“Jerry, can we stay here until morning? I’m not sure it’s safe to walk around at night. There are a lot more of those things. They’re pouring in from the interstate. A hundred at least. Probably more.”
“Sure, sure. Cathy will get you some blankets and pillows, won’t you, Cathy?”
Cathy Lynn complied, turning toward wherever he kept his linens. She froze mid-step when another cluster of bullets cracked, even closer this time. “Dad, the closer the shooting gets, the closer those things get. We should board up the windows like the news lady said.”
“I told you, we’re not staying here. We’re going to Bobby’s farm at first light.”
Cathy Lynn sighed. “But what about tonight?”
“She has a point,” Tavia said.
I was scared before, but my panic was beginning to push the bile higher in my throat. The infection was no longer over there. It was right outside. It was waiting for us in the dark. I opened my mouth to tell Dad I was afraid, but then I looked down at Halle. She wasn’t trembling from the cold. She was terrified. I’d barely noticed that she wasn’t really talking. Usually, I couldn’t get her to shut up. If I admitted to being afraid, she would lose it.
“We need to find Mom,” I said.
“We will.” Dad dipped his head once. Then, he turned to Jerry and Cathy Lynn to discuss fortifying the house for the night.
He wasn’t thinking about how important it was to get to Mom, and it was making me beyond mad. She should be here by now.
What if she was one of the people on the interstate, trying to get on to the Anderson exit, when those idiots opened fire? What if she’s hurt? What if she made it into town another way? She would look for us at Dad’s house.
I pulled out my phone—no service. The battery was only at nineteen percent, and I didn’t have my charger. I thought about how stupid it had been to check Facebook, Snapchat, and the news instead of charging my phone. The only thing that mattered was talking to Mom, and when I got service back, I wouldn’t be able to call her.
“Do you have a charger for this?” I asked Jerry, holding up my smartphone.
He shook his head.
Cathy Lynn held out her hand. “I do.”
I handed her my phone, and she took it.
“Dad,” I said.
He half-turned before waving me away, and then he resumed his conversation.
“We can’t stay here. We have to go to your house. Mom will look for us there.”
“I want Mom!” Halle burst into tears.
“Jenna, for God’s sake!” Dad knelt next to his youngest. “Halle, honey, you have to be quiet,” he said, shushing her.
With her free arm, Tavia hugged me to her side. “I know you’re anxious, baby girl. Don’t you worry. We’re going to find her.”
I pointed to the door. “The house is a block and a half away!”
Dad grit his teeth. “Jenna—”
“She’s there. I know it. She’s a block or so away, and we’re sitting here. If we don’t get to your house, we’ll miss her!”
“Jenna, quiet!” Dad growled.
My eyes filled with tears. “I’m going.”
“Jenna!” Halle sobbed.
Dad grabbed me with one arm and Halle with the other, and he held us together in a tight hug. “Girls,” he said, keeping his voice low and calm.
That surprised me. Usually, he made a bad situation worse.
“I know you’re scared. I know you miss your mom. I know you want to be with her, and I will make sure that happens. But you’ve got to trust me. Can you do that? Please?”
I pressed my lips together, my bottom lip pulling up. Halle’s sobs softened to snivels, and I resorted to crying frustrated but quiet tears into Dad’s shoulder. Something deep inside told me that my mom was close and that she was feeling scared and desperate like I was. The urge to get to her was too strong to ignore, but I couldn’t leave Halle, and she wouldn’t leave without Dad.
“Okay?” Dad said. “First light.”
I wiped my eyes and turned away from him. “Whatever.”
THE EARLY MORNING SUN peeked through the plastic blinds hanging on the windows, highlighting the thousands of dust motes floating in the air.
Halle was curled up next to me, all but a tangled mess of blonde hair, covered in a thick woolen blanket. As the night had turned colder and the gunshots had fired closer, we’d held on to each other, and somewhere between the chill inside and the fear of what was outside, we’d fallen asleep.
I picked up my things and quickly stuffed them into Halle’s backpack. Then, I nudged Tavia. Tobin had been fussy on and off all night. Tavia had said it was because he was in a new place and off his routine.
“Hey,” Tavia said with a sleepy smile, propping her head with her arm. “We made it through the night.”
Dad was already awake, standing by the door. “I haven’t heard close shots since sunrise. Let’s get moving.”
He turned to see Jerry shuffling from his bedroom. The old man held out his hand, and Dad took it firmly.
“I can’t thank you enough, Jerry.”
“You sure you won’t come with us? I’ve just got that Lincoln Town Car in the driveway, but we can make it work.”
Dad shook his head. “My Tahoe is parked near the armory. Once we get our things, we’ll head that way.”
Jerry glanced at Tavia and a still-sleeping Tobin. “I hope it has three rows.”
“It does,” Dad said, smiling. He bent down next to Halle and gently prodded her awake.
She sat up, and Dad handed over her glasses. Looking around, she was confused at first, but then recognition lit her eyes, and they glossed over.
“Halle, we’re okay,” Dad said. “We’re going home.”
“Is Mom there?” she asked.
“We’ll soon see,” Tavia said with a wink.
Halle scrambled to her feet and joined me at the door. She lifted her glasses to wipe each of her eyes with the back of her hand.
I focused on the road to the east. It was hard to see against the bright sun, but I could tell the road was peppered with just four or five ambling people.
“Dad,” I said.
He leaned toward the screen door.
Tavia lifted her son off the floor and into her arms before joining us at the door. “Seems like they move pretty slow. That guy from last night didn’t catch up to us, even when he was chasin’.”