I walked all day without stopping. The streets weren't busy, and no one bothered me. Finally I found what I was looking for. I walked up to a group of Militia soldiers. I pulled the folded square from my pocket. "I need you to take me to General Monroe."
The soldiers laughed. "Why would we do that?" One of them asked. I held out the paper, he took it looking amused. As he read it, his condescending smirk fell away. It was my turn to smirk. "Come with us, Miss Jackson." I was quickly ushered into a wagon.
I must have dozed off, because when I looked up we were pulling to a stop. I glanced around, not one civilian to be seen. It was more like a military base than a town. "Welcome to Philadelphia," another soldier said helping me down.
The farther into the base we walked the more nervous I got. I began to rethink my decision to come here. I had no idea what Monroe really had planned. For all I knew, he could be planning to kill me, or use me as leverage against Georgia. I glanced over my shoulder, I was flanked by several soldiers. It was a little too late to go back now. I was led into a building, and up to the second floor. I waited outside until a soldier came into the hall and waved the soldiers away. "General Monroe will see you now." As I entered the office, my eyes swept the room. Finally I focused on the man standing behind the desk. He was younger than I expected, and he was smiling. His smile wasn't creepy like the soldier's in Virginia. Monroe's smile looked genuine.
"You're alive," he said. "We thought you'd been killed by the rebels."
I saw then what I'd guessed at before, Monroe was scared. If I had died there would be nothing stopping Georgia from going to war with the Republic. "I'm a bit surprised I'm still alive too." I said with a shrug.
He laughed softly. "You'll have to tell me the whole story. Sit down," he motioned to one of the chairs in front of his desk. "Would you like a drink?" He asked going over and pouring himself a glass of some brown alcohol.
"I don't drink," I refused politely.
He turned around and looked at me as he walked back to his chair. "You look so much like your mother."
"You knew my mother?" I asked caught off guard.
He nodded. "Your father and I were friends before the blackout," he said. This was the first I was hearing of it. "We were in the Marines together."
"Oh." That made a little more sense then. My dad hardly ever talked about his time in the Marines.
"I'm sorry about what happened to your mother. I want you to know that the man who killed her was punished severely. Our soldiers are not supposed to cross the border, though sometimes we can't keep tabs on them."
I furrowed my brow. "My mother was killed on a hunting trip, by looters."
His eyes widened a bit betraying his surprise, and then he dropped back into his casual look. "Julia should be waiting for you downstairs to take you home."
"Julia?" I asked, still a little dazed from what I'd just learned.
"Julia Neville, Jason's mother. You'll be living with her until Jason get's back from Chicago." Monroe was looking at me with something I couldn't quite read.
"Thank you, General Monroe."
"Please, call me Bass."
I walked out of the room and downstairs. One conversation had already shaken my entire world. I had never really understood my father's reason for going to war with the Republic. He'd said it was because they stole from our border towns, and treated their citizens like animals. But now I realized that wasn't it. We could defend our borders better, Richmond was a perfect example. And, while vile, the way the Republic citizens were treated, wasn't our business. For my dad, this was personal. He wanted revenge on them for killing his wife.
I took my time walking down down the stairs. I wasn't sure what to do with this new information. I couldn't exactly confront my dad, and I wasn't sure it made any difference anyway. Finally, I made it to the first floor. A woman stood looking out the window, she was wearing a nice dress and heels. Her outfit reminded me of attending countless political dinners and meetings with representatives. "Julia?" I asked hesitantly.
She turned around with a smile. She looked at me for a moment. "You're gorgeous," she sounded relieved.
I laughed. "I've been running through the woods for a week, I need a bath."
"I'll have a bath drawn up for you," she said nodding. "Then we can work out your wardrobe." She smiled. Never in my life had I been so happy at the thought of new clothes. "Unfortunately my husband and my son are both out of town of business, but that gives us plenty of girl time."
I smiled. "Of course," I said.
"After dinner, we can take a walk around the compound so you can get a feel for things. I'm sure Bass will want to give you an official tour later, but that will be all business. I'll show you where the fun happens."
"Sounds like a plan." I liked Julia already. Maybe I'd been wrong, maybe I could be happy here.
When we got to the Nevilles' house, Julia showed me up to my room. The window looked out over the whole compound."Is that the Liberty Bell?" I asked.
She looked surprised. "I forgot they teach American history in the Federation. Yes, it is."
"I know a girl who wanted to see it," I said wistfully.
"You should write her a letter, I'll make sure stationary is sent up." I tried not to betray my surprise. From my dad's stories, I had expected to be treated like a prisoner here. Maybe his judgement had been clouded by what had happened to my mother. "You shouldn't talk about stuff like that to anyone around here. I'm sure you know Republic policy on history education." Then again, maybe my dad hadn't been too far off. "I do have a few books you might like. Just a few things I saved from before the blackout." She looked unsure about offering them to me, I wondered if they were banned.
"That would be great," I said smiling.
"Your bath should be ready. I'll go look and see if I have anything you can wear, I think we're about the same size." She left and I turned to the bathroom, where a maid was coming out with an empty bucket. I was used to being waited on. After running through the woods, I was even more grateful for my privileged lifestyle.
I peeled off my clothes and kicked them into the corner. I'd be perfectly fine with throwing them into the fire. I stepped into the bath, which was the perfect temperature, and leaned back. For the first time in weeks I actually felt relaxed.
After my bath, I went into my room to find a small stack of clothes on the foot of my bed. I dried off and looked through the pile. I settled on a pair of jeans and a green top that complimented my red hair. There was a knock on the door, and Julia stuck her head in. "Bass had something come up, he had to cancel dinner."
I wondered if something had really come up, or if he was just giving me time to mull over what I'd learned. "I had them send up some food. I wasn't sure what you'd want, so I got a bit of everything." She looked nervous. I could tell she was trying her hardest to make sure I was happy.
"I'm not that picky," I told her. She looked relieved and we walked downstairs. She wasn't kidding about having everything sent up. I was hungry, but not hungry enough to make even the smallest dent in the huge spread.
"I went a bit overboard didn't I?" She asked.
"Maybe a little," I said laughing.
"It's just a little nerve wracking. You're the President's daughter. You must be used to lavish meals." I wanted to tell her we were actually more content with sweet tea and barbecue, but I didn't want to make her feel bad. We served ourselves and then took a seat. "I know Bass will ask about it tomorrow, but if you don't mind telling me too, what happened out there?"
I sighed. "I was with my soldiers, and someone from the Militia. We were stopped by rebels, almost everyone was killed right away. But Garrett distracted them long enough for me to escape. He saved my life." I looked up to see if Julia wanted me to continue. She looked sad, but nodded encouragingly. "I ran until I couldn't anymore. I fell and got pretty banged up." I held out my arms, which were healing nicely thanks to Nate. "But I met this guy who helped me get here safely. He walked me most of the way here. If it weren't for him, I probably would've gotten lost in the woods, or been killed by looters."
"That must have been awful, I can't imagine going through all that. I'm sure you weren't too thrilled to come here in the first place, and then for it to turn out so badly."
"I'm ok," I said. She stood up and motioned for someone to clear the table. I hadn't eaten much, but after retelling my story I wasn't all that hungry. Julia walked me up to my room.
"When I was a teenager, I used to have sleepovers with my friends. We'd watch chick flicks and make popcorn and braid each other's hair. That was such a long time ago. So much has changed since then."
"We don't need electricity to braid hair," I reminded her. She smiled and sat down next to me.
"Turn around," she instructed me. She began combing my hair with her fingers and braided it into two braids. It was relaxing and I soon found myself dozing off. "Goodnight, Ciara."
The following afternoon, Julia gave me a tour. There was an old tennis court, though they didn't really have the equipment to play. There was a lake too, where people went swimming in the summer. We ended in the pub, where soldiers were playing pool and drinking. Julia and I found a seat at the bar.
We hadn't been talking long, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see General Monroe. "You two look lovely today," he said with a smile. "Good to see you all washed up, Ciara. You were looking pretty rough last I saw you." He laughed. "Join me, will you?"
Julia took the hint, and stood up. "I'll see you at dinner, Ciara." I waved at her as she left.
"Can I get you a drink?" He asked.
"I still don't drink," I reminded him.
"Everyone drinks eventually." I wondered what happened to make him drink so much, but I was afraid to ask. "We have other things besides alcohol, like lemonade." I couldn't help but smile, I was a sucker for lemonade. He laughed. "We get lemons imported from the California Commonwealth, they're delicious." He turned to the bar tender. "I'll have a scotch and soda, and a glass of lemonade for the lady." The bar tender made our drinks and handed them over.
I took a sip of my lemonade. "You're right, it is good," I agreed. "We get lemons from Florida, my mom used to make the best lemonade. Her sweet tea was really good too. But, Savannah sweet tea is always the best."
"Did you have some time to think about what I told you, about your mother?" He asked. "I'm sorry, I assumed you knew."
"How do I know you're telling the truth?" I asked.
"I wouldn't lie to you about something like that. In fact, I won't lie to you ever." I raised an eyebrow, I doubted that was true. "I promise." I shrugged, still skeptical.
"Is that why my dad hates you?" I asked.
"He blames me for your mother's death." He nodded. "While it was at the hands of my men, I was not behind the attack. I have enough trouble with foreign affairs without my men getting themselves into messes."
I laughed. "Foreign affairs, you make it sound like you're dealing with China or something. We're all Americans."
He raised an eyebrow. "That's a word you don't hear very often anymore."
"We learn American history in Georgia," I said.
He glanced out the window. "I should go, I'm late to a meeting. I just noticed you inside, and had to check in. See you soon." He left, leaving me a bit confused.
I headed back to Julia's, only getting turned around twice. When I came in she was sitting in the kitchen. She grinned when she saw me and motioned me over to a dish. "What's that?" I asked.
She pealed back the cover on the dish and smiled. "Apple pie."
"Are you serious?"I asked. She laughed and grabbed some plates. She cut two slices and handed one to me. I took a bite. "Don't tell my dad, but this is even better than his apple pie."
"I thought you'd like it. We'll finish it before they boys come home, too bad for them." We both laughed. I didn't know what my future here would be like, but for now it was looking pretty good.
I'd been in Philadelphia for almost three weeks. I had finally gotten the feel of things, and while it didn't feel like home, it felt familiar. Monroe had told me that Tom and Jason were expected home as soon as tomorrow.
I wanted to fit one last day of freedom in, before I met my husband to be. So, I left early in the morning. There was hardly anyone out at this hour, which was perfect for me. The building I was interested in was right next to Monroe's office. It was easy to get inside without being spotted. I slipped right in the front door while the guard was drinking his coffee.
This building was just as nice as all the others, but I almost never saw anyone go inside. Two of the windows on the second floor had the curtains open. I'd asked around at the bar, and had heard whispers that a very important prisoner was being kept there. I wasn't trying to be a spy, but if I happened on something Georgia could use, I wouldn't be disappointed.
The second floor was empty at first glance. I was beginning to think I had been wrong, there wasn't anything interesting here. Then I went into the room with the open windows. A blonde woman sat on a couch looking out the window. She was far enough back that she couldn't be seen from below.
"Hello?" I tried. She turned around.
"Oh, you weren't who I was expecting. I thought you were Monroe."
"You're expecting Monroe?" I asked, instantly worried that he'd catch me up here.
"You aren't supposed to be here are you?" She asked with a smile. "Don't worry Monroe doesn't normally come until later. What's your name?"
"Ciara," I said. "Who are you?" I asked.
I tilted my head, recognizing the name. "Are you related to Miles?"
"He's my brother in law."
"He was friends with my father. He used to visit before the blackout."
"Who's your father?" Rachel asked. "I might know him."
"Robert Jackson, President of the Georgia Federation."
"Ah, so you're the girl Bass keeps going on about. He really thinks you're going to bring peace with Georgia."
I shrugged. "Maybe I will. What'd you do to get locked in a house by yourself? People said you were a prisoner."
"I am," she said nodding. She didn't provide any explanation. She glanced out the window. "You should go, my guard is about to bring up my breakfast. Go out the back."
I nodded and headed into the hall. I could hear footsteps on the stairs, and ducked into the next room until the guard was inside with Rachel. Then I hurried downstairs and out the back door. Some last day of freedom that was. I was even more confused now, than I had been in the first place.