We tried to get to a hospital, we really did. But as the infection got worse and worse, the slightest movement caused her agony. The more desperately we needed a hospital, the slower we moved. Her fever went to delirium and beyond. She died in the middle of a field running adjacent, murmuring about Steve's death.
And then she was a body, an empty shell where a warm, vivacious woman once was. A caring, motherly figure who was kind and sweet and who you could always trust or talk to. Someone we all looked up to. She died in a field, sick and in pain, fleeing from a fate even worse than this.
I want to cry. I want there to be some huge, cathartic breaking of the floodgates after which everything can be gotten out. I haven't cried at all. I didn't for Steve.
I haven't in a long time. Not since
That's a story for another time.
Even Roland's packed in. He's sitting against the metal fence at the edge of the field, his eyes red and puffy. Natalie and Rachel have been bitterly sobbing for hours. I feel guilty and sick for not crying.
We couldn't leave her body. We haven't moved since Roland felt her chest stop moving and her words stopped. We can't leave her. We can't leave her because we left Steve. And he died, alone, probably terrified, probably in more pain than he's ever felt in his life. And even though Lianne isn't Lianne anymore, Lianne is now just a corpse, just a hunk of meat, stinking from the rotting, festering wound, we can't abandon her. Leave No Man Behind, slogans like that.
In under a week, Steve died saving Lianne, and Lianne died anyway.
And all I can think about is how I feel like a prick for not crying.
Okay, it's been about two hours since I wrote that last part. I got my wish. I sobbed into Natalie's arms, and she sobbed into mine. Rachel went off into the woods with Shannon. Roland fell asleep where he lay.
For a lot of us, Lianne was like a second mother. Not surprising really. It was her kid, you see. Just ten. She showed us a picture once, looked every bit his mother's son. Dirty blonde hair, a gleeful smile, twinkling blue eyes. Natalie said he looked like her brother. She was quiet after that. But this kid, this kid never new his father. That's all Lianne told us. She never said anything bad about his character, just stated the fact that he never met his son. And this kid was all Lianne had, and Lianne only had this kid. And then, one day, he went of into the playground with some friends, and when he came home, he talked about the Pied Piper, who'd led off two of his friends into the woods as if by a beautiful song from the stories.
Their bodies showed up a few days later.
And so Lianne held her child, the one person she had in the world, and the person who she loved truly and utterly, and she drove away, as far as she could, and as they were driving through a long, dark forest, late at night, before she knew better, this kid, he giggled and said "Look, mummy, the Pied Piper!"
Something tall and dark stepped in the way of the car. It flipped.
When she came to, EMTs were dragging her out of the wreckage, but they never found her son.
That's what I feel guilty about. She was like a mother to us. She tried to be. And I think, though she'd never admit it, deep down she wanted us to be like children to her, like her son, her little Steven, who died when he was just twelve. And we never were, not really, except for the IT consultant from Tring who gave his fucking life to save her, and in the end, though she was surrounded by people, she died alone.
Lianne is dead.