“Sure,” Cassie smiles.
We gather some sticks and then the guys get the fire going. I reach into my backpack and pull out some carrots that we got from the farm house. I was saving them for later, but I figure if they’re going to feed us that it would only be polite to share. I put down a blanket near the fire and put the carrots on top.
“Be careful with that blanket, girl,” Todd nods to the fire.
“I was,” I bristle. I don’t like him telling me what to do. Cassie shoots me a look, so I don’t say anything more.
Todd grabs some of the sticks that didn’t make it into the fire, reaches into the cooler and brings out a piece of steak and pushes it onto the stick. He hands it to Cassie, then proceeds to make three more, passing one to Jim and one to me.
“What about them?” I gesture to Roman and Granpa.
“Oh, they’re vegetarians,” Todd says, and giggles. The sound goes right up my spine, like greasy fingers along my skin.
I grab all but two of the carrots and I hand them to Roman. He smiles really big, handing some of them to Granpa and then crunching into one right away.
“I haven’t seen fresh vegetables in a while,” Jim says, eyeing the carrots.
“Yeah we got lucky a while back. I haven’t seen fresh steak in ages either,” I say.
“Yeah, we got lucky too,” Jim says. The two men hold their kabobs over the fire and Cassie follows their example. I hold the stick up in front of my face, twirling the stick and looking at the meat. It looks okay. It looks fresh and it doesn’t look like it’s had maggots on it or anything. I go ahead and thrust my stick near the fire.
It takes forever to cook, and it leaves me really wishing for a microwave. While I’m waiting, I go ahead and open a couple of cans of peaches and hand them out, seeing as the majority of the carrots went to Granpa and Roman. It looks like Granpa’s fallen asleep, but Roman just sits there, his eyes flicking from me, to Todd and Jim, and finally to the zombies. Both of the zombies are silent, but it still creeps me out that they are there. Why aren’t they moaning at the sight of us? Are they from that town, or has Todd somehow taught them not to make noise unless it’s other zombies? Are they tame?
Eventually the meat looks like it’s finished and I take the stick away from the fire. I notice that Todd and Jim are already eating, and Cassie’s at about the same point that I am.
I try to take a bite straight from the stick, but it’s too hot, so I pull a bit off with slightly burned fingers and shove it into my mouth.
“So where are you from?” Cassie asks.
“I’m from Oklahoma City and Todd’s from the Springs,” Jim gestures to Todd with greasy fingers.
“The Springs?” she asks.
“Yeah, Colorado Springs,” Todd answers.
“How about you girls?” Jim smiles.
I make a big show of chewing, holding up my stick so Cassie can answer. There’s something wrong with the meat. It tastes a bit off. Maybe it’s already started to rot?
“So you two have been traveling all alone?”
I see Cassie nod, and I take another bite of meat. The texture just doesn’t seem right. I root around in my backpack for a paper towel, and make like I’m wiping my mouth while I spit the piece of meat into the towel.
“That’s just amazing. For two girls to have made it this far by yourself, you must have been really scared. We understand that you must have done just about anything to survive. A lot of tough things. Good job.”
I try not to look guilty – even though I feel it – while I bury the meat in the ashes nearest me. Jim raises a beer to us and Todd does the same. Where did they get beer? No one else is drinking anything.
“Good job girls,” Todd grins at both of us and takes a swig. It’s at that point that I realize that all of the food has been eaten.
I glance at Cassie, and she subtly points to a little earth mound near her. I don’t think she liked the meat either, but neither of us wants to offend the guys.
Jim comes around the fire and sits between us, almost right on top of the meat grave.
“I’m sorry, girls, that had to be awful. But you’re safe with us now right?”
“Right,” Cassie smiles.
Todd gets up and sits on the Cassie’s other side.