Ironic — the photo in this post was taken March 2, 2011 — exactly one year before the date of this episode…
Friday, March 2, 2012
After the first week of pipeline construction, things started smoothing out. Packs of wild dogs were still a problem outside the fence, but there were plenty of weapons at each work site and the dogs started to keep their distance. With the spring head mostly complete, the hardest part was done and now Cody had rotated off the work crews for a day. Lunch was over, and he was free for the afternoon. It felt weird, nobody needing his help or even an opinion for a change, and he wasn’t in the mood to play video games (or chit-chat with fellow kibitzers while waiting his turn), so he wandered through Laurel for lack of a better idea. A line from something he couldn’t remember — doing nothing in particular, and thinking nothing in particular — ran through his mind, and it suited him. Aloneness weighed on him… funny, now that there were so few people around, he’d forgotten how to enjoy time with only himself.
He sat on the end of the cairn. “Hey. I brought you some flowers,” he said, and laid them on the rocks. He heard a gasp, and Caitlin’s head popped up on the other side.
“You — oh,” she said, looking at Cody and the small heap of daffodils. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Cody said. “What…” he waved his hands.
“Sorry. I can go if you want.”
“You don’t have to.”
Caitlin boosted herself onto the other end of the cairn, understanding the rest of Cody’s first question. “I like to come out here sometimes.”
“Yeah. How’s your shoulder? Still sore?”
“Not really. Ashley checks it for infection, and Rita gave me some exercises to do so it won’t get stiff. I wish class hadn’t got canceled, though. Jenn-Mom makes me wear a jacket and a pad underneath when I practice, then she’s always telling me to be careful. Like I’m made of glass or something.”
Cody laughed. “Moms are like that. Sometimes, you need some space from all that. I guess that’s why you come out here.”
“No. It’s just that… Ashley and Lily aren’t mean to me or anything, but sometimes I just feel like I don’t belong with them anymore. I don’t belong anywhere. So I come out here and sit. Sometimes, I’ll talk to Sondra, tell her what’s going on.”
“Yeah, me too. She ever talk back?”
“Sometimes.” Caitlin clapped her hand over her mouth.
“It’s okay. She talks to me sometimes too.”
“I’m not very good at keeping secrets,” Caitlin said. “My mom used to say my mouth runs great but it don’t have no brakes. So I hope you won’t get mad if I say you said that.”
“I don’t care. Sondra liked you, you know.”
Caitlin looked surprised. “She did? I thought… well, you know… that she would have been jealous or something.”
“He — heck, no. She thought it was funny. Or she thought the way I reacted was funny, anyway. I wish my sister was still here. She was about your age, and she woulda liked you too. She’d tell you a bunch of stupid things about me, then you’d just laugh at me.”
Caitlin shook her head. “I wouldn’t laugh. What was her name?”
“Katera, but she liked to be called Teri. I always thought she was a pain in the ass back Before, but now… now I miss her more than anyone.”
“Almost. Maybe as much, anyway.”
They sat on each end of the cairn for a minute, both lost in their own thoughts. “So why do you think you don’t belong?” Cody asked. “Do they just ignore you or something?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “They’re nice, especially lately… they kind of act like they’re afraid of me sometimes. They tease me a little, but I don’t mind that much. But me and Ashley have a bedroom together, and it’s — I don’t know, it’s like Lily’s her friend more than I am. Jennifer’s nice, so are Tim and Sara, but they’re trying to get ready for the baby. If I wasn’t around — if I wasn’t, I wonder if anyone would notice.” Caitlin looked away, wiping her eyes.
“How do you know?”
“Well, for one thing, there’s not enough people around. If someone was missing, everyone would know pretty quick. But that’s not the only reason… I’m trying to figure out how to say this. There has to be a reason why you — and me, and everyone else are still walking around instead of taking the Forever Road Trip, y’know? We can’t afford to lose anyone else.” He patted the rock. “Me and Sondra… we talked about having our first kid next — this year. She used to say, ‘a kid or four,’ so I guess we’d have been raising a lot of them. When you’re older, you’ll be having your own kids, too.”
“Yeah right. There’d have to be someone who wants to marry me.”
“It’ll happen. I never thought anyone would love me the way Sondra did, but it happened. Maybe it’ll happen again.”
“It did happen… but I’m too little.”
“Hey. Y’know, there’s some guys who wouldn’t care about that. They’d use you, maybe hurt you, and make you think it was your fault. Don’t let that happen to you, okay? ’Cause if it did, I’d have to throw the son of a bitch in a truck.”
Caitlin shook her head. “I won’t. Maybe those kind of people are already all in trucks though.”
“You never know. Hey… you want to talk to me, you can find me. Or maybe talk to Jennifer. She probably understands this shit better than I do. Sondra and me was something that just happened. And I bet if you ask her, she’ll make time for you.”
“Maybe. I guess I should go now. Thanks, Cody.” She slid off the cairn onto the grass.
“Sure. Hey, wait a minute.” Cody picked up a few flowers and offered them to her. “Take these with you, okay?”
Caitlin looked dubious at first, then grinned. “Thanks.”
Cody watched her walk away. In a lower voice, “I wish I knew how to deal with her.”
You did pretty good, actually.
“Yeah right. She still wants to be my girlfriend, and maybe just anyone’s friend. She’s as messed up as I am.”
You’re not so messed up now.
“If that’s true, it’s only because you were there for me.”
Now you can be there for someone else.
No answer. Cody sighed and slipped off the cairn. He’d made Caitlin feel better, maybe, and that was something.