Quarantine #2: The Saints (5 page)

BOOK: Quarantine #2: The Saints
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The grief that Will had been running from all night took hold of him, and he crumpled down onto the steps. Tears gushed from him. He couldn’t control himself anymore. He sobbed, and moaned, and let the sadness pull him under.

He felt soft hands on his back, rubbing in an easy circle.

“Shhhh,” Lucy said. “It’s all right.”

He reached out for her and they embraced. Lucy began to cry as well. She must have been holding her feelings back all night, like he had. They sat there, crying and hugging each other in the dark, for what must have been hours, before they lay down on the hard stairs and fell asleep.

6

THERE WAS A MACHETE IN LUCY’S HANDS.
David’s machete. He’d made it out of a radiator shell that he hammered until it was sharp. She’d found it dangling by a shoe string, in the furthest corner of the armory. She pulled out the blade and ran her fingers down the cardboard sheath. Originally, David had simply folded a piece of cardboard into a long rectangle and sealed it with duct tape. Lucy had removed the tape and cut the rectangular sheath into the shape of the machete. With great care, she’d sewn the edges back together with spiral notebook wire.

She was nearly finished now. She twisted the excess of the two wires together, until they were a little loop at the sheath’s tip. She took a leather cord that she’d cut from a belt and laced it through the loop. She ran the cord to the other end and fastened it to make a strap.

Lucy sat on David’s bed, legs folded under her to the side.
She held the sheath out before her and admired it. The words “THE LONERS” were spelled across the face of it in silver thumbtacks. It was an impressive design. It would have looked great slung across David’s back. That could never happen now. She sheathed the blade and set it down on the floor.

She had been spending a lot of time in David’s room since the last drop, hiding away behind those heavy curtains that still hung, separating the top landing from the rest of the Stairs. It was the only place she felt safe. So many people were sure that the parents were fixing to quit after how horribly the drop had ended. And even if they stuck around and followed through on their big promises, life inside McKinley wasn’t any less dismal.

David’s room remained a shrine that no one felt they had the right to disturb. She was surprised there weren’t bunches of flowers piled all over the floor, like a highway memorial. A single lantern was the only light source. It was a glass applejuice bottle in the shape of an apple, filled with cooking oil. A plastic gallon jug shielded the flaming wick and gave off a frosted yellow light.

The sheets of David’s bed were still rumpled and thrown about, like he had only crawled out of his bed this morning. Lucy held up his bed sheets and drew their scent in. They smelled vaguely like campfire smoke, like the rest of the room. But they still smelled like David’s sheets. Detergent smell. No one had cleaner sheets than him. Still, there was
more. She thought she smelled a pinch of his sweat, the pink bathroom hand soap he’d used to wash his hair, and some of the vanilla extract she used to wear as perfume. But the sum of all those ingredients would never compare to smelling the real thing, David in the flesh, holding her in his arms. Lucy felt tears warm her eyes.

Their time together, really together, had been too brief. They had kissed for the very first time at the Geek show, but that same night he’d been attacked by Hilary. After his eye had healed, they only had a few weeks before he phased out of the virus and needed to leave. The food drops had stopped in that time, and their world was falling apart, but in this room, in this bed, wrapped in these sheets, they shared a couple of peaceful mornings together, where nothing past those curtains existed. When the school was still asleep, and the day hadn’t started, they had their time alone to talk, to learn about each other, or to just lay there, in the quiet, with his heavy arm laid over her, and not say anything at all. She still fantasized about going further with David. She’d wanted to lose her virginity to him, but he’d held back as if somehow he knew he wouldn’t be around too long.

The lights came on.

Lucy looked up. The fluorescent ceiling panel overhead flickered back and forth from dim to bright until it finally settled on bright. Cheers echoed up the Stairs, followed by applause. Lucy stood in disbelief. The power was back on.
After a month of living in the dark. The parents had come through after all. That didn’t change the fact that they were still holding McKinley prisoner.

Will popped his head through the curtains. He wore a big smile, and it was a pleasant surprise. His dirty-gray hair was swooped to the side. He held his hands out, splayed like he’d just done a magic trick.

“Eh?” he said.

“What do you mean ‘eh’? You’re taking credit for this?”

“I mean, I can’t say it wasn’t me. I have been putting out some pretty positive vibes.”

Lucy laughed. “Well, now you are, at least. What’s with the sunny attitude?”

“I realized we had way more weapons than we could ever use, so I traded the extra ones and got a bunch more food. And then with the lights coming on like this? I think things are going to be okay.”

Lucy smiled. She wasn’t going to tell Will this, but he sounded like David.

“Nice smile,” Will said.

Lucy blushed and smiled wider. “Oh, you like?”

“Oh, not that one though, that one looks terrible.”

She burst out laughing and hugged him. She wasn’t expecting to laugh today. It blew away the gloom for a moment.

“Hey, guess what?” Will said when they separated. “You know how the Nerds have been working on getting graduation
going again? They got it working. Kemper’s graduating right now in the quad. Wanna go check it out?”

“Sure,” Lucy said. “That sounds good.”

He took her hand and they walked down all three floors of the Stairs. It was dirty and dusty and there was still a lot of work to be done, but the stairs felt positively cheerful now that the lights were on. They stepped out into the bright hallway.

“Look at it all lit up!” Lucy said. “It actually feels like daytime again.”

“No more torches!” Will said at the top of his lungs. “Thank God.”

Lucy laughed. “Let me never see another torch again.”

They moseyed toward the quad at a pleasant pace. It was nice to just walk with Will, without any crisis hanging over their heads, without the tragedies of their lives on the front of their minds. She was able to push that all away for a bit and savor the normality of merely strolling down a hall with someone she trusted.

As they stepped around the corner into the last hall before the quad, Will held his arm out in front of Lucy and stopped her.

“Do you hear that?” Will said.

Lucy strained. She could hear something that sounded like muffled voices. They were coming from a classroom ahead.

“Is somebody arguing?” Lucy said.

“I don’t think so.”

Will walked ahead of her to the classroom where the noises were coming from. Lucy stayed close behind him. The door was closed, but not all the way. Will pressed his face up to the crack between the door and the frame and eased the door open a few inches.

“Holy shit,” Will said.

“What?”

Will stood there, staring, seemingly unable to speak.

“Is this another joke?” she whispered, and she got her face right up next to Will’s. She peered inside. Lucy’s breath caught in her throat.

A boy and a girl were having sex on a teacher’s desk.

The girl was a Freak and she had her legs wrapped around a bare-assed Varsity boy who lay on top of her. They were forehead to forehead, staring deep into each other’s eyes. The two of them were so lost in each other that nothing else existed. The girl dragged her nails across the skin of the boy’s back. His fingers were dug through the tangles of her blue hair, and he held her head with both hands as he kissed her deeply. They clung to each other. They craved each other.

Lucy’s heart began to throb in her chest. The Varsity boy’s pants were scrunched down around his ankles, and the girl’s were on the floor. Lucy watched the boy’s ass rise and fall as he pushed himself into the girl. The Freak moaned in rhythm with his movements. Her softly twisting face revealed a pleasure Lucy didn’t know. Lucy’s breathing sped up. She found
herself wanting to feel what that Freak girl felt.

Will’s cheekbone brushed against her temple, and she turned to look at him. Their faces hung inches from each other’s. Intimately close. Will looked into her eyes and then down at her lips. Lucy’s heart stuttered.

A flying combat boot smacked into the door next to Will’s head.

“Get out of here!” the Varsity boy yelled.

Lucy screamed, and Will jumped. He grabbed her hand and tugged her forward. The two of them ran away, laughing. As they neared the doors to the quad, they slowed to a walk, but they still giggled. All the conversation they could muster was about how crazy and random that was. Lucy never mentioned the steamy moment they had shared at the door, and neither did Will. Her skin still tingled at the thought of it, but it filled her with fear at the same time. Will’s friendship was the only thing that had buoyed her in the darkest weeks, when she felt certain that they would all starve to death. She couldn’t shake the feeling that a single hookup with Will, as fun as it might be, could end up ruining their friendship forever.

The Nerds stood in the center of the quad. Their arms were interlocked and they formed a protective circle around Kemper in the center of the quad. It looked to Lucy that, even though they’d replaced him as leader during the coup when they’d stolen David, the Nerds still cared for the guy.

The orange crane arm towered in the sky, and a cable was extended from its tip, all the way down to Kemper who was strapped into a body harness. He held the disembodied thumb scanner from the graduation booth, and a rubber cord led from it up to the man in the motorcycle helmet, who stood behind the razor wire fence at the roof’s edge.

Kemper held the thumb scanner up for the crowd of other gangs that had gathered around the perimeter to see. The thing was an awkward block of metal that had been wrapped in protective layers of duct tape.

“So, basically it works like it always did,” he said with a self-satisfied giggle. “When you get a nose bleed, you test yourself on here. Hold your thumb and wait. Instead of getting a reading on a monitor, they’ll get the results up there.”

Kemper pointed up to the man on the roof, who had the graduation booth’s screen perched on a folding chair at the ledge. It had a circuit board and bushel of stray wires on the back of it. The man tilted his helmet down at Kemper and gave him a thumbs-up.

“Okay, thumbs-up, that means you’re good, and so … that’s it. Pretty simple, right? Unless you get the thumbs-down. Then, I guess … I don’t know, better luck next time.” Kemper laughed. “I’ll keep thinking on this whole setup though. Maybe … Maybe I’ll stick around out there and noodle with some other ways to make graduation more—”

“Kemper,” one of the Nerds interrupted. “You gotta go.”

Kemper pursed his lips, then nodded. “Right. Okay. Well … Bye-bye, everybody.”

Kemper gave the man a thumbs-up. The crane started and the cable jerked him upward. Kemper waved to his gang. They cheered for him. He raised his fists in victory. A little higher up, his stare became fixed on one spot. Lucy followed his gaze to Violent.

Kemper waved to Violent, and smiled at her. Violent’s face was still as stone. She gave Kemper no emotion back, but it didn’t seem to bother him. The two of them held eye contact for a long time, way too long for it to mean nothing. Kemper ascended by cable, smiling the whole way, cheerful until the very end. He rose twenty feet above the quad’s walls, before the crane arm began to turn, and he was slowly swung out of view.

Lucy looked over at Violent again. When other people’s dye jobs had faded over the hard times, Violent had maintained hers. Her hair was a deep shade of red. The rumor was that Violent soaked her hair in blood once a week. Some said she drew the blood from the boys she hooked up with. Others said that the Sluts had to donate their blood every Sunday, and Violent would boil it all in a big steel soup pot that she stirred with a rusty knife, until the blood was a dense crimson sludge that she would smear through her hair.

A year ago, Lucy probably would have believed those
rumors. But she’d seen Violent cry. She’d seen her care about her friends. Violent wasn’t some vampire bathing in blood. She was another kid stuck in here like everyone else. Still, she was doing a lot better job of surviving in this place than Lucy was. Violent was the leader of her own gang of fighters, and everyone in school was scared of her.

Violent snapped her eyes over at Lucy. Lucy looked to the ground out of instinct, then felt stupid for doing it. She gradually lifted her eyes again. Violent waved her over.

Lucy looked to the Loners around her and then slipped away from Will and the others as they were starting to take bets over whether Kemper would actually stick around outside the walls like he’d said or get the hell out of Colorado and never look back.

As Lucy got closer to Violent and the Sluts, she got more uncomfortable. Violent looked so mean. Her electrical tape eyebrows were cut into particularly angry arches today. She had scabs on her knuckles. A bone in her forearm jutted out like it was broken; it must have healed that way.

“Juicy Lucy,” Violent said with a smile. She fixed Lucy with a drawn-out stare. “You look scared.”

“No.”

“You’re not hard to read. It’s in the way you carry yourself. But that’s fine, you should be scared.” She gestured toward the Loners. “How long do you really think that’s gonna last?”

Lucy looked back to Will and the tiny group. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s not just me. The whole school’s talking. No one thinks the Loners are gonna make it to the next food drop.”

“Is that all? You want to tell me I’m ugly too?”

Violent sighed. “Look, you handled yourself well in the Nerd’s hallway. That’s a fact.”

Lucy wasn’t expecting that. It wasn’t every day that the toughest girl in school gave you a compliment. Lucy was surprised at the pride she felt. She stood a little straighter. Violent looked all around Lucy’s face like she was disgusted with each detail of it.

BOOK: Quarantine #2: The Saints
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lovely in Her Bones by Sharyn McCrumb
The Spirit Wood by Robert Masello
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Whisper of Scandal by Nicola Cornick
Hot Contact by Susan Crosby
The Beast of Blackslope by Tracy Barrett