Just wanted to let you all know that I started a Tumblr where I post/reblog inspiration for all my stories so if you want to check that out head over to "stories-inspire" and click on the link to Organized Lightning!
I walked all day without stopping. I passed a few people but no one said anything to me, everyone was minding their own business. Finally I found what I was looking for. I walked up to one of the militia soldiers and pulled the folded square out of my pocket. "I need you to take me to Monroe."
The soldier laughed. "Why would we do that?" I pressed the paper into his hand and he unfolded it. His condescending smirk dropped as he read it. "Come with us, Miss Jackson." He helped me into one of the carts and I sat down.
I must have dozed off because when I looked up we were coming to a stop in the middle of a town. I looked around but all I saw were militia soldiers, not one civilian. "Welcome to Philadelphia," another soldier said helping me down.
The farther into the base we walked the more nervous I got. What if coming here wasn't such a good idea after all? I had no idea what Monroe really had planned, he could be planning to kill me or use me a leverage to get my dad and the Plains Nation to back off the war threats. I glanced behind and noticed I was flanked by several armed guards; it was a little too late to get away now. I was led into a building and up to the second floor. I waited until someone came out of the room and waved the other guards away "General Monroe will see you now." I entered the room and glanced around quickly. My eyes landed 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.
"Yes, 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." It 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."
"What are you talking about? 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. "I'm sorry I must have been mistaken. 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. Was that pity?
"Thank you, Monroe."
"Please, call me Bass."
I walked out of the room and downstairs. Things made so much more sense. My father had always told me the reason we were going to war with the Republic was because they stole from our border towns and treated their citizens like animals. But I realized now that that wasn't the real reason. We could defend our borders better without too much difficulty, and the way Republic citizens were treated was not really any of our business. My father wanted revenge on the people who killed his wife.
I took my time leaving the building, pausing on the stairs to collect my thoughts. I wasn't sure what to do with this new information; I couldn't exactly confront my dad and I didn't know if it really made any difference anyways. When I finally came to the bottom of the stairs there was a woman wearing a nice dress and heels, any normal day I would've called her shoes impractical but they reminded me of attending political dinners and meetings with representatives back in Georgia. "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, I was beginning to think these were imbedded in my skin. "Unfortunately my husband and my son are both out of town of business but that give us plenty of girl time."
I smiled. "Of course," I said.
"After dinner maybe 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 stuff, I'll show you the fun places."
"Sounds like a plan." I liked Julia already; maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all, I mean I was already getting along with one of my future in-laws. When we got to her house she showed me up to my room which had an excellent view across the lawn. "Is that the Liberty Bell?" I asked.
She looked surprised. "I forgot they teach American history in the Federation. Yes, that is."
"A girl I know from Charleston wanted to see it," I told her.
"You'll have to write a letter and tell her all about it, I'll make sure some stationary is sent up." Was she saying I'd really be able to send a letter out of this place? Maybe the stories my dad had told me about this Republic were wrong, maybe his judgment was clouded by what happened to my mother. "I wouldn't go flaunting your knowledge about history, Bass won't like it. I have some books you might like to read while you're here though, some things I saved from before the blackout." She looked a little unsure about offering them to me, I wondered if Bass knew she had them.
"That would be great," I said smiling.
"Your bath should be ready. I'll go look at 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, and after running through the woods I was even more grateful for my privileged lifestyle.
I peeled off my clothing which was sort of stuck in a solid shape and tossed it on the ground; I'd be fine with tossing them in the fire. I slid into the bath, the water was still warm despite the arduous task it was to lug all the water up here one bucket at a time. I sighed and 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 then looked through the pile. I settled on a pair of jeans and a green top that complimented my hair. There was a knock on my door and when I opened it Julia was there. "Bass had something come up and had to cancel dinner," she said. I wondered if something had really come up or if he was giving me time to think over what he'd told me earlier. "I had them send up some food; I wasn't sure what you would want so I had a little 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 even make a dent in the huge spread.
"I went a bit overboard didn't I?" She asked.
"Maybe a little," I said laughing.
"I want to impress you. You're a president's daughter, I'm sure you have lavish meals all the time." I wanted to tell her that actually my dad and I preferred simple dinners with great southern cooking, but I didn't want to make her feel bad. We settled down with our plates. I took a bite out of some chicken, it was good. The spice was familiar but I couldn't place it; then I remembered Nate's rabbit, the seasoning must come from a common plant around here. "I know you'll probably be asked by Bass tomorrow, but if you don't mind telling the story to me, what happened out there?"
"I was with my soldiers and a militia soldier when we were stopped by rebels. All but one of them was killed instantly, his name was Garret, and he was able to distract the rebels long enough for me to get away." I looked up to see if Julia wanted me to keep going, she looked sad but nodded encouragingly. "I ran through the woods as fast as I could until I fell," I glanced to my hands which were healing up nicely thanks to Nate. "I kept going until I bumped into a guy; he walked with me almost all the way here. If it weren't for him I might have died in the woods, or gotten killed by looters, which also almost happened." I said quietly.
"I'm so sorry, that must have been terrible. I'm sure you couldn't have been thrilled to come here in the first place, then to have to go through all of that."
"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 anyways. We went up stairs and I sat on my bed.
"When I was a teenager I used to have girl's nights 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 then braided my hair into two braids. It was very relaxing and I soon found myself dozing off. "Goodnight, Ciara."
The next afternoon Julia gave me a tour. She showed me that they had an old tennis court though no one could really play that well and the tennis balls were old, and a lake where people went swimming in the summer, and then we reached a bar where soldiers were playing pool and drinking. We walked in and sat down. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Monroe. "You two look lovely today," he said. "Glad to see Julia got you all fixed up, you looked a bit rough yesterday." He laughed. "Join me will you?" He asked me.
Julia got the hint and got up. "I'll see you at dinner, Ciara."
"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 start drinking so much, but I was afraid to ask. "We have other things besides alcohol though, like lemonade." He laughed. "I saw you perk up at that idea. 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. "That is good," I said smiling. "We get lemons from Florida, my mom used to make the best lemonade. Her sweet tea was really good too; Savannah sweet tea is always the best."
"Did you have some time to think about what I told you yesterday, about your mother?" He asked. "I'm sorry; I assumed you knew what had happened."
"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 still wasn't sure I believed him but I shrugged.
"Is that why my dad hates you so much?" I asked.
"He blames me for your mother's death. While it was at the hands of my men, I was not behind the attack. I have enough trouble dealing with foreign affairs without my men messing things up."
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 I don't hear very often anymore."
"We learn American history in Georgia," I said. He nodded thinking.
"I just realized I'm late to a meeting, luckily they have to wait on me." He waved as he walked off and I was left sitting there confused. I couldn't tell if he had been upset about what I'd said about history or not. I got up and walked back to Julia's house. She didn't ask what Monroe and I had talked about and instead grabbed a dish from the counter.
"What's that?" I asked. She pealed back the cover on the dish and smiled.
"Are you serious?"I asked. She laughed and grabbed some plates, she cut two slices and handed one to me. I took a bite. "That's sort of amazing."
"I know, I thought you'd like it. We'll finish it before they boys come home, unfortunate for them." We both laughed as we ate. I wasn't sure what the rest of my life was going to be like but right now it was looking pretty good.
I had been in Philidelphia for almost three weeks. Monroe had told me and Julia that Tom and Jason's group was expected to be home as soon as tomorrow. I wanted to fit one last day of running around unattended in before they got home so I left early that morning. I walked towards the building next to Monroe's office first. There was hardly anyone out this early normally and it was even emptier now that tons of soldiers had been sent out as reinforcements for the current missions. It wasn't hard for me to get to the building without being spotted and I managed to slip in the front door while the guard was drinking his coffee, Monroe really needed to invest in some better guards.
Something about this building was suspicious, it was as nice as the others but no one ever went inside and two of the windows on the second floor had the curtains open. I'd been asking around and a few people said it was where Monroe was keeping a very important prisoner. I wasn't exactly trying to spy for Georgia or anything, but if I could find out something that I could hold over Monroe I wouldn't exactly be disappointed. I slipped up the stairs to the second floor, crossing my fingers that there wasn't another guard at the top. Luckily for me there wasn't, I was afraid that maybe I'd made a mistake and there wasn't anything worth finding in here but when I pushed the door open I noticed a woman sitting on the couch staring out the window, she was far enough away I hadn't seen her from below.
"Hello?" I said. She turned around.
"Oh, you weren't who I was expecting. I thought you were going to be Monroe," the woman said.
"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 smiling. "Don't worry Monroe doesn't normally come until later. What's your name?"
"Ciara," I said. "Who are you?" I asked.
"Are you related to Miles?" I asked.
"He's my brother in law."
"He was friends with my father, before the blackout he used to come visit us."
"Who's your father, I might know him."
"Robert Jackson, the president of the Georgia Federation," I said.
"So you're the girl Bass keeps talking about, he really thinks you're going to help him work things out with Georgia."
I shrugged. "Maybe I will. Why are you so important that you get a whole house to yourself? People I've talked to said you were a prisoner."
"I am," she said nodding. She didn't provide any explanation. She glanced out the window. "You should probably go, my guard is about to bring up my breakfast. Go out the back."
I turned around and walked out of her room. I hid in the room next door until the guard went into Rachel's room, then I ran downstairs and out the back door.