Charlie woke with a strangled gasp, propelling herself upright as she sucked air into her lungs, shielding her eyes from the bright light that blurred the face of the woman who was currently grasping her by the shoulders, unable to hear the shouts for Bass and Miles.
With one hand cupping Charlie’s face and the other on her shoulder, Rachel guided her daughter back down to the bed. “Charlie, Charlie! It’s Mom! I need you to breathe! Breathe, Charlie!”
“Mom!” Charlie wheezed as the room spun around her, gulping in a lungful of air that hung thick and heavy. The kind of air that always made the hair on the back of Danny’s neck prickle.
“I’m here, Charlie, I’m here,” Rachel soothed as she pushed her daughter's hair back, watching as Charlie finally started breathing normally.
“What’s going on?” Charlie asked, blinking her eyes as she tried to focus.
“You’ve been unconscious since your seizure yesterday. We’ve all been so worried,” Rachel answered.
“What seizure?” Charlie questioned as her vision began to clear, her mother's tired and wane visage coming into focus.
“There's no way you would remember. You’ve been so sick. Your fever didn’t break until early this morning.”
“Sick?” Charlie hissed in frustration not understanding why she felt so tired and sluggish, jerking backwards when the door to the bedroom flew open.
Miles rushed to her side as Rachel stood backing away, watching on wistfully. “Charlie!” Miles said, dropping down on the side of the bed, reaching out to run his hand over her hair.
Charlie stared at him in confusion, her eyes raking up and down his clothing before looking over to her husband who was standing in the doorway. “Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?” Miles asked with a concerned look upon on his face.
“What I mean is why are you dressed like that and where are we? I don’t recognize this room. Where’s Danny and the kids?” she asked leaning around to look at Bass.
Miles looked back at Rachel and Bass who looked on in confused silence. “Rachel, go get Gene,” Miles ordered curtly. Nodding her head, Rachel fled the room.
“Who’s Gene?” Charlie demanded with a raspy cough, greedily drinking the water that Miles offered.
Pushing the glass away once her thirst had been quenched, Charlie dropped back against the pillow. “What’s going on, Daddy,” she whispered, the fear in her eyes settling heavy in his chest even as his eyes widened at the name “Daddy” causing him to look towards Bass in a panic.
“Hey, it’s going to be alright, I promise,” Bass assured her as he stepped forward, pausing for a moment as he ran his eyes over her. “It’s good to see you up and awake”
“Where are the kids? Are they with Danny?” She asked holding out her hand to him. Exchanging glances with Miles, Bass took her hand, taking Miles’ place on the bed as Miles backed away towards the window rubbing his hands over his face.
Bass was saved from answering when Gene rushed into the room with Rachel hot on his heels. Charlie looked him over skeptically. “‘Who’s that?”
“It’s Grandpa, Sweetheart,” Gene answered with a smile as he set his bag on the dresser.
“Is that true?” Charlie asked her parents who were standing huddled together.
“Yeah. Yeah it’s true.” Rachel said in a near whisper.
“When did he get here and why didn’t anyone tell me they were sending for him? And where’s Maggie? I’d much rather she looked after me.”
“Why don’t all of you go downstairs and wait on me,” Gene said herding the others out. “This will give me a chance to get to know my granddaughter a bit better.”
“Can’t Bass stay?” Charlie asked from where she lay in the bed.
Gene turned his head towards Charlie giving her a weak smile before turning back to Bass giving him a pointed glare.
“I’ll be right downstairs, Charlie. Let Gene check you out and I’ll bring you up some supper just as soon as he says it’s okay.”
Not giving Charlie a chance to reply, Gene shut the door in their faces.
Sharing a look, the three made their way downstairs to wait for Gene.
“So, you’re my Grandpa Gene?” Charlie asked, as she watched him pull various items out of his black bag.
“Sure am,” Gene said with a smile. “You were just a little bitty thing the last time I saw you.”
“Where have you been all this time? How come Mom and Dad never talked about you?”
“Well, I imagine it’s because I was in Texas when the power went out and like a lot of other folks the distance was just too great when you were trying to survive.”
“So why are you here now?” Charlie asked as her Grandfather took his turn having a seat next to her. “Well, your Grandma Charlotte passed away and a new doctor came to town, so I guess I finally felt like it was time to leave. Got on a horse, and here I am. Just arrived last night.”
“Have you seen the kids?” Charlie asked anxiously.
“No, I haven’t, but I expect you to tell me all about them, just as soon as I check you over,” he replied with a wink.
An hour later, Gene came walking slowly down the stairs, taking off his glasses and slipping them into his shirt pocket. Three faces watched as he sat his bag down and poured himself a drink, tossing it back in one shot.
“Rachel, take another drink,” Gene said as he refilled his own.
Rachel frowned as both Bass and Miles slid their drinks across the table towards her.
“What’s going on Gene?” Miles asked, leaning back in his seat with a heavy sigh.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”
“What’s the good?” Bass asked, stretching out his arm on the table.
“The good news is that she seems to be over whatever it was she was sick with and I anticipate her making a full recovery.”
“And the bad?” Miles asked.
“She thinks that she’s in Philadelphia, living with her parents, husband, brother and children.”
“Husband?” Bass repeated gruffly as it went down the row, Rachel questioning children and Danny and a breathy ‘Philly?’ from Miles, as they all spoke at once.
Gene held up his hands. “In her head, everyone is still alive, starting with Danny. I’m not even sure who else she was talking about. You two are her parents. She hasn’t seen her Uncle Ben since the blackout and doesn’t remember anything about him. She and her husband,” he continued looking at Bass, “have been married for almost six years and have two children, Ethan and Savannah.”
“I don’t understand,” Rachel said shaking her head as Bass reached over to pull his glass back towards him,“Bass and Charlie?”
Gene rubbed a hand over his face. “She believes that she was raised in the republic, that her father is the co-founder and General of it’s militia, her husband the Commander in chief.”
Pushing back his chair, Bass got to his feet and walked out of the house.
“We’re going to need him back.” Gene said turning to Miles. “She’s expecting her husband to bring her her dinner.