Chapter 3: Alternate: Lost Girl
Notes: Ok. Here we go. This is the part I have really been waiting to post. I hope you like it. Review, comment – all appreciated!! Also, if there are any mistakes, I apologize. I have had two people read it for me and have corrected what they found, but I don’t have the time to reread all of it myself.
Chapter Three: Alternate: Lost Girl
Before the sun rose, she slipped out of bed and into the bathroom to get dressed for the long day ahead of her.
As she tiptoed across the floor, making sure not to wake the two boys who were still sleeping, she wondered for a brief moment what life was like somewhere else. Anywhere else. But this was all she knew. At least, it was all she could remember.
The ‘bed’ she and her twin sons slept on was only a thin mattress on the floor in front of the only heater in the apartment. It was a small heater, only giving off enough heat for the one small room that served as living room, dining room, and bedroom. The mattress, a broke down couch, one side table, and a beat up chair were all that there was room for. There was a small kitchen, barely big enough for one person to move around in. Meals were eaten where sleep was taken. The bathroom was nothing more than a stall with a sink, toilet that seemed dirty no matter how much she scrubbed, and a bathtub she was just waiting to fall through the floor the next time she put water in it to bath her children.
At least they had a roof over their head, which was more than most in this city could say.
Water to fill the tub was only allowed once a week. She had learned to half ration it: half to bathe her sons and half to scrub the laundry.
Water from the sink in both the bath and kitchen was given more freely. It was not easy to wash her hair in the sink, but there was no other choice. Sponge bathing was done quickly and gave her a chill that the cold air did not.
Looking at herself in the mirror, she wondered what life had been like before.
She had woken up in the hospital. Actually, it hadn’t been a hospital, per se. It had once been a legitimate hospital, maybe, once, long ago. But then and now it was nothing more than a free clinic. Most of the things here were free, but they were hard or aggravating to get.
That had been…how long ago?
They had told her that she had taken a pretty nasty hit on the head. One so severe that she had been in a coma for four months. They had told her that her memory might come back and it might not. They had not known for sure. So, far it hadn’t.
Three months later, she had given birth to her sons. She had no idea who their father was or even where he could be. She had named the oldest Thomas and the youngest Patrick. She did not know why. She just had.
She bundled up to make it look good, kissed her boys good-bye, and carefully exited the apartment. She locked the door, putting the key in her pocket. Her sons knew to not open the door except for Mrs. Raglan next door and that under no circumstances were they to leave the apartment unless it was an emergency.
“Good morning, dear,” Mrs. Raglan said as she answered her door. She was an elderly woman, maybe 60 or so, with steal gray hair and a hunched posture. Her husband was blind and deaf and she cared for him as she had since the accident had occurred that had left him handicapped nearly twenty years before. She also enjoyed keeping an eye on Thomas and Patrick. And both the boys liked her also. “Do you have a moment for a cup of coffee?”
“No, I’m sorry. I have to get down to the Depot early so I can get to work on time. The boys are still asleep.”
“I will see to it that they have breakfast and behave themselves,” the old woman promised with a gentle smile. “You take care, dearie. And be safe out there. It is dangerous for a woman such as yourself.”
She made her way out of the apartment building and onto the streets. Cold and dismal as always.
The streets were strewn with garbage. It was not knee deep or anything of that nature. Garbage trucks still ran in the city twice a week.
Soon, as she did every week, she found herself standing in line at the food depot. The sky above her was gray. The streets were gray. The buildings were gray. Everything was gray.
If gray could be a mood that would be the mood of everyone she now stood with, including herself. Everyone was gray. Everyone felt gray. Everyone looked gray.
The line was long and the going slow, but it was finally her turn. She was given the usual; cereal, oatmeal, carious canned goods, powdered milk, dried fruit, bread, and a bag of chicken legs and thighs, still frozen solid. She also received a few essentials like toothpaste, dish washing liquid, and such.
There were several bags and she struggled to carry them all. It was several blocks back to her apartment and she had to hurry. On the days she had to go to the food depot, her employer allowed her to arrive at her job late, but she only had until noon to get there. The pay was horrible, but it was the only job that she could get that did not involve selling her body and/or her soul to strangers. She had children to feed and take care of, but she also had her pride.
Once she was two blocks from the food depot and she was sure no one was around, she stood up straight, shifting the weight of the bags and began to walk normal, as if the burden she was carrying was nothing at all. And to her, it wasn’t.
It took her only a few more moments to get back to her apartment. She opened the door, and was greeted by her children immediately.
They did not ask what she had brought back with her. They knew. It never changed. This was all they knew, so they couldn’t want what they didn’t know they were missing.
She put away everything, spent some time with her children, and then kissed them good-bye and out the door, stopping only long enough to check in with Ms. Raglan.
Her job was at the Waste and Recycling Facility. Rumor had it that the building used to, at one time, been a prison, but now it was a dirty place with conveyor belts and large machines used to process the waste and recyclables.
Truckloads of garbage, from where she did not know, were brought in a dumped in huge containers. Then it was placed on conveyor belts and went to different areas. Her job, along with nearly twenty others, was to separate what was not recyclable from what was. Paper, plastic, and the rare metal object, was all sent on different conveyor belts to other workers in different areas. It was a tiresome, dirty, and tedious job. One she hated. She worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, with an hour to eat, and four 15 minute breaks. After her shift, she was filthy and smelled horrible. It was amazing what came down that conveyor belt sometimes.
Everyone was searched before leaving the facility, to make sure they had not pocketed anything that could be of value. Anyone found with such an object was detained, and the militia was called in.
The militia was who ran the city. A bunch of gun toting thugs who beat whoever they wanted to beat up, take whatever they wanted to take, and do whatever they wanted to do. If you didn’t break the rules, or cause any trouble, they left you alone.
She made damn sure that she didn’t cause any trouble.
When she got to work, and was clocked in, her boss, a fat sweaty guy who looked at her, like he did all the woman who worked here, with a perverseness that made her skin crawl. He informed her that she was to work in the Kitchen and to get there quick.
The Kitchen was a few blocks over where the militia ate their meals. It was, in her opinion, worse than the waste/recycle facility. The water used to wash dishes came in only one temperature: scalding hot. And there were plenty of dishes, pots, pans, silverware, and glasses to wash. There were five thousand or so militia members in the city and they all ate at the Kitchen all day and every day.
And the militia guys were very touchy feely. Fortunately for the girls, like her, who got the job of washing dishes, the commander on duty did not approve of the men manhandling the Kitchen staff. So, she occasionally had to deal with a pinch or a slap on the bottom, but that was all the militia guys dared to do under the watchful eyes of the Kitchen commander.
For 12 hours she slaved in the hot kitchen, sweat pouring off of her. At the end of her shift, her hands and her arms up to her elbows were red from the heat of the water they had been, and her clothes were soaking wet. Wrapped in her coat, she trembled as she walked with everyone else out of the Kitchen. Once clear, and on her own, she stopped the shivering and the fake exhaustion and made her way home.
She wanted to get home, take a quick, semi warm shower, kiss her kids goodnight, and hopefully sleep deeply until she had to get up and go back to work.
That was not to be, however.
Two blocks from her apartment building, she heard a noise that not only made her stop in her tracks, but triggered something deep inside of her. It was a scream, a woman’s.
Sighing, hating this feeling inside of her that beckoned to her to help, she followed the sound, coming to an alley where a man – a strange one – had a woman up against the wall and was getting ready to bite her.
She had come across these types before, though she did not have a name for them. They were ugly with strange foreheads, sharp incisors, and only came out at night.
“Hey! Let her go,” she ordered, realizing she should have looked around for a weapon before calling the guy out.
He turned to her, all fangy and glowing yellow eyes. “Wait your turn.”
“Nope. I hate waiting.” Faster than she should have been able to, she was behind the man, hand on his shoulder, and with a strength that had stopped surprising her years ago, threw up back and against the opposite wall so hard it should have killed him.
But it didn’t. It never did.
He came at her fast. She spun, kicking out with her right foot and connecting with his stomach, sending him flying backward once again. She was on him in a second, her knee connecting with his jaw as he was doubled over. This lifted him up and off the ground. Her fist followed, slamming into his stomach once, twice before his feet touched the ground. Then her fist found his jaw, forcing his head back into the wall, cracking the brick it connected with.
He growled at her, reaching for her.
“Here! Use this!” The woman behind her.
The object she tossed to her was a piece of wood with a splintered end. She didn’t even look back to see it. She just instinctively reached back and caught it over her shoulder, spun it around, sharp end first, and drove it into the man’s chest.
With one last cry of anger, he turned to dust.
“Thank you so much,” the woman said. She turned around to find her standing only a foot or so behind her. She had long dark hair and a big smile on her face.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, turning and preparing to leave the alley and go home.
“At least tell me your name,” the woman stated.
She sighed, pausing in her steps. “Joan. My name is Joan.”
The woman came to her side and held out her hand, smile still on her face. “Pleased to meet you, Joan. My name is Cordelia.”