“I love you, Nolita,” Daniels said, pushing the hair back from her forehead, and then he looked up at Boden standing over him. “I can’t help her. I can’t fix this. It’s too …”
“Move,” Boden said simply.
Daniels looked down at her and sniffled. Almost reluctantly, he let go of her. He still knelt by her side, but he moved back from her.
Without saying a word, Boden stared down at Nolita. Then he pointed the gun at her forehead and pulled the trigger.
I jumped, and Daniels wailed. He immediately picked up Nolita again, holding her dead body to him.
As someone who’d been awake while people played with her intestines, I knew that Boden had done the right thing by Nolita. She wouldn’t have survived that much longer. Even if she miraculously did live despite the wounds, it would only be a matter of time before she was a zombie.
Boden turned and walked out of the kitchen. I stayed behind, watching Daniels cry over Nolita for a few minutes, but the situation was too gruesome for me to leave him there.
“Come on.” I touched his shoulder. “We need to go.”
“No, I don’t want to leave her,” Daniels said. “I can’t just leave her here like this.”
“We can’t bury her, and you can’t just sit here with a dead body,” I said. “Let’s go and get you cleaned up.”
“No, I can’t.” He shook his head and tried to look up at me, but his eyes wouldn’t meet mine.
“You’ll get used to leaving the dead behind,” I said.
I grabbed his arm and started pulling him. He was resistant at first, but he gave in, letting me lead him away from her.
I don’t know why exactly I helped him. I just knew how much it hurt to lose somebody you cared about, and it didn’t do any good to get their blood all over your clothes.
We didn’t talk about Nolita. There wasn’t much we could say that everyone didn’t already know.
In the main room, they’d all heard the commotion and were wide awake. Stella was crying, and Bishop was comforting her. When I took Daniels out, I cleaned him up as best I could using a rag and no water. They’d watched me for a while, but eventually, the kids fell back to sleep, and so did Bishop, Teddy, and Serg.
Even Daniels managed to fall asleep. But I stayed awake for a long time. I don’t think Boden slept, but I’m not sure how much sleep he ever got.
In the morning, we packed up to go. When Stella asked about Nolita, nobody answered her. We just gathered our things and left.
Daniels walked much slower than he had before. He tried to keep to himself, staring at the ground and lagging behind the group. But whenever I noticed it, I would grab him and drag him along, forcing him to pay attention and walk faster.
This proved more and more irritating as we went along. The area was heavily wooded and very mountainous. We tried to go around the mountains whenever possible, but the land was still rugged. Dragging Daniels around trees and up hills wasn’t exactly fun.
It was getting colder now, but the ground wasn’t completely snow covered. The cold didn’t seem to deter the zombies, though, based on their death groans. They’d picked up right up on our trail. We might have lost them yesterday, but if Daniels was right about the virus being able to attract the infected, then the zombie that killed Nolita had probably alerted the rest of the pack somehow.
Ripley seemed to be the only one that really didn’t like the cold. Whenever she had to walk through snow, she looked particularly pissed off and confused.
Max was also struggling to keep up. Serg stepped in to help him, which really pissed me off. Not just because I didn’t quite trust Serg yet but also because I was too busy helping Daniels to be able to help my brother.
We took a short break near the top of a smaller mountain. The hike up had been grueling, but it seemed to be the easiest way through. The peak was covered in snow, so we hoped it would at least slow down the zombies.
Daniels refused to eat anything, but that was fine by me. One fewer mouth to feed was better for us all. It’s when we got up to leave and Daniels refused to get up that I finally lost it.
“Oh my gosh,” I sighed. “Is this what Nolita had to deal with all the time? Constantly pushing you along?”
“No.” He glared at me for saying her name. “I went willingly.”
“Good. Can you go willingly now?” I asked.
The others had walked a few feet ahead, but they were waiting for us. Teddy was carrying Stella again. None of us trusted her to be able to make it down the mountain on her own. The path was treacherous at times.
“No. I won’t.” Daniels stood up, his face drawn. “Why don’t you just leave me alone? Why don’t you just let me stay here to die?”
“Because!” I didn’t exactly know why, so I sighed in exasperation.
“Because we don’t leave anyone behind.” Boden stepped toward us, trying to come to my aid. “If you can walk, you can follow us. Now come on.”
“Exactly,” I chimed in.
“No.” Daniels kept his eyes fixed on me and pointed at me. “You. I want to know why you’re pushing me so hard. You don’t even like me. And after everything I did to you and your brother, I don’t even blame you. Why can’t you just let me die?”
“I don’t know why,” I said finally. “I just can’t, allright?”
“No.” He shook his head. “That’s not good enough.”