After the burial I stumble back inside the house. There’s no way we can go further today. Together, we go through the house and make sure it’s locked and zombie free. The house is big, empty and beautiful. As we sit on tall chairs at the kitchen counter, eating cold food out of cans, I imagine Cassie is surrounded by memories. She doesn’t talk me to me, and barely pays attention to her food, just stares off into space and shovels corn into her mouth.
When we’re finished I collect our dishes and put them in the sink, even though there isn’t any way for me to wash them. As the forks clink in the sink, I think that it was really nice to eat food with a utensil again, even if the food was cold.
I lead Cassie upstairs to a hallway that has lush white carpet that doesn’t even have a mushed down part in the middle where people have walked on it a lot. She turns away from me, opening one of the doors, and then pauses as if remembering I’m there.
“The guest room is down the hall and to the right,” she points and then is closed off in her old room.
“Cassie,” I say, then continue to talk to the closed door, “come get me if you need anything, okay?”
I tell myself that she’s acting like this because she’s sad, and not because she doesn’t want to be around me.
I walk down the hall and open the first door to the right. It’s a pretty nice room, about the size of my Mom’s master bedroom in the apartment. All of the furniture is in this light brown color, obviously all from a matching set that was bought all at the same time. There’s a dresser drawer along the wall to my right, with four long drawers and nice round handles. The bed stretches out parallel to me with the headboard against the next wall. The bed’s huge, three pillows wide, with a white bedspread that has elegant little purple flowers on it. There’s a veil/ mosquito net thingy draping down from the ceiling that covers the bed.
The wall across from the bed has a flat screen tv flanked by two bookcases, and again the bookcases have books in them. I shut the door behind me, put my pack on the floor, and walk over to the examine the shelves. They’re filled with paperbacks ranging from thrillers, to romances, to science fiction – a truly thoughtful, wonderful selection varied enough for any guest. I sigh and look at the TV. I would have really liked to have stayed here back in the past. It seemed like Cassie’s parents had style.
Just for the fun of it I grab one of the thrillers and crawl onto the bed with my bat. Then I read until I fall asleep.
I sleep until mid-morning, waking up to find Cassie already up and about, her eyes still puffy and her skin pale. We eat brunch, and at the end Cassie puts down her fork and stares ahead as she talks to me.
“Thank you for burying my dad. I’m glad we stayed the night, but I want to get a few things and then go, okay?” She drops her head down and then looks at me.
“Okay,” I say. It’s selfish, but I’m glad that she wants to leave. I’m also glad that for all of the hurt in her that she’s still strong enough to keep going.
“Do you need my help getting the stuff?”
“I could probably fill another backpack with what I’d like to bring, but some of it I can replace when we get to a safe place. How about you just come with?”
“Sounds good,” I smile.
She leads me down some raw-wood stairs to the concrete floor of the basement. It looks like any other basement I’ve seen; full of junk, boxes and a washing machine. Then I follow her around a stack of boxes, to the back of the room and a large metal door. To the left of the door, set in the wall, is a little pad that looks like one of those thumbprint checkers from spy movies.
Cassie reaches down her shirt and pulls out a key on a string necklace. She puts the key into a lock above the doorknob.
“He had the lock put in two weeks after we first heard about the zombies, even though everyone started complaining about the compromised security. Then, a few weeks before he – before I left, he gave me a copy of the key. I didn’t know why at the time.”
She nods and opens the door. Cassie lets me walk inside and then shuts and locks the door firmly behind me.