Page 45

My eyes peeled open, and I blinked. The sun was pouring in through the top half of the window, and I reached over for Halle, feeling nothing but wrinkled sheets and a pillow.

I sat up fast, my heart slamming against my chest in a panic. My shoulders relaxed when I saw Mom watching me from her chair with Halle curled up asleep in her lap.

“Good morning,” she cooed.

I sighed and then lay back down, my head propped by the pillow. “Oh, thank God.”

Mom smiled. “I know. I woke up afraid it was just a dream, too. But you’re here, and I’m here, and we’re all okay.”

“Is everyone still asleep?” I asked.

She shook her head. “The boys are outside, burying Miranda and Bryce. We’re going to have a little funeral when Ashley feels up to it.”

“Miranda was her sister,” I said, more of a statement than a question.

“Yes,” Mom said.

“Do those cars outside have gas?” I asked.

“A little. Why?”

“We left people behind in Fairview about a month ago. They have little kids there, toddlers, younger than Halle. I was hoping, if we had enough gas, we could go get them.”

“I’ll talk to the others. I bet we can.”

I breathed out a long breath of relief. “Things have been bad for so long. It feels strange for it to be okay.”

“I know.”

“I just wish Dad were here.”

“I know you do, honey. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard that was for you, how hard it’s been for you being alone and taking care of Halle.”

“I can’t explain it.”

“If you ever want to try, I’m always here to listen.”

“I know,” I said.

A quiet knock sounded on the door.

“Come in,” Mom said softly. “Hi, Elleny. This is Jenna, my oldest.”

“Hi,” Elleny said with a reserved grin. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

She reminded me of Chloe, and I remembered how much I missed my friend.

“Nate said Ashley’s ready.”

Mom nodded and then shook Halle gently awake, kissing her temple. “Baby girl, it’s time to wake up.”

“What?” Halle said, looking around with wide eyes.

Mom helped Halle put on her glasses. “Hi,” Mom said, smiling.

Halle threw her arms around Mom’s neck. “Mommy!”

Mom closed her eyes tight and hugged her back. “We’ve got to go outside and say good-bye to our friends. Will you come outside with me?”

Halle climbed down off of Mom’s lap, and then we followed her and Elleny outside in our bare feet. The T-shirt I wore was nearly to my knees, and Halle’s shirt almost dragged against the ground. Our clothes were still drying from when Nathan had washed them the night before.

Ashley, Nathan, Zoe, and Skeeter were standing next to two fresh mounds of dirt.

Ashley’s eyes were swollen and red, but she smiled when she saw Halle and me. “Hi, girls,” she whispered.

I mirrored her expression, but I knew exactly how she felt, and I questioned how she could do anything but cry. Then, my eyes drifted to the other graves. Her father was buried there, and so was her boyfriend. I wondered if there was a point when loss stopped hurting so much. Maybe she was just used to the pain, or maybe we were a distraction.

Nathan spoke about Miranda and Bryce and about how they’d died saving Halle and me, and then everyone told funny stories about them. Ashley, Nathan, and Zoe put flowers on each of the graves, and then we walked to the porch, everyone finding a seat.

“It feels strange to sit out here and not watch the hill for the girls,” Mom said. She was sitting between us and hugged us both to each of her sides.

The wheat waved in the cool morning breeze, hissing gently in harmony with wind blowing through the trees. Mom rested her cheek on my head as Halle climbed onto her lap. A peaceful expression on her face hinted at utter bliss. We had finally found her. When she reached over and intertwined her fingers with Nathan’s, I knew that we had completed the happiness that she’d somehow found at the end of the world.

The End