“Amazing.” Katie gently touched a blue onsie and her heart beat even faster.
“I got blue, pink and yellow stuff. I figured we have it covered if it’s Jenni or Travis, Jr.” Jenni picked up a little pink bonnet and set it on top of her head.
“It’s only natural for the baby to be named after her auntie,” Jenni answered. She posed with the bonnet on her head. “Why wouldn’t she be named after my fabulousness?”
The bonnet fell onto the bed and Katie slowly picked it up. She traced the tiny lace with one finger then took a deep breath. “Oh, God.” She sat down hard on the edge of the bed and tried to calm her trembling hands.
“Hey, you okay?” Jenni immediately crawled over the bed to Katie’s side.
“Yeah. Yeah. I think so. I just got overwhelmed there for a second.” Katie forced herself to take another deep breath and felt embarrassed by the tears suddenly brimming in her eyes. “Maybe it’s hormones.”
“You’re okay with having a baby, right?”
Katie was a little surprised by the question, but nodded. “Oh, yeah. I’m sure. I’m very sure. So is Travis.”
Jenni kept silent as her fingers kept stroking Katie’s hair. She was obviously waiting for Katie to go on.
“We did decide this together. It was a conscious choice to take our chances. We’re trying to build a life together and this felt like the right thing to do.” It was good to hear the words. Good to be reminded that this was a choice she made and she was responsible for what happened next. If there was a mantra Katie lived her life by, it was to live up to her potential and fulfill her responsibilities.
“Despite the zombies,” Jenni said in a soft, worried voice after a long, uncomfortable pause.
Katie bristled slightly. She was very much aware of the criticism by some about her choice to be a mother. “Yes. Despite the zombies. They are here to stay. I don’t see them going away anytime soon, do you?”
“So what are we supposed to do? Stop living? Stop trying to be happy?
Stop trying to build a future just because the dead decided we taste really damn good?”
“Hey, you don’t have to defend yourself to me!”
Katie stood up, clutching the bonnet in one hand and turned toward Jenni. “Are you sure?” She hated the swell of anger filling her, but she couldn’t help herself. She was happy about the baby, overwhelmed at times, but she was happy. It was a piece of Travis inside of her and it made her feel closer to him than she had ever imagined. Before the dead began to attack the living, she had never seen herself as a mother. Her old life had not allowed much room for it. But this life, full of so much grief and terror, was also full of hope. The fort was secure now. It was a place of safety and community.
Jenni didn’t answer, her hands limp in her lap, staring off into nothing.
“My baby died. My baby was eaten,” Jenni said in a low voice. “I just don’t want anything to happen to yours.”
Katie swallowed hard as Jenni’s words expressed her own fears. “I don’t want anything to happen to anyone I love. Every time you are out there, I live in terror that you won’t come back. But I can’t expect you to stop doing what you need to do to help this fort survive. And I can’t stop my life because of those fucking zombies out there.” Irritably, Katie swept a tear off her cheek and sighed.
Jenni finally looked at her and gave her a slight smile. “The old life feels so far away. It did right away, you know. The first day. It just seemed so gone. Like the world was suddenly empty. But it feels fuller now.
Striding over to the bed, Katie hugged Jenni tightly. “It’s because we didn’t stop living.”
Jenni kissed the growing baby bump and snuggled into Katie’s embrace.
“I know. Hell, I think I kinda went apeshit crazy trying to feel alive those first few months.”
At the memory of some of Jenni’s more insane shenanigans, Katie had to smile. “Oh, yeah. Definitely.”
“You’re right, you know. About going on. Hell, look at me and Juan. And you and Travis. And lots of other people around here. The people who stopped trying to live their life are dead now. Like that chick who took a header into the zombies off the crane.”
“Seriously, what else were we supposed to do?” Katie asked after a few contemplative seconds. “Just freak out all the time, be afraid, mourn the world and just stop trying to live?”
Jenni turned to gaze at her friend, her fingers sliding over Katie’s.
Holding her hand firmly, Jenni said, “We have all done what we had to do to survive.”
It was hard not to think of Lydia at times like these. Hard not to want to feel her soothing touch and her calming voice. Lydia always had a way of making her feel solid and safe. Much like Travis did now. In her heart, she believed that Lydia was watching over her and was proud of her.
Much to her chagrin, tears fell down her cheeks.
“It’s okay! Stupid fuckin’ hormones!” Katie laughed as she wiped her tears away. “I am damn sure I’m doing the right thing. I know it.”
Jenni smiled and squeezed her hand tighter. “I’ll teach the baby to be loca. And it will do fine kickin’ zombie ass.”
Kissing Jenni’s cheek firmly, Katie felt her love for her friend fill her completely and totally. It was almost overwhelming. “I know. I know you’ll always be looking out for me and the baby.”
Despite her tears and her overwhelming emotions, Katie found her composure. “We’ll all be okay. One way or the other. We’re going to take back this world one little bit at a time.”
“I am married to the guy.”
“He is all adorable with you and-”
Jenni rolled around on the bed laughing, scattering the baby clothes.
1. A little Taste of The Old World
Ken was in a fabulous mood. The air was filled with a combination of the harsh scents of bleach and hair dye and the fruity fragrances of shampoo and conditioner. His dark hair now had blond tips and his fingernails were carefully manicured. He felt more like himself than he had in ages.
The big room that had been reluctantly turned over to him for his beauty salon was buzzing. Music played softly from a big, ancient boom box in the corner. Next to him, Lenore twisted Yolanda’s hair into a tight French braid that wound around her head while Yolanda flipped through a year old copy of a fashion magazine. They were both sassing Felix, who was trying to ignore them as he read his book. With ebony skin and dark eyes, Felix was a good-looking guy, but painfully straight. Ken had tried flirting with him to no avail. He had been down in the dumps about his single status, but now that his beauty salon was up and running, he felt better.
He was much happier doing hair than working on the construction site.
Besides, he felt he was helping raise the spirits of the people in the fort.
Now, nothing could dampen his mood, not even the sleet pinging against the curtained windows. Another storm had blown in during the morning and was still going strong. But it was nice and warm in the hotel and the nastiness of the deadlands seemed far away. If only Curtis would sit still so he could give him a decent haircut, all would be well.
“I think you took too much off the side,” Curtis complained.
He was having a horrible time trimming Curtis’ hair. The boy kept fidgeting nervously in the chair. He had asked for Lenore to do his hair, but she was halfway through a ten hour marathon sewing in Yolanda’s new extensions. The young police officer had finally submitted to letting Ken do his hair. Ken considered poking at the guy’s homophobia, but decided against it. He was working hard to make friends and find acceptance in the fort. Riling Curtis wouldn’t do him any favors.
Curtis grumbled under his breath, watching Ken’s scissors like a hawk.
Yolanda flipped through the magazine for the fourth time. “When are you going to get the stuff so I can get rid of these damn press on nails? I need some decent nails, Lenore. I’ve glued them onto my nails so many times, they’re wearing thin.”
“Maybe next time. I can’t grab stuff unless the coast is clear or I’ll get in trouble. Don’t need no Vigilante tossing my fat ass over the wall.”