I Dreamt of You Ch. 01byrainy_cromwell©
She lowered herself to listen to his heart. It was becoming steadier, more even. When she looked up, she saw the gaunt, white faces of Katharine and Tom staring back at her. Their bodies were stiff with fear and worry.
"He'll be okay," she told them. "He must've gotten into something he was allergic to -- some food or bug bite. We need to keep watch over him though to make sure he's in the clear and doesn't need another shot." Kaden frowned into the medical bag. "We should try to get more medication."
Katharine and Tom hardly heard her last sentence. They both breathed out a sigh of relief, as they scooted closer to their son, their eyes moist.
"We were playing with bugs," came a tiny voice from the front of the tent.
Kaden turned around to see Harry's tiny frame halfway into the tent. He was staring at his feet, cheeks bright red, tears streaming down his face.
"We-we were playing with em' weird lookin' buggins and one-one of em' bit im' right in the hand. To-Todd yelled, things seemed okay for a second but then..." Harry trailed off, hiccupping.
Katharine's face softened. "Come here, buddy, come here. It ain't nothing to be worried about." She looked down at his feet. "But take off them muddy shoes first though."
Kaden smiled before realizing how drenched her clothes were just from the sprint to Todd's tent and how muddy her own feet were since she hadn't even bothered to put on shoes. "Oh God, I'm sorry," she said, jumping to her feet, realizing she'd made the tent floor dirtier. "I'll clean it up right away."
Katharine gave her a look, one that said you wouldn't dare even think of it. She told the girl, "Go get some warm clothes. I couldn't be more thankful, sweetheart." She motioned that she'd get up to give her a hug but Harry was already in the process of filling that spot. Kaden smiled, lifting a hand to wave goodbye to the two parents and then stepped out of the tent, exhaling as she stepped outside.
"He's okay, I take it," came a deep voice to her left.
She jumped and saw Charlie crouched on a log near the tent. "Yeah, he is hopefully. We'll have to keep an eye on him though."
They were quiet. The rain had let up and now just drizzled onto her nose. She couldn't see his face, he was looking down at the ground.
"Please come here," he said, his voice so quiet she wasn't sure she heard correctly. In case she had, Kaden stepped closer to him, her toes curling into the mud. She'd need a helluva rinse before she could step back into her own tent.
Charlie looked up at her, squinting from having been looking down. He took her hands into his, both of their hands were cold and he led her closer to him so his face was level with her stomach. Her heart was beating so hard that the light fabric of her sweater moved up and down along with it. Then, he let go of her hands and stood, becoming so much taller than her in that one motion. He wrapped his strong, lean arms around her thin shoulders, holding her tightly, his face buried into her dark hair. Silently, she sobbed.
They didn't say anything. They didn't say a word.
"Make sure he stays safe as an alleycat -- surrounded by dangers but smart as a whip," Todd's mother Katharine told little Harry.
The little boy nodded, wide eyed as Todd rolled his eyes. At fourteen years old, he still felt he was invincible.
They were on their longest journey yet now. After three years of failed equipment, of radios that might work but didn't pick up anything, Alanna's father had screamed with disbelief when finally his beloved antenna picked up on a radio station. It was broadcasting the destination of a huge refugee camp the government had set up -- a camp that was three states away from their current location.
Kaden quickly tied her hair back into a braid and walked through a vast field alongside Mathilda. The group didn't talk while they trekked, they were quiet and thoughtful. This time, they were making their way toward town to see if they could get any cars. Before they had no use for them since it seemed the world had fallen apart and there would be nowhere to go.
She'd thought that after their embrace, Charlie would be talking to her more but he was hardly paying her mind. He was walking next to Katharine and Tom though and not Alanna, so that realization made her feel a tiny bit better.
That night, they hadn't found a town yet and so they scouted the area and set up camp. They rose quickly the next morning and continued this same routine for three days, growing more and more weaker until they finally fell upon a small but decent sized downtown area.
There were four or five dead-walkers roaming aimlessly around the main road and it was decided that only a few would go in while the others waited on the outskirts. Needing medicine, it was decided Kaden would join a group of four men and one other women. Much to her chagrin, the group of men included Elias and Charlie.
It was hard to break it off with someone you saw all of the time, especially in a predicament like this. Elias didn't understand. After all, it was the end of the world, it wasn't as if their schedules didn't match or there was someone else (at least not to Elias's knowledge), they got along decently enough and so why did she want to stop? But he was nice enough to back off and act cordial, if cold, to her.
To save time, Anthony, one of the men, decided it would be Easton and Kaden to go into the store pharmacy. Charlie opened his mouth, about to say something but Easton murmured under his breath, "Don't worry, I've gotten better with the knife." Kaden pretended like she hadn't heard.
The group set off in different ways. Despite Easton being a talker, he remained silent, both of them on alert. They crept up the steps to the pharmacy and Easton held her back, indicating he'd be going in first. He gave her a crooked smile.
"You're the goods here," he told her.
After a few minutes, she heard the toppling of one, then two, then three corpses and Easton returned out on the porch, motioning her inside. His knife was covered in dark blood.
While Easton kept guard, Kaden scanned the aisles, grabbing everything she needed from the over the counter areas. The precious medication would be behind the counter though and she went as quickly as she could, stuffing prescription bottle after prescription bottle into her duffel bag. She'd been pouring over her nurse's medical book since their talk of going into town, trying to locate and highlight the necessities for future potential complications. She'd memorized what was most important and made a list of optional medication. This was a small town pharmacy though and wouldn't have anywhere close to what she'd like to have. Antibiotics were the most dire and she grabbed all they had -- the doxycycline, penicillin, azithromycin, tetracycline -- and then wished desperately that pharmacies contained streptokinase or TPA, which would cause the destruction of clots in case of a heart attack or stroke. But these meds remained in hospitals, not pharmacies and going into a hospital, the very site upon which thousands of millions had died and reanimated, would never be an option. Amongst other medications, she grabbed all they had of prednisone, a steroid that worked wonders for allergic reactions, asthma attacks and breathing complications.
"Kaden, we've got to go. There are more and more coming," came Easton's voice suddenly.
Alarmed, she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and dashed toward the front entrance where Easton was craning his neck out the door to gather what was going on around the circumference of the shop.
Kaden also peered outside and saw a few "goners"
(this was a common slang name for the infected) in front of the shop and at first, thought it would be no problem. However, as she peered further out the window, she saw a mass of them in the distance, not yet close enough but not yet far enough either.
The rest of the group on the outskirts probably hadn't yet see them coming. Faintly, Kaden heard the sound of an engine revving, meaning the others had found an automobile, hopefully more than one. Logically, they would go to the ones on the outskirts first since they had nowhere to hide, they were out in the open and there were more of them that needed to be saved. Coming to the pharmacy with a loud vehicle would only cause the goners to head even more directly for the town. Easton and Kaden could try to hide and perhaps if they were quiet enough, could outlast the herd of goners as they passed through.
"Go where?" she whispered yet Easton didn't have time to respond. A black, mud-stained Jeep sped towards the pharmacy and the few goners who were already in the street turned their heads towards the noise, changing their prior sense of direction to head towards them.
The two of them ran towards the Jeep, opening the door and crashing into the seats. The goners were already scratching at the sides of the doors, their dead faces emotionless and vacant apparent in the tinted windows. Charlie sat grim faced in the driver's seat, hands poised on the steering wheel, and then sped away towards the group.
Behind them, the mass was steadily making its way towards them, towards the noise.
It looked like they had found two other cars, a truck and a van that had already picked everyone up and was now waiting for Charlie's return. Without anyone getting out, the three vehicles simply raised an arm out the window in salutation and thus began their trek north.
That nightfall, most of the group slept inside of the cars although Easton, always the trooper, and his wife, whom everyone also equally adored, slept in a tent so that others had room. Four could fit in the Jeep and with the doors locked and their plush duvets that they'd had to use in their tents for so long, it was the safest anyone had felt in a long time.
Charlie slept across from Kaden in the reclined driver's seat while she lay in the reclined passenger seat. Lindsay and Anthony slept in the back. She felt safe but she also felt strange. Like the others, she'd had her own routine of life: that of going to school, eating dinner with her parents, studying on days she'd rather not be studying. For three years her life had been one of fear, one of despair, one of not ever knowing what was going to happen. But she reminded herself of the refugee camp, of the possibility it could restore. She wanted to believe her life wouldn't just consume of fleeing. Fleeing wasn't productive to building anything. All it did was keep you alive, although that was certainly a prized possession, as well.
Feeling eyes on her, she turned and saw Charlie watching her. They were barely illuminated in the moonlight but still she could see his handsome features. He smiled at her, a small smile that didn't show his teeth. She returned a sad smile in return and then he turned away, closing his eyes. She didn't know what to feel from that gesture, sadder or happier, she didn't know.
They reached the refugee camp in the north in two days. At one point, they could only accumulate enough gas for the truck and the Jeep and so those in the van, which had been able to hold the most people, had to ride in the back of the truck with all of the equipment that had once ridden on all of their backs as they traveled across fields and towns. Kaden and Charlie both opted for the uncomfortable back of the truck to allow those who had already been sitting in it time to sit in a real chair. He kept laughing at her as her hair flew around her face, no matter how many times she tried to tie it back.
The refugee camp was huge, careening a large border whose soldiers walked the length of, rifles and other assorted weapons in tow. Someone spotted them and almost immediately, a representative came forth on the other side of their cage. Was it them who was in the cage because it was they who were with the zombies or was it them in their enclosure safe from the infected dead? Who was considered inside and who was considered outside?
They had a whole system of checking everyone out to see if they were infected. Doctors were issued to check their state of health in a rather demoralizing way. They were asked to strip naked and every inch of them was to be examined for bites or other potential infections. When it was Kaden's turn, her cheeks burned and her breaths were shallow. Although she knew her group was respectful, there would always be someone glancing or looking. She had lost a lot of weight, how could anyone not? Elias had once traced her spine, joking that soon enough everyone would look like reptiles with their bumpy, spiny backs. Charlie wasn't far after her but contrary to her, he stood with a straight back, at ease with himself. He, too, was far thinner though and she couldn't help but look at him out of the corner of her eye. He had a farmer's tan yet it rippled throughout his lean muscles. Having only had to feed himself for three years and seemingly having been adept at it, too, he didn't look as emaciated as some of their other group members.
However, to their shock, it was found that a quieter man in their group, a man named Reynolds who had always pulled his weight for the camp, was infected. It appeared it had happened when they were searching for cars but he hadn't said anything. It'd been three days since the event and they all noticed him looking a little ill but he had shrugged it off well.
Upon seeing his infection, Lindsay screamed at him. "You could've killed us all! We worked so hard and you could've been our damnation!"
Everyone stared at her and Reynolds, whose face was so ill and pained it radiated into everyone's sympathy.
Lindsay's husband, Anthony, placed his hand on her shoulder firmly. Under his breath, he said, "Think of how he feels. He's going to die, Lindsay. Have some goddamn respect."
She whipped her head around to glare at him but he wouldn't have any of it. Eventually, she just sighed and the scanning process returned to normal orders. On their way out, she saw Easton grip him in a tight hug. Reynolds didn't cross the barrier with them.
Next they were assigned different housing areas. The housing officer told them to make sure they wrote who their family was so they knew to keep them together. The camp was so large that it could span over an hour to cross one side to another with a car.
Kaden wrote down her logistics and noticed Charlie standing behind her. She raised her eyebrows at him.
"We're not getting separated," he said matter-of-factly, not even looking at her. "Write it down on your paper."
She saw Alanna staring at them out of the corner of her eyes. Kaden felt a flutter in her stomach, despite the fact that he'd barely spoken to her the past few days and now there was this.
The group that had been together for three years would spend one last night together in the same area, although separated into different residential homes, and then everyone would go there different ways the next day.
At dinner time, her stomach growled at the sight of food. Food Katharine didn't have to slave away on, food that didn't have to be caught by them, food that wasn't constant fish and slop. It wasn't buffet style, there wasn't nearly enough food for them to revert to the type of American lifestyle that they'd been living before but it was so much more plentiful than they'd had for the past three years.
Kaden had to remind herself to eat slowly and savor it rather than gobbling it all up like she wanted to.
"You better eat more than that. I saw how skinny you were when they took off your clothes," Charlie told her whilst digging into his own plate.
Kaden gaped at him. "You saw me when I was naked?" she asked incredulously.
As he cut his chicken, she could see him bite back a smile. "I saw everyone naked."
"You weren't suppose to look!"
"I saw you looking."
Kaden's jaw dropped and she could feel the tips of her ears getting rid -- a telltale sign of her embarrassment. If he'd seen her looking at him while he was naked... "No you didn't. I wasn't looking."
"Then maybe you were just looking at me." Charlie grinned at her.
For this, she had no good comeback. She could feel her cheeks flame red. He made her so nervous even though they use to be so comfortable around each other. She used to turn around in the middle of the night when he had held her after her mother's death and face him, nuzzling her face into his chest. They used to be that comfortable and at ease although the darkness of night was always a great shield. Even now, years later, before she fell asleep she'd imagine his arm around her. It had given her hundreds of nights worth of comfort.
"I... it's hard not to glance at naked people," she finally managed to reply.
"Oh, so, it wasn't just me. You were checking everyone out, like Easton and Catie and Alanna..."
At this, Kaden bristled. He must've been looking Alanna up and down, too, acknowledging her appeal. Alanna, unlike Kaden, had not burned in shame at being stripped naked.
But why should she be angry? It wasn't as though Charlie had told her he had feelings for her. If anything, he made it obvious that he thought of her as something he needed to take care of, a pet, a sentimental endearment whereas Alanna was the one whom he'd probably sleep with sooner or later.
Kaden rubbed her eyes, exhausted with herself. Perhaps she'd been wrong to let Elias go, perhaps he would be the only one to ever love her. She knew she was attractive enough to catch the interest in somebody else but years of seeing her father cheat on her mother pre-war made her wonder if she'd ever be enough for someone.
"What's wrong?" Charlie asked her, his fork hanging in mid-air, dangling some rice and curry. He was frowning at her. "Your face just went through like ten different emotions."
"I'm fine," she answered curtly, still annoyed with him for bringing up Alanna, although she knew he didn't do it purposefully to anger her. Her eyes scanned the mess hall and saw Elias eating with a few other men and ironically, Alanna and her father. She watched him casually conversing with another guy until Elias's blonde head looked up, catching him looking at her. They stared at each other for several seconds, far longer than a normal stare until Kaden looked away, wondering what she was thinking. She broke it off with Elias for a reason, it wasn't just because she'd been missing Charlie. There were things Elias had done in his past that she disagreed with, along with traits about him that she just couldn't shake off.
A long time ago, pre-war times, her friend had told her, "It's not about trying to find someone better. It's about finding someone more matched to you."
Charlie watched her gaze across the room and followed that gaze to see Elias, a guy a year or two younger than him looking at Kaden. He tensed immediately. So it was him that she liked. She'd forgotten about Charlie. He didn't blame her, he'd been gone for so long anyways. Yet he could feel his heart sinking, being crushed. His throat constricted, it became hard to swallow. He raised his eyes to see her face, she'd gone back to consuming her food. Her lips were red from the cold conditions they'd had to endure and her cheeks were pale except for where a slight pink tinged her cheekbones. Her hair, wavy and messy, as if she'd been on a windy beach, was tucked behind one ear. She was beautiful. He'd thought for so long she was his. Scratch that. For so long, he'd wanted her to be his.
She glanced up at him, almost scowling. She was annoyed with him for some reason. He didn't know why. He plowed into his food, telling himself not to think about it.
"So, want me to put in a good word for you?"