“Are we going to make it to Olympia before dark?” Clementine asked the driver.
“Probably not.” Luke responded.
“Will we stop at a house?” she asked.
“Considering our luck with houses, not likely.” he said to her. “So how’s that math book coming along.”
Clementine huffed in defeat. “I don’t want to do it, Luke.”
“Too bad, I’m in charge.” the farm boy replied.
“Since when are you in charge?”
“Since I can count to fifty.”
“That’s cold, Luke.”
“What better way to learn then to do math?” he responded. “Tell you what, if you do all the problems, check them by me, and they’re all right. I’ll do the rest, deal?”
“Fine, deal. Wait…” Clementine narrowed her eyes at him. “Now that was cold.”
“You agreed to it. How else am I supposed to teach you?”
“I give up. I’ll do the stupid math book.”
The little girl opened the glove box and pulled out the math book and a pencil before climbing to the back seat to start working on it. It was a bit difficult to get comfortable, mostly because she was still getting used to her training bra. It was really annoying, but she promised Abigail to keep it on. Clementine remembered Abby saying that it was supposed to help her get used to the feeling of a bra.
She missed Abby, but Clementine was glad they spent some time alone together. It would have been hella awkward to go over this stuff with Luke.
“Why are we stopping?” Clementine asked.
“Thanks, Luke. Maybe you should check out the nearby stores for supplies.” Abigail said as she unbuckled her seatbelt.
“Alright, you girls have fun.” Luke said as he got out.
“Abby?” Clementine asked.
“Come on, Clem."
The little girl followed Abigail out of the truck and to the giant Target store in front of them.
"What are we doing?"
"We're going shopping."
"My clothes fit."
"True, but this is about the woman stuff we talked about back at the library."
The two made it to the entrance of the store and crawled through the broken glass hole that was made in the door.
"So we'all start off simple, how much do you know about girl stuff?" Abigail asked as the two walked through the store.
"Not much, my friend, Christa, said that if I started bleeding... You know, then I should go to her." Clementine responded
"I take it you two weren't the closest if she only told you that much." Abigail said.
"Something like that."
"Have you had blood come out, yet?" It was a stupid question. Of course she had. She wouldn't have been pregnant otherwise.
"Um... Yeah, a couple months ago. I was kind of embarrassed to go to Luke, and thankfully we were at a rest stop at the time. I cleaned it up, and that was it."
"Okay, that's a start. So what do you want to go over first, baby stuff or blood?"
“So, I’m going to be bleeding once a month?”
“Yep. That’s call a period. Since you’re just starting out and you got pregnant, it might take a while for it to have a normal schedule.” Abigail explained to the little girl.
“And I don’t get it when I’m pregnant?” Clementine asked.
“Exactly. It’s basically a way of assuring yourself that you’re not pregnant.” Abby said.
The two heard growling before turning their heads to a couple walkers behind them in the aisle. The girls kicked the two walkers in the knee so they could kill it. Clementine used her icepick, while Abigail used her foot. The older woman prefered her gun, rather than melee weapons.
After the walkers were dead, Clem and Abby continued their journey through the store.
“Two stories? Damn…” Abigail muttered after seeing the broken escalator. “The girls’ section should be up there.”
Clementine liked Abby. She was like the older sister she always wanted. A couple weeks before Clem’s parents left for Savannah, she asked for a sister. Her mom just laughed and said she’d talk to her dad. Of course, she acknowledged at the time that the sibling would be younger, but she still wanted a sister.
When she was with Jane, she somewhat felt like she was a sister after Jane taught her the knee-icepick trick and when she came back to the group for her. Clementine was hurt knowing that Arvo killed her. She liked her, Jane saw her as an equal like Luke.
Although she liked it when people saw her as an equal, she felt like they always talk to her for advice or what to do. Sure she, has been hardened into a survivor, but still, she’s eleven. It’s not like she holds all the answers to the universe.
Now she knew how Lee felt.
Abigail and Clementine climbed up the escalator to the second floor and found the girls’ section really quick.
“What was your childhood like?”
“Mine?” Abigail was a little shocked by the question, but she knew why she asked the question. Clementine never got to be a kid. “I was a total tomboy. I was never into the dress-up games and playing with unproportionate dolls. I’d usually hang out with the guys at recess and in my neighborhood. They called me the Cootie-Catcher.”
“Because they thought I could get rid of cooties when girls touched them. I hung out with guys so much, they thought I wasn’t contaminated with them.” Abby explained. “I turned it into a business. The boys would pay me twenty-five cents for a cootie cleaning. I probably made only a few dollars before we all realized that there were no such things as cooties.”
“Did you ever hang out with girls?” Clementine asked.
“Not really. By the time I was in middle school I only had a few friends who were girls.” Abigail said. “Most girls I saw every day, were pretty annoying. They were almost a disgrace to my gender.”
“Really? How so?” the little girl asked.
“They’d wear skirts in the winter, pass notes in class, focus on boys rather than school, complain about breaking a nail in gym class, wear see-through leggings in gym. This one time… God…” Abigail chuckled to herself.
“Alright, so I had a crush on this guy and there was a rumor around school that if he wanted to go on a date with you, he’d ask to come over to his house to study.”
“Was it Luke?”
“What? No! He went to a different middle school.”
“Well, I always ride my skateboard through his neighborhood, hoping he’d notice me one day. I’d go right by his house a few times a week, I didn’t want to look like a creeper if I did it every day.”
“You knew where he lived?”
“In a good-sized, small town like the one I lived in, back then, everyone knew where you lived.” Abby explained. “Anyway, he was taking the trash out one day so I thought I’d go help him, since I wanted to seem nice. He said that he was having a girl over to help him study for a math test coming up and he asked if I wanted to join.”
“And you said yes?”
“Well, duh.” Abigail admitted. "I wasn't the best at math, but I wasn't bad either, so I went home and grabbed my backpack before heading over. I was early, but he didn't seem to mind. We worked on math for a bit and got past a few problems together then she arrived."
"I was in the bathroom when she arrived, so I got to see the conflict when I came back. She didn't bring her backpack, math book, not even a pencil. Just a pretty dress and makeup."
"Why didn't she bring her stuff?"
"She thought that he invited her for a date, instead of studying. The worst part is she actually argued with him about it and ended up walking out."
"So what happened next?"
"I came out and joked about girls being dumb, then we started working on mah together. Eventually, we moved to his room because his older sister came home, and we worked in there."
"Did anything interesting happen in there?"
"No we just studied and he walked me out. But after we took the test he asked me to come over again because he got a good grade and so did I." Abigail said. "Then somehow studying led to walking to the park for a break, then us making out in the boys' bathroom."
"Really?" Clementine asked.
"Yeah. We dated for a few weeks then I caught him making out with another girl and punched his stupid face in."
"Sounds like you had a great love life." Clementine commented. "Abby?"
"When did you start liking girls?"
"College. It's like all of the stupid girls from high school became so mature and beautiful, and all the boys became stupid adults getting drunk. Then again, I went to college in a different state. Maybe it was just different here."
"Why did you?"
"I don't know, I just started hanging out with girls more in college and boys stopped being a priority. Then before I knew it I fell in love with my female RA."
"What's an RA?"
"An RA is a resident assistant. They are the ones who are in charge of their assigned dorms."
Clementine kept to herself, she couldn't understand what Abigail said, only barely. And she didn't want to annoy her by asking her stupid questions.
"I'm sorry you had to go through this at such a young age." Abigail spoke. "I can't imagine what it's like in your shoes. Ah, here we are."
The older woman dragged the child to the training bras before going through the them. Some of the bras had little hearts and designs on them, and Abigail wasn't going to let Clem wear one like that.
"Hey, try to find one with a solid color on the other side of the rack. Try to stick with neutral colors, I'm not letting you wear a hot pink one."
"Okay." Clem sighed as she walked to the other side. It was mostly packaged underwear and socks, but there were some bras.
Abigail picked out most of the bras, Clementine was still new to this so she wasn’t ecstatic when the girls went to the changing rooms. The older woman gave Clem the small stack of bras and sent her into one of the rooms.
“Do I really have to wear this?” Clementine whined as she and Abby walked towards the exit. Abigail’s mission to get the child a training bra was complete.
“Yes, Clem. You do.” Abby responded.
“I don’t like it.” the little girl said back. It was really uncomfortable and she hated the feeling of it.
“I didn’t like mine either. Trust me, it won’t be long before you won’t even notice it.”
The girls ducked through the hole in the glass door before they continued to the truck.
“Clem, I need you to promise me that you’ll keep it on.” Abigail spoke. “Woman Hood sucks, I’m not going to lie. But you have no choice other than to go through it. It’ll get difficult, and things could get heated between you and Luke, but it’s all part of growing up.”
“I promise.” she sighed.
“Five more miles, kid.”
Clementine smiled. They were almost to the capital after spending- hopefully- one, last night in the truck. The only reason for going to Olympia was Lee’s hint. She just had to hope that there’s something there.
Luke trusted her without question. If she had a good feeling about it, then that should be a good thing. He didn’t ask her why she wanted to go there, but he went along with it.
“You know, despite the things we went through, I enjoyed the road trip.” Clementine said.
“Me too.” Luke responded.
"I really hope this place is safe."
Luke looked at a billboard that caught his attention and smiled. 'Cider Mill and Farm. Next exit.'
"It's got a farm!" He said to her. "Maybe we can salvage what's left of it."
"Like food?" Clementine asked.
"Yeah, it has a cider mill, too. Hopefully, there's some of it left."
"What's a cider mill?"
"It makes cider." Luke saw that Clementine was still confused. "Cider is a drink people have on special occasions. Did you ever have a sweet, fizzy drink on New Year's Eve?"
"That was sparkling apple cider. It's what parents give the kids so they don't feel left out in the celebration since the adults drink alcohol. Lots of alcohol."
"The fireworks scared me." Clementine admitted.
"Really?" Luke asked.
"I didn't like the explosions and the loud noises. And mostly because one of the fireworks didn't go up as high as it should have and exploded. I was four when it happened, so I was kind of scarred."
"So on the Fourth of July and New Year's you'd stay inside?"
"Only at night time. I didn't mind it during the day."
"I could see you running around with a sparkler in your hand and playing with smoke bombs."
"Man, smoke bombs were the best."
"See? Fireworks aren't all bad. Nick and I tended to play with firecrackers and bottle rockets. Since you're scared of big fireworks, does thunder and lightning scare you, too?"
"A little bit."
"The lightning was kind of cool to see from a distance. You know, I didn't expect you to be scared of this stuff, considering you're great at head shots."
"I don't get it either."
"Well, here we are." Luke breathed as he pulled off the highway.
The town seemed peaceful. A few walkers here and there, but it was pretty nice.
Luke kept following the signs, trying to find the farm and cider mill. They both hoped they could salvage what was left of it, maybe restart society. He and Clementine would be safe in a place they could call home.
Luke pulled into a driveway to what seemed to be the house where the owners used to live. There was a barn and the field was close.
"Luke, can I go check out the barn?" Clementine asked.
"Yeah, go ahead. Just be careful." He responded.
The little girl nodded before walking off. Luke made his way up the porch steps, stopping at the door. He thought about knocking, in case there was actually someone who lives here. But if there was, he thought he'd see signs of living by now.
He didn't want to intrude if the people here are friendly.
"Can I help you with anything?"
The barn was red. Well, it was faded and the paint was peeling off, revealing some brown wood, but Clem liked to think it was red for the most part. With her experience with farms- which was only one time- Clementine had to make sure that she wasn’t going to end up in someone’s stomach.
The little girl pulled up her shirt slightly and rested her hand on her gun that was tucked into her jeans. She’d always see Lee with a gun tucked in to his pants- it’s where she got it from- Clem just hid it with her shirt, so crooks don’t see it and take it off her. She’s glad that Luke finally gave her back her gun.
Since they’ve been living in the truck for so long, they weren’t really in any danger with walkers, only a few times. They had a good amount of ammunition, but not a lot.
Once inside the barn, she could see some empty animal stalls and some hay. Clementine watched one of the stall doors jiggle a bit, so with caution, she made her way to it.
The barn seemed to be deserted of animals, she didn’t think any kind of farm animal would be alive at this point. Maybe there were some, and they could be in the stall.
Right when she reached her hand to the stall door, it opened and hit her forehead with something.
“Sorry.” a voice spoke.
Keeping a hand on her forehead to rub it, Clementine opened her eyes to see teenage boy right in front of her, rubbing his forehead as well.
“You look new.” he said.
“This place isn’t deserted, is it?” Clementine responded.
“No, you’re on my property.”
“Since when are kids in charge of property?”
“I’m fifteen. I’m not a kid.” he told her.
“Yeah, sure.” she responded sarcastically.
The teenager was a little bit taller than her and was about as thin as her. He had short, black hair and liquid-green eyes. He was tan, but his under arm showed white skin. There was also a scar on his left cheek and he had an accent. It was similar to Luke’s, but it wasn’t as strong.
“My name’s Rodney, by the way.” he said as he stuck his hand out.
“Clementine.” she replied as she shook his hand.
“Huh, were your parents named apple and peach?”
The little girl death-glared at him. Not many people relate her name to the fruit, but she hated it when they did.
“Whoa, okay! Stop looking at me like you’re going to kill me.” Rodney quickly said. “Sorry, I’m known for making bad jokes, especially at bad times. It’s kind of what keeps me going. That, and comic books.”
“Yeah, I don’t have time to sit around and read a giant-ass book. Comic books are simple and light.” Rodney explained. "Why don't I show you around?"
The teen went back inside the stall and grabbed a handheld gun. Clementine could see extra guns and ammunition inside the stall. Rodney closed the door and walked Clementine out of the barn.
"So where did you come from?" Rodney asked.
"Georgia." Clementine responded.
"That's a long way from here. How'd you make it?" He asked.
"We found a working truck and drove it here." She told him.
"Oh, yeah. My friend, Luke. We both decided to come here. Originally, we planned on driving to the shore and fish for food. But we saw the sign that said farm and cider mill, so we wanted to see if it was still salvageable."
"Where is he?"
"He wanted to check out the house, and I wanted to check out the barn so we split up." Clementine explained.
"He probably ran into my dad, then." Rodney said aloud. "So why did you want to check out the barn?"
"The last time I was on a farm, it didn't end so well."
"My friends and I were almost eaten."
"Yeah. We were all locked in a meat locker in the barn. It was bad."
"Damn, how old were you?"
"Almost nine. It was a few months after this all started. So, yeah, I wanted to make sure that it wasn't going to be a trap."
"Right. Anyway, there are no cannibals here, for the record. My father and I don't allow it. We have crops, though, which is great."
"Do you have animals?"
"No they all died and we finished eating them not long after the dead started walking around. You have no idea how much I miss bacon."
Clementine and Rodney walked along a wooden fence, marking the territory of the farm.
"So what crops do you have?" Clem asked.
"Mostly apples, since we used to use them to make cider, and blackberry bushes grow along the border so we pick those. A lot of our other fruits and vegetables died over the winter. What we have isn't a lot, but we still try to grow them more and find more seeds." Rodney explained.
"That's not bad with what we're dealing with." she pointed out.
"Yeah, we actually have a few families and other people living nearby. They help with the farm and everything." he told her.
"People? Like normal people?"
"Hard to believe, but yes. In fact we have some little children, a few teens, and an elderly woman along with lots of adults. Both men and women."
"And none of them are psychos?"
"Not even one of them."
“What’s the catch?”
“You’ve been through a lot of bad shit, haven’t you?”
“We’ve all seen some bad shit.”
“Tell me about it.”
The conversation ended between the two as they continued to walk along the fence line. The farm was nice, Clem saw a few people working in the field with the crops, which meant Rodney was telling the truth about more people.
“Shit.” the teen muttered.
“What?” Clem asked.
“Nothing, I just forgot to assign some people to pick the last of the blackberries before they go bad.” Rodney told her. “You wouldn’t mind helping me, would you? I get it. You’re new, and there’s a chance that you and your friend might not want to stay here, but I could use the help.”
“Well, I like it here, so I guess I could help.” Clementine responded.
“Thank you berry much.” he responded.
“Don’t make me regret it.” she said.
“I used to work on a farm, I’d be happy to help.”
“That’s great. We could use the extra hand, especially with Jack Frost about to knock on our door in a few months.”
“I agree, this place is probably the difference between life and death for what’s left of our race.”
“That’s why we’re gladly accepting friendly faces.”
Luke leaned back in the chair he was sitting in, running his hand through his hair. “You have no idea how much Clem and I need this, Donald.”
“Everyone needs a break from this. We’ve all been pushed to our limit- or at least know what our limit is.” the man, Donald respond.
The two men have been talking for a good hour or so, mostly it was Donald asking about Luke’s history and if he was alone to make sure he wouldn’t over power his home. Luke was asking about the farm and was surprised at the handful of people living in the new society.
The more they talked, Luke felt the weight being lifted off his shoulders. This could be the place he and Clem dreamed of finding, a home.
“My family is all I have.” Donald continued. “My ex-wife and my son, Rodney, tried to come here, because of the farm and all. They walked on foot, all the way from Texas. A few months later, my son made it. He told me that his mother was eaten by those monstrosities out there. She saved his life.”
Luke bowed his head, everyone had their sob-story, as well.
“I hated the woman, but it hit me when Rodney said it. If I lost my son, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“I know how it feels.” Luke spoke up. “Clementine’s cut it close, a lot. It never gets any easier. She’s like a sister.”
“Speaking of her, does she have any skills?” Donald asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Farming, weapons, medical training. Stuff like that.”
“Well, she’s an amazing shot with a handheld gun. Um… I’m not sure if this counts for medical skills, but she sewed up her own arm.”
“Yeah. She’s a bit cold when it comes to strangers, but once you get to know her, she’s great. Just don’t underestimate her, she’s hella tough.”
“I’ll take your word for it. I’m sure we can find something for her to do. And-”
“Dining room, Rod. I want you to meet someone.” Donald called.
“I met someone, too.”
Two people walked into the room with the adults.
“Hey, kid.” Luke said upon seeing the little girl.
“Hey, Luke.” Clementine responded to the nickname.
“Donald, this is Clementine.” the farm boy said.
The older man stuck his hand out to the girl, “Nice to meet you.” he said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but did your parents name you after the fruit?”
“Is he your son?” Clem asked as she glanced back a Rodney.
“Yes, he is.” Donald responded.
“I can tell.” the little girl said in response.
The father raised a brow at his son who replied. “I made the fruit comment when we met.”
“I see.” Donald said. “When Luke told me about you, I expected someone much older. Did you really sew up your own arm?”
“You sewed up your own arm? Bullshit!” Rodney exclaimed.
“No, really. I have a scar to prove it.” Clementine rolled her shirt sleeve to reveal the jagged mark.
“Damn… How did you get that?” Rodney asked.
“A dog bit me. It was just before I met this asshole.” she responded, gesturing her head to Luke.
“Are you really going to play that card, Clem?” Luke asked in annoyance.
“I like playing that card.” she responded.
“I can see you two get along just fine.” Donald said. “By the way, Luke, this is my son Rodney. Might as well get everyone formally introduced if you guys want to stay here.”
The farm boy and teen shook hands briefly before Luke turned to Clem. They both stared at each other for a bit, unsure on what to say.
“We’ll let you two talk it out.” Donald told them before pulling on his son’s arm, letting him know that they’re both leaving the room.
After the father and son left, Clem and Luke sat down at the table.
“What do you think, Clem?”
“I- I don’t know. I saw other people working, there’s food, supplies, I helped Rodney pick Blackberries, but…”
“It all seems too good to be true?” Luke finished.
“Yeah.” Clementine admitted.
“Donald said there are lots of people here.” he told her.
“Rodney told me that, too.” she added. “I’m just so used to being with you for so long. Only with you. I don’t know if I can be around other people anymore.”
“You’re going to have to deal with that, Clem.” Luke pointed out. “It’s not like we won’t ever see each other again. We’ll just be busy. I’ll probably be working on the farm, and you’ll probably end up babysitting or helping out with the makeshift hospital they have here.”
“There’s a hospital?” Clem asked.
“Apparently it’s just a house with all the important medical supplies and beds. A few of the women work there, since one of them was a nurse and some of the others are mothers.” Luke explained.
Clementine continued to think about it. She did like it here, it was pretty and they seemed to have things in order. What if it was all a lie? It was her gut telling her that. It was instinct. So much bad shit has happened, Clem just expects the worst.
“It’s still us against the world, kid. Just with other people on the sideline. If you don’t want to stay, it’s alright. I just think that this is the place we need after everything.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I’m not sure, but there’s just something about this place. It’s kind of a welcoming feeling.”
Clementine huffed, taking the offer into consideration. “The second shit hits the fan, we’re leaving.”
“Of course, Clem.”
“The neighborhood is right up here.” Donald spoke.
Luke and Clementine agreed to stay. These people were nice and seemed to know what they are doing with the new society. Donald is in charge, because it’s his farm. He’s the one that makes all of the big decisions and cautions for the benefit of everyone. Mostly those are the rations so everyone gets some sort of food, and they have enough to last for the winter.
At the moment, the leader and his son were walking the two new people to the house they’ll be staying in. Luke was talking to Donald about what he’ll be doing to help out while Clementine and Rodney were walking behind them.
Rodney calls himself the vice runner, when referring to his role here. He’s in charge of assigning work to the folk here every week. On top of that, Rodney’s job also requires him to deliver rations, check on the people, and inform the people who work on the farm when they work. Basically, he runs to the neighborhood and back to the farm almost every other day.
He told Clementine that he used to run cross-country at this middle school, so running all over the place wasn’t that much of a hassle to him. Rodney also admitted that he misses the cross-country competitions.
“So, yeah… I still can’t believe you sewed up your own arm.” Rodney said.
“It wasn’t that hard.” Clem responded.
“Bullshit.” he called.
“No, really. It wasn’t that hard, just really, really painful.” she explained.
“That, I believe.”
The group arrived at a cul de sac. Clem and Luke were informed that this is where everyone lived at the moment. There were only sixteen houses, and there were only ten groups of people who live here, not including the owners and the newbies.
Some of them lived alone, others had families. Luke and Clementine were given the option to live alone is they wanted to, but they both denied it. Neither of them could imagine living without each other.
“This is the house.” Donald said. “Rodney, remember to log Clementine and Luke for the house.”
“What’s the house number?” his son asked.
“We’ll leave you guys to it. If you two have any concerns, don’t be afraid to come to either one of us.” Donald informed.
“Alright.” Luke responded.
“By the way, we’re having a bonfire tonight, if you guys want to join. It’d be great way to meet the others.” the leader added.
“Okay, thank you.” Luke said before he and Clementine started walking to the front door of the house.
The farm boy turned the doorknob and opened the door. He walked inside the house, Clementine following closely behind him. The house was only one story, since there was only two of them. It was nice.
The kitchen was on the left and it had a bar on the other side of the sink. In the back corner was a table and chairs on the left side. Looking straight ahead from the door they entered, they could see the living room with a fireplace. To the right of them was a laundry room behind a door.
Next the the laundry room was a backwards, L-shaped hallway. Going left there was only one door at the end on the right side. The door lead to the master bedroom. It looked like it was unharmed, with everything looking to be in place. The bed, the dresser, the sliding-mirror closet. There was even a bathroom connected to the room, and that was unharmed. Minus all the pills and medical things you would find in a bathroom.
If you were to go straight down the hallway, there were two doors on the right. the first was another bathroom. and the second was another bedroom. A teen’s room, but there were boxes covering the room as if someone was moving out. The room probably hasn’t been touched since.
“Clem?” Luke called. He found her in the living room, curled up, laying on the armrest on the couch. “You alright, kid?”
“Yeah, I’m just thinking.” she responded.
“Do you like the house?” he asked sitting down on the other side of the couch.
“It’s nice, I saw a small creek and a shed in the backyard.” she told him.
Luke leaned his head back. It felt nice to relax for a bit. None of them spoke a word, both lost in their own thoughts. Luke was glad to feel safe, Clementine was conflicted.
About five minutes went by before Luke heard some movement and felt arms wrap around his waist with a head up against his side. He looked down to see Clementine hugging him.
“What’s up with you?” Luke asked.
“Just let me hug you.” Clementine responded.
“As much as I appreciate it, why are you hugging me?” he rephrased.
“I just need to… In case, it’s the last time.” she trailed off.
“Clem, I don’t think-”
“Luke…” the child cut in. “I feel safe, too. But after everything we’ve been through, everything you’ve done for me… I have to, because of the chance that I won’t get to. So, just let me.”
Clementine’s emotions and personality seemed to be changing all the time in Luke’s point of view. It was like one day she’d be sassy and the next she’d be quiet. Her crying after an almost deadly confrontation with assholes was his fault. Clem told him that at the rest stop, and he believed it. He lets her cry, it wasn’t good for her to keep it bottled up. Of course, that’d be hypocritical for him to say because he is a bottler, himself.
Luke started rubbing her back, she’s a sweet kid. Clem doesn’t really let that side of her show, usually she’s just over-matured and cold. The kid’s got a big heart, she truly does. It’s just hard to see it. Despite the world ending and all the shit she’s been through, her heart hasn’t gone cold. She just built a wall around it and guards it with her life, so it couldn’t be shattered anymore than it has been.
It was his job to help piece her back together. If the sight of this little girl hugging him wasn’t a sign of success or at least a step that way, he didn’t know what was. As long as she’s safe and out of harm’s way, Luke was happy.
“Clem,” Luke said, breaking the silence. “We’re going to the bonfire tonight.”
“But what if-” she got interrupted by Luke pulling her hat down over her eyes.
“No choice. And if you complain or try to get out of it, I’ll tickle you.”
“You wouldn’t.” Clem called as she fixed her hat.
“You’re pretty vulnerable right now.” Luke pointed out.
Clementine glared up at him. Her eyes pierced his soul almost as a threat. “Don’t. You. Dare.”
“I won’t.” Luke said. He wouldn’t do that, she’d be able to fight back. “Since you’re in a hugging mood, mind if I give you one?”
“I guess so.” Clem responded.
Luke pulled the child up, her back against his chest before wrapping his arms around her. Clementine warmed up to his hug, even if he had her arms pinned down… Wait…
“Clementine, you should know me better than that.” Luke told her before he used one hand to tickle the child while his other arm kept her from fighting back.
“Luke!” she laughed. “You asshole!”
The little girl squirmed in his hold as he tickled her. Seeing her smile made him happy. One of the few things Luke’s dad told him: ‘No matter what girl you end up with, stop at nothing to make sure she’s happy. Just don’t swamp her, son.’ That’s what he’s doing with Clem. Obviously, his dad referred to a girlfriend or wife, but he ended up with Clementine. Things weren’t going to be anything more between them. She’s a kid. What his dad said, didn’t change, Luke was going to make her happy. Even if it was just a smile, it was a sign that she was happy for a moment.
Her prom, him signing to her, every kiss on the forehead, anyway to make her feel special. It was all to make her happy, it’s who he is. Especially because she never got to know what it’s like to grow up and have someone do those things for her. To feel like someone other than your family and friends care about you and want to be with you forever. Luke was all Clementine had.
Without his parents, Luke probably wouldn’t have survived this long. Before and after the dead started walking around. His mother gave him advice about girls and how to take care of himself, that helped him through college and taking care of Clementine. His father taught him how to fend for himself and respect for others. This helped greatly once this all started. He taught Clementine everything his dad taught him about fighting back… Shit…
Clementine jammed her elbow into Luke’s stomach, causing him to let go of her. She moved away quickly, back to the other side of the couch trying to catch her breath.
"I hate you." She said.
"I love you, too." Luke responded holding the spot where Clem hit him before standing up. "I think I'll check out that creek you were talking about."
He walked around the couch to the back sliding door. As he walked by Clementine he pulled the bill of her hat over her eyes again to annoy her.
"Asshole." She muttered loud enough so he could hear her.
"Is that your new favorite word?" Luke asked, rubbing a hand on her head to continue the annoyance. "You love me, and you know it."
Clementine fixed her hat to watch Luke leave out the back. The little girl huffed as she leaned back into the couch. It wasn’t long before a smile spread across her face, even a little laugh came out. He was the only one who could ever make her do that, and that is the only reason why she can’t hate him.
“Luke, Clem! You guys made it!” Rodney exclaimed, causing everyone around the bonfire look at the two newbies.
Aside from Donald and Rodney there was ten people there. The two were warmly greeted by everyone there as they sat down against a log, listening to the soft sound of a teenage girl playing a guitar.
Not all of the men and women were there, the others were watching the kids and taking care of the elderly woman. This would have raised a red flag for Clementine seeing that not everyone was here, but nothing did. It was warm, inviting, relaxing. No tension, no odd vibes, it almost seemed normal.
They all just sat around the fire, telling jokes and stories. It’s been awhile since Clementine had fun with someone other than Luke. Eventually, everyone started asking questions about the two, which they didn’t mind answering.
“So, where are you two from?” a woman asked.
“Georgia.” Clementine responded.
“Tennessee.” Luke also answered.
“When did you two meet?” the woman asked.
“Last winter, I believe.” Luke responded.
“Clementine, right? How old are you, sweetie?” A different woman asked. By the tone of her voice, she was probably a mother.
“I’m eleven.” Clementine told her.
“You’re just so cute, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.” the woman responded.
That’s something she’s heard often, about how hard it was on her. Every time she hears it, she quickly reflects on her past, most of it was Lee.
“It’s not like she’s the only one who’ve lost people.” Luke explained to the group so Clementine didn’t have to speak. Her past was a very difficult topic to cover.
Silence fell over everyone at the bonfire, mourning the deaths of their friends and family. The fall breeze started blowing, as if the spirits of the dead were with them. Clementine quickly wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm. Luke noticed this and moved an arm around the child as he pulled her closer, hoping it helped.
“Well,” The teenage girl with the guitar interrupted the silence. “I think we all need a break from the sadness.”
“What do you got for us, Andie? Another cover?” Rodney asked.
“Actually, I wrote something and I’d like to sing it.” she responded.
“Alright, go for it!” Rodney encouraged.
She did a few strums on the guitar before she tested her voice and then she started.
“I don’t need another taste of your lips,
To know I’m home when we’re lying here like this,
The world could end today, the sun could just fall,
Here in this bed we’ve made, we’re safe from it all,
When nobody believes me, I know you will,
When nobody can reach me, I know you will,
When nobody can please me, I know you will,
You get me, You get me,
You get me, you get me,
With you I know I’m home,
We don’t need my father to give his blessing,
We don’t match on paper, but it don’t mean a thing,
When all my walls cave in, you pull me through it,
When there’s a gun at me, you take the bullet,
When nobody believes me, I know you will,
When nobody can reach me, I know you will,
When nobody can please me, I know you will,
You get me, You get me,
You get me, you get me,
With you I know I’m home.”*
Once she finished, everyone told her that she did a good job and they all started talking about whatever came to mind. It was like everything was okay and no one was dying. It was what Clem and Luke needed.
The bonfire ended and everyone headed back to their houses. Clementine managed to convince Luke to give her a piggyback ride on the way back. They finally arrived at their new house and Luke walked inside and slid Clem off his back.
“I’m not carrying you to bed, kid.” he said. “Go on ahead, I’ll lock the doors.”
The child nodded before she started making her way to the master bedroom. The other room had boxes and the bed was stripped clean, Clementine didn’t want to go through them all to find a blanket and a pillow. She was too tired for that. Besides, if she gets grabbed in the middle of the night by these people, she wanted Luke to be next to her.
Once Clementine saw the bed, she went to the side by the closet and face planted into a pillow. Luke walked in as she started to take off her shoes and crawl under the covers, then he did the same.
The little girl stared at herself in the closet door mirror. She was paranoid and relaxed at the same time. This place seemed almost too good to be true, and for a second she thought it was all a dream and she’d wake up on the beach in some hut or shack. But this is could be it, the dream-come-true for her and Luke.
The farm boy looked out the window, through the blinds on his side. He could see the stars and the moon. This was the place. He could feel it in his gut that it was. The one he and Clementine always wanted. If this was a charade, it’s a pretty damn good one. It’s this or fishing on the shore.
The two survivors rolled over, staring at each other in surprise with the glow of the moon peeking through the window. They didn’t say a word to each other. Could they tell what the other was thinking? No, that’d be creepy.
Clementine gave Luke a small side smile as she put her hand in the middle of the bed. Luke took a hold of it, giving her the same smile. The little girl moved closer to him, causing Luke to wrap his arm around her, assuring her that she was safe. It’s all she needed. Clem wrapped an arm around him as well, she wasn’t going to let him go. For some reason she always felt better when Luke was holding her.
Luke lifted the bill of her hat up before he placed a kiss on her forehead. Clementine pulled herself closer to him, they both cared deeply about each other. If one were to die, none of them would know what to do. The little girl felt warm in the embrace, listening to the steady beat of Luke’s heart. Paranoia left her mind and was replaced with safety and security. She was exhausted, as if everything they went through was done in one day. And she was ready to fall asleep, but she had one thing on her mind and wanted to ask the one person she trusts.
“Luke?” Clementine said tiredly, causing Luke to look down at her. “Are we home?” she asked.
“Yeah, Clem. We’re home.” he responded before they both fell asleep, glad that they finally found it.
*- Home- ZZ Ward.
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