I am freaking out. She just told me she liked me. Holy shit. I mean, what am I supposed to do with that information? She knows what she wants, and I don’t get that. I couldn’t decide my favorite color before all this went down, and now I’m expected to know how I feel? How am I- how am I supposed to just… know how I feel? I don’t know, I realize as my frantic thoughts start to calm. I don’t like her. I can’t, I think as a memory washes over me.
“You like her!” John teases dancing around my poorly thrown pillow.
“I do not!” I protest, readying another pillow for attack.
“Oh come on!” John sighs, catching the new pillow and setting it on the ground. “I’ve seen the way you act around her.”
“What do you mean, ‘The way I act around her?’” I ask, air quoting his words with my fingers.
“The way your hands linger on her arms, or how you joke around more with people you’re comfortable with. Can you honestly sit there and tell me you don’t like her?” John questions seriously, staring at me sternly.
“I-I... um....” I stutter. ” I don’t know.” I shrug, giving in to his point.
“Oh don’t give me that!” John complains, picking up and throwing my pillow back at me. I catch it and instinctively hug it to my chest.
“You like her and you are just too afraid it admit it. Even to yourself.”
“Well what’s the point of admitting it?” I question. Frustrated at the whole thing. “What’s the point of bringing someone into your life just to have them leave later?”
“Just because that happened one time, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen with all of your relationships.” He pauses, taking in a short breath before continuing. “Look, I know what happened with Emily was a tragedy but-”
“Don’t pretend that you know how it feels!” I interrupt, anger rolling off of me in waves. “Don’t pretend to know what it feels like to be the one responsible for your girlfriend’s death!”
“That wasn’t your fault, an-”
“Yes it was!” I yell, throwing my pillow to the ground as I stand.
“You can’t just keep pushing everyone else away!” John pleads as I storm out of the room.
“I can try!” I yell, slamming my bedroom door.
The room comes back into focus as I hand her the opened can of food in my hand. I chance a look at her face and turn away as soon as I see her blushing.
“God, she can’t even take food from me now,” I grumble inwardly, reaching into my pack for my own can. This is the reason people keep quiet about their feelings on T.V shows. They don’t want to face the awkward everyday interactions. There’s no avoiding them, it’s not like I can just walk out and not talk to her for weeks on end. I pull out two of our three water bottles and place them carefully next to my bag.
“We’re going to have to go out and scavenge for more soon,” I call towards Mystery girl as I roll one of the bottles at her. She only nods at my comment, and I sigh to myself. Why does this have to be such a big deal? Why can’t we just forget it ever happened? No one’s around to answer these important questions, not that they would have the answers anyway. I shake my head, trying to clear my thoughts, and focus on opening the can in my hand. Being able to focus on my task, it takes less than a minute to have my can open and the opener away.
We don’t talk as we eat. Hell, we can hardly look at each other without one of us turning away. This is definitely worse than our awkward small talk. At least then we could still make eye contact. Pulling myself from my thoughts, yet again, I find myself staring at her. Her light brown hair is tied up in a mess of what might have been a ponytail at some point. When she said her hair was tangled, she wasn’t kidding. Her pale skin makes the color of her hair stand out more, almost draws your eyes to it. I let my gaze wander down to her legs and gasp. Almost the entire length of her legs are covered in bruises. They’re all varying shades of color, some deep purple while others have hints of yellow scattered in the pattern.
“Your legs are completely covered in bruises dude,” I mention, my shock getting the better of me.
“That tends to happen when you’re attacked,” She responds, still refusing to look at me.
“Yeah but, all of both your legs?” I question critically.
“Will you let it drop,” She whispers, her shoulders stiffening, “Please.”
“Okay, just eat your food.” I concede, watching her concerned. Sometimes I forget that people just don’t get over some things. I forget that the days don’t blend together when you have someone to talk to. I forget a lot of things these days. I sigh to myself, for what feels like the thousandth time, before going back to my food.
Why did I do that? Why did I tell her! I messed everything up. I can’t even look at her, or talk to her like a normal person. My mind is going so fast that I can barely taste the food I’m eating. It’s like my mind only has one channel now, and it’s panic. There’s a small corner in the back that’s trying to tell me to forget about it, but it can hardly be heard over the panicked screams of the rest.
“You’re legs are completely covered in bruises dude,” Mia says out of the blue.
“That tends to happen when you’re attacked,” I respond refusing to look over at Mia.
“Yeah but, all of both your legs?” Mia questions, clearly unconvinced.
“Will you just let it drop,” I plead, my stomach dropping as I think back to what happened, “Please.”
“Okay, just eat your food.” she answers going silent again. I don’t want to think about what happened. I don’t want to think about what could have happened if Mia hadn’t shown up when she did. I wasn’t strong enough to get out of there on my own. You always think, “Oh I won’t be that person, I can take care of myself.” But when it comes time for you to prove yourself right, it’s different. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. I shake my head, trying to pull my thoughts out from the downward spiral they’ve entered.
“Why did she even ask about my bruises?” My mind supplies, giving me a welcome distraction. There must be a part of her that cares, if she’s asking. Maybe I didn’t screw this up as much as I thought I did. I shouldn’t feel like this. There’s a part of me, a large part, that knows I shouldn’t feel like I do about her. I’ve known her maybe a week, and I’m already stupid in love. This could be how it’s supposed to go, how should I know? I’ve never been in a serious relationship, hell relationship in general. I don’t know how it’s supposed to go. Are we supposed to go on dates and maybe developed feeling for each other. Or are we supposed to just feel it, in our gut, when we know that this is the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with? I only know what I’ve seen on T.V, and none of that is very helpful when it comes to what you’re actually supposed to do.
I unscrew the top of my water bottle before quickly downing half the bottle. I manage some self restraint this time, and deliberately put the cap back saving the rest for later.
“We should go out and scavenge while it’s still light out,” I suggest, looking over to Mia.
“You ready to go back out there?” Mia replies back, looking a bit shocked.
“Not really, but is anyone ever ready?” I joke a bit, a small smile on my face.
“I don’t think they are,” She answers back, sounding almost relieved.
“Let’s get ready then,” I suggest, carefully getting to my feet. Finally standing I wobble a little as the world spins just the slightest bit.
“Careful there,” Mia cautions, suddenly holding onto my elbow.
“You’re quite fast,” I remark surprised at her closeness.
“Only when I want to be.”
“Then will you grab the hazmat suits?” I question, as the spinning lessens.
“Sure,” Mia answers simply, her hand dropping from my elbow. I didn’t think it would be that easy to get her to grab them. Pro’s of confessing your feelings I guess.
“Catch!” Mia calls as my hazmat suit flies towards my face. My hands go up on instinct and I manage to catch the material easily.
“Nice catch.” Mia calls from the hooks.
“You’re lucky it didn’t hit me in the face,” I call over, carefully stepping into my suit.
“Oh and why is that?” Mia answers back in her familiar joking tone.
“Because if it had I would have punched you,” I joke back, relieved that we can still joke around.
“You wouldn’t have been able to land a single punch, if I stood still.” Mia calls confidently over the sounds of our suits.
“I think I could land one.” With my hazmat suit on, I carefully make my way over to Mia.
“Where did you put the gas masks?” I question, standing directly behind her.
“Right here,” Mia answers handing me the aforementioned object. “And if you were trying to scare me, it didn’t work. I heard your suit.”
“Let’s get going we’re burning daylight,” I urge fixing my mask into place.
“Hold your horses I’m coming,” Mia calls from behind me, as I make my way towards the ladder.
“I have no horses to hold, I left them all back in the stable.” With all the cardboard boxes in the corner it takes no time at all to get to the ladder.
“Do you have a comeback for everything or something?” Mia complains from behind me, as I start up the ladder.
“I have a comeback for most things, yes.” And with that we make our way back into the blinding sunlight of the day.