Chapter 27 .

Darren

Everything was a pleasant haze as I woke up.  I blinked my eyes open and knew I had to have more of that delicious drink.

“Are you okay?” Hunter asked.  He and Lily hovered over me. My wonderful new friends.  Hunter was so cool and Lily was beautiful. If only they could have noticed me while we were still in school.  We could have all been friends then. Lily’s bright eyes looked down at me with concern. Maybe she would be my girlfriend if I asked.  I giggled. It was too soon for that.

Hunter and Lily looked at each other.  “Is he drunk?” Lily asked. “I didn’t smell anything in that drink.”

Oh yeah.  The drink.  Honey and strawberries.  I needed more. I sat up and looked around.  I was on a sleeping bag in a room with a bunch of other sleeping bags and a few sleeping people.  There wasn’t anyone in here passing around the drinks though.

“I’m not sure,” Hunter said.

“I’m not drunk,” I said.  “You guys are funny.”

I could see a bean bag and candle through a small opening in a black curtain.  I began to crawl to the opening. Hunter grabbed the back of my shirt.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

I pointed.  “To get a drink.”

“No,” Hunter said.  “You’ve had too much to drink.”

“He’s been asleep for a long time,” Lily said.  “I thought he would be fine when he woke up.”

“Me too,” Hunter said.

“The others must be worried about us,” Lily said.  “I hope they don’t come looking for us. We need to get out of here and get back to them.”

“I agree,” Hunter said.  “Darren! Stop moving!”

I was trying to crawl to the opening despite his firm grip on my shirt.  Maybe I could slip out of it. I started to squirm and shift. The shirt lifted up along my back and stomach.  Now I just needed to stretch out my arms and off it would come.

His arms wrapped around my bare skin and pulled me to him.  I tried to get away. I pushed. I pulled. I squirmed. I tried to crawl away, but it didn’t matter what I did, because he was stronger than me.

“Darren!  Stop!” There was something in Hunter’s voice this time that made me pause and look at him.  His face was red, but I couldn’t tell if he was actually angry or not. I looked at beautiful Lily.  Her eyes shifted between me and Hunter figuring something out, but I didn’t know what. Hunter tugged my shirt back down when I stopped.

“I need to go back out there,” I said to get them to understand.  “I need more of that drink. I’m hungry.”

“If you’re hungry,” Lily said, “then you need food not that drink.  Here.” She pulled her pack around and took out some jerky. She offered it to me, but the sight of it made me sick to my stomach.  I didn’t want to refuse anything from her. Not her, but I was going to throw up if I kept looking at it.  

I pushed it gently away.  “Not that,” I said. “The drink.  I need the drink.”

Hunter collapsed to the floor as if my words had just sapped all his energy.  He rolled his eyes and sighed heavily.

“Darren,” Lily said.  She reached out and touched my arm.  My breath caught in the back of my throat.  It wasn’t skin on skin contact, because I had long sleeves on, but still this beautiful young woman was touching me.  Maybe there was hope for the two of us yet. “Are you listening to yourself?” she asked me.

That confused me.  Of course I was listening to myself.

The curtains opened and the woman with the long black hair walked in followed by a very tall, muscled man.  He might have been a bodybuilder before the zombie apocalypse happened.

“You’re awake,” she stated.  Lily and Hunter scooted so they sat in front of me.  The woman smiled, but it was strained, not the welcoming smile I had first been greeted with.  My friends were making her angry. Why couldn’t they just relax? These people were going to help us.  And the drink was really delicious.

“Can I have more to drink?” I asked.

Hunter’s and Lily’s heads swiveled to me looking at me in disbelief, but I couldn’t fathom what the problem was.  It was a delicious, yummy, delectable drink.

“Of course,” the woman said and her smile this time was genuine.

“No!” Lily and Hunter said at the same time.  I liked them, but I was beginning to hate them at the same time.  

“Lily, Hun . . .”  Hunter covered my mouth as if he didn’t want me to say his name.  I grabbed his wrist and removed his hand. “These nice people said they were going to help us.  Stop being rude to them.”

“How?” Lily asked me.

“What?” I asked.

“How are they going to help us?” she asked.  “Have they told you specifics because so far I’ve only seen them give you a drink that made you drunk and tired.”

“I’m not drunk,” I said, but she did have a point.  “How are you going to help us?” I asked the woman. The younger woman came in with a drink.  She smiled kindly at me and tried to hand me the drink. I reached out eagerly for it, but Hunter snatched it out of her hands and scowled at me.  “Relax,” I said to him and patted his shoulder.

I blinked at the woman with the long black hair waiting for her to answer how they were going to help.  She smiled, but it was strained again. “We can of course give you supplies if that’s what you want, but wouldn’t it be better to bring your group back here?  We could give them shelter and protection and all the food they would need.”

I nodded in agreement.  “And the drink,” I said. 

Her smile turned genuine now.  “Of course. We have plenty of that.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said.  “Lily, Hun . . .” Hunter covered my mouth again.  He took his hand away when I nodded that I wouldn’t say his name.  “Why don’t you two go get the rest of our group and bring them back here to safety?” I said.

“Darren,” Lily said, “you shouldn’t trust these people so easily.”

“They’re not going to hurt us,” I said.  I tried to reach for the cup in Hunter’s hand, but he lifted it up and away from me.  I hated being short.

“May I please have some privacy to speak with my friend?” Hunter demanded more than asked the woman.  Her eyes narrowed to slits and her lips pinched tight.  

The two stared at each other for a long moment before the woman said, “I don’t think that is a good idea.  You can speak to him with us here.”

They were being weird.  I just wanted a drink. Lily’s head swiveled worriedly between the woman and Hunter.

“In that case,” Hunter said, “I will go out there and start knocking down candles.  I will drag as many people out of here and onto the zombie infested streets as I can.  I will spit in the drinks you are passing around to people.”

“You think you can do all that before we stop you?” the woman asked.

“Do you want to see how much destruction I can cause before you can stop me?” he asked.  “Are you willing to risk that instead of just letting me talk to what is mine?”

I had forgotten.  The three of us had all said we were each others and I even got to hug Lily.  Hunter had been between us, but that didn’t really matter since I got to put my arms over hers.

I scooted between Lily and Hunter and put an arm around each of their shoulders.  “Ours,” I said. …I did sound a little drunk. Was their alcohol in that drink? But I was a minor.  They wouldn’t serve minors alcohol.

“Fine,” the woman said.  She got up and signaled for her companions to follow her.  When it was just us and the others who were sleeping soundly around us, Hunter turned so he was facing me directly.

He paused before he said to Lily, “Would you please go over there and make sure no one comes in.”  He indicated the curtains. Lily frowned, looked from Hunter to me and back again before she made her way over to the curtains.  She sat down sideways so she could still see us and the opening in the curtains. Hunter signaled for her to turn all the way around.  She sighed, but did as she was asked.

Hunter turned a little more so his back was fully to Lily.  Then he grabbed my knees and slid me along the sleeping bag so I was still directly in front of him.

“Darren,” he said to me.

“Yes?”

He put his hand on my shoulders and leaned in close to me.  “Darren,” he said again, “you need to snap out of this. Lily and I need you so we can all make it back.  Our siblings and friends need you. Your friend, Richard, remember? And your mother.”

“But these people said they can help.”

“They can’t help, Darren.”  He got even closer. His voice took on a commanding quality that held my full attention.  His gray eyes bore into mine like storm clouds overhead. I couldn’t ignore him even if I had wanted to.  I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t close off my ears.

“You can’t rely on anyone, but me, Lily, our siblings, Richard and your mother.  Understand? No one else. And most importantly you need to take care of yourself.  You need to rely on yourself to be able to take care of the rest of us. We need to have each other’s backs.  You don’t want anymore of their drink. You need food and water to survive. We have that. These people in this place are wrong.  Do you understand?”

I blinked as his eyes went back to brown.  My mind was cleared of a fog. I looked around processing where I was for the first time.  It was weird. I didn’t know these people. Why had I trusted them so easily? They hadn’t come to rescue me from that house like Lily and Hunter had.  These people hadn’t gone into Grant’s house with me to save my mother. It was Lily and Hunter who had always been with me. And Richard and my mother and everyone else…well maybe not Grant and his dad.

“You’re right,” I said.  Hunter let out a great breath I hadn’t realized he was holding.  “Let’s go,” I said. The craving for the drink was completely gone now.  I was only hungry. “Lily,” I said. She turned to us. “Can I have some of that jerky now?”

She smiled and said, “Of course,” she moved to retrieve it from her backpack.

Wait…had Hunter’s eyes been gray?  It wasn’t the first time I had thought his eyes had been gray.  It must have been my imagination though because eyes didn’t just change color in that way.

I quickly devoured the jerky Lily handed me.  I looked around for my pack while I ate. It was next to the sleeping bag I had been sleeping on.  I searched through it quickly to make sure everything was still there. It was. I drank my water. It was refreshing.  It wet my dry mouth and soothed my throat. It was just what I needed.

“Ready?” Hunter asked me.  I nodded. He looked to Lily and she nodded.  “Let’s get out of here.”

I was more than ready to comply.  This place had felt welcoming before – like home.  Now it was foreign. I didn’t want to be here anymore.  Hunter led the way into the room with the beanbags and candles.  Lily and I stayed close behind him.

“Would you like that drink now?” the woman with the black hair asked.  She had seemed friendly before, but now there was something menacing about her.  Why had I trusted a stranger?

“We’re going to leave now,” Hunter said.  He grabbed both my wrist and Lily’s wrist and tugged us to the door.

“But we can help you,” the woman said to me as she stepped in front of Hunter.

“We can help ourselves,” I said.  “Thanks for letting us sleep here.  We’ve really got to get back to our group now.  There are people waiting for us.”

The woman frowned.  It caused my heart to jump because she was suddenly terrifying.  Lily brought her ax out in front of her. When I saw that, I took out my knife.  I didn’t think we could fight our way through all these people, but if Lily was going to try I was going to try with her.

The woman’s eyes bored into Hunter’s for several long agonizing moments before she gave the fakest smile I had ever seen on anyone.  She stepped aside and let us go to the door.

“Don’t let us catch you here ever again,” the woman said as Hunter pushed the door open.  “Next time we won’t be so cordial.”

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