Haven Page 11


“Are we going to talk about this, Bodo?”


“Talk about what?” His jaw muscle twitched in aggravation.


Maybe I should have ignored it, but I figured it was better to just get things over with, whatever they might be.


“Us. About what I said to you last night.”


“What is there to say?” He shrugged, like it didn’t matter, but his muscles were so tense they screamed angry boy at me.


“Plenty, probably. You could say I hate you, or I never want to see you again, or I think we should see other people …”


He looked at me, all seriousness, the only visible sign he was feeling emotion the flaring of his nostrils. “There are other things, too.”


“Like what?” I felt like I was walking a high wire, ready to fall to the ground from really high up. It was dizzying and terrifying. I realized in that moment that I was more confident dealing with a hungry canner than a boyfriend with hurt feelings.


He shrugged once more, looking out into the distance. “I could tell you dat I luff you, no matter what you do.”


My heart soared for a brief moment - the period of time before he finished his thought.


“But dat would not be entirely honest. I want it to be da truth, but it is not.” He looked at me again. “I find dat I can luff you if you are luffing me too. But if you do not luff me, den to be with you is just the pain for me. Just the pain. My world hass enough pain for me right now, even without you. If you bring pain to me, it is too much. Too much for Bodo.”


Tears rushed to my eyes. I looked away from him to stare at the ground, trying to get myself under control. “I understand. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring you pain.”


He reached out and patted me on the shoulder, which only made me cry more.


“I know dat. It wass only a kiss, and you thought I was deadt. Dat’s normal. I know dat.”


I was so confused now, I didn’t know what to think. I looked up at him as I wiped the tears off my face. “I don’t get it. Are you breaking up with me or not?”


He smiled humorlessly, staring at me for a few long moments before looking away. “I don’t know what I’m sayingk. Dis iss a complicated life we haff, isn’t it?”


I huffed out a frustrated breath. “You’re not kidding.”


“No, I am not kidding. Da problem for me is dat Paci is here. If he wass in da swamp, maybe I could chust be a guy and be Mr. Bryn. But now, when I see his face, I just want to punch him very hardt. Veeeery, very hardt. Until I make him bleeding. Dat is a problem for me. Dat is a problem.”


I nodded. “Yes. You can’t do that. You can’t punch him in the face. But not because I’m protecting him, but because it’s a bad precedent to start here … physical violence I mean. We have to show everyone we can resolve our problems with talking.”


He looked at me, smiling bitterly. “Dat is an interesting plan comingk from you, Bryn.”


He seemed mad, but I ignored that emotion and stayed as neutral as possible, even though it made me want to cry. “The way I fight is designed to be defensive, not offensive. Yes, I go for the eyes or balls right off the bat, but that’s only to stop the fight in its tracks. I’m not a violent person.”


“No, you are not. I know dat.” He turned and began walking around behind me, headed towards the prison entrance.


“Where are you going?” I asked, feeling suddenly all alone and abandoned.


“To eat my breakfast and to get ready to transport dose bodies to da grave.” He didn’t look back, he just kept walking.


“So where does this leave us?” I shouted at him.


He threw up his arms, but said nothing.


I picked up a rock and threw it as hard as I could out into the open space on the side of the building. It sailed over the weeds and finally landed about thirty yards away, quickly disappearing in the tall weeds near the back of the building.


I didn’t know who to be mad at, Bodo or myself. I knew I was to blame for what I did, but I also felt like I had an excuse. As soon as I started thinking of that excuse though, I felt guilty that I’d kissed another boy so soon after thinking my boyfriend might be dead. There was no winning for me in this situation.


“Love sucks,” I said out into the air.


I didn’t receive an answer back. Not that I had expected to, but it would have been nice.


As I trudged back through the sandy, weed-covered ground, I thought about my dad, imagining us doing a workout and discussing my current situation. What should I do, Dad? What’s the solution to this problem?


The answer didn’t come to me in his voice, but it came to me nonetheless. Accept what you cannot change. Have the courage to change the things you can. Be smart enough to recognize the difference.


Bodo needed time to figure out what he wanted to do about us, and we had time in spades. Now I just had to keep myself so busy, I wouldn’t have a moment to think about how my heart was breaking in half.


***


It took a group of ten kids and me about six hours, but we finally moved all the ashes and bone out of the crematorium fridge and into the pit we’d dug the day before. Kids who hadn’t taken part in the actual transportation of remains filled in the hole with the dirt we’d kept from our excavation.


Peter stood by with a clipboard. “Excellent work, everyone. That looks great.”


I walked over to him and watched as the last shovels of dirt were packed into place. The bare earth stood out in stark contrast to the heavily-weeded surroundings. I lifted the mask off my face so he could hear me better.


“So what’s next, commander?”


“What’s next is we get into that freezer and kitchen and bleach the heck out of every single surface there is.” He gave an exaggerated shiver. “I for one will not be supervising that task.”


“What’s the big? All the bodies are gone now.”


“The big is that it’s probably haunted, and I’m allergic to ghosts.”


I grabbed his arm and pushed him back until we were farther away from listening ears. “Don’t say that, you dope!” I whisper-yelled. “You want everyone in here afraid to go into sections of the prison because of imaginary spirits?”


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He half-frowned and half-pouted at me. “No. Not necessarily.”


“No, not at all, you mean. Geez, Peter. Use your head. You’re the big cheese out here. You have to hold your crap together or you’ll start a friggin pandemic.”


“Do you even know what that word means?”


“Maybe not, but you get my drift. Man-up.”


“I prefer the term cowboy-up if you don’t mind.” He lifted his chin a fraction of an inch and looked back out towards the work crew.


“Fine. Cowboy-up, then.”


“What’s your problem, anyway?” he asked, turning his attention back to me. “Who doodled in your Wheaties?”


I sighed heavily. Normally I wasn’t one to share my feelings or wallow in the boy-girl drama, but I was so lost on this one, I didn’t see any other way to manage it. “Bodo is thinking of breaking up with me, I think.”


Peter snorted. “Yeah, right.”


“I’m serious. We talked this morning. He’s being very cold.”


“He’ll get over it. It’s not a big deal. So what if you kissed a guy one time when you thought your boyfriend was dead? He needs to get over it. For serious.”


“Yeah, but it was wrong. I should have waited longer at least.”


Peter turned to me, his face all scrunched up. “Are you kidding me? What? Like you’re supposed to wear widow’s weeds and mourn for a year? Shoot, if we had to do that every time someone we cared about died out here, we’d never not wear black.”


“Widow’s weeds?”


Peter rolled his eyes. “I’m going to stock some historical romances in our library so you can expand your vocabulary.”


“Weeds?”


“Yes. Weeds.”


“Weeds.”


“Stop saying weeds!”


“Weeds. That makes no sense whatsoever. Did they cover themselves in grass or what?”


“No, dipdork, weeds is the current version of the word in Old English spelled w-a-e-d-s. It just got changed to w-e-e-d-s somewhere along the way.”


“Who changed it?”


“How the heck do I know?” Peter turned to me, all red in the face from frustration. “You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”


I smiled. “Maybe a little.”


“Don’t you have boyfriend drama to go fret over or something?”


I lost my good humor immediately. “Thanks. Yeah, for a second there I forgot how miserable I was. My bad.”


I turned to go, but Peter caught me by my arm and pulled me back.


“Sorry. That was poopy of me. I’m a jerk. Come to papa.” He dropped his clipboard to the ground and grabbed me in a hug, patting me on the back. “Everything’s going to be fine. Either that stupid German goofball is going to wake up and realize his jawbreaker candy is still the only sweetness in town, or he’ll walk away and try to find happiness with someone less worthy. And if that happens, well, we’ll just wish him good luck and move on.”


I smiled over Peter’s shoulder, adding, “And we’ll maybe eye gouge him once.”


“And that, too.” Peter drew away and looked me in the eyes. “Don’t forget that Paci is standing on the sidelines, just waiting for his chance. He’s prime beef, too. I mean, Bodo’s no slouch, don’t get me wrong, but Paci …” His eyes took on a dreamy look. “He reminds me a little of Trip, actually.”


I kissed Peter quickly on the cheek before stepping away. “Keep your thoughts clean, Peter. Trust me, you don’t want to be confessing to your boyfriend that you were lusting after someone else while he was temporarily out of the picture. The guilt isn’t worth it.”


Peter blinked a few times rapidly before coming back to earth. “You’re right. Even though I can do whatever the H-E-double hockey sticks I want right now since Trip passed up his chance. But I get your meaning. Besides, Paci isn’t my kind of guy.”


“Meaning he likes hoo-hoos and not ding-a-lings.”


“Yes. Ever so eloquent, as usual, Bryn. Thank you for that reality check.”


“Don’t mention it.”


“By the way, speaking of the-boy-in-the-swamp-who-shall-not-be-named…”


“Do you mean Trip?”


Peter rolled his eyes. “Yes. I mean Trip. When are you planning on going there?”


“Is four days too soon?” I kind of said it as a joke, but as soon as the words left my lips, I thought, Why not? No reason for me to hang around here now that the bodies are buried and my boyfriend thinks I suck.


“Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how much work we have to accomplish before everyone gets here?” He took off at a rapid clip, walking so fast it made his butt wiggle in an exaggerated fashion.


I couldn’t help but laugh. “Slow down before you throw a hip out of joint!” I yelled after him.


“No time! I have to get the plans together!” And then he was gone. I could see him through the glass in the lobby, scampering over to talk to his planning group. His hands were fluttering around his face as he explained their predicament and soon the whole group was up and moving around.


I didn’t hear Paci come up until he was standing right next to me.


“Looks like you got him all excited. What did you say?”


I was instantly nervous and sweating, wondering if Bodo was watching us, worried I’d do something innocent that would come off as bad or cheater-like. I kept my eyes on the lobby, not looking at Paci. “I told him I wanted to leave in four days to go get the kids in Kahayatle.”

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