Fugue, Part I



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Scene Title Fugue, Part I
Synopsis Raith and one of his daughters complete the final leg of a long journey.
Date April 3, 2011

In Dreams

She should have run out of tears by now, but the crying has been intermittent — her cheeks are damp and her watery blue eyes swollen and rimmed in pink, which Raith can see clearly in the pickup truck's rear view mirror when he either cares to look or has to, though his gaze focuses more often on the road behind them than it does his daughter or the smaller shape bundled in blankets in the back seat.

The boy is asleep and has been for hours. Rain comes down hard on the windshield, filling the truck's cabin with a rhythmic drumming sound. Combined with the squeaking scrape of the wipers passing over the dirty glass and the thin but regular rasp of Liette's breathing, it creates a strange sort of lullaby that's kept him under since they decided it would be safer to stay off the main roads.

It's nighttime. Apart from the headlights, the only light Raith has to see by is the glow of Liette's cigarette after it's been lit and the passenger's side window rolled down so the smoke curling off its tip doesn't fill up the cabin. Absently, she uses the sleeve of her sweater to wipe at her eyes, then takes another shaky drag from her cigarette.

"I don't want to do this anymore."

This is not a conversation Raith wants to have, now or at all. Especially since it was never up for debate to begin with. "You don't have to," is almost, almost offering a way out, but things with Jensen Raith are never that straightforward. "We'll stop at the next town, I'll let you out with some of the cash and I'll come back for you as soon as I can turn around. Me? I do have to do this." All things honestly considered, he'd be crying too. Maybe he will, later. Right now, he can't. Later, he can be a man. Right now, he has to be a soldier.

"I thought you quit," is the abrupt subject changer. Abrupt, but necessary. If the current line continues, sooner or later one of them is going to yell. Not what they need right now.

"I did," Liette says, "but who fucking cares." She tucks her lighter back into her coat pocket and leans back into her seat, her words coming out on a dense stream of smoke. Her eyes close, and she's quiet again, though not for very long — it takes her less than a minute to make her decision.

Her eyes open again and, wheezy, she gives a short shake of her head as she turns, reaching back with her hand not holding her cigarette to adjust the sit of the blankets on the boy, then brush the hair from his brow with the tips of her fingers. She keeps her voice low, careful not to wake him. "He's not capable of love. Not like me or you. You know that."

"They'll come for us, one day. You know that." Short and to the point: It is no secret that Raith is trying to prevent this conversation from starting, or at least from progressing far. "Love or safety. Love doesn't stop bullets from flying. Safety keeps them from flying. There's no decision to make, the answer is obvious, and my mind isn't changing." Maybe having Liette along wasn't the best idea. Going without her wouldn't have been a very good one, either. There is no right answer there, only problematic or stupid. Raith can live with problematic. Stupid might get him killed. No decision to make.

There's a moment where Liette looks like she might reach over and wrest the wheel from her father, slide them off the road or send the truck skidding across the slick pavement, spinning it back around — something gleams defiant behind her eyes, something dangerous, but that's all.

"It'll change," she says. "Not today, not tomorrow, but it'll change. Five years from now, ten years from now, you'll wish you hadn't done it. You'll die wishing."

"Let's say it does change," Raith suggests, "It'll change for him." A brief nod of his head towards the back of the truck. "It'll probably change for you, too. But it won't change for me. It never will. Right now, the world needs dreamers and weapons. When it changes, it'll just need dreamers. I'm a weapon, Liette. He's a dreamer. Better he live to see a world that needs dreamers than die in one that still needs weapons." The topic is unpleasant. It's one the ex-spy had come to terms with a long time ago, but it's still unpleasant. Perhaps, hoping to avoid discussing it further, he reach over and clicks the radio on to a low volume. Something else to fill the air instead of their voices.

The radio crackles to life and Liette turns her face away from her father to watch the rain running down the window, her fair head leaning against the pane as her cigarette continues to burn between her fingers and the wind rushing in through the open window tugs at loose strands of her pale blonde hair.

"—in a statement made by General Ivanov earlier today, who projects that troops will be completely withdrawn from Conneticut and Rhode Island by the end of October. We stand united against our enemies, said Ivanov, and will continue to hold Massachusetts until such a time that our position at Cape Cod becomes untenable."

Liette wipes at her eyes again, this time with the edge of her thumb. "It's nice that you think the world's going to change, Daddy."

"The Soviet Union was never going to fall," Liette's father replies, "The Third Reich was going to last for a thousand years. The United States was the shining city on the hill. Things always change, hon. Sometimes it just takes a while. And then 'boom.' Suddenly, the whole world changes." It happened in 2006, after all. A flash of light, and then 'boom': The whole world changed.

"Boom," Liette repeats, but her voice is soft, hoarse, little more than a whisper. She makes a wet sound with her nose and drops her cigarette out the gap at the top of the window. It will either be pulled under the truck's tire or bounce off into the ditch at the side of the road — she probably doesn't care which. It's too wet outside for her to worry about starting a fire.

She rolls it back up again, twisting the crank in the clutch of her smooth hand with its long, delicate fingers chapped by the cold. "I used to think the world was going to change," she says. A glance at the radio and her mouth wrenches around a forced smile.

"Now I think it's just going to end."

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