More people knew William Everett by his job title than his name.
Still, his skill in designing and organizing the construction of new buildings had brought with it a level of power and respect that he had not expected. His own home, for example, was one of the largest single family structures in existence. He could afford to buy whatever he wanted, like the plush couch he was sitting on right now.
He wanted for nothing.
At least, nothing that could be bought.
He was watching his daughter, lying on the floor, her feet kicking behind her as she watched an old cartoon on the television. She laughed away as one of the characters chased after a bird with relentless ambition, no matter how many times he failed.
She seemed happy, which was good. She also seemed lonely, which was less favorable.
In fact, until just recently, Elizabeth had been the only child in town. She was seven years old by their best estimate, and in dire need of some friendship.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s unique situation also made her an outlier. The citizens, though they would never admit it, were not keen to spend time with the Everett family. Some of them were jealous, and others were simply spooked by their family connection… the only family in town.
Everyone wanted William to help them build a house… no one really wanted to be friends.
His home was a testament to their situation. They were one of only a few dozen citizens that were fortunate enough to have their own homes. The majority of the citizens still favored living in town where they had safety in numbers.
He felt like he was winning over the more… antisocial… citizens.
Thanks to the supplies in the Warehouse, most individuals could just pick a house design from William and he could organize to have the supplies delivered to their staked claim outside of town. A few weeks of hard work and anyone could be a homeowner.
That was why he had focused so hard on building the vehicle repair shop and pitching the diner to Rayland Walsh in town. The people out here in the frontier saw him as their spokesperson. Going into town was becoming a chore, at least for those that didn’t want to eat at Oliver’s restaurant every single day.
Thankfully, the diner had been approved. William assumed that the mayor had used the diner as a kind of piece of fluff piece to distract people from the explorer mission incident, but he didn’t mind since it gave him the opportunity he needed.
Not to mention he had also finally had a chance to make a pair of friends.
Nancy and Timothy Rizzo.
The pair had been around for a long time, but they had only recently decided to get married. Like the Everett family, they soon learned that being unique wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. They too got looks from other citizens, innocent or not, now that they were a family unit.
William had first met Nancy through the market. She sold vegetables, mostly small stuff, and William had come to her for help one day when his daughter was starving and the line at Oliver’s was wrapped around the block. She had offered Elizabeth a quick snack and the results were magical. Elizabeth always wanted food from Nancy now, and William did too.
Nancy had admitted that her skill was cooking, just like Oliver, but not the same kinds of foods. Meanwhile, her husband Tim was a farmer and a butcher, an overall master of preparing ingredients for cooking.
His thoughts were shattered when his wife, Amy, called his name. He looked to Elizabeth and she continued to giggle at her cartoon.
“Yes dear?” he called back.
“They’re going to be here any minute. Are you ready?”
At that moment, the doorbell rang.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” William said, jumping up to answer. “I got it!”
He walked to the clear front door and smiled at Nancy and Tim as they waited outside, each of them holding several baskets of food.
“So good to see you,” he said as he opened the door to let them in.
“You too, darling,” Nancy said cheerily. “I hope you like salad!”
A few hours later, after everyone’s bellies were full, Amy and Tim started clearing the table while William and Nancy stepped outside to enjoy the evening and talk about the recent events.
“It’s just awful what happened with Explorer One,” Nancy said as she finished her drink. “I didn’t know any of the people on the mission, but I still felt the weight of the whole thing.”
“Agreed. Terrible news.”
“I wish the news of the diner had come during happier times,” she added.
William shrugged. “I think,” he surmised, “the mayor was trying to help bridge the bad news with something good. If you think about it, people only really started venturing out of town once Explorer One was mapping the areas with photography and such. In a way, the diner will represent a bridge between the established town and the more… open lifestyle of the frontier.”
“I suppose,” Nancy admitted. “Regardless, the news is out. Construction is starting soon, right?”
“In just a few days, according to Rayland.”
“That’s good to hear,” Nancy replied. “Tim and I are talking about moving back to town when it opens.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
Nancy blushed and then gave a clever smile. “Well, I suppose we’ll need everyone.”
She leaned through the front door and called for Tim and Amy.
There was some noise from inside and the two appeared at the doorway, Tim with a large smile on his face, and Amy looking curiously confused.
“We have something we’d like to share,” Nancy said. “Today, Tim and I found out we will be having a child!”
“What?!” Amy cried. “That’s wonderful news! How did you find out?”
“I assume you heard about the baby being born?” Nancy asked. “It turns out the woman that helped give birth, Nima Patel, is crazy smart about babies. I haven’t been feeling well and we were supposed to visit with Caleb, but with him out of town, we decided to talk to Nima about it. Anyway, she did a test and it turns out… I’m pregnant!”
“That’s the most incredible news!” Amy said. “We’re so excited for you!”
“We’re both pretty nervous,” Tim added. “There’s a lot to consider that we hadn’t given any thought to before.”
“I know what you mean,” William chimed in. “Every day we worry about the same stuff with Elizabeth.”
There was brief pause here, and Amy shot a dirty look to William, so he quickly amended it with, “There’s just no planning with these kinds of things though! What a great adventure you’re about to embark upon!”
“This calls for dessert!” Amy said. “I picked up some cake from the bakery in town for dessert. I thought it would be a special treat and now I’m glad I did!”
After dessert, Nancy and Tim Rizzo left for home.
William waved farewell as they left and then he and Amy turned toward their front door. He felt Amy’s hands touch his back and he smiled briefly. He was happy that he had his family here, despite the pressure it put on him sometimes.
“Exciting news, right?” he started.
“I suppose,” Amy said. “I wish you’d put on a better show for them.”
“I am happy for them,” he said. “I just… well it’s a big risk.”
“You think I don’t know that? Every day I worry about our daughter’s future. No one is even close to her age in town. Will she end up alone and helpless when all the other citizens pass away? Will the Core keep spitting out young adults and eventually she’ll be the same age as everyone else? What if something happened to us? Would someone take care of her?”
“Alright,” he said, raising his hands in surrender. “I yield. You worry just as much as me.”
“More, I suspect.”
“Maybe,” he said with a chuckle. “I didn’t mean to kill the mood.”
“You’re fine. The cake was delicious. You were not long remembered.”
“You know, Nancy mentioned moving back to town once they have a child.”
Amy rolled her eyes. “They’ll change their minds soon enough. Once they announce they are pregnant they’ll get the same stares from citizens that we got. Just look at the poor girl, April. People already whisper about her newborn like it’s an alien.”
“In a way, she is,” William said. “We don’t remember Elizabeth as a baby. Seeing April’s little one was strange, even for me. I can understand why these things feel so foreign to them.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Amy replied. “You’re far too reasonable.”
“Things will change in time,” she said. “There’s a newborn in town now, so people will acclimate. I’m sure Tim and Nancy can’t be the only couple to have formed a relationship among the citizens. There will be more children to come. Each one less exciting or strange than the last. In time, having a baby will be as normal to us as any other citizen arriving from the Core.”
“On that note,” William said, “we do need to figure out schooling.”
Amy nodded in agreement. “She has to learn about science and math, no doubt.”
“I suppose Olivia would be the one to talk to about that,” William suggested.
“Are you sure? Now? With all that is going on with Explorer One?”
“Alright, maybe not right now, but in time we should talk to her.”
“Why not Rayland? He’s mayor after all.”
William frowned. “I’m not sure Rayland has our best interests at heart.”
“What makes you say that?” she asked. “He’s the one that got you to your prominent position as the architect. We wouldn’t have this house without him.”
“If I’m honest, I think Rayland cares very deeply about Rayland. I’m not sure that extends to those that he uses along the way.”
“Well, that’s fine. We’ll make it another thing to give him popularity,” Amy suggested. “Like you said, there are going to be more kids on the way, so a school will have to happen eventually. Might as well get started on it now.”
“I suppose I could talk to him about it,” William conceded.
“Wonderful,” Amy said. “Now, I’ll take care of the dishes. You go ahead up to bed.”
William didn’t have to be told twice. He gave his wife a kiss and then headed straight for the stairs. He stopped as he passed by Elizabeth. She was lying flat on her back, with her arms up behind her head. She looked completely relaxed, like there wasn’t a worry in the world to concern her.
He smiled at that innocence and continued to his room wondering how long he would be able to make it last. How long would he have before his beautiful little girl came home worried about her future, her safety, or anything else that he couldn’t control?
He pushed that fear away for now. He would be the unstoppable hero in her story for as long as he could. No matter what came their way.