Inside Out Page 67

Instinct took over my voice box. “She has long dark eyelashes and already a full head of hair. Her face was a perfect oval, her chin came to a little point with a dimple. Skin so smooth and as soft as the underside of a sheep’s ear.” My surprise matched the woman’s. I’d held the baby for minutes, yet I could form a lifelike picture of her in my mind’s eye.

Unfortunately, my description caused the woman more pain. Tears flowed and her chest heaved in quiet sobs. Feeling terrible, I tried to ease her anguish. “Don’t worry so much. She will be loved in the lower levels. The care facility is broken into units of ten children per Care Mother. The Mothers love all the children and she will grow up with care mates, who will look after her. I’m sure one of the older boys will become very protective, and she will fuss about his attention but be his staunchest supporter.”

The woman stared at me as if I had sprouted wings. I didn’t know what caused me to say so much. At least I didn’t lie to her. Care mates could be very protective.

Instead of questioning me on how I knew so much, the upper sighed in relief. “What do you think they’ll name her?”

“Hmm…She’ll need a pretty name, but not too girly as I think she’ll be a bit of a tomboy.”

“Gillie? I always liked the name.”

“A good choice.”

We discussed Gillie’s life, her toddler years, her schooling and her career.

“I think she might gravitate to working in the care facility. As a helper to start and then as a Care Mother,” I said.

By this time, the upper’s tears had dried. She smiled proudly. “Yes, I’m sure she will love the little ones and have enough patience for the active three-hundred-week-olds.”

“And the nice man who works in recycling, you know, the one who made her those metal flowers?”

“Do you think he wants to be her mate?” she asked.

“There’s not much time or material to make those petals for just anyone. He’s interested.”

We talked through Gillie’s life from start to finish, including all her accomplishments and major life events. The woman fell asleep with a dreamy half smile still on her lips.

I remained by her bedside. Cog would be amused by my efforts to comfort an upper. No. Not amused. Proud. I liked Ella. She was a good sort, much nicer than Trella, and I hoped she managed to survive the next thirty hours.

Doctor Lamont woke me. I had been dozing in the chair. “Sorry,” I said.

“No, I’m sorry. You had a hellish twenty hours and I left you to watch my patients.”

“You need to sleep, too.” Memories of the emergency replayed in my mind. “I don’t know how you could be so rational with all the blood gushing, and being able to cut through her stomach….” My own stomach rolled and I had to put my head in my hands to stop the swirl of dots in front of my eyes.

“But you were fine during the crisis. I’ve had to step over interns who had passed out during surgery.”

“Like I said, I didn’t think about it.”

Lamont pressed her fingers to the woman’s wrist, checking her pulse. “Poor Doreen. She’s in for a rough time. Losing a child…”

She stared at the wall, but her gaze peered into another world. “The loss lingers inside you, clinging like beads of moisture until rust forms and spreads. Eventually, the structure can’t hold the weight and it collapses.”

Her description had to come from experience. Not knowing what to say, I again let instinct guide my words. “I hope she finds another way to support the weight and keep the rust at bay. It would be a pity for her to live her life as an empty shell, when she has a mate and another child to care for.”

The doctor snapped out of her reverie. “It would be, but words are easy. It’s convincing the heart that’s hard. Get some sleep, Ella.”

I did as the doctor ordered and slept for the next eight hours. Feeling almost normal, I ate a large portion of a three-bean casserole Lamont had cooked. She had access to the same ingredients as the lower levels, but her concoctions tasted better.

After enduring a lecture to be careful, I climbed into the air shafts above level three. The tight duct was at once comforting and oppressive. An unfamiliar moment of panic washed over me. I ignored the flood of doubts and fears that soaked me. It was just like being in the surgery, if I stopped to think too much about what we planned to do, I would be unconscious.

The trip to Logan’s barrack lasted twice as long as normal. My movements were slow and my muscles protested being used after such a long time. I paused every few minutes to listen and search for RATSS. The mechanical clicking of their metal rollers echoed through the vents and I managed to dodge two devices.

Logan waited for me by the heating vent near his bunk.

“What about your Pop Cop?” I asked.

“He thinks I’m sleeping.” Logan grunted as he squeezed into the vent.

I led him to Domotor’s room. It had been over a hundred hours since I’d been there and I hoped he was well.

Slumped on the couch, Domotor’s drawn face relaxed a bit when he saw me sliding from the vent after Logan.

“Where have you been? What’s going on? I’m a wreck, jumping at every noise.”

Dark smudges under his eyes stood out in contrast to his pale face. His uncombed hair hung in greasy clumps. An overripe smell emanated from his body.

He noticed my expression. “I didn’t want to be caught in the shower. I do have my dignity.”

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