The taste of ashes in my mouth is my first clear memory.
I couldn’t have been more than two years old, and the taste persisted for years afterward, for the inferno followed us wherever we went. I felt myself obsessively thinking about it now, when I couldn’t taste it anymore. It made me edgy. Even more so than usual.
‘NEXT!’ a loud voice rang.
The line inched forward as people shuffled ahead, hunching their backs against the freezing wind. I sat down on the pavement, admiring the dusky hues of the setting sun.
‘When was the last time you admired a sunset, eh?’ A voice asked from behind me.
I turned around. A gangly, blue haired man stood behind me. His dark eyes shone from behind the scarf wrapped around his face. Tears filled my eyes and I let out a squeal of delight.
‘Martin! You made it!’ I screamed, jumping on the much taller man and wrapping my weak arms around him as tightly as I could.
‘Of course, I did! You didn’t think I’d let you tour around Australia all by yourself, did you?’ He added in a thick voice, patting my head. I pulled away from him slowly, looking up to meet his gaze.
‘I saw your ship go under.’
‘That it did.’
‘How did you escape?’
There was a long pause during which two more people from the line moved into the building.
‘The bow of the ship was shattered and there were a lot of wooden pieces that I held onto till the next one came.’ He said casually, as if it weren’t the most terrifying ordeal of his life. Belatedly, I realized it probably wasn’t. Martin was much older than I was and he was alive during the beginning of the Pyongyang attacks. I pulled away and sat on the pavement again.
‘I asked them to turn around you know.’ I told him, remembering the screams as his ship toppled over.
‘You shouldn’t have. It’s every man for himself.’ He said in a hardened tone.
‘If you had felt that way, I’d be dead.’
He grinned, ‘Had I known what a little bugger you’d be, I might not have bothered.’
I stared at Martin with deepening admiration. It amazed me to see the smile on his face, to hear the jokes that left his lips. I had lost the ability to do those things so long ago. Too long ago.
I looked up from my reverie. Only one more person stood before me in the line. My turn was to come soon. I looked down to the ground, rubbing my feet together.
‘Are you nervous?’ Martin asked.
I looked up at him questioningly.
His eyes flickered to my feet. ‘You’re fidgeting.’
‘Perhaps a little.’ I murmured.
‘You shouldn’t be,’ he said, putting his hand on my shoulder and squeezing it reassuringly. ‘This is the easy part. You’re about to start a new life.’
‘If a man with a gun chose to fill us with bullet holes right this second because he hates refugees, we’ll die. You cannot deny this might happen – it’s happened to us before.’ I whispered, locking eyes with him.
Looking at his bright blue hair was making me feel strangely colder.
‘I wish you’d go back to red.’ I told him.
‘I was bored of it.’ He said, absently, still thinking about what I said before. ‘There’s a lot of policing here. And the Australian military is no joke, alright? They won’t let anyone shoot us.’
‘One of the cops could want to shoot us. They did in Manali.’ I said flatly, remembering the terror, the helplessness. I rubbed my hands together, warily eyeing the rows of armed guards standing around us.
‘That was different.’
‘We were still in the war zone.’ He hissed.
‘We are always in the war zone!’ I hissed back.
His eyes contracted, not in anger, but in concern. I blinked awkwardly, not expecting the change.
‘Aliya.’ He said. ‘You have to stop your thoughts from spiraling this way. You’re about to go in there for a psych evaluation – and you have to pass. Your future here depends on it. Do you understand?’
I stared. ‘And if I don’t pass? Will they kick me out of the country?’
‘No, of course not! No one is kicking out a fifteen-year-old girl. I suppose they’d get you help.’
I nodded, feeling a little better.
‘Madame,’ A cop called, leaning toward me. I looked up at him with wide eyes and I saw him take a step back. ‘It’s your turn next.’
I scrambled to my feet and threw one last glance toward Martin. He stared at me pensively as I walked in.
The air through the doorway was much warmer. I shrugged my coat off and waited patiently for the guards before the final door to summon me. They stared at me shiftily. I knew it made them uncomfortable to see a child here, with signs of war etched upon her face. I smiled tentatively at them and they smiled back after a beat.
I examined the large door behind them, admiring the detailed design of the door frame, the glistening polish of the wood. It seemed too ornate and I wondered what use someone got out of a door so fancy.
Suddenly, the door slid open and a woman popped her head out from behind it. She had a vast number of bouncing black curls on her head, her light brown eyes framed by a pair of round spectacles. Her gaze landed on me and she blinked, something akin to recognition crossing her face.
‘Aliya?’ she asked me.
‘Yes. That’s me.’ I responded.
She smiled, flashing deep dimples on both cheeks. ‘You can come in.’
I shuffled toward her, past the exquisite door. I let my fingers touch the silken wood and inhaled deeply – it was a scent unlike anything I’d smelled before.
‘This wood smells different.’ I commented absentmindedly.
‘They use some kind of special varnish.’ The woman responded.
‘Oh.’ I said flatly. The evaluator’s office was simple, furnished only by an old leather chair, a faded green couch and a small wooden coffee table. I walked over to the couch and sat down, unsure of how to behave. I’d raced against death itself to get here, which gave me no time for any musings about what would happen after I got here.
‘Would you like some tea?’ The lady asked me.
‘Yes.’ I responded, my eyes brightening, eager to give my hands something to do.
She smiled and leaned forward, pulling out two cups and a hot flask from under the table. Slowly, she filled the cups with steaming tea and spoke,
‘You can relax – you’re my last appointment of the day, so we are in no rush.’
I nodded mutely, spreading my fingers on the soft couch.
‘You must have a lot of questions.’ She said.
I looked up at her, trying to maintain nonchalance. Her eyes were brighter than most, and she did not waver when I made eye contact, which struck me as very unusual. ‘I do.’
Shouldn’t she be the one asking me questions? I bit my lip as I sorted through the torrent of thoughts in my head – it was difficult to decide where to start.
You have to appear sane, I reminded myself, so start small.
‘What will happen to the others who are outside?’ I asked.
‘Everyone will be interviewed. It will take several days to go through them all.’
‘Are they safe?’
‘Yes, they are…and so are you.’
‘Where will I go after this?’
‘We can decide that when this is actually over.’
‘I can’t relax if I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ I said, dryly.
‘We would find you a safe place to live.’ She said. ‘However, that discussion is lengthy and you would have to make some important decisions, so it’s best if we wait till the end to speak of it.’
‘Fine.’ I conceded. If they did mean me harm, they could have killed me way b –
‘I knew your mother.’
I was taken aback by this sudden declaration. ‘You did?’
‘Yes.’ She looked steadily at me. Her curls were incredibly shiny, giving her the appearance of a doll. ‘We were in college together. We were roommates for three years. I was so…’ she sighed heavily, ‘I am so sorry for what happened to her.’
‘It wasn’t your fault.’ I told her softly.
‘Nevertheless, I am sorry.’
I nodded, remembering the day it happened. I had been all of eleven years old. That day was burnt into my memory – a span of 20 hours where you are left marveling at the way life plays with you – throwing you into elation and pride, immediately followed by an unending sea of disaster and fear.
It had been an exceptionally cold, windy day and I remembered being thankful for the throng of people, as it made the hall significantly warmer. I was too short to be able to see through the crowd – I spotted a banister at the corner of the hall and rushed over to stand on it. My golden retriever, Roxy, followed me silently. I pushed him up and climbed the pedestal carefully. There were several other kids on the pedestal, their parents hovering around them protectively should they fall.
I wrapped my hands around Roxy’s neck and waited. His rapid, rhythmic breathing was helping me relax. It had been dangerous to come out today but my mother had maintained that it was absolutely necessary. My eyes remained trained on the stage where she sat. I knew her legs were tightly crossed behind the long mahogany table, as they always did when she was angry.
The rotund man who sat next to my mother leaned over and banged his gavel thrice. A hush fell over the hall. It was dead silent, except for the whirring of the cameras and the occasional sound of someone getting a message on their phone.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for convening here today.’ The man said. His voice deepened and I realized he was someone of command. ‘We thank the Honorable President Kavya Ranjan for gracing this debate with her presence. We also – ‘
‘Where is the Prime Minister?’ Someone from the crowd yelled.
‘The Prime Minister is in the United States taking care of some urgent diplomatic matters – ‘
‘He should be here, taking care of this rotten mess!’ Someone heckled from the crowd. A loud murmur of agreement rose through the crowded hall and the rotund man banged his gavel again. He seemed unperturbed by the belligerent audience.
‘We also welcome Dr. Jaya Mathur, Secretary to the Govt. of India, Department of Atomic Energy.’
My mother nodded in silent acknowledgement.
‘The Minister of Defense, Raghav Narayan,’ he continued on, listing the names of each of the people seated at the high table. I zoned out, wondering how long he would drag on the formalities for.
‘And finally, we thank all the public members of this chair for convening today.’ He paused, taking a deep breath. ‘I would like to implore all of you to be calm, and maintain decorum. Today’s discussion is a difficult one and we must keep our tempers in check for a productive session.’
‘He’s dawdling.’ a man before me whispered to the woman beside him. She nodded fervently.
‘The last decade has been…difficult. Our neighbors have been at war for so long now and the conflict still goes on. It is a bloody affair and it is time our country picks our lot. We have been defense-only so far – however, in observation of our duty to our allies, we must bring this topic to open discussion.’
‘Let the session begin.’
‘I would like to start,’ The Minister of Defense piped up. He was a portly man in his late forties and I recognized him from several television interviews. ‘… by saying that we have not even managed to live up to the title of ‘defense-only’. How much clearer does North Korea have to be with their threats? How many Indian soldiers need to have their heads cut off before we strike back at the Chinese? We have to defend our country and that means reminding them who’s got the better military.’
A ripple of approval rang through a part of the crowd which was quickly intercepted by my mother’s ringing voice.
‘The matter on the table isn’t of self-defense against petty agitation on the borders. We’re being asked to participate in a nuclear war.’
‘If you call a North Korean missile breaching China a petty agitation!’
My mother glared at him with steely eyes, ‘Has a missile hit us?’
‘No, but -‘
‘That answers your questions about whether we should use nuclear force.’
‘They could attack us any day now! We have to prove our standing and we need to help our allies if we want their help in the future.’
‘We’re doing totally different things, Mr. Narayan. Your basic assumption is that we will go to war. Mine is that we must prevent the same from happening at any cost.’
‘That is an honorable sentiment,’ the President spoke up, ‘but unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where we can afford to alienate ourselves from our allies’ wars. We need your team to build better weapons and to strengthen our position for the sake of our people. We need your support. You wouldn’t understand the political forces here – ‘
My mother scoffed loudly and I nervously glanced at the President’s stern face.
‘I may not understand political games and war formations – but I understand mutually assured destruction. You haven’t worked in an atomic energy lab or ever seen a nuclear explosion and the mere fact that you’re here, asking us to use our decades of research to destroy lives, indicates how little you know.’ She inhaled deeply, steeling herself. ‘This…session is ridiculous. We’re convened here so you can ask us if we are willing to kill millions of people, subject billions more to horrific diseases, starvation and slow death – pushing our planet into its first ever nuclear winter. You’re asking us if we want to fill our soil and water and skies with radiation. How can our answer be anything but no? Already we never dare leave our underground refuges – and for what? For fear of guns or murderers or being captured? No. It is for the poison in the air that has given New Delhi the coldest June in recorded history. It is for the nuclear fallout in above ground reservoirs that has killed so many of our citizens. The Alkali wasn’t even detonated within the Indian border and already our rains run black and sticky, tainting everything that grows here. Fly high enough and you’ll see the shadow of death itself, approaching us from the northern war-zone, freezing everything in its path and convoluting everything it touches. You are not asking us to defend ourselves – you are asking us to destroy the continent. So, obviously, the answer is no.’
‘Sometimes when I am crouched under my bunker, holding my daughter, while the ground above shakes with vengeance, I wonder if humans love war. Always, always, we seek and destroy. But I don’t think so…not anymore. Even under the ludicrous amounts of pressure we were under to utilize our nuclear arsenal, our team never budged, never considered it. Even as people screamed for us to nuke the northern borders, you, Madam President, never sanctioned the final orders. It has been hard to maintain this equanimity, but we must stick to our principles, now when it is the hardest, if we want our children to have a future. We owe them this land and we cannot destroy it. India is and always will be, a defense-only nati-‘
A bullet shot through the hall, straight through my mother so fast, I didn’t realize it had happened till I saw her brains scatter in the air behind. She curved slowly, her face colored with the last dredges of pure shock. She tumbled over the table, dead, and stirred no more.
I jerked out of my reverie and looked up.
‘Are you okay? You haven’t said anything for about two minutes.’ The lady said.
‘I was thinking about the day it happened.’ I replied honestly. ‘Sorry.’
‘You don’t have to apologize.’ She said. ‘I doubt you’ve processed everything that has happened to you. It’s normal to get lost in remembering. You’ve been through more than most people have in their lifetime -‘
‘No.’ I said. She looked at me questioningly. ‘I haven’t. People have seen much worse. I’m luckier than most. I survived.’
‘That is an admirable attitude.’
Her words made me feel strangely uncomfortable. There was nothing admirable about any of this.
‘What is your name?’ I asked her.
‘Elena. Did you know my father as well?’
She blinked. ‘Yes, I did.’
‘C-could you tell me about him?’ I asked.
‘I will.’ She responded. ‘Not yet, though. I have some questions for you, if you don’t mind.’
I indicated for her to go ahead.
‘You sailed here from Jawaharlal Nehru Port?’
‘That’s in Mumbai. How did you reach there from Delhi?’
I tried to gather a cohesive response but it felt like a long task. ‘It’s a long story.’ I informed her.
‘We have time.’
‘Okay…’ I cleared my throat. ‘After the, um, her death – mum’s – I ran out of the auditorium as fast as I could because whoever shot her, well, they hadn’t stopped shooting. I was confused and dizzy. I couldn’t react fast enough to what I was seeing. There were rows of military trucks parked outside and armed men poured out, dragging us into cages. They were Indian but I couldn’t see any of their faces, because they were all covered. One of them, he stopped me, took out a cellphone and started comparing my face to the picture he saw. He put me in a separate truck away from the cages. There was a man in there with just the brightest red hair. Martin – he is…I suppose I would call him my friend. He and I were driven underground into the old underpasses and after that, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in a windowless, concrete room with a door I couldn’t unlock or break no matter what I tried.
I remembered with piercing clarity, the utter state of shock I was in. My entire life had turned upside down, my only parent and guardian was dead and I was locked in, what felt like an underground cell, with an impenetrable door in the way.
‘OPEN THE FUCK UP!’ I had screamed irrationally, the toxic amalgam of fear, sorrow and bewilderment in my brain getting the better of me.
‘That won’t work.’ A voice said from behind.
The red-haired man from the truck had been put in the same cell as me. The room had a rudimentary set up, with two twin beds, a sink. A pitcher of water sat by the beds and I rushed over to it, guzzling it down faster than I could swallow.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared than I was at that moment.’ I told Elena honestly. Something about her made we want to talk, to expel the thoughts that had bounced around my mind for so long. ‘I couldn’t fathom what had happened and for hours I sat in the room silently, letting my thoughts torment me. Martin got me talking after about four hours. There was nothing else to do but that. And that’s when he told me.’
‘Told you what?’ Her question came out as a whisper.
‘Why they killed my mother. It was a military takeover. They wanted to participate in the war…I didn’t – couldn’t understand all of it because he was quite frantic as well. He told me about mum’s research and asked me what I knew about it and if I knew where she did it -‘
‘- and do you?’
I shook my head. ‘I’ve only left Bunker 11A handful of times in my life. And my mother never spoke of her work in detail to me.’
‘Perhaps she wanted to protect you.’
I let out a short, humorless laugh. ‘She did protect me, in a strange way.’
‘How is that?’
‘You see, the people who captured Martin and I put us in that cell because they knew about our connections with mum and they wanted to interrogate us, apparently. Martin kept telling me over and over not to reveal any facts I knew about her work, or my father, no matter how seemingly small. But if they hadn’t put us in that cell, they would have killed us right outside the courthouse. And if we’d somehow escaped that day, we would have died the next morning if we hadn’t been deep underground.’
Elena took a tiny gasp. ‘Hiver Noir.’
I nodded. Martin and I had been captive in the underground cell for almost fourteen hours. Our captors had not graced us with a visit yet – which left us both in a state of exhaustive anticipation. I had spent hours digesting the information Martin tried to give me, trying to reconcile my mind with the idea that most probably, I would soon be subject to torture for information. I shivered with fear and bouts of nausea every time I heard a large bang or footsteps outside the thick door. For the first time in my life, I prayed. I prayed that hellfire would rain from the sky and put an end to this story before it reached its inevitable, painful closure.
And, for the first time in my life, I got what I wanted.
It was barely dawn when the faint sound of a siren began to disturb my tempestuous thoughts. My eyes flickered over to Martin’s face to see him already wide awake. He looked scared.
‘What is that?’ I asked him croakily.
‘I think – ‘
The sound reached us first – a loud, ethereal groan that seemed to emanate from the earth itself. I only got the chance to throw one terrified look toward Martin, and then, the impact hit. The walls shook around us threateningly and I watched, horrified, as the corners of the ceiling began to crumble, sending bits of stone hurling at us. I ran across the room to hide underneath one of the beds but a fist-sized rock flew right at my temple and knocked me out cold. Just as my eyes shut, I saw Martin’s large hand grabbing toward me.
‘Hiver Noir or the Black Winter,’ I continued telling Elena, ‘detonated almost 10 kilometers away. I was knocked out during the blast and when I woke up, I was in a dark tunnel that I didn’t recognize. Our captors – whoever they were – hid us in a room in an old network of tunnels near the southern end of New Delhi. I didn’t know they even existed.’
‘Since the Third World War began, underground tunnel systems have become exceedingly common.’ Elena said.
‘Well, Martin and I wandered in those tunnel systems without food and barely any water for two days and nights. On that last night, I was sure I was going to die. And I remember being okay with it. Somehow, our luck shone once more – we found others. Well, they found us. They were a family of five who’d been hiding in the tunnels for the last two years.’
‘They fed us, gave us water. And we asked them what had happened to the…outside. The father said, “It’s ruined. Everything is ruined. Forever.”‘
There was a long pause as I remembered the man’s kindly face.
‘What happened next?’ Elena asked me. ‘If you still want to continue, that is.’
I took a deep breath. ‘Not much. We lived with the family on their remaining provisions for almost two months. One day, we heard noises coming from the other side of the tunnels and we rushed to see what or who it was. There were several men and women there in masks, holding torchlights. They just…they just wanted to help. They gave us masks and we left those godforsaken, claustrophobic tunnels. A cargo train took us to Mumbai from there. We hid and stole and fought for every meal till we reached the coast. Then, we snuck into a cargo ship heading to Ballina Harbor and now, here I am.’
Elena stared at me. I could tell she knew I was cutting out a lot – she could calculate that I was packing four years of experience living and travelling in a nuclear war zone in that short summary. But I hadn’t foreseen that the act of remembering would be so overwhelming.
‘Where did that family go?’ She asked me. ‘Are they outside?’
‘They’re dead.’ I said, shortly. ‘There were Russians all along the coast and they don’t allow Indian emigration. They saw us sneaking into the docks and started to open fire. We split up because of that and ended up on different ships. I got away…but they shot the second ship it until it capsized. Then they set fire to the spilling oil.’
Elena gasped again and I stared at her quizzically.
‘Doesn’t your news tell you any of this?’ I asked.
‘We dare not venture too close to the region…so we only hear what the winners of the wars tell us.’
‘There are no winners.’
‘So, they say. We as a society don’t seem to realize it.’ She commented darkly.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. I twisted my hands together anxiously. ‘What is the point of this… interview, exactly?’
‘To see if you’re a good fit for our society.’ She responded.
She smiled. ‘You’re alright. You’re quite angry, but that’s understandable.’
I didn’t know how she sensed my anger – I had made it a point to never raise my voice.
‘And we don’t really question each person to this extent.’ She added. ‘I’m making an extra effort, you could say.’
‘Why?’ I asked earnestly.
‘Because I knew your parents.’
I licked my lips nervously. ‘Can you tell me about my father now?’
She sighed, looking at me with the same pensive expression Martin used as I entered the interview hall. ‘What do you already know?’
‘My mother said he died when I was very little. That’s pretty much it.’ I shrugged.
She stared at me, her eyes flashing brightly. ‘She said he died?’
I looked up at her, suddenly very aware of our conversation. ‘Yes. That’s all she said.’
Elena sighed. ‘Jaya had her own way of doing things that I never truly understood…’
What the hell does that mean?
‘Your father,’ she continued, ‘is still alive.’
‘He has no idea you exist.’ She told me.
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t.
‘And… I’m married to him.’
I sat absolutely, perfectly still.
It was a habit I’d developed in the cargo trains in India. They would sometimes stop for hours in the middle of nowhere and we had to hide between the sacks of grains, holding our breath as Korean and Russian forces at the State Borders hovered around the coaches with guns longer than the length of my entire torso.
It was different now. I wasn’t in mortal danger, apparently. But I was nervous, scared and excited. Sneakily, I stared at the man who sat across the table from me. He was already looking at me.
I’d imagined meeting my father several times before. I’d imagined noticing the similarity of our features because anyone with even half their vision would always tell me how little I looked like my mother. It was almost surreal though, finding the familiar shape of my nose, the color of my eyes, the curve of my chin in this stranger’s face.
He was similar to me in another regard – he was terrible at small talk. We basically said hello and sat across each other in total silence for 15 minutes. I could see Elena across the restaurant, sitting at the bar, sipping wine.
‘So,’ he began, awkwardly. ‘Elena tells me that you are my daughter.’
What does a person even say to that?
‘And she tells me you’re my father. What a coincidence.’ I responded curtly.
He chuckled. ‘You look very much like me, but I can see you’ve inherited your mother’s wit.’
I didn’t laugh. Perhaps I had forgotten how to. A small price paid for survival.
‘Where were you?’ I asked him bluntly. ‘Why weren’t you there for us?’
His eyes crinkled in pain and I felt almost guilty for my accusatory tone – he, after all, had no idea I existed until a week ago.
‘Your mother and I,’ he began, ‘were together for five years. We loved each other but she had bigger plans than just settling down. We both saw the political and economic signs of the incoming war but we had very different reactions to it. I wanted to get the hell out of there but Jaya…she wanted to change it. To try and stop it. She refused to leave India and I refused to stay. Had I known about you…’ his voice thickened suddenly, ‘I never would have left. Ever. You have to know that.’
‘You married her college friend afterward?’ I asked, trying not to lace my tone with too much derision.
‘Elena and I got together years after your mother and I separated. I found out she knew your mother only two years ago.’
‘It doesn’t matter anymore.’ I replied. ‘I understand, though. You didn’t know about me…’
He gazed at me worriedly and I awkwardly looked away, shoving bits of scrambled eggs in my mouth. After four years of canned food and unseasoned pigeon meat, they tasted like heaven.
‘How are you liking Perth?’ He asked me.
I let out a terse breath and inhaled deeply. The action still felt strange, even after spending over two weeks in the fresh sea air. It was also very disconcerting to see people walking, driving, cycling, laughing – going about their lives as though nothing had happened.
‘It seems safer.’ I said, carefully. ‘The air is nice.’
‘The wind currents of the southern and the northern hemispheres tend to stay separated.’ He said casually. ‘So, we’re safe from the fallout here.’
My lips twitched. ‘They’re separated? How?’
He explained how the currents worked and how fresh southern air rolled in toward Australia while the north’s toxic radioactive blanket swirled away. His answers were surprisingly logical, almost cathartic to hear. Everything he said, led me to another question, which kept our conversation going for another two hours. I was shocked at my own queries – it had been a while since any topics roused me enough to demand details. We were discussing tidal waves in the ocean when Elena came over to our table, her cheeks flushed with the effects of wine.
‘How are we doing here?’ She asked happily.
My father – my father – smiled warmly. ‘We’re alright. You ask good questions.’ He told me.
‘You give good answers.’ I replied.
‘Perhaps you could come over for dinner sometime.’ He said with a hint of pleading in his voice that made my throat choke up, even though I wasn’t sad. I could make no sense of my reactions. ‘I have this telescope in my lab – it’s one of the best in the world. You can look through it and ask me as many questions as you want.’
‘I’d love to.’ I replied honestly.
He smiled so wide, I thought his face must hurt. He went over to the bar to settle our bill and Elena turned to me with bright eyes.
‘I’d ask you how you were, but I don’t think you know.’
‘You’d be right. However…’
‘A month ago, I would have told you with absolute certainty that the world is a dark, terrible place, that humans are warmongers and that any hope is a delusion.’ I told her.
‘And now?’ She asked.
‘I still believe those things,’ I said. ‘But hope is a delusion I never thought I’d get to entertain again.’
I looked out of the cafe at the setting sun, feeling the ocean breeze across my face.
‘It isn’t all better…and it probably won’t be for a while.’ I let a small smile touch my lips, ‘But it’s a start.’