AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Three Word Wednesday and is cross-posted at Alice Audrey's Serialists. It's a prequel and it contains no spoilers. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday and The Serialists for more fun.
At first Jay was reluctant to open his eyes. He was dimly aware he was lying on something lumpy and the room was cold, but he wasn’t uncomfortable. It would be nice to lie like this forever, suspended in a place with no pain, no fear, no worries. The horror of the pandemic and the violence of the resulting turf wars over food, drugs and gasoline couldn’t touch him here.
He heard a soft sigh beside him and opened his eyes. The previous night came back with a rush: the fighting, the whiskey, and the little white pills one of their gang members had scored from a looted pharmacy. Although Jay only vaguely remembered how he ended up on this filthy restaurant floor, there was no mistaking what had taken place between him and the sleeping girl whose breath had startled him out of oblivion.
Jay hoisted himself on his elbow. Of all the girls he could’ve bedded last night, didn’t it just have to be Trina? He glanced around, relieved they were alone. He put a hand on her shoulder and was startled at how cold her skin felt. “Wake up.”
Trina blinked her eyes open, then scrunched them closed again.
Noticing her skin was stippled with goose bumps, Jay fumbled for one of the tablecloths they were lying on. He pulled it over them both, but it offered no comfort. “We can’t stay here like this.”
She opened her eyes again and gave him a drowsy smile. “Why not? We’ll tell David and the rest of them to go to hell.”
“Trina, I don’t think—”
“What?” She sat up and ran her fingers through her tousled hair. “I never really liked him – he’s a jerk.” She found her jacket and pulled it around her shoulders. “It was always you I wanted.”
Jay felt himself cringe. He had known, and David had known too. How could he explain without puncturing her ego, that the reason he had let David have her was because he wasn’t interested? It was only the drugs, the whiskey, and the crazy roller-coaster of emotions as he tried to navigate the carnage of the die-off that had made him do what he did last night.
“I couldn’t go back to him now, even if you sent me away.”
This was true in more ways than one. Unless Jay offered Trina his protection, made her his girlfriend, David would kill her for her infidelity. The lawless post-pandemic city could offer her no protection. Without him, she would die.
Jay shoved his hair out of his eyes. Like it or not, he was stuck with this angular girl with frizzy hair and smudged makeup, just like he was stuck with every other cold, miserable, stinking aspect of this post-pandemic life. With any luck the virus would soon take him out of this hell. In the meantime…he found his jeans lying nearby and fumbled in one of the pockets.
“Can I have one too?” Trina held out her hand.
Jay gave her a pill and took two for himself, washing them down with some sour Chardonnay from a bottle nearby. By the time he got his clothes on he was buzzing lightly and the looted restaurant didn’t seem like such a terrible place anymore. Trina, now dressed and wobbly from intoxication, didn’t seem such a bad sort, either. He offered her his hand and she took it.
“We going to find David?” she asked nervously.
Jay drank the last of the wine and motioned toward the front door, listing on its hinges and with its beveled glass broken out. On the other side lay the ruined city and a host of broken promises. “He’ll find us soon enough.”
“What happens then?”
Jay gave a little shrug. Either David would kill him or he wouldn’t. What did it matter anymore? There were worse things than death, but it didn’t seem right to tell that to Trina. Poor girl was screwed up enough as it was. “Don’t worry,” he said, squeezing her hand. “I’ll protect you.”
If you enjoyed this story, check the sidebar, where you'll find the serialized novel, more flash fiction (including prequels), and other fun Steal Tomorrow stuff. Stories specifically related to this one include: On the Bridge, Second Chances, Scavenged.