Dad handed me a hat and sunglasses. “Here.”
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” I asked, pulling my dark hair through the hole in the back of the cap. The hat didn’t sit right when I put on the sunglasses, so I pulled up the bill to sit higher on my forehead.
“Yes, we’re going this way,” he said, taking the first step.
I followed him out the gate and to the right, heading through backyards, until we reached the first road to the west. It was paved but not very well. Fairview only had a school because two rural towns had combined to form one. They had no hospital, no Walmart, not even a grocery store. But they had two banks and four churches.
“I thought you might like to get out of the house,” Dad said.
“Yeah, but that’s not why you brought me with you. Everyone wants to get out of the house.”
He looked both ways and then gripped the hammer in his hand. “I brought you for two reasons—to talk and to help. Did you see that church on the highway when we came into town? People were holed up in there the first day or two. I’m thinking it has supplies.”
“If you want to go to the church, it’s in the opposite direction.”
“I don’t want to lead any infected to the house, Jenna.”
“They’re not that smart. They don’t know where you’re coming from unless you get caught standing in the yard or they hear someone inside.”
Dad sighed, annoyed. “You don’t know that, Jenna.”
“I’ve been right so far.”
“Just … let’s just go to long way to the church. Humor me.”
“If it does have supplies, I bet Skeeter took them.”
“His name is Skeeter. Connor said he saved a bunch of people at the church, including Connor, but Skeeter lost his wife. He was burying her the last time I saw him.”
“You saw him? When?”
“Through the hole in the plywood that Connor’s always looking through. What does it matter?”
“Is he still around?”
“No. He went to go find his family.”
Dad seemed comforted by that thought. He continued walking, keeping a watchful eye in all directions.
Infected were spread out—some of them standing in place, some of them stumbling around. None of them were closer than a block to us.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Just want to know who our neighbors are. Keep an eye on that one,” he said, nodding to a woman in a black dress.
Her dark hair was long and tangled, and it dawned on me that while I was noticing her, she had noticed us, and she was now walking in our direction. A low moan came from her throat, her arms reaching toward us.
I gripped the bat, but I didn’t panic.
“I worry about you,” Dad said.
“Why?” I asked.
“You’re thirteen, and you haven’t really…you know, had a moment.”
“I’m not talking about my period with you.”
“No! No,” he said, making a face. “I mean, you haven’t seemed too upset by all of this. And that’s concerning. It should be damn scary for a girl your age. It’s scary to me.”
“Maybe you just don’t know me that well.”
Dad pulled his mouth to the side, not amused.
I blew out a breath. I hated being too honest with him. It made me feel too vulnerable, like he would use it against me later. “I’m concentrating on getting to Mom. Once we get there, I’m not making any promises. I reserve the right to freak out at that point.”
Dad picked up the pace, pointing to a few more infected who began to follow, too. “Jenna,” he said, his tone a warning.
“Don’t tell me that we might not make it to Red Hill. I won’t accept that.”
“No.” He shook his head. “That is why I wanted to bring you with me. We’re going to have to make a choice. If we go to Red Hill, the little ones can’t make the trip.”
“Halle can make it.”
“Connor, yes. Halle, maybe. The other little ones, definitely not. Jud is barely five, and Tobin and Nora are practically toddlers. It’s too far. We need to find a vehicle, a van, or maybe even two cars and gas that will get us at least most of the way there. If we can’t…we’ll have to leave them behind.”
“I’ve already told Tavia that.”
“Yes, and I’ll tell April that, too. If they expect us to stay with them instead of being with our mom, they’re crazy.”
We crossed the highway, walking with purpose, and went past Brad and Darla’s silver minivan and the green truck we’d crashed into. The church was just two blocks away on that side of the road. The first day when we’d arrived, it had been crawling with infected, but as far as I could tell, it was pretty much empty now. Dozens of bodies were lying on the back side of the church in line from the back door to the fresh grave Skeeter had dug.
“Skeeter must have cleared most of them before he left. He knew April was still here with her kids. Probably did it as a favor since he couldn’t stay.”
“Did she want him to stay?”
“Connor said she asked him to, but he said no.”
I rolled my eyes. “No. Don’t tell me.”
“What?” he said, instantly defensive.
“Are you and April—?”
“No,” he said, tucking his chin and making the most ridiculous attempt to deny it.
He was a terrible liar. His eyes would glass over, and he’d blink a lot. That, and he had a whole lie face that he’d make.
My eyes and stomach rolled at the same time. “Gross.”
“Don’t ask if you don’t wanna know,” he said, positioning himself to swing if something came out of the back door.
“She just lost her husband. Her kids are in the house. It’s just wrong.”
“We all cope differently. Get ready.”
I pulled up the bat, holding it in both hands.
Dad pushed open the door and then stepped back, waiting for something to jump out at us. When that never happened, he walked inside.
I glanced around me. A few infected were just walking into the church parking lot, a hundred or so yards away.