Part 7 is back with Davey in the Freelands. So the previous chapter in this arc of the story is 5.8.
Click here to read that chapter again.
Click here for a recap of that chapter
Part 7: Gone fishin’
King Solomon spent the majority of the next week in the hospital bed before being taken back to his compound in the middle of the Freelands.
Davey had rested up for a few days too.
Recent events had really knocked him on his arse. He’d started to feel better and had decided to see if there was anything he could do to help with the running of the Freelands.
He took a shift guarding the King – after the attempt on his life in Serenity, they were on red alert, in spite of it being a lone nut with a gun and not actually an act of war between them and Cross’s people.
Never could be too careful.
While the King slept, Tia came round to check up on him.
She knocked on the door of Davey’s log cabin – he’d been given a home in the Freelands’ central compound, so highly did the King think of him now he’d had a hand in Cross’s death – very tentatively considering her usual bull in a china shop approach.
She came in, her hair tied back in pigtails.
Her face and her gingham dress were clean for a change.
Her eyes glinted as they looked into his.
He felt his heart do a flip flop, in a good way, as opposed to the way it had been doing recently.
Their eyes locked and he felt accepted.
He felt safe.
He felt like he’d die for her without a second thought.
‘Come here,’ she said.
Her hand touched his arm and he felt a shiver run down the limb as though her skin was made of ice.
The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and he felt a strange feeling in his belly.
‘Your wound is bleeding a little,’ she said, wiping a stray drop of blood away.
‘Oh, thank you,’ he said, his voice cracking.
He found himself unable to stop staring into her eyes.
It was as though she had hypnotised him.
‘You ok?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ he said, a goofy smile on his lips.
In spite of everything that had happened to him recently, he found talking to her the most horrifying thing imaginable.
His throat was suddenly desert-dry.
He had no idea what to say.
Beads of sweat ran down the back of his neck.
‘Well ok,’ she said, flashing a smile that would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the missing tooth at the front. It went all the way up to her eyes and lit up her entire face.
He found that it instinctively made him grin too.
They both looked over to King Solomon and smiled as he began to snore.
‘I bet he’s a great dad,’ Davey said.
‘Oh… he’s not…’
‘I thought you were his daughter?’
‘I am… now; after. My real family, my before family isn’t around anymore. He saved me.’
‘Really? I thought …’
‘I know it sounds strange, but the world is strange now. Besides, he’s been more of a father to me than my real dad ever was.’
‘I’m pleased. I mean…’
Tia giggled. ‘Relax. You’re so nervous.’ She whacked his arm playfully and again her touch sent waves of goosebumps spiralling through his body. ‘But I know what you mean. He’s a good man. He went out of his way to take in families. To find lost children. He gave his people food, even if it meant going hungry himself. I’ve been with him since the early days. It’s been so long I think of him as my dad now.’
‘I’m starting to think of him like that too. I mean I was so worried when he got shot.’
‘We all were when word came back.’
‘I guess that’s what happens when you’re at the top of the tree.’
‘That’s what he always says.’
‘Heavy lies the crown,’ they both said in unison and burst into laughter.
‘Jinx,’ Tia said and punched him hard on the arm.
Instinctively, he hugged his arms tight around hers, to stop her hitting him again.
Her belly was warm against his.
Again he felt a rush of goosebumps overwhelm him, like he’d been showered in ice-cold water.
He stared at her, now mere inches from her nose.
Traces of the steam’s chargrilled candyfloss scent lingered on her skin, stealing the breath from his lungs.
He gawped at her, drowning in her eyes, then, without intending to, leant forward and gave her a firm kiss on the lips.
He’d only kissed one girl before and this was way out of his comfort zone, but it felt the right thing to do.
Immediately, he let go of her arms and stumbled back, his face the colour of beetroot.
‘I-I’m sorry,’ he stammered. ‘I didn’t mean to do that.’
‘It’s ok,’ she smiled. ‘It was nice.’
Her eyes locked with his for a second and the sensation almost made his knees buckle.
‘Really, don’t worry about it,’ she smiled.
They stood staring at each other for a time, then Tia laughed. ‘Say, I’ve been thinking. Me and some of the other kids are getting a bit restless. With Wayne Cross under six feet of earth this world is a much safer place. Why don’t we go out and blow off some steam?’
It seemed to Davey that she was trying to gloss over their kiss.
Part of him was relieved at this as it was highly embarrassing, but another, larger, part of him wanted her to talk about it.
An even bigger part of him wanted to do it again.
He followed her lead, tried to pretend it hadn’t happened, but already he could tell that it was going to preoccupy his thoughts for the foreseeable future.
Stop thinking about the kiss and just answer her, damn it!
‘What do you have in mind?’ he finally managed.
‘I was thinking we go out and try and bag us some food, you know, try to find an alternative to our very effective but brutal solution to the food shortages.’
‘That is a great idea. Where do you want to go?’
‘Max said you suggested heading out to the rivers. He said he didn’t want to ever set foot there again. Doesn’t that make you just need to see what’s so scary?’
‘Yeah. I think it may be a good source of food. And I am super curious to see what’s waiting out there.’
‘Me too. We’re going to have to sneak out, though; Max wouldn’t let us go there in a million years.’
‘No, I guess not. He looked terrified of the place.’
‘I know and Max is brave, so it must be something really exciting. I brought this so we can distract him,’ she beamed, pulling out a large jar of steam.
Davey looked at it, the rainbow smoke writhing and changing colour every few seconds.
It seemed to have its own internal glow, like it contained a galaxy full of stars within the confines of its glass walls.
It was mesmerising, as though it was leeching his soul out through the sides of the jar.
‘Whoa, that is beautiful,’ Davey said.
Tia nodded. ‘Powerful too. He’ll be laughing like a maniac when this kicks in. The last thing he’ll be thinking about is where we’re sneaking off to.’ She giggled at the thought of it, her right hand pulling on one of her long, dark pigtails.
‘Give me two minutes to get ready then I’ll be right out.’
‘OK, but hurry, we need to set off before Daddy wakes up. He’ll be well pissed if he finds out what we’re up to.’
Davey washed his face beneath the tap in the centre of Solomon’s compound.
Running water was a luxury these days, especially without a mile-long queue of Grims waiting to use it like in the other areas of the Freelands.
He savoured the cool on his face.
It refreshed him in an instant, although he did momentarily think about how he – and everyone else – had taken such little things for granted before.
After dressing and brushing his teeth, he met Tia by the back of the huts.
‘Morning, Davey lad,’ Max said, tipping him a wink.
‘Morning, Max. You doing ok?’
Tia emerged from behind the corner of her log cabin, both hands hidden behind her back.
She wore ripped jeans and a dirty black windbreaker jacket.
Still she looked like the most beautiful girl on what remained of the planet.
Davey’s heart leapt when he saw her.
‘Where are you going dressed like that?’ Max asked.
‘Nowhere, Uncle Max,’ she grinned, hands still hidden behind her back.
She tilted her head to one side and fluttered her eyelashes a little.
Davey was mesmerised.
Max rolled his eyes.
He’d seen this routine a thousand times.
‘What do you want?’ he sighed.
‘Don’t tell Daddy we went to the river,’ she grinned.
‘The river?’ he bellowed at the top of his voice. ‘Ah-ah, ain’t no way you’re going to the fucking river. You don’t know what’s out—’
He trailed off as he saw the big glass jar in her hands.
The twisting clouds of steam contained within were now candy floss pink, lights winking deep in the mixture like tiny stars.
Before he could speak again she had hurled the glass hard at his feet.
The glass shattered and there was a whooshing sound like a tiny jet had sped past.
The steam swirled out of the jar, right into Max’s face.
He armed it away, trying to hold his breath, but his airwaves were soon full with the multi-coloured, luminescent smoke.
Within seconds he was bent double, roaring with laughter, chest heaving, tears of mirth rolling down his cheeks. He slapped his right hand into his thigh with bruising force.
Davey was amazed to see the steam kick in so quickly.
‘Quick,’ Tia said.
They were on their way out of the gate before the other guards in the compound noticed.
As they ran after them, they too ran through the cloud of steam, and, though they tried to cover their faces with their hoods, they inhaled some anyway and ended up laughing along with Max by the fire.
Tia grabbed Davey’s hand – a surge like an electric current went through him at her touch – and ran.
He struggled to keep up with her.
‘Is anyone else coming?’ Davey said.
‘Yeah, there’s a few of us. They’re meeting us at the dozer. They have a few other errands to run first.’
They ran fast through the log wall maze of the central compound.
Davey still found it hard to find his way in here, but Tia seemed to know exactly where she was going.
They reached the perimeter bonfires in what seemed like less than a minute, although this may have been due to the mind-warping effects of the steam Davey had inhaled.
He found a grin was plastered onto his face and he couldn’t take it off even if he tried.
‘Are you ready for an adventure?’ she smiled up at him, eyes gleaming.
Then she planted him with a kiss.
It was like nothing he had ever experienced, especially with the steam in his system.
It felt like a thousand butterflies had simultaneously burst from their cocoons in his stomach.
It was a feeling he didn’t want to end.
The dozer was carefully guarded, but Tia managed to sweet talk the guard into letting her and Davey have a seat on it.
She handed him an old Polaroid camera that she had taken from the immense pile of belongings in the warehouses.
‘Do you mind taking a photo of me and Davey with that please?’
He frowned, seemingly aware on some level that he was being played, but did as he was asked.
‘Maybe go back a bit more,’ she grinned, ‘Make sure you get the dozer in as well.’
The guard backed up.
Now that the guard was far enough away, she nudged Davey who floored the gas pedal and sent the dozer shooting off out of the compound.
‘Hey,’ the guard shouted, furious.
But he was too far away to catch them as they tore out into the wastelands.
Next chapter is here