Wednesday, 13 May 2009 - 8:25 pm


I didn’t realise I’d said her name out loud until I noticed everyone staring at me.

But there she was, right in front of me. She was my best friend once. She was the person I confided in and shared everything with, including and unknowingly my boyfriend. She had taken him away from me, just before the End. Seeing her brought it all back in a rush that wanted to crush my chest. I forgot how to breathe.

The strangest part was that she didn’t look any different to the last time I saw her. She looked like a piece of the time Before that had stepped into After, barely pausing to flick dust off her designer sleeve. Only she could do that; looking perfect was a skill she had cultivated all her life.


I found my tongue again as she put a hand on Kingston’s shoulder, with a traitorous little thought: it was typical that she had latched onto this awful, powerful excuse for a man. “What the hell are you doing here?”

She was staring at me with a puzzled frown that took a few seconds to clear. “Mac? Oh my god, Mac?” She hadn’t recognised me at all; had I changed that much? I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be offended. She had the grace to look stunned, at least.

Seeing her, hearing that name – it all jarred horribly with what I knew the world was now. Things suddenly made less sense. I was aware that people were looking at us curiously, Pride and Seeker alike, but I couldn’t think about them.

“I go by Faith now,” I told her.

“I thought you hated that name.”

“Used to.” I glanced at Kingston, who was taking all of this in with a calculating air. “So. You’ve been all right, then.” I couldn’t help it; I smiled a little bit. Typical Bree, always coming out exactly where she wants to be.

“Oh, yeah. You know how it is.” Her fingers curled around her fella’s shoulder and she smirked. I remembered abruptly why I didn’t like her any more.

“You know what happened to Cody?” Not that I cared. I hadn’t wanted to see either of them again, not even after everything that’s happened.

The name was enough to dent her smile. “No, haven”t heard anything. You?”


And there it was, the frost between us. We weren’t friends any more. She had taken all the warmth and good feeling and ploughed it into illicit sex with someone I thought I loved. Strangely enough, the coldness helped. It crystallised the situation and I was brighter, clearer. I straightened my shoulders and felt better than all of this.

“Your boy was just propositioning us,” I told her, as if it was nothing. As if I didn’t mind. “Bit of a turnaround, isn’t it?”

Kingston didn’t like being talked about as if he wasn’t here; his expression gathered threatening clouds. Bree’s face hardened and I could see the veneer of cultivated bitch sliding into place. “The world’s different these days.”

I looked at the Pride leader and felt Matt’s hand tightening on my beltloop in warning. Careful now. I aimed my words at her again in an attempt to not provoke him. In truth, I was furious and frustrated, and nowhere near as calm as I thought I was.

“Don’t worry, Bree. I’m not interested in your leavings. Screwing other people’s men is your speciality.”

Bree bristled and Kingston drew himself up straighter, eyes narrowing. It was the sort of scene that didn’t need subtitles.

“Oh, don’t be offended,” I told him. “You’re already getting the better end of the deal. She’s much better at that than I am. So I hear.” She looked away from me and I was surprised at how satisfying that tiny victory was.

Behind my shoulder, Matt hissed my name, barely loud enough to hear. Had I gone too far? I looked around and was rudely reminded of the guns that surrounded us. We were trying not to get ourselves killed and here I was mouthing off over something that happened a world ago. I took a breath and tried to steady myself. I needed to be smarter than this.

Than I realised that Kingston was smiling at me. “And you don’t want to even the score?” In truth, I was tempted to sleep with Kingston to get back at Bree; it was a small, mean voice in the back of my head. She deserved it.

I smiled back at him with no mirth whatsoever. “I wouldn’t lower myself to her level.” I wasn’t prepared to do something like that. I still needed to be smarter. Watch your tongue, Faith.

“Maybe she should show your boy what he’s missing, then.”

I was speechless for a second; the notion of that happening all over again stopped the air in my chest. Bree glanced at Kingston in surprise, but then the corner of her mouth twitched and I knew she’d do it. Out of spite, out of pride. I could feel Matt’s hand at my back, keeping me close for everyone’s safety, and it felt like it was all that was holding me up. We were outside and there was no air.


“Sure, if she wants to get sick,” Ben said suddenly. I looked at him in surprise and saw the anger in his face. It was well-covered, but I knew that taut line in his jaw and the flat look in his eyes. He was glaring at the pair of them, both healthy and clean and so damn cocky.

“Sick?” Kingston looked more closely at Ben; his skin was pale and bore a sheen of sweat. There was doubt now and a whiff of distaste.

“Yeah. You know, the sickness that causes those… what is it you call ’em?” Ben glanced at me.

“Shamblers,” I said, mentally begging him to stop there. Don’t give them an excuse to put us down like rabid dogs. Luckily, he didn’t seem inclined to push the issue.

It didn’t take long for the Pride to recover their composure and determination. “You still have a toll to pay,” was Kingston’s decision.

There wasn’t going to be any backing down about that. He had decreed it, and even with the complications, had to see it through. It’s all about pride and status. He was looking at me differently – he suspected I was sick too, and I think Bree’s sour expression had something to do with it, too. His gaze moved on to the others in the group, sizing up Matt and Thorpe, and then those gathered behind. He smirked and my stomach lurched.

“You’re got a nice young thing hidden in there.”

I felt my hand curl into a fist at the thought. He wasn’t joking, and neither were the hungry grins around us. My belly briefly considered throwing up, right on his shoes. I drew breath to answer.


“I’ll do it.”

It wasn’t me who said it. I turned to look along with everyone else, and Sally stepped forward. She knows how to hide, that one; I had forgotten she was back there. She drew her tiny self up and the rabbit sought the lion’s eye.

“I’ll pay your toll.”

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