Part 1. Hope you like it. Merry Christmas! 🙂 ☃
“Aaron, we do not throw the meatloaf at our brothers, we eat it!” I snapped at Aaron, snatching his plate away from him. Aaron was now six, a nasty little troublemaker, Jacob was eleven, William was fifteen, and I was nineteen. Twenty in a couple months.
I felt so much older. Our old lives seemed like a dream—I did all I could to let the boys have their childhoods. I did all I could, and they were still definitely children, but there were moments, especially with Will, where I could see the adult characteristics that children their age should never have to have.
We all had calluses on our hearts from what had happened to our parents and everyone else that we loved.
I was just trying to soften theirs, even if it meant leaving mine to harden into rocks.
The boys and I had a routine. We woke up, got breakfast, and then Jake took Aaron to the daycare section while I went off to work in the mess hall and Will went off to do maintenance work around the facility. Then, after Will and I had each clocked in our four hours, we got the two younger boys from the daycare section, got lunch, and then played or read or watched an old movie on one of the few DVD players scattered around the safe house-made-prison.
I often wrote. I had about seven journals, filled with the stories of everything that had happened—pre-virus, during, and what happened after. Just everyday accounts. Of…everything.
Today, the boys wanted to watch Angels in the Outfield. One of their favorites from … before.
“Boys, do we even know if anyone has it?” I asked. They had decided on the movie, but it all depended on what was lying around the building.
“We can ask,” suggested Jake.
“Well, yeah, but how many people do you think brought old DVDs here?” I pointed out.
Will spoke up. “Some people did, and there were already some here.”
“Let’s just go ask. It’ll be fine. If they don’t have one, we’ll just watch something else,” Aaron said sensibly.
“Okay,” I sighed. “Go find yourselves a movie, then.”
As it turned out, someone did have a copy. I wheedled some popcorn out of the head cook, who had a soft spot for me, and we cuddled up on a couch and watched the movie. It was nice. It felt very homey.
Until I looked around and realized that we were in a former prison, and that everyone I cared about, but the three hooligans around me, was dead.
If you were to ask me, I’d be the first one to admit that I was not okay. I didn’t like getting out of bed in the morning. The world was gray. The only thing that kept me present was the boys. I loved them so much—I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them alone, to have to grow up as fast as I had.
It wouldn’t be fair.
It wasn’t even that I was sad. I used to be sad. Now it was just a void. Free of feelings. It was simultaneously freeing and a crushing weight. My feelings were just…dead. I still loved the boys, but I didn’t love anything else. The boys were the only thing I could love.
So I held on to that, and used it to push myself forward. Every day, every hour, every second.
The movie ended, and the boys headed down into the courtyard to play. I watched them out of the window, when there was a tap on my shoulder.
“Sorry,” the girl behind me said. “But all residents have been asked to report to the gymnasium. There’s an announcement.” She nodded out the window. “You should round up the kiddies and head over. They’re going to make the announcement in a half hour.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll be there.” My thoughts were racing. An announcement? Could it be…
A half hour later, the elected president of our safe house announced something groundbreaking in his deep, booming voice.
“The virus has died.”
The gymnasium exploded into excited and scared chatter. Where were we going to go? How were we going to clean up the mess of the world? What if there were still contagions that could start the whole thing up again?
I stayed silent. We could start over. We could leave here and start over, and that was all that mattered to me.
Our presidents spoke again. “There have already been teams dispatched to begin to clean up, and there are centers for volunteers to receive instructions. Any help is welcome.” He rattled off the addresses of places to report to. I decided we wouldn’t be helping that particular effort—I had to care for the boys, and the boys just couldn’t. “The preferred timeline is that all safe houses be cleared out within the week. As soon as you can manage. Most of you drove a car here, and if you didn’t, transportation to the city of your choice will be arranged. As of right now, the policy for housing is first come, first serve. No rent will be expected of anyone for the time being, until we reestablish at least some rudimentary form of economy and government. Thank you, and stay safe and healthy, everyone.”
My ears rang with everyone’s cries of joy, and some of dismay. People weren’t sure what to do with this news. I knew what I was going to do.
“Come on, boys,” I said over the din. “We need to pack.”
We had some food, generously packed with some extras from the head cook, our bags, and a few pieces of furniture all loaded into the bed of the truck as we pulled out of the safe house.
“Everyone buckled?” I asked. There were affirmative noised from the backseat.
“Evie, can we go to Salt Lake City?” Jake asked.
I swallowed hard. I knew why he was asking. Salt Lake had always been the “special place” for our family. We always went there on vacations, and it was where our grandparents had lived. I pushed all of that out of my mind.
“Sure. Let’s live in Salt Lake City.”