Pete leant against a small stone wall that divided the farmyard driveway from the green wilderness that lay beyond. He quite liked the farmyard. No one else did, but it was the perfect place: a pretty spot, out of the way of danger, and nice and quiet.
Well… sometimes it was.
Pete suppressed as sigh as he watched Jackie march up and down and berate their only daughter. It was a sadly familiar sight. Of course, he wasn’t going to kid himself into believing that she didn’t deserve it, she’d been missing for nearly two days and had given no warning about her sudden departure, but… it was still hard not to feel sorry for anyone who ended up on the wrong end of Jackie Tyler.
‘A tiny, pointless, stupid, useless book?!’ Rose clutched the black, leather bound object to her and gazed sullenly at her mother. ‘What was the point of running off just for a bleedin book?!’ Jackie ranted. ‘You could have died! I’ve been going spare, Rose, do you hear me? Spare! Been pulling my hair out over you and all!’
She made a snatch for the book and opened a page at random. ‘I mean look at this! It doesn’t even make any sense!’ She stared aggressively at the strange symbols on the page, ‘what are all these then? No, don’t bother to answer! Honestly, I was so worried; I thought you were dead for sure! But no, you were just out bookhunting!’
Rose snatched the book back and stuffed it into her pocket. ‘It’s important,’ she stated, ‘I’m not stupid mum, I wouldn’t wander off-’
‘Well it bleedin looked that way to me! I dunno what you thought you were playing at-’ and then she was off on another rant again.
Beside Pete, Mickey shifted uncomfortably and Jake folded his arms, watching the argument sullenly. They weren’t enjoying this any more than he was. Sometimes Pete wondered how he had ever ended up in this situation... hiding away in this little farmyard hovel with the most volatile woman on the face of the Earth, not to mention Rose – who had an annoying habit of not listening to him.
‘Where’d you say she was?’ he murmured out of the corner of his mouth.
Mickey leaned closer and whispered back, not taking his eyes off Rose: ‘she was in that brick camp about five hours away, the same one where we found the Dalek shell and the body ages ago.’
Pete let out a hiss of air from between his teeth, it was pretty far and he was impressed. He’d never admit it of course. ‘Why the book?’ he wondered to himself, and glanced at Mickey, searching for an explanation. But Mickey only shrugged.
‘She told me she was lookin for something, but all she had was that book,’ he said, and wondered if he should mention the mystery inside Rose’s pocket. However, his mind was quickly changed when Rose suddenly began a furious counter attack against her mother. She was so desperate to hide whatever it was… he couldn’t possibly give her away.
All three of them suddenly became aware of the squat shape of Selby approaching. He awkwardly sidled up to the opposite side of Pete and settled back against the wall, watching the scene curiously.
‘She’s back then,’ Selby commented to Pete. Pete nodded, not taking his eyes off the shouting couple. Poor Selby, he thought, this is only his seventh day here and he’s already experienced three Tyler sized rows.
‘Look,’ he said, ‘this might go on for a while, and it’ll definitely turn out ugly, you might wanna creep off for a bit, try and steer clear of it.’
Selby gave one shoulder a half hearted shrug of dismissal. ‘Hello Mickey, Jake,’ he said, accompanying each of their names with a sharp nod of his round head. Jake nodded back, but Mickey seemed to ignore him, still staring at Rose. There was something in his face that made Pete wonder if there was more to Rose’s expedition… why all that way for a book?
‘You gonna try and stop it?’ Selby’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
Pete straightened up from the wall and licked his lips: ‘I’m gonna go and stick my neck right into it,’ he decided.
Selby shrugged again. ‘Your funeral,’ he said to Pete’s back, clearly thinking of the last time there had been a Jackie-sided row.
Pete drew closer to the shouting couple, and stopped behind Jackie, wondering where to begin. It was hard to get a word in edgeways, but Pete was quite good at getting involved; where he went from there though… his problem seemed to be the actual part of the argument where you are supposed to argue, or rather, stop the arguing. That was the part where he tended to fail.
‘I don’t have to explain anything to you!’
‘Yes you do! I’m your mother! And if you think-’
‘Jacks!’ Pete said. Jackie spun around to face him, her mouth still hanging open from her mid-rant. ‘I think she’s got the idea,’ said Pete soothingly.
‘Oh, don’t you start,’ Jackie snapped, now rounding her fury over to him, ‘always cracking hair brained plans to scout the land and look for scrap for your stupid guns! You’re the one that sends them out there in the first place! You’re putting ideas into their heads, Pete Tyler. Letting them all go wandering off,’ she waved behind her at Rose and nodded her head vehemently at Mickey and Jake. ‘No wonder I’ve got these bags under my eyes, it’s worrying about them all the time, ‘cos lord knows you don’t!’
‘You know that’s not true, Jacks’ Pete said pleadingly, ‘we do need the scrap… and we have to get food somewhere, and it is useful to know the lay of the land-’
‘You’re sending them to their deaths with your stupid reconnaissance missions!’
‘Mum,’ Rose interjected, ‘what are we supposed to do? Just sit around waiting for everything to fix itself? We go out there for a reason! And yes, it’s dangerous, but the information and supplies we come back with is helping us to survive. We need to survive, don’t you see?’
‘You can’t talk missy, you nearly killed yourself over a stupid book!’
And then Rose did something completely unexpected. She turned and walked away. No hateful shouting, no callous remark, not even a sneering glance at them. It was so sudden and so unlike Rose that there was a stunned moment of silence as the others watched her retreating back.
And then the moment was broken by Jackie’s echoing voice.
‘Don’t you dare leave while I’m talking to you, Rose!’
Rose spun round. ‘I’ll do what I like!’ she hissed.
‘Come back here!’ Jackie shrieked to her retreating back, but Rose took no notice of her.
‘Rose!’ Jackie shouted.
‘Rose!’ she added, incase the message hadn’t got across.
There was the distinctive slamming of several doors in the wake of Rose’s temper, and then a silence settled itself smugly over the driveway.
‘Well…’ said Pete, trying to break the monotonous quiet, ‘that went well.’
Jackie turned to look at him. ‘And you can shut up and all,’ she said scathingly.
Rose sat on her bed and bit her lip. Sometimes she hated her mother, wanted to scream at her! Well, that’s actually what she usually did do. But something had felt different about today. Something had pushed Rose far beyond her normal limits and she just couldn’t take anymore.
Was it going to be like this for the rest of her life? It couldn’t be… She tried to convince herself that something would change, but she had enough sense to be realistic about things, how could it possibly get better? It wasn’t as if there was a man in shining armor that would come flying in to save the day.
So why did she feel that there should be?
Rose pulled the book out of her pocket again and opened a page at random. Her eyes met with line upon line of strange circles, with tiny intricate patterns nestled in each one. They were alien; she was sure of that… there was no doubt that aliens were out there, the Daleks were the blatant proof of that. But she didn’t think that the book was Dalek.
There was something beautiful about the shapes, and Daleks couldn’t do beauty. The Daleks were just hunks of metal with slimy things inside: Inhuman, inhumane, and utterly horrific.
There was a light knock on the door and Rose looked up, flinging the book to one side. The knock came again, and she noted the slight pattern of pauses and taps before she pulled herself up and strode to the door. Once there, she flung it open and found Jake standing in front of her. She wasn’t surprised to see him, but it was one fewer person than she had expected.
‘Where’s Mickey?’ she demanded.
‘Feeding the chickens,’ said Jake. He looked at her, still in her filthy clothes. ‘Are yers gonna let me in, or what?’
Rose blinked, and then shuffled backwards into the room inviting Jake to follow her in with a look. Once he was in, she shut the door behind him and flopped onto the bed again. ‘I thought chickens was mum’s job,’ she said.
Jake shrugged. ‘Pete thought she’d be too upset to do anything.’
Rose groaned and rolled her eyes. ‘She hasn’t fed the chickens a day since we got them! And she says we don’t help around the house!’
Jake grinned briefly. ‘Remember when that speckled one chased her round the yard?’
Rose let out a sudden laugh. ‘Oh god, she was screaming the house down!’ she lay backwards on the bed and clutched her stomach as she laughed. It felt extraordinarily good. Rose was sure she didn’t do it often enough. But then a sudden thought hit her and she sat up again.
‘You didn’t say anything to Pete did you?’ she said quickly.
Jake’s smile faded from his face. ‘About the mystery of Rose Tyler’s pocket?’ he asked, and then shook his head. ‘No.’ Rose’s face flooded with relief. ‘I didn’t mention it… whatever it is,’ he added, looking pointedly at her jacket.
Rose took in his gaze and nodded in understanding. ‘Wait till Mickey gets here,’ she said, and bit her lip again. Jake nodded, and settled back against the wall, staring into nothingness.
The silence of the room deepened.
‘Jake,’ said Rose eventually. ‘Can I ask you something?’ He turned to look at her, eyebrows raised in anticipation. Rose took a deep breath and her words came out in a rush. ‘Have you ever heard the word… Gallifreyan?’
It felt like almost a relief to say it, as if it had been pressing in on her chest, almost suffocating her. How could one word do that? Rose briefly wondered. But she was more intent on searching Jake’s face for some hint of recognition.
Jake frowned. ‘You what?’
‘Gallifreyan,’ said Rose again, and as Jake stared at her blankly, she gave the smallest of shudders and licked her lips.
‘What is it?’ asked Jake. Rose looked up at him. ‘Say it again.’
‘Gallifreyan,’ her voice was so quiet, it was almost a whisper.
‘What’s it mean?’
‘You dunno what it is?’
‘No,’ Jake frowned again and leant back against the wall. ‘What is it?’ he repeated.
Rose suddenly sighed, unable to hide the disappointment from her face. ‘Nothing,’ she gave a half hearted wave of her hand. ‘I’ve… it’s familiar, that’s all.’
‘Well, I’ve never heard of it,’ Jake said, watching Rose carefully. ‘It sounds like nonsense to me, gibberish. There isn’t a word like it.’ He paused, still considering Rose ‘Why,’ he finally said, ‘where’ve you heard it before?’
Rose sighed and picked up the book from beside her. Its small, boring cover gave nothing away as to the incomprehensible scrawlings inside, but it felt oddly comforting and… Rose blinked… oddly warm.
Selby sat in the kitchen and thumbed unhappily through the book he was reading. It was Watership Down and he hated it. In a lifetime that was as bleak as his, the last thing he wanted to hear about was the trials and tribulations of a bunch of fluffy bunnies.
He sighed. But… since there were only five things to read in the farm and one was half missing and another was a women’s beauty magazine about the hair styles of the new millennium… Selby had thought that the bunny book would probably be his best bet.
From some nearby room of the farmhouse that he had learned was Jackie and Pete’s bedroom, Selby could make out the shrieking voice of Jackie. Selby had decided that he didn’t like Jackie. He would never tell anyone this, but in his opinion she was the prime example of how to make a bad situation ten times worse, and who honestly wanted that?
After trying for a full ten minutes to immerse himself into a chapter that explored deeply into the rabbits extensive belief system, Selby gave up and slid the book across the table, just as Pete came in.
‘Watership Down,’ he noted, sitting opposite Selby. ‘Good choice,’
‘Only choice,’ said Selby. ‘You read it?’
Pete shrugged. ‘Must be about nine times already,’ he said, and Selby noted with grim satisfaction that Pete didn’t seem too happy about this. He decided not to ask about Jackie, and besides, he didn’t really want to hear about it, so instead he said: ‘Where’d you find chickens anyway?’
Pete rubbed his chin. ‘Jake brought a hen and a cock with him when he turned up here. Rest is history.’
Selby frowned. ‘When he turned up? When was that?’
‘A year ago I suppose.’
‘A year?’ Again, Selby frowned and looked at Pete incredulously. ‘How long has you little family of rebels been here?’
‘Two years,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Two years last August.’
Selby shook his head. ‘But the Daleks arrived here three years ago, so you were slaves or something right? Before you escaped and came here?’
‘No,’ said Pete. He seemed almost edgy about Selby’s constant questioning, what more did the man want to know? What did it matter? He moved his hand and rubbed the back of his neck. ‘We were never slaves to the Daleks, they never caught us. We hid from them for a year, always on the move, never staying anywhere for more than two days and then we found this place.’
‘Wait,’ said Selby, ‘you can’t have just hidden from the Daleks, that’s stupid. Maybe you can now since loads have gone off in their big spaceships and there aren’t as many, but during the first invasion… they were everywhere. You couldn’t have hidden from them.’
‘We did,’ said Pete.
And then Pete said exactly what Selby had expected him to. ‘Rose.’ He sighed, and mimicked Pete by rubbing his neck. ‘Go on then,’ he said. ‘What is it with your daughter? What’s so different about her? And there is something different isn’t there? I can tell. It’s the way she looks at you, like she doesn’t quite believe that you’re there.’
Pete nodded. Selby had hit the nail on the head there… sometimes he wondered if Rose even believed that she was really here at all. There was definitely something different about Rose Tyler, and from the persistent look on Selby’s face, Pete knew he was going to have to tell him everything.