Previously on Five Seconds: Parker goes on a mission with the group to get food. Andy stays behind with Leena and tries to heal, but ends up locking herself away in a bathroom. We learn Amie is hatching a big plan.
Should Parker and Andy stick with the plan of overthrowing the government or try to change their minds?Click To Reveal Results
Chapter 8: Fix Me
Five years ago.
I come home crying and try to hide the tears from Aunty. But somehow, someway, she always knows when I am upset. I rush up the stairs to my bedroom and shut out the rest of the world by a slam of my door.
How can people be so mean? What have I done to deserve this? All my friends decided to not be my friends anymore and made it quite obvious at lunch today.
I hate September. Everything bad always happens in this month. This is a stupid month. It should be banned.
A knock at my door.
“Andy, I’m here.” Aunty’s voice drones through the wood.
I hate being weak like this in front of Aunty. She doesn’t deserve the backlash of what mean people do to me.
“It’s okay, I’m fine,” I try to say, but it just comes out as strained whimpers.
Aunty is the only familiarity I have left. I no longer have my house, or my family, or even my friends. It is just Aunty and me. The thought makes me feel six inches tall. The world is big and it is crushing me mercilessly. I’m tired of fighting it.
“Just breathe,” Aunty hums.
I wipe the dampness from my cheeks. I place my hand on the doorknob but don’t turn it. I need to control my breathing.
In through my snotty nose, and out through my wobbling lips. In and out. In and out.
“Just count to five Andy. Remember?”
I nodded my head, forgetting she couldn’t see.
“One,” we said together. The world left us in ruin.
“Two.” Bruised. Battered. Always running. Always hiding.
“Three.” Sick of terrified.
“Four.” How do we fix what’s broken?
“Five.” How do we fix what isn’t broken?
I open the door and let Aunty in.
“People suck,” I mutter.
She wraps me in her arms and squeezes tight. “People are crazy.”
I let out a large shaky breath. “People are crazy.”
And that was the final answer to this disaster.
“What am I supposed to do now?” I ask weakly. “They all left me.”
Aunty pulls away and grips my shoulders tightly. Her brown eyes look into mine. “Use your voice, Andy, you were born with one for a reason. Use it and scream at the top of your lungs.”
“And what? Tell them they can go—”
“Words, Andy. Better words than that. Use big words that will build a castle beneath your feet. Because you deserve a kingdom of love, and I’m afraid I can only fulfill so much. And I think I would get arrested if I were to go to your school and beat up a bunch of fourteen-year-olds. Considering your cooking skills, I’m better off at home.”
“How do I fix this? How do I fix me?”
“I’m not sure, Andy. Just know that one day you’ll find that perhaps you are not the problem, but that the people you are with are the problem. But I can’t help you with that discovery. That is all on you. Just remember to use your beautiful voice and stand up for yourself.”
I stormed over to where the group sat huddled around the fire, but stopped at the edge of the shadows. I checked my anger. Screaming and throwing fists would do nothing. I had to be careful, and carry this out intelligently. This wasn't a situation that could be fixed with tape and glue. It needed to be fixed with words. And of all the terrible things that had happened in the world recently, this seemed to be the most terrifying.
The group was scattered around the fire, huddled in their own little groups of three or four, spooning beans out of cans. Sam and Leena sat together talking a mile a minute about their day. Yohan sat in the dark next to a familiar looking boy. The recognition dawned on me like a shot in the dark. Kevin. Part of that group that tried to kill my dog in that mall in Abbotsford. I fingered the necklace at my neck. Didn't Leena say something about him knowing the cause of the crazies?
Amie stood alone, gazing over the group in her new frilly robe. It was a blissful scene I was about to interrupt. Nerves bubbled in my stomach.
I took a step into the light, feeling the warmth of the fire caress my cheeks and beckon me closer. I had to be so careful. One word out of line and a warm fire with a roof over Parker's and my head would be gone. It'd be hard sidewalks and that endless drizzle that was somewhere between a rain and a wet cloud of misery.
“It went well today?” I said to no one in particular. God, I was bad at dealing with people.
“It’s a feast!” Leena said happily between bites. “Quick, grab some before it’s cold.”
I smiled at the ground. Leena was very nice. Too nice for the way I locked her out earlier today. It made my heart hurt that her's was still so big in such a cruel world.
Just breathe, Andy. Just breathe.
I felt Parker’s presence come up behind me, and the nerves in my stomach settled down just a bit.
“Andy, you've come to join us,” Amie said in a cool tone. It wasn't quite the way she said it, perhaps it was her body language, or even just the words she used in the situation we were in, but I couldn't help but feel like it was a threat. A challenge. Did she know what was on my mind? Was she daring me to do it?
I forced a pleasant look on my face. “Yes, you guys have done an outstanding job.” I took another step into the light. “I caught wind that... you have a big plan.” I winced. I was trying to choose careful words and I was making a fool out of myself. I decided to just cut to the chase. “To overthrow the premier and her cabinet?”
Amie turned and faced me full on. She looked me over carefully before proceeding. “Yes. It's been in the works.” Her head turned slightly to the side, as if she heard something behind her. But there was no one in the shadows.
“You're planning to go through with it soon?” I asked.
“Preferably before the new year. With winter setting in, it'll get too damn cold in this warehouse, and since everything in here is wet, it'll all just freeze and turn into an ice rink. It's already too cold really, but I know it's going to get worse.”
“Before the new year… that’s not that far away.”
Amie simply shrugged. Again, she tilted her head as if she was listening to something behind her. “Better now than never.”
“But, are you prepared?”
“Yeah. We’ve got it covered. Remember, we’ve been together longer than you've been here.”
“But, there's so few of you. Are you really going to storm the tomb? It'd be suicide—”
“Silence!” Amie shrieked. “I am the leader. I know what I am doing. I will not have trivial newbies questioning my competency.”
I bit my cheeks hard to stop myself from saying what I really wanted to say. I had to be careful. One wrong word… one wrong movement… “Fair enough. I'm just a little wary is all.”
“Well don't be. I have it all under control.”
I bit down on my tongue. Hard. If she had everything under control, then my aunt would still be alive and I could backflip my way out of here. “Well, what do you plan on doing? There's only twenty of you and hundreds of them.” I could start to feel my blood boil.
“I can do it, okay!” Amie screeched.
And that was what broke my rope. This girl was going to lead twenty people to their death and I couldn't handle another single drop of blood.
I stormed right up to the feeble leader. I didn’t care if I was stomping on thin ice. I didn’t care if it wasn’t my place to say this. Whatever it was that I was about to say had to be said. Peaceful people were a dying race, and I had to save them somehow.
“Don’t do it,” I said sternly. I had to keep my cool. It was a hard task, though, when the past few months were broiling in my stomach. The loss of my job, my town, my home, my aunt, my dog — I squeezed my fists so hard my nails broke the skin.
“Excuse me?” Amie said, warningly.
“Don’t overthrow the government. You’re insane. You’re nowhere near strong enough to make it. Twenty some odd people are nothing compared to the hornet's nest of soldiers inside the Tomb.”
“Are you saying that my ideas are inadequate?” she challenged.
“I’m saying you shouldn’t rush into this. You weren’t there. You don’t know what it’s like inside that place.”
“Well then, it’s fantastic that we have you isn’t it.”
The bitterness in her tone didn’t sit well with me.
“I am trying to help you not kill yourself and all of your friends.” Keep that anger down Andy.
“Well, thank you for your concern, but we have it all under control.” She turned her back to me and addressed an empty space behind her. “Joy, please stop yelling at her, I’ve got this. I know I’m right… yes okay… yeah, Joy, I’ll get to it.”
That explained earlier.
“You must really think I’m an idiot if I’m going to charge into battle with you calling the shots.”
“Andy,” Parker warned. I paid no heed to him.
“Look, we should think this through.”
“No!” Amie shrieked. “There is no ‘we’. I am making the calls. I am the leader. You do what I say! You’d be nothing without me. You’d be on the streets dead if it weren’t for me saving your privileged ass.”
“Look at yourself!” I bellowed. “You're unstable. You’re sick. You're talking to your dead friend like she's in the damn room. Step back, Amie!”
Instead of screaming at me, she pulled it all in and said in a low voice, “Honestly, I'm a little offended right now. You're the sick one.” She raised her voice, “Hiding in the bathroom. Sitting back wallowing in your self-pity while your friend is out there risking his life for you! You don't deserve this. The food we got for you. The refuge we are providing. Where is your honour? You coward.”
How dare she say those things. How dare she make the death of my aunt nothing. How dare she put the guilt on me for Parker scavenging out there. “Where’s your family, Amie?” I said. “I heard you're not from here. That you're from the tri-cities. Never thought to go looking for them? Where's the honour in that?”
Amie was visibly shaking with rage. “My duty is here, on the front line. There is no good in going back—”
“You're wrong. You're so wrong. Family is everything.”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
“No, you shut up! You are not going in there. You are not overthrowing the damn government. You are going to sit there in your robe until we find some good winter clothing and we are going to go back and find your family regardless if they're dead or alive!” I grasped control of my rage and stuffed it down. “You can't take on the world all by yourself.”
“Get out of here,” Amie said in a voice that was quickly losing traction. “Get out!” She turned to her group, chest heaving in rage. “And anyone else that thinks my leadership is incompetent can leave too!”
Nobody made a move, and I wasn't sure if it was because they accepted her leadership or were just frightened.
“That's what I thought,” she spat. “Look at that Andy. I give them shelter. I give them food. I give them a solid foundation when the rest of the world is molten lava. Look me in the eye and tell me I'm not doing a good job. I don't care if I'm not reaching your standards I'm not even sorry. Not now and I never will be.”
I looked at the group. The beans and the conversations had been long forgotten.
“I don't think you can continue with us anymore,” Amie stated, causing me to snap my head back to her.
I pursed my lips. This was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I looked to Parker. I had failed him. I had failed miserably in trying to fix Amie’s stupid idea. Fix me.
No. I was not the problem here. I didn't need the fixing.
“Fine then. I will leave you be.” I turned to address the rest of the group. “Anybody else, who doesn't want to be part of a mass suicide, can join me.”
I didn't wait for their reaction.
I rolled through the maze like a storm front, my fury sparked the air around me like lightning. I threw the front door open and walked right through into the midnight rain.
“Andy,” Parker called from behind. It was nice he was on my side, but I couldn’t let him flounder out here with me. He deserved better. Perhaps he could beg for a spot back in that warehouse.“Andy, slow down. Where are you going?”
I paid no attention to his calls and kept storming away.
“Andy, stop stop stop.” Parked grabbed my arm and held me back. But I didn’t turn around to face him. I couldn’t. Not after what I just did.
“Where are you going?”
I shrugged. Rain pounded down on us. I shouldn’t have said anything. Now we were exiled into the cold, dangerous streets. We were at death’s doorstep.
“Andy, it’s okay. Look at me.”
I couldn’t tell if I was shaking from rage or the cold, but I had enough apprehension to differentiate between the icy raindrops and my hot tears.
“I’m sorry, Parker. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I gasped. I expected him to turn away. Never look back, but he wrapped me up in a hug from behind and held me so tight it felt like he was never going to let go.
“I’m never going to leave you. Not again.” His breath was hot on my ear.
Didn’t Aunty once say the same thing?
“No, Parker. Just go back. You don’t deserve to be exiled. You were flourishing with them. You were accepted into that group. You shouldn’t have to leave the comfort of your new friends because I couldn’t make any.”
He squeezed me harder. “Andy, stop talking crazy. You’re insane to think I would ever leave you for them or anyone else.” He let go and spun me around so we were face to face. “We’re in this together. Have been since the very beginning and I’ll follow you through till the end. I’m not going to leave you. Ever.”
“You’re all I have,” I whispered. It seemed I had said that sentence way too many times in my life. And it was a sentence that really liked to break me. But Parker said something that completely took me off guard.
“You’re all I have too,” he said just loud enough to hear over the rain.
I buried my face in Parker’s chest. We were both broken. Left shattered like a burnt-out galaxy. Parker had lost just as much as I had. But he was still here, and so was I.
“How do you do it, Parker? How do you deal with losing the thing that meant the most to you?” I said, not really expecting an answer.
“I used to play soccer,” he mentioned. “I loved it so much it became me. I still remember my last game. We lost. Terrible game too. And it sucked a lot. But, as time went on, it was the fun times that I really remembered. And it was the lessons I learned from the setbacks and the losses that I truly treasure the most. Yeah. It’s those memories I cherish the most. It’s those that really matter.”
“So that’s how you deal with it?” I asked. “Looking back on fond moments? Because it hurts too much to think of the good times. The bad times. Any times. I would love to look at the laughs, and the smiles, and the snowy winter days wrapped up in a blanket by the hearth. But I can’t. And I think I’m losing myself because of that.”
I could feel Parker sigh. “One day. We’ll get there one day.”
“I’m sorry for thinking you would leave,” I muttered.
“I’m sorry for all the things that happened to make you think that.”
I held on tight. I didn’t know where we’d go from here. We had no shelter, no food, no weapons. We hardly had clothing on our backs that would carry us through the rainstorms of Vancouver’s so-called winter.
The rain was still pounding down and was creating strange shapes in the darkness. It only dawned on me then that we were in a very dangerous spot. Thunder rolled above our heads, and if we didn’t take cover soon we might very well drown. I looked around at our surroundings, hoping we could find shelter for at least tonight.
There were many shops with broken windows and doors hanging by a hinge that littered the street, but many of them had imploded in on themselves. And we had no flashlights to check if the store was empty.
Lightning flashed and lit up the street as if it were day. In the distance, I could see the old sign to the Orpheum. Perhaps we could hide in there for a while, until the storm above passed. I doubted it would be empty, but there were many places to hide without being detected.
I opened my mouth to mention it to Parker, but something in the shadows froze me in place.
Is Amie in the dark, or is it a '
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