Something shifted next to me causing me to wake up. I kept my eyes closed as my mom got up. The side of me that had been snuggled next to her was suddenly cold. Little Marcos whined. I opened my eyes just slightly and saw the small child shivering now that my mom was no longer next to him. Juan’s arm was around him, but that wasn’t helping at the moment. Both children remained asleep. I put on my glasses. I slid closer to them and threw an arm around both of them. Juan snuggled into me and relaxed. But my back was cold now. I looked over my shoulder to Richard. He blinked at me a moment before he stood up and went to help my mom get the fire going again. I pulled the sleeping bag up further on Marcos.
Maria got up from the other end of our huddled line and started to get cans of soup. I lifted my head up slightly so I could look at Lily. She was asleep, her arms wrapped around Mackenzie. Victory was next to Mackenzie. Her arm was hooked with Mackenzie’s as they slept. Hunter was between Victory and Arthur. Molly was stretched out over Arthur and Hunter. Grant’s dad was next to Arthur sound asleep. Grant slept next to him. Monica was up walking the perimeter of the camp as it had been her watch. I was pretty sure it was supposed to be Grant’s watch too. We didn’t do single watches and I remembered him saying last night that he would take watch with Monica.
Molly was awake and watching hungrily as Maria opened the cans of soup.
“Molly,” I whispered. Her head swung my way and her tail started to gently thump against Arthur. I indicated for her to come to me. She carefully got off Arthur and made her way to me. I scooted out of the way and indicated for her to lie down in the spot I had just occupied. She did and put her head on Marcos’s chest to keep him warm.
I got up and made my way to Richard. He was holding the pan while Maria poured the soup into it.
“Let’s go to the bathroom,” I whispered quietly to him.
He nodded. I waited for him as he put the soup over the fire and then we went off into the woods. I hadn’t heard any zombie groaning that morning, but I listened carefully and was watchful. Even if zombies weren’t around that didn’t mean that those other men weren’t. We separated a little and relieved ourselves.
I looked around just to be sure no one else followed us before I said, “You know how I have a crush on Lily?”
“Yeah. Did you confess? What did she say?”
“I didn’t exactly confess, but she knows.”
“So what did she say?”
We could have headed back, but I leaned back against a cold, leafless tree.
I sighed as the hollow spot in the bottom of my heart began to spread. “She has a crush on Hunter.”
“Oh,” Richard said. “But isn’t he gay?”
“Yeah, but you can’t always tell your heart who to love.”
“That’s true,” Richard said. “I have a crush on Monica, but she’s with Grant. I can’t figure out why.”
“Since when do you have a crush on Monica?”
“Since she shot that guy,” Richard said. “But I think I also might have a crush on Maria.”
He nodded. “When she threw the boiling soup in that other guy’s face.”
Thinking about Richard’s favorite female characters in film, books and video games, he always did have a certain type.
“Hunter has a crush on me,” I said.
“Why?” he said as if he couldn’t believe it was possible for anyone to have a crush on me. “I mean, he’s so cool and you’re . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Not,” I finished for him. “I know. Do you think if I can make myself be cooler, Lily might start to like me?”
“I don’t think it works like that,” Richard said. “And even if it did then Hunter will be left out. Did the three of you discuss this together?”
“Hunter said we should all just remain friends.”
“Then maybe that’s what you should do,” Richard said. “Now is probably not the time for romance anyway. We’ve got to find a safe place to shelter permanently after we get Hunter’s and Lily’s siblings.”
“That’s true,” I said.
“And I really hope my parents made it to the diner and are safe somehow.”
I patted his shoulder. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not know if my family was okay. My mom was with me and my step dad was dead. All our other friends had died at that stupid party at Monica’s house.
We headed back. Hunter, all three of the boys, Grant and his dad passed us on the way. Marcos held Hunter’s hand. When we got back to camp, Lily was watching over the soup. Victoria and Mackenzie were off to the side a little and Victoria was demonstrating to Mackenzie how to hold a bow.
“I want to learn too,” Richard said and made his way to the two girls. Victory was more than happy to show him.
I sat next to Lily near the fire. She smiled at me and my heart beat rapidly against my ribs. This would be so much easier if she felt the same way about me as I did about her.
“How did you sleep?” she asked me.
“Okay. I’m getting used to sleeping on the ground. How about you?”
“I slept fine,” she said. She stirred the soup. “Do you want to get out the rest of the spoons. I went to one of the packs with the camping supplies and took out as many of the spoons as we had. We didn’t have enough for everyone, but we got used to sharing.
My mom and the rest of the girls came back into the camp moments before Hunter and the rest of them did.
“Good timing,” Lily announced. “Let’s eat.”
We all gathered around the soup. We passed the pan around and each took a bite. This process continued over and over until there was just enough left for Molly. My mom put the pan on the ground and patted Molly’s head as she lapped up the soup eagerly.
“Let’s break camp,” Grant’s dad said.
“Actually,” Hunter said, “I was hoping we could spend some time learning how to use ranged weapons. Victory and I can teach how to use the bow and arrow and Lily and Monica can teach how to use the gun. I don’t think we should fire the guns though. We don’t want to draw any zombies or unwanted humans with the sound.”
We rolled up the sleeping bags, washed the pan and utensils we used and put out the fire. As a group, we washed our faces and brushed our teeth. It didn’t take us long to finish packing and then we divided up into two groups. One to learn about guns and the other to learn about the bows. My mom, Maria, Richard, Grant and his dad went to Lily and Monica to learn how to shoot guns.
Richard said earlier he was interested in learning the bow and arrow. I noticed how his eyes lit up when Monica’s name was mentioned to teach about the gun. And Maria was in that group so both of his crushes were there.
I wanted to be in the same group as Lily. For a brief moment, I let myself imagine her behind me holding my arms like you see in movies to help me aim the gun. But guns frightened me. I went to Hunter’s group. I was the oldest one there besides Hunter. The others were Victory, Mackenzie, Arthur and Juan. Little Marcos kept tugging on Victory’s pants legs insisting she teach him too even though she was helping Arthur and Juan at the moment.
“All right,” Victory said to Marcos. She gave him one of the bows. She didn’t give him an arrow. “Practice pulling back on the string.”
Marcos mimicked the movements of Arthur and Juan as Victory went back to instructing them.
“Nock the arrow,” Hunter said to me as he stood beside and slightly behind me. “Pull the string back. Your elbows should be like this.” He moved further behind me and readjusted my elbows with a light touch.
“Maybe I should learn how to use the gun,” I said.
He backed away. “If you’re uncomfortable with me teaching you,” he said quietly, “I can get Victory to teach you. Vicky,” he called out to his sister.
“No,” I said and grabbed his forearm as he moved to switch places with his little sister. “That wasn’t what I meant.”
“What do you want?” Victory asked him.
“Nevermind,” Hunter said. Then to me in a quieter voice he said, “What did you mean then?”
“I didn’t think you were trying to feel me up or anything,” I said quietly and it just felt really weird to say. “It’s just that only kids are learning here.”
“Oh,” Hunter said and his face lightened and he breathed slightly easier. “I think it’s a good idea for everyone to learn both the guns and the bows eventually. You’ll get your chance to learn it and they,” he nodded his head to the group with the guns, “will learn the bow.”
“Okay,” I said. I lifted the bow with the arrow again and drew back the string. “Are my elbows okay now?”
“Yeah,” he said. We spent almost an hour learning the weapons before we decided to load up the bikes and move on.
“No,” Marcos complained when Victory tried to take the bow away.
She bent so she was eye level to the small boy. “I’ll just take it when we are riding the bikes. You can have it back later.”
“But I need one if the bad guys come,” he said in his small voice.
“I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this,” my mom said as she came up to them. “I do think it might be good for him to have some kind of weapon in case we come upon zombies and he is in a situation where none of us can help him.”
“But he’s only three,” Juan said. “He’s going to hurt himself.”
“Am not,” Marcos said.
“That’s why I hesitated,” my mom said. “Marcos, if I give you this knife.” She pulled out a large pocket knife. “Will you promise to only use it if we come across zombies or those bad men and none of us can help you?”
“Yes,” he said and tried to take it from her grasp, but she pulled it away.
“I mean it Marcos. Don’t take the blade out at all unless none of us can help you and you need to kill a zombie or those men. If I see you take it out at any other time, I’m going to take it away from you. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” he said. This time he didn’t impatiently reach for it. My mom handed it to him. He held it reverently and stared down at it.
“Do you know where to stab the zombies?” my mom asked him.
“In the head and don’t let them bite me.”
“Right,” she said. “What about the bad men? Where do you stab them?”
“In the head,” he said.
My mom smiled and patted his head. “That’s right,” she said. “Stab as hard as you can. In the eye is probably the best spot to stab them okay?”
My mom faced the rest of us and said, “The next exit is a super store. I think we should stop there for more supplies.”
“I can just take a small group of us again,” Hunter said.
“No,” my mom said. “What if those men come back while we are split? I think it’s best if we stick together.”
“But what about the zombies?” Hunter said as he looked at Marcos. It would be difficult to outrun zombies with the little three year old with us, even if we were on bikes.
“The only thing at this exit is the super store. I’m hoping not too many people were there on Halloween night and there might have already been people that went through there for supplies that cleared out whatever zombies might be there. We can pick up more bikes, more food, more toiletries, a change of clothes and whatever else we might need.”
“All right,” Hunter relented.
We paired up on the bikes and headed out to the next exit.