Chapter 19: Helen Hansen, April 10th, Year 1

As soon as I got to my porch, Cecilia opened the door. She was visibly upset.

“Helen, what happened to Mike?”

I had just come from an emergency council meeting. The FLDS had attacked our men. Ten SaLTs including Hiram Rockwell were captured. The council had been called as soon as the information had been radioed back to Salt Lake City. It was amazing how fast rumors flew within our community.

“Mike and Alex are fine. Wayne and Hiram have been captured.”

Cecilia collapsed on to the couch, her hands to her face.

“Oh my God. Helen, what happened?”

I sat next to her. She turned to me like a hurt child. I put my arms around her.

“Hiram and half of the southern Utah expedition walked into an FLDS trap. Mike and Alex were up in the air in the PPC; they got word back to the others. One of the APCs was captured. Mark and the rest of the SaLTs are going to head down south tomorrow.

It was a unanimous decision by the council. If the FLDS harm any of our men, we will be at war.”

“Helen, so many people have died already. How is it possible that we could be at war? Are we humans that stupid?”

I did not have an answer for Cecilia. I could only hug her while she worried about her friends. Mike was ten years younger than Cecilia. He loved red meat; she was a vegan. When it used to matter, he had been a partisan Republican. It didn’t make any sense that they would be in love. When they were together for very long they fought like cats and dogs, which is why she lived with me.

Yet something about them worked. Women outnumbered men in the Fortress three to one and Mike was charming, funny, and exotic. He got a lot of attention from women. There are men who are always on the prowl even if they are wearing wedding rings. Although Mike was always friendly, women that spent time with him could easily tell that he was in love with Cecilia.

I’ve known Cecilia for years. Most men didn’t last more than a few dates. She usually had a harem of men that desperately wanted to be more than friends. I’d never seen her so wrapped up in a man. When her relationship with Mike was going well she was on clouds and when it wasn’t I spent a lot of time listening.

A couple months before the Outbreak, Cecilia and I had gotten into a stupid fight and stopped talking. For two months after September 11th, I thought she had died. I regretted that argument every single day until November 3rd, when Mike Kim flew a powered parachute into our fortified ward. I learned then that Cecilia had survived the Outbreak in Mike’s house.

Mike and his BFF, Alex Wu had revolutionized how the SaLTs explored new territory. They now did it from the air in PPCs. Cecilia wanted Mike to get back into medicine. She was constantly bugging him about it. He thought that he was doing a lot more good as a Zomboy. Cecilia’s belief that Mike wasn’t living up to his potential was one of the reasons why they were always arguing. She couldn’t stand the thought of him constantly putting his life at risk. I knew that she wasn’t just worried about Mike but also the other two men who had been at his house from September to November. Cecilia was close to both Alex and Wayne. I could tell that she was torn. She was happy that Mike and Alex were well yet was also devastated about what had happened to Wayne.

“By the way Helen, did you tell him?”

“No. There wasn’t any time and we were never alone.”

“You have to tell him. Especially since you’re planning on keeping it and he’s leaving for war!”

I’ve been dating Mark since the barbecue in early March. It took me awhile to decide what I wanted with him. While I appreciated him being upfront about his inability to be monogamous, his honesty shocked me. I’m originally from rural Nebraska. I was raised to not accept that kind of behavior. If a man couldn’t commit whole-heartedly, well he certainly wasn’t good enough for me. But the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I’ve become with it. This last year has taught me that nothing in life is certain. Since the Outbreak, I’ve been a major part of the rebuilding process. It’s been hard, demanding work but it’s given me a new sense of purpose and fulfillment.

With Mark, I don’t have to worry about feeling guilty that I don’t always have the time or energy for him. I haven’t been with many men. I lost my virginity to a grad student in my freshman year. While getting my doctorate I had a fling with a Nobel Prize laureate. My lovers in the past had been kind, intelligent, and considerate. Sex had been good not great. Making love for me in the past had been a way of getting closer to a man I respected who I thought I could grow to love. It was never unpleasant but I would never have described it as fun.

I knew that Mark was totally unsuitable. I didn’t love him. In the past I looked for men who were compatible with me. For the first time in my life I was with a man because he was sexy and made me laugh. It was strangely and wonderfully liberating to not worry about the future with Mark. From the very beginning his motto was to enjoy the here and now and to my surprise, I’ve found that it worked for me too. Then, I was late; I’m usually like clockwork.

After a week, I rummaged through our community pharmaceutical supplies and found a pregnancy test. According to the package insert it was 99% accurate seven days following a missed period. It was positive. I honestly didn’t see this coming. Other than the first time, we had always taken the proper precautions.

Cecelia noticed the complete look of shock on my face and I had to confide in her. After some screaming and cursing, laughing and crying, we finally got some perspective. I’m 33 years old and I’ve never met a man I wanted to marry. I’ve always wanted a child. Mark has his problems but none of them are genetic. He’s intelligent, healthy, and athletic. As sperm donor, I could do much worse. I decided to keep the baby. These last few weeks have been wonderful but despite how much time we’ve spent together, I have no idea how he’s going to react to the news. I knew that Mark would be brutally honest and that our relationship would change.

I wanted tell Mark immediately but didn’t know how to start. I had already blown my chance after today’s emergency meeting and I knew he would be busy getting the SaLTs ready to go down south for the rest of the day. The father of my baby was headed off to war in the morning. He may not come back. I might lose him, this baby, or both. As I comforted Cecilia, I could feel tears well up in my eyes. I was crying for both of us.

Chapter 20