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101 Chapter One Hundred - Saying Goodbye To The Pas

    At first, Brooke seemed to want to rush away, however she hesitated, and turned around instead.  There were slight shadows beneath her eyes and her cheek bones were a little more prominent as if she had lost weight.  Her skin was still clean with a hint of gold rewarded by the sun, though it was much paler.  Her blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail, with signs of grease, but shampoo was expensive on base and she was no longer free to wash her hair when she washed, let alone soak in water.  Despite this small changes, she lifted her chin and her eyes held a vivid degree of obstinance.

    Those eyes flickered over the people who'd she'd once lived with, before returning to the woman she was most familiar with.

    "Autumn," Brooke greeted her, though there was a lack of warmth and not a small amount of tension in her stance.

    "How are you doing?"  Autumn asked, clearly concerned about her cousin.  She knew she shouldn't be, that leaving was Brooke's choice, but it was ingrained into her DNA.

    Brooke shrugged and replied nonchalantly; "I'm well enough."

    "That's good then," Autumn sighed inwardly, feeling the large distance that had grown between them.  But then, when were she and her cousin ever really close?  Only on Brooke's terms had they a connection and it could never be said to be an equal relationship.  They were blood-related, but Autumn had always been the shadow to Brooke's light.  "I'm relieved."

    "I'm so glad that you are relieved," Brooke retorted with not a small amount of bite.  "I should sleep so excellently knowing that you are relieved."

    Beside Autumn, Dexter's face fell.  He'd never really liked Brooke, never disliked her either, it was more that he never felt that this little girl was on the same page as the rest of them.  The world had gone to **, yet Brooke wanted life to continue on more or less the way it had for her before, where she was in the spotlight heading for some glorious future that only she could imagine.  But celebrities, V.I.P's, royalty, all of them were not immune to the sickness that had befallen the world and caused the apocalypse.  All of them for all their influence and wealth were likely in the same boat as common people.  There no longer was a glorious future, surviving was what most hoped for, living was what only a few could obtain.

    Still, Dexter didn't hate Brooke, until she tried to step on his lover, to suppress her once more.  His Autumn was beautiful and kind, too kind, but this girl was her cousin, so he'd always bit his tongue in the past so not to upset Autumn.  He wouldn't continue to do so.  He stepped forward to shadow Brooke, crossing his arms about his chest.  She glared at him with anger swirling in her eyes.

    Autumn was a little torn, stuck between her cousin and her lover like this, but also, there was warmth in her heart which spread throughout her body and once more attacked the small doubts lying dormant with in her.  She pressed a kiss upon her lover's rough cheek, causing him to freeze for a moment; she seldom took the initiative to be affectionate with him.  Her smile widened as he softened, no longer able to act intimidating to protect her, then she turned to Brooke.  There were things she needed to settle with her cousin or she would never be able to alter or let go of the discordant link between them.

    "Can we go somewhere and talk?" Autumn asked Brooke.  The girl did not answer, just spun on her heel, head held high.  However, this was not a refusal; Brooke would do this sort of thing in the past and Autumn would always rush to appease her.  Although the latter had no intension of doing so now, she still followed after her cousin.

    Brooke led her into a large building, once a place for single army soldiers to sleep, often they had to share rooms between two.  Now single men slept in a room of up to four so that civilian men could also move in.  Thomas had been more fortunate and share his room with one other man, but that man had moved out to be with a civilian woman in the small camper van that she owned.  He could have lost this gained privacy easily to men looking for a little more space, living in more cramped quarters, but Brooke had moved in with him.  They were currently on the waiting list for a bigger space, but the wait had increased thanks to the new arrivals on base.

    The room originally had twin beds, they'd been pushed together, but otherwise the room was not too much unlike the other army men's rooms; simple with few personal items.  They shared a bathroom with four other rooms, but the plumbing had long since been turned off, they had to bring their own water to wash with.  There was a laptop on a chest of drawers, currently it was being charged by a solar panel device.  But that was it for luxuries.  The couple didn't even attempt to keep a tomato or fruit plant for additional vitamins.

    Brooke placed the small bag with her purchases on a simple office chair, before taking off her shoes and tossing them under the bed.  Then she turned around to her cousin, her arms crossed about her chest.

    "So what exactly do you want to talk about?" Brooke asked her, before adding; "Or is it that you just wanted to let go of your guilty conscious?"

    "What do you mean?" Autumn queried, frowning.

    Brooke's eyes reddened and her expression was no longer proud, but of one who felt wronged.  "We were supposed to stick together, Autumn," her voice cracked with emotion, "we swore we would!"

    "But it was you that made the decision to leave..." a feeling of guilt that had not been there before suddenly began to stir in Autumn's stomach and her voice became small.

    "You could have come with me, but you didn't!" Brooke continued her tirade, pushing Autumn into a virtual corner.

    "Brooke, that's not fair, I..." Autumn's heart faltered along with her speech.

    "You threw me to the side for a man, just like you felt that I did to you.  So I suspect you now feel that we are even.  Am I right?"

    'Am I right?' Those three words snapped Autumn from the whirlpool of condemnation that she'd felt sucked into.  Shaking herself free, she forced herself to harden her heart.  Brooke's ability to twist things to suit herself, she had long been aware of, but thanks to her own lack of confidence, she always succumbed, placing herself in the position of the wrong-doer while Brooke always appeared the victim or the one wronged.  Of course it would only worsen if she argued, so she did not say anything, just no longer slouched, no longer tried to make herself small, weakened by Brooke's words.

    Brooke's eyes widened, a hint of panic flickering in them as she realised that her control had slipped.  This wasn't how things were meant to be, her cousin was deviating from the script.  She'd imagined a thousand times meeting Autumn, getting her to come here then having her continued support, so that her life would become a lot smoother.  Sure Thomas treated her right, but her world was more confined than she'd imagined and the soldier was not as powerful as she'd thought.

    He should have been; he was younger than Jonah, he had abilities, but in reality, he was just a small soldier one of many and his powers weren't increasing in strength.  He laughed at her, teasingly, when she meditated in the afternoons to the point she now only did so when he wasn't around and then she found it difficult to concentrate.  Her own growth was halting and for the first time in her life, she felt real fear.  The threat of the zombies had never felt real in comparison, there had always been someone to protect her.  She didn't know what to do anymore...

    The image of the man she'd abandoned for this flickered in her mind.

    "How is... everyone?" She found herself asking.

    "Not going to ask about Jonah? About James, your son?" Autumn questioned, unable to help herself, the guilt replaced by anger.  Did Brooke think that Autumn would believe she really cared?!  In her mind, no mother would abandon their child, even her own mother didn't really like her, but never neglected her.

    "Forget I asked!" Brooke snapped, defensively.

    Autumn took a deep breath, pushing down the anger in her heart.  "Brooke, is this really what you wanted?" She asked when she'd suppressed it.  "I'm not talking about leaving Jonah, relationship break ups happen.  But you left James."

    "So what if I left that kid!?" Brooke grumbled, refusing to meet her eyes.  Did she feel some guilt after all?

    "That kid... he's your son!" Autumn burst out, she ached for that small baby.  He was so small, helpless, yet his mother walked away from him!  How could she not get angry with Brooke for that?!  "You carried him for nine months, gave birth to him..."

    "But I didn't want him!"  Brooke snapped again, pointing her finger at Autumn, her own anger pouring to the surface.  "You don't get it!  They were all so happy for Jonah, just because he finally had the chance to be a father, but did they ever think about me?  Twenty years old and knocked up already?!"  Her gestures became more unrestrained as she poured out everything she had felt during those nine long months!  With all of this in her heart, how did she have the space to give a damn about the kid that had grown inside of her?!

    "And then, it's not like I can see a doctor and make sure everything was okay and I then had to rely on you to give birth!  Do you know how scared I was?!  I thought I was going to die!"  The pain of giving birth burned brightly in her memories. "After that it was all about James!  Brooke, the baby needs changing, Brooke, the baby needs feeding, Brooke, the baby is awake!  I didn't feel like I was me anymore, just Jonah's girlfriend and James' mother.  Thomas gave me a chance to escape all of that, so I took it."  She smacked her chest with the flat of her palm, daring Autumn to claim that she was wrong.  Thomas made her feel special again, Thomas made her feel like she was one amongst a billion.  So when he offered to take her away, she went willingly.  Regrets may have come later, but she could not say that she wouldn't have left Jonah and James even if she'd not chosen to follow Thomas at that time.

    Autumn allowed herself a moment to absorb Brooke's words, but although she could, perhaps, understand some of Brooke's fears during the pregnancy, she still couldn't understand the woman's final decision.  She admitted something she'd held in her own heart for a long time; "I've never understood you, Brooke.  I've tried to, but I just can't."

    "Stop acting so self-righteous!" Brooke sneered at her cousin.  "Of course you've never understood me, what I've suffered.  Your parents didn't die and leave you!  You had a secure childhood, Aunty and Uncle cared so much for you!"  Autumn's anger once more surfaced, this time less a wave and more a tsunami.  Bringing up Aunt and Uncle as if they chose to die and leave Brooke behind!  And what was secure?  Just because she had two parents?  Two parents who literally bent over backwards to make Brooke feel welcome and included, even at the exclusion of their own daughter sometimes?!

    "They cared for you as well!  You never went without!" Autumn raged at the white-eyed wolf before her.  "My mother bent over backwards to make you happy!  On her request, I gave way to you at every turn!  The reason I took time off of university was due to her request to take care of you when you were sick!  Even her last words for me were not about me at all, they were about you!"  Brooke looked a little startled, there were a few doubts in her eyes, but they were covered up by her own feelings of surety.  She turned her head aside, refusing to acknowledge Autumn's words.

    Autumn felt refreshed, but also a little deflated.  Brooke would never change, would she?  She'd probably die rather than admit her mistakes.  But Autumn was done supporting her, covering for her.  They were both adult women, capable of making their own decisions, capable of deciding their own paths.  And Brooke had decided upon her's, Autumn didn't want to follow it.  She turned around to leave, one hand upon the door and spoke a few parting words; "Brooke, you are my cousin, nothing can change that.  I still think that you are wrong, selfish, but I really didn't come here to argue with you.  Brooke, take care of yourself."  She didn't notice the light in Brooke's eyes falter, redden nor that her expression had turned complicated.  Autumn left without looking back.

    Brooke, I no longer want to be your shadow.
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