“Go do the shopping, Claire. Go babysit Luke, Claire. Go cook dinner, Claire. Do I look like a damn Maid? Should I do the laundry while I’m at it?!” I wouldn’t be surprised to see her stomp her feet as she walks, but she doesn’t. Her face is red, though, like she’s clenching her teeth too hard. Claire really hates being charged with menial tasks while everyone else takes care of ‘adult’ business. I don’t care as much. They expect nothing of me and I like it that way.
“I don’t need babysitting,” I mutter as I follow behind her. She’s the second youngest here. Only 4 years older than me, but sometimes she’s treated like she’s a child. If there are groups of creepers, John has a tendency to stand in front of her. I think he thinks he’s being chivalrous.
“Very important job though,” I try to cheer her up a bit. “Can survive much longer without guns than we can without food.”
“Yeah,” she sighs. I can hear her taking deep breaths. I try not to watch her chest as she does so. She doesn’t have much there, unlike Lucy, but she’s got the only pair close to my age. Lucy’s, like, older than my mom so that’s just gross.
Older than my mom was.
She died in the first days. I don’t even remember how long ago it was. Just a few weeks, I’m sure. Not more than a month.
I wish I had saved some photos.
I follow Claire across the parking lot, stopping a moment to admire a red Ferrari. I do it more to reset my mind. Stop thinking about the past, just focus on the present.
Dayum. This thing has more red than a Quentin Terrantino film.
I chuckle out loud at my own genius humor.
“What are you laughing about,” the disgruntled one questions.
I almost say ‘your face’ but she could beat me up.
“Why is zee chickun cross zee road?!” I try out my best Schwarzenegger impression.
“Oh god, no,” Claire covers her ears and runs toward the store.
“To get to zee other side! Yahg yerg hergle!” The key to the joke is impersonating his laughter as though it were the absolute most hilarious joke on the face of the planet.
Claire’s standing just outside the door as I catch up. She’s waiting, staring at the building. The store still has power. Its odd, finding a place with electricity still. None of us have seen any lights or heard any music in weeks. The power grids went down only a week into this mess. But here it is, a store with automated doors, fluorescent lights and some cheesy piano music over the speaker system. She puts her arm out to stop me as I pass her.
“I get to do it,” she says with a grin. She steps forward, triggering the door sensor to open the door. It slides open in front of her and she just beams with delight. “How you miss the simple things. Go for it.” She nods to words the row of shopping carts. I know what she means.
I cross the gap to the carts and give it the hardest kick I can muster. The front two in the row topple over, clanging on the ground. The whole row rattles loudly. I wait a few seconds, my hand on my gun, then I kick it again.
Another few seconds pass before Claire nods at me.
“I think it’s clear,” she says. I pull a cart from the line and roll it towards her. She takes it and I take another for myself.
“You know the drill, anything in a can or with a long expiration.”
I nod. We’ve done this three times together. She thinks it’s a more dangerous job than John gives it credit for. ‘If another group is going to guard anything it will be their food,’ she had told the group. John said it was the guns, and that prompted her to use the line about surfing longer without guns than for that I had just given her. She’s pretty bright. She told me once she’s seen almost every zombie film in existence, and wrote an essay in high school about surviving a zombie apocalypse.
I told her she was a nerd.
While I was busy thinking, is seem to have accidentally wandered down the candy aisle.
Well, since I’m here.
I make the best of this… blunder… And start scooping things off the shelves; candied chocolates, crispy bars, caramel things, chocolate covered everythings. Just grabbing the boxes and tossing them in. Anything that looks sweet goes in the cart.
Don’t forget the white chocolates, Claire loves those.
Next stop, soda!
I round the corner of the next aisle and stop dead in my tracks. My eyebrows raise, eyes widening. My heart skips a beat.
“Holy shit,” I mutter quietly.
Where is Claire?
I step back and glance down the back aisle. I don’t see her, but I can just barely hear another cart on the other end of the store. I grin and move over to the magazine racks opposite the soda. No daily living celebrity crap, I reach for the good stuff on the top shelf.
The ones behind the censor boards.
“Sweeet,” I can hardly contain my excited. My dad confiscated my magazines a few weeks before everything went down. I’ve been solo since. I stick a few of them in my waistband and hide them under my shirt, then grab the soda. I’m settling a case in the cart when Claire rounds the corner. He gun is drawn and she is crouching, being stealthy. I immediately crouch as well, ducking behind the cart.
Oh crap, they’re in here? There might have been a few hiding in the back. We didn’t even check.
“Where are they?” I ask, quietly, as I fiddle with my holster and draw my gun.
“Shh. There’s someone here.”
Someone? I mouth the word at her, my brows furrowed. She nods and motions for me to follow her. We move down the aisle and turn into the center lane, sidling up to the corner where we can see the front of the store. I peek around. Some dude in a bathrobe is casually strolling up to the front door. Claire’s cart is by the door, but the guy ignores it. He seems rather carefree as he grabs a cart. No sound checks. Not even a decent visual check. Just walks in like it were 1999.
Dude must be some badass survivalist.
“I saw him pull up, came straight for you.”
“What do we do? Is he armed?”
“I don’t know,” Claire seems a bit exasperated. She shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t have x-ray vision.”
I look to the door. “We can make it.”
“No,” she says quickly. “It’s a long run from here to the rv, across open ground. If he sees us, and if he IS armed, we’re toast.”
She’s right, of course. The parking lot is a long distance to cross.
“So… just avoid him? Hope he doesn’t see us, and shoot him if he does?”
Claire nods in agreement.
We move slowly from aisle to aisle, following the stranger as he goes about. He whistles a few tunes as he browses the frozen foods.
Idiot. Just begging to be attacked by those things.
“He’s just driving a small car,” Claire states, watching the dude pile more and more into his cart. “He must have a camp nearby.”