“I can’t believe him,” Noah said as he slipped back into the apartment and turned to join Vicky in the living room.
“Who?” She asked.
“That stupid kid who showed up today.” Noah said, flopping down on the couch beside Vicky. She pulled away slightly. “Just ignoring the rules, doing what ever he wants.” Noah reached out to touch Vicky and she brushed his hand aside.
“What? But I thought we were good, I thought--”
Vicky jumped to her feet. She stared down at Noah and clenched her fists. There was an electrified moment of silence in the room before she huffed and spun around to leave.
“What’s your deal?” Noah asked, following close behind her.
“Go away!” Vicky climbed on top of the bed, still dressed in her combat gear and gripping her automatic weapon tight.
“Um...no?” Noah slipped into the dark room and sat down on the edge of the bed, putting a hand on her back.
“I said go!” Vicky snapped and Noah started gently rubbing up and down her spine. “Get out!” Vicky lifted her face off of the pillow this time and turned to look at him. She hoped he could feel the intensity of her glare like acid on his skin.
“I’m not leaving.”
She made a frustrated sound and lifted the pillow off the bed. She threw her face down onto the mattress and slammed the pillow down over her head.
“Don’t you remember what I said about asking for help?” Noah’s voice became soft, soothing her slightly. “I’m here for you. It was a really rough day. You’ve been through a lot.”
“What do you know?” She inched away from him and pulled herself up onto her knees. “You weren’t there for any of it!”
“I know, but I mean, the attack this morning? Then Cynthia.”
“Don’t you dare!” Vicky’s lips were tight as she interrupted him.
“You need to talk about it eventually.”
“I don’t need to talk about anything, especially not with you.”
“She isn’t Jessica.” Noah moved to touch her arm but she quickly pulled it away.
“Careful,” she said, glaring.
“Look, we just need to get home, that’ll cheer you up. It’s time to see Jessica.”
Vicky thought about her daughter and was surprised that it was hard to recover memories of her. “Charles said she’s okay.”
“I know Charles is a smart guy, and handsome, and a great leader.” Vicky could see that thinking of Charles made Noah feel just as warm and happy as it made her. “But we’ve been making some real progress on the samples from the serpent, and the doctor seems to think the DNA we collected from the beast before she escaped is exceptional. We need my nephew for the next step of our research, which means I’ll be going home. Come with me, we’ll bring Jessica back too.”
Vicky felt tears brewing and held them back. She just stared at Noah, her chest heaving with each angry breath.
“She’s alive, you know,” Noah said. “Your daughter is alive and waiting for you. Your real daughter.”
As if waking from a deep sleep in a strange place, Vicky slowly began to feel frightened and concerned. When all of this first happened all she wanted was to make sure her family was safe, but she hadn’t really thought much about that since arriving at the tower. What was she doing with Charles, Lila and everyone else? Why had she waited so long? “I wanna see her.” Vicky’s voice cracked as she spoke.
This time, when Noah touched her she didn’t push him away. “You will,” he said as he moved closer to her. “Maybe we should go tonight?”
“What do you mean?” Vicky turned to Noah, feeling his leg brush up against hers.
“I think it’s safe to assume that Eden and Corrigan will be heading home, maybe even tonight if they can convince Charles. Their farm is just north of our hometown. We could travel with them and stop to pick up our families.”
Vicky still hesitated. “I can’t leave Charles. I can’t explain it but I need to be here with him, with Lila. Even after everything that’s happened this place feels secure, it feels like home.”
“Trust me, I know the feeling. I’m just suggesting we get our families and come back,” he said. “Quick and easy.”
“Do you think it’s safe here for Jessica?”
“Of course I do! We’re fortified, we’ve got food, not to mention our research is going to save humanity. This place is the safest place for Jessica to be. That zombie attack today was a complete fluke.”
“A fluke that killed just about everyone.”
“It didn’t kill us,” Noah said. “The snipers are still alive. And Romie, Lila, Aleksi, Dr. Kent.”
“Frankie, Carl, Pedro, Julian,” Vicky started listing names of the people who did die, people she had to put down herself. “Sarah, Florence, Abdul.” Noah grabbed Vicky’s hands as she started counting the names on her fingers.
“Stop it, Vicky, don’t!” He tried to calm her down as she started becoming more frantic.
“No!” she said, stopping the long list of names. “No, I won’t stop! I killed them! I killed all of them. They were our friends, they survived with us and I killed them!”
“They were all already dead. You told me that didn’t you?” Noah reached out and put a hand on her face. He brushed away a tear with his thumb.
“That was before I recognized the faces I was shooting at... I knew all of these people before they turned. The fact that they were zombies doesn’t change that.”
“Yes, it does. You did what you had to do! It was you or them on that roof today.”
“And at what cost? Cynthia’s gone, the beast’s gone, our friends are gone.”
“You can’t do anything to change that now, and moping won’t make you feel any better.”
“If I couldn’t protect a stranger’s daughter... how could I ever think I could protect my own?”
“It was out of your control. That monster... nobody could have saved Cynthia in that situation, not even Lila.”
“Lila could have done it. I know she could have,” Vicky said, shaking her head. “That’s why I need to be here, that’s why I can’t go to Jessica yet. She’s safe with my mom, Charles said so and if Charles said it it’s gotta be real. When I’m ready to protect my family then I’ll go find them.”
“I know you’re worried. It was hard enough losing one baby--”
“What?” Vicky cut him off, her face flushed, and she stammered as she searched for words. “What do you mean ‘hard enough losing one baby’?” She asked, grinding her teeth.
“The baby... our baby.” Noah looked away and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Just what do you mean by our baby?”
“I mean... I know what happened last year. You told Donovan you were in town to get your appendix out but I know what really happened.”
Vicky gasped for air. She felt like she’d been punched in the gut. Holding her hand to her chest, she got up off the bed and shook her head as she spoke. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Noah sighed. “Yes, I do. I saw you in the hospital that day. I was still on my internship.”
“No,” Vicky said, “No, stop this.”
“Nobody would tell me why you were there, so I snooped around. I found out for myself.”
“You’re lying!” Vicky screamed, so far in denial she could scarcely recognize the truth.
“I saw in your file that you were pregnant, that you tried to take care of it yourself, and something went wrong. That’s why you were rushed to the hospital. I was there when they wheeled you in on the stretcher, your legs covered in blood. Why do you think I stopped going to school? I didn’t dropout. I was kicked out for breaking so many rules about confidentiality and conflicts of interest. When I realized what happened I lost it, I got so emotional I attacked the doctor who discovered what I’d done. You weren’t the only one who lost a child that day, you know.”
“It wasn’t yours!” Vicky snapped, her temper was overflowing and she tried to bring herself back down.
“If you had just asked for help... if you had just come to me--”
“Stop it! Stop this, please!”
“I don’t blame you,” Noah said. “You did what you had to do. I mean, clearly Brent would know it wasn’t his, look at me!” Noah gestured to his dark skin and slowly stepped closer to her. “Even though he treated you like crap you needed him you had a daughter with him and he provided for you.” Vicky tried to stay away from Noah as he put his arm around her shoulders but he was insistent.
“You were confused and frightened,” Noah continued. “You did what you thought was best, in a way you thought would keep it all a secret from him and you got hurt, but all you had to do was ask for help.”
Vicky started crying into her hands and allowed Noah to embrace her with his sinewy arms. “Let me help you now. We can keep Jessica safe. Together. Just, let me help.”
Vicky turned to Noah and kissed him. She quickly pulled away and he stared at her for a second before pulling her close and kissing her back. He lay her on the bed and slowly felt the curves of her body, his lips moved to her neck and she inhaled as he pressed his weight against her body. She started to cry and Noah quickly moved off of her, wrapping his arms around her body. She sobbed into his chest and he rocked her back and forth. After a while, when her heaving cries subsided, Noah said, “What do you wanna do?”
Vicky silently thought about the question. She sat up and looked at him. “I wanna get Jessica.”
Noah smiled and pulled her face close. He kissed the tears on her cheeks, then kissed her forehead and finally her lips. She reached up and put her slender hands on his as they gripped her face, she closed her eyes and allowed the moment to take her. Take her away from the tower, from the zombies and the apocalypse. All that remained in the calm of her mind was Charles’ smiling face as her memories recalled his voice.
“It’s all okay,” the old man said in her mind and she repeated him out loud. “Everything’s going to be okay.”