“Nobody’s life really prepared them for this,” I said. “And at least you got to do stuff with your life before this happened. I grew up in Iowa, and I’ve traveled more in the past year than I ever did before. I haven’t seen or done anything. You got to see the world.”
“I got to see airports and hotels when we were on tour,” Lazlo smiled sardonically. “That’s not really seeing or living. I had a normal life, and then it was all just constantly touring, recording, and selling myself. And then zombies took over the world, and I lived underground for nearly a year.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad. I mean, until the zombies part,” I said.
“You know something?” He lifted his head, and when he turned to me, he had this strange look in his eyes. Almost as if he was really seeing me for the first time. “I don’t think I ever really lived until this. I’ve never done anything that mattered before, but now I’m fighting to save my life, and yours. And I know it sounds really cheesy and lame, but I don’t think I ever really felt alive. Not until I met you.”
“You were in a hole for nine months. Your definition of ‘feeling alive’ has got to be a little skewed right now.” I rolled my eyes to keep from blushing.
“I don’t think so.” Lazlo moved so he was in front of me, and he chewed his lip. “You’re pretty much the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”
“I’m really not that amazing,” I shook my head.
My heart thumped in my chest, and my mouth felt dry. His dark eyes latched onto mine, and I wanted to look away, but something compelled me to stay.
The butterfly way he made me feel reminded me of who I used to be before. I’d been trying to push him away, but I always gave in because the only time I really felt like a normal teenage girl was when I was with him.
“There’s something I have to do, that I’ve wanted to do since I met you, and I have to do it before it’s too late.” He put his hand on my cheek, so his thumb rested on my cheek and his fingers nestled in my hair.
“No, I can’t,” I said, my voice barely audible over the pounding of my heart. “I might be infected.”
“Do you feel sick? Headache? Fever?” he asked, rubbing his thumb gently on my skin.
“Then I don’t care.”
Before I could protest further, he leaned in, and his lips pressed firmly against mine. There was something unexpectedly hungry in the way he kissed me. His mouth searched mine, and I found myself returning it with equal fervor. He knotted his fingers in my hair, pulling me closer to him, and I wrapped my arms around him.
– 14 –
Harlow’s gasp broke the spell. I pulled away from Lazlo, and I had to put my hands on his chest to keep him from coming with me. His eyes were fixed on me, and I don’t think he’d heard her.
Harlow stood in the kitchen doorway, her jaw slacked. Guilt washed over me when I saw her.
At thirteen, she was too young to be a real love interest for Lazlo, but that hadn’t stopped her from nursing a pretty major crush on him. I hadn’t exactly stolen him from her, since he’d never been hers, but I had betrayed her trust.
“Harlow,” I pushed Lazlo back further, and he realized we had an audience.
I slid off the counter, so he took a step back, but he still looked confused by her stricken expression. In true Lazlo fashion, he had been oblivious to her feelings for him.
“You’re such a liar!” Harlow was nearly shrieking. “I can’t believe you!”
“Harlow, I know you’re upset, but I didn’t lie about anything,” I said and held my hand palm out. I wanted to reason with her before she got hysterical.
“You lied about everything!”
I’d never seen her this upset, but she’d finally reached her breaking point. With everything that happened the last few days, it was amazing that she’d held up this long.
“What’s going on?” Blue rushed to the kitchen in a mild panic.
“You can’t trust Remy!” Harlow took a step back, as if I was chasing her.
“I think we all need to calm down,” Lazlo said, still bewildered by her reaction.
“You said you wanted to leave me behind to protect me, but you just wanted me out of the way!” Harlow yelled at me, and Lazlo made a sound as it finally dawned on him why she was so upset.
“Harlow, no, I can promise that’s not true,” I shook my head.
“What happened?” Blue turned to me for answers.
“You keep saying that we can’t slow down because we have to find your stupid little brother,” Harlow said, ignoring Blue. “But you have time to stop and make out with Lazlo?”
“We weren’t making out,” I said, realizing too late that that did nothing to help my argument. In fact, it only pissed her off more.
“I bet you don’t even have a little brother, do you?” Harlow narrowed her eyes.
“You know I do. You were at the quarantine with us.”
“But I never saw him!” Feeling emboldened, she took a step towards me. “We were there for over two months, and I never once saw your supposed kid brother.”
“He was in the sick ward,” I said, but her line of questioning made me nervous.
“With what? What was he sick with?” Harlow asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What does it matter? He was sick.” I tried to play off my vague answers as exasperation, but Blue looked at me with a new scrutiny.
“So you say!” She rolled her eyes. “But that doesn’t even make any sense, Remy! In a quarantined building full of healthy people, why would they even waste energy treating a sick kid when they’re struggling to keep everyone else alive?”
“He’s not a waste of energy,” I said without conviction.
“They evacuated him first, and as far as I could tell, he is the only non-army person who got evacuated.” Her anger was replaced by an honest accusation. “Why would they do that? I don’t know of any other person who was ever even in the sick ward.” She paused. “I don’t think he’s real.”
I felt the shift in the room. Everyone had been looking at Harlow like she was the crazy person when she started yelling, but now they all stared expectantly at me.
Panic rolled over me. Even though I knew I could trust them, I didn’t want to tell them the truth. I was afraid of what it could mean for my brother and me. But it didn’t look like I had a choice anymore.