I try my best to keep a considerable distance from Ethan. It has been agonizingly quiet ever since he “took care” of the harmless Turner that confronted us five minutes ago.
He said he cared about me. Something, I don’t know what, moves within me.
But his eyes don’t glance down at me; they are fixed on the road before us. I wonder what these strangers will be like. If I’m going to staying with them until this whole infection thing is cured, I don’t want them to be hostile towards me. Maybe I’ll make a friend.
“It’s right there,” Ethan grunts, nodding towards a medium-sized house five houses down. It’s painted a bluish-gray color, like the dreary sky above us. At least it wasn’t raining anymore. It’s curtains are drawn. The grass looks almost like hay in the tiny yard.
I nod and cross my arms again. In my peripheral vision, I see Ethan looking at me.
“Are you cold?” he asks quietly.
“Yes,” I admit, “But we’re here now. The house is right there.”
I thought he would offer me his jacket, but instead shrugs.
“Oh yeah, true,” he says in a voice that irks me.
I grimace as we walk down this endless street. I walk a little speedier, desperate to settle into more tolerable weather conditions. And of course, to keep my distance.
The house’s mailbox is now a few yards away. All of a sudden, Ethan tugs at my arm.
“What?”, I say a little more obnoxious than I had intended. I try to pull my arm away from him, but his grip is strong.
“Before you go in, I’m just going to warn you. In my parents’ eyes you will be a burden if you don’t contribute to the group,” he states.
He must have seen my frightened expression, so he continued, “Well, please contribute. The crazy man is even helping out. The girl is broken, too, but she still makes an effort to help us. So will you.”
His voice is urgent and terse. I swallow the glob in my throat and exhale.
“Promise?” Ethan looks into my eyes intensely. He lifts up his pinkie finger.
“Promise,” I hook our smallest fingers together and force a smile.
The house is as cold as the air outside. The furniture looks ancient. Sitting on one of the antediluvian pieces, is a stout man eating a bowl of something hot. His eyebrows furrow when he looks at me, similar to the familiar expression Ethan gives me. He sets down his bowl and rises. He is broad. This must be his father.
“Who’s that?” he asks Ethan.
“I found her in the deli. Ji-I mean- one of them was attacking her. Her name is Jocelyn,” Ethan answers.
Jim was his uncle, which means that he could be his father’s brother.
I feel very uneasy. Ethan killed Jim without a second thought.
Would his father even care at this point?
His father looks me up and down, “Where were you before?”
It takes me a while to realize that his question was directed towards me.
“Uh, up on Cedar Street.”
“Why were you at the deli?”
“Who were you with?”
I hesitate this time, “No one.”
He looks impressed. He sticks out his big hand, “I’m George.”
His sullen expression does not falter. He’s probably skeptical.
I shake his hand firmly, trying my best to imply that I am stronger than of what he may think of me.
“So you stuck it out all this time?” his lips curl upward. Crinkle appear at the sides of his eyes, which are similar to Ethan’s.
“I guess so.”
“Eileen!” he shouts, scaring me.
I hear a female voice come from another room, “What?”
“Ethan brought another one over.”
A woman’s face appears from a doorway down the hall. She steps out, rubbing her hands with a towel and walks over to us. When she is closer, it becomes obvious that she, too, is a parent of Ethan. A blue nightdress clings to her slim body.
“Hello,” she says sourly.
“Hi,” I say, “I’m Jocelyn.”
“Eileen. I suppose you need a bed too, right?” she asks in annoyance. She looks like she hasn’t slept in weeks. In another world, in another century, she was probably pretty. But now she is worn out.
I shrug at her and bite my lip nervously
“Mom,” Ethan says through gritted teeth.
She shrugs in response and saunters back down the hall, to prepare a bed, I suppose.
“I’m sorry about her, she is tired of the unexpected guests Ethan brings back. Please understand,” George lays his hand on my shoulder.
“Of course,” I nod.
“She’ll get used to you.”
Get used to me?