Me, I’m Finnish and English meeting somewhere in the middle, with copper hair and a dusky spread of orange freckles. Suffering, as always, from a fatal case of over-sensibility.
It’s a curse.
Gillian Larchwood is too sensible, but it’s from necessity, not nature. She was nineteen when the Great Collapse began; she was fortunate enough to have never received the sunburn vaccine containing astaxanthin, a chemical found in kelp. Her life fell apart.
But then again, that doesn’t make her special, nowadays.
In high school, Gillian was frivolous as anyone; she loved her beat-down car, milkshakes from the Milky Way, the vintage Polaroid she got at her sweet sixteen. But after she, her father, and her little brother were airlifted from their burning neighborhood in Surrey, something died. She has to be serious to survive what she’s gone through and to care for her family, but has a desperation to experience the youngness and immaturity and wonder she missed out on.
Now she’s all alone in the brave new world, with only Jacqueline Gray and Polaroids faded by the centuries to be illegible.
One of those things is far more kissable than the other.
“Hey,” she replied, in a way that made hey so much more important than hey. That made hey sound like let’s lie down on the roof at night and talk about entropy and lemonade and the universe. “Jacqueline Gray.”
Jacqueline Gray is jubilant, raucous, sly, and flippant. She has a natural glow about her and knows how to draw a crowd and elicit a laugh. However, most of this is a poor coping mechanism… she needs to learn to quit evading.
She doesn’t seem to have anybody– she showed up in Iceland as if she’d grown straight up out of the ground, as if she’d always been there, grinning hard and stealing vitamin wafers from the sour-tempered rations lady. She never talked about family, if she’d left anyone behind.
Of course she’d left people behind. Everyone left people behind.
But just when Jacqueline seems like the only things in her head are cotton candy, nicotine, and an irrational love of Billy Joel, she opens her mouth and out spills Nietzsche and Daedalus. Gillian doesn’t understand her. She can’t.
But now hundreds of years have passed, and there are more important things at hand. Gillian has no time to deal with Jacqueline and her infuriating inability to concentrate on anything consequential. But if there’s one thing that this sprawling, radioactive forest seems to draw out of people, it’s the unexpected.
Somehow, Jacky hopes that at the top of the hill, there’ll be a brown-skinned family grinning and spreading their arms wide.
But there won’t be.