Chapter 23: Ray
"How many people are you living with?" This was only the sixth time I had asked this question but I was already sick of it. As long as the city remained the way it was I knew I'd be doing this for a long time. Svetlana had decided to go back to the original plan of giving people just enough food to last a week and then have them come back seven days from now. So to put it simply, dinner is served on Tuesdays and you shouldn't expect anything fresh for a week. The young man I was questioning thought for a moment and counted on his fingers- never a good sign.
"Five," he finally replied.
I sighed before I gave the follow-up question, "Including you?" I asked. He nodded, so I continued with, "Do you have the appropriate amount of bags with you?" The answer was obvious; I could clearly see him holding two plastic grocery bags. He nodded again, that hopeful smile still plastered on his face. "Can everyone feed themselves?" I asked.
The man in line looked confused, "What do you mean?" he asked.
"Like, are there any small children, or something, I don't know," I replied. This was the first time I'd had to explain what I question meant, "Would the people you're living with really care what you buy?" The man shook his head after a moment. I looked down at my watch, "Okay, you've got four minutes. Go," I jabbed my thumb behind me as the automatic doors slid open and the man ran inside excitedly.
The gun I'd been given in case anyone was "out of line" stood propped up on the wall beside me, unused. It's not like I wanted to use it, or anything, but it seemed almost like a waste to have it there. It wasn't small enough to fit in my pocket and personally, I think Svetlana made sure that it wasn't on purpose. Probably as a way to send some sort of warning to the people waiting in line for their food. Why had Svetlana allowed people to get food, anyway? As the new manager of Saper's she could have whatever she wanted, when she wanted it. Well, the same goes for the employees, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining.
As soon as the next person in line approached me I heard a voice coming from my pocket, "Hey, Ray," the voice said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out one of the walkie-talkies we'd found lying around the staff break room.
I held my finger down on the talk button, "Yeah?" I replied. The person waiting in front of me gave me an expectant look, but I ignoring them.
"There's someone here to see you," I recognized the voice of Jimmy, some kid Preston had hired earlier to see if we needed to restock shelves and to take account of how much food had been taken at the end of the day. Sure, the stocked up food in the back wouldn't last forever, but the citizens didn't need to know that. Besides, even we "needed" to restock shelves we didn't necessarily have to.
"Oh, yeah? Who?" I asked suspiciously. It could easily be an ambush- People would kill for a position near the food.
"She says her name is Scarlet Lovett, I think," Jimmy replied. The person in front of me was starting to get impatient.
My eyes widened a bit at the name, "Oh," I replied, "Okay. I'll be there in a second," I shoved the plastic device into my back pocket and turned to Crystal, who was also admitting people into the store. "Get someone to cover for me, okay?" I left before she could reply.
Scarlett and Jimmy were waiting for me near the back entrance. A big grin spread across my face at the sight of Scarlett, completely safe and sound. I shamelessly had forgotten to even think about her safety after the Destruction and had instead though immediately of my own. "Scarlett!" I greeted her with a hug and quick peck on the cheek. "Where've you been? Did anything happen to you since last night?" I glanced over at Jimmy, who met my gaze and suddenly understood the look in my eyes. He tore off in the other direction and I directed my sight back to Scarlett.
She smiled, "I'm fine, Ray, you don't need to worry so much," she replied softly, touching my shoulder gently. "And I see you've landed yourself a position here," she looked around at the rows of food.
"What?" I was slightly dazed, staring into her dark eyes. It had seemed like months since we'd last seen each other. I finally processed what she'd said, "Oh, yeah!" I replied sheepishly, my face turning a faint shade of red, "It's all cool here," I replied, trying to appear professional.
Scarlett giggled, obviously not buying it, "Hey, maybe I could work here too?" she suggested, "Do you think that'd be okay?" I nodded eagerly, then froze, remembered something, and shook my head.
"No, I don't think you should," I replied. Her carefree expression turned to one of disappointment and I quickly added, "It's not because I don't want you here," I wasn't wording this correctly, "I mean, I do want you here! It's just that my boss, well. She's not exactly…friendly," I knew I was screwed by the look on Scarlett's face.
"You don't think I could win her over?" she asked, defiantly crossing her arms over her chest.
I was at a loss for words. I looked up at the ceiling and ran my fingers through my hair before carefully responding, "It's not that," I replied, "She's just-" I looked around to make sure no one was listening before I continued quietly, "She's dangerous. As in 'she just shot a 17 year old kid to prove that you shouldn't mess with her' dangerous. We've got all the people we need right now and let's face it, we'd both be a distraction to each other," I added this last part in an attempt to cheer her up.
A small smile tugged at the corner of her lip as she glanced down at the floor, "Okay," she finally concluded, "If you don't want me to be put in danger for your own selfish reasons," Scarlett failed to keep a straight face and we both chuckled, "Then I'll stay out of your way and meet you at this address," she handed me a folded up piece of paper and winked. "I'll see you when you get home," I watched her leave at the back door with a small feeling of disappointment, but then reality came crashing in.
"Svetlana wants us to all report in her office," Jimmy's voice met my ear and I turned around to face him.
"Right now?" I asked, "Aren't there still people out there?" I thought of the impatient person I'd avoided dealing with earlier.
"Yeah," Jimmy nodded, "But she's having them all wait. I'd be more surprised if she didn't make them wait and worked around their schedule," he concluded. I shrugged and followed him into the office. The rest of the workers had already lined up horizontally to face the desk so Jimmy and I had to stand at the end, closest to the door.
"I was wondering when you two would show up," Svetlana greeted us as she got up from behind her desk. We all watched, completely transfixed, as she made her way to the front of the desk and sat on it, leaving her legs to dangle above the floor. I noticed she was wearing a crop top that pretty much just covered her breasts and pants that seemed a little too tight. Jimmy, you perv, I thought jokingly as I glanced over at the young boy. His eyes were glued to the 22 year old woman's cleavage and I could've sworn I saw a bit of drool start to emit from his slightly open mouth.
"So," Svetlana said casually, "How has everything been going? Are people getting enough food?" Nobody said anything, mostly out of terror. Anyone knew that a lot of people were deadliest when they seemed absolutely calm. "I said," she repeated, "How is everything?" There it was; she had begun to raise her voice. Claire flinched and Crystal averted her eyes. Svetlana sighed in mock disappointment, "I was starting to expect more from a bunch of kids," she said, "Do I need to find someone else to add to this excuse for a team? Or are you guys gonna pull it together before I pull the trigger on your existence!" We were all very aware of the huge machine gun she kept "hidden" behind her desk.
A knock at the door made us all jump and turn around to look at who was interrupting. My heart sank when Scarlett opened the door, looking around until she spotted me. Her eyes quickly moved over to Svetlana, who raised her eyebrows expectantly. "Yes?" she asked.
"Hi," Scarlett replied, "Um, I just wanted to tell you that one of your employees- him, to be exact," the color drained from my face when she pointed at me, "Was doing an excellent job out there. Very efficient. I would stare at him and think 'Wow, I wish I could do that someday,'" she looked up at Svetlana, hoping her life would be spared.
"Is that really the best you've got?" Svetlana asked, shaking her head, "To think you'd be impressed with…" she squinted at me for a few seconds, thinking, then snapped her fingers in realization, "Ray. To think you'd be impressed with Ray's performance isn't exactly believable. What is believable is that you want to work here for the free food, yeah?" Her Russian accent was becoming more apparent now.
"Um, sure," Scarlett replied. I felt like I was going to pass out.
But to my surprise, Svetlana laughed and waved Scarlett over, "Come over here," Scarlett did as she was told, "What's your name?" she asked with a smile.
Scarlett visibly relaxed- that was the second biggest mistake she'd made. You should never "relax" around Svetlana, especially when she was talking to you. "Scarlett," she replied.
"Scarlett what?" Svetlana asked politely.
"Lovett?" Scarlett's reply was met with a slap to the face that left clear red marks across her skin. "Ow.." she reached up to her cheek and gently touched the burning skin.
The smile that had been residing on Svetlana's face was instantly replaced with a look of dead seriousness, "Scarlett, ma'am," she corrected Scarlett. The younger girl refused to meet her new manager's eyes and instead focused on her superior's boots. Svetlana raised her head to face the rest of us, "Get out of here, go! Make sure the rest of the rest of the people are fed and then lock up," as everyone else started to file out of the office I couldn't help but linger a little at the back of the line to wait for Scarlett. "You too," Scarlett hurriedly turned away at Svetlana's final order and shut the door one we were both in the safety of the store.
"Is she an idiot?" I heard the sound of Claire's voice and turned around to see her and Crystal talking as they headed down to the main entrance. "Svetlana's terrifying, who would want to work for her?" Crystal shrugged as Claire sighed, "God, why the fuck do I even care?"
"I've got a question for you," Crystal spoke up, "I know you can teleport in and out of where ever you are,"
"Yeah?" Claire replied, confused.
"So?" Crystal asked, "Why don't you stop working here? You obviously don't like it and you can just enter and exit both the store and the stock room whenever you want and not get caught. You're not staying for the food, so why are you still here?"
Claire shook her head and replied, "Does Svetlana have any mutant powers?" Crystal shook her head and Claire sighed again, "I guess that wouldn't matter, anyway. But I guess it gives me a better chance…" Why I was listening in on their conversation was a mystery. I turned my attention back to Scarlett.
"What the hell was that?" I asked incredulously.
Scarlett rubbed at the place where Svetlana had struck her, "It's the end of the world as we know it," she replied, "And I want to spend the last days with you," My heart burned with passionate love for her. It wasn't her fault that she cared too much. I decided against telling her that as long as she stuck around here, someone was going to die in a very unpleasant way. For now.