Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Relena once believed that sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher drone on and on about some event in history somehow changed the physics of time, for it always seemed to slow it down in a most torturous way. Likewise, she discovered that being imprisoned on L2, with no news from the outside of the metal walls, no television, radio or anything to do other than wait for your next meal or going to the distribution center, had made the minutes seem endless, the hours and days feel like a lifetime passing. An eternity.
One day she was so bored that she sat in a corner and separated her dirty, oily hair into tiny strands and braided them. They actually stayed in place regardless that she didn't have anything to secure the ends. The end result was the oddest hairstyle she'd ever had, and it actually made her scalp itch worse than before. She kept the braids in despite the annoying itch, unable to bear having the filthy mess laying against her neck and face. After checking out her new hairstyle in the bathroom mirror and deciding it did nothing to make her look any better, she made a promise to herself that from that moment on she would avoid looking at herself in the mirror.
When yet another Friday came around, she stood in line with all the other hungry people, anxious to get her allotment of food. She looked through the front window and watched the workers inside doing their job of distributing the food in an efficient manner. Several times she caught a glimpse of Hilde. How she envied the workers their industry, thinking how lovely it would be to have something constructive to do. She paused as an idea suddenly began to form in her mind. She wondered if working in the distribution center might help her to occupy her hands and mind and help to dim the constant awareness of hunger.
Holding onto that sudden burst of inspiration, she waited until she stood at the counter and asked the woman behind it if she could speak with Hilde. While the older, thin and wrinkled woman studied her food badge, she acknowledged her request with a slight nod of her head.. "I'll tell her ya wants to see her."
Relena watched as she disappeared through the curtain covering the doorway and then reappeared again a few moments later with Hilde in tow. The dark haired young woman, wearing faded jeans and blouse tucked in, a faded blue and once white scarf covering her head, didn't look overly surprised to see her.
"What's up?" Hilde asked looking mildly curious.
"I was wondering if I might have a word with you."
One dark eyebrow rose in response to her request. Then with a shrug, Hilde answered, "Sure, why not? Follow me."
Motioning her to circle around the end of the counter, Relena followed the other woman to the back of the room. Once past the curtain, Relena saw that the room was a storage space, though only 1/4 of the room was filled with open boxes, of which food was being removed and given to the people standing in line outside. With so many people to feed, Relena no longer wondered why the food was distributed so carefully.
Turning to lean against a crate filled with packaged food, Hilde faced the former Queen of the World. "What can I do for you, Relena? And please, don't ask for more food than you've been allotted."
"No. I've no intention of taking food from another person's mouth," Relena replied. "I wanted to speak with you for a number of reasons, but first, I wondered if you had anything to do with my being brought here."
The petite and painfully thin woman shook her scarf-covered head and with a wry smile answered, "I've been stuck on this colony since the beginning of the blockade, it would be rather difficult for me to bring you here, wouldn't it?"
"You used to have connections."
"‘Used to' being the key words. Besides, even if I did have something to do with it, the admission of such a crime would put me in prison, probably for the rest of my life."
"I'm sorry if I've offended you," Relena offered, "I'm just trying to figure out the reason for my being brought here."
"It's just speculation on my part," Hilde said, "but I think someone must have thought Relena Peacecraft might benefit from a completely different kind of education by living on L2."
"Of course." Hilde's attitude appeared casual and matter-of-fact. "I've learned that hardly anyone outside of L2 knows about the true conditions here. The public, I understand, has been led to believe we are being ruled by crime gangs and that we don't want to live any other way. Although the gang part was true at one point, they're no longer our main problem. As you can see, from both necessity and desire we created rules to govern ourselves by. Most of us agreed to follow those rules and though there are exceptions, we live our lives in an orderly manner. If Earth and the colonies are told anything at all about what goes on here since the blockade began, they must get an edited version from the monthly UEC supply ship, because no one seems to care about our progress or our struggle to survive. Yes, I know that you aren't an insensitive person, Relena, but now that you fully understand our plight, don't you want to help? Given the chance, you could be a strong advocate for the suffering people of L2 and tell everyone on the outside what it's like to be hungry, to be cold and afraid." Leaning closer and becoming a bit more impassioned, Hilde continued. "They'd listen to you, Relena. They always have."
Relena dismissed Hilde's belief as wishful thinking. She didn't see any way she would be getting off of L2 in the foreseeable future, so talk about what she could to do help anyone was merely wishful thinking. She turned to another topic. "I saw Trowa Barton on this colony last week. You know who he is, right?"
"A former gundam pilot," Hilde acknowledged. "Duo spoke of him once in a while."
"He was on this colony. I called out to him for help but he merely turned and walked away. Is he involved in my kidnaping?"
Hilde didn't look surprised by that information. With a nod of her head she said, "I spoke briefly with him and Wufei Chang. They were here as agents for the Preventer organization looking for evidence of a group of space pirated they called the marauders." Then looking at Relena from head to toe, she added, "I could understand his not recognizing you, though, dressed as you are. You don't look anything like you usually do, in fancy designer clothing, makeup and perfect hair, surrounded by wealth and comfort."
"Perhaps," Relena said, dubiously before turning to another subject. "Speaking of gundam pilots, Duo Maxwell was your friend, wasn't he? If I remember right, he had connections with the Sweepers. Why hasn't he done something to get you out of here?"
"Even if Duo had the means to help me, do you honestly think I'd leave here if I were given the chance?" Hilde asked, clearly offended. "I could never walk away knowing that the people left behind are still suffering." Then after a pause she added, "Duo is my friend, but he swore not to set foot on L2 ever again. Too many bad memories. I respect and understand his reasons for staying away before the embargo began, knowing a little bit about his past. He's not to blame for my being here." Planting her hands on her narrow hips she asked, "Anybody else you want to question me about?"
"Ah, no," Relena blushed, realizing she had hit a sensitive nerve with the other woman. "But I did want to ask if I could help you here at the distribution center? I'm going stir-crazy with nothing to do."
"Another hardship for those trapped in here," Hilde stated. "The days are painfully long when you don't have much food and all you have to do all day is think about how hungry you are and what you can eat to be satisfied, yet not diminish your supply."
Relena nodded, agreeing with Hilde. She had never known time to pass so slowly as she had here on L2. The stretch between each skimpy meal seemed torturous at times.
After spending several moments contemplating her request, Hilde straightened and went to a cardboard box. From out of it she pulled a faded red and white neckerchief and told her to place it over her hair, just like all the distributions workers.
"Come on," she motioned for Relena to follow her. "Let me introduce you to the other workers. What name should I use to introduce you, you know, to protect you?"
"Call me Lena."
From that day forward Relena went to her bed each night with a feeling of satisfaction and exhaustion. Every day she looked into the eyes of a portion of L2's suffering populace. Giving them food and receiving their heart-felt gratitude gave her a sense of worth that she hadn't known was missing. She slept deeply each night, no longer dreaming of her luxurious home, but of the people who surrounded her every day. Many nights she went to sleep with tears in her eyes, recalling the suffering she'd seen that day, and vowed to herself that, given the chance, she would do all she could to help the citizens of Colony L2. She was no longer a bystander, a person of noble birth and privilege; she now counted herself as one of the unfortunates living and slowly dying on a forgotten colony. She no longer prayed for herself, for a rescue that seemed almost impossible after all this time, but for the entire colony desperately in need of someone, somewhere to care about what was happening to them and take action, now rather than later when it might be too late.