A Half Confession
Flip sighted when he saw all the cowards checking on each other. He couldn’t blame them though: they had survived because they were smart cowards, people that had realized fast enough that they stood no chance against the power and the technology of the Radiniri. All the brave and the stupid were dead now; not them.
But still, he was Changing Mind. He could become brave if he wanted, when he wanted, how he damn wanted. He started towards the tunnel without a word. He had barely understood what the fight had been about but if she was caught, it was not only her, but the whole group that was in danger. One human could mean others, and Flip suspected that the aliens had enough ways to make a single young girl talk, as strong willed as she was.
He quickly descended into the main tunnel. No one moved to catch up with him, letting him go on his own. That annoyed him slightly: she could be in danger already. Did no anyone actually care?
He arrived on the tracks of what had one been one of the busiest metro line in Paris but that was now a hollow space under the earth for the last survivors to hide and pray that they never get discovered. A sound of quick footsteps to the right; Flip ran after Éloise. Far ahead, he could see the station, all lit up since the Radiniri had turned the electricity back on, and the small silhouette of the stubborn girl race to get to it. His heart stopped in its tracks from dread but he only pushed forward faster.
He saw her climb up the ladder that lead to the platform and disappear from his view; a few moments later he was doing the same and his head poked over the side. She didn’t appear like she was going to go any further. She was slumped down on a plastic chair, as if waiting for a ride that would never come. Her feet had climbed up to rest on the seat and her head was hidden between the arms that held her knees. Her shoulders shook – but Flip didn’t think that she was crying.
The rattling of the ladder raised her head and she looked surprised when she saw the man taking foot on the platform. Her teeth briefly appeared to bite down on her lip, but otherwise she managed to keep a neutral expression under the black gaze of the Native. Her eyes weren’t puffed and red. Flip was right: it wasn’t in her to cry anymore. For some reason, that saddened him.
He wasn’t a man of a few words but the language barrier had turned him into a mute. However, he had learned that some things didn’t need words to be understood. She was, for the moment, safe unless she went further and they both knew it. Even if the Invaders, les Occupants, as the others called them, a reference to the Germans that went back to the time of the Second World War, were never far away, the tunnels under the capital wasn’t the most interesting sight.
Ironically, they tended to behave like normal tourist: they seemed to be drawn to the lights of the Tour Effel at night and enjoyed strolling on the famous and deserted Champs Élysées in the day. Flip suspected that the only reason they had graced them with public lighting was that they, in a way, would regret that the famous town would loose the right to its name: la Ville Lumière,the Town of Lights.
So, not in a hurry to get her back to the others, he chose to let her be and turned his back to her, standing on the very edge and looking to the left and the right. He could spot the next station in the distance if he bent forward, a ring of light in the darkness beyond, and, in front of him, through the archways that divided the tracks in two, there was the other platform. Porte de Vichy, said a blue sign on the wall. Whatever. He forgot every that name every time he took his eyes off it. It was the place where he now lived and yet what it was called couldn’t be less important.
“Heu… Hey, Flip, can… can you? Please?” Asked a shy voice with a heavy French accent. He looked over his shoulder and saw that she was patting the chair next to her. She managed to hold his gaze one second, before lowering it to the ground as her cheeks picked an interesting shade of red. Her hand stilled and she didn’t move any more.
He gave her a sight, more to tell her that he was glad she was through with her little tantrum and wondered if she understood it like him. Whatever. He had decided that today he didn’t really care what the others thought of him. Her walked to her with long strides and let himself fall next to her. The plastic creaked but didn’t dare giving in to his weight.
If the silence was awkward to her, it wasn’t to him. He looked up and followed the pattern of the white tiles on the wall over them until they dropped on the other side of the station. She stretched her legs forward on the ground, the tip of her feet perking up as if interested. She sighted, he sighted back, they looked at each other and she chuckled. Giggled almost. A smile pulled the side of his lips up as he watched her.
“What is your name?” She asked, one of the ready-made sentences she had most probably learned around tourists she would ‘lighten up’, back in the days where her swift fingers helped to feed a much larger family.
He quirked an eyebrow at that, surprised that she would ask. She knew his name. Everyone knew his name, including her. She had said it seconds ago. Why was she asking? “It’s Flip.”
“Je sais,” she replied, annoyed. She frowned as she tried to figure out how to formulate her question once more. “Your name. Not Flip. Your… vrai name.”
He paused a little. The name from which his nickname came from was Frederik, but he knew it wasn’t what she meant. His grandfather had made no secret that his name was a Native one. She must have drawn her own conclusions. “It’s Changing Mind.”
“Changing… Changer?” She asked. “Pensé Changeante?”
He gave her a sharp nod. She had understood, and he was glad for it. He wasn’t sure how he could have translated that in French for her and the exercise sounded risky.
She smiled and giggled once more, and for a second her look changed. He saw the admiration she held for him, the spark that shone deep inside, the blush that crept on her cheeks, and understood. A second later, she looked away, trying to hide her feelings but he had already understood. She liked him.
It came as a surprise to him. To him she was a child and he was far from reciprocating her feelings but… but then he understood. It was a child’s crush. Him, with his twenty-one years old, was the closest of all the people back at the hiding place, age-wise, to a potential boyfriend. He was older, stronger, not ugly – not stunningly handsome either but she seemed to have ran out of models to compare since they had all died – and he was generally around for her. Not talking of course, just staying quiet. Maybe it wasn’t even love, just a crush.
Of course he wasn’t attracted to her – the thought of it made him reel in disgust inwardly – but he didn’t hate her, far from it. She had at first reminded him so much of his little sister that it had been hard to be around her at first without starting to worry about the last-born of his own family. It was only after a while that he started to see her for what she truly was: a strong girl in her own right, struggling with the fear to not make it to tomorrow and the torments of teenage.
“Dis… can I come?” She asked suddenly.
He paused at that, wondering what she was talking about, before realizing that she was referring to coming tomorrow to get some more food. She only rarely came up for from that dark hole they called refuge because of her age and she seemed to miss the sun more then anyone else. Her once dark skin had paled, as had his, from the lack of exposure and she seemed to get thinner from day to day, not from lack of food but from lack of air. If she had suddenly stepped in an argument between her father and her mother, it wasn’t because she felt that it would be right but because she was restless.
And yet it was still dangerous on the surface. Ever Flip hoped that he wouldn’t have to go next because of the fear simply gripping him at every step, every move in the corner of the eyes, the anguish that les Occupants might just be around the corner, waiting for them to walk by to pounce on them.
What to answer her?
Written by Clayem on 17 April 2016