I’m not sure what to do now.
Natcha and Chalerm are safe and sound, that’s guaranteed. Sopa’s health is a mystery, but it doesn’t look great for her. My life isn’t assured at this point either.
The worst-case scenario would be I try to rescue Sopa, fail to find her, miss Surat’s evacuation, then leave my wife and son without a father. The best case scenario would be that I somehow find Sopa and get her out of here, and we all live together as a family. The ‘middle but still not great’ scenario is that I leave now, find my wife and son, and we live together as a family, albeit one that’s missing a member.
But… let alone a father, how could I call myself a man, or even a human, if I just leave? How could I knowingly leave my daughter to her fate while I escape? How could I ever look myself in the mirror again? I need to do everything in my power to rescue her, right? Up until my last breath, I need to look for her.
But then again… can I call myself a man if I’m not willing to put aside my mental wellbeing for the good of my family? I may hate myself for it, but I can guarantee Natcha and Chalerm can live well even after having our whole lives uprooted. Like that peldak at the assembly yard said, my knowledge of shipbuilding is valuable, I could get a new job anywhere. I’ve gotten this far largely on luck, maybe it’s best to make sure two family members are cared for, rather than risk dying and leaving both of them out to dry.
Of course, me being able to call myself a man is a moot point. A real man wouldn’t have had to make this choice in the first place. Why’d I trust the Protectorate!? Why’d I think that they could keep my family safe when the gurant reached these isles? Why didn’t I relocate them? Even if I was dedicated to building ships for the war effort, I should have gotten them out, sent them to some faraway land until the danger passed.
There’s so many things I should have done differently…
I don’t know how long I’ve been a sobbing mess on the floor, but I finally compose myself enough to at least trudge upstairs to Sopa’s room.
Everything’s a soft, skyblue color. The walls, the pillows, her blankets, her stuffed animals, all of it.
I grab a small stuffed rabbit she keeps on her night table. It’s old and worn, with a messed up right eye. It fell off one day while Natcha was out playing with Chalerm. Sopa cried her eyes out about how her bunny was dead, so I reassured her that I could bring him back to life, then spent the next hour stabbing my hands repeatedly as I tried to sew it back on. It doesn’t look great, but she still hugged me in gratitude.
Setting the rabbit aside, I grab the small, folded-up pink blanket under her pillow. When Sopa was born, I was away. On that faroff planet I made sure to buy her a baby blanket made from silk as a souvenir. She always sleeps with it, even when her school went on a camping trip last year. Haha! Actually, she forgot the blanket at the camp site and wouldn’t stop crying, so I went all the way out there into the hills to find it again. I wonder if she still needs it to sleep now, or if she’s grown out of it.
Turning my flashlight to her dresser, I see all sorts of medals and trophies and ribbons. I wasn’t there when she won most of them, but set on that dresser is a model of the short-lived burdegeon class battleship. There was a model building contest in school so she, obviously, came to me. I got lucky since we had just finished a ship at work and were waiting for the parts to arrive, and I still felt bad about how I blew her off previously when she showed me that other model she made herself, so I sat down with her and helped her build the whole thing. A perfect replica with no detail spared. It was a nice weekend, and I took us out to dinner once we finished. She didn’t end up winning, the judges selected the principal’s nephew and his crappy little firetruck to win, but we had fun nevertheless.
There are a few more models around the room, some I helped make, others I didn’t. Not just ships, but buildings, landmarks… I never noticed it before, but I guess she’s quite the little craftsman! I wonder if she’ll be an architect when she grows up, or maybe a shipbuilder like me.
…This isn’t fair.
I’m finally recalling good memories of me and Sopa? When I’m thinking about abandoning her? It’s like right at the end, I’m trying to convince myself I was a good father. Well, there’s still time until Surat’s brother arrives. Maybe I could wander around and hope I get lucky.
With a sigh, I take one last look around the room. Regardless of what happens, I’ll probably never see it again.
There’s something hung on the wall, I don’t think I’ve seen it before. Taking a closer look, it’s a letter from someone named Tanawat. Poor handwriting, bad grammar, it’s addressed to Sopa. I take it off the wall and slide it out of the frame to get a better look. The contents is this kid talking about the camping trip Sopa went on last year.
…come to think of it, she once asked for my help in writing a letter for a homework assignment. She wanted to send it to a friend in her class and needed to make sure everything was great, but I was so busy dealing with a problem at work that I didn’t have time. I assumed the friend was a girl, but Tanawat’s a boy’s name…
Wait, Natcha’s note said that Sopa went to the house of a boy she’s crushing on. This boy wrote her a letter and she cared enough to have it framed on her wall.
My eyes round and my heart flutters with hope. On the top right of the letter, clear as day, is a return address. If her little boyfriend really did write this letter, then this is where he lives, so this is where Sopa should be, right? Not only that, the address is right up the street, I might not even run into any problems on the way. There’s a chance! I can save Sopa, get back to the sewers, then we leave this city for good!
No, calm down. I might find evidence that Tanawat’s parents evacuated them both. That’d be fine by me. So long as she’s safe, that’s all that matters.
But even still, what a bad joke. Once again, I’m saved through either pure luck, or divine intervention. I should have known my daughter was interested in a boy, and I should have known where he lived.
I swear, when we’re out of here, I’m never going to let this happen again. I’m gonna be so involved in my children’s lives that they’ll hate me for being too nosey.
With my spirit reinvigorated, I grab Sopa’s blanket, shove it in my pouch, then head out.
But, before I leave the house, I head to my bedroom and grab my shotgun from the wall. It’s pump-action, and I throw the spare shells into my pouch as well. Finally, a gun I actually know how to use. Hopefully I never have to use it, but I could probably kill a soldier or two with this.
Nothing left now but to rescue Sopa!
And if she isn’t at this address… well, I’ll deal with that if it comes up.