The Passage Page 73

She misses you.

Every nerve in his body seemed to jump. The girl was holding his arm in a firm grip, immovable. Not words, not spoken words. The words were in his mind. She was gripping his arm; their faces were inches apart.

"What did you-?"

She misses you she misses you she misses you.

He was on his feet, lurching away. His heart was pounding in his chest like a great caged animal. He had backed with his full weight into some kind of glass cabinet, sending the contents spilling off the shelves behind him. Someone had stepped through the curtain, a figure at the periphery of his vision. For a moment his mind came mercifully into a wider focus. Dale Levine.

"What the hell is going on in here?"

Peter swallowed, trying to answer. Dale was standing at the curtain, wearing a look of confusion, his emotions unable to coalesce around any single point in the unfolding scene. He shifted his face toward the girl, who was still seated on the cot with the basin at her feet, then looked at Peter again.

"She's awake? I thought she was dying."

Peter found his voice at last. "You can't ... tell anyone."

"Flyers, Peter. Does Jimmy know about this?"

"I mean it." He knew suddenly that if he didn't leave the room at once he would dissolve. "You can't."

Then he turned, brushing past Dale, practically knocking him over; he was through the curtain and out the door and stumbling down the steps into the spotlit yard, his mind still caught in the flow of words in his head-she misses you she misses you-his vision wavering through the tears that were rising to his eyes.


For Mausami Patal, the night began in the Sanctuary.

She was sitting alone in the Big Room, trying to teach herself to knit. All the cots and cribs had been taken out; the children had bedded down upstairs. The broken window was boarded up, the glass swept away, the room and all its surfaces washed down with spirits. The smell would linger for days.

It wasn't anyplace she should have been. The aroma of alcohol was so strong it was making her eyes tear up. Poor Arlo, Maus thought. And Hollis, having to kill his brother like that, though it was lucky that he had. She didn't want to think about what would have happened if he'd missed. And of course Arlo wasn't really Arlo anymore, just as Theo, if he was still alive out there, wasn't Theo. The virus took the soul, the person you loved, away.

The chair where she sat was an old nursing rocker she'd found in the storage closet. She'd positioned a small table beside it; resting on this was a lantern, giving her enough light to work by. Leigh had instructed her in the basic stitches, which had seemed easy enough when she'd started, but somewhere along the way she had taken a wrong turn. The stitches weren't coming out even, not at all, and her left thumb, when she tried to draw the yarn around the needle, as Leigh had demonstrated, kept getting in the way. Here she was, a woman who could bolt-load a crossbow in under a second, put half a dozen long arrows in the air in fewer than five, blade a target dead through the sweet spot at six meters, on the run, on an off day; and yet knitting a pair of baby booties seemed completely beyond her power. She'd gotten so distracted that twice the ball of yarn in her lap had dropped to the floor to roll across the room, and by the time she'd gotten it rolled back up, she'd forgotten where she was and had to start over.

Part of her simply couldn't absorb the notion that Theo was gone. She had planned to tell him about the baby on the ride, their first night at the station. With its warren of rooms and heavy walls and doors that sealed, it was easy to find an occasion to be alone there. A fact that, as long as she was being honest with herself, was the reason the whole situation existed in the first place.

Pairing with Galen: why had she done it? Cruel in a way, because he wasn't a bad person; it was hardly his fault that she didn't love him, or even much like him, not anymore. A bluff. That's what it had been. To jar Theo out of his gloom. And when she'd said to him that night on the Wall, Maybe I just will marry Galen Strauss, and Theo had said, All right, if that's what you want, I only want you to be happy, the bluff had hardened into something else, something she had to do, to prove that he was wrong. Wrong about her, wrong about himself, wrong about everything. You had to try. You had to act. You had to get on with things and make do. A feat of stubbornness, that's what it was, marrying Galen Strauss, and all for Theo Jaxon.

For a time, most of that summer and into the fall, she had tried to make the marriage work. She had hoped she could will the right emotions into being, and for a while she had almost done it, simply because the sheer fact of her existence seemed to make Galen so happy. They were both Watch, so it wasn't like they saw each other all that much or kept any kind of regular hours; it proved, in fact, pretty easy to avoid him, because he was on the day shift most of the time, a subtle but unmistakable comment on the fact that he had come up last in his grade, and with his eyes the way they were, no good in the dark. Sometimes when he looked at her, squinting like he did, she wondered if in fact she was the girl he really loved at all. Maybe it was some other woman he saw, one he had made up in his mind.

She'd found a way to almost never let him near her.

Almost: because you couldn't not lie with your husband. Is he tender with you? her mother had asked her. Is he kind? Does he care about what's happening to you? That's all I want to know. But Galen was too happy to be tender. I can't believe it! his face and body said. I can't believe you're mine! Which she wasn't; while Galen huffed and puffed above her in the dark, Mausami was miles away. The harder he tried to be a husband, the less she felt like a wife to him, until-and this was the bad part, the part that didn't seem fair of her-she'd found herself actually disliking him. By the first snowfall she'd caught herself imagining she could close her eyes and simply wish him off the face of the earth. Which only made Galen try harder, and left her disliking him even more.

How could he not know the baby wasn't his? Could the man not do basic math?

True, she'd fudged the numbers. The morning he'd caught her throwing up her breakfast into the compost pile, she'd told him three periods, when it was really two. Three and it was Galen's baby; two and it was not. Galen had come to her only one time the month she'd gotten pregnant; she had refused him on some pretense, she couldn't even remember what. No, it was all perfectly clear to Mausami, the when and who. She had been down at the station when it happened; Theo was there, and Alicia, and Dale Levine. The four of them had stayed up late playing hands of go-to in the control room, and then Alicia and Dale had gone to bed, and the next thing she knew, she and Theo were sitting alone together, the first time since her wedding. She began to cry, surprised at how much she wanted to and by the sheer volume of her tears, and Theo had taken her in his arms to comfort her, which was what she wanted too, both of them saying how sorry they were, and after that it had taken all of about thirty seconds. They never stood a chance.

She'd barely seen him after that. They'd ridden back the next morning, and life returned to normal-though it wasn't normal, not at all. She was a person with a secret. It lay like a warm stone inside her, a private glowing happiness. Even Galen seemed to detect the change, remarking something along the lines of Well, I'm glad to see your mood has picked up. It's nice to see you smiling. (Her response, wholly absurd and nothing that could be acted upon, was a friendly desire to tell him, so he could share in her good news.) She didn't know what would happen; she didn't think about it at all. When she missed her period, she gave it scarcely any thought. It wasn't like she was anything close to regular; she'd always been that way, it came and went as it pleased. All she could think about was the next trip down to the station, when she could make love to Theo Jaxon again. She saw him on the catwalk, of course, and at evening assembly, but that wasn't the same, it wasn't the time and place to touch or even talk. She would have to wait. But even this, the waiting, the torturous crawl of days-the date of their next departure for the station was plainly listed on the duty roster, where anyone could see it-was part of her happiness, the blur of love.

Then she missed another period, and Galen caught her throwing up into the compost pile.

Of course she was pregnant. Why hadn't she anticipated this? How had this eventuality escaped her attentions? Because the one thing Theo Jaxon wouldn't want was a baby. Maybe under the right circumstances she could have won him over to the idea. But not like this.

Then another thought had come to her, dawning with a simple clarity: a baby. She was going to have a baby. Her baby, Theo's baby, their baby together. A baby wasn't an idea, as love was an idea. A baby was a fact. It was a being with a mind and a nature, and you could feel about it any way you liked, but a baby wouldn't care. Just by existing, it demanded that you believe in a future: the future it would crawl in, walk in, live in. A baby was a piece of time; it was a promise you made that the world made back to you. A baby was the oldest deal there was, to go on living.

Maybe the thing Theo Jaxon needed most of all was a baby.

That's what Mausami would have told him down at the station, in the little room of shelves that was now theirs. She had imagined the scene unfolding a number of ways, some good and some not so good, the worst of all being the one in which she lost her nerve and said nothing. (The second worst: Theo guessed, her courage failed her anyway, and she told him it was Galen's.) What she hoped was that she'd see a light in his eyes come on. The light that had gone out, long ago. A baby, he would say. Our baby. What should we do? What people always do, she would have told him, and that was when he would take her in his arms again, and in this zone of sheltering safety she would know that everything would be all right, and together they would ride back to face Galen-to face everyone-together.

But now this would never happen. The story she had told herself was just that, a story.

She heard footsteps coming down the hall behind her. A heavy, loose-limbed tread she knew. What did she have to do to get a moment's peace? But it wasn't his fault, she reminded herself again; nothing was Galen's fault.

"What are you doing down here, Maus? I've been all over."

He was standing above her. She shrugged, still giving her eyes to her horrible knitting.

"You shouldn't be in here."

"It's washed down, Galen."

"I mean you shouldn't be here alone."

Mausami said nothing. What was she doing here? Just a day ago, she'd felt so suffocated by the place that she thought she'd lose her mind. What made her think she could ever learn to knit?

"It's fine, Gale. I'm perfectly fine where I am."

She wondered if it was guilt that made her torment him so. But she didn't think it was. It felt more like anger-anger at his weakness, anger that he loved her like he did when she'd clearly done nothing to deserve it, anger that she would have to be the one to look him in the eye after the baby was born-a baby that would, as long as life was being so ironic, look just like Theo Jaxon-and explain the truth to him.

"Well." He paused, clearing his throat. "I'm leaving in the morning. I just came to tell you."

She put her needles down to look at him. He was squinting at her in the dim light, giving his face a scrunched, boyish appearance. "What do you mean, 'leaving'?"

"Jimmy wants me to secure the station. With Arlo gone, we don't know what's going on down there."

"Flyers, Galen. Why is he sending you?"

"You think I can't handle it?"

"I didn't say that, Gale." She heard herself sigh. "I'm just wondering why you, is all. You've never been down there before."

"Someone has to go. Maybe he thinks I'm the best man for the job."

She did her best to look agreeable. "Be careful, okay? All eyes."

"You say that like you actually mean it."

Mausami didn't know how to answer that. She felt suddenly tired.

"Of course I mean it, Gale."

"Because if you don't, you should probably just say so."

Tell him, she thought. Why didn't she just tell him?

"Go on, it's all right." She took up her knitting again. "I'll be here when you get back. Go to the station."

"You really think I'm so stupid?"

Galen was standing with his hands at his sides, glaring at her. One hand, his right, closest to his blade, gave a small, involuntary-seeming twitch.

"I didn't ... say that."

"Well, I'm not."

A silent moment passed. His hand had moved to his belt, perched beside the handle of his knife.

"Galen?" she asked gently. "What are you doing?"

The question appeared to jar him. "What makes you say that?"

"The way you're staring at me. What you're doing with your hand."

He dropped his gaze to look. A little hmm sound rose in the back of his throat. "I don't know," he said, frowning. "I guess you've got me there."

"Won't they be looking for you on the catwalk? Aren't you supposed to be there?"

There was, she thought, something strangely inward about his expression, as if he wasn't quite seeing her. "I guess I better go," he said.

But still he made no effort to leave, nor to move his hand away.

"So I'll see you in a few days," Mausami said.

"What do you mean?"

"Because you're going to the station, Galen. Isn't that what you said?"

A glimmer of recognition came into his face. "Yeah, I'm going down there tomorrow."

"So take care of yourself, okay? I mean it. All eyes."

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