Cheedo knows that she is sometimes fragile. She knows too that it is not what Immortan Joe thinks it is. It is not a girl in love, and scared, and soft, and pretty (though sometimes she is those things too). It is a girl who can be broken, and broken, and broken again, and she will still come back, and come back, and come back again, just the same but with scars to show. Angharad tells her that, sitting in the water, and Cheedo thinks that maybe she already knew it. Wretched children are born broken after all.
“Well you’re not splendid either,” she says, teasing, and Angharad flicks water at her face, and Cheedo licks it off her lips and smiles.
Cheedo knows that the birds they see through the window, once in a thousand days, are the only birds left in all the world. Everything has been burned, Miss Giddy tells them, burned by bombs and then wrung out by thirst. Cheedo decides that birds are fairies, just as rare as birds, and flying on feathered wings, and beautiful as the moon.
“Why can’t they be fairies?” she asks Dag, who reads stories to them all when it’s dark.
“They can be fairies,” says Dag. “They steal girls away sometimes, perhaps they’ll steal you.”
“Not if I can help it,” says Angharad, folding her arms.
“Not if it’s not all of us,” says Cheedo, curling her hand around Toast’s arm and tucking herself in closer.
When they get to the swamp that used to be the green place, Cheedo is quietly enchanted by the crows that scream. They’re only fairies, she wants to say, they’ve only stolen us all away, just like in the stories. But she keeps her mouth shut, and tugs her wrap close, and wonders who decided that dark and cold things were wicked.
Cheedo knows that she is lucky. She is told so, over and over again, so it must be true. She is told by the Organic Mechanic, and by Miss Giddy, and by Immortan Joe himself. She is a lucky, lucky, lucky girl, the luckiest girl there ever was, to be chosen for a wife. She hugs her knees when Joe visits her sisters, and she tells herself she is lucky, because it’s easier to think of this as a miracle than to think of it as a curse. Her babies will not be Wretched.
“Our babies will not be warlords,” Angharad corrects, sternly. “The Wretched have freedom.”
“The Wretched have skin and bones,” Cheedo mutters darkly. “The Wretched have their houses on their backs.”
“And what do we have?” Angharad demands, but when she touches the brand on the back of Cheedo’s neck, her fingers are cool, and gentle.
Cheedo knows that she is lucky, because she is not alone.
Cheedo knows how to make Toast laugh. It’s a small thing, to creep a smile from her sisters mouth, but it is something that swells Cheedo up with pride. She will say something sullen, and stuck in mud, and bitter at the edges, and only Toast will see the humour there. Angharad and Capable try to soothe her, and even Dag frowns like she isn’t sure what creature this is, but it isn’t Cheedo, and Toast laughs, and Cheedo loves her for it.
“You’re a brat,” Toast says, ruffling her hair.
“I know,” says Cheedo, grinning back.
When they meet the Vuvalini, Cheedo looks at their bikes, bristling with feathers and twine, and she knows that one day soon she will be riding one. Across the salt in some unknown world, she will make one of them teach her how to be like them. The Valkyrie probably, because she looks fierce and gentle, and because her bike is bright with the feathers of fairies. They will ride together across the flat ground, their shoulders squared to the wind, and their eyes burning with speed.
When Valkyrie is run down, this doesn’t change. Cheedo knows that they will salvage what they can from the Fury Road, when the dust has settled, and she will claim the feathered bike back from the dead, and she will teach herself until her hands are thick with blisters, and her cheeks are chapped with wind. And Valkyrie will ride with her.
When Cheedo runs she knows that her sisters will stop her. She is scared, and she is angry, and her heart is broken, and she needs to know that Angharad’s words have not died with her. So she runs, and her sisters run after her, and Angharad is there, in all of them. In Furiosa with her finger on a trigger, and in Capable flashing her eyes, and in Dag with fluttering hands, and in Toast who watches, steady as the earth. And in Cheedo herself, angry and defiant and more terrified than she has ever been. She runs so she can feel Angharad again, just for a moment, and then she goes back, with her sisters all around her.
Cheedo knows that she is the only person who can save Furiosa. Because Dag is wrapped in grief, and blood, and green. Because Capable is wrapped in Angharad still, and in the war boy at the wheel. Because Toast is taken, and too desperate and hurt to move. Because Max is too far away, looking like the world is falling down around his ears and he can only watch.
So it’s Cheedo, stripping off her Vuvalini symbols, becoming a wife again. Rictus will hold her like a feather and she will be fragile. She will be the soft girl, the pretty girl, the girl in love and terrified. She will tremble under his hands, and he will pass her along, and she will be steady as a rock holding out her hand to Furiosa. She shrugs off her vest and she stands up.
In the Citadel, the Dag tells stories.
“There once was a girl named Fragile,” she says, dancing her fingers through the air. “There was a girl named Fragile who has never told a lie.”
“Stop it,” says Cheedo, tugging Dags hands from the sky, and folding them up in hers. “You sound like him.”
For a moment Dag looks like she might snap her fingers in half, or bite off her head, or scratch out her eyes, but Cheedo frowns, and Dag wilts, just a little, and her hands soften, and all is well. There are sharp things in Dag, behind her sky-coloured eyes, but Cheedo knows how to gentle them.
“He’s dead,” says Dag, her hands drifting over her pregnant belly. “He’s dead and gone.”
“I know,” says Cheedo, and she smiles.