Sunlight

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Chapter 27

Three hours later, and I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair next to Seth’s bed. I had no where else to be until the time came; the one I was dreading and eager to have to over all at once. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it was going to be like tonight. But it was impossible to picture anything.

“Reese, do you want any of this?”

I looked over to see Seth holding a half-sandwich, his hand outstretched.

“No, I’m not hungry.” I looked away again, my foot tapping the ground. I felt like I was starting to fall apart. I couldn’t keep it together. My stomach was inside out. I wasn’t like this a while ago, but with every hour that passed, it kept getting worse. I was never one to freak out about things, but I was coming close with this one.

“Reese, seriously, it’s going to be all right.” Seth sat up in his pillow a bit straighter, but just ending up wincing in his attempt.

“Seth, you have to sit still. If you move to much, you’ll have internal bleeding. I was listening to her, too.”

He waved it away. “I’m fine. You’re the one I’m worried about.”

I just shook my head and turned away from him again. I constantly glanced down the hall, waiting for West and Ethan to return. I wasn’t even sure where they went. Some where in the back of my mind I had a feeling they were talking about something but I couldn’t remember. Where was I during that conversation?

Seth sat back in his pillows, giving a long sigh. “I wish I was coming with you.”

I spun around. “What? Why?” Maybe he had too many pain killers in him and they were making him loopy.

“I know you’re nervous and all, but . . . I’m surprised you don’t feel the same way.” He put his hand on his chest where his wound was and grimaced. “You were shot, the same as I was, and when I went down I felt this anger rising in me. The pain from my chest also brought out the pain that was inside of me. It was there all along, but I never paid attention to it. You just have to find it again, Reese, and you’ll be all right.”

Finding the pain inside.

I tried to recall the memories of the day I was shot, but everything was so blurred in my mind now. But the feelings weren’t. I was angry at them. They’d taken everything from me that day, and then some. My parents were gone, along with our home, and I still had no idea where Ethan was at the time. And even more, they were still trying to find West. To kill him.

I sat up a little straighter and stopped tapping my foot.

“You’re right,” I said, my voice hushed. “I’ve been focusing on everything but the reason we’re fighting them.”

“And what’s that?” he reminded me.

Everything. They had totally screwed up my life, and Ethan’s too. We would still have parents if it wasn’t for them. I have been shot, almost choked to death, chased by a helicopter, beat up, and thrown in the dirt so many times I’ve lost count. I’m just surprised I haven’t been stabbed yet.”

He nodded slowly. “And now you have a chance to let them know how you feel.” Then he added, smiling, “And hopefully that last one will never happen.”

“I guess I understand why you want to be there now. I’m sorry.”

“Just do enough damage for the both us.”

It was amazing to me how fast my emotions had changed, but all I had to do was remember why I had agreed to do this. It was to get our lives back. To go back to actually living without fear of being attacked at any moment, and go out into the streets without the need for a gun. Shouldn’t that be something worth fighting for?

“Still nervous?” he asked.

“Yeah, but it’s a good nervous. Is that healthy?”

He laughed and gave a small shrug. “Doesn’t matter as long as it keeps you alive.”

I nodded, sitting back in my chair. “So, they aren’t moving the hospital?”

“No, they think it’s deep enough into the city so it will be safe, but if they happen to break through the lines we’ll have enough warning to get out before they come. They’ve got trucks outside just in case. Plus, there aren’t many people left here, everyone who was able to walk and hold a gun left to help fight.”

I stared at the floor again but remembered something. “Where did West and Ethan go?”

“I . . . don’t know.” He glanced around with his eyebrows scrunched.

Well, that solved that mystery. I stood and stretched my legs, then after doing so realized I couldn’t sit down any longer. My nerves were up to a boiling point and I had to do something or else I would go crazy.

“You’re leaving me too, huh?” Seth stated nonchalantly.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I can’t sit here any longer.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I’ll just—” he stared blankly for a moment “—sit here.” He was having a hard time holding in his smile and I was amazed at how he could be in such a good mood at a time like this. But seeing him happy made me in a better mood too, so I wasn’t going to put him down.

“I’ll see you later,” I said, and he just waved me away again. The big tent seemed so stuffy and crowded after I stepped outside. The air was brisk and had a snap in it; the first signs of fall.

“Reese!”

I jumped a little as Cruz appeared beside me with a silly grin and a huge gun strapped across his back. His ruffled hair and the fact he hadn’t shaved in a few days made him look so non-soldier like.

“Hi,” I answered awkwardly.

“So, you’re gonna be with me tonight over on the northeast side. Is that all right? I know West wanted you two to be together but we think its better this way. He’s with most of his people and you’re with us.”

I nodded, not wanting to argue. “Yeah, that’s fine.” Even though I wasn’t sure if it was.

He rubbed his hands together eagerly. “Great! We only have a few hours left until it’s dark, so we have to make sure everything is ready.”

I shifted my weight awkwardly, not sure how to ask him. “Um . . . where can I get a gun?” I asked.

His smile widened and waggled his eyebrows. “Follow me, little one, and I will show you the goods.”

It didn’t take long to arrive at the building where they kept the ‘goods,’ as Cruz liked it phrase it. It was an old storage building before people started hoarding guns like old woman with piles of newspapers. And the best thing was, that they were actually organized. Battle rifles on one side, shotguns on the other, explosives near the back, and just about everything you could imagine in the center.

It totally felt as if I was in another movie again. It was like The Boondock Saints in real life.

I drifted through the aisles, just trying to imagine what it was going to feel like using these weapons against people. When I shot those two soldiers in the clearing with my pistol, I hadn’t thought much of it at the time. They were standing between me and that stranger I had an odd desire to save, so I never hesitated.

Then there was that night when we were escaping from the old factory in the rain. I had shot the man because he was choking the life out of me, and the other man because he was trying to kill West. Would that feeling of self-defense hit when it would all start tonight? Or would it be a new feeling all together?

I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. Right now all I wanted was a way to defend myself, and maybe cause some damage on their end—I wouldn’t deny it.

I immediately picked up a holster for my pistol which was back at the hospital. It even had a strap to go around my leg to keep it from jostling. Next thing I did was go looking for a shotgun—something I could use in case things got to close. There were so many to choose from, I couldn’t decide. After a while of me staring, Cruz walked over and grabbed one without a second thought and dropped it into my hands.

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

“No problem. You gonna get a gun to go along with that holster or are you just planning on pretending you have one? I promise to try not to pick on you if you decide to go down that road—the one of crazy.” His head was still turned on me but his eyes were wide and staring of in the other direction.

I narrowed my eyes. “No, I have one back at the hospital.”

“If you say so, little one. I’ll be right outside if you need anything, and just come out when you’re finished.”

I watched him leave and noticed a few people stealing glances in my direction. I try to ignore them and go back to focusing on the weapons before me, but it was hard. I finished as fast as I could then left without looking up at anyone. Cruz was near his Hummer talking to another soldier as I walked up and placed my duffel bag in the backseat.

“Reese, this is Calvin,” he said. “He’ll be with us tonight, too.”

I nodded my head to him. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Calvin said. “I actually got the chance to meet West about twenty minutes ago.”

“Where was he?” I never did find out.

“At the hospital.”

Cruz took in my facial expression and asked, “Do you wanna go back?”

I did, but I wasn’t sure if I should or not. I knew Cruz wanted to check on a few things while I was with him and it wouldn’t be right to leave him just to see West again. Even though I wanted to. More than anything.

“No, it’s fine,” I said against my own will. “We can do whatever you had planned. I’ll see him later.”

“Okay then, it won’t take long, so load up.”

Calvin jumped into the back, giving me the front seat, and Cruz pulled away. We rolled down the road towards the outskirts of the city. We came to a stop at a large road block made up of old cars and rubble. People were working on piling chunks of cement blocks, and anything else they could find, to make small walls and barriers to take shelter behind for when the bullets would start flying.

Cruz got out for a moment and talked to the commanding officer—just a few words and that was it. We did this every block; wherever there was another barricade. There were so many I had lost count but it seemed to be only on half of the city, just the side pointing east, where our enemies would be coming from.

Their system reminded me of an onion. If, and when, the first layer of road blocks get over run, they would pull back to the next set and try to stop them all over again. There were four layers, with the last one coming to about three blocks from the hospital. But they were sure they would never get that far into the city, or at least hoped.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when the Hummer pulled up to the hospital again, but the day only seemed to be beginning.

“I’ll be back at seven to pick you up,” Cruz said, “and make sure West is ready by then, too.”

I nodded as I jumped out, grabbing my heavy duffel bag from the back. He drove away and I was left standing there, shocked at the fact I had only hours left before the United army would come. The nerves in my stomach was started to rise again.

I looked up to see West striding towards me, this time wearing his sweatshirt against the brisk air. My heart thumped heavily. I dropped my duffel bag at my feet as he pulled me into a long hug. He was so warm that I never wanted to let go. I tried not to make it obvious as I inhaled his scent; something that I could never put words to.

“Come on.” West picked up my duffel bag, my hand in his other, and started walking in the other direction.

“We’re not going back—” I started.

“Nope. You can see him later before Cruz picks you up.”

“How did you know—”

“I asked.”

I smiled at him knowing everything I was about to ask. We walked across the street and entered a four story building that was no longer being used. The lobby was dark with no lights on, but West never hesitated and walked straight for the stairs on the opposite side. The stairway dim with a faint light came from somewhere above, which made it possible to see.

“Where are we going? To file for a checking account?”

He laughed as he started to climb. “No.”

When we arrived at the top, I was finally able to see that the light was coming from a door that had been propped open, letting the late afternoon sun drift in. I followed West out onto the roof and around the other side of the brick barrier.

He dropped the duffel bag and stood smiling in front of an old red couch. It was torn and probably pooped on by birds but it was one of those couches you just know is comfortable. West dropped down onto the cushions and I lowered myself beside him, sinking down until my knees were almost above me. And it was comfortable. I had no clue on how he got it up here, and I didn’t care.

West pulled me closer so there wasn’t even an inch between us. I closed my eyes and tried to remember this moment, so I could have it forever. The late afternoon sun was warm on my skin and having West next to me was like a dream. One I never wanted to wake up from.

“That day we first met seems so long ago,” he murmured.

I turned to look at him, starring into the eyes that I had lost myself in too many times to count.

“I missed you when you were gone. I never told you that,” I admitted.

“Missed wouldn’t be the word to describe how I felt when I was away,” he said softly.

“Sorry, I never carry a thesaurus around with me.”

“What about a dictionary?”

“Hmmm . . . no.”

He smiled before acting serious again. “Well, it was horrible.”

The city looked so peaceful and quiet from this high up, making it possible to forget about everything that was happening around us, just absorbing our time together. Because in a couple of hours, he would be away from me again, and there was no way of knowing when the next time we would see each other. I shivered thinking of it. West held me tighter, almost as if he was feeling the same.

“It’s going to be all right.” He almost sounded sure. Almost.

“You can’t possibly know that, even though I want to believe it too.”

“Then believe it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know, just believe it will be.”

“Is that what you do?”

“Yes . . . well, except two days ago, when I thought we had finally been beaten. I even did on that day when I thought I was going to die.”

I remembered that day so clearly, probably because that was the day that had changed everything for me.

“I know.”

“What?”

“I saw it in your eyes. I think that’s why I decided to help you. I saw something in them that I had never seen before.”

He fell silent again and gave a small sigh. West opened his mouth to say something but no words came out so he closed it again.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Then why did you open your mouth?”

He thought about it. “I thought I had to yawn.”

That was a lame excuse but I let it go. After a while he leaned his head on mine and I was almost sure he was going to fall asleep. I was tired too; it had already been a long day and was about to become even longer. But I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, not when my mind wouldn’t shut off. West didn’t fall asleep either, probably having the same problem.

So, we just sat there quietly, enjoying the diminishing time we had together.

Because tonight would be the beginning or the end of everything.

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