Clinging to Hope as the World Falters
09: The Plot Thickens
Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg
David managed to enjoy a quiet evening with Ellen for a change, as no one came in to join them for the night. They appreciated their privacy, twice in fact. The next morning David got up early as usual and Ellen said she’d get some food started while David showered, then she’d get her own shower afterwards. When David suggested they save time and shower together, she had to admit she was feeling a little sore, so she’d have to postpone any more fooling around. Thus David went in to enjoy his shower alone, wondering what the day was likely to bring since each day had been surprising, thus far.
He was soaping up when he heard the bathroom door open.
“Oh, changed your mind, huh? Well come on in, there’s plenty of water and the kids can wait a little while for breakfast.”
Ellen didn’t respond so he just shrugged, but he could see her changing in the frosted glass of the shower door. The door slid open a few moments later as he was rinsing his chest off, and he heard it slide shut before he felt two arms wrap around him and a pair of breasts mash against his back. David appreciated the feel of her hugging him, and enjoyed it even more as her hands drifted down to his crotch, where one hand wrapped around his dick and began jacking it while the other found his balls.
“And here I thought you were sore,” he said. “Well I guess I’ll have to see what I can do to get you warmed up as well.” At that point he turned around to give her a kiss.
Only it wasn’t her.
Instead of a buxom blonde with freckles, he found a thin young girl with red hair and an anxious yearning expression on her face.
“What the hell?” he yelled as he backed up. But instead of retreating she pressed herself against him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Don’t get upset and don’t yell again. I don’t want to get you in trouble,” Flora said. “I just wanted to show you how thankful I am for everything you’ve done for me.”
David sighed, trying to push her away from him without physically shoving her. “This isn’t the way to thank me, and you don’t owe me anything. I didn’t help you because I was expecting you to sleep with me.”
“No, of course you didn’t. But you’re everything I’ve ever looked for in a man. You’re kind, you’re hard working, and you have a great mind. You’re a little older than I’m used to, but...”
“But none of that matters. There are plenty of young men who have the same traits. You just—”
“It’s been a long time since you’ve spent time with anyone my age, hasn’t it?” Flora asked. “Believe me, there’s no one my age like you. Almost no one my age works, has a work ethic, is concerned about anything besides themselves, or can take care of so many people.”
“But that still doesn’t change anything. This involves more than just me. Now if you’d just...” he said as he reached to press her back even further, only to stop when he found his hands positioned in front of her wet naked breasts. He quickly pulled them back before he did something stupid with them. “Step back a little, we’ll talk about this. But I’d rather Ellen not find me naked with someone we just invited into our house.”
“But she doesn’t object to you and Linda,” Flora argued, even as she took another step back, which only let David see her full nude body. He couldn’t help but take a quick look, but immediately looked back up. Flora smiled at his little slip.
“How do you ... never mind, that’s different. It was a onetime thing that—”
“One time?” Flora asked, smiling even more. “I seem to remember the two of you disappearing together a couple of times.”
“Look, could you please get out?” David asked quietly but sternly, not sure what else he could say to dissuade her without attracting attention. That would be all he’d need, having all of Alice’s friends aware that this girl was in the shower with him.
“Fine,” she responded, crossing her arms and resting them just under her breasts, which just raised her perky little tits that much higher, “I’ll go as soon as you explain what I have to do to convince you I’m serious.”
“Look, it’s not ... Linda and Ellen had an agreement. Ellen knows about Linda, and she also knows that Linda won’t come between us.”
“So all I have to do is convince Ellen that I won’t steal you away?” she asked. “Again, I’m interested in belonging to your family. I don’t want to get you into any trouble.”
“Look, this is getting way too complicated. Could you just get dressed and we’ll talk about it later?” he asked.
“I think that would be a good idea,” Ellen said from outside the shower. They both turned and looked, and noticed her silhouette against the glass. Flora glanced at David, visibly swallowed and opened the shower door.
“I think we’ve got a few things to discuss,” Ellen told her, handing Flora her clothes.
“Look, I’m really sorry—”
“No you aren’t. And you’d do it again if you had the chance. That’s why we need to talk. We need to figure out what role you’re going to have around here, or even if you’re going to be staying here any longer. I figure we’ll be talking for a while, so you might as well be comfortable. After all, you might get cold if you’re naked the whole time.”
David figured from the quiet calm tone of her voice that he didn’t want to have to face that kind of wrath, but then he recognized he was likely to as soon as he exited the shower. As Flora stepped out, bending over to put her underwear back on, David stepped up to the shower door.
“Nuh, uh,” Ellen told him, pushing him back in. “You need to finish washing up. Do something with that little erection you seem to have grown. We girls are going to discuss this amongst ourselves. I’ll talk to you separately, but I don’t want to confuse things with too many people telling me too many tales. It’s easier if I only talk to one person at a time. Breakfast is going to be delayed for a little while this morning, so take your time.”
David nodded that he understood and backed up. Ellen simply winked at him and gently slid the shower door closed again. David couldn’t tell if she was trying to tell him something or was simply making fun of him, but he wasn’t about to ask.
“Come on, Flora, you can finish dressing in the bedroom. After all, I don’t want to tarnish your reputation by having you seen with an older man in his bathroom.” Neither one giggled as Flora followed Ellen out. David shook his head, wondering just what he was in for. He wasn’t looking forward to finishing his shower. For some reason he wasn’t as interested in taking care of his erection any more, but it didn’t seem to be going down on its own despite how scary the scene he’d just been involved in had been. With a sigh he set about doing something about it.
Walking downstairs David found everyone active and everything seemingly normal. He’d been anxious, expecting the worst when Ellen confronted him, but neither she nor Flora were anywhere to be seen. Instead, Linda and Maggie had undertaken the breakfast chores, and both confessed they had no clue where the others had gotten to. That made David curious, but he was more relieved over having missed a major confrontation. It at least gave him time to think up a good defense, even though he really had none. There were so many things he should have done but didn’t, like simply insisting in the strongest language possible that Flora get the heck out of his shower. He was still worried about confronting Ellen about his behavior, or more accurately his lack of a coherent response to the problem.
Everyone else was hungry and anxious about the day. Bobby gave them a run down on the news, there still wasn’t much organized communications and little ‘official’ responses from any government organizations, so most of the news was second or third-hand recounts of things someone else was doing. Basically everyone was trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, although it looked like most of the city and county efforts across the country would be in trying to make necessary structural and infrastructure repairs. The State and Federal governments hadn’t announced anything, and until they could get estimates and approve a budget they weren’t likely to do much of anything. So far there were no calls for the National Guard or the military to help with the reconstruction efforts.
After breakfast David split the people up, taking the girls with him to work on the minor damage to the outlying buildings, while others tried to clear up the fallen debris or cut down damaged trees. He had mixed results, as many of the girls weren’t very good with tools. Some were quite good, however. Both Amy and Alice were quite handy, although Caitlyn appeared to be afraid of touching the hammer she was holding for fear of damaging her nails, while Erica was still too small to effectively swing a hammer with much force, nor large enough to carry needed supplies.
Ellen showed up, bringing drinks for everyone. She didn’t say anything to David, so his stress was still high. She did casually mention that Flora was working the clean-up detail, so David knew he couldn’t get any information from her, even though he had no plans to seek her out to discuss anything without Ellen there to protect him. No one else seemed to think anything of their absence during breakfast.
With that many people they finished quickly, largely because David wanted to leave some tasks for later since they were likely to be isolated here for some time to come. He didn’t think the girls’ school would start anytime soon, nor would their parents be likely to show up looking for them.
They hadn’t heard from Betts, but that was expected. She’d only been gone a day and she’d had no way of communicating with them, just as the girls’ families had no way of contacting them either. They’d hear from her when she arrived, probably with more people, either later that day or possibly the next.
Linda and Ellen handed everyone bagged lunches, as they knew David had plans to go out and help in the community, so everyone jumped in their vehicles and headed out again. Even Bobby came along, though he carried a couple of portable radios to communicate to a variety of people. Most communications were shut down due to the telephone lines being down, the electricity being out and signal towers having been damaged. Thus the police, firefighters and EMTs were caught short, having progressed to the newer computer based communications instead of the more basic older models. That was something they were paying for now, as they often had to ask people like Bob and David what was going on, since they had no clue themselves.
When they hit the road they ran across their first road crew, so they pulled over and volunteered to help. However they were pointedly refused. The work crew, consisting of five men, were trying to repair and cover up the many potholes on the main road in and out of town, but they were worried about potential lawsuits if a bunch of schoolchildren were to be injured on their account. David, however, noticed the size of their crew, once again observing that out of the five men, only one seemed to actually be doing anything constructive at any given time. At this rate it would take months before the roads were repaired enough to be usable. As it was, David and the people staying with him could only travel because their cars had 4-wheel drive.
Although they didn’t actually help anyone on the way into town, since most people had already been rescued from the collapsed buildings, the sheriff directed them to the site of two badly damaged apartment buildings. They were in different areas and it would take a while to get from one to the other, meaning they would need to finish as quickly as possible so they could move on. Their job was to excavate the site as best they could by hand, searching for anyone surviving or flagging any dead bodies they found. It was a messy, ugly business, but one they knew was necessary and they felt better for contributing to the rescue effort.
Flora ended up on Maggie’s team so David didn’t have to worry about how to deal with her, but Ellen joined him as they set to work. The effort was intense and people were continually coming and going, so they didn’t have much chance to talk, but eventually they established their basic positions.
“So where do we stand?” David asked nervously.
“Don’t worry, I don’t hold you responsible. You weren’t overly demonstrative in tossing her out on her ass, but I can understand why you’d respond like that. After all, you weren’t anxious to crush a poor girl’s hopes after she’d just watched her whole family perish. If anything, she was only trying to latch onto a new father figure. A bit too literally for my taste, but...” Ellen finished as she started moving more blocks out of the way.
“I’m glad you feel that way, it’s a lot more understanding than I was expecting. So how does it stand between the two of you?” David asked, still not sure this powder keg wasn’t likely to explode under him.
“Oh, we came to an understanding. She knows she has to watch herself if she’s going to be allowed to remain here, but now that she knows the ground rules I’m sure she’s smart enough to follow them, so I think no one will be forced to do anything too drastic.”
“So that’s it? It’s all done and everyone’s fine?” David asked, not believing it for a moment.
“Oh, good Lord, heavens, no,” Ellen answered, as she wiped the sweat from her brow since it was mixing with the plaster dust in the air making everything they touched sticky. “Everyone’s going to be on pins and needles for a while, but Flora knows what she needs to do, as do both of us. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we can manage. If we can’t, we’ll figure out how to respond then.”
At that point Alice returned from a short task that Ellen had sent her on. She seemed to have picked up that something was happening, though she still didn’t know what. As a result she’d been sticking to her father’s side and it had only been that little subterfuge that allowed David to speak openly with Ellen for that short stretch. Now he was unable to ask her any more without revealing what had happened.
Alice asked her father a few leading questions, trying to get some clue about what the newest problem was. She knew her father well enough to recognize that something was bothering him, and once again both he and Ellen seemed uncommunicative, so she assumed it had something to do with her mother, but she knew there were any number of other things it could be as well. But she decided to wait rather than to pry. She knew they’d slip up and she’d piece it together soon enough, for now it was important to keep the adults from getting defensive, so she knew it was best to play innocent for a while longer.
They once again found several dead bodies, although this time there were police and specially trained personnel nearby, so as soon as they reached them they were hurried away so the specialists could get them out. That way they were saved from having to deal with the actual bodies. David suspected the rescue people here were the ones whose vehicles had been damaged, leaving them with little to do other than this type of organized activity, as he didn’t recognize any of the officers he’d been dealing with lately. There were also supposedly a few people saved, but none of them encountered anyone themselves, so they just had to accept the stories were true. They hadn’t seen any signs of it themselves, though.
After they were done they went to the other site, though this one was smaller. Like the other, there was talk of survivors being found but there was no direct evidence of it, so the whole thing proved more frustrating than rewarding for most of the girls. David and Maggie simply set themselves to their tasks, not worrying about whether they were accomplishing anything or not, so they handled it better than the younger girls or the other women did. There were tables of food set up for them to eat but they knew they had much better food and electricity at home, so they simply waited until dinner. As a result, when they finished they were hot, tired, dirty and hungry. They didn’t talk much on the way home, although David and Maggie kept up a lively discussion, trying to buoy the others’ sprits, though it was questionable just how much they succeeded.
There wasn’t any food ready when they got home, since everyone had been out helping, so a couple people volunteered to fix a quick supper while the others cleaned up, those that couldn’t fit in the bathrooms went outside to finish cleaning up the property. This time David made sure to lock the bathroom door before he undressed and climbed into the shower. Having raised a curious daughter he should have known better than to have forgotten before, especially given how many young girls were present in the house. Hopefully he wouldn’t be caught unprepared again.
David ended up spending some time with Flora, although she acted like nothing had happened. She didn’t seem particularly embarrassed and she didn’t try to avoid him. She still teased and flirted with him, just like she had before, but she didn’t try anything that would raise any eyebrows, so David figured he’d give her the benefit of the doubt. He’d just have to discuss what was said with Ellen that evening.
After the scene in the shower David was much more aware of how much actual flirting was going on. Basically all the girls were flirting with him, including Maggie, so David couldn’t quite figure out how much was innocent fun and what might constitute dangerous ground. Even Bobby was included in the flirting, and the girls even flirted amongst themselves, so David had no obvious clues to guide his behavior. He ended up being cautiously nervous the entire time, something the other people picked up on, so soon everyone was wondering just what was going on.
Over dinner Bobby brought them up on the latest news. The various government sources started issuing press releases, even though there wasn’t much press to record them. Basically they provided vague statements about their intents but nothing specific. There were isolated calls for disaster relief, states of emergency, and requests for troop call outs, but there weren’t any coordinated efforts on any of these requests. Thus they didn’t amount to much. Word was the military, who’d been on base at the time of the attacks, worked rapidly to clean up their own messes and then volunteered to help their nearby communities, but without clear communications or any decisive decisions from higher up the chain of command they couldn’t undertake any large scale operations. Apparently the political leaders were “weighing their options”.
There was much more effort taking place on the local level. Cities were undertaking clean-ups, even if they didn’t have enough money allocated for the effort. Individuals from all over were volunteering, including many small businesses who offered free or heavily discounted services, but the major construction firms were waiting to be awarded the high paying repair contracts they were sure would be coming their way, so they weren’t about to do any work for free that might undercut their bargaining ability. What’s more, most of the union employees for the city, country and state governments took a disorganized wait-and-see approach. They didn’t want to commit to indefinite free work, since they’d been given no specific assignments to do any clean up, so some people volunteered, but a large number did the minimum amount of work they were required to. Instead it fell mostly to individuals to do their own repairs. With limited resources, municipalities ignored the horrid state of the roads and focused their attention on the potentially dangerous bridges and overpasses, fearing lawsuits more than the inability of anyone to get anywhere—including their getting to work repairing everything that was broken. But that just resulted in bridges being closed which impeded traffic that much more. Bobby suggested it wasn’t worth trying to travel any significant distances.
He’d also heard from Ma, who was still staying over at her hospital. She reported they were still busy, but the workload had switched. Now there was less actual emergency care and more and more minor care for wounds that people had put off getting treated initially. She also reported a number of ‘weird cases’, people complaining of pains and symptoms that made no sense, that they eventually concluded were simply ‘stress events’ triggered by people’s loss of control. The people coming in were very stressed for the most part, and there were numerous cases of high blood pressure as well as multiple heart attack and stroke cases from people working too hard who were in no shape to do the kinds of work they were attempting.
She also reported they were slowly patching the many broken window, and as they did they were slowly moving people from the lower underground floors, like the morgue, back up to the regular patient rooms. They still couldn’t use the full hospital, since there weren’t enough people or materials to do full repairs to each room, but they were making slow and steady progress. Luckily the hospital staff people were more willing to work without a guarantee of pay than the government workers were.
She’d concluded by saying she’d stay there for a few more days, until things slowed down somewhat. They’d been working 12 hour days, sometimes more, but when they went to sleep they were allowed to sleep to ensure everyone was fresh when they resumed. Most of the normal restrictions between the senior doctors and the nursing staff or interns and students were relaxed, so everyone was doing as much as they could. So far that approach had been working well and they’d been keeping up with the increased workload. But they were still on emergency power, so they had to schedule surgeries for the only hours they could afford to run the main generators. Other than that they operated in open air rooms and used the available sunlight to avoid wasting their available power. Luckily basic hygiene didn’t require much electricity.