Reed is without a doubt my most memorable character. I had a blast creating him, and he has since taken on a life of his own. Initially, I planned to release a perma-free novella, diarising his childhood, but when I started, the story seemed disjointed and didn’t come together how I had hoped. So, instead, I decided to write snippets – glimpses into Reed’s life before he met Rebecca. As to what comes after, I have a surprise announcement coming soon 😉
(Please note that all and any entries in this Reed series are unedited, so the writing is raw, and typos may creep in)
This is the first in The Reed Files, but it certainly won’t be the last. Thank you all for falling in love with this character – #TeamReed means the world to me! And so, without further ado:
The REED Files #1
“Reed!” Jeffrey’s voice is stern and I leap out of bed, stubbing my toe on the bed post.
“Son of a bitch!” I hop on one foot, tears of pain pricking at my eyes and scan the floor for my pants. There! Half hidden under the bed, I crouch down to retrieve them and my eyes draw level with a long, tanned leg. My gaze drifts upward, appreciating every inch of the gloriously toned body emerging from the sheets until I meet a pair of come-hither blue eyes.
“Where are you going?” the girl asks, patting the sheet invitingly.
“Reed!” Jeffrey’s voice is louder now and I groan, snatching up the pants and hauling them on.
“Sorry, honey, duty calls.” I grin, reaching for a t-shirt as the door swings wide.
The girl gives a shriek and pulls the covers up to her neck, but Jeffrey Davis has eyes only for me.
“You’re late,” he barks, pointedly keeping his eyes fixed on me. They are dark and stormy, a reflection of his mood.
“Sorry,” I reply, slipping my feet into a pair of tattered sneakers. Turning to the girl I give her a wink. “You’ll let yourself out, right Anna?”
“It’s Ava!” she yells, and I chuckle as I duck my head to avoid the pillow she flings across the room.
“When are you going to learn?” Jeffrey asks as we make our way down the hall. “I didn’t bring you back from Georgia so you could impregnate the entire base.”
“I haven’t impregnated anyone,” I drawl, racking my brain to be sure.
“You’re going to hurt that girl. Just like all the others.”
I heave a sigh. Despite the fact that he’s not my blood, this man is the closest thing to a father I have ever known.
“I don’t make them any promises, Jeffrey.”
“You don’t have to,” he points out. “You just don’t realise the destruction you cause.” He looks pensive for a moment and then smiles. “One day some girl will come along and break your heart and I’m going to give her a medal for making you realise how it feels.”
“Alright, alright.” I change the subject, “so what’s with the early start, anyway?”
“Harrison wants a briefing before I leave for Michigan.”
Jeffrey has been talking about making a trip to Michigan for years, but I had started to believe he would never leave. His concern for Kenneth Williams’ health has kept him here, but I think he’s realised that the Vice president’s health will be an ongoing issue. If he doesn’t go now, he might never leave.
“You’re sure about this trip?”
“Yes. I’ve left it too long already. My daughter is in there. I have to see for myself that she’s safe.”
I press down the jealousy that rises in my chest. This daughter that he speaks of so highly gets under my skin. “Can I ask you a question?”
“You just did.”
It’s one of his standing jokes and I smile despite myself. “Why didn’t you just bring her back with you fifteen years ago? You went to Michigan then, you saw your wife, you saw Rebecca. Why didn’t you bring them back with you?”
Jeffrey doesn’t answer for a moment, striding confidently down the familiar hallways.
“I had every intention of doing just that,” he replies eventually. “Cara begged me to, but I said no. I never saw her again.” His eyes mist over and a lifetime of regret passes over him. “We had very little resources back then,” he explains, as though trying to remind himself. “We had barely any food and we were scrabbling for survival. The world I lived in was a dangerous place. Cara had made a home for herself, a home for Rebecca. She had a support system, they had stability and were as safe as they could be in a world gone mad.”
“Sounds like somewhere nice to be,” I point out.
“I had a responsibility to Kenneth,” his voice is harder now, “to my country. We were all that remained of the US government and we knew that sooner or later someone would try to seize control.”
“Enter Eric Dane,” I growl, the mere mention of his name brings the blood rushing to my head. Eric Dane’s guards had murdered more than a few of my comrades.
“Enter Eric Dane,” Jeffrey agrees quietly.
Eric Dane is a madman and murderer. Five years ago he erected the border fences to protect his wealth, his resources, and to ensure that none of us living out here in the Rebeldom could oppose his fictitious truth. He told the people of NUSA we were dead, we were monsters, we were dangerous, and, like children warding off evil, they believed. Over the past few years, during his meteoritic rise to power, the contrast between NUSA and the Rebeldom had become clearer and clearer. The fat cats in their luxurious, pre-war environment knew little to nothing of the struggle outside of the fences. I wonder idly if Rebecca Davis has any idea how hard life can be. In my mind I envisage a spoilt, weak girl who has no comprehension of loss. What chance could there possibly be that she will choose our side over the opulence of NUSA? I pray that Jeffrey isn’t going to be sorely disappointed in his daughter. For his own sake, not for mine.
Despite Jeffrey’s insistence that I’ve made us late we still arrive first. I take a seat, planting my feet lazily on the table, ignoring Jeffrey’s arch look.
“What if she doesn’t want to see you?” I ask, curious. This girl, this Rebecca, doesn’t even know her father is alive. I know I’d be pretty pissed if I discovered my dad had been alive all this time and not come to find me.
“Then I will have to accept that.”
So stoic, so steadfast, so Jeffrey. I let it go. “When do you leave?”
“Right after the meeting.”
I nod, keeping my disappointment to myself. “What do you want me to do while you’re gone?”
“The Legion needs guidance,” he replies, meeting my gaze. “They’re young. Harrison doesn’t understand that. They look up to you Reed.” It is not a compliment, the heavy tone of his voice taking me to task.
“So what do you want me to do, Jeffrey?” I snap.
“I want you to be a man they can look up to.”
I’ve always known that my womanising annoys him, but I never realised that he takes it as a personal failure. I have known Jeffrey for twenty four years, and I have never seen him with a woman. The simple gold band on his left hand is a poignant reminder of the vows he took, vows that he has upheld all these years, despite the distance between him and his wife. It’s nature versus nurture. The truth is, I am my father’s child. My biological father’s child. Even through the veils of time, I remember.
Mama made eggs the morning the bombs went off. I was four years old and it would be over two years before I would taste eggs once more, but I would never see my mother again. She kissed me goodbye, her lips smiling, but her eyes didn’t match her mouth. My eyes slid to the roses discarded on the sink. Daddy should’ve known better than to bring them home last night. Mom doesn’t like flowers, even I know that. I heard her yelling at dad that she hates Violet, just before she called him a two-timing shit.
“What’s a shit?” I asked as I ate my eggs – yellow fluffy clouds piled high on hot buttered toast.
Mama’s hand flew to her mouth and her cheeks went as red as the tomato on dad’s plate. “Where… where did you hear that word, Reed?” she asked.
“You said it, mama. I heard you last night.”
Mama’s eyes glassed over and she fanned her hand before her face. It was hot, so maybe she was trying to cool down. “I shouldn’t have said that, sweetheart,” she cleared her throat. “You mustn’t say it. It’s only for grown ups.”
I nodded, not wanting to upset her, but in my head I said it seven times, each in a different way, wondering when I would get the opportunity to show off my impressive new vocabulary.
“You ready, champ?” Dad called from the door, his uniform slightly more wrinkled than I was used to. He reached for mama, but she stuffed a bottle of red liquid and a spray bottle into his hands.
“Make sure he takes both at ten, and again at two,” she muttered. The red medicine tasted like cherry, and I hated cherry, but I was too excited to complain. Dad never took me to work with him.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Dad told mom, as I rushed outside.
“I’m tired of talking, Richard,” Mama replied. She was telling the truth – even her voice was tired.