Echo of Chaos: Ch. 8

After the surprise dinner with Captain Fancy Pants, I didn’t think it would be safe for me to sneak off to Forrest’s later that night. So I stayed in and finished more puzzles of cities and places I only knew from history lessons. 

My mother was unusually quiet, and not in a good way. I wondered if she was thinking about the fact that it was Max’s last night to live, and she was forced to spend it with the Captain. She only had time to finish two puzzles with us before she had to leave for Captain Fancy Pants’ chambers, as expected.

“Why can’t we go too?” Max asked as my mother was leaving.

My mother didn’t look at him when she answered. 

“It’s adult time, sweetie,” she said.

And then she left before he could ask anything else, leaving me to answer his innocent questions.

“Does the Captain not like us as much as he likes Mommy?” he asked.

I stifled a laugh as I connected two pieces of our current puzzle together.

“I suppose you could say that,” I said.

“But why? We’re family, right? All of us? Now that Real Daddy’s gone?”

I shrugged, any hint of laughter or even a smile leaving me in that instant. It was an innocent enough question, but one I could never answer. 

We weren’t family. We would never be family. But how could I explain that to Maxi without committing a felony? I couldn’t.

“I don’t think we’re a real family,” he said, sorting through the pieces of puzzle. “We don’t live together. Not all of us. And he makes us call him Captain still. I think that means we’re a different kind of family, but aren’t we all supposed to be the same? That’s why I’m in trouble, right Echo? Because I’m different?”

I dropped the puzzle piece I was holding and looked at him. He looked back at me with wide, harmless blue eyes. I wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him. No, of course we’re not all supposed to be the same! I wanted to say. There’s nothing wrong with you being different! But I couldn’t. 

“I’m getting water. Do you want some?” I asked, standing up and walking toward the kitchen.

“Yes, please,” Max called after me.

It was only once I reached the kitchen that I realized our water rations had already been used for the day. Pouring even a single glass of water would set off the alarm, and the Ration Keepers would be at our door within minutes to determine whether or not the extra water was necessary or wasteful. 

Wasting water wasn’t as heavy of a crime as most, but was still considered a crime. And my family didn’t need any more attention brought to it.

I walked slowly back to the puzzle with Max, and took my seat. Max didn’t even look up.

“I forgot about the water rations,” I said.

“It’s okay. I forget sometimes too.”

“What’s this puzzle supposed to be?”

“I don’t know. But Mommy does. Do you think she’ll be back when we finish?”


She wasn’t back, though, and we didn’t have time to finish another puzzle. I sent Max to bed and he was asleep by the time I was finished getting ready for bed myself. I tried to stay up and wait for her, but when she still wasn’t back by hour zero, I let myself drift off, knowing I’d have another intense day tomorrow.

But it was difficult to sleep. I kept tossing and turning, my mind racing with worried thoughts.

It was the latest she had ever been gone.

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