Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Center of the Room

"You did what?"

Wiley looked at me as if he were choking on one of his chess pieces. "You were only supposed to visually confirm that he was there at the party. That's it."

I hadn't wanted to tell him, but I did for the sake of being completely honest. Wiley was the one person I could trust completely, and I was the one person he was trusting completely. If I lied to him, or even kept silent about Henri, he would not be able to trust me, and that I could not have.

"I hadn't planned it." None of it had been planned. But presented with the opportunity, I took it. My toes curled inside my shoes, pressing against the soft leather under my feet as I thought about the night we spent in the hotel room. A large bed entirely to ourselves, the tangle of sheets we eventually had to kick off, the way we hadn't even bothered speaking. It was not something I did frequently. Usually I or the other party would have obligations or commitments, excuses to get away from one another. But this time, if there were other things he should have done, he didn't say a word. And I kept quiet as well.

And so I stood before Wiley in spare clothes I kept at his hideout-- a large old sweater and a pair of faded knit pants.

"That's all you've got to say for yourself?" Wiley has always been much too polite to curse in front of anyone, but right then I swear that I could hear the mental swears he had to be thinking at me. "Cher, he's dangerous. Just like the rest of them."

My lips pressed together. It was true. The entire party had been filled with people with serious political power. They were mixed in the room with the figureheads the people had elected. My part had only been to play the young and interested political writer. Another figurehead working for a paper that tells the people what they want to hear rather than what they really need to hear.

"I'm not going to send you out again if you do something that reckless again."

I crossed my arms for lack of something better to do with them than sitting as dead weights at my sides. He was a year or two younger than me, but just as protective as if he were the older brother I'd never had. I tried to remember that with what we did and were trying to do, feelings ran high and emotions and thoughts were often conflicted.

I took a deep breath and looked at him. "Wiley, I need you to trust me."

He looked away from me before rubbing his face with one soft meaty hand. "Then you have to trust me. We shouldn't get involved with him."

I could see Wiley’s concern, but he hadn’t seen the man standing at the party next to our leader. Henri’s contempt for them had been clear even as he seemed to try and mask it. Most of the others seemed to subconsciously stay away from him except for the head of our government who stood near him proudly. The two of them standing side by side created the center of the room, but it seemed as if Henri only barely tolerated the man. There was certainly much going on, and I spent most of the night watching them closely.

“I think we should.” Though I had been thinking about it, I hadn’t thought the words I would use to encourage Wiley to side with me. Wiley required care and honesty; I could feel him pulling away with my blurted words. I worked quickly to try to regain ground as I could see the disbelief written across his face. “He doesn’t trust them anymore than you or I do. I get the feeling that he’s trying to do what he needs to for survival. If he doesn’t side with them, you know they will try to destroy him and his people.”

Wiley looked dubious still, but I could see his shoulders slumping as he sighed, releasing the air from his lungs and making him look a bit smaller. He sat down at his desk and began to sift through the paperwork until he found a manila file which he slid out from under a pile of papers. He stood and handed the file to me, his eyes shining with what I could only guess was a stubborn light.

I looked down at the file in my hands, opening it up to look at the printed papers inside it. These weren’t real official documents with seals and heavy paper. They came from Wiley’s printer most likely, so the only assurance I had that they were real was simply my trust in Wiley.

Henri’s name jumped out at once. Henri Smith. This was his file. I glanced back up at Wiley who stared blankly towards his computer. “You’ll want to read it,” he said. “At least look it over. Use the other room. It’s old though. A last transmission sent from the main lab server to here right before the Revolution.”

I nodded and took it with me to Wiley’s spare room. The file was thick. A last transmission meaning they never knew they wouldn’t get the chance to take more notes or send another transmission.

I sat down in one of the old chairs in the extra room with the file balanced on my legs as I folded them under me. It felt wrong then to pry through the file of a man who I had been with so intimately but hadn’t even shared a word. We hadn’t even bothered to tell each other our names. I only knew his name because Wiley had told it to me before sending me out to verify his presence.

Still, I opened the file and set to work.

The Meeting -->


Not the person you want to hear about after that, but I give you Wiley's profile.


  1. Wait, how old is Paula again? Sixteen, seventeen? If so, according to Wiley's profile, then Cheryl isn't pregnant yet! She must be on course toward some subsequent encounters with Henri!

    Wiley seems like an interesting guy with an interesting shirt. He certainly has a cause--I wonder what happened to call him toward espionage and the smuggling of the truth in the first place?

    Definitely curious about Henri's file...

  2. I just can't get over how different Paula is from her mother (at least, so far). Cheryl was so brave and motivated.

    It is kind of a wonder that Paula didn't know that her government sponsored the experiments--her mother definitely did. I wonder if that's why Henri was so surprised that she didn't know? I wonder if Cheryl did it to protect her--maybe she felt it was more important to protect Paula by keeping her in the dark...

    Van's inference about future encounters between Cheryl and Henri has my mind spinning. The romantic in me keeps wondering if he got a little attached to her and if that's guiding some of his decisions to try and save her now (if that is what he's doing).

  3. Van, and you said you weren't good at math. ;) She's probably only 20 here.

    lol! Yeah, that shirt was exactly what I saw him wearing in my head. Even I don't know what happened to him before this to lead down this path. I figure he'll tell me when it's time.

    Rachel, true. Paula's mother at Paula's age was a much different sort of person. I see her as brave and motivated, and at the same time I can see her being reckless in that way young people who aren't thinking about death can be.

    There's where things get murky again. Why didn't Cheryl tell Paula? She's so brave and forward, but she didn't. She also didn't tell Paula anything about her father. And since Paula didn't know, no one did, not even Wiley who she has thought of as an Uncle.

    If it's possible for Henri to get attached.

  4. Interesting ... so back then, the government wanted to be seen with Henri, wanted the people to know they were allies? I'm not surprised Henri could barely conceal his contempt for them, he doesn't seem to me the type to suffer fools with any degree of patience.

    The Cheryl in her twenties seems very different to the Cheryl at the time of Paula's story. She's reckless, passionate, thinks she is indestructible - makes me wonder if something tragic happened that, while it didn't affect her belief in the cause, changed the way she lived her life and that's why Paula was sheltered and protected, in the hope that her daughter would never have to endure what she did. I know that getting older can change your attitudes and this might account for it, but the shift seems more dramatic than the earning of wisdom as you age.

    Hope that makes sensee, it kind of does in my head but I'm not sure I worded it right.

  5. I don't even know how to comment, I feel so strongly about this.

    Henri took control somehow and made the world over in the way he thought it should be. I hope you explain why he thought what he did was better. Every woman, including Cheryl who is smart and passionate, ends up in a bowl of dust as a prize in a fight club tournament. Except the few who can cook or something. This is such a vision of total apocolypse, and you are relentless with it.

    I can understand why Cheryl didn't tell Paula about her father. Giving her daughter information that would never help her and might hurt her...better to leave her daughter to grow up knowing nothing and hope she could find a way to survive. In this case, knowledge is not power. Knowledge is poison.

    And I'm probably wrong...

  6. Young Cheryl seems so innocent and trusting, in some ways. Not in a government is doing me wrong sort of way. But anyhow I know what I mean!

    I dunno I reckon Henri could attached, he just wouldn't put it above the other things that are important to him - like survival, and so on. I think he would be perfectly capable of leaving Cheryl to die, if it meant that something else more important to him happened. But I think that he would do his best to deny even to himself the attachment.

  7. Illandrya, in a way yes. Or at least the man in power wanted to be seen with him.

    Yes, I do feel a difference between young Cheryl and old Cheryl, and something did happen to her in the years between. ;) We'll get to it eventually here.

    It does make sense what you're saying, hopfully what I'm throwing out will also make sense, lol.

    SB, ouch! I so want to protect Henri, but you're not wrong. I will point out that he's never said what he's done is any better. We don't really know his thoughts on the state of the Wildlands yet. Is he proud of himself? Maybe he just never thinks about it. Maybe he sleeps just fine, but maybe he also has a prickle in the back of his mind that he's created a monster.

    I don't mean to be relentless with it though. I want to offer rays of hope as well, but you don't bite and can't be fooled, lol.

    I'm glad you understand why Cheryl wouldn't have told Paula. There is all of that, plus more. I think Cheryl will eventually explain herself. (At least she did to me, but we're working on completely retelling this story.)

    Kiri, lol, I know what you mean. It's true. In some ways she is a bit trusting. I think it's along the lines of Illandrya's comment about the inscrutableness of youth.

    True, Henri would be the sort of person to have priorities, and emotional attachments wouldn't necessarily rank higher than other concerns.

  8. The Cheryl we see here is very...I don't know, the word I came up with is hopeful but that isn't quite right. Neither is naive. Maybe idealistic would fit. She is a far cry from the woman at death's door.

    I fully believe that there was more than sex between Henri and Cheryl. I think whatever that was either hurt her or was potentially going to be bad for Henri. She got to him, found that one small fissure and slipped in.

    There is no way I can see her telling Paula about Henri. It serves no purpose and could only hurt Paula. But letting her group sheltered leaves her open to pain and quite possibly danger. And I feel even more strongly that there is something about Paula we have yet to see, something she got from Henri. I don't know if it is a power but I know there is something.

    Probably over-thinking it but...

  9. I wish I could edit my comment...

    I wanted to mention Henri's dossier. Obviously whatever is there did not prevent Cheryl from continuing to see him. And I am intrigued by what her motives were, information or something deeper and more emotional.

  10. Hmmm, interesting new detail, that they'd spent the whole night together, and not just that moment in the bathroom. I like that. Probably the romantic in me too, hoping that it had been a little bit more to both of them. They wouldn't have spent the whole night together if there wasn't some real attraction there.

    And of course, given that we assume there is some real attraction there, I can't wait to find out if they continued to keep seeing each other.

    Cheryl is so young and pretty and spunky! She's inspiring, even if she gets herself into trouble, lol! Oh, I hope she survives all of this. It would be a shame if Paula never got to hear these stories of her youth. I think Paula could use some of her mother's spunkiness - maybe she has some of it buried down deep after all and she just doesn't know it yet.

    I'm eager to hear more about Henri in his youth too! And also, like Beth mentioned, the events that led from where they are in the past to the way things are in the present. I guess, as their leader, Henri would be to blame for that development, wouldn't he?

  11. I had the same thought as Laura - that there must have been *something* there, if they went and got a hotel room. Or even for Henri to let go like that at all, like I said last week (or meant to say, lol).

    I'm dying to know what's in that dossier! Wiley seems to think that it's vital that Cheryl knows, so it's something important. But also something that he feels (or hopes) would make Cheryl not want to keep Henri on their side. But then we know (right?) that Henri and Cheryl got together at least one more time to produce Paula. So either what was in the dossier didn't bother Cheryl, or it made him more attractive to her.

    I have some other thoughts and questions but it is seriously wild speculation at this point. So I'm going to save those until I find out whether they're even relevant.

  12. Gayl, Idealistic is a good word for Cheryl at this age.

    I'm glad to hear you say you can't see Cheryl telling Paula either. She definitely had her reasons for it.

    As for the dossier, well Cheryl is a very different kind of woman.

    Laura, Isn't Cheryl gorgeous here? I think she looks better in these pictures than she did when she was all dolled up.

    I'm sure Paula has something of her mother in her. Impossible that she didn't rub off on the girl. But we'll see.

    I'll see if I can do his youth justice. This is about where it gets a little dicey for me going into his past.

    Carla, I think Henri might surprise you. He does come across as reserved, but we've mostly seen him from Paula's eyes, and even then admittedly not much.

    You are definitely onto Wiley. But Cheryl is... well like Gayl points out she's something of an idealist. So there's that, lol.

  13. +1 for the Hawaiian shirt.

    Very interesting and intriguing. I'm curious as to what's in the file, and just how important it is...

    Great chapter mate :)

  14. I like Cheryl. You can see the spunkiness and idealism all over her.

    It does make you wonder what's going to happen, what's she going to find out.

  15. Wiley reminds me of Seymour Phillip Hoffman in the movie 'Twister', could be the shirt.

    Yeah, Cheryl got more than a visual confirmation. All night with Henri wrapped in tangled sheets? So Henri is some smoldering cauldron of passion under that cool reserve. Love it. Henri has climbed up my 'Fascinating Men of Ruin' list quite a few notches.

    I am not surprised Henri's file is thick. Oh dear, I just had a naughty thought there. *sorry, snort*

    I am in a giddy mood. Again, love your intermissions, really adds to your narrative and peels back layers that boggle the mind.

  16. poida, lol! Isn't that a great shirt? Thanks for commenting!

    Nicole, I'm glad to hear you say that. I do see her as being very spunky in her youth. She's very different from her own daughter.

    Drew, lol! I don't know if I've seen that really. I might have, but I'm not a big movie watching person.

    Haha, I'm glad to hear you say that. He's definitely a tough character for me to portray, but how he looks really depends on the person who is seeing him.

    LMAO! Naughty thoughts are always welcomed. Thank you for commenting!