The wind picks up. It feels like we’ve been walking these empty roads for ages. Neither Ethan nor I had spoken since the awkward back touch. There’s so much tension in the broken silences that space out our brief conversations.
When he isn’t looking, I peek up at the face almost a foot above me.
Ethan’s face is contorted with dread. You can see the sorrow in his deeply-set eyes. His mouth is always stretched into a chapped, fleshy line.
“We’re almost there,” he says in a gruff whisper. I just nod.
He finally looks down at me. My heart begins to race and my cheeks start to burn. I give a strained smile.
He grins, flashing his straight, white teeth.
“We just need to turn the corner that leads to Maple Avenue,” he says, gesturing to the left, and lowering his upbeat voice, “That’s where my house is.”
“So will I be a tolerable addition to your group?”, I ask, turning the corner.
It takes a long time for him to respond, which makes me anxious. His Adam’s Apple bobs up and down, as if he were swallowing.
“Excellent,” he says, “ As long as you don’t sit around all day.”
I purse my lips, “What are you saying?”
Ethan sighs,” Well, you need to be able to fight and run.” He looks over my scrawny frame, perplexed.
“Are you underestimating my value, Ethan?” I say playfully. He raises an eyebrow and smirks.
“No, you’re strong. Skinny, perhaps, but strong,” he answers
Not even pretty, but strong.
We continue to walk down Maple Avenue. The winds are still striking us, whipping my hair back.
I wish Ethan would realize how red my hair was, or how bright my eyes were. Or my curved nose. Maybe even how undeveloped I was. I just want him to pay more attention to me.
He has more important things to do than acknowledge your presence.
As sad as it is, I have to agree with my thoughts.
I fail to prevent the pout tugging at the ends of my lips.
“What’s wrong?” Ethan asks, pulling together his thick eyebrows.
“Everything is so quiet,” I lie, trying to insinuate his silence.
“I know,” he says. He sounds like he wants to continue, but something cuts him off.
Ethan’s head jerks to the right, to the small, white house. A Turner is staggering across the lawn, sputtering incoherent sounds of hunger.
“Get out your knife,” Ethan hisses.
I fumble as I try to grasp the knife buried deep into my pocket. He nods toward the female Turner, who is not as slow as Jim was.
Once I pull it out, Ethan nudges me closer to the Turner.
What is he doing? Sacrificing me?
The street was dangerously narrow and there was an alive, flesh-eating corpse approaching me. A dislocated jaw hangs at the bottom of her torn face. Her lustrous eyes are dark brown, to match her untidy hair.
“You can take her,” he urges. His voice is rough, much different than a minute ago.
“I can,” I say, backing away as steadily as I can manage, “But I won’t”
“Jocelyn,” he groans loudly, “Don’t be a coward.”
“I am not a coward,” I snap, “She is not harming us. Why kill her?”
“It would harm you,” he says harshly, “It can kill you. You’ll die a terrible death and add to the rest of them.”
“Like you care!” I yell, “This isn’t the time to wallow in your lust for blood.”
He’s extremely angry now. The sputters and hissing are louder now. In my peripheral vision, I see the stumbling figure of the corpse walking towards us.
He runs up to the Turner and lodges his long knife into her skull. He pulls it out faster than he put it in. The disgusting, blue color spills down her face. She falls to the ground with a soft thud.
I glance in horror at his white knuckles. His fingers are wrapped around the handle of the knife tightly. He stares down at the Turner, without a gleam of regret or pity in his eyes.
He looks wild. Maybe you should leave while you’re still alive.
I swipe away the tears prickling at my eyes.
Ethan looks up at me. He looks concerned now.
One minute, he’s laughing. The next, he’s so angry and stabs a woman’s head.
“What the hell was that?” he yells, “Toughen up already, Jocelyn.”
My throat tightens, “You didn’t have to do that, either.”
His shoulders slump down. He sighs and looks down at the body he’s hovering over.
“I guess not,” he admits.
“Then why do it?”
He puts the knife back into his pocket. He walks closer to me, his head bent down.
“I-I just don’t want you to get hurt,” he mumbles under his breath, “I actually do care.”