Jarod’s Safety House . . .
Miss Parker sat up and touched her head. How long had she been out? Looking around, she had a vague clue. “Damn, Jarod.” She moved out of her bed, remembering what just happened. Angelo rumor. Getting out of control. Jarod showing up. Bhekumbuso being shot by her father, and her father dying of whatever Debbie had.
She had just taken control of the situation, and Jarod took her out of it. She went to the closet to get some fresh clothes on. As she opened the door, she saw the strangest sight. At least fifteen of her mother’s pregnancy clothes were all in there. Impossible. There’s no way Jarod would do that for her.
Then, she started to hear it. Jarod’s voice. Except it was something she wasn’t prepared for. It had nothing to do with the twins, Angelo, his family, her father, or anything like that. In fact, they should be words he shouldn’t know because he should never have known to look.
She was caught, off guard, as he read them from the half opened bedroom door.
“Subject is hard to control. Request sending to The Triumvirate,” his voice echoed. “Month after month. Denied, denied, denied, by daddy.” He punctuated denied each time by throwing a paper in the air.
She looked behind her, feeling like she’d just been caught completely nude in front of Jarod. Even tightening her robe didn’t change the feeling she felt.
He continued walking into the room with more papers repeating ‘denied, denied, denied’ as three more papers fell from his hand. “Requests of urgency to let The Triumvirate capture him and they have all been denied thus far.” He started reading another paper. “To The Triumvirate, from the daughter of the former leader, Mister Parker. However humble I may be . . .”
She took off and fled to the bathroom. She never fled, but Jarod was hitting her with something she was unprepared for.
“Jarod the Pretender has not lost his sense of sanity,” Jarod continued to speak, right by the bathroom door. “While he has remained uncaptured, he has hurt no one and in fact has an excellent track record of saving those he helped. Attached are copies once again of all the exemplary things Jarod has done, with special notes about saving my father in an assassination attempt, as well as a fellow Centre member. I urgently implore you to give us more time. Any punishments for the lack of conduct so far shall be taken by me on behalf of my team, African punishments or otherwise.”
Jarod stopped quoting the papers. “I’ve been in some heavy Pretends, Miss Parker. I’ve never been in one since I was fourteen years old like you.” He knocked on the door. “Please answer? I’ve been waiting for you to wake up for this.”
“Go back to The Centre!” she finally said.
“I don’t know what happened last time,” Jarod said, “but I saw the DSA. You freed me from The Centre for a night.” He knocked on the door, urgently wanting to see her. “You freed me. I don’t know what happened between there and The Centre, and all I have are all these papers you wrote on my behalf. Just more and more. But, I want to know. Why did I get stuck as an officer?”
“I. Don’t. Know.”
Jarod grabbed the door handle and felt her weight against it. “You should have told me.” He tried again. “Miss Parker, let me see you?”
He did it. He could hear it. He was breaking through her focus because he understood it now. Why she tried so hard to capture him, yet still knew how to talk to him like a friend when she had to. Why they went from being the only people they really trusted, to becoming enemies. “You did everything he said, and he denied The Triumvirate. I’ve got so many letters from you I dug up all day and last night, personally trying to address them. You took copies of my red book work and you sent it to them, with hours of notes and details, trying to keep me from being captured by them.” Please. He tried to open the door again, but her weight was still pressed on it. “You personally took punishments for being incompetent, to continue to pursue me.”
He hit the door wanting to see her so bad. When he first found out about it in Blue Cove, he didn’t have that much time to look into it. He knew she saved him, even Lyle stressed that point, but he had no idea how much until they returned safely back to the house with Gemini and Debbie.
That’s when he dragged out his laptop. With no one running the Centre, he got scoops of information, not only on facts about his family, including Kyle’s disappearance, and Tommy’s coma, but once he started looking at the document and letter history.
It all fell out of the bottom. Every letter, every addressal, every memo. What he held in his hands to read were only a few. “I don’t know what The Triumvirate would have done, but it’s clear from how much you’ve been rebelling against it, that it would have been a bad place.”
No answer. He sighed. “Miss Parker? Thank you,” he finally said.
“You’re thanking me?” She finally spoke. “I. I almost lost . . .”
“No, you didn’t. What you did was right,” Jarod said. “You freed me, and that’s where I belonged. Out there. I don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t a mistake. I would have snapped out of it eventually, I couldn’t keep it up.” He moved closer against the door again. “I know that I said only Raines or Sydney could have done it before, but there was one other way.” He sighed softly. ”Now, I fell into an officer,why did I do that?”
He already knew the answer. He wanted to hear it from her though.
Two fourteen year olds at night, no parental supervision, a huge place with multiple kinds of strangers. One, beautiful and developing into a young lady, and the other a clueless kid who probably looked in every direction but straight. “Easy targets, weren’t we?”
He heard it. That crack in her. He hit it.
“Ah!I outran a freaking Lion, Jarod, I was able to handle it! Everything was fine, they didn’t know my training, I took their gun, and they ran off. I yelled stop because I didn’t want the bastard to get away.”
“Stop. Gun. So much exposure at once after leaving the Centre.” Jarod nodded. “It’s a trick. Sydney would call it ‘survival’. I took the lessons in my head that must have been roaring up front and placed myself there.” He sighed. “It was right after the handcuff officer experiment with Raines too, jutting it into my brain that much further.”
He tapped the door softly. “I wanted to be someone who could help. But, I don’t do that anymore. Younger Pretenders can have it happen, their minds aren’t quite developed enough,” he said. “Gemini still has ‘survival’.”
He knocked gently on her door. “It’s over. You don’t have to fight me to bring me in. I can’t go into ‘survival’. Do you understand that? I can call Sydney, right now if you want, to confirm it.”
“This entire time . . . you’ve just . . .”
Yes. Yes, yes, yes! “Even in survival mode, I would have come out by 0900,” he said. “Sydney would have told you that but you didn’t tell him the truth. Not that I blame you,” he said. “I can’t blame you for anything.”
“I thought The Centre changed you and you were lost forever to me,” Jarod admitted. “I thought maybe I could help bring you back again, if even a little, but I never imagined . . . that you never left. Fooling a Pretender. You are good.” He heard a groan from her.
“This isn’t the time, Jarod.” Crack. “My father is dead, even you witnessed it. He couldn’t have been a clone, he knew things.” Crack. “A Triumvirate leader was killed, the one with the strongest power.” Crack. He could hear her cracking more and more. “So much happening right now, I have to get to Broots.”
“Even as enemies, I couldn’t hate you, and now that I know the truth . . .” He started speaking in Afrikaans from her words again. “I know that I am but a humble subservient of The Centre, which is a humble subservient to you. Although Jarod continues to elude us, The Triumvirates rules of a village raising a child must be presented for you to see in the most modern of ways. While Jarod lacks his own identity, he is out there helping the rest of his family, everyone in America that cries out for injustice.”
“Stop, Jarod don’t-“
He finished it in Afrikaans. “Even the personal experience I witnessed of helping a little girl whose parents were killed trying to save their child. He became their parent and gave her what they couldn’t. In this way, bumping Jarod in such a vengeful way is a mockery to the history and the culture of the Zulus. I implore you, I shall take the punishments for my team, and any wrong doing of Jarod in your eyes.”
“Jarod, for the love of-“
“I’ve missed so many years with you. There’s no way I’m just letting my old friend go back to The Centre.”
“I’m not a friend. It’s not . . . I don’t, you’re supposed to . . .”
This time, when he pushed the door in, she was no longer bothering to hold it. Her body was over on the other side of the bathroom, her head beside the toilet.
He knelt down to her, and caught a glimpse from her eye. “Hello, Miss Parker.” She moaned softly. “Been a long time since I’ve seen the real you.” He gently patted her back. “This focus, it made it really hard to find you in this shell you’ve been covering yourself in.”
“Why’d you bring back some of my momma’s clothes?” she asked softly. “Parisian style doesn’t fit pretends.”
“I can’t offer much. Least I could do is that. There is one other thing,” Jarod said. “I already looked into it. As his friend first, I found Thomas. He fell out of the coma two years ago. He was afraid you might have moved on, so he didn’t contact you. Now he has his own family. With me, he lost touch. Phones aren’t something that can stay the same for me.”
“ . . . Tommy . . .” So breathless. “He’s alive.”
“So’s Kyle. Those . . .” It was hard to speak. “What were you saving me from because it’s exactly what Kyle’s going through now. Is it what Lyle said?” Jarod asked. “Do you choose to do Sims, or are you forced to live in the wild? Is that true?”
“I failed.” She retched in the toilet. Jarod didn’t care. He’d seen a lot worse in the many fields he’d been in. “We need to get Broots. We need to get going. Get all the old information out, Jarod.” Her head was swimming. “You’ve got to listen to me, I know I’m not in the best shape right now, but don’t baby me, you don’t understand . . . listen. Please.”
/// “My Angel already knows. She’s going to do what she can. Follow her lead. Do you understand? Let my Angel, be your Angel.”///
“I’m listening,” Jarod agreed.
“Good. Then, before I say this?” She was obviously trying to keep herself in control. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Jarod. This was my fault.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Jarod answered.
“The Triumvirate, after that act, and no one at The Centre, can now fully take on your case.” She took a deep breath. “When I was with Tommy, I had decided to go to Oregon with him, but he didn’t know that. It took a lot, because I had to . . .”
“Lose focus,” Jarod said. “No more capture and bring me to The Centre. But, you did it.”
“They knew I would though. It didn’t get very far, but after I researched more I found a terrible truth. A truth even my mother never knew. The Triumvirates, keep to themselves. They rule, but . . .” She ducked her head into the toilet again. “I’m such a loser, how could I let this happen?”
Jarod rubbed her back again. “It’s alright, Miss Parker. Is there anything I can do?”
“Oh god, if you say ‘can I analyze you’, goody two shoes, Boy Genius, I will kick your butt.”
Jarod smiled. Later. After all this time, she was definitely on his list though. Reallyhigh up there.
“The Triumvirates were doing cloning a long time before The Centre. Think of them as . . . two kids working on the same math problem,” she said. “One’s gonna get the answer faster than the other.”
“So they did excel at cloning?” Jarod said.
“Yes, but they have a sharing pot with The Centre, because of the scrolls. They get rights to some things. The Centre gets rights to other things. Playing in the Triumvirate, is like playing with The Centre, fifty years in the future. There’s no telling what they have.”
“That’s my problem, for me. All you need to do is calm down.”
“Daddy’s gone. He’s really gone, I feel it this time, I know he’s gone.”
“Yeah, he is.”
“Thomas is alive.” She closed her eyes. “He’s alive. How could that happen?”
Jarod scratched his head. “Same way Kyle’s alive. I just, I’m trying to think when they could have switched him. Did Lyle plan the whole time in Dry River with the clone, or did he steal his clothes somewhere along the line? Even now.” He shook his head. “More questions than answers.”
“For once I’d like more answers than questions.” Miss Parker tried to get up. “I hate morning sickness.”
“I don’t think it’s all morning sickness,” Jarod said. “You were in a Pretend for fourteen years on me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“You pretended to be my enemy, so you could continue to be a real friend,” he said softly. He knocked his fist ever so softly against her cheek, in a buddy style. “Thanks.”
She didn’t answer back.
She still didn’t answer back. She just closed her eyes. “Stop being nice. You’re a tease and an ass. Get out so I can change.”
Jarod just helped her up. “You convinced your father that I should add another Sim every day to earn all my meals,” he said in his defense. “I had to catch up to a high number by the end of the year.”
“You also convinced your dad that I should have been working over the cold time. I know it as Christmas now,” he said. “You said I was behind, and that I should catch up on 18 Sims before I even got another morsel of food. I would have starved if it wasn’t for Sydney sneaking me in food.”
“Did that more than once. After awhile, Sydney stopped taking vacations, period. He didn’t even take off Sunday, he was there, every day, unsure of what treachery you were going to convince your daddy to do next to me.”
“You did all of it to protect me though, from the Triumvirate. Sneaky Miss Parker. That part never changed,” Jarod teased. “Let’s get you some fresh air. You look like you need it.”
“Don’t start.” She moved away from him. “You’re nothing more than a lab rat, I’m just trying to bring you in, no matter what it takes. Or took. Or when I can. Now, out already.”
Jarod left the bathroom, as well as her room. He closed the door but continued to talk to her. “Do you remember the ‘survival’ I went into, Miss Parker?” Jarod said softly. “You went into one too, all those years ago, so you could do what you had to. You used your own Pretending skills.”
“I’m not a Pretender. Far from it,” she said from inside the room.
“Maybe, maybe not, but the result was the same.” All he wanted to do was hold her. Stare into the eyes that he once knew. Find her, hiding deep inside. Knowing she was in there, somewhere. For years, she had trained herself to be a certain way. Act a certain way toward him. If he could get past that, then maybe . . . “Can I-“
“Don’t say it,” she warned him as she opened the door. “Don’t say it. I am so warning you, you better not say it.”
///“Morning, Jarod,” A young Miss Parker said waving at him through his glass.
“Good Morning, Miss Parker.” He was tapping his pencil. “Can I analyze you today?”
“No,” she said.///
///“Hey, Jarod,” A young Miss Parker said as she tapped on the glass.
Young Jarod was climbing out of his floating ball and looked back toward her. “Good Morning, Miss Parker. Is there something I can do for you today?”
“No. I just wanted to see you.”
“Can I analyze you then?”///
///“You’ve grown,” Jarod said as he caught her before she caught him. “How much have you grown?”
“I don’t know. Since when?” She asked. “An inch or two this year?”
“Can you be more specific, please?///
“Ooh, goodness.” Miss Parker looked into the living room where Debbie and Gemini were watching TV together. She was dressed finally, and away from Jarod. Now that he knew the truth about her, she felt uncomfortable around him.
She treated him like worthless shit after that night she dealt with her father. Even when she went after him to chase him down, she never gave him nice words. She didn’t have to be as crude anymore, but he was bringing it out as well with the games he played with her.
And he did that because she treated him like shit in The Centre. Full circle.
Jarod was starting to break the circle and that was scary. Last time that circle broke, they were in Carthis. And she needed that circle to stay a circle. She couldn’t turn back time to when they were fourteen year olds again. Things weren’t the same. Their worlds weren’t the same. “Am I interrupting something?”
Gemini looked behind him. “Not at all, mom.” He looked toward his hand that Debbie let go of. “Why did you let go of my hand, Sis?”
“Nevermind. As you were. I need coffee. And a bullet to the head.” Her brain felt fried. Jarod had no idea what was coming for him. She was too wiped out to get it across.
“Too much caffeine in coffee,” Jarod said from behind, “and the second request isn’t available either.”
She smelled the waft of orange juice beneath her nose. “If that’s got vodka in it, we’re talking.” She took it, of course knowing nothing was in it. Enjoy it while she could. Everything was about to be sent to hell. In a matter of hours, Jarod would be screaming.
“Oh, Miss Parker!” Debbie’s face was radiant as she came over to see her. “That’s so pretty.”
“Thank you,” she said stroking her dress. “It was my momma’s.”
“Well, it’s really beautiful.” Debbie looked toward Jarod. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Instinct. A question asked and he automatically started to discern the answer. “Well, her hair is a mess, and the shoes don’t match at all, which mixed with the fact that it was designed by some of Paris’ best custom designers, it leaves a lot to be said for it.” He stared at her longer. “But the beauty about life is the imperfectness of it all, plus Catherine Parker wore it when she was having her daughter, and that same daughter is wearing it now.” He looked toward Miss Parker who finally looked at him straight.
As in straight. As in he wasn’t an ass, or a puzzle giver, or the reason for everything that went wrong in her life. Like he was the simple boy behind the glass again. Just. Breathlessly. Real. “Beautiful.”
Just like that, the look was gone and she looked away. “Uh. Thanks, Debbie. Jarod. I think.”
For a moment, she was there, she was right there. “Can I-“
“No, don’t ask me for anything.”
“Really simple question?” he said walking after her.
“It better be real simple,” she said gruffly.
“Can I measure the fundal height again?” Jarod asked her. She rubbed her mouth. Even that annoyed her.
“How about you call Broots to get in contact with me on your little phone,” she bribed him, “and I’ll let you spend all the time you want to try and feel a kick.”
Jarod didn’t even waste time answering as he pulled out the phone Sydney gave him.
“Can I feel them too?” Debbie asked.
“It could take awhile, depends on how restless they are.” She mosied over to the couch. “I’ll just sit on the couch and everybody can just go at my belly. I get the remote though.” Might as well let them all have their moment.
It wouldn’t last long.
“I get to feel it too?” Gemini said. “The life inside of you that is growing but cannot survive in this world yet without your body and nutrients?”
Miss Parker sat down. Debbie was the first to touch her stomach. “Could take a little while. I don’t really know,” she said. “Angelo felt it right away.”
“Sydney, there you are,” Jarod said on the phone. “Listen, what’s happening at The Centre?”
“Still nothing Jarod, from the last time you called,” Sydney said. “If something happens, I will let you know.”
“Hm. I need a favor. Can you give Broots this number?” Jarod asked. “Only Broots, but I need him to call on this phone. Please?”
“Of course, Jarod. When?”
“Soon as possible if you could?” Jarod asked. He looked over at Debbie trying to feel around the tummy to get a kick while Miss Parker just drunk her orange juice like it was going out of style.
“Well. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks.” Jarod hung up and wiggled the phone over to her. “Any second.”
“I don’t feel anything,” Debbie said.
“Yeah, it comes and goes,” Miss Parker admitted.
“Where are you feeling it from?” Jarod knew the chances of feeling it too weren’t spectacular, but knowing Angelo felt them before he did? It irritated him.
“I felt it!” Gemini laughed. “It was a funny vibration. Right here.” It was on her lower middle left side. Debbie put her hand there and smiled. “You felt it too, right?”
“That’s just great.” Jarod was still staring at the phone.
“This can’t end good,” Miss Parker muttered. “Fine, Wonder Boy, you can feel too, have at it. It’s just a belly.”
Really? He laid his hand right where the kids felt it. He felt nothing. “They sure do like to tease.” He felt around the area. Angelo felt it. Gemini felt it. Debbie even felt it.
Then, right before he brought his hand away, he felt it. Tiny. Soft. Vibration. He knew well what the kicks were supposed to feel like, having felt many in his medical Pretends. He looked down toward her, but she had met her eyes to his already.
“Happy?” she asked.
Jarod felt another kick in the same area. They were moving. His kids were moving inside of her. But those eyes. They weren’t just tired and weary. They were eyes of desperation. Of hiding dangerous knowledge. But not dangerous in themselves. Pleading, sorrowful.
She moved them back away, but Jarod already figured it out.
Miss Parker knew something was coming, and it was going to be bad.