Alice in zombieland, p.42

Alice in Zombieland, page 42

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 42

 

  I texted Kat, asking how she was, and got an instantaneous response: I’m so good I should be illegal! How bout you?

  Good.

  F said C came back 2 the party 2 get U & even took U home.

  Yeah. No reason to deny that.

  In record time, she asked, U guys back on?

  NO! Well, yes. Maybe. No. Sigh, IDK. I wasn’t Cole’s biggest fan right now, and I had no idea about his real feelings for Mackenzie.

  LOL, she responded. I’ll take that as a YES, YES, 1000 TIMES YES.

  Cole and I would be hanging out a lot after school, so, it might be better if everyone thought we were a couple. Plus, that mindset would have the added bonus of keeping guys from trying to get in my supposedly slutty pants. No one would want to engage his wrath by hurting his girlfriend.

  Another text came in. Screen name Meow said, BTW, F is back on my must die list.

  After the way U sucked his face?? I replied. Why?

  As always, he ran out on me to be w/C.

  A tendril of guilt slithered through me. No, he hadn’t. I knew what he’d done, but I couldn’t tell her, couldn’t ease her hurt.

  Meow added, Besides, by tonguing his tonsils I was just teasing him w/what he’ll never have!

  Good 4 U! PS—Pretty sure ML started rumors about me.

  U thinking what I’m thinking? Dark alley, brass knuckles & prison rules.

  Just like that, I knew. Kat was the best friend I’d ever had. She supported me, believed in me, no matter what. And I wanted to be an awesome friend to her, too. I wanted to keep her forever. U rock!

  I know. Gotta run, tho, so we’ll talk 2morrow, K? XXOO

  “Ali,” Nana called from downstairs. “You ready?”

  A quick glance in the mirror revealed my hair was dry but tangled. My cheeks were too bright with color, and my outfit ridiculous. Oh, well. I raced to the car.

  “You really need to learn to drive,” Pops remarked as he eased onto the highway. “Not that I mind driving you, but that way, you wouldn’t ever have to walk if you missed the bus. ”

  There was still no rabbit in the sky, allowing me to relax. “I know,” I said, imagining him trying to teach me. Him clutching his chest because I accidentally pulled in front of a speeding truck. Him dying in the passenger seat before I could get him to the hospital. “Would you guys be okay with me taking a driving class after school?” I kept quiet about the teacher’s identity. Cole or one of his friends could do it after zombie training. I’d insist.

  “That’ll be good for you,” Nana said, reaching back to pat my hand. “I’m proud of you, trying new things, making new friends like Kathryn. ”

  I opened my mouth to reply but caught sight of the edge of the cemetery. A cold sweat slicked over my skin as I waited for The Spot to appear. And there it was. There was no tire tread, no interruptions in the grass; there was nothing. Time had passed and nature had restored itself, hiding the evidence of foul play.

  Pops parked on a gravel path. “I’m glad you’re doing this. ”

  Me, too. “Would it be okay if I stayed here by myself for a while? I just want to be with them and, you know, talk to them. ”

  Nana had been in the process of removing her seat belt. After a moment’s pause, she nodded and settled back in her seat. “Of course. You’ve got your phone?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Call us when you’re ready to be picked up. ”

  “Thank you,” I said, and then I did something I’d never done before. I leaned forward and kissed them both on the cheek.

  She teared up, and Pops blustered about me needing to be careful. “Nana worries,” he said.

  I walked the grounds for a while, the sun baking me through my clothes. When I found a shaded, secluded spot behind a line of bushes, I quickly changed into the tank and shorts. Sooo much better. The sweat dried in the breeze, and I began to cool down. Besides the whole dead-people thing, the cemetery was a pretty area with trees and glistening headstones and even a few marble angels. A man knelt in front of one of those angels, quietly sobbing.

  I wandered around, reading names, wondering if any of these people were—or had been—zombies. Up hills, down hills, around piles of leaves I went. Finally I reached my destination.

  Trembling, I sat in front of my father’s headstone and traced his name with the pads of my fingers. Silver stone glinted in the light. Beloved husband and father.

  For the first time since his death I let myself think—really think—about his last few minutes alive. He’d gone through the windshield. If he’d lived for even a few seconds longer, he would have had a straight shot view into the car, where all three of his girls were hurt and bloody. Had he seen the zombies approach him? Had he known he would die as his own father had?

  Was he looking down at me right now?

  “I love you, Daddy. I wish I’d been more understanding, that I’d believed you. I’m sorry for every horrible thing I ever said behind your back, and I’m so very grateful for everything you taught me. I’m going to take out as many zombies as I possibly can and one day, no one will ever have to live in fear again. I promise. ”

  I’d like to say a wave of peace swept over me, but, no, I felt the same as before. I turned to my mother’s grave. Identical silver glinted. This time, it was hard for me to see through my sudden well of tears. Beloved wife and mother.

  “I love you, Mom. I never should have spoken to you the way I did, that day in the kitchen. ” My birthday, I realized. I’d lost my family on my birthday. For some reason, that truth had never really hit me.

  Now and for the rest of my life, the celebration of my birth would be tainted with the sorrow of my loss. That sucked in every way imaginable. But you know what? That was something else I deserved, and I’d take it as my due. I’d never again forget to treasure my family.

  “You did the best you could with us and despite everything, I know that you loved me, too. And you were right. It’s far better to love than to hate. ” I paused, thinking. “Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still see you smiling. Or trying not to scowl. I remember the times you helped me with my homework, but you were more clueless than I was. I remember how you’d turn away from the camera any time we’d try to snap your picture. ” My thoughts weren’t very sequential. I was skipping from one memory to another, but I couldn’t help it.

  “I still think about the day you wore that black dress to my school, just to meet with my teacher, because you wanted me to be proud of you rather than embarrassed. I was proud, I so was. And I’d swear the entire world slowed down and God played a little background music for your entrance. Even blew the wind just right, so your hair would dance around your shoulders. Mouths dropped that day, and every girl who saw you wanted to be you. ”

  There at the end, my words jumbled up and clogged my throat. A warm tear slid down my cheek. I inhaled deeply—held it…held—then slowly exhaled. Gradually I turned to the left, where the last grave rested.

  Emmaline Lily Bell. Beloved daughter and sister.

  My chin trembled uncontrollably, and the tears began to rain in earnest. Her headstone wasn’t as big as my parents’, but it, too, was made of that silver stone. They’d even etched her likeness into the center.

  “Since your death, I’ve seen you on two separate occasions,” I whispered. “Outside Nana and Pop’s, and then again outside my new friend Reeve’s. The first time, you warned me to go inside. The second, you flickered in and out and said the same. Was that…really you?”

  Why not? There was a whole world out there I’d known nothing about.

  In the distance, a cricket chirped. Next a locust sang. Leaves rattled from shaking limbs. A beautiful chorus, but no sign of Emma. Disappointment became a clanging bell in my ears.

  I bowed my head, crying silently. I’d hoped… Oh, well. “I am so sorry I failed to protect you, Em. I love you so much, and you wi
ll always be my favorite person in the entire world. I didn’t tell you that enough. You made everyone around you happier, and you deserved to have slumber parties every night of your life. And when you were older, I would have taught you how to drive. Hopefully I’d be skilled by then,” I added with a soft, watery laugh. “You would have gone on dates and I would have tailed you, making sure the boy behaved. ”

  “Aww. That’s so sweet. ”

  My head snapped up. A smiling Emma sat on top of her own headstone, her legs crossed and swinging, ballet slippers dangling from her feet. Her hair was in pigtails, those golden eyes sparkling with mischief I remembered so fondly.

  “Sorry I kept quiet before,” she said, “but I really wanted to hear your speech. ”

  “I—I—”

  “Let me help you out. You…you…are so glad I’m here and are wondering if this is really happening. Well, it is! Your prayers have been answered. ”

  “I—”

  “Am so lucky, I know. ”

  Hope flooded me, the only light in a terrible darkness. “You’re a…ghost?”

  She fluffed her hair. “There’s no such thing as ghosts. Besides, angel is probably a better description, though that’s not right, either. But it fits, don’t you think?”

  That was such an Emma answer, and one I couldn’t have fabricated. She was here. She was real. “Why haven’t you shown yourself more often? Are Mom and Dad like you?”

  She lost the smile, the mischief. “I’m a witness and I don’t have much time. Alice, you need to listen to me, okay?”

  Witness? “Always. ” I reached for her hand to comfort her, but my fingers misted through her, the cold stone suddenly pressed against my skin. “I wish I could touch you. ”

  “And one day you will. Now listen. There’s good and there’s evil, and there’s no middle ground, no matter what anyone thinks. What you’re doing is dangerous and will not end well—which sucks, because the end is near!”
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