This Is Why We Fight: The Revival
Where It Doesn't Make Sense
The Texas heat was unbearable at best, but cramped into the back seat of a pick-up truck was on another level. I'd disposed of my jacket, sitting only in a black tank top and ragged jean shorts, squashed in between Eva and Noah who were in long sleeved tops and pants, much to my horror.
On the front bench was Gwen and Trent with Mike behind the wheel. They were all in more heat appropriate clothing, to my relief.
I found myself staring at the back of Gwen's head. Her short hair was pulled into two sloppy, low pigtails, which I would have expected to look ridiculous on her, but it didn't. My head tilted and I had to stop my hand from reaching out and tugging on one like a delinquent child. I didn't want to anger Gwen anymore than what I already had. And the others stared at me weirdly enough as it was.
I recalled what Gwen had told me, how it wasn't her fault about my head. I wanted to ask her whose fault it was, but I knew she wouldn't have answered me. Every time Gwen stared at me I could see her eyes filling with thoughts and secrets. But at least I found relief knowing I wasn't the only person she was keeping things from; other than Trent, everyone else seemed in the unknown with her too. I was starting to wonder how she and Mike had become the leaders of this mismatched group of people.
I knew I was distracting myself- thinking of Gwen and Mike- from Noah's incessant babbling. Tuning out his strategic plans was harder to do when his mouth was against your ear, and all Noah ever talked about was is plans; new ones he was creating, the flaws in the ones they'd left the base with. No one was listening to him. One of the first things I'd picked up in the group was that no one listened to Noah. He was the sort of person who didn't understand he was being annoying.
"It's gonna be a long trip," Mike mumbled as we pulled up to another gas station. I heard him sigh before exiting the truck. Noah and Eva vacated either side of me, and I threw my head back against the headrest, closing my eyes and wishing for n easier life. Did I know what an easy life was?
We'd pulled into three other stops after the first one, but they were all empty. Morale was low and I was starting to wonder if we'd ever make it their base alive.
I didn't know much about the base, only that it was temporary. A holding place for the extraction teams. The main base was in England, along with their training facility and housing. Mike painted a beautiful picture when he spoke of it. He had turned to Gwen for back-up of their place, but she was cold and indifferent. It apparently it didn't hold a candle to Canada, where the two fo them (and Mike's wife) had hailed from before it had been nuked by the EU to stop the virus from spreading. It had, however, kept spreading regardless. Before anyone knew it the whole of North America, and parts of central America, had come under attack from the deadly virus. That was when the extraction teams had started coming in.
"You alright?" My neck whipped forward, eyes open, staring straight at Gwen. She was turned to her side, about to exit the passenger side door, but had her eyebrow raised at me in suspicion. Confusion? I was never able to tell with Gwen. She was a mystery I was distancing myself from.
I nodded my head and she climbed out. I let go of the breath I had been holding.
I wasn't afraid of Gwen, but I had now seen her use both her gun and knife, and, quite frankly, it was terrifying to watch. Though tearing my eyes away from her in battle was hard, she had such a fighting grace, as if the movement of her body was so natural she had been born doing it. It wasn't like Eva, who moved with such aggression you jumped out of her way even in a non-threatening situation, or Trent, who fought heavy-handed (and quite clumsily, if we're being honest here). Gwen had a style all of her own, level-headed, as I was sure she was outside of the battlefield.
We still hadn't run into any more zombies yet, so there had been no need to wield swords, but the group held their weapons at hand at all times. It was unnerving when the danger wasn't around.
I took my time getting down from the truck. The sun was directly overhead and I mindlessly wiped at my forehead, collecting sweat trails on the back of my hand.
Mike gave me a timid smile as I looked over to him at the gas pump. He was pushing all sorts of buttons, shaking the machine in his hands. It looked like we'd struck out again.
Gwen was on her knees in the shade, pulling things out of her backpack. I watched her for a moment; watched her mouth forming words with no one around to hear them; watched her neatly place her belongings all back inside her bag when she was finished and take a huge gulp of water before getting back to her feet.
"Hey," I coughed, not realizing I had been walking towards her at all.
"Hey," she replied, swinging the backpack over one shoulder as she got to her feet.
I stared at her for a second before opening my mouth into a rush of words.
"You do that a lot," Gwen commented, but not with any viciousness to her voice. She was just noting it. "You have a lot of things to say and you say them all at once. It hurts me ears."
"I uh...I wanted to say thank you," I told her before I lost my nerve. "For saving me when the...things attacked the other day. I should have said it to you then."
Gwen shrugged, her frown not shifting. "It's my job, saving innocent people." I wanted to ask if she still thought I was an innocent person, after I had destroyed the cure. "You're welcome, though." I nodded my head, noticing I had started swaying back-and-fore. "Listen, Mike told me not to be so hard on you, and I'm trying not to be. He told me to tell you nothing is your fault, whatever that means. What did you say to him?"
"It was nothing," I assured her. Did she deserve to know that I knew? Mike told me not to talk to anyone about it, especially not Gwen. I couldn't help imagining how badly she was react to that.
Trent and Noah reappeared from inside the worn down building, fingers pinching their noses. I realized what the blood stains on the windows meant. Trent shook his head in our direction. Gwen gave him one single nod before the two boys started heading around the back of the building to investigate the perimeter. I could hear Noah muttering from where we stood.
"So...Did you really teach your boyfriend how to hot wire a car?" I asked, "It seems very anti-stereotype." When I turned back to Gwen she had a smile on her face and for a moment I thought I was in the presence of another person. "What?"
"Trent's not my boyfriend, stupid," she replied, for the first time a light tone to her voice, as if a million thoughts had been lifted from her mind. "But yeah, I did teach him how to hot wire a car."
"That's a pretty handy skill to have, I guess, if you're out here a lot." I tried to stop myself from hitting my palm to my head. I sounded stupid but the words wouldn't stay in my mouth. "Did your actual boyfriend teach you how to hot wire a car?"
She stared at me for a moment, her dark green eyes more piercing up close. "You ask a lot of questions."
I shrugged. "I have a head injury, I don't know anything." It sounded reasonable. To me at least, if not to Gwen.
She was quiet for a moment, watching my face as if waiting for something to happen. I couldn't tell what she was thinking, which worried me to no end. She could have been ready to whip out her knife and carve into my face for all knew.
Or maybe not, I felt like we were making progress.
"You taught me to hot wire a car." Then she walked away.
I figured she wanted me to stay behind her, but that wasn't the sort of information you tell someone and then walk away from.
Gwen climbed into the front bench of the truck, sitting in the middle where she had been before. I hurried in after her, taking up Trent's seat. I opened my mouth to talk but Gwen beat me to it.
"Your boyfriend taught you how to hot wire a car, if that was your next question," she said.
"I have a boyfriend?" That was a first.
"Ex-boyfriend. He turned. I killed him." My face must have looked as horrified as I felt. "You didn't want me to kill him, if that makes it easier, even though he cheated on you...with me. It's complicated."
My life started to piece back together every time I spoke to Mike, but then I would speak to Gwen and things didn't seem so clear anymore. It was like Mike told me the shiny side to the things that he knew, Gwen threw in the reality afterwards and everything was out of whack.
I wanted to question Gwen about our shared ex some more, but Eva climbed back into the truck with a grunt and an arm full of power bars. We all felt Mike kick the back wheel of the truck in defiance just as Trent let out a holler as he and Noah came back to the front of the building with smiles on their faces, a gas can being carried between them.
While celebrated, I laid my head back staring up at the rood of the cab, wondering what I had done to deserve any of this.
A/N: I didn't think I'd finish this today but I did. Before I finished it I actually wrote out the plot twist scene because it was killing me. There is a no-spoiler sneak peek on my tumblr (aprincessnotaqueen) if anyone is interested!