Alice in zombieland, p.58

Alice in Zombieland, page 58

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 58

 

  “Are you okay?” he demanded.

  “I’m fine. My grandparents—”

  He ignored me, shouting, “I’ve got the girl. ” His gaze moved behind me, to Cole, who’d followed me. “Who are you?”

  “The boyfriend,” was Cole’s response.

  Understanding replaced the cop’s concern. Other cops rushed to our little group, and between their questions and mine, answers began to fall into place. A “vandal” had broken into the house and scared my grandparents. Pops had made sure Nana was hidden and had then come looking for me. He hadn’t been able to find me. The vandal spotted him, knocked him around. Meanwhile, Nana called 911.

  Couldn’t have been a zombie. Cole had promised there was a Blood Line all around the perimeter. So…why the smell?

  “Justin,” Cole muttered.

  My eyes widened. Justin wouldn’t have done this, I didn’t think, but his co-workers certainly could have. Still, that smell of rot…

  I’d figure out the flaws in my logic later. Pops was now in the hospital, in stable condition and expecting a full recovery. Nana was here to answer the phone in case my kidnappers called. Only, I hadn’t been kidnapped, I’d snuck out.

  I would carry the guilt of this forever. I’d brought this war to my grandparents’ doorstep. I couldn’t even comfort myself with the knowledge that I’d been out fighting tonight. I’d been making out, having fun while they worried and suffered.

  “Can I see her?” I croaked.

  “Sure,” the cop who’d first grabbed me said.

  Though they weren’t done questioning Cole, he followed me inside, refusing to leave my side. I found Nana in the living room, sitting on the couch and silently crying. Her eyes were red and puffy, her nose running. They must have told her I’d been found, but had kept her here while they dug for the truth.

  The moment she spotted me she was on her feet and racing to me, throwing her arms around me. I hugged her right back, holding on to her with all of my strength and crying along with her.

  “I’m so sorry,” I said.

  “We’ll talk about it later. I’m just happy you’re safe. ”

  After all the wonderful things they’d done for me, I’d caused my grandparents nothing but grief. And the horrible thing was, I knew I’d continue to do so.

  * * *

  Pops came home from the hospital a few days later. He looked so fragile I wanted to slug the doctor who’d released him and the insurance company who’d refused to pay for any more of his care.

  I told Nana to take any money necessary from my college account and get him readmitted, but she refused. She had been desperate to have Pops back and under her care.

  He had bruises under his eyes, and his cheeks were hollowed out. His skin was grayish and paper-thin, and all of his joints were swollen. He was such a darling man, my Pops. How could anyone have hurt him like that?

  First day back at school, Cole and I confronted Justin and his sister in the parking lot. Cole spotted them as they stepped from the bus. He got out of his car and shouted, “Silverstone!”

  Justin faced him. Without any other words spoken, the two launched at each other and just started hitting.

  I got out and approached Jaclyn. “Interfere, and you’ll end up just like your brother,” I said through gritted teeth. “You and I are going to talk. ”

  She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Screw you. ”

  “If you ever go near my grandparents again,” I snarled, “I will wipe the floor with your face. Do you hear me?”

  She scowled, the wind blustering her hair back into place. “What are you talking about? We didn’t do anything to your grandparents. ”

  “Just like you didn’t start those rumors about me?”

  The boys were busy throwing punches, cursing.

  She shrugged. “Yeah, I stared the rumors. So what?”

  “So you’re an evil little troll with no morals, who doesn’t mind hurting innocent people. I know you and your group came to the house to harass me, maybe even to rough me up. When you discovered I wasn’t there, you turned on my Nana and Pops. ”

  “I told you! I didn’t do anything to your grandparents. ”

  “You know who did, and you will tell me. ” I didn’t wait for her response. She needed to know how serious I was. I popped her in the nose, blood instantly spurting from her. Her knees collapsed and she hit the ground with a howl.

  Dr. Wright raced outside, the school doors banging shut behind her. “Enough!” she yelled. “Enough, boys. Ali. Now!”

  The security guards had to pull the boys apart. Me, I held up my hands, palms out and said, “Self-defense. ”

  All four of us ended up suspended.

  Kat came by to see me that night, but I was distracted and we ended up arguing, too.

  “I told you about my illness, but you won’t tell me what’s going on with you?” she said, arms lifted with exasperation. “And I know something’s going on. You’re spending more and more time with Cole, you’re bruised all the time and I would think he was beating you if I hadn’t seen the bruises on everyone else you’re hanging out with. I know you’re involved in whatever Frosty’s involved in, and I know you’re keeping secrets from me. ”

  “I am,” I admitted, “but I can’t tell you anything more. ”

  Absolute hurt flashed over her features. “You don’t trust me?”

  “I do, but these secrets belong to a group of people. I can’t betray them. ”

  “But I’m your friend. ”

  “You are. And so are they. ”

  “Ali—”

  “I’m sorry, I just can’t,” I repeated.

  She’d left in a huff.

  I spent the rest of the night in a daze, roaming the house, checking doors and windows, with weapons strapped all over my body. After all those years of doubting him, I’d become the image of my father.

  There was no reason to sneak out. Cole and the boys were out there, checking traps and patrolling the area. There was no reason to stay up, either, but I couldn’t force myself to sleep.

  Pops and Nana had forbidden me from seeing him. For real this time, they’d said. And they meant business. Nana was sleeping on the couch in the living room.

  Something had to be done.

  The next morning, I texted him. Can U come over for dinner tonight? My grandparents would come to love him if they got to know him.

  His reply was immediate. Yes. Everything OK?

  Just need U.

  About X. C U.

  X must mean “time. ” I grinned. Then, while I had my phone out, I decided to text Kat. I’M SORRY. I hated that I’d hurt her feelings.

  I wasn’t expecting a reply until much later, if ever, but only a few minutes passed before I heard that telltale beep. No, I’m sorry. I was pushy & U know I’m never pushy.

  A chuckle left me. Kat had a gift. She could make me laugh, no matter the circumstances. Friends?

  Best.

  Feeling as if a weight had lifted from my shoulders, I stripped off the weapons and went down to breakfast. Nana had already set the table, and Pops occupied his chair. His shoulders were hunched, his clothes wrinkled. He hadn’t bothered combing his hair over, just let the remaining strands hang limply over his temples. The circles under his eyes had darkened. His palms were flattened on the tabletop, and he was staring at them, lost in thought. Maybe he’d contracted some kind of virus while in the hospital.

  “Pops,” I said gently.

  He jolted as if I’d slapped him, his bloodshot gaze whipping up. “Yes?” There was a raspy quality to his voice, one he’d never before possessed.

  “Are you okay? Can I get you anything?”

  “I’m fine,” he murmured.

  Nana carried in a big pan of eggs, steam rising from the top; ham and cheese scented the air. I took my place on Pops’s left. After Nana had scoop
ed us each a portion and claimed her own seat, we ate in silence. At least she and I did. Pops pushed his food around his plate with his fork, not taking a single bite but grumbling under his breath.

  “You need to eat something,” Nana told him.

  He stopped grumbling and stared at her. Really stared, as if he were transfixed by her.

  “What?” she asked, shifting in her chair. “Do I have something on my face?”

  He said not a word.

  Her gaze flipped to me, silently asking me the same question. I shook my head no, then returned my attention to my grandfather. His fingers were digging into the tabletop, his knuckles bowed up, as if he were trying to hold himself back.

  From…attacking?

  His lips pulled back, baring his teeth. A low growl rumbled from him. Every muscle in his body tensed.

  Just as he sprang to his feet, I sprang to mine. He dove for Nana; I dove for him. I caught him just in time, and we jetted to the floor, slamming hard. Nana screamed.

  “Taste,” Pops snarled, bucking and straining in an attempt to dislodge me to get to his wife.

  Taste? Only zombies wanted to— Oh, no. No, no, no. He was alive. He couldn’t be…wasn’t…

  I tried to pin his arms but failed. He was stronger than he appeared. Then my calm, sweet grandfather punched me in the cheek once, twice, and I stopped trying. Pain exploded through me, and only my lessons with Cole kept me lucid.

  “What are you doing, Carl? Stop! You’re hurting her!”

  I hated to do it, but I punched him back. Nana rushed over, probably thinking to help me, but all she did was agitate him, making him fight me even harder in an effort to get to her.

  “Get my phone,” I shouted. “It’s in my room. Call Cole. Please, Nana. Please. Only Cole. He’ll help us. Please!”

  She hesitated, backing up only a few feet, her expression dark with horror and uncertainty. Pops punched me again and again, a battering of his fists. I grappled with him, knowing releasing him would make everything worse. I couldn’t fight him and shield Nana.

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