I could barely even walk. Boden practically had to carry me over to the bed. I sat down at the edge, and he crouched in front of me, looking up at me. I cried so hard my whole body was shaking, and it hurt everything inside me.
Serg came to check on us, but Boden sent him back to stay with Max and Stella.
When I finally calmed down enough that I could speak, I was still trembling horribly, and I wanted to throw up. Boden went into the bathroom and soaked a towel in water, then came out and washed the blood off my hands and arms.
“Did you get Clark?” I asked, sniffling.
“Sorta,” Boden said. “A zombie got him. Tore him up good. Then Ripley got the zombie. So Clark’s dead, and we’re safe.”
“What happened?” Boden asked. I shook my head. “Was…” He paused. “Did Clark to try to do something … to you?”
“Yeah,” I said thickly.
“Did he …” Boden swallowed, choosing his words carefully. “Did Clark … succeed?”
I shook my head, just once. “No. Daniels came in, and then …”
“And then Clark got him,” Boden finished for me.
“That’s not your fault, Remy.” He’d set aside the towel, and he took my hands in his, staring up at me, but I just stared off in space.
“It feels like my fault.” I took a deep breath. “Everything feels like my fault.”
“But it’s not.”
I looked down at my lap, struggling to keep fresh tears back. The cut on my neck stung, but I barely noticed it. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Boden.”
“Do what?” Boden asked.
“Live.” I shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just … it’s so hard, and it doesn’t get better. Every day is more exhausting than the last, and this horrible, senseless shit keeps happening. I can’t…”
“You can,” Boden insisted. “You can and you will. This is just a really, really bad day. But you’re stronger and better than this. You can overcome anything.”
“Why, though?” I asked. I stared into his gray eyes with tears swimming in my own. “What’s the point of fighting so hard to stay alive if this is what life is?”
“Because.” He looked up at me, and then he stood up.
He leaned forward, and he pressed his lips to mine, kissing me gently. Then he stopped, but he kept his face close to mine as he searched my face.
“Why’d you kiss me?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I wanted to make you feel better.”
I thought about it, and I hadn’t heard a better reason to do anything in a long time, so I told him, “Do it again.”
He kissed me, deeper this time, and pushed me back on the bed. I wrapped my arms around his neck, pulling him to me.
We lay on the bed, him on top of me, kissing for a long while after that. There was something almost subdued in the way we kissed and the way he touched me. I’d gotten used to everything being so frantic, immediate, and insistent.
But this was something much different. It was as if we were savoring the moments, trying to make them last, enjoying one of the few things left in this life that we could enjoy.
I tried not to think of anything except the way his lips felt on mine, the strength of his hand on my side, the weight and warmth of his body against me.
Then as abruptly as we’d started, we stopped.
Boden propped himself up on one arm, staring down at me, and he brushed the hair back from my face.
“Are you feeling any better?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.
The rage I’d felt earlier had dissipated. But the emptiness and ache lingered. By now I knew that it would never really go away. The longer I lived, the more I’d lose. Eventually, I’d have a giant hole inside me, and nothing else.
“Where’d you go?” Boden asked.
I blinked and looked up at him. “What?”
“Just now.” He smiled crookedly. “You disappeared.”
“I was just thinking.” I tried to smile back at him, but it felt weak.
“Do you want to go over and see Serg and the kids?”
I shook my head. “Not yet. A few more minutes, okay?”
He lay down next to me on his side, and I slid closer to him, resting my head on the crook of his arm. We stayed like that for a few minutes, probably longer than we should’ve given how frantic Max and Stella probably were.
But I wasn’t ready to go over there. Something about seeing them, telling Max and Stella that Daniels wasn’t coming back … that made it feel all too real. I just wanted stay here, in this weird cocoon with Boden, and pretend that nothing outside this room existed.
Eventually, we did get up. Boden pulled the thin comforter off the bed and went into the bathroom. I stood just outside and watched as he covered up Daniels. That was the closest we could get to burying him.
We’re gathered our stuff before we left the room, and then Boden locked the door behind us. That would hopefully keep the zombies out, and Daniels would maybe get some peace in his death.
That’s what we had to do. Leave our dead lying around and move on.
Max ran over and hugged me as soon we went into the next room. He’d been positive that something horrible had happened to me, despite Serg’s assurances to the contrary.
Almost as soon as I walked in the door, Stella began asking about Daniels. She’d gotten rather close to him over the past few days. I sat down next to her and explained as gently as I could that he wasn’t coming back.
She knew what that meant, though. She’d already lost enough people and understood what death was far better than any six-year-old should have to understand.
We went to bed after that. I still felt too sick to eat, and the kids had already had supper. I shared a double bed with Stella and Max, and Stella snuggled up close to me. She cried softly as she fell asleep, and I stroked her hair.
Max was having trouble falling asleep, too, so he asked me to sing him a lullaby. When we’d first started out on our own, right after zombies had killed our parents and the virus was still new, I used to sing to him every night.
I didn’t know any lullabies, but Max didn’t know that. The only song I could come up with that I knew all the lyrics for “Blackbird” by the Beatles. So, as the kids drifted off to sleep, I softly sang to them about broken wings and being free.