Authors: C. D. Breadner
-A Gypsy Harts Novel-
Copyright 2016 C.D. Breadner
Kindle Direct Publishing Edition
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Sadly, this is the first book I’ll publish that my mother won’t be able to read.
Love you forever,
miss you for always, Mom.
The girl was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, her bare feet out the window, air whipping through the cab, warm and free. Next to her, the older gentleman driving was happily singing along with the radio, hand tapping the rhythm on the steering wheel. He sang the male portion; she was singing the female parts.
He was handsome, aging well, with a tanned face, attractively lined with a full head of gray hair kept short. His brown eyes were warm, the corners crinkling as he grinned at her. She knew this was her father; the word came to mind immediately.
It was summer, the fields they rushed by green and lush. It smelt of thriving plant life and the hot asphalt they rode on. There was a loud rumble of engines suddenly, and she turned to peer out the back window, wrenching her neck so she didn’t have to bring her feet down. She counted four men on motorcycles, and as they roared past her father gave a wave to them out the window, two of the riders returning the gesture.
“Do you miss your bike?” she asked, pushing blonde curls out of her face.
Her father shook his head, a grimace on his face. “Not at all. Would never put you on a bike, so who needs one?”
She grinned and shook her head, not believing that he didn’t miss it, yet feeling all the love in the world for the assurance of safety he gave her with that one simple statement.
She rested her head on the back of the bench seat and closed her eyes, her father picking up Johnny Cash’s song, and as the chorus kicked in she had to grin. What a wonderful day for a drive.
Something felt off, however. The breeze vanished, as did the feel of sunshine on her lower legs and the music coming through the truck’s terrible sound system. Her father wasn’t singing, either. And the smell was not the same. The air was stale, dull.
She opened her eyes, blinking furiously. Never had light seemed so bright before; it hurt and she fought the urge to just close her eyes and go back to sleep. She needed to see her father, figure out how long she’d been asleep.
“Sleeping beauty’s coming around.”
This voice she did not recognize. The girl fought to focus her vision, the light swirling and dabbing itself into clarity. There were four women in the room with her, around her…bed? Was she in bed?
“Lucky broad,” one woman said, pushing away from the bed she’d been resting her hip. “I was ready to kill her while she slept.”
The girl didn’t take that as a joke, and she studied the woman’s eyes. They were steel-blue in a deeply tanned complexion. The girl guessed her age to be around forty, but she was in impressive shape. The girl noticed the woman’s arms were bare, the strength in them obvious from the ridges of muscle she was sporting. Even the wall of her chest at the top of her tank was padded with muscle. But the stare was something to be noted. It was cold. She meant it; she would have killed the girl.
“She’s cute,” a peppier voice chimed in. “Can we please keep her?”
The girl tilted her head, which was a lot of effort, and saw another woman, probably thirty or so, with short blonde hair, the undercut a dark brown. She had freckles everywhere on first glance, and her grin was not exactly friendly as her eyes ran over the girl’s face, then down her body. Which was certainly lying in bed.
Why was she in bed? And who were these people?
“Do you know why you’re in here?” This from the severe one again, and she moved closer to the head of the bed. The girl wanted to shrink away, but her body seemed incapable of following simple commands.
“Maybe she don’t talk,” the other one butted in. “Maybe her tongue was cut out so she wouldn’t scream.”
What a horrible thought.
“She was under sedation up until recently, which means they were keeping her in a coma intentionally. Likely an accident of some kind.” This voice was indifferent, which was preferable to the way the other two spoke. “She’s waking up on her own.”
The girl now studied this new woman. She was olive-toned, complexion-wise. Her hair was loose around her shoulders in wild waves, a medium brown in color. Her eyes were a deep, warm, chocolate color, and when she caught the girl looking she offered a smile.
“Can she walk?” The girl was beginning to realize this oldest woman must be the leader, just from the way she spoke and how the others deferred to her.
“Not likely.” Perhaps the woman with the wild hair was a doctor. “Her muscles are most likely atrophied. Could be a few days before she can walk around on her own.”
“Shit.” The leader really seemed worried about her now.
“Fuck it. Leave her here,” a fourth voice shot through the quiet, and the girl cringed. This person sounded angry, and the girl couldn’t find her—
“Hey,” the one with the blonde-on-dark haircut leaned over her, and the girl realized her bed was elevated. Was this a hospital? The walls were bare concrete. That seemed unlikely. “Hey,” the woman repeated, and the girl gave the woman her undivided attention. “Can you talk? Or are you a fucking mute?”
The girl swallowed and opened her mouth. It felt strange to do so, like her body wasn’t used to talking. But that was absurd. “I c…” then she was coughing, her throat so dry she could feel it deep in her chest.
“Get her water,” the leader instructed, and the woman with the kind eyes complied. She held out an odd-looking bottle, but when the water hit her mouth she stopped worrying about the container and swallowed. She even moaned the water tasted so good, and when the bottle was pulled away she made a sound of annoyance. Like a spoiled child.
“Easy,” the woman said, touching the girl’s hair. “You need to go slow.”
“So, what are we doing? We leaving her here or what?” The fourth woman was visible now. The girl got the impression of a vest worn as a shirt, a short loose skirt over leggings and a holster strapped to her thigh. Her arms were crossed, chin jutting to the side, her grey eyes indifferent as they met the girl’s and moved on to the leader. “We need to decide. I can get a message to the girls if we’re deciding to stay here while this freak figures out how to walk and talk.”
“Brit,” the nice one snapped. “Chill out.”
“Shut up, both of you,” the leader said with a sigh. She lifted one leg and half-sat on the hospital bed. Then she leaned over the girl, bracing her arm next to her opposite hip. “Can you tell me your name?”
Of course she knew her name. It was … The girl frowned. It was like heading down a well-known path only to find the place it led to
. The word wasn’t there.
“She doesn’t know her own fucking
The woman in front of her raised an annoyed eyebrow at the cranky-sounding woman the girl couldn’t see. “Brit, shut the fuck up for a minute.” Then that calm gaze came back to the girl. “Amnesia. She can’t remember what came before this.”
There was a moment of quiet where no one so much as moved, then the foul-mouthed woman broke it. “Well ain’t she the fucking lucky one.”
“Shut it, Brit,” the nice one snapped, braver for being on the leader’s side, the girl guessed. “She’s got to come with us. Right, May?”
Now the leader shifted, sitting up straighter. “Yeah, she has to come with us. We got those assholes following us. We’re fine until the wind dies down, but we gotta move once it’s done.”
“Then let’s get a meal going. There’s some juice still in that generator, let’s use it.” No matter what that voice was determined to be angry.
The leader stood. “Get her ready. It smells like piss in here. Who knows how long she’d been like this.”
The girl frowned as the other three women left her with the nice one. She tilted her head to one side, seeing medical equipment she didn’t recognize. It was silent, not a sound or a light in action. On the other side she saw a cart with the bottle of water she’d been drinking from. Under that was a shelf with a glass bottle, overflowing with nearly-clear liquid.
Jesus, she’d filled that. How long had she been asleep for?
“Yeah, you see that hey?” The nice one said gently, reaching out to roll down the blanket that was covering her from the chest down. “You must have a catheter in. You were hooked up with an IV, feeding you. But it was dry. We pulled the line.” She left the blankets at the foot of the bed, then set her hand on the girl’s ankle. “I’m going to take that catheter out. Getting an infection at this time is not ideal, believe me.”
The girl swallowed, a flutter of panic making her inhale. She didn’t know this woman. She didn’t know what was going on here. Why was she here, where was her…where was her father?
“It’s okay,” the woman assured her with that same gentle tone and smile. “I was a nurse. So I just need you to relax. It might hurt at first, but you’ll be better off. Okay?”
The girl was able to dip her chin in a half-nod.
“Okay. I’m going to move your legs. You don’t have to work with me, so just relax. I don’t think you’ll be able to move them much anyway.”
The girl’s eyes focused on the ceiling while the nurse explained everything she was doing just before she did it. This was humiliating, but it wasn’t like she could bolt and run. After some maneuvering she was aware of the cold air rushing under the nightgown she was dressed in. The woman’s hands were efficient and impersonal, and when she was done there
a sense of relief. It actually felt like she’d just relieved herself.
“There, easy as that,” the nurse mumbled, tossing the refuse into a yellow container with a biohazard symbol on it. “Now, if you need to use the washroom let us know, we can help you.”
The girl couldn’t imagine doing that to strangers, but her bodily functions wouldn’t have as much reluctance if the need was upon her.
“There are some clothes in this closet,” the nurse was saying as she moved to a floor-to-ceiling cupboard along one wall. “They’re probably yours. They look like they should fit, but I’m betting you’ve lost weight since these were bought.”
The girl pushed herself upright. It was a strenuous undertaking, and her arms trembled just from that simple effort, and she had another moment of panic that she was entirely vulnerable. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but these women made her nervous. It didn’t matter that they were all
. She felt as though they could be just as dangerous as a group of men she’d never met.
Except the nurse. As she came forward with a pile of clothes over her arm she was smiling. “Anytime you get the urge to use your limbs, go for it. You’ll gain some strength back quickly. I just hope we can get you walking. It’ll be a lot easier to get you somewhere safe.”
Again, the suggestion there was danger lurking. She found her voice. “What…what’s happened? Why would we be in danger?”
The nurse titled her head. “You really don’t remember anything, do you?”
The girl shook her head. There, that felt nearly normal.
“I don’t know what you can take. I don’t want to freak you out—”
“I’m already freaked out,” she interrupted. “I don’t know you guys. I don’t know why I’ve been in bed so long I can’t even sit up without breaking a sweat.”
The nurse set the clothes down and sat sideways on the side of the bed, much like the leader, May, had. “I’m Emmanuelle,” she said with that same soft smile. “You can call me Em. It’s shorter. The woman that was here before is May Hart.”
“She’s your leader?”
The smile grew wider. “Yeah, I guess she is. She’s smarter than most of us. Tougher, too. We just…follow wherever she leads. It’s what kept us alive.”
The girl swallowed. “Why are you so scared?”
Em tilted her head again. “A lot happened in the time you were asleep. I think you were brought here because someone cared about you and was worried about you. The old standards of civilization are gone. You’re sitting in a concrete underground bunker right now.”
The girl frowned. “This isn’t a hospital?”
Em laughed. “No, it’s really not. Look at the walls. There are no windows. It’s very dark, isn’t it?”
Now that it was mentioned, the girl realized her vision was limited to a four-foot circle around her bed. She looked up and a lantern was hanging over her, hooked onto a light that looked like it probably belonged in an operating room.
Em’s face fell. “You really want to know?”
The girl nodded.
“I wish I could forget it entirely.”
“What. Happened?” The girl’s voice sounded braver than she felt.
Em swallowed, lost all friendliness to her. “Men happened. Men who build big bombs that can eradicate life and use those bombs as a dick-measuring contest.”
The girl shrunk back to the bed, not so much relaxing as collapsing. Em’s expression was scaring her. “What do you mean?”
“War was threatening to spill over for years. First it was kept to the Middle East, but…well. Doesn’t matter
now or who did what first. Basically somewhere across the ocean one country had enough of
country telling it what to do and they sent up their bombs. This country sent theirs, took them out, but by then
felt they were being attacked. They all pressed buttons, and people like you and me who were just going on about their business were suddenly thrown into fucking chaos. Because of bombs and egos and stupidity.” She sighed, getting to her feet.