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10- After Effects

I woke up the next morning pretty early. The sun wasn’t quite visible yet, but I could see traces of its light starting to creep into the sky. Zeke was still asleep, and I didn’t know how long it would be until he woke up. I decided to read something. There was a copy of The Chronicles of Narnia on the shelf, and I remembered that it was one of my favorites when I was younger. So I sat on the couch and opened the large book up to the first part, The Magician’s Nephew.

Had reached Chapter 13 when Zeke came out of his room. It looked like he’d rushed out of bed, because he was only wearing a loose tank top and athletic shorts. He looked around and let out a breath when he saw me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked quickly.

“I- I was afraid it was just a dream,” he told me, relieved.

I smiled softly at him. “I’m really here, Zeke. And I don’t plan on leaving,” I reassured him. His answering smile was gentle. My brother had been alone for two years. Our family had been close, and we had spent a lot of time together. The loss of my mother and I was hard enough for him to handle, but he and Dad had each other. When died, he was left alone to deal with the grief of losing his entire family. I had felt terrible enough when I left the Colony not knowing what happened, and I still had a tiny bit of hope. I only experienced that anguish briefly. Mt brother felt it every day.

“I think there’s some muffins from the bakery in the kitchen,” he said changing the subject. “Do you want one?”

“Please,” I responded. I folded the corner of my page, set the book on the couch, and followed Zeke into the kitchen. He opened a cabinet and pulled out a large wood box. I frowned in confusion.

“We keep all our bread items in here. There’s a cloth lining in it, and that keeps the bread fresher longer,” he explained. I nodded in understanding. He set the box on the counter and pulled out two large muffins. He handed one to me and began to eat the other.

With his mouth full, he asked, “Want some water?”

I rolled my eyes at him. “I would,” I responded. He gave me a weird look. “What’s the eye roll for?” he questioned. “It’s usually polite to swallow your food before opening your mouth,” I said blandly. He gave me a sheepish smile, and apologized.

We ate breakfast quietly, and then the kitchen door opened. Ella walked in, a bright smile on her face. “Good morning, guys!” she chirped. Zeke grunted.

“Good morning, Ella,” I greeted with a small wave.

“Why don’t you grab your shoes and come over? I think I have some clothes that’ll fit you, and it’ll be a little warm for what you’re wearing,” she told me.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”

She laughed. “Relax, Lee. It’s no trouble at all,” she assured me.

“Let me grab something for you before you leave,” Zeke said. I nodded.

So, Zeke and I went to our rooms. I came out with my shoes, and he had a necklace with two keys on it. I also noticed it had Mom’s wedding band on it.

“These are your keys,” he told me. “The smaller silver one is for the apartment, and this larger gold one is for the stairs that lead up here.” He paused. “I put Mom’s ring on here too. That way you can keep her with you.”

I stared up at him. It had been a long time since we’d been together, but I could still see the subtle hint of pain in his eyes. I don’t think anyone else would’ve seen it; my brother hid his emotions well. “Can you put it on?” I requested. He placed the chain on my neck, and then Ella and I left.

Ella and Jack’s apartment had the same layout as my brother’s, but it was homier. There were painting on the walls, though they had no frame. There was a couch and two chairs I their living room, and a coffee table. There were small side tables around with candles on them. My brother only had candles on his window sill and the table. The dining room table they had was circular and had five chairs, though only two of them matched.

“Where did you get those paintings?” I asked Ella.

“She made them,” Jack answered before she could, stepping out of one of the bedrooms.

“You could at least say good morning to Lee, you know,” she huffed. He laughed. I’d never heard Jack laugh before. He seemed so serious all the time.

“Sorry love,” he apologized. “Good morning, Lee.”

I smiled and shook my head, while Ella rolled her eyes. “Good morning, Jack.” These two were oddly matched, but somehow, they balanced each other out. Ella grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the room Jack had just stepped out of. He got out of the way as we walked through the doorway. The double bed was in the center of the room and each side had an end table. Only one of them had a candle. There were two dressers across from the bed, one on each side of the door. There was also a small chest at the end of the bed. Ella told me that she kept her art supplies in there. She also mentioned that they kept their weapons in containers under the bed.

Ella went to the wardrobe on the left and open the door on top. There were three shelves inside. The top one had sweatshirts and sweaters. The middle had shirts, and the third had two wooden boxes. One had belts, scarves and gloves, and the other one had hats. She looked through the folded shirts and handed me a short sleeved pink t-shirt with small flowers on it.

“This should work,” she said as she handed it to me. Then she bent down and opened the first of the three drawers below the door of the wardrobe. She found a pair of grey leggings and passed them to me. She also gave me a pair of underwear, and then stepped out so I could change.

The clothes were comfortable, and I was thankful for that. I guess Ella and I were the same size. I was a little nervous, as they showed the cuts on my arms. I didn’t want people to stare at me. I shrugged it off. If yesterday was an indication, people were probably going to stare at me anyway, since I was new. I slipped on the white sneakers I’d gotten the day before, and went back to the common area of the apartment.

“Perfect!” Ella exclaimed when she saw me. “That looks so good on you. It’s not even fair how good it looks.” I laughed. Ella seemed to like being dramatic at times.

After she kissed Jack goodbye, Ella led me out of apartment. “Can you handle the stairs, Lee?” she asked.

“I think so. I feel better today, and the pain relievers help,” I replied. We still went slow down the stairs, just to make sure I could handle it. I ended up being fine, especially since I wasn’t tired yet. When we reached the door to the second floor, Ella pulled it open. There were people starting to filter in as we walked past, and they watched us curiously.

“Just so you know, you can open this door without a key if you’re coming down from the apartments, but if you need to come in from the outside, you’ll need a key. The door on the first floor is open now, but the Commander will have to get you a key for when you need to get it after work hours,” she explained.

“I guess since you have all these locks, it means that there are still people willing to commit crimes, even in these circumstances,” I mused.

She nodded. “There always will be, I’m afraid. But it’s extremely rare for that to happen. Mostly the locks are there as a formality. They just make us feel more secure in our homes, I suppose.” Her voice was tight. She was trying to hide it, but she was still wasn’t saying anything. It didn’t take me long to puzzled out the hidden meaning behind her words. Many of these people had loved ones taken away from the homes they lived in before the collapse. The locks were there to ease the fear of more people being taken.

I hadn’t even thought about the fact that Zeke wasn’t the only person who’d lost a family member. A lot of these people had been affected by the creation of the Colony. But unlike my brother, these people wouldn’t see their loved ones again. They lived filled with a subconscious fear that the people they loved would be taken. I realized that life here was harder than it seemed.

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