The men are afraid of her. I laugh to think that the men are afraid of her. She reminds me of Jin; restless, secretive, good. I am not afraid of Jin. Or her.
I don't see her this morning as I walk to the ocean to swim. Already the day is warm, and I shed the robe I sleep in, instinctively looking around for Jin's condemning eyes, but not finding them. I stand at the edge of the ocean. The water, still cool, laps at my bare feet. I laugh at the little pain the cold brings, and stretch my back.
Locke says I can be a different person here. He says that like it's a choice, and not that every part of me I rejected--my mother's herb garden, my school's training--I now need to survive. To help the others.
Everything that helped me before, in my other life, is useless here. Like my father's power. Without him, I am almost powerless. Like I always feared. I look at Sharon with scorn. She is just like me. Fine and elegant, loving the sun and her clothes and beauty. But she helps no one.
But there's Kate.
My father was evil. And maybe, too, Kate was evil. But the evil did not make it to the island. The tide is going out. I move forward to feel the waves against my ankles. Sand encloses my bare feet.
* * *
I look up from weeding my garden in time to see Kate fall to her knees in the soft loam in front of me. Alarm fills my heart. Has Kate come to get me? Does Jack need me to watch over another patient that will die? "Claire's baby?"
Kate is flushed. "What will he eat? How will we keep him alive? He can't--"
"Kate," I say, and she focuses on me. "Slow down."
She thinks I'm referring to her English, and speaks more clearly and slowly. Luckily, she does not get louder. "We can't feed him the fruit we are growing. It has too much sugar. The dysentery--"
Her words get away from her again. I clasp her hands. "Kate."
She stops and looks at me, her eyes wide and trusting. As if I have the answers, because I know how to plant seeds. Because I know what eucalyptus does, like everyone should.
And to think, the men fear her.
I squeeze her fingers. "He will get milk from his mother for several months. Hopefully, years. After that, fish and crustaceans and fruit and roots. If we are not--"
Kate nodds. She lets go of my hands and falls into the dirt. "Maybe you're... but what about the lead and mercury and industrial waste? We can process it, but a child. It's poison." She drops her head between her knees.
I search for the words to explain how the evil had not followed us here. In a way she would understand without needing faith. I didn't think she had faith. "Kate... Look around you. The island waters are not poisoned. The island is... " I bite my lip, hoping that any condemnation on her part could be blamed on mistranslation. "Pure."
Kate laughs. "Except for the guns and the corpses and the cables leading into the sea..."
I smile. "Except for that."
We work together weeding the garden. I was trying to plant for cyclical seasons, so that what we ate would always be replenished by the next crop. I wondered if I would ever see another winter.
Kate's hands are shaking as she tills the soil. I watch her. Her beauty continues to astound me. I can feel the warmth of her body near mine, and when she watches me looking at her, she smiles. My heart trembles and I wonder if this is how the men feel when she looks at them, too.
The next time she looks at me, her eyes are filled with tears. "Sun... If there's no evil here, why did Boone die? Why didn't he get a new start?" Her voice quivers, and I wonder if she feels guilty. If she thinks she is more evil than Boone, and yet, alive.
I think of the boy I knew, nervous and secretive, brave and weak, lost. "Maybe he did, Kate. Maybe what he needed was to let go."
"Let go." Kate brushes the tears from her cheeks. "You were with him, Sun. Did he...?"
I lean close to her and touch her shoulder. "He was at peace."
She inhales sharply.
I say, "You did not fail him."
She disagrees. "I froze." Her eyes close.
"You did not fail."
Kate leans into my touch. I hold her while she shakes. And they're afraid of her. She's just a child. So much like Jin.
* * *
I find her at sunset on the other side of the beach, around a curve so the main camp is invisible, yet we are downwind and can smell the smoke of the signal fire. The scent is comforting without being intrusive. I bet that Kate is pretending the camp doesn't exist. That she is finally free of the world. That they are all dead, and she can stop running. I approach cautiously.
She has built her own fire, and stands beside it as I approach, wondering if I should interrupt her thinking. When I step on a seashell and it cracks beneath my sandal, she hears me, but does not look away from the ocean when she asks, "Sun. Do you think we'll ever get off this island?"
I can see her trembling as she asks. She is a frightened deer, ready to run at the first signal that humanity is encroaching.
"It's a big island," I say, trying to comfort her, trying to talk myself out of the fear that rises in me at the thought of her leaving. Hoping the raft is too small for her. "There are a lot of places to explore... to hide... That we haven't discovered."
Kate smiles. She knows what I'm trying to do. "Because we're afraid."
She looks around herself: at the fire, at the ocean, at the direction where the beach dwellers also watch the sunset where she can't see them. "I didn't have to go very far, to disappear."
She smiles again. "I'm glad you came. I made something for you." Kate kneels to where a long, flat leaf, one I told her was safe, lies in the sand, well away from the fire. She picks up a yellowish-grey ball that was protected by the leaf, and offers it to me.
I grasp her wrist and she pushes the ball between my teeth, laughing. She'd mixed the best parts of raw fish with a perfectly ripe banana, spiced with sea salt and mint we'd found growing. I close my eyes as I chew, imagining I am in the best restaurant in Seoul, eating the most expensive item on the menu.
I let go of her wrist as I open my eyes. "It's perfect. Well done."
She leans forward to brush something from the corner of my lips. I lean into her. She says, "I can't..." Kate shakes her head. Her touch on my faces does not falter. "I can't remember the last time I had a friend. Just a normal friend that I wasn't trying to use, or hide with... Just someone who made me happy." She exhales, and looks away.
I reach up and cover her hand with mine. "Me either," I say. My skin feels hot, although it didn't a moment before, and the fire is still the same distance from me. My heart is beating more rapidly, and her fingers against my cheek tingle. I can sense why the men fear her. Because the worst thing she can do, to any of us, is leave. She leans in and kisses me. I kiss her back and drop my hands to her waist to pull her closer to me.
Like we have before, we descend into the sand. The grains scratch at our skin, get inside our clothes, but the ocean is there to cleanse us, so we ignore the tiny stings of pain, and kiss. Her tongue is thick and eager in my mouth. She is always too eager, as if I will disappear from her grasp.
I push up her shirt, feel her breasts. A woman's body against mine was such a feeling... Why had I never considered it before? Her teeth bite into my throat and I let myself moan, wondering if there is a word for this in English. Wondering if the island has a word.
Her hand slides under my dress, touching me where Jin has not touched me in ages, not since the island, because he is afraid. Kate is afraid of nothing, and I can stroke her as wantonly, as hard as I want.
My orgasm has come, part of the fluid movement of our bodies, with just a little catch of breath and an extra quivering in my shoulders. She feels it, I can tell the way she clings to me and whispers my name with gratitude, the way she strains against me, as if my release is fuel for her desire.
She tries to roll over, tries to push me down into the sand, to be on top and in control, but I keep her on her side. I let neither of us dominate, instead our bodies merge, rubbing against one another, until, finally, as she grasps at my shoulders, she pulls me on top of her, and then she's bucking against my thigh, arching her back, trapped between me and the sand, and even though it's night now, she cries, "Sun."
I arch up to kiss her, softly, and then fall at her side into the sand. She laughs and gazes at the first star in the sky, perhaps a planet, if only I knew where we were, before she rolls toward me and kisses me again, her lips smiling against mine. Then she falls onto her back and sighs.
The fire has dimmed into embers, neglected by us, still giving off heat but providing no light against the island's darkness. I can still smell smoke, and wonder, as always, if I want to be rescued.