A scene from Isolation:
“I get it—I need another person with me, but I don’t want it to be Hunter.” Cole crossed his arms, his stance wide as he stood on the edge of the surf. The waves, slightly foamy, lapped at his toes. He’d taken to going without shoes when not necessary since a new pair couldn’t just be ordered online and delivered to the island when needed. Hunter was the one who had pointed out the logic of going barefoot, and Cole, who had never been in the habit had to concede that his son had made a good point. When he went to the mainland, he’d find a shoe store and get shoes for everyone. He’d have to remember to write down sizes. Good sturdy boots were going to be a must this winter.
Elly stood perpendicular to the surf, her hands on her hips. He did his best to avoid her eyes. “Why not your son? He has more experience than you do in this new world.” She flicked her hand vaguely towards the mainland. “Your kid made his way overland, rescued Sophie along the way, and managed to come through hordes of diseased people, blocked roads and a couple of bad guys—all unscathed. Give Hunter some credit.”
Cole shifted his weight, dragging a toe through the wet sand as he shrugged, arms still firmly crossed. “I’m not saying he isn’t smart enough…”
“Then what are you saying?” Elly moved to stand in front of him, blocking his view of the bay. He couldn’t avoid the challenge in her eyes nor the stubborn tilt to her chin.
He leaned away, taking a half-step back as he flung his arms wide. “I’m trying to keep him safe! Why can’t Hunter get it? Why can’t you understand that?”
Her eyes softened, but she edged closer. “I do understand. Just because I don’t have a son of my own doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with your fears, but I can see how much Hunter wants your approval and how you refuse to give it to him.”
“I told him I was proud of him.” It sounded more defensive than he’d intended. He’d been so relieved when Hunter had made it to the island. His relief had given way to pride in his son’s ingenuity when he’d heard more about Hunter’s harrowing journey. Hunter must know he was proud. How could he not?
She nodded. “Yes, that’s true, but then you remind him every morning when he goes back to take care of the horses to stay away from anyone and to come right back—you’re treating him like he’s a sixteen-year-old out with your car for the first time—not as a grown man ready to take on adult responsibilities.”
He opened his mouth to protest but replayed how he’d pretty much said exactly what she’d accused him of that very morning. Hunter hadn’t replied and had stalked down the dock, giving Cole a half-hearted wave over his shoulder to let him know he’d heard the warning. At the time, Cole had shrugged off Hunter’s response as his son being young and not taking this seriously. While he hadn’t been able to see Hunter’s face, he had been certain there had been an eye roll involved. But, admitting Elly was right meant that he’d have no excuse to keep Hunter on the island. The idea sent his stomach churning. Jaw tight, he scuffed a trench in the sand. No matter how deep he made it, the surf rolled in, filled the depression, and erased his efforts.
“What are your real reasons, Cole?” Elly tilted her head, peering up at him. He swallowed hard as he searched her gaze, willing her to understand so he wouldn’t be forced to voice his fears. If she understood, she didn’t let on, but she reached out, her hand warm on his cheek.
He closed his eyes, his shoulders slumping. “Look, Elly…I saw what Trent’s loss did to my brother. He and Jenna barely talk to anyone, let alone each other. Piper never mentions Trent—it’s as if he didn’t exist, but when Sophie wore one of Trent’s sweatshirts, she almost ripped it off the poor girl.” He drew a ragged breath. “Don’t you see? I had this great idea to drag everyone here and keep them safe—Sean didn’t even want to come at first. I talked him into it. Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.” Her hand trailed down his arm until she reached his hand, and she gave it a light squeeze. “You did the best you could, and you have kept us safe—more than that—you’ve given us the best opportunity to rebuild a life. A community, even.”
Cole shrugged. Whatever. But he held her hand in his, smoothing his thumb over her fingers.
“But don’t you see? You can’t keep everyone safe no matter how hard you try because shit happens. It happens with no rhyme or reason, and we just have to shovel our way out. We’ve all learned that now.” Her hand tightened in his. “Cole, you can’t keep Hunter a prisoner here.”
Her accusation felt like a slap in the face and he sucked in a breath. “Prisoner?” Guilt about keeping Trent locked in the changing house still tore at his conscience even though he couldn’t think of anything he could have done differently, and now she was accusing him of holding his own son prisoner?
“Not literally, but you have to give him the freedom to make his own decisions. He deserves it—as an adult— but more importantly, he’s earned it.” She covered his hand with her other one, holding it as her eyes pleaded with him.
She was right. He knew it, but that didn’t make it any easier to nod his agreement. “I guess I’ll let him come along.”
To his shock, she shook her head. “No, don’t let him tag along—”
“But isn’t that what you just said I should do?” Confused, he pulled his hand from her grip.
“What I mean is, you can’t grudgingly allow him to go. You need to invite him and let him know you’d appreciate his skill and experience.”
He let her words sink in, hearing the difference but his stomach still clenched as he pictured Hunter on the mainland with danger lurking over every rise. What if he failed again and something happened to his son?
The first book in the Sympatico Syndrome Series, Infection, is now available and receiving some great reviews. I'm very appreciative of those who take a moment to leave a review--especially since this is a new genre for me. I've been a long-time reader of post-apocalyptic, but this was my first attempt at writing it. I had a lot of fun coming up with the premise and then carrying out the story. I anticipate having even more fun in Isolation, the planned second book in the series.
What started as a "flu" outbreak on a military base proves deadlier than Ebola and more contagious than the Spanish Flu. Sympatico Syndrome is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Victims' behavior is changing to accommodate the rapid spread of the virus.
Former Navy epidemiologist Cole Evans is well aware of the rare, infectious diseases the military studies. He also knows, first-hand, the government's stance on sharing information with the public, so if the media has already learned about the disease, then it’s far too late to contain the outbreak.
Cole's only chance to save his family is to establish a safe haven. Isolated, hard to reach, and with enough space for his brother's family as well, he has the perfect location--if only they can all reach it before they're infected...