Haven Page 34


Peter’s face turned pink and he tried not to smile but failed miserably. “As I was saying … a-hem … we need hunters.”


“I’m a hunter,” said Trip. He looked sideways at Peter and waited until Peter looked over. Then he looked away.


Peter fanned himself with his clipboard for a few seconds before he realized what he was doing and stopped. He picked up his pen and fumbled it so badly it fell at my feet.


I picked it up and handed it to him so he could write his very important note down.


“Okaaay, Trip … is a hunterrrr,” Peter said while writing. This note took him extra long to finish and included a lot of extra swirls and underlines. A lot of kids around the circle were smiling.


Peter looked up, all prim and proper again. “Anyone else?”


Fohi spoke up. “I’m good at killing stuff. Gators, snakes, whatever. Put me down.”


Trip hissed some air out. “Not sure I want Fohi with a loaded gun at my back.”


Several kids giggled.


“Geez, Trip! Not you too, man! Come on! You know I’ve got the goods. You know I’m the man when it comes to ammo.” Fohi was struggling to sit up.


“I know you’re the man when it comes to people getting accidentally stabbed and blown up.” Tip stared at him blandly.


“Oh man, that hurts, you know? You guys are always giving me shit. I’m the demolitions expert, which you already know. And I’m the head of the armory, so if you want any damn guns or bullets, you have to ask me. I’ve got the key. Not you. Me.”


Trip looked at Peter. “Put Fohi on the list. Give him a tennis racket to hunt with. He couldn’t possibly hurt anyone with a tennis racket.”


Rob was snorting now. Fohi just laid back on the ground, mumbling about getting no respect.


Peter bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from laughing. “Okay, Fohi is on the hunting list too. Anyone else?”


Rob raised his hand. “Better put me on there.”


Fohi turned his head sideways to face his friend. “What’s that supposed to mean? You aren’t my damn babysitter, Rob.”


Rob reached over without looking, clamping his hand over Fohi’s mouth. “Shush your buzzing, Little Bee. The grownups are talking right now.”


Fohi struggled hard and got a few punches in on Rob’s arm and back before Rob put some distance between them by scooting over.


“Okay,” said Peter, “enough playing around. Now we can talk about the weaving.”


“I’m on the list,” said Winky. “And I’m taking anyone who came from the ranch who knows how to weave with me.”


“I’m already with you on that,” said Peter. “Consider it done. And now food. We need cooks.”


“Seems like Gretchen and Bianca are on that,” said Fohi. “They’re pretty decent.”


“Yes, but we need people who can prepare food like the Miccosukee and Creek. They’re the best,” said Peter.


Trip smiled briefly without showing any teeth, but went back to being serious in less than a second. He didn’t look at Peter, but he was listening carefully. My hopes for the two of them were soaring.


“I agree,” I said. “Best food ever. I hope we can make bread here.”


“We brought sacks of flour, but it won’t last long with this big group,” said Paci. “You need to get fields planted.”


“Oh, man. You mean like farming?” I asked.


“What? You thought we bought our stuff at Costco?” asked Paci, not unkindly.


Everyone had a good laugh at that.


“No. I just … geez-oh-petes. This is going to take so much work.” For a moment, the immense amount of the work weighed on my shoulders like a giant boulder of responsibility. How are we going to get all this done?


“Geez-oh-petes?” asked Peter.


I pushed into him with my shoulder. “Carry on, oh City Manager on high.”


“We don’t have all the equipment we need to farm,” said Peter, staring in consternation at one of his papers.


“The Miccosukee will trade for whatever you need. Or they’ll just give it on good faith,” said Trip. “We’re together in this.”


The boulder on my shoulder felt just slightly lighter. Not a lot, but even a little made a difference.


“We’ll get this done,” said Peter directly to me. “My timeline says it’ll be five full years before we’re completely up and running, but we won’t be starving or suffering before then. We’ll just be roughing it for a while. But I promise … Haven will be a true haven when we’re done.”


I reached over and hugged him to me, not caring that tears were burning my eyes again. “Thank you, Peter. You’ve done so much for us.”


He patted me on the back. “No tears. I’m not done being awesome yet.”


I sat back up and wiped my eyes. “You’ll never be done being that, dummy. Go ahead with your bad self.”


“Okay, so as I was saying … food. We have a couple cooks here already, but we’d appreciate some Native Americans to join our group to spice up the offerings a little.”


“Or a lot,” said Gretchen. “I’m not proud. I know we can’t do much with what we know, but we can learn.”


“Count me in,” said Bianca.


“I’m good at chopping vegetables,” said Ronald.


“And I’m good at barbecuing,” said Jamal.


An awkward silence fell over the group.


Jamal’s expression went from excited to sickened. “Uhhh … Animals. Beef. Chicken. I’m good at barbecuing those things only.”


I had to smile, even though it was kind of morbid. “Good to know, Jamal.”


He nodded at me.


“You have some building that needs to be done,” said Paci. “Coop for the chicken, pens for the sheep…”


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“I may need some guidance on that, but we have a couple kids here with farming experience. I think they could adapt to ranching quickly. And of course we have you guys now, too.” Peter was battling to not look at Trip, but lost the battle at exactly the same moment Trip looked over at him.


For a full two seconds, they stared at each other. No one said a word or made a sound.


And then Peter looked away.


“We have clothing for everyone here. It’s prisoner stuff mostly, some guard uniforms. Lots and lots of slippers.” Several kids laughed when he paused. “And hair nets.” Peter grinned widely. “If anyone feels like they want to walk around with a hair net, let me know. I have gobs of them.”


“Maybe we can use them for something else,” I said, nudging him. “Let’s have a contest. Whoever comes up with the best use is the winner.”


“What’s the winner get?” asked Rob, sitting up straighter.


“First spot in the dinner line for a month,” I said.


Rob rubbed his hands together. “Sweet. I’m all over that. Hair nets.” His eyes went to the ceiling as he considered the challenge.


Fohi snorted. “Don’t bother, Rob. No one wants to see you running around in a hair-net jock strap.”


Rob looked at him like he was nuts.


“Don’t act like that’s not what you were thinking - hair net jock straps.”


Rob just shook his head, refusing to respond verbally, but he did reach out and thump Fohi on the head hard enough that I heard it from across the room.


“Shit, man! What’d you do that for? I’m just trying to stop you from embarrassing yourself.”


Peter stood. “I think that’s good for now. Besides, I believe Kirsten wants to have a meeting with Bryn.”


I stood and took my plate with me. “You coming to this meeting?” I asked Peter.


“Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.” He was talking to me, but his eyes were following Trip as he walked out.


Maybe I was just being hopeful on Peter’s behalf, but it sure looked like Trip was standing a little extra tall and a little extra proud, as if he had someone to impress.


“Come on, then,” I said. “Let’s go meet with the Amazonian scientist. Maybe we can convince her to make us some antibiotics before she leaves.”


“Can she do that?” asked Peter, suddenly very interested in our guest.


“I think so. She’s like a crazy evil science genius. She sure knew how to dope the hell out of Bodo with some mad mix she came up with.”


Peter scribbled something on one of his lists. “I’ll talk to her.”


I walked over to where Kirsten was sitting with some of her group. “Ready to discuss the birds and some other things?” I asked.


“Sure. Is Bodo going to join us?” She stood and helped her friend up.


I felt sick at the question. “If you want.”


She shrugged. “Sure. If he wants to.” It was the first time I saw her acting not one hundred percent sure of herself.


I smiled, but the gesture didn’t reach my eyes. “I’m just going to go find him. I’ll be back in a few.”


I couldn’t wait anymore. I had to know what in the hell was going on with those two or I was going to blow and it wasn’t going to be pretty.


I walked outside, headed to the garden area where I was pretty certain I’d find my wayward boyfriend.


***


I found Bodo staring at the future home of the promised tomatoes. He was so deep in thought he didn’t even know I was there until I spoke.


“Hello.”


He jumped a little and turned. His face immediately flamed up, and he looked at the ground. “Hello, Bryn. I didn’t see you dare.”


“I’m sneaky like that. Ninja style. What are you doing out here?”


“Checking da layout of da garden from what Peter told me. I think it will work.”


“Good. And you’ll still be here to get it all done?”


He looked up at me sharply. “What does dat mean? Of course I will be here. Where else can I be?”


I shrugged and put my hands in the back pockets of my shorts. “You could be here. You could be with the Amazons. You could be anywhere you want to be.” I studied his face for a reaction, but he was too hard to read.


His voice was lower now. “Why do you say da Amazons? Do you wish you left me dare?”


“No. Not at all. But I think if you ever had to leave here, that’s where you’d go.” I almost couldn’t get the words out; they were practically choking me. But I had to have this conversation with him. Things couldn’t be left unsaid anymore. It was too stressful and unfair to everyone.


“Maybe dat’s true.” He looked off in the distance.


“I wonder why that is, though, you know?” I was hoping he’d do the right thing and just tell me what there was to tell. I didn’t like digging. It made me feel needy and distrustful.


“It could be anything,” he said, still not looking at me.


I touched his arm. “But it’s not just anything, is it?”


He finally looked at me. There were tears in his bloodshot eyes. “Dare is something I want to tell you.”


“I’m ready to hear it, I think.” That was pretty much a lie, but I couldn’t live with not hearing it, so this was what I was left with. Tell me what I don’t want to hear.


“When I was with da Amazon girls. When I was with Kirsten …”


Just the sound of her name felt like a stab to the heart.


“… something happened. Something dat I didn’t mean and dat it wasn’t really me.”


I sensed an excuse coming on and it made my temper kick in.


“You know dat dey used drugs in dare.”


“I know that they sometimes use drugs in there. But not all the time.”


He dropped his gaze to the ground. “Yes, dat is true. Dare was not always da drugs.”

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