((B008: Peter McCue - One Month Later))
Peter hadn't been on a plane before. Even when his family had moved, they'd packed a Budget truck and driven halfway across the country. The sun was slowly rising over the horizon, and there was a view that anyone would be floored by if they'd never seen it before. The boy yawned as he glanced over the earth. Somewhere out there, down over the bright blue oceans they had left behind hours ago, ten kids were left fighting for their lives, and he had no idea who. He couldn't bring himself to care. A soft warmth slowly was absorbed into the plastic which served as the small jet's window. Carefully with a hand, he slid the cover down, and looked to his left, to the greater source of beauty than any sunrise or sunset could offer.
He didn't want to wake her, after all.
Kaitlin and Peter had been inseparable since their departure from the island. They sat close to each other on the boat, each swimming in their own little worlds, grappling with their newly returned freedom. They had survived. They were still there, breathing, with a handful of other Bayview Seniors. He may not have been the one to be their savior, but he'd held to what he said. He'd taken the third option, he'd undermined their game. He'd beaten Danya, just like he promised he would on day one. And he kept her alive, just like he'd promised.
There were, of course, moments when things looked bleak. When he thought those were all promises he couldn't keep, that he would fail. When they'd found Quincy in the felled forest; when Immran barged in on their makeshift home. In the grand scheme of things, Peter and Katlin had gotten off relatively easy, but they still went through hardship like everyone else. They had still been traumatized like everyone else. They had seen the dead, they had seen the monsters who had given in, who had played. They had lived in constant fear, always hiding, always running away.
He would never tell her how close he was to starting to fight.
He could push that away to the back of his mind right now though. So much had been lost.
But so much had been gained.
His arm draped over her shoulder, pulling her close as the captain spoke. "This is your captain speaking. Welcome home."
He looked down, a smile a mile wide greeting her slowly opening eyes.
It had been three weeks since that touchdown on that runway, the first day of the rest of their lives. They'd decided to stay in St. Paul, at least for a while. Peter had originally wanted to go off to college, but he and his parents had spoken and agreed to take a year off to rest and recover from his ordeal.
Secretly, deep inside, he was happy about the decision. September 2010. A month he was never meant to see, but fate had intervened. He walked side by side down Main Street with the girl he had saved the life of, and the girl whom had saved him. They talked about this and that, just enjoying the cool, fall Minnesota day.
He'd made good on all of his promises, and she had said she wanted to make good on hers. He still couldn't remember what she meant, and she seemed perfectly happy to leave it that way, at least for the moment. In his mind, she had done everything she had said she would and more. She kept him company in his darkest, hardest time, she'd kept him grounded when he had needed it. She had given him a motivation he wouldn't have seen, and she'd given him something even more beautiful than the gift of life.
"Katlin, where are you taking me?" He laughed as she indicated him forwards, speeding just enough to match her pace. It was so hard to push it all away, the things he'd seen, the things he'd nearly had to do, the things he was expected to do. Some days, his parents couldn't remove him from his room. It all melted away when he was with her though. The bad memories just seemed that much more distant.
She was with him, and to him, that was what was important. He knew he still had a lot to work through, and knew his final decision to wait for higher education had been the right one. He knew that the memories would all sting, and he knew he would have to fight through the nightmares that still plagued him. But today? Today it could all go to hell. He had the rest of his life to remember, he had the rest of his life to cope. For one day he could make himself forget and move on. If only for her.
[Girl #48 - Kaitlin Anderheim. Coming home from The Cavalry Arrives.]
Running. Just more running. They did a lot of that on the island. But now they were actually running away from someone. They were being chased, and they had lost everything. Peter looked as if he was dead. So pale and gaunt looking, barely able to keep up, always seeming to slip further and further away. But the people behind them never gave up, never got out of sight, and never slowed down. They just kept coming. And it was all she could do to keep ahead of them.
She ran, and ran, but never seemed to get anywhere. And when she finally turned to Peter, to find some comfort in his presence there next to her, he was gone. He was just gone. She looked back at the people chasing her, but he wasn't there. She was just alone, and he was gone. He didn't just drop dead or get overtaken and killed. He was just gone. As if he wasn't ever there to begin with. As if everything that they had gone through together, the days and nights they spent together, the struggle to survive that they shared... As if everything that had ever happened to them or between them never happened. And she was alone through all of it.
She stopped. Not of her own volition, but because she couldn't move anymore. Her body was heavy. Her pursuers overtook her, but she couldn't fight them off. All she could do was stare at them. Each and every one of them was a familiar face, but some of them were twisted. Inhuman. One in particular didn't even seem to be there. And she realized why. Bloody, and broken, and with the remains of a collar around her neck, Kaitlin recognized the girl. Just barely. But the shotgun she held, and the name carved into it, made it very clear who it was. Why?
Imraan was there too. She didn't know why. Why would he be chasing her? Why would he want her dead? She never did a thing to make him mad on the island, though she might have made him uncomfortable. And he was dead... or alive. Or something. She didn't know anymore. She knew he wasn't with them on the... on the... on the what?
Where was she? None of this seemed right. She remembered these people dying. She remember these people staying on the island. Peter was gone, but that was because... because... why was he gone? He wasn't on the island anymore, but she was and she didn't know why. She should be with him. She should be...
She couldn't move. Her whole body felt heavy, weighed down, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't move an inch. But she wasn't pinned down. She wasn't restrained. She didn't have a great weight smothering her. She just couldn't move. It felt more like she was exhausted. Complete and utter exhaustion. But she could hear. She couldn't move, or open her eyes, or even apologize to the person who she was leaning on. But she could hear.
Countless voices. Familiar tones. Familiar topics. Some happy, some sad. There was plenty of silence, but there was also plenty of talking. But there was some sort of tone, and a louder voice, seeming to come from everywhere. And with the voice came a warmth, a comforting feeling that embraced her. A familiar feeling. Another person with their arm wrapped around her.
The first thing she saw was Peter. She knew she was safe.
When they were actually home, and Kaitlin was away from Peter, she didn't quite know what to do. She didn't know what to say to her mother, or what to do with her time, or even what she should be doing. She felt she should be doing something, that much was certain, but she didn't know what. And it was frustrating her. Not knowing what to do, when to do it, or even how to start was annoying her to no end. She tried to make busy work for herself in the time she had. She dug out whatever old school work she could find, and did it again. She got out old books and read them again. She even tried going to the library and finding something new. But while not doing anything was making her mad, doing anything at all scared her.
She tried to put everything behind her, but she still had nightmares on a regular basis. And that was if she managed to fall asleep at all. She started going to therapy, and even ran into a few people from the boat at the same office, but she never had very much to say to them. Little smiles and awkward sidelong glances abound when she was waiting with someone else from the group. She spent enough time round them on the boat, and in the hospital, and on the plane and on the bus. She didn't want to see them when she was trying to forget about it all. She didn't want to hear about who was getting an interview, or who was having a hard time, or who was being vilified. She didn't want to hear about what was going on in the game, either.
She just wanted to forget, and that was going to take a long, long time.
But she stayed with Peter since they got home. She tried to spend as much time with him as she could, but sure enough, her misgivings eventually returned. She loved him, that much was certain, and she knew that he was all but perfect, but she worried about coming on too strong. She worried about being a bother to him since their return. She fussed, and worried, and indeed panicked over the thought that he would not want to stay with her as time passed and they both came out of the mindset of do or die. At times, the stress made her sick. But every time she saw Peter, and every time she saw his smile, it made her feel better. And eventually, the stress started to subside. The panic disappeared. She knew that he was going to stay with her. And she hoped it would be for a long, long time.
They spent a lot of time together. They walked, and talked, and carried on in a manner she believed to be very common for couples. And she was happy. She felt guilty about being happy, but she was happy. She hated herself for smiling, but she still smiled. And she was horrified at night that she would end up paying for her survival. But every morning she was still there, still alive, and she would go see Peter, and he would make it all better if only for a short while. And that was good enough for her. Good enough for now.
They were together again, like many times before, but this time was special. She remembered something she promised him, and promised herself that she wouldn't forget, but she did. But she was determined to make it up. To make good on her promise. When she was convincing him to come with her, she made a few vague hints as to what she had in mind, but she never stated it outright. Good. It would be a surprise. And hopefully, a pleasant one.
She led him down the street, hand in hand. Sometimes she ran ahead to a corner, trying to get her bearings. Sometimes she'd stop, and watch a car go by, thinking she recognized the car or the person driving. But they were going to get to her goal if it was the last thing she did. It was still a morbid thought to come back to, and a habit that was hard for her to break. She was going to do this if it was the last thing she did. She was going to do that even if it killed her. That kind of thinking that pushed her during the game was horrible morbid now, and she didn't like it. But it was hard to get rid of.
"You'll see. Come on, hurry up!"
She smiled and led him on. She cherished the time they spent together. She dreaded the time they were apart. And she was horrified of the possibility that they might not always be together. But today? Today, they were going to be happy and like it. Today, they were going on a date.
At Cold Stone Creamery.
"See? Told you it was going to be good."