Some caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon helped me to lay down the rest of their dinner. I’ve over 1k words beyond that, but it’s another day and back to political stuff with Teresa. I hope to wrap it up tomorrow and then wait and see what comes next. I think there will be one more installment with Mac, followed by the POP back to ‘present’ of Nichole with the Nation on the move…
She took another small bite and swallowed it before continuing.
“Dad was a lobbyist? Consultant? I really didn’t know, but he was always at the Statehouse in Salem or traveling. Right before the phones stopped working he called my mom that he was way south, in Klamath Falls, but was trying to get back home.” A roll of her shoulders. “He never did.”
“I have,” Nichole said softly, ignoring Gil’s admonition, “heard too many stories such as yours.”
“I bet.” A drink of water. “By then, my brother had quit college, he was going to be an accountant, and got a job as a farmhand. We lived just far enough out of the capitol to avoid the food riots, and mom started planting veggies. She even…”
Nichole continued to push the food around her plate, happy to see that Gil was still eating.
“…she even started keeping chickens!” Mackenzie looked up, her bow of a mouth in a tiny smile, but her eyes were crying.
“After that, my brother was in a tractor accident. It was a week before he died. In that time he made me promise to do my best…!”
She put down her fork and dabbed at her eyes with her napkin.
“I’m trying!” she whispered. Mackenzie jerked to feel Gil’s hand on her left shoulder.
“You teach a private art class, you’re already working for the City. Your value as an artist is,” he took his hand off and waved about, “invaluable. You made the entire crew of a warship fall in love with you, and you’ve the most amazing best friend in the world.”
“I’d say,” Gil concluded, his disbelief having never recovered from John Brunelli’s finding of Nichole, “that your brother is very proud of you.”
Mackenzie small tears went straight to crying.
Gil looked to Nichole. She saw the panic in his eyes. With a tilt of her head to the door, he stood without a word and excused himself. Nichole came around the table, kneeling to hold her friend, who cried on and on.
“I’m so glad…! I’m so glad!” she said into Nichole’s shoulder.
She believes her brother alive, in what Christians call Heaven. She recalled a conversation shortly after she was awakened with her older sister, Caroline 4.52: the hints and rumors that traces of their deactivated family were ghosts, somewhere in the net.
A third of an hour later she crossed the hall back to her home. She could tell Gil was still there, but did not immediately see him. Perhaps in the bathroom?
“Hey, Nichole,” he said, leaning around from her closet, “Mac back to normal?”
“Pretty much,” she replied, coming around to see what he was looking at. Oh, her larger piece of luggage. The only time he’d a glimpse into it was months ago, after the battle at The Dalles dam, when she’d had him help her fab and apply some new skin.
“You can’t open it,” she observed, putting her hands to his shoulders and rubbing them.
“Any combination can – ”
“Nope! It’s not only a question of a combination. Your fingers cannot move as fast as mine.”
“Oh.” Against his better judgment, he stood and turned around, putting his hands onto her waist.
“Stay a little?” she asked softly.
“I’ve one last design problem to complete,” he said before kissing her. “I really should go.”
She returned his embrace.
“Then let me hold you. One minute.” She pushed her cheek to his chest. His hand came up to ruffle her synthetic hair.
“One minute,” he agreed.