Drops in the Sky

One foot in front of the other. That's all I knew. Just keep walking. Get water when you can. Get food when you can. Just keep walking. For 92 days, that's all I knew. And then, I met Amber Jeffries. And, by God, that girl became all I knew. All I wanted to know. But the War was all that mattered. Fighting is all that matters.

In World War Four, 10 billion people were killed. I'm one of the lucky two billion that survived. So was Amber Jeffries. Unfortunately, 1.9 billion people live in Europe. Mostly France, and a couple areas just outside of it. I'm in the hundred million left in what used to be the United States, which is currently in the midst of a Civil War. And I'm right in the middle of it.

We're kind of a mess. My life's messy. But Amber... She keeps everything together.

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2. two

I woke up to the sound of rain. Huh. That's interesting. I'm not used to hearing rain when all that surrounds me is soft desert sand. Also, we're in a desert. 

I glance around and realize that Amber and Thomas had set up one of the tarps over the back of the pickup, protecting her and I from the sky. I stick my hand out from under the tarp, and feel a light drizzle. The sound of rain on any rooftop, tent, or tarp always makes it seem like a torrential downpour, when in reality it's barely a sprinkle. 

In the dim midnight light, I can barely make out Amber's figure. As my eyes grow accustomed to the light, I can make out her features. 

For someone who's so fierce and on edge when she's awake, she looks so incredibly peaceful while she's asleep. Her plump lips rest slightly parted, turned down slightly at the corners. Her eyes are closed softly, hiding her fiery eyes. Her hair falls on her shoulders and cascades over her body, the blonde color reflecting the moonlight. Her lean muscles seem relaxed, which is the only time I've seen her not on-edge. Her hand rests on the blade of her knife, which sits on her lap. I shift, trying to remain as silent as possible while I rummage through my backpack for my water bottle. 

"Whatcha doin'?" She asks, before I can find it. Her voice is slightly raspy from sleep. I turn to face her, and catch her rubbing her eyes sleepily. 

"Uh... getting my water bottle?" I try to answer, but it comes out more like a question. "I barely made any noise. That woke you up?" 

"Light sleeper," she says. 

"Are you ever not alert?" 

She scrunches her brow, pretending to think. "Nope." 

I exhale lightheartedly. "Makes sense, I guess. I've been on my own for a while, too. At least you have Thomas." 

She looks at me, a mixture of curiosity and exhaustion in her fiery eyes. I could imagine she's still tired, and probably wants to go back to sleep. I unscrew the lid from my water bottle and take a quick sip. 

"Well," I say, clearing my throat. "I'll let you get back to sleep." 

She nods, relaxing again on her blanket. I notice that her blade, rather than resting on her lap, is now on the ground beside her. "'Night," she mutters. 

"Night," I say. 

I watch her relax, but can tell she's not asleep yet. I try to fall back asleep myself, but the pitter-pattering of the rain and my curiosity towards this strange girl keep me awake; thoughts run through my head at a sprint, never slowing down. Sleep is impossible. 

Amber opens her eyes, glares at me, and sits upright. "You're staring." 

"I'm not," I argue. "Just zoning out." 

"Oh, just zoning out in my general direction?"

"You're sitting directly across from me!" 

She rolls her eyes. "Aren't you going to go back to sleep?" 

I shrug. "Can't sleep." 

"The thoughts?" 

I nod. 

"I get them, too," she says. 

I scrunch my eyebrow. "Don't we all? Pretty sure it's, like, part of having a brain." 

She rolls her eyes again. "You know what I mean. The how-did-I-get-here thoughts?" 

I laugh lightly. "Oh, yep. Gotta love those ones." 

She eyes me cautiously. "Okay," she says. 

"Uh... Okay, what?" 

"You seem like a curious person," she accuses, raising an eyebrow while she waits for my response. 

"Well, I mean... I guess I could qualify?" 

"You get one question," she says. 

I bite my lip, thinking. How far do I want to push her?  On one hand, she already doesn't like me, so why make her hate me more? On the other hand, she already doesn't like me, so what do I have to lose? 

"How'd you guys end up on your own?" I ask tentatively. 

She wrings her hands. "I already told you. Dead parents." 

Okay, she clearly doesn't want to respond. 

"I'm sorry," I say, not sure whether I'm apologizing for her dead parents or for the question. 

She curls up again. Conversation over. "Try to get some sleep," she says, before closing her eyes. I do my best to push the thoughts aside. 

I woke up to the sound of slight panting and minor grunting. What the...

I open my eyes despite their protests from the blinding sun and am relieved when I see Amber doing pushups. Huh. Never seen someone do pushups in a moving truck before.

"Morning, sunshine," she grunts, not stopping her workout. 

"Morning," I mutter, rubbing my eyes. I can't help but watch her as her muscles move, her body rising and falling. She's tall and lean, her muscles powerful and strong. 

God, this girl is beautiful. 

"Whatcha staring at?"

"Uh- nothing," I stutter. 

"Mm-hmm." 

"Just zoning out," I lie. 

"Again? You're sure you're not checking me out?" 

"Not at all."

"You're a bad liar," she says, stopping her pushups and rolling over onto her back. 

"I, uh... What?" I stutter again. What the hell's wrong with me? I don't stutter. Ever. 

"Chill," she says. 

"Oh. Uh... right." 

Her amber eyes spit fire at me. Huh. Guess our conversation last night didn't warm her up. And it was left so incomplete... I still have so many questions. 

I rummage through my bag to take a sip of water. 

"Don't," she warns. 

"Huh?" 

"You're drinking too much. You've had three drinks since we found you." 

"Um... How much do you drink?" 

"A cup a day," she says. 

I glance at my water bottle. I've already drank half a liter. 

"Slow it down," she says. "Or we'll have to kick you off." 

"Thanks," I mutter. 

The window that connects us to Thomas in the front seat slides open.

"Hey Amber!" He calls. "I need to sleep. Can you drive?" 

"Yeah!" She calls. I frown at her. 

"How old are you?" 

"Fifteen. You?" I frown. 

"Sixteen. You can drive?" 

"You can't?" 

"No gas, remember?" 

"Electric cars, remember?" 

"But you're still fifteen!"

"Thomas and I are twins," she says. Really? Huh. "What kind of idiot would run away on a trip across the country without learning how to drive first?" 

I glance down at my hiking boots. She laughs. "Pull over in five, Thomas!" She calls to the front. 

"How're you planning on joining the army if you're sixteen?" She asks. 

I stare at her. "You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?" 

"Only people under the age of thirty-five are allowed to join the military from now on. Stupid GWRPS," I mutter. 

"That's kinda smart," she says. "Limit the number of people who could have kids in the future. Smart way to reduce population. They ain't nice, but they sure as hell are smart," she marvels. 

I huff noticeably.

"What?" She says, her tone sounding slightly annoyed.

"I just... I hate that method of thinking. That's what my dad used to think like," I explain.

She cocks her head and nods, silently urging me to continue. I decide to tell her my story; maybe if I open up to her, she'll answer some of my questions? 

I sigh before beginning. "It used to be my mom, dad, sister, and I. We weren't making enough money, and we didn't have enough water for my whole family. He thought that since he and I were the strongest, and since we were the only ones bringing in the resources, we should be the only ones alive."

"Your mom and sister?"

"He killed them," I say softly, staring at the toe of my boot. I feel my throat starting to close, but clear my throat and force myself to continue with the story. "I was asleep, and... I heard my younger sister yell out. By the time I got to her room, she was dead."

"Your mom?"

I blink, hard. "He killed her while I was with my sister."

She places a hand on my knee. "I'm sorry," she says. "That sucks."

I nod. "Yeah, it does suck."

"And... your dad?" 

"We lived in St. Paul," I say. That's all I needed to say... everyone knows about the bomb that went off in St. Paul. If I hadn't left when I did, I'd be a goner; I was still close enough by the time that bomb dropped that I could feel the explosion. 

"I'm sorry," she says again. 

I shrug it off. "But, uh... yeah. I just hate the Service way of thinking."

"I hate it, too," she says. "Mostly I just hate the Services, but their thinking sucks too, I guess." 

"You have a Service story?" 

"Who doesn't?" She replies, not offering to expose any such story. 

"What happened?" I ask anyway. 

"Well, uh... My best friend tried to kill me. Her dad worked for the Services, see, and mine worked for the Army. So her dad and brother tried to kill my dad, while she tried to kill me." She points to a scare on her shoulder. A knife cut. "Thomas and I were fine, but they got my dad." 

"I'm sorry," I say. I'm sorry seems to be the phrase of the day. 

"Eh," she says. "My mom had died a while back, so Tommy and I were left on our own."

"That's difficult," I try to empathize. 

She shrugs. "We've been doing alright, I guess. I still miss them, though."

"Yeah," I say. "Me, too." 

She looks out in front of the truck, watching the horizon bounce up and down. 

I clear my throat. "You'd be good in the army," I suggest out of the blue. 

"What makes you say that?" I frown at her, wondering if she's joking, before seeing that she's genuinely curious. 

"You're, um... A little bit... Aggressive?" She's not somebody I'd want to piss off. More than I already have. 

She glares at me. "And you seem really intuitive. And... And you took me down immediately," I try to make up excuses. "I probably have like seventy pounds on you and you tackled me. That's some serious strength." 

"Not like you're a tough opponent," she mutters. 

"What was that? I happen to be stronger than steel." I joke. 

She glares. Okay. No more jokes. 

"I'm serious about the army, though," I say. "Think about it." 

She sits up from her position on the floor. 

"I will." 

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