Chapter Twelve

Kieran and I grabbed guns and ammunition from the weapons room. Then we climbed back in the Subaru and took off. I was convinced they were all in Columbus-Belmont park. Jason had all of them. They could be dead by now. Jesus. What had I expected when I told him last night that I was pregnant with another man’s child? He’d been angry. Now he was out of control. What was I going to do?

I raked the nearby area with my gaze as we drove by, looking for bodies. Would Jason keep them all prisoner, sending us fingers and toes? Or had they all been slaughtered and their bodies strewn across the town? Maybe he was planning on hanging them. Maybe the townspeople were thirsty for blood, since we’d killed those boys. Maybe—

But then we saw them. They were all standing beside the road in a huge clump. Hallam was running his hands through his hair and swearing loudly enough for us to hear it inside the car.

Kieran pulled over next to them. I nearly started sobbing in relief.

“Hey,” said Kieran, reaching across the car and folding me into his arms. “It’s okay.”

“I thought they were dead,” I said.

He pulled me close, patting my back. Hadn’t we just been fighting? Why, then, did it still feel so nice to be in his arms? Kieran and I got out of the car. We didn’t slam the doors so hard this time.

“What the hell?” I yelled at Hallam. “We had no idea where you were! I thought Jason had killed you all.”

“We’re fine,” said Hallam. “The motorboat, however…” He stepped aside from the clump of people, and I could see what they were all gathered around.

The motorboat that Kieran and I had dragged here from Georgia had been destroyed. It was riddled with bullet holes. The motor was ripped out and twisted, a deformed hunk of metal. The boat itself had been chopped up. It was in pieces. Holey pieces. It lay on the grass like an animal ripped to shreds by a predator. There was nothing left. It was irreparable damage.

“They must have done it last night,” said Hallam. “It was the noise I heard when I sent everyone out on alert to look for them. When we were searching the area, we must have missed the boat.”

I didn’t know. I hadn’t walked this way. I looked at the ruined boat, feeling glum. We’d never make it across the river now.

Some of the others were trying to pick up the pieces of the motorboat and take it back with them. Hallam waved a hand at them. “Leave it,” he said. “It’s hopeless.” He started trudging back towards the church.

The others dropped the pieces they were holding and fell in behind Hallam. They were a pathetic procession, heads hung. They looked utterly defeated. Kieran and I got back in the Subaru and drove back to the church. We beat them there by a few minutes. When Hallam and the others arrived, Kieran and I were sitting on the front steps of the church.

They all walked by us and into the church. Hallam stopped to ask, “You guys find anything in Clinton?”

I hadn’t been expecting that question, but Kieran saved me.

“No,” he said. “It was like you said. Picked clean.”

“Told you,” said Hallam as he went into the church.

Marlena lingered behind. Once Hallam was inside the church and out of earshot, she said, “Well? Did you find anything?”

“Yeah,” said Kieran, “the assholes that killed my family.”

Marlena looked confused. “The pregnancy tests?”

Crap. I’d almost forgotten about those. I’d shoved two in my pockets, one on each side. I checked. I came up with one severely smashed cardboard box. “I have one,” I said. “The other must have fallen out in the scuffle.”

“Scuffle?” said Marlena.

* * *

The instructions that came with the pregnancy test said that after I peed on it, I had to wait three minutes. It also said that it was 99% accurate, and that if I tested too early, that the negative result might only be because there wasn’t enough pregnancy hormone in my body. But I was over a week late, so I hoped it wasn’t too early. It said that a negative result shouldn’t be read after ten minutes. I didn’t know what that meant.

Two lines meant pregnant. One meant not pregnant. One strong pink line and one faint pink line was still a positive, no matter how faint the pink line.

I hadn’t told anyone I was going to take the test. We’d eaten dinner, which had been a somber affair. Ruining the motorboat was quite a blow. We couldn’t get across the river without it. To get to the nearest bridge we had to cross the Ohio River, which fed the Mississippi and cut across Kentucky. No one seemed in much mood for happiness. Really, it was annoying. Why had the OF sent us all the way out here and then told us to maintain our position? We weren’t moving forward. We were a moored ship. If we didn’t move on soon, we were going to run out of resources. There was only so much we could steal from this area. Things looked bleak.

After dinner, I’d shoved the pregnancy test in my pocket, taken a kerosene lantern, and snuck off to go to the bathroom.

We had a makeshift outhouse that someone had set up near the church, which was basically a toilet seat over a hole in the ground. The thing smelled horrible, and I had this image of dropping the pregnancy test in the hole while I was trying to pee on it. I wasn’t going to go digging for it if that happened. Instead, I was just going to go squat in the woods.

I’d sat for minutes, my bladder begging for release, reading every single word of the instructions twice. Then I’d just gone for it. The whole experience was super gross. I mean, seriously, who wants to hold a little plastic thing in her own urine stream?

But it was done now. I’d recapped the test. It was sitting on the ground. I was pacing and waiting for three minutes to be up.

The sun was going down and the inside of the forest was all bright streams of light and shadows. I surveyed the trunks of the trees, thinking about how trees reproduced. They didn’t have to have messy sex, oh no. There were no weird relationships and wondering if you actually cared about someone. Just wait for the wind to knock your seeds off into the ground. Some of them would take, maybe, if they got buried or if a squirrel ate them and pooped them out somewhere. It was much easier. Trees never even had to worry about being pregnant.

I didn’t want to be pregnant. I stared down at the test, willing it to be negative. I checked my watch. One minute had passed. Wonderful. These three minutes were going to last longer than the car ride from Georgia.

Thinking about the interminable car ride here made me think about Kieran. He wanted a baby. Why? Was he crazy? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Wasn’t the girl supposed to want a baby and the boy supposed to want his freedom?

Was that what I wanted? Freedom?

Not really. I didn’t feel very free right now. I didn’t want to be pregnant because it would make my life miserable. I remembered the dream, waddling around with my enormous belly. How would I function if I was so impaired by my own body? I wouldn’t be able to shoot. Of course, only really fucked up people shot at pregnant women.

Maybe I’d be sort of safe if I was pregnant. At least once I started showing, I would be, I guessed. God. It couldn’t be. Kieran and I had used a condom. We’d been safe. Things like this were only supposed to happen to stupid girls who didn’t pay attention to what was going on. They were not supposed to happen to me, because I wasn’t ready.

Forget shooting at people with a big belly. How was I supposed to shoot at people with a baby in my arms, screaming to be fed? What was I going to do? I was going to be helpless, wasn’t I? I guess I’d have Kieran. Jesus. Maybe that’s why he liked the entire idea. He’d be important. He’d have to protect us. I’d be worthless, nothing more than dead weight.

And I’d be fat. Overall, there seemed to be nothing particularly good about the idea of being pregnant. God knew that when Mina had been complaining about being pregnant, I’d suggested she get an abortion. She’d been horrified. I didn’t think it was particularly nice to get an abortion. I wasn’t sure whether it was actually a baby or a blob of tissue. But I did know that if the option existed for me right now—

But wait. If the option existed for me right now, I’d be in my senior year of college. I’d be almost ready to have a degree. Would I still choose to have an abortion?

It wasn’t like I hated babies.

I didn’t know. And anyway, it didn’t matter. I didn’t have a choice, thanks to the apocalypse. Nothing like all the lights going out to set the women’s movement back a few hundred years, right?

I checked my watch again. Two minutes. Really? It had only been two minutes? This last minute was going to be torture, wasn’t it? I bet that it would feel like it lasted longer than the first two minutes combined.

I couldn’t help it. I snuck a look at the test. Oh goody. Only one line. That was a good sign, wasn’t it? I probably wasn’t pregnant.

I looked at my watch again. Wait. Wait. Okay, I’d wait.

I heard a rustling behind me. I pulled my gun, scanning the area with my eyes. “Hello?”

Maybe it was an animal. Maybe Kieran had followed me, because he’d somehow known I was going to take the pregnancy test.

“Kieran?” I called.

But instead, a girl emerged from the woods, looking sheepish. She had red hair, and she was wearing a long skirt. It was Polly, Jason’s new girlfriend.

chapter thirteen >>