Maeve’s thoughts followed me to bed that night. The idea of a war between readers and non-readers was a frightening one. Last year, scientists found the gene that makes us who we are. With a little effort, the army would be able to track us and hunt us down even if the only difference between non-readers and us lies in a handful of cells. Our mind-reading and foreseeing abilities would help strengthen our defenses but we remained a minority with limited resources. We would have to flee, if they let us.
I shook the thought from my mind and turned to my side. I shouldn’t stress over it now. Anything that would turn into a war had to start with something small and build up from there. We had a head start and staying levelheaded, and rested, was the best way to take advantage of it.
There was nothing I could do tonight and for the next two days. It was the weekend. Rebecca and I agreed to relax and leave work at the office. This wasn’t about striking fast. It was about endurance. We had to pace ourselves.
Nothing like a party to keep my mind off important matters.
Daniel owned a nice house in Georgetown so I took my car, knowing very well there would be parking space. I offered to pick up my mom but she declined. Apparently, she was hitching a ride with her new boyfriend Samuel. I couldn’t wait to meet him.
Rebecca and Sean had to run a few errands and Casey didn’t pick up his phone. Maybe Becky thwarting his kiss hurt his pride more than I thought.
I drove alone to the party. I hoped I wouldn’t be stranded with a bunch of strangers when I got there. Since I became a public figure, people treated me like a long-lost friend or requested an autograph. Both made me uneasy so I wished I’d have real friends already in place to shield me from the unsolicited amiable onslaught.
I parked in the driveway and noticed Becky’s car. I released the air I had been withholding. As instructed, I went around the house and entered the spacious backyard. Some Chinese lamps awaited nightfall to light up the grounds and a fireplace had been turned into a rustic barbecue. Chairs liberally populated the grass, hugged by the greenery of a quartet of trees and a symphony of flowers. The only thing missing to make it the perfect English garden was a body of water. I smiled to myself; I shouldn’t have expected less from my British boss.
Daniel conversed with a couple I didn’t know. Even though I’d rather not throw myself within the reach of possible admirers, etiquette dictated that I signaled my presence to the host, thank him for inviting me and ask for directions to store the salad I made and the bottle of wine I brought. Thankfully, Daniel saw me at that moment and closed his conversation with his interlocutors.
“I’m glad you came.” He said, taking my packages away from me. A few guests were already ogling me. “Why don’t you enter my humble abode so I can serve you some punch?” He invited with a smile. His “abode” wasn’t really humble but who was I to contradict an abusive dose of “Britishness”?
I nodded and obediently followed him.
“I’m afraid I underestimated the effect you’d have on my guests.” He grinned, handing me a plastic glass filled with a deep orange beverage.
“Don’t worry, we’ll keep her safe.” Rebecca affirmed, stepping in the kitchen behind us. Sean was on her heels. They hugged me in turn.
“Can I get a refill of that?” Sean asked while I took a first sip in my glass. I understood why he wanted another shot.
“Wow, Daniel, you’re quite the bartender.” I commented.
“The real test will be the cooking, though.” Rebecca added.
“How else could I have possibly bribed my way up to Director of PSI?” Daniel winked and returned outside. It was refreshing to see him out of the office. Casualness looked good on him, rejuvenated him – not that he ever seemed that old.
“Ready to face the blabbermouths?”
I shrugged in response to Rebecca. She smirked and hooked her arm in mine. We headed for the garden and didn’t make it past the threshold; we almost ran into Casey who was on the way in to drop a box from the bakery.
“Now that just ain’t right!” He said, eyeing the couple my partner and I formed. “Rebecca, take care of your hubby.” He dropped his box on the corner of the table. “I’ll take care of that lady. Singles ought to support each other.”
Much to my surprise, Rebecca didn’t retort and stepped aside. Casey promptly replaced her, planting a quick kiss on my cheek. I cocked an eyebrow.
“Freebie for hurting his arm yesterday.” Rebecca shrugged and led Sean outside. Casey and I followed suit. If Rebecca decided to let Casey make a move on me, he probably proved that he was serious about this – food for thought.
When we stepped out, my presence was completely eclipsed by newcomers. Wayne had arrived with his family. He was exactly as I remembered; square build, medium height and a respectable amount of muscles. He looked like a doorman. Actually, he was before the Acknowledgement and his hiring at PSI. I expected his time in a mental institution to have eaten away his strength but he stood confident as ever.
His family’s eyes were constantly returning to him, especially his wife’s, as if they feared he’d be taken from them again. The light on their faces conjured tears of joy along my bottom lashes. It was so great to see them back together again, to know it was possible to heal the scars of the Ocean.
Then, I saw the woman amidst the Dowson family, the widow of Wayne’s partner. She entered the garden side-by-side with the man whose body, tainted by another one’s mind, had murdered her husband without an ounce of resentment in her eyes.
Everyone in the garden applauded and whistled to salute the arrival of the little group. I put my hands together too, a single tear rolling down my cheek.
This community was worth protecting.