NOW ENTERING IOWA
It’s been a few hours since the incident in the backseat. Luke has been driving in silence with nothing but his thoughts to keep him occupied. He hated it. Clementine was still in the same spot in the truck bed by herself, he’s still amazed that she’s still there. The floor of the truck bed was stiff with ridges, and the mattress they have back there isn’t big enough to cover the entire floor. Luke knows she didn’t move the mattress so she could sit on it, otherwise she would be up higher.
Basically, Clementine should be uncomfortable back there. Maybe that’s why she keeps shifting around.
Luke just continued to drive past the state line while he went over the whole kissing scenario in his head, again. Clem made the first move, he knows that for a solid fact. She kissed him. That was a surprise to him. What was even more of a surprise, was that he kissed her back. Why did he kiss her back? Luke has kissed Clem on the forehead a few times before because it felt right to do so. He felt the same way when he kissed her back. It felt right.
Luke always came to this conclusion when he went over the whole thing. It shouldn’t have felt right, she’s almost twelve… At least he thinks she’s almost twelve. She hasn’t mentioned her birthday at all. He’s been with her for almost a year and summer should be over in about a month or so.
Either her birthday was in the fall, or she thinks that it doesn’t matter and she’s already twelve years old. Maybe he should ask her when her birthday is when he has the time.
“STOP THE TRUCK!”
Luke snapped out of his thoughts and did so. He put it in park before he got out to see Clementine jumping out of the truck and running back towards an abandoned car. Luke could see her blue and white hat resting by the car. The dirty thing must have blown off her head.
Clementine made it to the car and bent down to pick up her hat before she put it back on her head. Luke started making her way towards her, maybe he can convince her to ride in the passenger’s seat now.
Clem started making her way back until she felt something grab her ankle and trip her. She looked at her foot, seeing a walker from under the car that grabbed her. Thankfully it was stuck under the car, so Clem had the advantage.
“Clem!” Luke yelled after watching the walker attack her. He pulled his machete out as he ran to her.
After failing to kick the rotten hand off of her, she pulled her gun out and shot it in the head. Luke finally got to her and helped her up before looking at the gun in her hand.
“Where’d you get the gun?” he asked. Clementine lost her gun in a fight with walkers on a bridge a couple months ago. One of the walkers fell on top of her and the gun flew out of her hand and over the bridge railing, into the water below. Luke did save her and told her that they’d find another one. Luke never found- thus, he never gave her- another gun.
“Found it.” Clementine responded quickly.
Luke raised his eyebrow at her, trying to think where she got the gun. They both heard growling before watching more walkers emerge from the forest. Clem and Luke made a break for the truck. They were almost there when Luke tripped on a cinder block. Clementine noticed and went back for him.
“Clem, don’t worry about me, just get to the truck!” Luke yelled at her.
She looked at the truck for a split second before she ran to Luke, helping him get to his feet. Once he was standing, he tried to walk but almost fell down again if Clementine didn’t help him. Luke twisted his ankle.
“I told you to get to the truck.” Luke said as Clementine put an arm around his waist.
“I’m not leaving you behind, Luke.” she said while she helped him walk.
It took a while with Luke’s ankle and Clem’s height. The kid shot any walker that got close, she was a better shot than he could ever be.
They eventually made it to the truck, Luke climbed into the driver’s side and pulled Clem in before shutting the door. Luke wrapped his arms around the girl as they both breathed deeply, letting the adrenaline die down.
“You okay, Clem?” he asked.
“Yeah.” she responded.
“Are you bit?”
“Alright, just no more riding in the bed of the truck.”
“Oh, so you listen to me when it’s about your hat?”
“You could have died, Luke.”
“I know, thanks. I’m glad I sprained my left ankle, otherwise I would have needed to teach you how to drive.”
Clementine looked up at him, he usually jokes about the bad things that happened. It makes her smile. Then she remembered what happened in the backseat. Luke realized she was thinking about that when her smile faded.
“Alright, scoot.” he said before letting her go and lightly pushing her to the seat next to him. Clem crawled over the the passenger's side before Luke started up the truck and began driving toward the direction of the setting sun.
Clementine started humming a song after a while of silence. Luke knew the song, he’s pretty sure that it’s called ‘Pretend.’ He was with Clem the first time they heard it.
“We have the song, you know.” Luke said.
“We do?” Clementine asked surprisingly.
“Yeah, I grabbed the CD from the clothing store.”
“Can we play it? Please?”
“Go ahead, kid.”
“Great! It’s been stuck in my head all day.”
When the two had nothing to talk about they would play music with the CDs they found in the middle compartment in between their seats.
Clementine opened the compartment and pulled out the CD case. She began searching for the disk. With Luke’s help she found it, and put it in the player and skipped each track until she found the song she was humming. Her and Luke listened to the song while a memory of how they found the CD played through their heads.
“Alright, Clem. Go find something." Luke said.
The duo were at a clothing store to get bigger clothes for Clementine. Ironically for Clementine, this was the same store she and Christa went to for new clothes.
The jacket Bonnie gave her kept riding up her shirts, because it got too small. Since they had the truck and spring was about a month away, Clem got rid of it. Next thing she knew, her feet started hurting, and she had to keep tugging her shirts and pant legs down.
Luke then decided that they were stopping at the next clothing store to get her a new outfit.
"Do you know what size you are?" Without an answer, Luke pulled on the back of her shirts. "These both say small. Maybe find a medium or a large, okay?"
Clementine nodded before walking off to go explore. Luke caught her going into the changing room about ten minutes later. While she got changed, he decided to look around for anything they could use.
An hour passed and Luke was getting worried. He hadn't heard anything from Clem. They did a brief search through the small building to look for walkers and came up clean, so she’s not food. Luke decided to go into the hallway of the changing rooms to check on her.
“Hey, Clem. Are you doing- Whoa…”
Clementine gasped as she turned around. There she was standing by the hallway mirror in what caught Luke off guard- a dress. It was long and purple with slim straps. Luke couldn’t help but smile seeing her in a dress.
“Luke, I’m- I’m sorry.” Clem started as she walked towards him. Luke bent down to her height. “I- I just wanted to try it on for a minute, then one minute turned into five minutes, and…” she felt her head tilt down, a bit embarrassed that Luke caught her in a dress.
Luke put a hand on her shoulder. “You look beautiful, Clem.”
The little girl looked up at him. “Really?”
“Yeah, like you’re ready for prom or something.” he said with laugh at the end.
Clementine smiled a little bit before it turned back to a frown. “Luke?”
It came back to him, realizing that she was only eight when all of this started. “Well, Clem.” Luke said as he stood back up. “Prom is this big dance for high school seniors. It was a really fancy thing, people would sometimes rent limos just to take them there. All the guys wore tuxedos and the women wore dresses and these flowers on their wrist called a corsage. It’s pretty much called the best night of your life.”
“Did you ever go to one?” Clementine asked.
“Yeah, I did.” Luke responded.
“What was it like?”
“My prom?” Luke ran his fingers through his hair, doing his best to remember what happened that night. “Well, originally I wasn’t planning to go. I actually was planning to tp our principal’s house with Nick and a few other guys. But my mom’s friend had a daughter and her boyfriend broke up with her right before prom, so my mom payed me twenty bucks to go to prom with her.”
“That’s nice of you, Luke.”
“Yeah… It was good night. She was happy, that’s all that mattered. When prom was over, we went to an after party at some guy’s house. She got drunk and I had to take her home.” Luke explained. “Damn, she was really drunk. It was hard for me to drive home because she wouldn’t stop trying to make out with me. Luckily, she calmed down about halfway home and she wouldn’t stop babbling about the stupidest things. After I dropped her off at her house, I went home and my mom grounded me the next morning and took the twenty bucks away for letting her get drunk.”
“Was it the best night of your life?” Clementine asked.
“Well, I had better nights, so I guess not.” Luke said.
A smile started to creep on his face as he stared at Clementine. She thought it was because he remembered his prom, but it lasted longer than it should have.
“What?” she asked him.
“Come on, kid.” Luke bent down and hoisted Clem over his shoulder before he stood up and walked out of the changing rooms.
“Luke, put me down!” she yelled at him.
“Don’t worry, I will.” he said to her.
“Luke.” she exaggerated.
“Ah, laugh a little, Clem.” Luke said before tickling her bare feet. The eleven-year-old squealed and did her best to kick away his hand.
Eventually, Luke did set her down. Clementine was mad about him tickling her, so she punched him in the arm.
“Hey, what was that for?” he asked.
“You tickling me!”
“Well, how else was I supposed to get you to smile?” Luke asked, rubbing his hand on her hatless hair. He rarely ever saw her with her hat off, he likes to play with her curly hair.
“You could have-” Luke slid the hand down from her head to cover her eyes.
“Keep ‘em closed for me, okay?”
“Luke, what are you doing?” Clementine moved his hand away.
“Kid, don’t make me blindfold ya.” Luke said before grabbing her hands and lifting them over her eyes. “Just cover your eyes, until I say you can open them.”
Clementine did as told. She was still curious about what Luke had in mind. She heard him grunt a little and a little bit of rattling. Clem moved her fingers a bit to see him messing with the back a swivel chair. Luke caught her peeking and she quickly covered them back up.
After a little while longer, Luke pulled her hands away from her eyes. “It’s not a corsage, but it’s the closest thing I could find.” Luke said before pulling out a hairband with a white flower on it and sliding it on her wrist.
“What are you doing, Luke?” Clementine asked.
The farm boy walked to a stereo and messed with it. “You’d be surprise on what still works now a days.” Luke got it to play a slow song before walking back to the little girl. He took her hand and pulled her to the swivel chair he was messing with earlier. Luke took the back off of it.
“Luke?” Clementine asked.
“Yeah?” Luke said.
“What is this?”
“Well, since you never got to have a prom,” Luke said before lifting Clementine up and setting her down on the chair. “I thought I might give you one.” he said before using his foot to lower the height of the chair so Clem would be slightly shorter than him.
The eleven-year-old smiled at Luke. He took her hands and put them around his neck before Luke wrapped his arms around her waist then they both started swaying from side to side.
“So, this is what it’s like?” Clem asked.
“A little bit. There’s a lot of dancing, they’re not all slow, sometimes they’re fast.” Luke explained.
After a while of swaying, Luke took her hand and spun her around. He held on to her hand as they started swaying again. The two looked into each other’s eyes while they danced.
“You know, Clem.” Luke said to break the sweet silence between them. “Your eyes could kill a man.”
Clementine giggled as she tilted her head down.
“I’d also kill to see that smile on your face everyday.” Luke added.
“Mike was right, you are a casanova.” Clem said, lifting her head back up.
“You don’t even know what that word means.” Luke said before spinning her around again. “But I meant what I said.”
Clem tilted her head down again, trying to hide her blush.
“Hey, come on. I like looking at your eyes.” Luke said.
“I don’t want to kill you, Luke.” Clementine responded.
“Nah, you won’t kill me.” he said. “Maybe a little stun.”
“You’re ridiculous.” she responded as looked back up at him.
“Sorry, what was that? I was distracted by something.” he said.
“You’re joking.” she told him.
“See, I told you. It was just a little stun.” Luke said.
Clementine rolled her eyes at him. “Why did you do this?”
“Why did you give me a prom?”
“Well, other than giving me twenty bucks, my mom said something that also convinced me.” Luke spun her around again. “‘Every girl deserves to feel beautiful at least one time in their life. Prom is the best way to do that.’ And after all the shit you’ve been through, Clem. You deserve it more than anyone.”
“You think so?” she asked.
“I know so, kid.” he said.
The two continued to dance until the song was over, then Luke helped Clementine off the chair and told her to go change. Watching her walk away with that cute, little smile on her face made him feel happy.
Once Clementine walked into the changing rooms, she felt someone grab her arm. Who ever it was, pinned her up against the wall and cover her mouth with his hand.
“Shh… I don’t want to hurt you, just don’t scream.” he whispered.
The guy was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up. In this light, all Clem could see was his mouth. His hand over her mouth slowly moved down to her side.
“Well, aren’t you just a pretty, little thing?” he said before his hand started rubbing up and down her side.
Clementine turned her head away from him, closing her eyes and biting down hard on her lip to keep herself from calling out for Luke. Then she heard some scuffling outside the little hallway they were in. Was Luke in trouble?
The guy’s hand slid further down her body, down her leg. Right when his hand went under her dress and grazed her ankle, she kicked him in the crotch before trying to run away from him.
The man caught her and pinned her arms down with one of his, while the other harshly covered her mouth again. “I told you not to fucking scream!”
Clementine bit his hand, causing him to loosen his grip on her. “LUKE! HELP!”
“You little bitch!” The guy spun her around and smacked her across the face, knocking her to the floor.
He got on top of her, holding her wrists with one hand while the other repeatedly slapped her small face. Each one sounded crisp, and it hurt.
“GET THE FUCK OFF OF HER!”
Clementine felt the guy get yanked off her tiny body, allowing her to curl up into a little ball on the floor and hold her stinging cheek. She kept her eyes closed, while the fight- what she assumed was happening- occurred. All she heard was some grunting and glass breaking, Clem was scared to even open her eyes at the slightest bit.
Eventually, the scuffling noises stopped and she heard footsteps make her way towards her, stopping right in front of her in her little position.
“You okay, kid?”
Clementine opened her eyes and looked up at the person who spoke. It was Luke. He bent down to more her level before she hugged the shit out of him, Luke was more than happy to hold the kid.
“Hey, let me look at ya.” he said, pulling her head back so he could look at her face. “Jesus, Clem.” her cheek was really bruised.
“You look bad, too.” she told him, her voice laced with a tiny quiver.
“Well, I got beat up by three guys. Two got the jump on me out there, and then there’s him.” he said. “Did he touch you?”
“He- he rubbed my side and my leg.”
“Is that all?”
Clem nodded. Luke was relieved that the creep didn’t violate her beyond that. He pulled her back in for a hug, wishing he went with her instead of letting her go alone.
After comforting the little girl, Luke told her to go change into her new clothes, while he guarded the her room in case the three assholes woke up.
Right after the little prom they had, he watched Clem leave to go back to the changing rooms. Luke decided to take the CD that they listened to. After he did, the two guys attacked him. Luke fought back best he could, considering he was outnumbered. It wasn’t until he heard Clem’s screams, when he finally managed to knock the two out and rush to the kid. Once he saw the hooded man continually slap the shit out of her, Luke was on him two seconds, flat. What he did to the two out there was nothing compared to what he did to the guy who hurt Clem. Luke almost killed him by throwing him at a mirror, but it was enough to knock the creep out so he could check on the little girl
The changing room door unlocked and Clementine opened it, hat and all. Since this was the same store she and Crista went to for new clothes, she found the same purple shirts, jeans, and shoes the next size up. When Luke saw her, he was confused that her clothes looked the same, until Clementine explained how she found these clothes.
Luke sunk down to her level. “You sure you’re okay, kid?”
“I’m fine, Luke.” Clem said.
“Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t get here sooner and letting you go alone, in general.” Luke apologized.
“You shouldn’t be apologizing, it’s not your fault. Besides, I’m glad to have you with me.” Clem told him.
“Thanks, Clem. I’m glad to have you, too.”
The guy who attacked Clementine stirred a bit. Luke notices him moving before taking Clem’s hand and walking out of the store together. He asks her if they had any painkillers because he was kind of hurt after his fight with three guys. Once they got to the truck, Clem dug through their supplies in the backseat while Luke put the CD he took, in the compartment between the two front seats. He’s surprised that it was still intact after all that’s happened
Clementine found some and gave the pill bottle to Luke. He gladly took it from her and swallowed a couple painkillers. Right after doing so, Luke felt something peck his cheek. He looked over to Clem who just slipped into the passenger’s seat from the back.
“What was that for?” he asked.
Clementine did a side smile on the right side of her face, since the left was sore from being slapped. “A thank you.”
“You know I’d do anything to protect you, Clem.”
“I meant prom.”
“Oh, well I’m glad to have given you one.”
With that said, Luke started driving away from the clothing store. After a while, he noticed that Clementine passed out in her seat and something in her hand. He pried it out of her hold to see what it was. It was a hairband with a flower on it, her “corsage.”
Luke pulled the hairband over the rear-view mirror and let the accessory hang from it. So the memory of her prom would last with them.
"Are the restrooms clear?" Luke asked.
"Yeah, they're empty." Clementine responded.
The two stopped at a rest area in Iowa, they had to make sure that it was clear of any people and walkers before they could stay the night here. The sun just went down, darkness starting to fill up the clear sky. Meaning that they could sleep in the truck bed tonight.
Because of Luke's ankle, Clementine had to go inspect the bathrooms alone before coming back to help him get to the back of the truck so he could climb in.
Once they both got on the mattress in the truck bed, Clementine rolled up Luke's pant leg to look at his ankle. It was pretty swollen.
"Holy shit..." She muttered.
"It's not that bad, Clem. I'll just let it rest, and it should be better in the morning."
"And if it's not?"
"Well, like I said, it's my left ankle. I drive with my right.
"Does it hurt?"
"No, I just can't put any weight on it." Luke said as he pulled out a blanket from under the mattress and Clem rolled his pant leg down before crawling over to him. "So, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“When’s your birthday? I mean it’s almost been a year, and you haven’t mentioned it.” he said.
“It’s in the fall. Like the beginning of October.”
“Okay, I’m just making sure we didn’t miss it.”
“It’s your birthday, Clem. You shouldn’t act like it’s not a big deal. Besides, you know when mine is.”
“Well, it’s not as big a deal as it was before the dead started walking around.”
"You at least deserve someone saying happy birthday to you."
"At least you had alcohol."
"Well, maybe I'll find you some expired apple juice. How does that sound?"
"Man, apple juice sounds good right now."
"I'll take that as a yes then."
Luke unfolded the blanket and threw it over him and Clementine. The two laid back and watched dark fill the sky and the stars and moon start to poke out.
"Clem... About what happened in the backseat..." he started.
Clementine rolled over, facing away from Luke. "I don't really want to talk about it."
“Well, you’re going to have to listen to me talk about it, then.” he said. “I don’t want that kiss to make things weird between us, because I hated riding in the truck alone. I know you might have some mixed feelings about it, but I shouldn’t have kissed you back, Clem.” Luke stayed silent for a moment. “I love you, Clem. I do, but not in that way. Look, maybe when you’re older we can try it out, but you’re just too young.”
“I know, Luke.”
“I know I shouldn’t have kissed you.”
Luke sat up to look at her. “Then why did you?”
Clementine lifted the blanket over her head and curled up tighter.
“Clem?” he said.
“What?” she asked.
“Why did you kiss me?” he asked her again. “You can ignore me forever, Clem.” he said after hearing nothing.
Luke tried to pull the blanket off the kid, but she kept her tight hold on it. She really didn’t want to talk, but Luke was going to get her to talk one way or another.
He managed to rip the blanket off her. Once he did, Luke turned her over as he got on top of her. He lightly pinned her wrists down so she couldn’t move.
“This is the last time I’m going to ask you, Clem. Why’d you kiss me?” he asked again.
“I don’t know, okay!” she yelled at him. “I… I don’t know why I kissed you.”
Luke got off of her, letting Clem sit up.
“You could have just said that.” Luke said.
“No, I couldn’t. You’d say that wasn’t an answer and that I’d have to explain.” Clementine said.
“What would you have to explain?” he asked.
“That I didn’t mean to kiss you, I just did and I can’t find a reason why.” she said.
“That’s the same reason I kissed you back, Clem.” Luke told her.
“That’s right, Clem. I didn’t mean to kiss you back.”
“So what does this mean?”
“It means that nothing changed between us. You could say that you’re done with your first kiss.”
“So it’s not awkward between us anymore?”
Clementine smiled before she wrapped her arms around Luke’s neck. “Good, I hated it.”
“You and me both, kid.” Luke said before hugging her back.
Luke moved into a laying down position with Clementine on his chest before he pulled a blanket over both of them.
“Luke?” Clementine said.
“Yeah?” he responded tiredly.
“I love you, too.” she told him.
“Thanks, Clem.” he said.
Luke started rubbing her small back while she rested on his chest. Clementine snuggled closer to his warm body as her eyes slowly started to close. Right when she was about to fall asleep, Clem could feel her hat taken off her head before she felt lips being pressed against it, causing her to smile.
“Good night, kid.” Luke whispered to her.
“Night, Luke.” she quietly muttered before she fell asleep.
Soon after she did, the hand that Luke was rubbing her back with moved up to the hair on her head and ran his fingers through the curly mop. It was getting long, she would have to cut it soon. He knew she had to do for survival, but he didn’t want her to. Playing with it often relaxes him.Luke felt his eyes getting heavy. He took one last look at the stars above him and Clementine then he let himself succumb to sleep.