rock-269395_640

~~~

Gina woke to the early afternoon sun shining in through the bedroom window. She turned groggily to see if Tony was awake.

His side of the bed was empty; the sheets, cool to the touch. That’s when she realized how late it was.

Fuck me! I never do that! Sleeping in made her feel guilty as hell and then she remembered something that put her at ease: That’s right, I’m not the fucking crises decision maker anymore. Samantha’s got that heavy yoke on her shoulders now.

Gina took a moment to stretch and was tempted to lie back down. Fuck it, it’s not like I can turn on the television or order breakfast in bed. Might as well find out what’s happening out there.

She got out of bed, headed downstairs and was greeted by a flood of activity as Sam’s people were coming in and out of the diner to speak with the short-haired woman that had turned one large corner booth into a makeshift desk. She was currently speaking with the black man that Gina recognized, as well as two others she didn’t.

Sam caught her out of the corner of her eye and gave Gina a brief nod as she continued to talk to her people.

Sam nodded back, feeling ridiculous for just waking up while there was so much activity all around her. This is going to take some getting used to, she thought, referring to the busy atmosphere when she was used to traveling with only a handful of people for so long.

Gina felt self-conscious as several strangers saw her standing on the landing and nodded to her in passing. She smiled and nodded back, not knowing what else to do.

Yesterday, everyone looked to me for answers. Today, I’m just a woman who has no purpose and my standing here like the village idiot is only highlighting that fact.

She slipped out of the diner, grateful that Sam had not called her over. Once outside, Gina was caught off guard again by the amount of activity in the one-block camp. Everywhere she looked people were either on patrol, watching the perimeter, or gathering supplies and placing them in the street. Some walked around with clipboards appearing important as they set about organizing various supplies into groups. And in the middle of all this activity was Tony, bouncing around from one group to the next, smiling at people and shaking hands as if he knew every one of them personally.

Gina marveled at how much he fit in to this camp as she watched several people laugh as Tony joked and laughed with them. He’s found a home here… these people love him. Gina smiled as she watched Tony single-handedly light the fires of good morale among these people. It almost felt like before… when the world was normal and people still socialized.

Tony caught her staring and waved to her. He started over.

Gina wanted to disappear, feeling extremely out of her element, but smiled back instead.

“Hey, did you sleep well?” Tony asked. “I got summoned early this morning. You looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Yeah… the sleep felt good. Thank you.” She struggled for words. “So what’s all the commotion about? Did I sleep through a meeting or something?”

Tony laughed. “If there was a meeting, we both missed it. All I know is that Sam’s all of a sudden in a big damn hurry to pack up camp and move on.” He then smiled and said, “We’re headed to the mountains, Gina. She’s going to follow your plan. Isn’t that great?”

“Wonderful,” Gina mumbled, not able to share in Tony’s enthusiasm.

He gave her a strange look and was about to inquire, but several people approached him with questions. “Just a second, Gina,” he said, giving her an apologetic look.

“That’s alright, Tony, I know you’re busy. We’ll talk later,” she said.

He managed to ask, “Where can I find you later?”

Realizing she didn’t want to sound like the only person not doing anything constructive today, Gina blurted out, “I’m headed over to the jail to talk to Frank. I’ll find you later.”

He gave her a quick wave, already distracted by his people’s inquiries.

She smiled at him and started toward the jail. They’re lucky to have him. She let down her happy mask the moment she turned. Tony had found a way to rise to the occasion in the apocalypse and help people… all she’d done was get people killed.

~~~

Gina entered the jail and found a teenage girl sitting with her feet up on a desk and a pair of headphones on. She was startled by how similar this teen was to Ashley, Greg’s daughter.

Frank saw her enter and walked up to the front of his cell. “Don’t mind her,” he laughed, pointing toward the teen, “she doesn’t even know I’m here half the time.”

The teen, realizing that someone was standing behind her, turned and nearly fell out of her chair. “Shit!” she said. “Everyone keeps sneaking up on me today!”

Gina tried to cover her amusement by placing a hand over her mouth. “Anything good?” she asked.

The girl looked confused. “Huh?”

“Your music?”

“Oh… Oh, right… no way! Fucking Carpenters! Can you believe that shit? I finally get to listen to music and that’s all there is.”

“That is tragic,” Frank added. He looked to Gina and added, “If we want the youth of today to last another week, we really need to find them some Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd or they won’t stand a chance.”

The girl turned to Frank and asked, “Led… who?”

Frank shook his head. “My God… it’s too damn late… they’re doomed.”

Gina started chuckling.

The girl turned back and said, “What do you want?”

“I’m Gina, Frank’s friend.”

“Who the hell is Frank?”

Gina gave Frank a ‘is she for fucking real?’ look.

Frank shrugged his shoulders. “She doesn’t know who Pearl Jam is either.”

Gina smiled and said, “Your prisoner… that would be Frank.”

A light finally came on as the girl snapped her fingers and said, “Wait… you said your name’s Gina, right?”

“A-huh.”

“Yeah… Orosco said you might be stopping by to see this guy.”

“Frank.”

“Yeah… whatever.”

“Whatever,” Frank repeated with a smile.

The girl was getting annoyed. “Look… I didn’t want to do this shit, but it was either watch him or clean guns. Fuck… that!”

“Amen, sister,” Frank said. “That’s why I’m in here. They tried to get me to clean guns but I was like… ‘Hells no!’”.

The girl gave him another confused look and then turned back to Gina and sighed. “He does that a lot. I think that old guy thinks he’s funny.”

“Ouch.” Frank pretended to be hurt.

Gina laughed. “Now that’s funny.”

“Hey… since you’re here, could you watch him for a bit? This shit’s really boring after a while. Like maybe half an hour?”

Gina gave the girl a disbelieving look and said, “Sure… I can watch your prisoner. Go on… take a break. Maybe you’ve got time to hit the record store and get some real music.”

“Already tried that,” the girl said, not catching the joke. “The closest place is outside the perimeter… End of the damn world and all I have is fucking Carpenters!”

“Could be worse,” Gina said.

It was the girl’s turn to give her a disbelieving look. “How?”

Gina was about to attempt a response and then said, “Never mind.”

“Great… so you got this?”

“I’ve got it,” Gina said.

The girl gave Gina the cell keys and bolted out of the jail.

Gina simply stared at the key ring and said, “Unbelievable.”

Frank was laughing his ass off from the cell. “Classic!” he finally said. “Don’t bother letting me out. I’m still cooperating.”

Gina sat down and tossed the keys on the desk. She looked at Frank and said, “Well… I guess if it comes down to it, I won’t have to tie a chain to your cell window bars and break you out ‘old school’ style.”

“So I guess that means you’re here for my conjugal visit?”

“Pig.”

“I couldn’t resist that one.”

Gina let out a long sigh and said, “Seriously… how are you?”

Frank smiled. “Well… the scenery sucks. Other than that, considering the pace of our normal lives, this is almost a vacation. How about you? Are you and your man making up for lost time? I notice your hair’s a bit out of place this afternoon.”

Gina flicked him off.

Frank blew her a kiss.

“Always the smart ass,” she said shaking her head. “You do know you’re in some serious shit here? Right?”

“Are you avoiding my question on purpose?” Frank pushed. “Never mind me for a second. It’s not every day we come across one of our loved ones… in fact… you would the first.”

Gina looked reluctant. “What the hell,” she said. “In a nutshell, Frank, I’m thankful that he’s alive. You can’t imagine what it was like when I saw him standing there.”

“I saw your face… and his. It was pretty obvious. So what’s the problem?”

Gina sneered at him. “My problem is that I’ve been traveling with a fugitive from the Law all this time and I never had a clue. Let’s talk about that, Frank.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Is it true what the cop said?”

Frank let out a sigh. “If I told you that it was, would it make a difference?”

Gina thought about it. “I suppose it doesn’t. I’m the last one to stand in judgment over you.” She shifted uncomfortably. “Did you really throw that cop off a rooftop?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not a nice guy, Gina. We were trapped in a place much like this. I saw an opportunity to save my own skin, and at the time, I would’ve thrown anyone to the wolves to survive.”

Gina considered this. “So you’re telling me that the leader of this camp has a good reason to see you hang?”

“If the situation were reversed,” Frank said, “I would have killed her by now.”

She shook her head. “I don’t believe that for a second. That’s the old ‘you’ talking.”

“Perhaps,” he said. “Doesn’t matter now.”

She gave him a hard look and said, “Of course it matters! What we do now matters more than anything we did before because there’s no one left keeping tabs on all the bad shit we do.”

Frank said nothing.

“I don’t know who this Frank Carman guy is… the one that cop described. The Frank she’s talking about died with the rest of our old lives. The one I know stuck around even when I thought he was going to bail. The Frank I know proved me wrong… and I’m indebted to him.”

“You don’t owe mean shit, Gina,” Frank said, feeling cornered. “I brought this mess on myself… and almost got you all caught in the crossfire. This is where I belong. You shouldn’t have stepped in front of me when that cop had her sights raised… that was foolish!”

“Fuck that!” she said. “Like you wouldn’t have done the same! We’re all we got, Frank. We’re like… we’re like family now.”

Frank had no response.

“We’re family and no one fucks with my family! It’s that simple.”

“Speaking of family,” Frank said, desperately wanting to change the subject, “I guess you’ll be moving on now that you’ve got your real family back. I imagine you and Tony can disappear into the fucking sunset somewhere and try to live out whatever life you can. Just make sure you have lots of sex- ”

“I frighten him,” Gina said sadly, staring at the floor. “He hasn’t said that… but I can see it in his eyes. He’s been through some shit like the rest of us but he hasn’t lost his fucking soul like I have… and he sees it. I’m not the woman he remembers anymore.”

“Oh… boo-fucking-hoo!”

Gina turned.

“That’s right… you’re not that weak-ass Gina he remembers. You’re stronger than that girl I first met at the power plant… but you’ve always carried that steel within you. Only difference now is that you’ve been thrown into hell’s forge and have come out refined… able to do what needs done, no matter what.”

“You say that, Frank, like there’s not a price involved… like I haven’t come out of that hell without losing who I am? Well, you’re wrong! I’ve become cold and heartless… fucking ruthless at the drop of a hat! You should see these people outside, they’re still the same! They carry guns and act like they’re tough, but that’s only because they’ve had it easier being in a larger group. They don’t know what it’s like to have your back against the wall with Death screaming in your fucking face! I walk around out there waiting… almost needing for something bad to happen because I don’t know how to fucking be like them now.”

“And that’s the burden we bear, Gina,” Frank said. “We’ve been made hard to deal with the shit storms when they come. We carry around the ugliness afterwards because it’s ugly fucking business we’re forced into. But we fucking do it because someone has to… so they can live like it was before.”

“So what the hell are we supposed to do in between the storms, Frank? Because I don’t have the slightest clue.”

Frank smiled and said, “We try like hell to bask in their innocence… in the fact that they’re still horrified at getting blood on their hands. We soak it in as best we can because there’s no sun in the dark. They’re all we’ve got, keeping us from falling over the edge… and that’s why you grab on to Tony and never let go. You need him, Gina. And believe it or not, he needs you as well. When the lights go out and the storms come… he’ll know just how much he needs you… they all will.”

She stared at him for a long time. “Thank you, for that, Frank. I don’t know if I believe it… but I understand.”

“That one’s for free. Next one’s gonna cost you that conjugal visit.” He winked.

She shook her head. “You’re still an asshole.”

Frank chuckled and studied the face of the sad woman. “Hey… for what’s it’s worth… I’m sorry about that bad shit that happened to you… you know… the rape and all.”

Gina got uncomfortable. “I never should’ve mentioned that. I was… I was not myself that day, on all counts.”

Frank quickly changed the subject. “So… what about that dancing thing you mentioned at the rooftop barbecue in Jefferson? You know, when Meredith bailed you out of answering the old girl’s question.”

“What are you, a fucking elephant?”

“That depends on what we’re talking about: the memory or the trunk?”

She laughed and deflected with a question of her own, “What are your thoughts on the trial?”

“Stephen’s trying like hell to work up a defense, but it isn’t gonna matter. I’ve already talked to Sam. I even apologized for throwing her off the roof… although, I bet I’m not the only one that’s ever wanted to throw her off a rooftop.”

“Frank…”

“She’s made it clear that no matter what, she’s going to see me dead. The trial’s just for her to save face with her people.”

“Well… I’m going to get you out of here,” Gina said. She picked up the keys off the desk and smiled. “And I’m not even going to need these. Sam’s going to turn you over to me.”

“That will be a neat fucking trick, Gina. How are you going to pull that off?”

“By giving her exactly what she wants,” Gina said.

Just then the teenage girl came bursting in. “Hey! You’re not supposed to be alone with him! Why didn’t you tell me that?”

Gina looked at Frank and rolled her eyes.

Frank whispered, “Fucking Carpenters have rotted out her mind.”

Gina handed the girl the keys and she snatched them forcefully from her hand. “I almost got in trouble… I think you need to go!”

“Whatever,” she said to the girl, getting up.

The girl just gave her another confused look.

“I’ll see you later, Frank,” Gina said walking away.

“Oh come on! Don’t leave me hanging!” Frank called after her. “Answer at least one of the questions. I’ll take that as payment instead of the conjugal!”

“I used to be a stripper,” she called back. “That’s all you get.”

“Son-of-a-bitch!” he whispered. “Didn’t see that coming.” He was in serious need of the conjugal visit now.

The teenager watched Gina leave and turned to Frank. “Did she just say she was a stripper?”

“Yeah,” Frank said. “And I’m the lead singer of Aerosmith. She dances at all our shows.”

She looked confused again. “I think the apocalypse is making all of you old people crazy!”

Frank looked at the wide-eyed face on the teen and laughed long and hard.

The girl shook her head and put her headphones back on. She mumbled under her breath, “Old people suck!”

~~~

Next Episode (25-8):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/chapter-25-8-reunions-and-departures/

Previous Episode (25-6):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/chapter-25-6-reunions-and-departures/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 25-7: Reunions and Departures” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. amber says:

    So glad to see more! You truly do have a gift, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see your work published in the near future. I feel so connected to your characters, Gina and Frank being my favorites. I have a feeling I know who Marcus is, but it maybe to soon to be sure! Keep up the amazing work, and thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Thank you Amber for your encouraging comments. Yeah, I feel connected to these characters as well, even the unlikable ones…lol. I hope you stick around for the last two chapters. Reunions is the calm before the final storm :)

      Like

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