|She was still a child the last time Hope saw her father.|
|She had never doubted once that he would return safely. But it is quite clear that her confidence had not been shared with the other members of her household. Even her mother, who had held out longer than anybody else, eventually gave up believing that he would return. Added to that, is the lingering anger over the fact that Mark had put his job ahead of family. But the relief and joy of knowing he is alive and back in Sunset Valley outweighs any other emotion, and the spectre that has haunted the Barimen home for five years is finally banished.|
|He arrives inside of a gigantic cargo plane that lands at the military air strip. When he disembarks, he is immediately surrounded by men clad in military uniforms. They escort him to where his family waits to greet him. It is a sloppy and tearful reunion, as one might expect. But it is punctuated by an encounter with a mean-spirited man wearing a heavily decorated government uniform. He interrupts the joyful family, and seems oddly cold, as if the celebration were offensive to him.|
|He barks out a command for Mark to report for debriefing. Mark is not a patient man to begin with. Having just survived what could be described as “Hell”, has put him in a particularly foul mood. In a monumental show of self-restraint, Mark simply tells the man to wait his turn. The effort evidently goes without notice or appreciation. With a nasty snarl, he advises Mark to show more respect when addressing his new boss, and adds that he will either report immediately, or face disciplinary action. Mark smiles and covers Dara’s ears, then gives his new boss a two-word salute. He has no intention of reporting anywhere or to anybody (with the obvious exception of his lovely wife), from now on. He announces his resignation, effective immediately.|
|This causes an uproar among the brass and officials who had gathered to welcome him home. Mark uses this opportunity to collect his family. But as they walk away, Mark’s ex-boss hurls legal threats toward him. He ignores this, and instead hugs on his wife and children and climbs into the car to go home. The drive is rather lively. The girls are a blur of animated excitement. Mei wonders if she would have said anything at all had it just been the two of them. But thankfully, the girls pepper him with questions, and squeals of delight and laughter. She allows them this time of happiness, deciding to hold the bad news about David, Deirdre, and Claire.|
|They spend the afternoon together fishing at the beach, then sit around the fire as the daylight retreats. The subject of David has not come up. But it has become fairly evident that Mark has deduced he is gone. While he hasn’t said anything, he has glanced back at the cemetery numerous times, where a new and prominent grave marker stands. As darkness sets in, Mei gathers her daughters and kisses Mark, whispering that she will take the girls back home while he says goodbye to his father and sisters.|
|Mark holds her hand and shakes his head. There is time enough for that tomorrow. After tucking the girls in for bed, he comes to the bedroom where Mei waits for him, relaxing on the bed. He lifts the shirt over his head as he goes into the bathroom to shower. It looks as though Mark has been through a meat grinder. Mei is mortified by the scars bearing visible evidence of the abuse he suffered at the paramilitary camp. He is thin and malnourished, providing further evidence of the unspeakable horrors he suffered.|
|After bathing, Mark sits with Mei on their bed and tells her about the camp, the drugs, and the unrelenting message of violence he had succumbed to. He talks for what seems like hours before landing on the subject of Rakim and his family. It is most difficult to explain. Of all the things that he had been subjected to, nothing comes close to causing him more pain than the surreal fact that he had married another woman and had a child with her. He should have had the strength of will to prevent it, but he did not. And for that, he is profoundly ashamed. He shares this with her fearlessly and waits for the reprisal.|
|But the reprisal does not come. Mei is not certain why, but the feeling she experiences is more akin to pity than anger. It is clear to her that he is much more upset about this than any physical or psychological abuse he had endured, and this moves her deeply. In a sense, she can understand his pain. The physical wounds, and possibly the psychological ones, will heal over time. But a child is something that does not go away.|
|It is only after she holds him and professes her forgiveness and love that Mark allows himself to finally feel all five years worth of pain, while in the comfort of his wife’s arms.|
|They wake up together in the morning and enjoy each other’s company for the first time since Mark had vanished. Later, Mei speaks to Mark about a serious matter she had been considering all night while he slept. She asks Mark why he did not bring the boy and his mother to Sunset Valley. Mark admits that part of the decision was out of fear of what seeing them would have done to Mei and his daughters. But more importantly, it was just simply too dangerous. After leaving the family, he returned to a spot near the encampment where he could observe the results of his response to the fake message. He had expected some kind of deception, to be sure, but not the ensuing annihilation of the entire compound.|
|He was far enough away so that there was no danger of being spotted or recaptured by anyone from the base. But it was still too close. The massive blasts from the missiles nearly finished him. Honestly, it was a miracle he made it out alive at all. After surviving the air strike, he considered taking the boy and his mother with him. But doing so would have been foolish. Extremist warlords and their loyalists had cemented control over towns and villages throughout the area. And they were freshly incensed with fury over being attacked. There was little chance he would have been able to make it to friendlier territory while traveling with a baby and his mother (who was hardly more than a child herself).|
|Mei nods her understanding of the impossible situation. The fact that Mark survived at all defies logic. But still, she is unable to stop herself from silently questioning whether Mark has done the right thing.|
|Meanwhile, many thousands of miles away…|
|They have come looking for Rakim, or the man who claimed to be Rakim. They have checked the family’s story, stating he had been taken by his clan to be buried in the mountains. No nearby clan has ever heard of Rakim Hasan. They beat, and then drag the three of them to the center of town, which becomes instantly abandoned. Not one sim comes to help. The father, mother, and daughter are forced onto their knees while curses are screamed at them. The quick report from three automatic weapons firing in unison echoes throughout the town; followed by laughter, cheering, and praise to twisted ideals.|
|Then, after the fighters have slithered back into their holes, the only sound that remains is the fearful cry of a lone child.|
|They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but.. are perverse and crooked…
7 thoughts on “Chapter 4.14 – Wounds”
This was a wonderful chapter. After I read your “widget update,” I am in awe that you write the stories before you have the screenshots! I could never do that! Kudos!
I was surprised to see General Buford once more, but I’m glad Mark didn’t tell him anything. I do, however, fear that his part in the story is far from over.
As for Mei’s doubt, I feel the same way – I’m not sure Mark did the right thing, leaving his “wife” and child behind. Now, the girl and her family have been put to death because of his actions. I’m not sure how, but I know that little boy is going to return to his dad – I just hope he doesn’t harbor too much anger against him! The Barimen family has already been through so much…
I’m anxiously waiting for your next update,
To be honest, I do a lot of my writing during downtime at work, when I can’t actually play. I usually have a pretty good idea of where I want the story to go by the time each heir reaches their teens, so I can generally plot out two or three posts ahead of time.
I admit that I am really far behind in my reading, though. I will absolutely get caught up (sooner or later).
Well, I’m glad to see Mark is back safe and sound (for the time being, anyway) – but I do wonder what Buford is going to bring down on the Barimen family. Either way, I’m sure they’ll pull through, I just hope things aren’t too difficult for them.
And with Rakim’s son – it feels so awkward having to call Mark Rakim – I wonder how he’s going to feel about his father having left. I just hope he doesn’t harbor any ill feelings towards him. =(
Aye, Buford is one bad dude. He even gives me the creeps. He will definitely be making himself a part of the story.
Yay! Mark’s home!
Oh no… I hope Rakim’s son will be ok…
Im so happy to see Mark at home, to see that he did not conceal his doings while he was away, but told Mei everything letting her be the judge of his wrongdoings. She is an angel, forgiving him and understanding what he went through was pure horrors.
Most women would just forget everything else and concentrate on the betrayal. ><
She shows even more of her considerate heart by asking after them and their well being.
I was terrified something like the sort would happen to Rakim's in laws and young wife…and it did. I nearly cried at the ending…