Not Far

Jean is subjected to a rude awakening when she parts ways with her best friend. She makes her way to Washington D.C. before finally running into a group of survivors, but is she in for more than she bargained for? Will she slowly lose her mind in this lonely world of devastation and no hope?

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11. The Tests

It was a beautiful, chilly, early morning the day Owen returned to me. I was thrilled; overjoyed! I had news. Big news. I just had to find a way to put it. Weeks ago, Pam had pointed something out that was particularly strange, even by apocalypse standards.

  ~Flashback~

  I was making my way into the gardens, crossing the courtyard and the busy men and women who were left behind to work on making room for the new stuff. I watched as a man carried a crate full of wool and fleece coats walked by, struggling slightly with the heavy box. I rushed to his side.

  "Here." I said as I lifted the other end of the crate. I began to walk backwards, us guiding each other to the small room in the back of the warehouse. The man smiled and wiped his forehead off, careful not to run his rough, gloved hand over the fresh wounds on his forehead. I eyed the guy.

  "Are you new or something?" I asked. The man nodded.

  "They found me a couple days ago, someone walked me back here; carved into my forehead." He pointed at the red, glistening wound. It seemed as if his wound was still trying to heal itself. I nodded before excusing myself. As I left the building, I managed to clumsily bumped into someone.

  "Sorry." I muttered with my head lowered. A pair of gloved hands made their way to my shoulders and a pair of beige pants along with dark green sneakers came into view. I looked up to meet Pam's green, worry-filled eyes.

  "Hey hon. It's okay, you weren't looking and, quite frankly, I wasn't paying attention." She reassured me. I smiled up at her.

  "I was just coming to see you." I told her. She walked inside and I followed her, slightly interested in where she was headed to. We talked along the way about small things we enjoyed before the apocalypse. She mentioned reading.

  "The first Hunger Games was one of my favorites..." She uttered. My eyes widened in shock.

  "Really? I don't know... you've always struck me as a 'The Day of the Triffids' kinda girl." I told her. She simply crossed her arms and looked at me, stopping in her tracks.

  "Oh ha ha. I get it, cause I love plants, right?" She asked me sarcastically. I shook my head.

  "No. It's because you seem like the kinda girl who would curl up after a long day in the gardens and read a science fiction novel that just happens to involve plants." I told her nonchalantly. She sighed and continued on.

  "What was your favorite book?" She inquired. I raised a hand.

  "Book series, my friend." I said. She arched an eyebrow.

  "A song of Ice and Fire." I answered finally. She nodded as she opened a locked closet. The closet consisted of various shades of pinks and purples along with plenty of white. I had finally figured out where we were.

  "Why are we in here?" I asked as Pam skimmed along one of the shelves, digging her hand into one of the bags and pulling three sanitary pads out.

  "Why do you think, Jean? You should grab some too. You never know when it's coming, especially nowadays." She told me. I shook my head, holding my hands up as she held one out.

  "I'm good. If anything I should've gotten it last week, but it was always kinda... irregular." Pam eyed me suspiciously, crossing her arms and shifting her weight to one leg.

  "Really? You sure something ain't up? From what I've heard you've been taking some... strange combinations of food." She told me. I turned around feeling the blush paint my cheeks, my face heating more by the second.

  "Hm. I haven't noticed." I lied. I just thought I was gaining an appetite or something. All signs were pointing to something else. She shook her head.

  "Too bad we don't have a doctor. I would've marched you straight down there by now." She told me as she walked right past me. I furrowed my eyebrows. All I could think about was the possibility that I was pregnant.

  ~Present~

  There was no doubt in my mind that I was pregnant, from the morning sickness to the weird cravings, I knew, but I still needed absolute proof. There I was, slaving over-what was soon to be-a small lettuce garden with Pam. She was still worried for me, but I reassured her. She didn't have to worry until I knew.

  I pulled up yet another weed that grew within the dirt box, as I liked to call it. Pam always got mad at me when I called it that, telling me I shouldn't see it for what it is but for what it'll become. And while yes, it is quite wise and extremely good advice, I wasn't too pleased with how messy this future garden was, so out of spite I called it a dirt box.

  Pam returned with water she had collected from the small brook nearby and poured it all over the now bare dirt patch, which then became a mud patch. I sighed, standing and stretching. There were subtle pops in my neck as I rolled it to the left, before switching to the right.

  "They're back... Alpha W's looking for you." Pam told me in a tone barely above a whisper. My heart leapt in my chest out of excitement and nervousness. I was going to have to go on my own run soon, my requests would ruin the potential surprise for Owen. Therefore, I must go on my own.

  I ran into the warehouse, ready to embrace my beloved. I searched every corner, making sure he wasn't there. When I turned the corner to face a familiar hallway, I saw Edward, who stood ominously against a wall with a scowl on his face. I furrowed my eyebrows and cautiously approached. I moved around him awkwardly, trying my best to get to the room without upsetting him. As I got closer to the door, he grabbed my arm.

  "He's in there waiting for you." Edward tells me. I looked over at the door and pointed toward it.

  "That's where I was going." I laughed nervously as he let me go. He went back to brooding as I walked away, hurrying toward the door. I practically slammed it shut, my breathing became jagged even though I had only speed walked a few feet to the door. My irrational fear of the silent Edward had set my heart at a pace that worried me.

  "Jean?" I turned around to face my dear, sweet Owen, throwing myself into his grasp and nuzzling into his chest. My fear had been pulled away as I settled into his loving embrace.

  "I missed you." I told him. He simply ran his hand along the top of my head, eventually lacing his fingers in my curly, knotted hair. I looked up at him, a small smile on my face. But this was quickly wiped away when I remembered. He let go of me, walking over to the desk and placing a few things within one of his drawers.

  "Owen..." I called out. He turned around, an eyebrow raised. The room suddenly felt warmer under his gaze.

  "I love you." I said simply, completely shaking my thought away. I wanted to ask him about going on a solo run, but I knew he'd tell me no or request to go with me and I couldn't have that. He said nothing after my cover comment, all he did was kneel down underneath the desk and fish something out from under it. When he stood, he held something in one hand, keeping it hidden from my view. As I approached, he turned and held it horizontally across both of his hands. A sledgehammer with a wooden handle and a dark metal for the hammer.

  I ran my fingers along the handle, smiling widely, my breath had been taken away. I traced along the end of the handle where there was a simple carving that said Jean. I looked up at Owen, tears in my eyes. He smiled down at me, a look of pure amusement and love in his eyes. I grabbed the hammer from his hands, getting used to its weight as I backed up, swinging it at some pretend enemy before swinging it up to rest on my shoulder.

  "Do you like it?" He asked. I let out a breathy laugh.

  "Like it? I love it!" I shouted happily, lunging forward and embracing Owen once again. He gently pushed me away, still holding onto my shoulders and staring at me before pointing at my hammer.

  "I carved on it, had to make sure people knew it was yours." He explained. I looked down at it, smiling and enjoying the moment as I rested my head on his chest. Later that night, as I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling as Owen softly snored next to me, I contemplated leaving while he slept. I didn't want to, I didn't want him to think I left him, left the group. I wouldn't dream of it.

  My mind had been made up by the time I was dressed, a backpack hanging off of one shoulder, and my sledgehammer in my right hand. I grabbed a few supplies from our inventory before beginning my journey. The halls in the old warehouse were empty and quiet, I was the only one awake. As I crossed the courtyard, I heard the muffled growls from the walkers trapped within the numerous parked trucks.

  The moon was full that night, shining through the distant trees and completely painting the courtyard and garden a pale blue color. I took a moment to take in the beauty that was displayed before me. The wind picked up suddenly, sending a chill down my spine. I shook my head and turned around, ready to leave and search for what I needed.

  "Jean?" I heard a familiar voice say in barely a whisper. I turned around and saw Pam, jumping slightly.

  "Shit." I muttered. She furrowed her eyebrows as she studied my appearance, a small frown forming on her face. She crossed her arms.

  "Where are you going?" She asked sadly. I sighed, looking down to avoid her gaze.

  "I have to look for something. I promise I'll come back." I told her as I turned away. Pam grabbed my shoulder, turning me back around to face her. She put her hands on her hips, moving her green flannel to reveal a holster with a gun inside.

  "Not without me. I have a feeling I know what you're looking for. I can help you find it." She stated while covering it back up. I raised an eyebrow, mouth agape as I attempted to find the right words to say.

  "Let's go." She commanded as she walked off, opening the gate and walking out with me close behind her. I held my sledgehammer tightly and kept a lookout while she closed the gate. We set off to find an old drugstore that Pam knew was nearby. I trusted her, she knew this area best. I hadn't been in this part of the surrounding woods in a while, so I couldn't trust myself.

  I must admit, going into the woods late at night alone, with a bad memory of the surrounding area was a bad idea. But now I had Pam. Someone who knew the area well and probably saw it every day through the trees considering we were heading in the direction parallel to the gardens. She led me along the fence before breaking away from it, walking diagonally and marking the first tree with her pocket knife.

  "We're gonna keep going straight." She told me. I nodded, following close by. Within ten minutes, we had made it to a drugstore. It was small, dark, and seemed to be barren of all medical supplies. I looked around, scanning the dusty, empty shelves for the things I was looking for. I sighed when I had searched every single shelf and found nothing.

  I walked to the back of the store, searching for Pam. I was disappointed, but I was more nervous than anything. I wasn't comfortable with not knowing. There was a loud crash coming from the small closet in the back of the store. I burst through the door, sledgehammer ready, all for nothing. I saw Pam standing awkwardly in front of a fallen shelf. I let my guard down, sighing and staring in complete and utter disbelief.

  "Found them." She stated awkwardly while holding a pink and white box in her left hand. I took the backpack off of my shoulder and took five tests. When I stood, I grabbed the test in Pam's hand and placed it in the front backpack pocket.

  She smiled at me as we walked side by side down the road toward a small shopping mall she knew was nearby. She told me the shops that were located within the indoor shopping center, and I had perked up when she mentioned a Spencer's.

  I took out the small flashlight and explored the abandoned mall, killing any walkers that get in my way. Eventually I found the old, run down Spencer's which seemed to be untouched. It made sense, why would anyone need anything from here during the apocalypse?

  There it was. Perfectly hanging from one of the back racks, easily accessible from my height. A black corset with purple laces and a red trim. I reached out to grab it off of the rack, throwing my bag to the ground and stuffing the garment into it along with a garter belt I had found just below it. I had an idea for tonight.

  When we had returned, I was greeted by a familiar figure standing at the gate. Owen was standing there, his hands in his pockets, his jaw clenched. I froze, feeling as if I was going to cry, gulping down the lump in my throat. He told Pam to leave and she obeyed. I could tell that his mood wasn't the best and it would be wise not to upset him further. He moved closer to me, taking his hands out of his pockets and letting them dangle at his sides. I looked down, ashamed. I knew I should've left a note.

  "Where were you?" He asked lowly. I opened my mouth to say something, but no words left my mouth. He sat there for a few seconds, waiting for my answer before turning around and walking in the other direction. I grabbed onto his shoulder, trying to get his attention again.

  "Owen... I can't tell you I just-" I was cut off by an open palm coming into contact with my cheek with enough force to knock me over. My hand immediately flew up to feel at my rapidly heating cheek as tears filled my eyes. I looked up at him, a single tear ran down my left cheek and my breathing became uneven as I tried not to cry. He sighed and knelt down beside me.

  "Come on, let's go inside." He muttered as he helped me to my feet. I still couldn't comprehend what had just happened, no matter how hard I tried. Why would he hit me? Gently, he sat me down on our bed, digging in his drawers as I sat there silently crying. He returned to me with a bottle of water in one hand and a washcloth in his other hand. He poured a bit of water on the cloth.

  He sat beside me, wiping the tears away along with the dirt on my face. I didn't bother moving, why would I? Who says that he won't hit me again if I don't comply. He wiped my forehead, ridding it of the w on my forehead. I furrowed my eyebrows at this, eyeing him warily. He took one of my arms and held it out while putting a bit more water on the cloth, before going back to wiping my body down.

  "I'm sorry..." He told me softly. I finally turned my head fully to look at him. His expression seemed genuine. Slowly, his gaze met mine. After he was done wiping down the visible parts of my body he reached for my shirt, discarding both the shirt and my bra. He then washed the sweat off of my torso and back, the gentle feeling of the washcloth on my bare skin was enough to make me moan slightly.

"Then why did you do it?" I asked. He then pulled my shorts and underwear down, wiping down my most private parts before adding more water and moving to my legs, slowly making his way from my thighs to my knees.

   "I thought you left. For good." He told me. He then removed my boots and socks and finished washing my body, he had used the entire bottle on me. One of the only bottles of clean water left... and he used it on me.

  "There's a tub of water in the closet next to this room. You can wash your clothes in there." He told me as he pointed toward the door. I nodded, grabbing a simple grey t-shirt that covered everything above my knees. I carried my clothes and hid the tests within them. As soon as I dropped the clothes off in there, I rushed to the old bathrooms. Luckily, there was no water in the toilet so there wasn't just random pee in there.

  I took a deep breath after waiting at least an hour to see all of the results. I counted to three mentally before opening my eyes to look at the line of tests in the sink. On three, I opened my eyes to see that they all said the same thing...

        Positive.

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