Standing perfectly still, Bron let the hot, soothing water spray against the back of her neck and shoulders. She was feeling every one of her fifty years. She tried to clear her mind as she watched the water swirl down the drain between her feet, but the guilt of wasting the precious resource wouldn’t let her. Sometimes she wished she could be like others and damn the consequences of indulging in a hot shower. Frustrated, she pressed her palm against the shut off valve and the flow immediately stopped.
Bron dried off and went into the bedroom. She was surprised to find her husband, Cam, lounging on the bed. Quickly she stepped back into the bathroom and wrapped a towel around her. They normally took care to hide their nakedness from each other, but she wasn’t expecting him home this time of evening. Not that she was completely freaked out by it. He wasn’t her type any more than she was his.
Covered, she came back into the bedroom. “Thought you’d still be at work.”
He held up a bandaged pinkie. “I was injured on the job, so they sent me home.”
Bron let out a snort of laughter as she opened her drawer and took out clean underclothes. Cam was a corporal in the army and had way more time off work than she did as a guard in the Pit. Sometimes she envied him, but most of the time she felt sorry for him. He really had nothing to do.
“Wanna watch a movie tonight?” he asked.
She collected her uniform from the closet. “I can’t. Gotta work.”
“Man, I wish I worked in the Pit. That’s where all the action is right now. There’s nothing going on up here.”
Bron drew her lips in a hard line and shot him a questioning look. “You haven’t opened your big trap about the Alliance, have you?”
He peaked up over his book, feigning an innocent expression. “What am I in trouble for? I didn’t say anything.”
“I’m not sure about that boyfriend of yours. I don’t care how handsome you think he is.”
Cam shrugged and went back to his book and Bron returned to the bathroom to get dressed. She trusted him, but he had lousy taste in men. Not that it was any of her business. She didn’t have a say over who he chose to have a relationship with anymore than he had a say over her paramours. Their marriage was one of convenience; they conveniently pretended not to be one of the blights on the perfect society President Holt demanded from his citizens. So they had come together out of necessity because it was law that no single individual in the Dome was allowed to occupy residential space on their own. The presidential family was, of course, the only exception to that rule. But for everyone else in the Dome, if you didn’t have family you needed to find or make one. And after twenty years together, she and Cam really had become family.
He was still reading when she exited the bathroom, but at her arrival he set the book down on the bed. “You’re the boss on level six—order someone to fill in for you and stay here tonight. We can splurge on popcorn and wine. I gotta tell you, hon, I’m feeling like a neglected husband these days.”
Bron smirked. “As if.”
It wasn’t that the idea of hanging out in her pj’s all night, drinking wine and watching a movie didn’t appeal to her. Truth be told, it had been weeks since she had taken time off. But tensions between the Dome and the Pit were escalating and the Alliance needed her. Plus, she had a plan and maybe this time it could actually work. She wanted to talk to Cam about it because she valued his input. But almost twenty years ago she had attempted to put this same plan into motion and it had ended badly. Disastrously. She knew he would remind her of the mistakes of the past. Yet deep in her heart she also knew it was different this time. It was just Holt and Summer in the presidential suite. There was no wife to complicate things this time.
She tightened the belt of her uniform, grabbed her helmet and walked in the direction of door. “Enjoy your movie.”
“I will. And I’m still buying that wine.”
“Save me a glass,” she said, and left their apartment.
She made her way to the security station beside reception, which really wasn’t that long of a walk. Her apartment was on the main floor in the east wing of the Dome in a place known as the ghetto. It was where most of the blue-collar workers lived, although there were a lot on the second floor as well. A few years ago she had been offered an apartment on the third floor—when one became available—in recognition of her current rank. But she turned it down. She didn’t agree with Holt’s social class structure and she wasn’t about to buy into it, even if it did mean denying herself the opportunity of an easier life.
Maybe if she had wanted children it would be different. On a higher floor they would have more educational opportunities. She didn’t blame Marissa for marrying up, even though it had ripped out her heart. Mari hadn’t been able to find a Cam to share her life with, so now she lived a lie with a husband who adored her. Bron found solace in the thought that Mari was able to create a life for herself that gave her happiness.
With the change in shift workers, security was busy this time of evening. Bron queued up to retrieve her firearm, keeping an eye on the door to the Pit. Summer would be off work soon and Bron intended to intercept her. The success of her plan depended entirely on Summer, so Bron had to be convincing.
Beads of perspiration broke out on her forehead as the bong bongs tolled the end of the workday. What was holding up the line? Bron stepped out of the queue momentarily to assess the situation. The guard behind the desk was having a laugh with one of those there to pick up his firearm. She squelched the urge to tell them to shut-up and move it along, biting the inside of her lower lip instead. Finally, it was her turn to get her rifle. She almost ripped it out of the security guard’s hand and quickly walked to the door of the Pit.
Within minutes, Summer appeared. Bron fell into step behind her on the stairs and trailed her all the way to the sixth floor. She waited until they exited the stairs to make contact.
“Summer? Is that you?” Bron asked. Summer stopped to look at her. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Summer paused only briefly. “You saw me yesterday.”
“Yes…um…well,” Bron stammered.
Summer gave her a quick wave, continuing on her way. “Gotta go.”
“I wonder if I could have a private word with you,” Bron blurted before she could leave.
“I don’t have time. I have to—” Summer stopped mid-sentence, turned and strode toward Bron. Stepping closer to Bron, she searched the woman’s face. “You’ve heard from Sunny?” she asked eagerly.
Bron quickly shook her head. “Sorry, no. I haven’t heard anything yet. The matter I wanted to talk to you about is… delicate.” The excitement in Summer’s eyes faded and doubt quickly replaced it. “Please. It’s important to the war effort.”
Summer considered it for a brief moment. “I’m listening.”
Bron reached into her pocket and curled her fingers around the thin vial. The hallway was crowded with people getting off work. Right here was probably the best place to have this conversation because their words would get lost in the din of chatter. Right here in plain view, no one had a reason to question them. Keeping her hand low, Bron passed the vial to her. Summer took it and raised her eyebrows in question.
“It’s poison,” Bron said. She swallowed hard, aware of the brevity of her request. She was asking Summer to kill the president, although she hadn’t actually stated it. She was fully aware that request wasn’t just murder; it was treason of the highest order. “You have access to whatever he eats or drinks.”
Summer stared down at the vial in her hand. She rolled it between her thumb and finger, a small smile curving her lips upward. “So this can kill a person?”
There was a glint in her eyes that gave Bron pause. A stab of alarm went through her. Was Summer thinking about using it on herself? That thought had never occurred to Bron.
“Yes it can. And you can help the entire Pit—everyone you know and love—by making sure it gets to the <i>right </i>target.” Bron’s voice was firm, her eyes unwavering as she stared at Summer. “It’s thin enough to be concealed within the elastic of your bra. Security won’t be able to feel it when they pat you down.”
Summer looked at the vial and nodded. “Sure.”
Bron blinked. Was it really that easy? “That’s only one dose. You’ll need three or four to get the job done, so I’ll bring you another one tomorrow.”
“Why not give them all to me now?”
Why indeed. Bron knew the answer—control. She wanted to control Summer to make sure everything went according to plan. Even though their allies in the lab had supplied her with enough vials, she didn’t want to take the chance on Summer making a mistake. It was important to feed the poison to Holt over a period of a few days to make it look like he was getting sick. If it were ever discovered that his death was an assassination, it would inflame tensions between the Dome and Pit. And she couldn’t take the chance of Summer caught with the vials. Bron was just a supplier and easily replaced, but there was only one presidential mistress.
“I can only give them to you as fast as I get them,” Bron lied.
Summer had been staring at the vial in her hand, but she curled her fingers around it and dropped her fist to her side. “Okay. He’ll get the first dose tonight.”
Bron gave her a curious look. She had expected Summer to be hesitant, to ask questions, to be a little fearful. This was almost too easy.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this? There’s a chance you’ll be caught and well… you could be executed,” Bron said. She needed to know Summer was aware of the full extent of her actions. Just standing here talking about killing the president was enough to make Bron shake with trepidation.
Summer snorted. “What do you think is going to happen to me when the president doesn’t want me anymore? I know what happened to all of his mistresses—every last one of them. I’m not stupid. At least with this,” she said, looking down at the poison, “I have a chance to kill the monster, even if I do die trying. Either way, I win. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Bron became aware her mouth was hanging open as she watched Summer walk away. She really hadn’t expected the girl to <i>welcome</i> the opportunity to kill the president. But it did make the mission a lot easier.
A commotion on the stairs reminded Bron that she was working. She turned and made her way toward the excitement, praying it wasn’t the start of another riot. It had been barely twelve hours since the decision was made by the Alliance to plan an offensive strike. They hadn’t even had time to smuggle weapons down here.
“It’s unbelievable!” someone exclaimed. Bron’s curiosity was aroused.
The group was gathered around two people on the stairs. No other guards were here. As Bron approached, they quieted. She didn’t miss the exchange of guilty looks and something being passed from hand to hand.
“It’s okay. Its just Bron.” She recognized the speaker as Dawn, Reyes’ new girlfriend.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Angel found Abby. Isn’t that great news?”
Bron truly was amazed. For the second time in her life, Abby cheated death. It <i>was</i> excellent news. The kind of news that confirmed miracles really could happen and inspire people to hold onto their hopes.
A smile lit up her face. “I’m so happy hear you’re okay, Abby,” she said. She looked at the group. “Everyone should spread the word. People will want to know. They’ll want to welcome Abby home.”
Whatever they had been passing from hand to hand dropped on the floor and rolled out of the circle of the group. Bron bent down and picked it up. It was a big, plump, juicy apple. Unlike any she had ever seen. It was so big it barely fit in her hand. She looked at the group, wondering where they got it.
“Please don’t tell,” Angel begged. “Abby isn’t always right in the head. Sometimes she doesn’t know that what she’s doing is wrong. I’ll make sure she doesn’t go up there again.”
Bron turned her attention to Abby. “You got this from the Dome?”
Abby shook her head. “From the bowl.”
“No, I meant—” Bron began, but stopped herself. Angel said she was challenged. If the girl had been taken upstairs, then God only knew what she had been through. It was enough that Abby made it back to the Pit in one piece. “I bet everyone would love a taste of that apple. Do you need a knife to cut it up?”
Angel sighed in relief.
Abby’s face lit up and she stepped out of the crowd to stand in front of Bron. “It’s okay. I have lots.” She patted her bulging pockets and smiled conspiratorially, as if she and Bron shared a secret. Bron drew her brows together in confusion, but returned her smile.
The girl kissed Bron’s cheek before she walked away. The small group followed close behind her, no doubt hoping to get a share of the apples. Bron wondered where exactly Abby must have been in the Dome to have access to such high quality produce. Those were prized treats coveted by the Dome’s finest. And yet Abby had managed to fill her pockets with them and return to the Pit unscathed.
Although Bron didn’t consider herself religious, for the second time that month, she turned her eyes heavenward and wondered if miracles really did happen.
Written by: S.M. McEachern Proofread by: Christina Galvez