“We know the way,” I said to Dad. “You just have to drive us. It’s secluded and stocked. Mom always said it would be the best place to go, and she’s there.”
He shook his head. “It’s a long way, honey. We should wait here until things calm down.”
I held up my hands and then let them fall to my thighs. “Dead people are walking around outside. We don’t have time. She’s waiting on us!”
“Okay!” Dad said. “Okay, just let me think.”
“While you think,” Tavia said, “we girls had better take advantage of a working bathroom. Let me take Tobin first.”
Halle and I agreed, and then when they emerged, I led Halle in by the hand. In the dim room, she hummed from the toilet, and then she washed her hands as I sat down. I didn’t realize until that moment just how much I’d needed to go.
“We have to be more careful,” I said. “Don’t want to get bladder infections.”
“What do you mean?” Halle said.
“It’s not good to hold it for so long,” I said, walking over to the sink.
“Why would we need to hold it?”
“In case we don’t get to the ranch today. If we have to take back roads and it takes a little longer, then we need to think about these things. We can’t just go to the doctor, like we’ve done before.”
Halle pretended to understand, but I knew she had no idea what was really going on. To her, it was scary, but she was on autopilot, just doing what she was told. At some point, it would finally set in that things would be different for a long time.
When we came out of the bathroom, Tobin was pushing his train on the floor.
“He’s so good,” I said.
Tavia crossed her arms, looking proud. “He always has been. Hardly cried as a baby. Everyone told me that he’d be a nightmare of a toddler, but you can see, he’s my angel.”
A shadow darkened the very spot where he played. A low moan mixed with a gurgling noise made us all freeze.
“Choo-choo!” Tobin said, shoving his train across the carpet.
His voice was soft, but the moaning grew louder. Tavia scooped him up off the floor and backed against the wall, motioning for him to be quiet. Together, Halle, Dad, and I slowly backed away from the window and went into the kitchen, joining Tavia and her son.
“Jenna, keep an eye on that window. Tavia, stay with Halle. I’m going to get supplies,” Dad said.
“I’m going with you,” I said. “I know what we need.”
Dad frowned in confusion.
“Bottles of water, a can opener, flashlights, batteries, candles, socks. Mom and I watched those shows all the time. Let me help you.”
“Watch the window,” he commanded Tavia. He pointed to me and then the kitchen cabinets.
I went straight to the front closet and grabbed one of Dad’s hunting backpacks, unzipped it, and then went into the kitchen, opening the silverware drawer. I packed three forks, two knives, and the can opener. Then, I opened the junk drawer and fished out the box of matches, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a mini LED flashlight, two candlesticks, and a package of batteries. From the cabinets I tossed in a package of beef jerky, some ramen noodles, sandwich bags, and ten cans of soup. I grimaced. They weighed down my pack quite a bit.
The bathroom was next, but my backpack was filling up fast. I grabbed the first-aid kit, rubbing alcohol, all the Tylenol and ibuprofen I could find, three washrags, insect repellent, two rolls of toilet paper, and sunscreen. I tried to find a small mirror but no such luck.
In the utility room, I opened the top cabinets where Dad kept all his hunting and camping gear. “Halle!” I called just above a whisper.
She crept in, looking up at me through her glasses. Her hair was still matted to her head.
“Empty your backpack.”
“What? Why?” she said, already whining.
“Because we’re going to need things to survive and not your nail polish. Empty it. Hurry.”
“But we’re going to Red Hill. We don’t need a tarp.”
“Halle!” I hissed.
She sighed as she let the straps fall off her shoulders, and then she pulled on the pink zipper. She turned it upside down, and a variety of useless junk fell to the floor.
I threw in a tightly rolled-up tarp, another flashlight, a canteen, a compass, and a full roll of duct tape.
“I can’t find one of my backpacks or my 9mm,” Dad said. He’d changed into one of his navy blue Anderson Fire Department T-shirts with matching cargo pants, and his standard-issue navy fleece pullover was tied around his waist. He still had on his heavy black boots laced up to the top. “They’re gone, and so is the ammo.”
My eyes brightened. “She took them.”
Dad wasn’t happy, but he didn’t dwell on it for long.
“Do you have a leather jacket?” I asked.
“No. Why?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Zombies will bite right through that thing,” I said, pointing to his pullover. “What else did you get?”
After he processed my words with an unsettled expression, he held up a long nylon bag, zipped closed. “My hunting rifle and plenty of ammo.” He pointed to the rolled-up nylon on top of his pack. “The tent—just in case,” he said to Halle. He tossed her a heavier coat. “I’ve got my good hunting knife and a multi-tool, and we still have those blankets from the armory.”
“Halle, go get a few more bottles of water,” I said. “Don’t make your pack too heavy.”
“I know.” She turned on her heels.
I pushed air through my lips, and my cheeks bulged out. Her backpack already appeared to be weighing her down. She would be complaining about carrying it before too long.
I walked into Dad’s bedroom and looked around before going into his closet. I took three sweatshirts, tying one around my waist, and three ball caps.
“No extra clothes?” he asked.
“We don’t have the room.” I looked at his nightstand and then back at him. Looking back at his nightstand, I lunged for it and pulled it open.
“What are you doing?” He tugged me back, like I knew he would.
But it was too late. The drawer was open, and there was an open box of condoms.
I snatched it up. “Bingo,” I said, tossing it to him.
His eyes flitted everywhere but on me. He was clearly embarrassed and thoroughly confused.