Control: Chapter Five
The library was cold at dusk. With a soft whoosh, Governor August closed the door and crossed to the seats by the window. Louisa followed. Governor August said nothing for a long time. Louisa could feel his eyes fixed on her. In a moment of slightly breathless panic, their eyes met. His eyes were a pale grey and ringed by a darker blue, like Louisa’s. She picked at a hangnail on her thumb. The silence, falling something like sheaves of dust, settled around them.
“Your performance has fallen this week.”
“Cora was hysterical last night after dinner. We don’t eat leftovers, Louisa.”
“Is there an issue?” Governor August pressed.
“There…” he paused, his jaw clenching in a pang of frustration. “Can you say anything other than No, Father? ”
Louisa’s heart began to hammer. The big, blue eyes threatened to overflow — leaking oceans.
“Jesus!” Governor August screamed. He slammed his fist against the window. The glass shuddered in its pane and Louisa began to cry silently, but this had no effect on Governor August’s stony countenance. The giveaway of his anger was in his eyes but nowhere else. That was the terrifying thing about the man: he was impossible to read.
“I’ll ask you one more time. What changed?”
“I don’t kn—”
“Is it so hard?! Answer me properly!” He dove for the bookcase and took out fistfuls of books, throwing them to the floor in pure, unadulterated anger. “Fuck!”
“The book!” Louisa blurted. Governor August spun around to face her. “The handwritten book with the baby, and Rose, and —”
Governor August flinched at the mention of Rose, as though he’d been slapped. He sat down. Louisa dared not say anything else.
“Do you remember your childhood, Louisa?”
For a long time, Governor August was silent. And then, after a deep breath, he began.
“I was deeply in love with your mother. Rose. When you were born, the government was only just coming in to power. Back then, people were opposed to the introduction of the chip, and thought monitoring and the likes. Your mother, particularly. Of course, we know now of the good it can do, but back then… you were three, actually, when you had your procedure. Your mother wouldn’t let you have it. The day you turned two, and your mother refused, we were cut off. For ten months, we starved and scrimped and lived on the street, Louisa. Your mother…”
Governor August’s eyes were glistening. He grimaced, wiping a hand across his face.
“Your mother died in the gutter. She gave birth to Grace two months before she died and, well. She never recovered. It killed her, she just… she just physically couldn’t take it. Easily, all of us could have died. You were only three, can you imagine? A starving three year old and a newborn? I swore from that day, that I’d —”
“That you’d protect us.” Louisa said slowly.
Her Father stood. Louisa stood too, and after a moment of hesitation, as though he was weighing something up; considering; he pulled her into an awkward embrace. They stayed like that for a long time, in the darkening library. When he moved away, he was staring at his daughter all the more intently.
“Do you see now?”
“Do I see…” Louisa said with uncertainty.
“You see what happens when you disobey. This week, I saw it start like it did when you were a baby. I swore that I’d protect you, from yourself. To disobey is to self destruct, Louisa.”
“What? Father… no.”
Perhaps, Louisa thought, the darkness of the library was emboldening her. Perhaps her Father couldn’t read the defiance written across her face.
“If anything, this — Rose — is…”
“Don’t say her name.”
“She’s my mother.” The word felt sweet and soft; round, in Louisa’s mouth, but it left it as though it were something disgusting and sour. She hadn’t said that word in years. Louisa turned to leave, but Governor August was quick, grabbing her hard by the wrist.
“How dare you defy me, when all I’ve ever done is…”
“You’re a coward. And Mother died in vain, if you think you’re protecting anyone but yourself.”
Governor August, taken aback, let go of her wrist. Louisa fled — racing down the stairs to find Gracie, as she realised, quite suddenly, she couldn’t stay. She nearly tripped on the last step, and half fell, half ran down the hallway. She flung open the doors on either side, calling for Gracie each time. Reaching the dining room, she stopped abruptly. Gracie and Cora were staring at her as she stood, breathless, in the door frame. She ran a hand through her hair and check over her shoulder. For some reason, Governor August hadn’t pursued her.
“Gracie…” Louisa said. “We have to go.”
“What are you on about, Louisa?” Cora asked in a high-pitched, fanciful tone. A small smile settled on her lips. Louisa ignored her.
“We have to go.” she repeated.
Gracie tilted her head in confusion.
“Just come, please. We can’t stay here.”
Gracie nodded slowly, sensing the urgency of the situation. She crossed to the doorway and Louisa took her hand.
“Louisa, what’s all this?” Cora said again, but Louisa had already turned and fled, taking Gracie with her. They made it to the front door in a matter of seconds… just as Governor August was descending the staircase.
“Please don’t.” he said slowly, his voice heavy with held back tears.
Louisa looked at her father directly, her gaze cutting incisively into his crumpling expression.
“I have to go.” she repeated slowly.
“I know. But don’t take Grace, Gracie… please don’t, that’s all I’m asking. I’ve already lost you, I know that, but - I can’t lose both of you.”
He sunk to his heels at the base of the staircase and cried; howled; as though submitting himself to some bigger force. Cora was edging down the hall from the dining room, and at this moment she rushed to his side. Louisa’s eyes widened and her heart lurched in her chest as she stared at the man she’d always known to be one of composure. For a moment she wondered, what am I doing to him? Louisa let go of Gracie’s hand and took her by the shoulders.
“I love you and I’ll see you again.” she said simply. Gracie cast a nervous glance back to their father, still wailing on the staircase, and nodded. Louisa turned on her heel and left.
Tara Wesson is a second-year Journalism and Creative Writing student. She likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. But no, she's really just a book-lover with a dog called Shorty, a love of travel, and a penchant for dad jokes.