Combat veteran Liam’s steely calm has not failed, but after the traumatic death of one of his friends, his facade slips and we get a glimpse of his past. A scene from We are the Living.
I walked out to the truck and looked at the bullet hole through the tailgate, at the piled boxes, the scattered bottles, and the blood—a dark dried stain that stabbed me harder than any cry. Just like that, fury overtook me.
I slammed the tailgate down and jumped inside. One sweep of my arm, and half the boxes flew aside. A blue vodka bottle rattled across the truck bed, to my feet. There was a bloody handprint around it. I picked it up and hurled it out the back. It shattered against the building, scattering blue shards all over the packed earth. I took a bottle of water in each hand and poured it over the truck bed. Then I stripped off my shirt and began scrubbing at the stain.
The grey fabric turned burgundy and brown. I was only smearing it. I needed more water. I needed…
I swung my head around. Simone, grim-faced, stared at me from the tailgate.
“Oh.” Her face sagged a moment. “Good idea. But let me get some water.”
I shoved the t-shirt across the blood again. A moment later the truck wobbled as Simone climbed up.
“Move over. I’ll pour it.” She held up a big plastic jug of water.
Mute, I crawled out of the way. She poured the water, and Alex’s blood streamed toward the tailgate. She just kept pouring, until it had all ebbed away. Then she set it down and came to hunker down by my side.
Everything she had done barely registered. My body shook, white light flashed behind my eyes.
Oh God. Oh God, no, no. Keep it together, please!
I shut my eyes tight, and the scenes that were so familiar played before my eyes like a movie—but worse, because it was not just before my eyes but around me, in my lungs, in my nostrils. One second, a laugh is burbling from my throat, next the screech of tearing metal and the boom of the explosion. The seat I’m in separates from my body and the roof parts as I pass through it. I hit the ground. I see Breanne, sprawled beside me, her eyes catch mine, her mouth parts, the light goes from her gaze. And then everything goes dark.
And it never truly became light again.
I didn’t want to, but I whimpered.
This is my fault somehow. If we’d switched spots… if I hadn’t been…
My eyes cleared, and I saw Simone’s heart-shaped face and bloodshot blue eyes staring up at me. She grabbed my bare arms and my confusion and anger gave way to shame, yet I forced myself to meet her eyes.
She shook me gently, “Liam, this wasn’t your fault. If anything, was it not mine?”
“What does it matter?” I looked down, past her.
“But it is what you are thinking, is it not?” And then, before I could react, she leaned in to me and her warm hands brushed up my arms to my neck. She kissed my jaw with rough, chapped lips. “Because it’s what I’m thinking too.”
I grabbed her shoulder, if only to brace myself against her. My skin could not decide if it should recoil, or tingle with warmth. A rough laugh squeaked through my lips. “I don’t know if you can call it thinking. I haven’t been so confused since…”
She reached up and touched the scar along my hairline. “Let me guess.”
“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I’ll cover for you.”
I stared into her eyes, trying to formulate a response. Her head bobbed closer, and my mind made itself up. I pushed her gently away.
She looked down. “Sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry,” I said. “I just can’t… right now.”
She laughed breathlessly and backed away. She rose up into a crouch and scrunched her face into a smile of sorts. I had a feeling it was her brave face. “Well, we’d better find you a shirt. Can’t have people getting ideas.”
I laughed half-heartedly and followed her off the tailgate. The heaviness pushed away just for a moment, and then swooped back in deeper and harder than before.
We are the Living, a zombie apocalypse/love story is now available on Amazon Kindle, as well as other E-Readers through Smashwords. The print edition (which I’ll admit I’m super pumped about) will be available within a few days!