Zach took the fedora from atop his head and, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped the sweat from his brow. He refolded the kerchief and replaced his hat upon his head before pushing the bike further up the hill. Someone had begun to fill in some of the smaller holes in the roadway with dirt and gravel, but he still had to negotiate his way around the larger ones. He paused when he came to the top of the hill, his destination in sight. He dropped the bike’s kickstand and unslinging his pack. He pulled the canteen from its side and took a long pull, the water still as cold as the stream he had taken it from. He pulled a piece of rabbit jerky from the pack and ate it, looking over the group of buildings below. Smoke came from the main houses chimney, although the pile of firewood on the side of the building looked low. He hopped on the bicycle again, the pedals turning a few times beneath his feet. Once he was on the downward slope, he let gravity do the work for him, only pedaling again when the bike had almost rolled to a stop.
He stopped beside the houses mailbox, and leaned his bike against it, as he had done when he was a kid, riding up and down the very same driveway. He walked the rest of the way to the house and knocked on the door.
A large african american man answered, his smile bright white in contrast to his dark, weathered skin. “You’re late.” The man said before Zach could even open his mouth.
“Um, I’m sorry?” Zach offered.
“You were supposed to help me with the harvest.”
“Sorry dad,” Zach said and took the man’s extended hand.
Jud pulled his son to him, clasping Zach in a tight bear hug. “Aubrey, guess who’s home?”
He heard the shuffle of his mother’s feet and smiled when she rounded the corner and squealed. Jud released him and he wrapped his arms around his mother.
“He’s right you know,” She said.
“Tell you what, I’ll help you with the winter chores. Looked like you could use some firewood.”
“That we could, but that can wait. Tell us what you’ve seen, where you’ve been,” His mom said, leading him by the hand into the kitchen. “Did you guys ever find that Graham guy?”
“Yeah mom, we did…”
Amy lay asleep in the hospital bed, despite the lack of comfort she had spent the last hour complaining about. Peter held his sleeping daughter, Elizabeth Marie, as he rocked back and forth in the hospital chair, watching her tiny chest rise and fall. He bent his head down and kissed her forehead, shifting so he could stand up and hopefully put the girl into the small basinet the hospital had provided.
He managed to successfully navigate the labyrinth of machines and instruments that still occupied their room and set Elizabeth down in her bed. He watched her again, sleeping, trying to remember a time when he had been so happy. He finally managed to pull himself from the small life that he was partly responsible for and was startled when he saw that Amy was awake, sitting and watching him. “She’s beautiful,” he told her.
Amy smiled and put a finger to her lips.
Peter nodded and went to her side, taking her hand in his own. “So, what’s next for us?”
“The wedding is in less than two months.”
“Excuse me, Mayor?” One of the nurses walked into the room, looking at Peter.
Peter exhaled and looked at Amy. “Hold that thought.”
Peter stepped out into the hallway with the nurse, “How can I help you Anne?”
“We just delivered another baby down the hallway. I just thought you might want to know. It’s a boy. Benedict.”
Peter smiled and nodded. “Thank you. And everyone is doing fine?
“Roger fainted, but yeah.”
“Anything else?” Peter asked her.
“Nope, that’s it.”
“Good job today Anne,” Peter said with another smile. One thousand, three hundred and twenty two people, assuming no one else had wandered into the town while he had been in the hospital.
He stepped back into their room and found Amy still awake, taking a sip from an almost empty glass of water.
“Let me get you some more of that. Would you like ice?”
Amy nodded around the straw, finally releasing it as it began to suck air. “Anything important?”
“When you’re mayor, everything’s important,” Peter said, laughing. “She just wanted to let me know that the Tecy’s had their boy. Everyone is doing fine. No, I forgot to get details.” He added, cutting Amy’s question off. “They named him Benedict.”
Amy smiled. “I like that,” she said, finally handing the empty cup to Peter.
He had to go down the hallway to get ice, and poked his head into the Tecy’s hospital room on his way back.
“Congratulations, Roger,” Peter said, shaking the new father’s hand.
“Same to you,” Roger said.
Peter held up the cup full of ice as an excuse to leave and Roger nodded. “I know, I’ve filled Sharon’s three times already. Good night.”
“Night,” Peter said as he slipped out of the room, closing the door soundlessly behind him. He walked back into his own room, filling the glass with water from the sink. He handed her the cup and walked back to where his daughter lay. She was awake and staring at the ceiling, flexing her minuscule fingers. Peter leaned down and picked her back up, bringing her back to the rocking chair where he sat and stared at her mother. “Now about this wedding…”
Nyx sat in a store room below the Venetian, a bottle of wine in between her and the man across the table. “I’m so glad you managed to talk some sense into me, Ananke,” She said.
“Yes, I’m sure you are,” Ananke said. “I am always on the side of the winners, know that. But I fear that our time up here needs to come to an end.”
Nyx upended the bottle into her mouth and chugged the rest of the wine. She smiled, using her long sleeved shirt to wipe her mouth. “That’s fine, I seem to be all out of wine.”