Title: Prepare For Battle
Fandom: 2009 revival of Hair, the musical
Rating: PG-13 for angst
Author's Note: Thank you once more for all those who continue to read my work, especially to the wonderful Jadelphie whose reviews always make my day. This final chapter is shorter than the rest but will lead nicely onto the sequel, which I'll post the first instalment to in the next few days. All I can say is: prepare for more angst! Enjoy!
15 months later
Jeanie stirred on the bed of lush grass in Central Park, amongst the shroud of rust, ochre and burnt orange. Autumn was now in full swing and the chilly winter air was already hinting with its harsh bite through the air. On either side of her, still lost in peaceful sleep, was Hud and Woof. But something wasn't right. Something was unsettling her; a sharp panic boiled and rised in the pit of her stomach like a ball of elastic bands threatening to snap. She hadn't intended on falling asleep for so long. She'd merely closed her eyes momentarily and had subconsciously fallen into a deep slumber. How much time had past?
It was too quiet.
She recalled hearing Samuel's joyful, tinkling laughter as he played with a ball some kid had probably left behind after a game of kick-about. Having just recently mastered being able to walk independently, he had been eager and had become fascinated by throwing the ball a short distance before walking over to retrieve like. Hud and Woof, watching with Jeanie from afar, chuckled as the boy repeatedly demonstrated his newfound skill. Now, the ball was by the base of a nearby oak tree. Samuel was nowhere in sight.
Heart racing and filled with anxiety, she violently shook awake Hud and Woof.
Frustrated by their laziness in awaking, the girl rose to her feet and scanned the park from where she stood. Finally, Woof groggily stood up.
"What's the fuss about, Jeanie? He's probably with Dionne and the girls or something! Quit worrying! You wrap that kid up in cotton wool…"
Jeanie felt something snap, then. She could no longer keep her panic and frustration in check.
"You were supposed to be watching him!" her voice trembled.
Aghast, Woof was quick to fire back. "Me? You're his mother!"
Shaking his head, Hud took the role of referee and separated the two with his muscular arms.
"Look, both of you quit it! We aren't going to get anywhere if you two start beatin' at each other," He gave the pair a serious look before relaxing and turning to Jeanie. "He can't have wandered too far, Jeanie. We'll find him, alright?"
Despite Hud's reassuring words, the girl couldn't relax. Samuel may only be eighteen months of age, but he was now gaining confidence on his feet. There were far too many dangers for a wandering child, even in a park. What if someone had coaxed him to take their hand and walk away with them? What if he'd got lost and had stumbled out of the park and onto the streets of New York? What if…
"Right, let's split up. Woof, go and tell Crissy and the others that Samuel's disappeared. I'll go with Jeanie towards the pond."
Hud had this all under control. In his serious moods, he often reminded Jeanie of a commanding officer in some military unit. The pair started off on the winding path towards the pond. It was a popular place for both residents and tourists; a place where the hustle and bustle of New York could be left behind. The stopped for a moment, watching a group of schoolchildren feeding the ducks.
"I guess our best bet is to split up from here and meet in the middle," Hud shrugged, giving Jeanie a sympathetic look.
She nodded and turned right, picking up her pace. The worries that had immediately filled her head just fifteen minutes ago arose again. How could she be so foolish? It hit her then that she was already failing to protect her son, the promise she had whispered in his ear just shortly after his birth. Perhaps her parents had been right to throw her out, adamant that she couldn't handle the responsibility of caring for a child, when she led a lifestyle which was so carefree and exempt of rules and any real structure. They wanted no involvement, as they knew that with this lack of responsibility would lead to them having to intervene and have the child forced upon them. The girl now truly realised just how selfish she had been and how ungrateful she had been to them, her parents who had striven to raise their daughter and give her every chance of success, only for her to rip that all down by becoming another teenage pregnancy statistic.
Continuing down the path, scanning the faces of the toddlers she passed, she still found herself praying that Samuel was safe. She found herself thrusting away those bitter thoughts. No. She would have no regrets. Her son may have been a mistake but that did not stop her loving him unconditionally. It is wasn't for him now, Jeanie was certain she would not have the motivation she now had for living every moment, appreciating what she had and the people she had with her. Samuel was her world.
Just then, she stopped in her tracks and those thoughts dissolved. Immersed in her thoughts, she had wandered off the path that circled the pond and was now walking up the grassy slopes towards the zoo. Something had caught her eye. She felt her insides begin to churn and twist, her heart hammering uncontrollably in her chest, the sound filling her ears. The girl paled.