Wayward (Wayward Pines #2)(14)

by Blake Crouch

“And now it feels like you’re married to a stranger?”

“We’re rusty. Awkward. And of course, it’s not like we can just sit down and talk about Pines. About this insane situation we’re in. He’s thrown back into my life and we’re expected to function like a perfect family unit.”

Pam scribbled on the pad.

“How would you say Ethan is adapting?”

“To me?”

“To you. Ben. His new job. Everything.”

“I don’t know. Like I said, it’s not like we can communicate. You’re the only person I’m allowed to really talk to.”

“Fair enough.”

Pam faced Theresa again. “Do you find yourself wondering what he knows?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean. Ethan was the subject of a fête, and the only person in the history of Pines to escape one. Do you wonder if he made it out of town? What he saw? Why he returned?”

“But I would never ask him.”

“But you wonder.”

“Of course I do. It’s like he died and came back to life. He has answers to questions that haunt me. But I would never ask him.”

“Have you and Ethan been intimate yet?”

Theresa felt a deep blush flooding through her face as she stared up at the ceiling.

“Yes.”

“How many times?”

“Three.”

“How was it?”

None of your f**king business.

But she said, “The first two times were a little clunky. Yesterday was far and away the best.”

“Did you come?”

“Excuse me?”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Theresa. Your ability or lack thereof to have an orgasm is a reflection on your state of mind.” Pam smirked. “And possibly Ethan’s skills. As your psychiatrist, I need to know.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, you had one?”

“Yesterday, I did.”

Theresa watched Pam draw an O with a smiley face beside it.

“I worry about him,” Theresa said.

“Your husband?”

“He went out in the middle of the night last night. Didn’t come back until dawn. I don’t know where he went. I can’t ask. I get that. I assume he was chasing someone trying to leave.”

“Do you ever have thoughts about leaving?”

“Not in several years.”

“Why is that?”

“At first, I wanted to. I felt like I was still living in the old world. Like this was a prison or an experiment. But it’s strange—the longer I stayed here, the more it became normal.”

“What did?”

“Not knowing why I was here. What this town really was. What was beyond.”

“And why do you think it became more normal to you?”

“Maybe this is just me adapting or giving in, but I realized that as strange as this town was, it wasn’t all that different from my life before. Not when I really held them up against each other. Most interaction in the old world was shallow and superficial. My job in Seattle was as a paralegal working for an insurance defense firm. Helping insurance companies f**k people out of their coverage. Here, I sit in an office all day long and hardly talk to anyone. Equally useless jobs, but at least this one isn’t actively hurting people. The old world was filled with mysteries beyond my understanding—the universe, God, what happens when we die. And there are plenty of mysteries here. Same dynamics. Same human frailties. It just all happens to exist in this little valley.”

“So you’re saying it’s all relative.”

“Maybe.”

“Do you believe this is the afterlife, Theresa?”

“I don’t even know what that means. Do you?”

Pam just smiled. It was a facade, no comfort in it. Pure mask. The thought crossed Theresa’s mind, and not for the first time—who is this woman I’m spilling all my secrets to? To some extent, the exposure was terrifying. But the compulsion to actually connect with another human being tipped the scales.

Theresa said, “I guess I just see Pines as a new phase of my life.”

“What’s the hardest thing about it?”

“About what? Living here?”

“Yeah.”

“Hope.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Why am I continuing to breathe in and out? I would think that’s the hardest question for everyone stuck in this place to answer.”

“And how do you answer it, Theresa?”

“My son. Ethan. Finding a great book. Snowstorms. But it’s not like my old life. There’s no dream house to live for. No lottery. I used to fantasize about going to law school and starting my own practice. Becoming fulfilled and rich. Retiring with Ethan somewhere warm with a clear blue sea and white sand. Where it never rains.”

“And your son?”

Theresa hadn’t seen it coming. Those three little words hit her with the sneaky power of a surprise right.

The ceiling she’d been staring at disappeared behind a sheet of tears.

“Ben’s future was your biggest hope, right?” Pam asked.

Theresa nodded, and when she blinked, two lines of saltwater ran out of the corners of her eyes and down her face.

“His wedding?” Pam asked.

“Yeah.”

“An illustrious career that made him happy and you proud?”

“It’s more than that.”

“What?”

“It’s what I was just talking about. Hope. I want it so badly for him, but he’ll never know it. What can the children of Pines aspire to be? What foreign lands do they dream of visiting?”

“Have you considered that maybe this idea of hope, at least the way that you conceive of it, is a holdover from your past life, that serves no purpose?”

“You’re saying abandon hope all ye who enter here?”

“No, I’m saying live in the moment. That maybe in Pines there’s joy to be had in just surviving. That you continue to breathe in and out because you can breathe in and out. Love the simple things you experience every day. All this natural beauty. The sound of your son’s voice. Ben will grow up to live a happy life here.”

“How?”

“Has it occurred to you that your son may no longer share your old-world concept of happiness? That he’s growing up in a town that cultivates exactly the sort of in-the-moment living I just described?”