Tuesday, 29 September 2015

THE STORM - spotlight



From Chapter 3 of The Storm, by Virginia Bergin

“Where are you going to go?” Saskia blurted, looking scared.
OH NO: THE QUESTION OF QUESTIONS.
That’s what it was, and my brain wasn’t remotely ready for it, so I came out with the thing I’d been thinking for weeks (months? What date was it anyway?), the thing I’d told myself I’d do, but when it came down to it, I was too scared to go and do it.
“I’m gonna look for my dad,” I said, like it was obvious.
I watched her mouth tighten.
No, I thought, no. You don’t get to do that. Don’t you do that.
“Look, he came here,” I said, pointing at the wall where he had written.
RUBY—­WHERE ARE YOU? That’s what the message said. WE ARE GOING TO GET GRANDMA. STAY HERE! BACK SOON! LOVE DAD AND DAN. The smiley face after Dan’s name. The trail of kisses.
“That’s my stepbrother, see?” I told her, stroking Dan’s scrawled name. “That’s my stepbrother.”
Through Saskia’s eyes, I saw the trail of desperation that followed, the hundred and one explanations of where I had gone.
Her mouth—­it screwed up tighter.
Yeah, that’s right, I thought. Don’t you say that thing. Don’t you dare say ANYthing.
But then her mouth opened a little and I was worried she was going to say it, so I tried to say it for her—­or at least the version I could cope with.
“I mean, I know it’s…” I trailed off. I couldn’t say the words that probably ought to come after that, which would be: VERY, VERY UNLIKELY INDEED THAT MY DAD AND MY BROTHER WILL STILL BE ALIVE. “I’m just going to go and look,” I said.
“Where?” said Saskia quietly.
“Loads of places.”
On the kitchen table, my mom’s address book sat in its own special clear patch. I laid my hand on it. I picked up the piece of paper with the scrawled list I’d worked out weeks (months?) ago.
“These places,” I said.
Grandma’s, obviously. The aunts and the uncles and the cousins. That lady my mom called “Auntie” but wasn’t an aunt at all—­my dad had always liked her.
Though I couldn’t even think about why my dad wouldn’t have come back when he said he would, if he had gone anywhere else, these were the places he would have gone to. In my mind’s eye, I’d already been to these places and looked. I’d already seen the bodies and the empty houses. But it was all I had.
“Can I come too?” said Sask.
Coils of confusion tangled in my head. See, really, this whole conversation was…OK, it was what you’d call hypothetical. Don’t get me wrong, part of me would have searched to the very ends of the Earth for my dad, but part of me…kind of hoped that Saskia would know about a place we could go, just for now, from where I could set out on my epic quest…sometime when I wasn’t feeling quite so scared and so tired.
“What about the army base?” I blurted—­like, surely, whatever had gone on with her and the Spratt (which didn’t bear thinking about), her being back here in Dartbridge must mean she’d come to say it was OK and that the army could squeeze me in now, even though I was officially designated as “useless.”
“I had to leave.”
Huh?! But—­
“I’m not going back there.” She looked out the window. “I really haven’t got anywhere else to go, Ruby,” she said.
She glanced at me—­then she looked back out of the
window. Either that menthol was really kicking in or… Was Saskia Miller…crying?
“Let me come with you,” she said. “Please…”
Was Saskia Miller…pleading…WITH ME?
“Yeah, sure, you can come,” I said.
During an apocalypse-­type situation, it is very rude to say no to any reasonable request, even if it relates to what my grandma would have called a cockamamy plan (usually something my dad had suggested), and even if it comes from someone you’ve recently remembered you’re not that keen on.


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