“Let’s stop here for the night,” Darren’s mom said. We parked our bikes and got off. I thought my legs were tired after that first night with the zombies, but after riding the bike all day, my legs felt like mush. I collapsed to the cold ground and tilted my head to look up beyond the boughs of the trees. The reddish sky peeked through the boughs. The sun was setting. The wind rustled the tree branches. The tops of the trees especially moved erratically.
Mackenzie sat next to me and placed her head on my shoulder. “I’m sorry I couldn’t peddle the bike more,” she said.
My sweet sister. It felt so good to be reunited with her. I tilted my head so my cheek was on the top of her head. Her hair tickled and pricked my cheek but I reveled in that moment. She was alive. I was alive. Neither of us were zombies. We were with a mostly good group of people who would watch out for each other. Except for Grant or his dad.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” I said. “I’m too heavy to expect you to be able to peddle both of us.”
“You’re not fat or anything,” she said. I smiled at her trying to console me. I wasn’t upset though. I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t model thin either and that was okay with me.
“I’m really tall though,” I said, “and that can add weight and make it awkward for you. Don’t worry about it. It’s good for me to build up this muscle. Especially if are going to survive this zombie apocalypse. My arms and legs ached so much after that first night, but I was able to build up muscle to help me fight off the zombies that come our way.”
Maria came and collapsed on the other side of me. She curled an arm around mine. “Life is so crazy now,” she said. “How did this even start? We’re supposed to be safe at home right now. Or maybe at a football game? Is it friday? I’ve completely lost track.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
Victory walked along our new campsite gathering firewood. She was looking under pine trees trying to find the driest sticks and branches. Juan and Arthur were helping her. Arthur kept glancing at Mackenzie. He might have had a crush on my sister. Or maybe he was just concerned. It had been a harrowing past several days.
Monica came over to us and crouched low in front of my sister. “You have more don’t you?” she asked quietly so no one else could hear. It kind of sounded like a drug deal, but I knew that wasn’t what was happening. I had no idea what was happening.
“Yeah,” my sister said equally quiet. “But we’re really going to need to get more soon.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
They both looked at me, but didn’t answer.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” Marcos announced in his small child voice. He tugged on Richard’s hand as he said it.
“All right,” Richard said easily and picked up the three year old up in his arms. He started heading off, but not before he motioned for Darren to go with them.
“That’s a good idea,” Darren’s mom said.
“Us too,” Monica said, but she didn’t say it loudly. She mainly said it to Mackenzie. Mackenzie nodded and stood. I missed her warmth by my side.
Juan and Arthur went with Richard, Darren and Marcos.
“We’ll go with you,” Maria said to Monica and Mackenzie. She tugged my arm until I stood up.
Victory, Darren’s mom and Hunter started to build the fire while Grant and his dad went off into the woods in the general direction Darren and the others went.
Maria and I followed Monica and Mackenzie in the opposite direction from where the boys went.
“Are you going to tell me what you were talking about?” I asked. “What does my sister have that you need?”
My sister rummaged in her pack and handed Monica sanitary pads.
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t even think about that. It’s a good thing you think ahead,” I said to Mackenzie. Mackenzie smiled proudly at the praise. I brushed her dirty bangs out of her eyes. How long had it been since anyone of us had a shower? We used the water, to wash our face and brush our teeth in the morning and at night, but we should probably find another solution other than our drinking water. We probably needed to get more water sooner rather than later too.
We separated a little, but were still close enough we could help each other out if we were in danger. We finished and started on our way back, but I grabbed Maria’s arm. “Can we talk a minute before we go back?” I asked. It was clear I meant only me and Maria. Both Mackenzie and Monica frowned. Monica recovered quickly and gave a fake smile that told me she was hurt at being excluded.
It wasn’t like we had been friends before all this happened. We knew of each other. We said hello in the halls, maybe had a few casual conversations, but nothing like friends.
Mackenzie didn’t bother to hide the fact that she was hurt. “Why?” she asked. “You can talk to her but not me?”
“It’s okay,” Monica said. Her voice was not quite the same as usual, but she was trying to not let it bother her. “It’s not like we are really friends. You saved Grant and me from that house full of zombies and I appreciate that. You saved my life.” She took a step away from us, but paused. “I just don’t have any family left alive and all my friends are dead. I thought we were friends now.”
I sighed. “It’s not like that. Okay, you two can stay too, but you have to promise not to say anything to anyone else. Kenzie, you can’t even tell Vicky and Monica you can’t tell Grant or his dad.” I wasn’t sure I could trust Monica, but so far she had helped us fight off zombies, she had shot one of those men that had threatened the group and helped out in general.
“I promise,” she said. “I can keep secrets. Ask, Tanya. Oh. Nevermind. She’s dead. For a moment it felt like we were back in highschool.”
“And I won’t tell Vicky,” Mackenzie said.
We sat down among the brush and foliage.
“So,” I said, “you know how I have a crush on Hunter?”
“Yes,” Mackenzie said. She rolled her eyes.
Maria nodded, but Monica said, “I didn’t know you had a crush on Hunter. Isn’t he gay?”
“That’s just a rumor,” Maria said.
“It’s not just a rumor,” I said. “He confirmed it. He’s gay.”
Monica reached over and patted my leg gently. She was nice. Why was she dating Grant? I almost asked that out loud, but that would have to wait. I wanted to talk about my issue first.
“Oh,” Maria said. “I’m sorry.”
“Did you confess to him and he turned you down?” Monica asked.
“Not exactly,” I said. I looked at each of them in the eye. “This really has to stay between us. It isn’t just about me, but I’m not sure what to do or how I’m supposed to be handling this.” All three of them nodded. “I asked him directly if he was gay and he said he was. Then I asked him if he has a crush on Darren.”
All of their eyes went wide.
“Darren?” Monica asked. “The Darren that is traveling with us right now?”
“Yes,” I said.
“What did he say?” Maria asked.
“He said yes.”
“What made you ask specifically about Darren?” Mackenzie asked.
“Just when the three of us were alone together, I noticed how Hunter would look at Darren. How he would protect him.”
“He protects you too,” Mackenzie offered helpfully even though it wasn’t helpful.
“He does like he would with his sisters,” I said. “Not the same way as he does with Darren.”
“I see why you wanted to keep it secret,” Monica said. “Don’t worry, we won’t let Darren find out.”
“Darren knows,” I said. “There is more.” They waited patiently for me as I took in a deep breath. “It turns out Darren has a crush on me. But I can’t get rid of my crush on Hunter even knowing he is gay. What do I do?”
“The three of you talked about all this while you were out there?” Maria asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Just briefly. Darren asked what we should do and Hunter said nothing. He said we should just remain the friends we are. But it hurts. It hurts watching Hunter look at Darren the way I want him to look at me. And if I’m hurting like this, then Darren is hurting too by the way I look at Hunter and Hunter hurts by the way Darren looks at me. Is there really nothing we can do?”
“Threesome,” Monica immediately said. Maria gasped shocked.
“What’s that?” Mackenzie asked.
“Nothing,” Maria quickly said, “because that is inappropriate.”
“Who says?” Monica said. “We don’t live in the same world we did a few weeks ago and even then, if you’re consenting adults, who’s to say it’s inappropriate?”
“They’re not adults though,” Maria pointed out.
“Maybe seventeen is the new adult age,” Monica said. “Maybe it’s sixteen. It can be whatever we want it to be. In case you hadn’t noticed, the world is in ruins. We can set up our own civilization however we want to.”
“I guess that’s true,” Maria said hesitantly.
“What’s a threesome?” Mackenzie asked again.
“It means all three of them can love each other,” Monica said. “They don’t have to pair off.”
“Oh,” Mackenzie said. “That sounds like a great solution.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I said. “I’m not going to say it’s wrong in this new world or whatever, but it just doesn’t feel right for me, Hunter and Darren. I can’t even picture it.”
“Okay,” Monica said. “Maybe it’s like Hunter says and nothing needs to change or be done about it. Maybe once we meet up with your brother and Hunter’s sister and start our own civilization someone new will come along that you can fall in love with. Maybe there will be someone new for each of you.”
I nodded. “That would make sense. Thanks, Moni.” I didn’t mean to shorten her name like that. It just came out, but her smile seemed to light up the quickly darkening woods so I assumed that meant she liked it.
“Since we are revealing secrets,” Monica said. “Don’t you guys think Richard is kind of cute?”
“Richard?” Maria asked in disbelief. “The Richard traveling with us who is overweight and was wearing a Jedi costume when we rescued him from that room?”
“What’s wrong with his weight?” Monica asked offended. “He has fought off zombies and stood in front of us to protect us when those men showed up. And it’s so sweet how he takes care of Marcos as if he was his own son.”
“I didn’t mean anything by his weight,” Maria said. “I’m just surprised. I thought your type was someone built like Grant.”
Monica shrugged. “I don’t really have a type I think.”
“So are you going to dump Grant and go for Richard?” I asked because I would be all for that. Maybe we could kick Grant and his dad out of the group then. No. We wouldn’t do that unless they did something truly horrible. Putting them out on their own would be like a death sentence with how cowardly they both were.
“No,” Monica said.
“Maybe a threesome,” Maria teased her.
And Monica blushed as her eyes got distant. “I just imagined it,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind it, but I don’t think either of them would like that.”
“No,” Mackenzie, Maria and I said at the same time. Then we laughed.
I didn’t see or hear her, but suddenly Molly was in the middle of us spinning and licking each of our faces. I reached up and patted her soft back.
“What are you girls laughing about?” Darren’s mom asked as she and Victory came walking up to us.
“It’s a secret,” Mackenzie said.
“You’re keeping secrets from me?” Victory asked. She was clearly offended.
Mackenzie sprang to her feet and went to console Victory. “I can tell her Monica has a crush on Richard can’t I?” she asked us.
“Kenzie!” I scolded.
“Sorry,” she said. “It just came out. I didn’t mean to say it.” Why had I told her anything? She wasn’t known for keeping secrets.
“You have a crush on Richard?” Victory asked. “But you’re dating Grant.”
“Yeah,” Darren’s mom said, “I’m all for you breaking up with Grant and going for Richard instead.”
“I didn’t say I have a crush on him,” Monica said. We all stood. “I just said he was cute.”
“I don’t see the difference,” Victory said.
“Me neither,” Mackenzie said.
“We came out here because it has been awhile since you left the camp and we were starting to get worried,” Darren’s mom said. “We also have to go to the bathroom.”
“We’ll go back to the camp now,” I said. Darren’s mom and Victory continued on their way. Molly followed them. The rest of us went back to the camp.