“Feeling guilty doesn’t change anything. Your crying doesn’t change what happened.”
“I know, but I can’t stop…”
He walks over to me, a little clumsily, my field of vision still a little blurry from all the tears streaming down my face. I see his elbows jerk upward, then fall back down, as if there was a string pulling them back towards his body. A moment later, he tries the motion again, and this time, his elbows remain in the air. His lower arms follow, slowly, gently.
Suddenly, his hands are resting softly on my back, and my face nestles into the soft flesh of his neck. A few left-over sobs escape my chest, and he presses me into him even closer. I inhale deeply, smelling moss and deep woods. My hands clutch at his shoulders, but I’m not crying any longer. Even the sobs have subsided. My body has calmed down.
We remain like that for a few moments longer, neither of us wishing to break free. In that one moment, I forgot all about Anderson being gone. I could have easily swayed myself into believing that he was still asleep inside. However, reality never goes away for a long time. It allows hope to creep in, only long enough to lull you into a false sense of security.
Not knowing how long we stayed like that, I start to let go, and he does the same. I smile at him, blushing, and he takes an even clumsier step backwards. I want to tell him that this was exactly what I needed, but I fear that might make him more self-conscious, so I remain quiet.
His eyes take on a darker hue somehow, and I know that he isn’t in this comforting mood any longer. He is back to his usual self.
“Come,” he suddenly says and grabs me by the hand.
We rush back inside, and start rummaging through those black bags he warned Anderson and me against. I watch him as he extracts small handguns, and a whole boatload of ammo. His hands work fast, placing everything carefully on the ground in front of him.
He is done surprisingly quickly. He kicks the empty black bags to the side, and looms over the weapons arrangement with his hands firmly on his hips.
“Have you ever used one of these?” he asks, without taking his eyes off of the guns.
My eyes travel over each single weapon, their metallic gleam soft, but visible. Suddenly, a memory floods my mind. I was about four or five years old, and I remember wanting my dad to play with me. My mom was busy in the kitchen, so she just told me to knock on the door to dad’s study, and ask him. Only, I didn’t knock. My little hand pressed on the doorknob skillfully, with the curiosity and strength only a toddler has, and I barged into my father’s study. I remember him being over at his safe, tucked neatly in the corner of the room, behind a wall of tapestry, and a potted plant. There were some papers inside, a few wads of cash, and something metallic. When he saw me, he seemed anxious, confused, as if he was caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. He quickly slammed the safe shut, twisted the knob, and then walked over to me.
“Did you see what daddy has there in his safe?” he asked me, in his your-my-big-girl voice. I just shook my head to that. I wasn’t lying, but at the same time, I also wasn’t telling the truth. I was somewhere in what I considered to be a safe place between. “Those are daddy’s things in there, OK, pumpkin? It’s always locked and it needs to stay that way. If you ever see it open, come find me immediately, without touching anything there, OK?”
My curiosity peaked at that very moment, but even as a toddler I knew that he wouldn’t show me what’s inside. So, I just nodded again, and allowed him to hug me, my little arms wrapped around his meaty neck.
“No, never,” I tell Fynn, my child’s mind reminding me that I did see one of those, in my own home, but luckily, I was never forced to use it.
“Here,” he bends down and picks up the smallest gun from the bundle. “Look here.”
He opens the gun, clicks it, twists it, all I hear are metallic clicks and clanks. Then, he points it away from us.
“You just pull the trigger and shoot. First shoot, ask questions later, got it?” He sounds out of breath, like he’s been running for hours before this.
He hands it to me, like one hands the latest newspaper off the stand, and not a gun. I hesitate to take it and he notices.
“Are you scared?” he asks.
“Mhm,” I muster.
It’s not the gun that scares me. Holding it in my hand and feeling its hard surface doesn’t make me afraid. The knowledge that I’d have to pull that trigger does. Because, I’m sure Fynn wouldn’t be handing it to me unless he expects me to use it.
“We have two options,” he tells me, that gun still between us, lingering in the air. He isn’t pulling it back, and I’m not taking it. “Fight or flee.”
I know what his choice is. It’s evident. But, that fear that has my feet nailed to the ground doesn’t agree.
“It makes no sense,” I shake my head in disbelief. “It’s only the two of us. Who knows how many there are of them.”
“Maddie, there is nowhere else to go,” I hear hopelessness in his voice and I know he is telling me the truth. “This was the last place on Earth I thought we’d be safe. I was wrong. And, now they have my partner.”
“Do you think he’s…” I start, but he cuts me off.
“No!” His voice thunders. “I’m gonna find him. We are gonna find him.”
It’s strange to hear him talk like this. But, I understand.
“I can drive you somewhere else, but honestly, I don’t even know where. I doubt I could protect you anywhere else by hiding you. The best I can do is fight until my last breath to keep you safe and unharmed.”