prompted on a road trip across miles and years. He has to save Eva Grey, the only girl that ever loved his teenage self.
She may be in the clutches of the Nemesis Crime Ring but the memories of the summer after college graduation haunt the both of them.

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30. COTTON BALLS

 

CHAPTER TWENTY NINE – COTTON BALLS

EVA

 

Eva first knew that she loved Lucas in a mirror maze in Edinburgh. She had far too big gloves on her hands to keep the mirrors clean and the world was transformed into forest green from the glaring lights. She was somewhere in the middle, her reflection staring back at her six or seven times. Lucas was somewhere else and then he appeared in the reflection behind her, attacking her cheeks with the plastic gloves and revelling in how she screamed in delight.

This was the first time that she saw how he looked at her. Maybe he hadn’t meant to have that expression on his face. Maybe he just had it because he thought that she wouldn’t see it. But it looked like he thought she carried his entire world.

It was then that she realised that her best friend had feelings for her, out of all their mini adventures and spending a day in a different town, Edinburgh was the one, the catalyst. Edinburgh was the one which told her that her best friend loved her and she had a chance.

With that revelation she didn’t know what to do.

It was the realisation that the glances she had directed his way, the suppressed thoughts of what could have been, the midnight feeling after the latest phone call elapsed into silence and she knew that everything felt right with life in that moment with him on the other side, that knocked her off balance.

What was she supposed to do now?

So she continued to laugh and pretend that she didn’t have heart palpitations and Lucas believed that everything was alright with her.

But it wasn’t.

Her heart was a storm and even her best attempts couldn’t blow it out.

But suddenly the picture of Lucas and all of his pleasant features was replaced with speckled darkness. It was moments like this that she wished that they hadn’t had that stupid fight and hadn’t exchanged those stupid words and she hadn’t made the reckless decision of hailing a taxi from Penrith because she didn’t trust the mega bus at night. She went home with Lucas on her heart and a slight tear in her soul.

Nevertheless, she woke with a smile on her face because of the pleasant memory that morning and she stretched, pushing her limbs out. Her life in the compound could have been a lot worse, like Amy’s had, but living there was not the best choice in the world.

She had been lucky in her time there. She hadn’t been called by Victor like she knew she would and she hadn’t been hurt more than Amy’s excursion. She had been lucky so far, and she knew that her luck would one day run out.

Then, as she stretched her tired limbs out, Eva heard the panicked steps from someone several beds away. Her eyes snapped open to see the back of Melanie, her hands screwed over her mouth as she hurried to the bathroom.

The other wives had opened their eyes also, Naomi hurrying out of bed to comfort Melanie as she tripped and floundered on her way to the toilet. Kate and Eva exchanged glances before following.

Melanie was hunched over the toilet bowl, her head bowed as she emptied her stomach into it. Naomi had pulled Melanie’s hair back away from her face, helping her in any way she could, and her face was twisted. When Melanie was finished heaving she leaned her face on the side of the toilet rim, facing the other wives.

“Why do I feel weird?” she croaked out, swaying and blinking as she tried to right herself. Her limbs appeared lethargic even though she had just awoken.

“What do you remember?” Naomi asked, helping Melanie up. Melanie appeared to be puzzled by the question, her eyes glazed as she tried to think about it.

“I… had training I think, yeah it was after the sermon, why?” Naomi placed Melanie’s hands in hers when the question was answered.

“You had a job after that and you disobeyed Victor in a way that compromised Lloyd. As punishment he gave you a drug that made you forget the last twenty four hours or thereabouts.”

“I…” Naomi tried to think of something to say, anything, “I can’t remember yesterday? Why…?”

Why would Victor drug her? Why would Melanie disobey Victor? How did Naomi know about it? The questions were plentiful but Eva didn’t know what question was on Melanie’s mind. Melanie took her hands out of Naomi’s and made her way to the basin, washing her mouth out. She stared at herself in the mirror.

“Get out of the bathroom,” she said, her eyes turning to them in the reflection, “I need to be alone, I need…”

“But Mel–“ Naomi tried, limply aiming a hand in her direction.

“Now!” the word was jutted out in between impatient lips and the three wives left Melanie alone in the bathroom and tried not to hear the commotion as something was smashed aside and another thud registered.

Eva couldn’t fathom what Melanie was going through, her mind being occupied by an empty space now filled with questions instead of memories.

“This is my own goddamned fault,” Naomi muttered, as she sat heavily on Melanie’s bed instead of her own.

“How is this your fault?” Kate asked, concerned when the eldest wife as she started to straighten out the creased fabric from beneath her.

“Because Victor came by last night with Melanie and I should have woken everybody up then and there, or at the very least not have married the goddamned devil himself!” Naomi dissolved into hysterics, her composure shattering like a wine bottle.

“How could you have prevented all of this?” Eva asked, sitting on Melanie’s bed, “If you didn’t marry him, someone else would have and this mess would have happened anyway. You are a pawn in this as well, just as much as the rest of us.”

“But I could have saved all of you if I had saw the signs or saw something.”

“What would you have seen? What would you have done? Victor has caused this and organised this in such a way that it’s a hydra, if you cut one head off three more take its place. If Victor was disposed of then the Priest or Lloyd would take over, that’s how it works.” Kate injected, placing a hand on Naomi’s shoulder. “How could you know all of this? You’re not a psychic. If you want to do something then you can help save us now, stop being a Mary-sue and stand up for us.”

“What do you mean?” Naomi and Eva asked, their voices clashing in the small space.

Eva looked them both in their eyes, “Help us, the women, kill the hydra once and for all and escape hell. Be a part of a rebellion that actually works because the majority is better than the individual.”

The idea of rebellion and of escape had been a fruitful one in the introductory days in the Compound. The women were thick with rejoicing against the men that held them, but they discovered that it was the enslavement of the other men and oppression of entire minds, not just of women, and they realised that the dream was less attainable. With more beatings and more isolation, the dream became as clear as fog and dissipated there and then.

Naomi’s eyes hardened, “It’s treason,” her voice warbled and then she contradicted herself, “but it’s necessary now.” Something switched in her, awakened and hardened, becoming permanent between blinks.

The Compound had went on for too long, and even Eva knew that, Naomi had felt the brunt of it, being there from the very start. Something had snapped in Naomi and finally recognised that what Victor was doing was unjustified by even God, his morality compass broken beyond repair.

“Kate can you stay here with Melanie?” Naomi asked, rising and swiping her eyes to rid them of redness.

Kate nodded, moving to the door of the bathroom to check on the other wife. Then Eva was ordered to get dressed and beside Naomi they exited the Chapel and made their way over to the Warehouses. Eva didn’t know what Naomi was thinking, the stern woman eager to get where she was going before she alerted Eva to her plan, but she liked the brazen fire that had finally been ignited in her chest.

 

MELANIE

 

Peace was something of the distant past. When the other wives had left, she had flung the hand soap and the toothbrushes off of the basin sinking to the floor when the clatter did nothing to calm her.

Her chest heaved. Her mind felt like an attic and she was struck with the utter fear of being completely alone and out of control. She begged for alcohol, for the drink to swarm her veins in times of desperation. She hadn’t felt that urge since her boyfriend left her after the elated news of the child in her stomach. God she missed her son. How was Leon now? He would be nine now, his childhood being shaped by his mother’s disappearance instead of youthful ignorance.

She missed him and his curls, the only thing he inherited from his father, his bright eyes and downturned smile even when it was fit to burst. His everything made her ache with a pang akin to starvation.

But her head battled with feeling plastered to the tiles, her brain happy with the coolness on her skin. Why was she happy? How could she be happy?

Nothing made sense anymore, maybe it never had.

Kate knocked on the door again, she had been knocking and calling her for the last thirty minutes or so and Melanie had been ignoring her.

“Melanie?” she tried again through the door, “Carson is here, he says you are needed for training.” Her voice was quiet and pitiful against the wood. Although Melanie wanted to scream and swear into the floor she knew that she couldn’t with the man outside, he would simply report her and she didn’t need to be punished again.

“I’m coming,” she mumbled and heaved herself up, opening the door reluctantly.

“There you are sweetheart,” Carson mumbled, his hands crossed in front of him. He tried to be bossy when he was alone with her but when in the company of Henry and William, technically his superiors, he was shy and quiet.

“Shut up Carson,” she whispered and knew that she could have thrown an expletive his way instead of the barely there reprimand. She numbly pulled on jeans and tied her shoelaces, trying to replace the missing jigsaw pieces in her brain.

When Melanie was training to become a Scouter, she had to go through the training that the men had to. And that meant fitness training while every man Scouter surrounded the mat and watched her progress, leering at her because that was all they could do.

She’d hit the mat so many times that she was pretty sure it would miss her terribly when she left, Melanie had groaned so many times that her vocal chords didn’t know how to do anything else, pushing up with her palms and righting herself after the millionth time of falling.

“Better,” her training partner Lloyd whispered to her, offering a forced hand with a sharp smile and strange eyes. Lloyd would follow her all the way through most of her missions, staying home on those where he was otherwise needed. But she came to realise that he was the boss, her superior and nothing would change that.

Melanie took the offered hand, and her abs hurt, but hey she was getting abs. It was just a shame that it took kidnapping people for her to get them. She came up grinning, and Lloyd’s face told her to stop because it would give the men around her blood to feed off of. They would knock her positively down until it was ground into nothingness. “Did I look less like a dying fish this time?” she asked joking with Lloyd and ignoring his advice.

“Maybe,” Lloyd offered, exuding forced optimism with two thumbs up and a shy smile. Lloyd had never trained a woman before. “But we’re going to do it again.” The smile on his face was wide and her teeth made a threatening arch.

“I’m not quitting until I hit that mat with like a graceful goddamn swan,” she would have injected a swear word in there somewhere but Victor was iffy about his wives swearing, he said that it was unladylike.

Then she was knocked down again and the process began all over again.

She came back to herself when the van turned the corner because training had turned out to be another job, one that needed to be successful because she had failed the last one. She had caused Lloyd to become compromised and therefore lost from the Compound, from Victor especially. Lloyd was one of her friends, although the definition of friendship was twisted in this situation.

“Who are we meant to be finding?” she asked to the men in the backseat, a seat was empty because Lloyd was gone, which she had caused that. She couldn’t forget that even though she was meant to have forgotten it. She placed a smile on her face, she had to be subservient even when the men told her some cock and bull story about Lloyd being away for a meeting.

“Rowan Anderson,” a voice from the back moved forward and named their next victim, the poor woman who was going to be tested for having a fear.

“Do I need to do anything?” Melanie asked because she much preferred just staying in the car while the guys did the work, call her a coward but that was what she preferred, being out of the way and not kidnapping women.

“You have to go to the door again.”

Melanie suppressed the groan rising in her chest, their roles were reversed and Melanie would do all of the work this time and the men would watch to see that she was doing it right. She hated Victor for making her do this. But she had to do this otherwise what had happened to Kate would happen to her. She had been threatened with that at least.

Victor had visited them before they had left. “Hey Mel-bel I trust you with this one like always, unsuccessful missions just breeds Reckonings don’t they?”

It was a subtle warning, as subtle as Victor could get. He may have just said that she had failed him and he had drugged her to forget it all.

“Say yes sir,” he gritted out, his grip on her wrist turning less delicate.

“Yes sir.”

She was humiliated and angry and everything under the goddamn sun. But she had no choice. Choice was a foreign concept those days.

The van pulled up to a house in Edinburgh, and they were picking too many people in Edinburgh. They didn’t look inconspicuous, in fact they looked the complete opposite.

She sighed, stealing herself before grabbing the pamphlets out of the glove box which rested there for this reason. She hurried herself to the door, knocking quickly just to get it over with. This had to be over with, she needed it to be.

A woman with black curly hair opened the door, a smile on her face shy and remote. “Hi do you have any time to listen to why Jesus Christ will eradicate all fears and ills in the world?”

This was the procedure they would go through each and every time they chose a victim. They would say that Jesus would eradicate all wrongdoings in the world and Melanie would make casual conversation with the woman, getting to know her fears while being polite.

The guys would sometimes take her place so that the victims couldn’t identify Melanie as the one that always came to the door to ask them the same questions. It would get too suspicious then. Then the van would stalk them, get a sense of their movements, the exits and entrances to their home, their favourite place to shop, whether family or neighbours popped around the house often, all the makings of stalkers and kidnappers.

Melanie plastered a fake smile on her face and got to work, hoping that this was over with soon.

She didn’t want to be there but she had to. Goddamnit. She swallowed and the cotton ball feeling overcame her as words left her mouth.

 

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