AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece about Julilla Walker is not part of the novel. This is also a Sunday Scribblings post. Please to go the Sunday Scribblings for more fun!
Julilla holstered her Glock. Guns down, indeed. This was a private tutoring session, so there was no need for formalities. But Alex got his position as guard leader by being the only one in their gang with military training, and he didn’t let anyone forget it. A year of college ROTC wouldn’t have counted for much before the pandemic, but it marked him as an expert now.
After frowning at the holes in her target, he turned to her in frustration. “You’re drifting again.”
“I know.” Did he think she was blind and couldn’t see the marks in the paper for herself? “It doesn’t happen at long range. Give me a break.”
Alex walked over to her. “Anyone can learn to shoot under optimal conditions. You’re good at it – best in the group. But you know damn well that in real life, that’s not the way it happens.”
Julilla started to respond, but he cut her off.
“You’ll be guarding the front door one day, and some girl will come up looking all innocent, and then pull a gun on you from six feet away. Or you’ll be out guarding a forage team, and a guy will jump out from behind some boxes in a warehouse and start shooting.”
“I’ll be ready.”
“Prove it.” He pointed to the target. “Three rounds, as fast as you can. He’s from a rival gang and he’s after our food. Ready…fire!”
Julilla whipped out her Glock and started shooting, but Alex’s shout stopped her.
“I see what you’re doing wrong. Hold out your gun.”
Julilla rolled her eyes, but did as she was told.
He moved in close and examined her stance with a critical frown. “Your weight is too far back. Your elbows are bent.”
“It’s fine for target practice, if that's how you feel comfortable, but when someone jumps you, you aren’t going to have time to get all lined up in whatever way suits you best. He put one hand on the back of her waist and the other on her shoulder. “Weight forward. Crouch down a little. Arms locked and gun in line with your vision.” He put his face close to hers so he could see what she was seeing.
Julilla tensed, remembering how her mother’s boyfriends had sometimes touched her, but Alex’s hands were respectful, his attitude all business. She could feel his body heat through her shirt, and she found the presence of his lips so close to hers disconcerting. Why was her head suddenly as empty as that of any cheerleader at her now-useless high school, and why this weakness in her knees?
“Just keep it in your line of sight,” he said, but in a distracted way that lacked conviction.
She turned her face slightly and their eyes met. The look felt like it lasted a century, and Julilla could’ve kept on looking, waiting for that kiss, knowing with a sudden certainty that he wanted it as much as she did. But then he looked away and took a step back.
“Let’s try again,” he said softly.
Julilla nodded and turned her attention back to the target. Weight forward, arms locked. She wouldn’t forget this time. She also wouldn’t forget that Alex could’ve taken advantage of her in that moment, but didn’t.
She waited for his command to pump another round into the target. This was the only kind of command he would ever give her. If she wanted something more, she would have to target him on purpose.
Not yet. There were still too many bad memories to contend with. But soon.