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The Way Sorrow Tastes

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 It’s so much better when everyone is in, are you in?

—Incubus

“Please… help me,” Abby whispered, her shoulders aching because of the way she was tied.

In front of her, tethered to poles were Owen, Mel, Yara and Lev, weakened and malnourished.

She saw the woman in front of her. “It’s you.”

Ellie looked at her with her switchblade in hand. She cut her down. Abby fell to the ground and struggled to get up. Ellie kicked her onto her back.

Yara wept, “Abby, get up.”

“Please, no, I have to save them,” Abby begged, holding her hand up.

Ellie thrust her switchblade into Abby’s stomach, then pulled the knife and Abby screamed, her voice high and piercing as she felt her insides spill outside.

Abby woke up in a cold sweat. Her comforter was on the floor. She tried to steady her breathing as the dream flooded back to her.

“Fuck,” Abby whispered to herself, rubbing her eyes.

The Winter Solstice sun rose above the horizon and Abby spent the morning, cleaning and doing laundry for herself and Lev. She tried to sort through her feelings about Ellie. In the back of her head, she always knew the woman killed Mel and Owen. It was something she denied after the theater, seeing that multiple people from Jackson were there.

The less she knew, the better and with Lev sitting in front of her, she tried to let it go. It was better if she let it go. The fear in Lev’s eyes as he said her name as she was about to do what she’s always done—Murder.

Ellie was looking for me. Owen, Mel and her baby are dead because of me. I couldn’t fucking protect them because I left go to get Lev.

Abby remembered what it was like to go back to the aquarium after the theater. She sat over Mel’s body and thought about their last interaction.

“He may fall for your little act with these kids, but I don’t,” Mel said.

“What?” Abby asked, feeling the disdain in Mel’s eyes and her words. “There’s nothing to fall for.”

Mel continued, “Issac’s top Scar killer suddenly had a change of heart? Nothing to do with Owen, right?”

“I haven’t always done the right thing—” Abby responded softly. Inside her, Guilt was clawing its way out as she tried to speak.

Guilt had razor sharp teeth that chewed everything she fed it. Guilt had eyes that saw every sin she committed and her willingness to commit those sins. Guilt saw every smile. Guilt had ears that heard every thought, insult and threat from Abby.

Guilt heard all of the screams of pain, agony and shock. Guilt heard last words from people she murdered, their pleas for mercy. Last but not least, Guilt had a mouth that wanted to scream out all of her transgressions.

Just briefly, Guilt had kicked her in the stomach harder than Mel’s child would ever kick her. Does she know I slept with Owen? And it was enough for her to want to admit it and beg for forgiveness.

“You’re a piece of shit, Abby,” Mel said, her words like a machete, cutting her open so Guilt could roam free. “You always have been,” Mel softly said as Abby looked away from her, but it didn’t cushion the blow.

When Abby was looking away from her, she was thinking of Owen behind her and how she felt when he slid inside of her.

“I’m done with you,” Mel said, shouldering her bag to walk away. She paused, turning to look back at Abby.

“You wanna do right by these kids? Get out of their lives before you screw them over, too,” Mel walked away, disappearing through a door.

Abby turned to the view of plants in front of her, plants encased in water where they could only grow so much and so far, then she kicked a chair out of frustration and turned back to the trapped plants, whispering, “Fuck,” and started to cry.

And over Mel’s body, she cried and confessed to her sins, saying that Mel was right about her being a piece of shit, that she fucked Owen, but she would never ever screw Lev and Yara over.

Before Abby put Mel’s body in the water, she palmed her bare belly, wondered if there was a God for the millionth time, cried and asked Him to look after the unborn child. Then she wondered if she could be pregnant as the water carried Mel and her unborn child away.

Abby had seen more blood from other people than she had of herself.

After all, her period was irregular and when her father gave her the Talk, he said that a lack of food in the ongoing aftermath of the Outbreak made it more difficult for women to conceive. Her father said it was important for women and men to repopulate as the Outbreak could mean extinction. The Fireflies were big on that, too.

Not much scared the shit out of Abby, but the thought of taking care of two children did and it was as formidable as being thousands of feet in the air and falling to her death. It gave her more of a reason to follow Owen’s lead.

Abby threw down the broom and ran her hand through her long, dirty blonde hair. “Fuck, Mel loved Christmas.”

Her thoughts went to Owen and how she sobbed over his corpse. It took her an hour to find the strength to pick up his body. When she laid him down on the sand, she kissed his forehead, his cheeks and his blue lips. He was so cold. She was grateful his face didn’t have a bullet wound in it.

She curled up next to his body on the sand, threw her arm over him and rested her head on his shoulder, murmuring confessions and apologies.

“I got Lev, but Yara died. She was already going to die because a Wolf shot her, then she killed Issac and they opened fire on her. She saved us, gave me and Lev an opening to run. And I killed so many of Wolves, so many Scars trying to get me and Lev out alive,” Abby breathed in sharply, trying to quell a sob.

“I’m going to Santa Barbara,” she vowed to him as she closed his eyes and smoothed back his hair, “I’m gonna find the Fireflies.”

She sobbed as she picked up his body, waded into the water barefoot. It lapped at her shins as she went further. She walked further into the water where it covered her stomach. Abby lowered him into the waves.

We’re allowed to be happy,” she repeated his words, letting him go.

Lev came down the stairs and saw Abby leaning against the kitchen counter, her back to him. The broom was on the floor with a pile of dust and dirt inches from Abby’s feet.

“Abby?” Lev softly said. She didn’t respond. “Abby?” He tried louder. No response. Finally, Lev walked over to Abby, grabbed her wrist, noticed her squeezing the counter hard, and she snapped back.

“Huh?” Abby braced herself on the counter. “Fuck, Lev, I’m sorry, I was just thinking.”

“About what?” Lev asked.

“Owen and Mel, their child. I was thinking about you and Yara,” she sighed Yara’s name. Lev didn’t let go of Abby’s wrist and led her to the couch. Dina followed through on her promise and the dresser, television, and a stack of DVDs made the place feel less empty.

“I miss them, too,” Lev whispered. “If I didn’t leave for the island, I could’ve—”

Abby grabbed Lev and squeezed his shoulders, her face close to his. “No, no, no, Lev, no—Their deaths aren’t because of you. You know what happened and it caught up with me. It was my responsibility to protect all of you from what I did. I don’t blame you for leaving. Please don’t blame yourself.”

Truth is, had everyone been there and if Ellie came anyway, she may have given herself up to her on the conditions she didn’t hurt any of them. Or maybe she would’ve killed Ellie. Abby used to think about both scenarios when she couldn’t sleep after losing them.

Abby rose from the couch. “Dina is coming through to pick us up for patrol. Are you sure you want to come? I can go by myself.”

Lev nodded, the ghost of a smile on his face. “Yes.”

“Okay, wait here, I’ll go shower,” Abby said, ruffling his hair. “You need a haircut, kid.”

×

Ellie sighed as she stepped out of the steaming bathroom, squeezing the towel around her dark, auburn strands. She looked at the clock. A quarter to 10. She was ruminating over the sit down since it happened. Dina left without a word to anybody and slammed Maria’s door on the way out.

When Maria looked at Ellie, Ellie said, “I don’t want to talk about this shit anymore. I’m going home.”

Maria sighed. “Alright, I won’t stop you. Tommy, walk Ellie home.”

Ellie got dressed, pulling on a pair of grey underwear, and over them, a pair of black skinny jeans. They gapped a little at her waist. She pulled a white tank over her breasts and stomach. Finally, she donned a grey long sleeve. She grabbed and adorned herself with her leather jacket and gloves, then heard a knock at the door.

She unlocked it, opened it to Tommy.

Tommy said, “I have some breakfast for you inside.”

Ellie shrugged, “I’m not hungry.”

“That don’t mean starve, Ellie, let me do something nice for you,” Tommy said and Ellie rolled her eyes and followed him out. Tommy took over Joel’s house since he and Maria divorced.

Ellie walked through the door and noticed Tommy didn’t change much. She almost wished he had.

She sat down at the table and Tommy put the plate of food down in front of her, then sat down with his. Sunny side up eggs with bacon and some homemade bread.

Tommy and Ellie finished eating. Tommy sipped at his coffee while Ellie drank a glass of water.

“Since when do you drink coffee?” Ellie asked.

“Well,” Tommy started, glimpsing at the coffee, “Maria’s booze guys know a guy who grows coffee plants in Colorado and uh, we’ve had a steady supply of coffee grinds ever since. The smell reminds me of Joel, so I keep a decent amount in the pantry. It ain’t too bad with some milk.”

Ellie nodded. She smelled the coffee as soon as she’d came in and thought of Joel. He would’ve loved that.

“Dina, Abby and Lev are going on patrol today, maybe they left already by now.”

“Seems like they’re getting along great,” Ellie mumbled, cracking her knuckles.

“Dina’s just trying to do the right thing and we could use the extra help. The girl hasn’t given us any trouble since coming here a few months back. People in Jackson are still scared of her and those who aren’t scared, well, they hate her guts. Hadn’t seen much of her since it started getting colder, people say she’s the Lone Wolf.”

Tommy took a long sip of his coffee as Ellie said nothing.

Finally, Ellie said, “I’m glad she hasn’t given Jackson trouble.”

Tommy laughed, “Look at you, finding something nice to say. I take it you haven’t made up with Dina.”

Ellie shook her head.

“Dina doesn’t understand,” said Tommy. “You know, when you were M.I.A., she told me that your excuse to go to the hospital where Nora was at, she said you used me as an excuse. But she knew why you were going. She knew you were gonna kill Nora and God knows whoever else to find Abby.”

“Oh, yeah?” Ellie said, “I guess Dina thinks she knows everything that goes through my head.”

“No, no, no, no, Ellie, you admitted to it the other day. You said you were hunting Abby. She even lied to Jesse about her pregnancy so you had more time. And I get it, I would’ve done the same goddamn thing. I mean, I was doing the same thing, I was hunting Abby, too.” Tommy rose from his chair and walked over to his coffee maker, pouring more coffee in his cup.

He returned to the table, “And you have to realize that Dina isn’t like us. Now, you spilled a lot of blood you can’t clean. Now, you’re haunted. Even though Dina has spilled blood, too, it was for different reasons. She did what she did to help you. She killed for you.”

Ellie crossed her arms and leaned back in the chair. “So, what are you saying? That I didn’t kill for Joel?”

“Nah, Ellie. You killed for Joel. She just can’t see you. Yeah, you changed, but it’s not just that—Dina looks at you different. How many times did she see you kill somebody out in Seattle?”

Ellie pulled her long sleeve over her wrist. “Too many to count.”

“And when she couldn’t come with you, every time you came back, you had blood on you, whether it was yours or somebody else’s, it don’t fucking matter, that right?”

“Yeah,” Ellie said quietly.

“Did she know you beat that girl in the hospital with a pipe until she talked before this week?”

“No, I never told her how I made her talk,” Ellie answered bleakly. “She knew it fucked me up.”

“I don’t wanna lose you,” Ellie whispered.

“Now, see, you kept it from her, but she already saw enough. When Maria and I were together, I was transparent about the things I’d done. If we’re being honest, I told her, ‘I’d do it again if I had to.’”

Tommy set his hands on the table. “When somebody begs for mercy and you don’t fucking give it to them—You pull that trigger and you realize that killing’s become a way to cope. That’s when you realize you died. Then you can’t live with it, knowing you lived that way, knowing you needed it. Maria accepted that shit.”

“Fuck,” Ellie breathed out. “Fuck.”

“And I still love Maria. I won’t lie to you, Ellie, there were times where I limped to her house, begging on my goddamn hands and knees for her to take me back. ‘I’ll do right this time, I’ll let the Abby shit go,’ and when Abby came here, I tried. I’m still trying,” Tommy squeezed his hand into a fist.

“Man, I’d be lying if I didn’t say for those first couple of weeks, I daydreamed about going to her house and standing over her bed until she woke up, the last thing she would hear is me speaking my brother’s name, last thing she’d feel is a knife in her chest,” Tommy whispered.

Ellie sniffled and adjusted her hair over her shoulders.

“Years and years ago, Maria took me as I am when I came to Jackson, but she couldn’t deal with my guilt, my obsession, my need to hunt. She hated what it made me, what it took from me,” he gestured to his eyes, then he pointed at her missing fingers. “I was a killer again.”

“Dina killed because she had to, Maria killed because she had to, Jesse killed because he had to, but you and I?” Ellie was looking at him in the eye. “We killed because we wanted to and if there’s a God, then that’s the worst goddamn sin a human being can commit in a world like this. There’s only so many of us left.”

“I don’t sleep. I don’t eat… I’m… I’m not like you, Dina,” Ellie whispered as Dina stood across from her.

“I love Dina,” Ellie’s voice cracked.

“But killers belong with killers.”

×

Abby, Dina and Lev reached the outpost and strung up their horses. It was an old building, the paint faded and dull on the walls, deteriorating slowly with cracks and holes, giving view to the foundation beneath.

Abby pet her horse, a black stallion whose name was Diablo. He didn’t belong to anybody yet. Back at the stable, Dina said that he didn’t want to, he was a wild one they’d found last Spring.

Abby could’ve pissed herself when she mounted Diablo and the stallion snorted unhappily, shook his head and kicked his back legs, then took Abby in a few circles outside the gate. She ended up coaxing the horse gently, leaning forward and massaging his neck.

“See, I’m not that bad,” she whispered to Diablo after tying him up, smiling as the horse closed its blue eyes.  

“I’m surprised he didn’t get pissed and throw you off yet,” Dina said, stringing up Mercy, a golden horse with a white mane and tail. She gave Mercy a kiss and she huffed.

“Me, too,” Abby laughed. She looked over at Lev, “Let me help you out, kid,” and she walked away from Diablo over to Lev. The blood bay’s horse was named Hero. When Lev wasn’t with Abby, sometimes he went to go hang out with the horses and Hero took a a liking to Lev, something Abby noticed when the horse was vocal and licked Lev’s face.

“Abby, sign us in?”  

Abby walked over and picked up the pen, she curiously flipped a few pages back and noted Gabriel ran this route with Dina. She shook her head, flipped back to the present, signing 12-23-2040, Abigail Anderson.

“Alright, there’s two buildings that Maria wanted us to check today. We have to go back in the hardware store and go through the stock to look for a few flashlights, as many as we can bring back, the other one is a convenience store need to be cleared, scavenged, the works.”

Fairly easy, Abby adjusted her gear. Maria had given back Abby her guns, but she decided on the shotgun instead of the rifle and took her pistol. Lev went with his bow and arrow, but carried his pistol just in case.

They went for the flashlights first. The stock door was locked and Dina pulled out her lock pick. Lev walked around the shop, looking at the faded labels, picking up destroyed items.

“Who taught you how to pick?” Abby asked, leaning back on the counter.

“My sister,” Dina replied, carefully adjusting her tools, “She could pick a lock in seconds. She was just gifted. It takes me a little longer to do so—Oh, fuck, I got it! She’d be proud of me, that’s a new record.” Dina cracked open the door. “We’re in,” she gestured with her head.

Dina led them down the stairs, their flashlights on and Dina coughed, “Ew, is that—” Abby walked ahead down the aisle, shined the flashlight around the corner, then the other, landing on a skeleton in clothes.

Abby walked over, sighed as she saw the blood stain on the wall, a entry wound on the skull’s temple and of course, the smell of death in a room without ventilation.

She picked up a note and read aloud,

5-18-2035

I barricaded myself in the stockroom, found the keys in the drawer. We were just looking for food, didn’t eat in three days. I left behind McKayla. She got bit as we were running from a group of Runners.  I still hear her screams as the Runners fed on her, she screamed my name. I can’t face her sisters and I’m scared to leave. It’s better that they think we're dead. I loved her and I was supposed to protect her. I promised. I only have one bullet left and I’ll make it worth my while. At least I won’t be living a lie.

Abby set the note down, “Goddamn.”

Dina sighed, tapping her rifle against the floor, “You know, it really sucks when someone just doesn’t come back.”

Lev said, “I wonder if her sisters made it out.”

Abby shined her light above her, eying a series of boxes on a shelf.

“Not everyone does,” she said, sticking the flashlight in her mouth and reaching up on her tippy toes to grab the box. She got a good grip on the box lowered it to the floor and began to sift through it.

Dina and Lev went through a series of boxes as Abby walked around, pulling off more boxes off the shelf. She was bored and she thought, What supply run isn’t boring?

“Found a brand new toolkit and a set of 1,200 assorted screws,” Abby called.

“Good, grab it. I’m sure Maria will find a use for that,” Dina replied.

Abby loaded up her bag and walked over, struggling with a box that would’ve been so easy for her before Santa Barbara. She dropped it on the floor, sighing. My fucking neck.

“Score,” Abby grinned, shining her light on the USB flashlights as Dina and Lev looked in. “USB included.”

“Perrrrrrrrfect,” Dina said, rolling her r’s as she loaded up her bag. “Try to fit five, but don’t beat yourself up about it if you can’t. Besides, we got one more store to hit.”

Dina, Abby and Lev went upstairs and Dina locked the door again. “Such a fucking goldmine.”

“Where’s the other store?” Abby asked.

“Two streets up, but we’re gonna climb up the building next to it, there’s an entrance on the ceiling.”

Abby and Lev jogged besides Dina outside of the store and Dina linked her hands and kneeled below the ladder. She nodded at Lev, “Hit the ladder latch?”

Dina boosted Lev and he climbed the ladder and disappeared out of sight. Lev squeezed the rusted latch between his gloved hands and pulled as Abby and Dina waited in the alleyway.

Lev peeked over the building. He shook his head.

“Fuck, it’s not budging.” Dina motioned for Lev to come back down the ladder and he steadied his legs, let go and landed on his feet gracefully.

“Nice one, Lev, I would’ve fallen on my ass.”

“Thank you,” Lev rubbed the back of his head.

“Alright, follow me.”

The trio crossed around to the back of the building and Dina hopped the metal fence first, then Lev and finally, Abby.

They walked until they saw a backdoor and a window. Dina tried the backdoor and sighed, dropping her backpack on the floor. She messed with the lock pick for a few minutes until she heard the mechanics give. She rose and twisted the doorknob, shining her flashlight in.

“It’s clear so far.”

Abby and Lev followed Dina into the room and Dina pulled open drawers.

“Fucking empty,” Dina whispered. Dina opened the next door, walked into the hallway, shining her light at either end. She caught of glimpse of something moving in the dark and squinted.

Abby and Lev followed. Abby asked, “Did you see something?” Abby turned to shine her light behind her, but it was nothing but the end of the hallway.

Dina sounded unsure. “It looked like an animal.” She paced forward anyway. She shone her light up above where the ceiling had a gaping hole in it and walked further towards the stairway.

Dina paced down ten stairs, turned back towards Abby and Lev, put her flashlight under her face and mouthed, “Infected.” Dina switched to her chest-light. The two women readied their guns.

The double doors were open and the clicking got louder the closer they got to the doors. The three of them stuck close to the left wall, but Dina crept closer and from the under the stairway, a Stalker lunged out of the dark and pinned her to the floor. Dina struggled as the Stalker shrieked in her face.

Abby wrestled the Stalker off of Dina and pulled it backwards as Dina scrambled to her feet back towards the stairway.

They heard about three or four simultaneous croaks followed by shrieks and quickening footsteps in the direction of their noise.

“We got fucking company!” Abby hissed, trying to hold the Stalker back, her arms around its torso. The thing had started to get agitated.

When the first Clicker came through the door, Abby pushed the Stalker at it and it bit its own. Lev shot that one with an arrow, straight through its head.

The second Clicker came quickly behind the first swung wildly at Abby and Dina grabbed it from behind, putting a shiv in its neck and the Clicker squealed. Abby shot the last, two bullets in his deformed face, squealing as it went down.

All three looked up as heard heavy footsteps and deep groans.

“We can’t fight that in here, move forward!” Abby commanded as she passed them through the door.

Abby clicked on her chestlight as Dina and Lev flanked the other side. Abby slid over a countertop and stepped on glass. Shit.

The Bloater charged in her direction and Abby burst into a run, circling around the beast as she pulled out her shotgun. Abby shot twice and side-stepped and from the other side, Lev shot his pistol and Dina shot her rifle.

“Move!” Dina grabbed Lev as the Bloater turned and threw a bomb of gas in their direction. It exploded and the two of them coughed.

“You son of a bitch!” Abby yelled, shooting the beast again, gritting her teeth as her gun recoiled in her hand. She burst into a run again, reloading and panting hard as she forced herself to move as the Bloater charged at her again.

Dina across the room to Abby’s 2 o’clock, lit a Molotov cocktail, Lev covering her with his pistol. She pumped her shotgun as the Bloater charged at her, roaring, shot again and then dove out of the way as the Bloater knocked a shelf to the floor.

Dina passed Lev her rifle and yelled, “Shoot it in the head!” Dina sprinted to the other side of the room, slid to a stop and lit her Molotov, tossing it at the Bloater and the Bloater ignited, roaring louder. Lev shot the rifle.

“We’re gonna have a lot more Infected to kill if this motherfucker doesn’t shut the fuck up!” Abby snapped. “Fuck it, Lev, tell me you got those explosive arrows on you!”

The beast on fire stumbled in the direction of Lev whose back was turned, aiming at a Stalker he caught in his peripheral. The Stalker dropped.

“Come on, motherfucker, eyes on me!” Abby yelled, running in front of the Bloater, shooting at point blank range.

“Yeah, but you won’t like how I use them,” yelled Lev, switching to his bow and pulling the arrow back as a group of four shrieking Clickers ran in from the other door. As the explosive arrow hit, the Clickers exploded, blood, arms and legs being thrown across the room.

“That’s it, kid, you got it!” Abby screamed, pumping her shotgun again and sliding to the floor on her back, shooting the Bloater and recovering to her feet.

Dina aimed at the Bloater’s head with her pistol, the bullet lodging itself in one of its sacs. The Bloater groaned, faltering temporarily.

Abby, Lev and Dina heard a group of runners, growling and screaming as they thundered through the door at the opposite end of the room.

“Fuck this, we gotta move!” Dina yelled. Lev sprinted through the door first, he was the quickest, passing Abby as Abby shot at the Bloater who stumbled towards them again. Abby went next and Dina followed, throwing another Molotov past the door’s entrance.

The three of them ran up the stairs, panting hard, the sounds of Infected not far behind. They went out the way they came and Abby slammed the first door, locking it as the footsteps grew louder in the hallway and ran behind Dina and Lev.

As soon as they hopped the fence, they slowed down to a walk, then stopped and caught their breath in the alley.

“Are you guys good?” Dina asked as she sat her bag down.

Both Lev and Abby answered, “No.”

Lev panted, setting his bag down. “Fuck, I never saw that kind. Does it die?”

“Hard to kill,” Dina said, reloading her pistol. “That one will break your spine if you grabs you.”

Abby breathed hard, head back against the brick wall, “I fucking hate that type of Infected.”

“You have ones you like?” Dina joked, looking at Abby over her shoulder as she braced herself against the wall.

“Yeah, the freakshow I took down by myself in the Seattle ICU was my favorite,” Abby said, peeling herself off the wall.

“What?” Dina cocked her head at Abby, who tried to hide her smile.

“You’re gonna tell me I’m full of shit.”

“Abby, tell her,” Lev breathed out, picking up her bag.

“Okay,” Abby said, looking at Dina, “Once we’re closer to Jackson.”

Back at the outpost, Dina and Lev mounted Mercy and Hero and watched as Abby fussed with Diablo. Lev was laughing as Abby looked at the horse.

Dina sat her backpack between her legs, fished out a a quarter of an apple from a paper bag. “Abby, here,” she said, tossing it and Abby caught it.

Abby dangled the apple slice in front of Diablo. Diablo nudged Abby and Abby held up her other hand, “Alright, you’re gonna let me ride you back, Diablo,” and fed the stallion.

Diablo finished munching on the apple and Abby braced her hands on the horse, foot in the stirrup. Abby lifted herself up as the horse swished its tail.

The three rode out, the Winter Solstice sun high in the air, peeking from behind the clouds.

“You’re a great shot, Abby, and you’re bold—Fearless.” Dina remarked as the three navigated a field. “You, too, Lev, killing all those Clickers with an explosive arrow. I’m impressed and I know Maria and Tommy will feel the same.”

“Gotta be,” Abby nodded, looking to Lev who rode at her left-hand side. He was smiling.

She looked to Dina after a calm minute of riding. “Why did you lie to Maria?”

Dina’s eyes softened, “You know, I had no clue what happened between you and Ellie in Santa Barbara. I didn’t want to cause any more issues. It was better that way. Sometimes you lie to keep the people you love safe.”

People you love?

Abby nodded, her eyes tracking across the open field, the icy wind cutting at her skin through her clothes.

“I had to beg Maria to do this run with the both of you, to swap Gabriel out,” Dina continued. “She was pissed. But Maria forgot to tell him he was gonna take you both on patrol.”

“Thank you,” Abby sighed. Missed his chance to kill us both outside of Jackson, thanks to Maria.

“We’re about fifteen minutes out of Jackson, tell me about that freakshow Infected,” Dina smirked at Abby.

Abby groaned. “Haven’t you had enough of them today?”

“What’s wrong with me asking a question?” Dina said coyly. Abby looked at Dina from the corner of her eye and wondered what she really thought of her.

“I left Lev hiding outside the hospital. I had to get surgical supplies for Yara, Lev’s sister, she had compartment syndrome and needed her arm amputated. She was 16 years old. The Wolves caught me and held me prisoner because I went rogue, but Nora freed me and escorted me down to the ICU. She said it was ground zero for the Outbreak in Seattle. It was as horrible as you could think. There was so much fungus everywhere.” Abby closed her eyes. Nora.

“Damn,” Dina said and Abby wasn’t sure which part she was set off by.

“I got to the ambulance down there and I found the supplies and I hear this sound that was like cross between a Clicker and a fucking Bloater just as I’m shoving the stuff in my backpack. When it showed itself at the back of the ambulance, I—” Abby sighed. “I honestly thought I was gonna die and I scrambled to the front and kicked the driver’s window out. It chased me.”

“Tell her what it looked like, Abby,” Lev pushed Abby to go on and Abby shivered as Dina listened.

“Fuck, it was like a fusion of so many Infected. It was a fucking Bloater with six or seven arms, standing on two legs and the arm of a Clicker. So many Infected faces. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in my life. It was like a rat king, but Infected.”

“Stop, you’re joking, right?” Dina asked.

Abby looked her dead in the face. “I swear. It was growing and mutating in the ICU for 25 years. There were so many people locked in that room. It was so horrific.”

“Shit.”

Abby continued, “Yeah, I tried to escape, but it was smashing through walls like a Bloater. It grabbed me, lifted me up into the air and I hit it with an axe until it let me go. When it wouldn’t die, I saw a Stalker rip itself from its body and it ran. The fucker would explode acid gas.”

“Goddamn.”

“I threw everything I had at it. Bombs, incendiary  shotgun shells, I blasted it with a flamethrower. It wouldn’t die. Then I finally killed it and I had to hunt the Stalker. It was throwing acid bombs at me like a Bloater. Fucking son of a bitch,” Abby finished.

Dina blinked at Abby.

“What?” Abby hated it when people stared at her.

“Nobody at Jackson is ever gonna believe you.”

Abby sighed, defeated. “What was I supposed to do? Take a picture of it with a Polaroid?”

Dina laughed. “It would help your case.”

Abby said, “Fine, the next time I’m fighting for my life in a dark, spore-filled ICU with a nightmarish abomination after me, I’ll be sure to take a picture.”

Dina rolled her eyes, “I didn’t say I didn’t believe you, Abby, I said nobody at Jackson will. Maybe Maria, and definitely Tommy if he’s drunk.”

Lev laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Abby, I got your back.” Then Lev coaxed Hero into sprinting ahead.

“Lev!” Abby called. “What the hell? Slow down!”

“Relax, Abby, you’re reminding me of me when JJ is crawling across my living room,” Dina said. “Gate’s two minutes ahead.”

Abby bit her lip.

Dina said to Abby, “That’s a great kid you found.”

“He saved me, him and Yara.” Dina knew already from Maria, so she just nodded.

“Yara would be proud. Kids change you. Give you something to live for.”

“Yeah, they do,” Abby agreed, framing her hand over her eyes to block from the sun.

“Wanna come to the bonfire tonight? Just gonna get drunk and party.” Dina didn’t give her the chance to answer upon seeing Abby fix her face to decline, “Come on, Abby—You isolate yourself too much. Go take a shower, a nap and then come back out to let your hair down.”

“Fine, can Lev come?”

“Adults only. Hasn’t he been staying at his girlfriend’s house?”

Abby shot Dina an incredulous look. “Girlfriend?”

“He didn’t tell you? Shit, you didn’t hear it from me!” Dina laughed. “Race you to the gate! Go, Mercy!”

×

“Coming to the bonfire tonight?” Maria said as Ellie opened her door.

Ellie sighed, “I don’t think—”

“I just got a shipment of alcohol in this morning. First come, first serve. My backyard.”

“Is that supposed to be a bribe?”

“Only if you want it to be, Ellie,” Maria shrugged. “You came back to Jackson, left to the farm, then left again and disappeared for a year and a half. I think I’m allowed to want you around.”

Ellie crossed her arms. “Is Dina gonna be there?”

“This isn’t about Dina,” Maria replied.

“If Dina’s there, then I can’t—”

“Are you just gonna avoid Dina every chance you get?” Maria asked abruptly.

“Maria, listen, I can’t be around her,” Ellie said, leaning her head against the doorway.

“We all have to co-exist here,” Maria said softly, reaching for Ellie’s hand, but Ellie backed up. Maria looked at Ellie and shook her head.

“Ellie, you don’t have to be defensive with me.”

“I’m not being defensive, Maria!” Ellie turned her back to Maria. “Fuck!”

“With all due respect, Ellie, if you wanted to avoid people, you should have kept running, but you can’t run from yourself.”

It didn’t matter how softly Maria said it, her words made Ellie’s heart sink.

“Have a nice night, Maria,” Ellie said bitterly and Maria closed the door.

Ellie swallowed a scream and her throat burned. She felt there wasn’t enough room for her heart in her chest. Her breathing picked up as she instinctively reached for her backpack, paused as she saw her right hand shaking.

×

Abby sighed as she splashed her face in the bathroom. She grabbed a hair brush and brushed her hair. Okay, bonfire, no pressure. Simple. Abby, all you have to do is sit there, talk and drink.

Shit, killing people is easier than that.

She stared at herself in the mirror and touched the scar on her face.

She changed into a pair of black sports leggings and a red tank-top. She eyed the scars on her arms and sighed. Some had faded in the California sun, others had not. Abby’s body was her temple and it was in ruins.

She threw on a black thermal hoodie and cursed. “Damn.”

Abby knocked on Lev’s door, inhaling as she looked up, exhaling as she looked down.

“Come in,” Lev called.

“Hey,” Abby said, walking through the door to see Lev laying in bed, yawning. “Ready to knock out?” She asked.

“Where are you going? Why are you dressed?”

Abby bit her lip. “Dina invited me to a party at Maria’s.” A shadow of pain crossed Lev’s face for a brief

“Can I come?” Lev tried to sit up, but Abby gently pushed him down and smoothed his hair back.

“Adults only, kid, I’m sorry.” Abby whispered, grabbing his chin and rubbing the side of his cheek with her thumb, looking at his scar. “You look tired and it’s been one hell of a day. Don’t wait up. Go to sleep.”

Lev sighed, then covering his mouth to mask his yawn. “Fine, Abby. Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“You know I can handle myself, Lev,” she whispered, kissing his forehead. “Goodnight, kid.”

Lev closed the door and Abby went down the stairs of her home and out of the house.

Abby shivered as she walked through the snow. Fuck, I should’ve wore my coat.

The good thing about California was that it was warm, even sweltering sometimes. Seattle was cool and rainy for the most part, but Wyoming could get freezing.

It was tough for Abby to adjust from California to Wyoming. It was something that was far from her mind before she arrived to Jackson, her mind occupied with a possible impending death for her and Lev—a death she hoped would be swift for both of them.

Abby sighed, rubbing her gloved hands together and smoothing them over her cheeks as she walked. I wonder who’s there. Dina and Maria are a given, maybe Tommy. If Dina’s there, Ellie won’t be. After all, they fought pretty bad. Shit, I don’t know what happened after that fight. I shouldn’t assume.

She walked up Maria’s steps and tried the door. It was open. She rubbed her boots on the mat on the inside of the door and walked to the back of Maria’s house.

She never got the chance to look at Maria’s house closely, but Abby had to admit that Maria had a sense of style. She passed two framed pictures—One with her and Tommy. Maria was in a red dress, Tommy in a black jacket, white button-down and jeans. They were kissing.

Wedding photo, probably. They looked happy.

The second photo that caught her eye was a group photo. It was Maria, Tommy, Joel and a younger Ellie. Abby thought, This is after my father died.

Abby leaned closer. Joel had his arm around Ellie and Ellie was leaning against him and smiling. The two of them were smiling.

The only time I ever saw her, she was either raging, miserable or both. It was strange for Abby to see aspects of Ellie’s past. It filled her with shame to look at this photo and know that she had hurt these people in ways that no one ever had. And yet, Abby’s life had been destroyed, too.

Abby sighed and continued her walk towards the noise, appearing in the doorway. The smell of charred wood, tobacco, mint and marijuana filled her nose.

Abby scanned the room from the doorway. Three cut three trunks around the fire, one to her left with Maria’s boys—Michael, hazel-eyed with dark shaggy hair pulled back in a ponytail, Johnny, a blonde with blue eyes, he could pass for Abby’s brother. Finally, the boy on his knees, a boy Abby knew as Miguel, brown eyes with shoulder length hair. The first few times she saw Miguel, she had froze as if she saw a ghost. He resembled Manny.

A whistle followed by, “Look at the Lone Wolf finally coming out on the night of the Full Moon…” The other men let out a chorus of howls.

That’s what they fucking call me? Abby scoffed and leaned against the doorway, watching the three men do their best howl, one on their knees.

Maria threw a chunk of wood into the fire across from her, “Alright, that’s enough, boys, The joke isn’t as funny as you think it is.”

On Maria’s left was Tommy who couldn’t stand sitting on a log and compensated for a reclined plastic chair. He had a guitar in his lap. Behind Maria, Dina rose from where she sat on the last log.

“Abby! ” Dina called. Abby nodded at Dina as she came over. She wore a light blue zip-up hoodie with a black t-shirt underneath, and a pair of dark blue jeans and a pair of combat boots.

Dina grabbed Abby’s arm, leaned into Abby where her body brushed against hers and whispered in her ear, “Thought you were a no-show. Come on, MVP, sit down and I’ll grab you a drink.”

Abby replied, “You’re so drunk, Dina,” and Dina laughed, her face was flushed and her eyes were glassy. Abby glanced up as Dina let go of her arm and saw Maria observing quietly.

Dina disappeared into the house. Abby waved awkwardly, addressing a group with a short hello as she passed them and took her seat behind Maria.

Maria sighed, “Yeah, that’s it!” as the fire bloomed higher.

Abby sat and she felt eyes boring into her. Instead of taking the bait, she  favored her hands instead.

Maria sat down at the end of the log next to Tommy. She observed Abby as she looked at her gloved hands.

Michael said, “Where’s your cub, Lone Wolf?” Miguel howled, then burst into a laugh. Abby looked up at Michael, closest to her out of the Boys.

Maria cut her eyes at Michael, “Michael, call Abby a fucking Lone Wolf one more god—”

Abby cut Maria off mid-threat. “In the fucking den. That’s what you call us?”

Tommy laughed. He was waiting for Abby to discover her nickname in Jackson and Michael liked to press buttons and bust balls. He didn’t expect Abby to respond that way and Michael’s face, although brief, was priceless.

Michael shrugged, swigging his drink. “Isn’t it true?”

“Yeah,” Abby said, watching the fire crackle and whip as she ran her hand through her blonde hair in acceptance. “That’s me, the Lone Wolf and that’s my cub, I would fucking kill for him.”

Michael smirked, “So I heard.”

Maria sternly said, “Enough, Michael.” Then she glanced at Abby, she was watching the fire.

Dina returned with a drinks for herself and Abby as Maria scolded Michael, “What did you do?”

“I was christening Abby with her nickname and asking where her cub was! Nothing wrong with that!”

Johnny and Miguel howled. Abby rolled her eyes as Dina shot her an apologetic look, sat next to Abby and passed her a cup. She tried it and her throat burned as she swallowed, the taste was sharp.

“How is Lev?” Dina asked and Abby bit her lip and hoped the boy was sleeping. “He took a long shower when we got home. It’s been a while since we were out in the field like that.”

Dina nodded and turned to Maria. “Maria, Abby and Lev were amazing on patrol today.”

“Oh, yeah?” Maria said, looking at Abby. “Dina was actually tight-lipped about how patrol went, she wanted to wait until tonight to tell me.”

Abby took a deep breath, “Yeah, we ran into some Infected and it got hot.”

“How hot?” Tommy asked. He squinted at Abby, but Abby took no offense. It’s just a question, she told herself.

“Runners, Stalkers, Clickers and a Bloater that wouldn’t die,” Abby said after swallowing her drink, looking at Tommy.

“Well, shit,” Tommy raised his glass. “That’s the whole goddamn lineup.”

“Abby and Lev saved my ass back there, a Stalker pinned me down and she got it off me and fed it to another Clicker. Lev shot the Clicker and we took care of the others. Then Abby went through the doors when she heard the Bloater and she just started baiting it.”

“She’s a shot caller. She put more damage into that Bloater than anybody and put herself in its way repeatedly to protect me and Lev. I never saw anybody move and reload a shotgun like that,” Dina smiled. Abby’s cheeks reddened and she tried to hide it by swallowing half of her drink.

She’s impressed by me. It’s been a while since anybody’s complimented my fighting, I mean, besides Lev, of course.

Dina continued, “And Lev—You can tell Abby trained him. He’s not afraid to take risks either. He kept a huge group of Infected at bay while me and Abby took turns fucking the Bloater up. Then we had to bail when more Infected came after us.”

Abby pushed her hair back and turned to Dina, “Thank you.”

Dina shook her head as she swallowed her booze, “No, Abby, thank you.”

Maria locked her eyes on Abby. “I knew you wouldn’t disappoint.”

Tommy set his cup down, hit his joint and said, “Dina was telling us how you fought off some huge hybrid Infected in a Seattle, said you called it a ‘rat king.’” He blew the marijuana and tobacco smoke towards the fire.

“Fuck!” Abby cursed. “Dina, why?”

“So you wouldn’t have to,” Dina grinned at her.

Maria continued, “Dina said you told her it was ground zero for the Outbreak there and the son of a bitch chased you. You killed it by yourself.”

“Yes, ma’am, the ICU was filled with spores and Infected. I cleared the Infected, got what I needed and then I was fighting for my life,” Abby confirmed.

“Bullshit, Lone Wolf,” Michael said. Johnny and Miguel howled.

“Let me guess, you’re pissed a girl is better at killing Infected than you.” Abby was no stranger to competing with men.

Maria smiled, swirling her drink in her cup.

Abby leaned forward towards Michael, arms on her thighs, the buzz of alcohol making her cocky. “You would’ve died screaming.”

Dina covered her mouth to muffle her laugh.

Michael stepped to Abby and Abby stood up.

“Do you wanna kiss or do you wanna fight?” Abby asked, looking up at Michael. “Either way, I’ll knock you out.”

 Johnny and Miguel howled again.

Maria yelled, “Cut it out!” Michael backed off and turned around to walk back into the house.

Tommy called, “Mike, where the fuck are you going?”

“To piss!” He responded.

“Make sure you pull your head out of your ass after you’re done!” Abby smirked as Michael held up the middle finger.

“Haven’t seen anybody handle Michael like that,” Maria said.

“Tough guys think they’re tough until they meet me,” Abby let out a short laugh.

She looked at Tommy, the black guitar in his lap.

“Do you play?”

“I sure do,” Tommy grinned and Maria shook her head.

“He used to sit outside my house late at night the second summer he was here, playing the guitar and singing to get my attention,” Maria sighed over her cup.

“And it worked, she used to come out the front in her pajamas and yell, ‘Thomas Miller, if you don’t leave me the fuck alone, I’ll have my father put a bullet in your head!’ And I was scared of her old man, so I would take off running,” Tommy smiled at Maria, taking another hit of his joint and blowing the smoke towards her.

“What did your dad do?” Dina asked Maria.

Maria waved the smoke out of her face as she answered. “He used to ask when I was gonna marry him whenever I complained.”

Everyone laughed.

“Well, damn, I suppose that’s why I didn’t have a bullet in my head after the first eleven times,” Tommy said.

Despite missing an eye, Tommy still had his charm.

Michael returned in the doorway and took his seat next to Johnny and Miguel.

“There you are, Mike,” said Tommy, leaning over to pass the last half of his joint to Maria who quickly passed it to Dina. “Thought Ms. Abigail here scared you shitless. You never answered her about whether you wanted a fight or a kiss.”

Michael laughed and glanced at Abby from the corner of his eye, “Either way, I’m sure the Lone Wolf bites,” and Abby rolled her eyes. “I do.”

Dina passed Abby the joint, throwing her head back and blowing the smoke upwards in the air and Abby watched her, then curiously took a small hit, wincing as the smoke hit the back of her throat. Abby coughed, smoke coming from her nose and her mouth.

“Fuck,” Abby said, recovering as she rubbed her chest through her hoodie.

Tommy laughed, “Alright, we’ve got some baby lungs, I see,” and Dina giggled as Abby passed the joint to Michael.  

“I was just talking about how I used to sit outside Maria’s house before we dated and play the guitar to get her attention,” Tommy set his drink down on the ground and adjusted the guitar in his lap, the light of the fire reflecting off the guitar, off his skin.

“So there I was,” Tommy said, glancing at Maria, his fingers on the fret of the guitar and strumming, practicing a scale, “Hoping she would come out and hoping she wouldn’t.”

Maria laughed.

“I knew I was getting under her skin or at least I hoped so, I mean, the worst thing she could do was ignore me or have her father come out with a shotgun.” He strummed a lower scale.

“And goddamn, were my hands sweating when I spotted her in the window. She didn’t see me, but I saw her. Her back was to the window and she was changing into this slinky little red thing.”

“Shut up,” Maria said, her cheeks were pink.

“Man, I was so scared, but I sat down anyway and played one of my favorite songs,” Tommy started the first few notes and glanced up at Maria who looked away.

Scar tissue that I wish you saw, sarcastic mister know-it-all, close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ‘cause with the birds, I share,” Tommy strummed and sang, his voice smooth, tapping his foot.

With the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’ … with the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’… push me up against the wall, young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra, ah, fallin’ all over myself to lick your heart and taste your health ‘cause,”  Tommy strummed as if he played the song a thousand times. 

With the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’ … with the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’… With the birds, I’ll share this lonely view,” Tommy held the note and Maria finished her drink, smiling.

“Blood loss in a bathroom stall, a southern girl with a scarlet drawl, wave goodbye to Ma and Pa ‘cause with the birds, I share,” Tommy sang,  “With the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’ … with the birds, I’ll share this lonely viewin’…” Tommy looked at Maria like she was the only person in the room, in the world.

 Tommy played the riff, “Soft spoken with a broken jaw, step outside but not to brawl and Autumn’s sweet, we call it Fall, I’ll make it to the Moon if I have to crawl and—

Tommy looked up and saw Ellie in the doorway, a drink in her hand. He gestured to the log beside him and continued singing as Ellie sat next to him on the log, her eyes briefly looking at how close Abby and Dina were to each other.

Ellie watched his fingers as he strummed the ending solo, nodding.

The last note rang in the air and Tommy laughed. “Man, I was playing the solo and Maria opened that door and saw me sitting out there and I saw her in that slinky, little red satin gown that barely covered anything—”

“It wasn’t that short, Tommy,” Maria interrupted.

“Yeah, it was!” Tommy laughed. “I swear to God, it was. You came out and all I thought was, ‘This woman has legs for days.’” Johnny whistled.

“Then what happened?” Michael asked, smirking at Maria.

“Ha, I stormed over to him when he was finished, grabbed the guitar, set it to the side and pushed him on his back in the grass and kissed him.” Maria laughed and she sounded like a teenage girl, full of light.

“I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to do. It was like, ‘Now what, jackass?’ Anyway, we were there in the grass, rolling around and kissing and touching like it was the last time we were gonna see each other alive and then, her dad was in the doorway, screamed, ‘Maria!’” Tommy bellowed Maria’s name and Maria hid her face in embarrassment.

“God,” Maria winced at the memory. Besides her, Abby and Dina were giggling.

“He cocked that shotgun and I got off of Maria like I had ants in my pants and Maria got up, yanking at short little thing back where it was supposed to be—She was so red, yelling, ‘Daddy, please, please put the gun away!’ and her old man yelled at her to get back in the house, even though she was 26 years old at the time.”

He looked at Maria, his empty drink in hand, “He would’ve never caught us if you didn’t leave the door open. Refill, ma’am?” Maria sighed and grabbed his cup.

“Abby, come on, I need more hands.” Abby got up and grabbed her cup, then grabbed Dina’s when she held hers up. Maria nodded at Ellie, a welcoming look as she passed her. Ahead, Abby walked into the house. Maria grabbed Miguel and Johnny’s glasses, balancing them in one hand as she walked into the house.

“Here, let’s use a tray,” Maria said as she set the glasses down on her kitchen table, turning to her cabinets. Abby stared at her in awe.

“How did you just carry all of that?”

“Before the outbreak, I used to be a waitress. My job was take orders and serve people drinks and food, had to learn how to carry multiple cups and plates at once while being really, really, really nice. The money was amazing, the work was hard because we often got slammed,” she answered as she set the glasses on the platter and filled them with ice. “So picture a horde except it’s human beings who wanna eat.”

“Sounds better than killing Infected.”

“Except Infected don’t curse at you when their food is taking too long,” Maria poured vodka into two of the glasses. “Were you drinking brown or white?”

“White,” Abby answered. “Why?”

“You’re not supposed to mix them. Some people get wild or others just get sick,” Maria said as she cut lemons up. Maria waved Abby over and Abby joined her at her side. “Squeeze these into the whites, don’t be afraid to be heavy with it. We don’t have anything to chase the liquor with. God, I miss Sprite. Watch your eyes, Abby.”

Abby squeezed in silence and Maria opened her mouth to say, “I see Dina’s taken a liking to you, Michael, too, believe it or not.”

“Yeah,” Abby said as the fruit warped between her fingers over the glass. “She’s a nice person, great to patrol with.”

“That’s not what I mean, Abby,” Maria shook her head as she poured whiskey into the three other glasses. Abby froze.

What?

“Dina lacks boundaries when she’s under the influence, her body language and her voice when she interacts with you are… it’s obvious.” Maria paused, reaching for the lemon, “Tommy likes his whiskey to be a little sour.”

“I don’t know what to… I never thought…” Abby was so confused. The dinner invite. The lie. The way she acts when she brings her up. How Dina got up to stop her from fighting me the last time we were here. “People you love. Shit.

“Me, too. Well, I’ll tell you what, Ellie will be pissed and think Dina is trying to get back at her. Ellie might try to kill you or she’ll leave Jackson, probably both. Either way, I’ll have to stop her while she’s kicking and screaming. Dina can be a little sensitive. Keep it secret or let her down easy. I need you both for patrols.”

Abby ran her hand through her hair. This isn’t happening.

“I understand why Dina is drawn to you. You both have boys to take care of. She’s lonely and Ellie—” Maria sighed, picking up the tray of drinks. “Ellie broke her heart.”

Maria gestured in the direction of the noise. “Look alive, Abigail.”

Abby and Maria returned, passed the drinks around while Tommy was in the middle of another story. Abby noticed the way Ellie’s eyes tracked her.

“So I told the son of a bitch, ‘It ain’t my time, it’s your time!’ And  then I hit him with a brick!” Maria’s Boys all laughed hysterically. Then when they settled, Michael asked Tommy a question about a gun modifications and Tommy started to explain.

Abby and Maria sat down and Dina turned to Abby, asked, placing her hand on hers, her voice low, “You good?”

“Yeah, you?” Abby whispered, catching Ellie looking at them again. Dina knew what Abby caught, bit her lip and removed her hand.

“Sorry,” Dina whispered, pressing her glass to her lips and throwing it back. Abby did the same and set her eyes on the fire, wild and crackling.

Abby finished her drink as everyone socialized around her and stood up. “Alright, guys, I’m out for the night. I gotta make sure Lev isn’t waiting up for me.”

“Remember how to get home?” Maria asked. “Need a chaperone?”

“Yeah, no, I’m good, Maria,” Abby had the hint of a slur in her voice.

Abby bid the group farewell and walked out of Maria’s house, jogging down the stairs. She stood outside for a moment, heard the door open behind her and turned around.

“Sorry about earlier,” Dina said, kind of wobbling as she came down the stairs.

“No, no, no, don’t worry about it,” Abby replied softly. Neither of them knew what the other was referring to.

The December wind pushed Dina’s hair around her face as she stepped closer to Abby, her brown eyes lidded from smoking. Dina lifted up her hand and grazed her thumb across the scar on Abby’s cheek.

“I think… I think I want to make a mistake,” Dina whispered. She didn’t remove her hand from Abby’s face.

Dina closed her eyes and leaned in towards Abby, angled her face gently and pressed her lips to hers. Abby kissed back and the two women stood there for a moment, gifting the other wet open-mouthed kisses underneath the light of the Full Moon.

“I can’t,” Abby whispered as she pulled away.

“Me either,” Dina looked away, touching her gloved fingertips to her lips. “I have to wake up early. Don’t be a stranger.”

Abby just nodded and Dina walked down one street and she walked down the other, glancing up at the Moon.

I wonder if the Moon feels as lonely as I do.