DURING THE TRIP IN THE VAN, LORRAINE TOLD THEM SHE’D LEFT some traces in the river to deceive everyone into believing she’d drowned, while she investigated how to go back to the Earth without Leonard stopping them. She knew she’d have to move far north, where new, more regulated consortia were acquiring control over areas that had never actually been feudalized like this territory. Joseph surely was aware of that. He, though Leonard’s son, had been raised away from the nonsensical theme reserve and, thanks to the proximity to the other zones and to his father’s gradual slackness, which had led to the sale of that part of his properties to the companies in the vicinity, he’d lived in the real world, that of technologies and scientific research, which was fortunately gaining ground against some of the first owners’ sexist-classist elation. Even his mother had found a partner a few years ago, who made her happy – one of the doctors that, like Alan, had come temporarily to do some research. This man had actually, after he adopted Joseph, already a teenager, as his own child, given him the opportunity to build a career in medicine, and even spend some of his university years on Earth. For love, the man had decided to settle on this planet, and Joseph would be eternally grateful to him for making both his mother and him happy.
Roxanne thought she was grateful to him too for contributing to make Joseph so different from Leonard.
Lorraine’s arrival was not just a breath of fresh air for her niece. Blanche and Celeste, deeply depressed since Violet’s murder, took shelter by her side, loving her more as a mother than Leonard’s badmouthing had ever allowed them to.
During the several hours inside the vehicle, Roxanne had time to mentally switch between the different spheres that coexisted in such a limited space. Her incredible happiness for having recovered Lorraine, whom she thought dead; her concern about her sisters – not only the ones that were with her –; her concern also about Joseph’s condition, who was trying to conceal the discomfort and pains of the knife wound; her growing love for him – most of which she wasn’t even conscious of – and her uncomfortableness towards Alan, similar to that of the first hours after meeting him, but necessarily different.
From time to time, she attempted to figure out his mysterious pose, in case she was wrong about him and about what she herself felt. After all, how much experience did she have with relationships to afford to pass such a radical and fast verdict?
He made it easy for her. He left as soon as they got to Joseph’s house. He was going north to catch that spaceship that would take him to Playa.
Among so many extreme emotions, his farewell passed way more unnoticed than it would have been expected. In fact, Joseph was the most surprised of all at how little sorry he was. Days later, he realized it wasn’t so much due to disappointment regarding their friendship, or due to a subconscious jealousy, as to the germination of an idea already resolved by his friend: they’d go too. They’d all go. He’d even invite his mother and her partner to come with them.
Suddenly, they seemed to have the wind behind them. His mother’s partner thought it feasible. Having spent over ten years there, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to get a pass for the spaceship. He’d probably be authorized to bring a group of people, especially if he provided the psychotherapeutic reasons that would justify Lorraine’s and the girls’ exile. Besides, he and Joseph’s mother, although they’d found peace and joy on Planet Eleven, wouldn’t mind making a long stay, or even spending the rest of their lives, again on Earth. They didn’t feel they had roots anywhere. They were more of the idea that home is where the heart is. And, luckily for them, their hearts felt at home by simply being together.
Joseph rushed to tell Roxanne the news, only a few days later. He wanted to talk it over with her first, before extending the offer to the others.
“No,” she answered. “No way. I couldn’t possibly leave now.”
“But, why not?”
“My mother is buried here. I don’t want to go and leave her all by herself.”
Joseph was about to counter that her mother was alive, until he remembered the poor girl’s maternal mess.
“I can’t rebut that,” the young man said, with a prolonged exhalation. “I certainly respect and understand it. However, I think – and I know I have no right of say whatsoever – that your mother would most probably not wish to become another mooring rope for you. Actually, I believe she would agree that you’ve had more than enough already.”
“If you mean I feel compelled to stay, you’re wrong. It is my will… and I also owe it to her.”
“See? It is very reasonable that you want to express your love for your birthmother, but you have to admit that, as cruel as it may sound, it won’t do her any good if you stay, and her fight for freedom, to the point of death, will have been senseless if, now that you have the chance, you don’t seize it.”
Joseph’s line of argument was quite convincing. However, Roxanne couldn’t stop feeling guilty for Violet’s death and she extrapolated it to obsessively refusing to abandon the graves.
“If it hadn’t been for me, for my example, Violet and Blanche would’ve left, as it was meant to be, and she wouldn’t…”
“That, you do not know for sure,” Joseph told her. “Violet wasn’t even going to get married. She was to be that man and woman’s servant, who may not have been better persons than Harris. You just opened another possibility for them and they chose it. Or do you honestly think the shock on their faces when they met their fiancés had anything to do with you?”