Haven Page 29


I tried to catch Paci’s, eye but he was staring at the ground saying nothing. A few seconds after Trip left he turned and went with him. They stood together in silence outside our ring of light.


I really wanted to go after them, but I didn’t know what I’d say or do. I figured I’d probably just make it worse, so I stayed put.


“When is it going to end?” asked Winky, coming through the crowd at the back of the hut. “Move it or lose it, people, coming through.” The crowd split to make room for her. It was when she fully separated from the group and got close that I noticed her arm was in a sling.


“What happened to you?” I asked as I stood and took her into a gentle hug.


“Coli happened to me,” she said wryly. She pointed to my bloody bandages. “What happened to you?”


I waited a few seconds for effect. “Coli happened to me too.”


“No shit?” she asked, smiling.


“No shit. Girl’s crazy out there, throwing those knives like she’s in the friggin’ circus.”


Several kids laughed. Then a round of sniffles began as everyone battled sorrow and joy at the same time.


Trip spoke without turning around. “Sleep now. You leave at first light.”


I finally got up the nerve and walked over to him and Paci, stopping on Trip’s left side and putting my hand on his arm. “Can we talk for a second?”


Trip nodded, not even looking at me.


I backed up a few steps so he’d follow me a little ways from Paci.


When he was far enough away that I knew we could speak privately, I dropped my hand and lowered my voice so only he could hear me. “Peter is waiting for you at Haven. I hope you’re coming.”


Trip’s jaw muscle twitching was the only sign I had that he’d heard me. Otherwise, he was as motionless as a statue and without expression.


I continued, determined to keep delivering my message until he stopped me or walked away. “At the Triple Bar D they have a messenger system using carrier pigeons. They have contact points all over the state and in Georgia now, too. They’d like to have a point here with you guys so they could give you warnings of canner movements and kids on the run from canners. Will you send someone to get trained and to get some birds from them? They’re good people, Trip. I’ll vouch for them.”


He did nothing at first. Then gave one sharp nod.


“Okay, good. And I know you’re hurting and you have a lot going on right now, but I just want you to know you have my support, a hundred percent. Whatever you need, just say the word. Haven is waiting to take all of you in or just some of you … whatever.”


Trip tensed his jaw again but turned his head to face me.


For a while he said nothing, so I just stared at him. He was fiercely beautiful. I could see why Peter had fallen for him. He exuded maleness, but at the same time had some underlying sensitivity he tried to keep hidden from the world. I hoped like heck that Peter could teach him to let it out. If he didn’t loosen up a little and let some joy into his life, Trip was going to become too brittle to survive the madness that threatened to take us all.


“Peter is waiting.” He said it like a statement.


“Yes. He’s waiting for you to come.”


“He left.”


“Of course he left. What did you expect him to do? Stay when you couldn’t even stand up for him? Stay when you were turning people out who needed you? That’s not Peter’s style. You know that.”


Trip turned his head away from me.


“Don’t be so stubborn that you ruin your life. If you don’t care enough about your own happiness to follow my advice, then do it for Peter. If you don’t come to Haven and let him know how you feel, you’ll break his heart.”


Trip said nothing.


“And just so you know, there’s another cute guy at the prison now, so if you don’t go stake your claim soon you might have a problem on your hands later.”


Trip’s head whipped in my direction. “Who?” He tried to sound angry, but all I heard was worry.


I shrugged. “Just some guy.” I was totally lying my butt off, but I was doing what had to be done and felt zero guilt over it. “Pretty cute, though. If he were playing for my team I’d go for it.”


Trip snorted, turning away again. “Don’t you already have enough boyfriends?”


I punched him in the arm. “Shut up, asshole.” I noticed a small smile play across his lips just before I turned away to join Winky, Rob, and Bodo.


They were all deep in discussion on the other side of the hut, and as I got near, I learned it was about the logistics involved in moving looms, cattle, horses, and other supplies from Kahayatle to Haven. As the details were revealed, I was glad that there were people smarter than me involved in planning that particular event. It was going to be a nightmare made much worse by the fact that we’d probably be fighting off canners the entire trip down.


***


We got up before the sun broke over the horizon. Someone shoved a bowl of food in my hand and threw my pack over my shoulders, heavy with supplies. I thanked the girl distractedly, searching for the rest of my friends.


Rob and Winky came over from another hut and joined Bodo and me. We ate while we talked over the day’s plans.


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“So here’s the deal,” said Rob, “we’ve got six horses, four head of cattle - two cows and their two babies, four sheep, two pigs, three dogs, some chickens, one loom, three bales of wool, and this and that. The kid in charge of the breeding program says he can get us sperm later when we need it, so no bulls are going on this trip.”


“Okay, can I just say ew to that?” I asked.


“Who’s going to be the sperm delivery person?” asked Winky, snickering.


Rob smiled big. “Fohi gets my vote.”


“What’s dis and dat?” asked Bodo, just before shoving a hunk of meat into his mouth that was so big I wasn’t sure how he was even going to chew it. Somehow he managed to talk around it, though. “You saidt dat dare is dis and dat too.”


“Feed for the animals, extra harnesses, food, junk like that.”


“What about the ATVs?” I asked.


“We have two four-wheelers and one swamp buggy. We’ll hook all the cows and sheep together and ride two-by-two on the horses. It won’t be the most comfortable trip in the world, but it should work. Most of the kids will be on foot, but we’ll ride ahead and check things out, get advance warning of any trouble.”


“What about canners?” I asked.


“We’re bringing three grenades and plenty of firepower,” said Winky.


“Do you guys know if Trip is sending anyone to the Triple Bar D?” I asked. “And is he coming with us?”


“I heard him asking for volunteers for the birds,” said Rob. “I don’t know if anyone offered to go. And I’m not sure if he’s going with us or not.”


Winky spoke up. “With Kowi gone, he might not feel like he can.”


“That’s stupid. The ranch will have the fewest amount of us. More of us are going to be at Haven. That’s where he should be.” Rob sounded cranky.


I could see both sides. “I hope he comes, but I understand if he feels like he should stay. Maybe we could get to a point someday that people could go back and forth.” It was wishful thinking, but I liked the idea. Maybe if we could establish more settlements between the two points it would be safer to travel… I shook my head, getting it out of the clouds. Baby steps, Bryn. Get to Haven in once piece and then maybe you can dream about settlements and safe passage.


Trip came into the hut as we were finishing our breakfast. “Ready to go?” he asked.


“Are you?” asked Bodo.


“Yes. I’m going just to make sure you get there okay. Then I’ll come back.”


I kept my comments to myself. Maybe seeing Peter would change his mind. Or maybe I could convince Flick to flirt with Peter a little to make Trip jealous.


I laughed at my pitiful ideas of matchmaking. I was probably the last person who should be doing anything like that. My own love life was a total mess and clear proof I had no idea what I was doing when it came to boys and knowing what the heck they were thinking or what they wanted.


“Follow me,” said Winky, putting her bowl down on a table as she walked out of the hut. “Time to get our butts to Haven.”


I left my uneaten portion on the table next to hers and walked behind her. Bodo was after me and Rob brought up the rear. Trip disappeared into the trees or something because when I looked back he was gone. Sometimes he made me think that he did that crap just for effect and not for any good reason.


“What’s the plan for Coli?” I asked Winky.


“I don’t know. I talked to Trip about her yesterday. They’re going to see if she wants to come to the ranch, but none of us think she’ll come. Kowi was the only reason she stayed semi-social. I think she’s going to be the loon of the swamp or something.”


“That’s sad.”


“Yeah. If you can ignore all the times she tried to kill us, maybe. I’m having a hard time with that right now.” She held up her bandaged arm.


I smiled, lifting up mine. “I hear ya, sister.” At least I had Winky to thank for a clean bandage and LaShay to thank for the very neat stitches. She’d said goodbye to me last night, promising to come visit someday.


We walked for ten minutes before we came to a large clearing marked off by several pens. Inside one were our animals. They were peacefully eating some piles of dried hay. All of them had halter things made of braided leather on their heads. Groups of kids were standing around or balancing on fence rails, all of them with backpacks on or nearby.


Several kids dressed in pants made of animal hide were on horseback. Their horses had saddles with colorful blankets underneath. The most buff of the group came riding over, and when he got close I realized it was Paci. And he was shirtless. My blood heated up and moved up my neck to burn my face.


Paci leaned down, offering me his hand. “Up you go,” he said, smiling. My heart totally went pitter patter. Now I knew what that stupid expression meant. Tiny heart attack alert. Act casual. It’s no big deal. Just get up on the stupid horse!


“No,” said Bodo.


I turned to look at him, frowning. “What?”


“I saidt no. You can ride with someone else.” He folded his arms across his chest, a mutinous expression clouding his face.


“What? You want to ride with me, dude?” asked Paci, laughing and brushing off Bodo’s stupid mood. “Sorry, but this saddle’s taken. You’re too heavy. You go ride with Winky.”


I looked over and saw Winky taking a horse from a guy who’d just climbed down.


I gave Bodo one more hard look before turning back to Paci. I could have declined and rode with someone else, but the way Bodo was being such a jerk made me say yes to Paci. That, and I didn’t want to cause a big fuss in front of all these people trying to help us - sacrificing their supplies and possibly lives getting this stuff to Haven. My relationship troubles were so minor league and unimportant in comparison.


I grabbed Paci’s offered elbow. I used the leverage he provided and the muscles of my good arm and abs to fly up onto the back of his horse. I landed behind the saddle on the horse’s rump and gripped Paci around the middle with one arm, allowing my bad one to rest between us. It hung there in the sling Winky had given me last night before I fell asleep.


I rolled my shoulder experimentally, trying to ease the stiffness. The knife wound was burning from the exertion of getting on the horse, but looking down I didn’t see any blood on the clean bandages. LaShay’s stitches were apparently holding - not only neat but also strong. She’d learned a lot in just a short time.


Bodo stood there glaring as us for a few seconds, but then finally walked away, saying nothing. He used a nearby fence to get up high enough so that he could join Winky on her horse. She pulled up next to him and held the reins while he climbed on behind her saddle.

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