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Authors: Melissa Delport

The Legend (20 page)

BOOK: The Legend
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“Okay. Can you fetch him something dry to wear and a blanket?” He nods and moves away past Aidan who is standing in the shadows a few feet away, his expression unreadable in the dark. “No!” I instruct, as Jethro comes through the door, a look of determination on his tanned face. “Not now!”

“Why didn't he take his car?” he hisses petulantly and I try to hide my smile.

“You can deal with him tomorrow.”

My father returns in no time with a jersey and a Lakeside blanket, and he helps me lift Reed off the floor to pull off his wet shirt, replacing it with the dry one. I tuck the blanket around him and smooth his hair away from his face, feeling the day-old stubble on his jaw.

“You are an idiot,” I announce, although his soft snores assure me that he cannot hear me.

I head for my room, determined to get into dry clothes myself while I still have the use of my arms and legs, even if they are only going to get soaked again. I just want to feel warm for a few minutes. My body is so numb with cold I am surprised I haven't sprouted icicles from my limbs. Aidan obviously has the same idea, and instinctively I follow him to his room instead.

“Here.” He throws me a T-shirt and I quickly strip off my sodden jersey and pull it over my head. It is a mark of how cold it is that he doesn't even take advantage of the view, turning his back immediately to get his own dry shirt from the drawers.

“I still think we should make a run for town,” he announces the second he is dressed. Now that we are out of the cold, all either of us can think of is Alex.

“No,” I shake my head. “They wouldn't lie about it. He's safe. It would be stupid to risk it. We have no idea what state the roads are in, and it's pitch black outside.”

“I just feel so helpless.”

“I know. Me too.” My teeth are chattering so hard that I can barely get the words out. Fortunately, the Gift of healing does work against common illnesses and there is no chance either of us will catch cold.

I sit down heavily on his bed, pulling the covers over me. My sweatpants are saturated, but there is no point in changing them until the worst of the storm has passed. The bed covers will be soaked through too, but that is the least of our concerns. At least the dry shirt has made me more comfortable.

“Have you ever seen rain like this?” I ask, the thought occurring to me as he takes a seat beside me.

“Not this bad.”

“How long do you think it'll last?”

“I have no idea. But if it doesn't let up soon we could be in real trouble. This place is going to flood.”

Seeing the tense line of his jaw and the fear in his eyes for Alex, I reach over and take his hand.

“He'll be okay,” I insist, wishing I believed it.

“Yeah,” he squeezes my hand, sounding unconvinced. “I'm sure he'll be fine.”

We sit like that for a few minutes, united in our mutual concern, and then Aidan heaves a sigh and gets to his feet. There is work to be done, but in the quiet solitude of that moment I feel just a little bit better.

 

 

chapter 29

I
t rains solidly for three days. Many of the lower level buildings are flooded, as Aidan predicted. When it finally stops, it leaves a trail of chaos in its wake. Selfishly, I do not join the masses of Academy occupants that form the clean-up crew. Instead, Aidan and I leave at first light with a fully recovered Reed in tow. As we navigate the debris down the drive, I notice the Lakeside Five joining the ranks, working meticulously yet separately from the others, and I wonder idly how many times they have done this by themselves in the years they have been here.

The town, although obviously in a bad way, seems to have fared far better than us after all, and a deep breath escapes me as we drive down the main road.

“I did tell you,” Reed muses from the back seat. We stop outside the small townhouse where Jenna has taken up residence, and she opens the door before I have even reached the top step.

“I thought I might see you this morning,” she smiles. She looks paler than usual and, even more shockingly, she is wearing tracksuit pants and a faded blue fleece jersey. I never thought I would see the day that Jenna Larsen looked scruffy. “He's inside,” she adds before I can ask.

Alex comes pounding down the steps as I put my foot on the first, Brooke hot on his heels.

“Mom!” he yells at the top of his voice. “It's been raining for days! We couldn't even go outside. It was wild!”

I can't help but laugh as he vaults into my open arms and I spin him in the air, holding him close.

“Was it scary?”

“Nah,” he lifts his head from my shoulder to look solemnly down at me. “But Brookie cried when the water came through the back door.”

I bend down to scoop Brooke up, but Reed beats me to it. He hoists her onto his hip and she hides her face in his arm.

“I don't believe it,” he tells Alex. “You didn't cry, did you, Brooke?”

“I did,” she murmurs, the words barely audible.

“Were you scared?” Reed keeps his voice light, but I can hear the heartbreak beneath the surface.

“Welcome to the papahood,” Aidan murmurs under his breath, stepping up beside Reed and resting his hand briefly on his shoulder. I am surprised that Aidan obviously knows Reed's secret. Reed must have told him because my father and I haven't mentioned it to anyone. It isn't our secret to share. “Oh my God!” Aidan adds, averting his eyes as Chase appears at the top of the stairs, dressed only in the briefest of boxer shorts. His hair is sticking up at all angles and he looks mortified to find such an audience gaping up at him.

“For God sakes, put it away, Crawford,” Reed drawls. “There are children present.”

Jenna smiles sleepily as she makes tea and I help her get breakfast ready.

“Everything went okay, then?” I ask, although obviously it all went fine.

“Brooke got a bit worked up when the water levels started rising,” she replies, “but Alex was a trouper. He distracted her, and she slept in his bed – I hope you don't mind. It was all that would calm her . . .”

“I don't mind at all,” I reply, thinking of how I had slept soundly as a child curled up against Aidan's back.

“How's everything up at the Academy?”

“Not so good. I guess the Lakeside Five haven't had the manpower the town has, and with little maintenance over the years, the place is a mess.”

“Anything serious?”

“Nothing that can't be fixed, but we got lucky. I don't think it would've lasted another day with that rain.”

“Good. And how are you holding up?”

“Okay,” I stifle a yawn.

“Exhausted, no doubt,” she scolds. “Why don't you go and lie down? I'm sure Alex and Brooke will entertain the others for a few hours.”

I decline her offer because I want to spend time with Alex. Instead, I take a seat on the sofa and listen to the children regaling us with stories of their evening. Despite my insistence, my eyes grow heavy and soon enough I fall asleep. I have barely slept for three days.

When I wake up, I am covered in a stiff but very warm blanket. Jenna is reading an old magazine on the sofa opposite me, her tanned legs curled beneath her. Sensing that I am awake she drops the magazine on the table beside her.

“Feel better?” she asks. All traces of the messy urchin of this morning are gone – she is once again impeccably dressed and her blonde pixie crop is perfectly styled.

“Where is everybody?” I ask, stretching.

“They headed over to the town hall. Everyone's checking on everyone else. Except me,” she adds, grinning. “I'm on Rebecca watch.”

“Worried you might break a nail?” I tease, knowing how she loathes manual labour, and gesturing at the discarded magazine.

“You know me too well.”

I get to my feet and she stands, following me to the door.

“I'm going to stay. I need to catch up on some sleep myself.”

“See you later.” I hug her. “Thank you for looking after Alex. And Brooke, I know she's not your responsibility.”

“He's not exactly in a position to be taking care of her himself,” she points out and I round on her in surprise.

“You know?”

“I'm not an idiot,” she points out. “She's his double. And even if she weren't, his behaviour towards her is a dead giveaway.”

“You won't mention it to anyone?”

“You should know me better than that,” she pouts.

“I do,” I smile. “See you later.”

I find the others at the town hall which is abuzz with people who have only just managed to leave their homes now that the rain has stopped. Adam is moving from group to group checking that everyone is all right and attending to their various needs. He treats every individual problem with the same compassionate conscientiousness, regardless of how big or small, and is allocating groups of able-bodied men to assist with repairing and restoring homes that were affected. In his quiet, calm, meticulous way, he is getting more done than anyone else.

“Where's Jessie?” I ask, suddenly noticing she is not among the crowd. Reed glances up and quickly scans the room.

“I haven't seen her,” he murmurs, and Aidan catches my eye. I try to hide my fear as I turn back to the children.

“You stay here with Reed,” I tell Alex, and then Aidan and I set off for Jessie's flat.

When we reach Jessie's place, my fear for her safety turns to panic. The roof of the house has partially collapsed, and I streak inside, calling her name. When I hear her voice from the next room, I could weep with relief.

“Jessie!” I turn into the kitchen, and the sight that greets me is both unexpected and a revelation.

Jessie is sitting slumped on the floor near a mountain of rubble and wood, sobbing pitifully. I would probably feel more sympathetic if the source of her grief wasn't a stockpile of broken liquor bottles that were smashed amidst the wreckage. Aidan appears beside me and takes one look. Then an amused expression lifts the corners of his mouth.

“Well, that explains a lot,” he says quietly.

We have finally discovered where Jessie hides her alcohol – in the ceiling of her small kitchen. Sadly, when it collapsed her entire stash had shattered, which is the only reason that she is in such a state of mourning.

“Come on,” I smile, lifting her gently by the elbow and helping her up. She is unhurt, no doubt she was passed out, safely in bed when the ceiling collapsed.

“Gone,” she mewls despairingly, “the whole lot.”

“It's probably for the best,” Aidan declares soberly, and I give him a stern look as he starts to laugh.

Over the course of the next few days all our efforts are focused on rebuilding and repairing the damage inflicted by the flood, both at the Academy and in the town itself. In a way, this disaster has brought us all together, even closer than we were before. The separate groups – the Legion, the Ordinary, Fiona's people, Heath's men and even the Lakeside Five – are united in a common goal and the differences among us blur as unlikely friendships are formed.

This place is our home, and for the first time we are a true community and taking care of one another. The Legion's strength goes a long way to speeding up the process, and the Gainesville community is both impressed and appreciative, looking to us as their protectors. I smile as I hear an elderly woman call David her guardian angel simply because he single-handedly lifted an old electrical pole that had fallen across her front lawn, barring access to her property. With so much socialising between the predominantly male community of the Academy and the single women in town, romance is blossoming all over the place. A few of Fiona's men seem to have attracted the attention of the local ladies and they never miss an opportunity to head into town. Elizabeth, who is helping Cathy attend to the sick, seems to have developed a soft spot for Heath's friend Matt, who has a bad chest cold. For the first time ever, she doesn't blush when Reed speaks to her, but she flushes magenta when Matt commends her on her chicken soup.

School has been temporarily suspended because the school building was flooded, much to Alex and Brooke's unashamed delight and the two cause havoc trying to help, getting under everybody's feet, until eventually Reed enlists them to help him clear the debris out of the park.

Many of those without the power of healing are laid low with colds – my father among them – and Elizabeth and Veronica are both needed in the infirmary to assist Henry and Sofia. Surprisingly, I find Jessie tending to my dad, gruffly admonishing him for not finishing his lunch.

“An absolute waste!” she declares reprovingly as I take a seat next to his bed.

“I'm not hungry.” He sounds tired, as if he has repeated this too many times already.

“Well, you'll be no use to anyone if you waste away to nothing, Jeffrey.” She looks to me for corroboration. I am so startled by the fact that, for the first time since I can remember, her usually blood-shot brown eyes are perfectly clear, that I agree immediately.

“Don't encourage her,” my dad moans as she nods primly and bustles off, leaving the tray in front of him.

“I'm sorry,” I chuckle. “She caught me off guard. It's just so surreal seeing her sober.”

“Well, don't let her newfound righteousness fool you.” He grins. “You never saw her perform.”

I can't say that I would want to see Jessie in a corset and suspenders, so I don't argue.

“Do you think she'll start drinking again?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether she can get her hands on any booze,” he replies, deadpan, and I burst out laughing.

“Henry says you only have to stay one more night.”

“We both know I'm not sick enough to be here,” he counters, “but I'd just as soon not argue with Henry and Adam. It's only a cold.”

I know that there is truth in his words – I can see for myself that he is not really that sick, but seeing him lying here in bed brings back memories of my mother. When she became ill it started the same way – the coughing and the fevers. We had thought it was just another chest cold. Then she had started to deteriorate rapidly and by the time we realised it was something more serious, it was too late. That had been before Eric Dane's rise to power, before he had rebuilt and revolutionised our entire society. If my mother had fallen ill just a few years later she would have been treated in a hospital, medicine and technology would have been available to save her. But instead she had died at home in her bed, with only the four of us to mourn her.

My father seems to know what I am thinking.

“I am going to be fine, Bex,” he soothes gently, snapping me back to the present.

“I know.” I smile and kiss his forehead, which is reassuringly cool beneath my lips. “I'll see you tomorrow.” It only dawns on me when I am halfway back to Jenna's that Jessie must have made the same comparison and her snappy irritation suddenly makes more sense.

Archer's mother Sienna has enlisted a large group to address the mayhem in the fields and orchards which took a brutal knock in the torrential rain. I overhear her telling Adam that we may be in for a food shortage, which would be disastrous. Adam, however, keeps everyone busy, and it is not long before any evidence of the storm's devastation is gone, and we are back to business as usual.

 

BOOK: The Legend
4.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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