Thursday, 14 May 2009 - 8:27 pm


Everyone was stunned when Sally volunteered to pay the Pride’s ‘toll’.

Then a verbal maelstrom erupted. We were all refusing to let her, half of us talking to Sally and the other half warning Kingston off. I grabbed her arm and when we got too vehement, the Pride reminded us of our predicament with the eloquent, unmistakable cock of a gun. In the corner of my eye, I saw Thorpe gripping a fistful of Masterson’s shirt to hold him back.

Sally looked at me with those dark eyes of hers, the ones that know what’s coming, and she patted my hand. “It’s okay, Faith. I’m not like you.”

I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t fair. She shouldn’t have to do this. There was a rock in my throat and I didn’t know how to hold her back when she gently drew her arm free of my grip. It wasn’t okay. It was so very far from okay. She told me kind lies, said it was all right, and then walked away into waiting hands.

I caught the look on Kingston’s face and almost lunged at him. If Matt hadn’t still been holding onto my beltloop, I probably would have. He was enjoying it: our upset; our frustration; our friend giving herself up to the predators to save the rest of us. He probably enjoyed it more than the sex he was going to have. He liked manipulating people, watching them bend and break. He was watching me at that moment to see if I’d cry. I almost satisfied him.

I think Bree was the only reason I didn’t. She was right there, tight-lipped in a way I hadn’t seen her before. She had learned not to argue, even though she didn’t like it when Kingston put a possessive hand on Sally’s shoulder. So, she didn’t like this either. Regardless, I didn’t want to show that kind of weakness in front of her.

The Pride put Sally on the back of a bike and took her away. I don’t know where. The ones on foot scooped up their stolen food and water, and then shoved us into one of the shattered stores. We were to stay put, apparently, until Kingston was done with us. Thorpe was the only reason that Masterson didn’t try anything.

It wasn’t until the door closed on us that I remembered about the baby. Then, I cried.


We stayed in the store all that night. Everyone was unhappy and quiet. Tension ran high as we didn’t dare relax in case the Pride saw weakness; I wiped my tears away quickly before they could latch onto them.

The Pride checked on us periodically, all grins and needling comments, particularly in Masterson’s direction. The doctor sat like a stone, refusing to look at anyone or respond to the taunts. They had read his connection to her but he didn’t let them benefit from it, and the fight seemed to have gone out of him now that Sally was out of sight.

The others had questions, of course – about Bree at first, and then about how we were going to get out of this. I told them about my history with that girl, the words sticking in my throat. I didn’t want to tell them about that shameful, hateful part of my life, even though it was probably obvious from the exchange outside. A part of me had hoped that I wouldn’t have to deal with it after the bomb went off and the rain sought to wipe the world clean. But now here it was, making things better and worse. I don’t know if it saved or doomed us.

Matt and Dillon were attentive, worried about me and my reaction to having Cody dragged up again. Of all people, Matt knows what it means to me, how much Bree and Cody hurt me. Dillon looked like he’d do anything to change the look on my face, even when I told him that I was all right. I hugged him and tried not to think about it all too deeply; there were far more important things going on that I should have been worrying about. But I was grateful too. I felt less alone under their attention.

Ben stuck close to my side too, as if Kingston had reminded him that we were together. When no-one else was near, he told me that he wouldn’t have done it – wouldn’t have gone with Bree – even if the sickness hadn’t put them off. I believe him despite that awful little voice inside, the one that knows I believed Cody too. Ben had said no this time, and I clung to his hand tighter because of it. I had to hold onto what I had.


I tried to talk to Masterson. I shooed the others away and went to sit next to him, and had no idea what to say. We haven’t got along very well, the two of us, and I didn’t know where to start. He still wasn’t looking at anyone, wasn’t taking any notice of us or the Pride when they passed through.

“We’ll get her back,” I told him. I wanted to ask if he knew about the baby, but what if he didn’t? I knew how tight-lipped Sally was and was afraid of making things worse.

He didn’t answer me. He blinked and turned his head away a little more, so I knew he heard me.

“We’re not leaving without her,” was all I could think to promise him. Then I left him alone again.


As the light fell away from outside the window, talk turned towards our predicament. We didn’t think that the Pride would let us go when they were done with Sally; that would be too easy. We would have to make a break for it, but not until they brought her back to us. We wouldn’t leave her here with them.

We heard the Pride moving around in the store where we had left the scooters, and then the scrape of an engine starting. The chances of us getting our transport back were slim and we grimly decided to discount that possibility. On foot it was, then.

We would have to overpower at least two of them; they went everywhere in pairs or quartets. Surprise was our best weapon, and for that to work, we needed to get them to let their guard down. So we tried to appear pathetic and broken while we waited.

After the scene outside, they were cocky and it was easy for us to spend the night looking whipped and beaten. Far too easy. None of us got any sleep except Ben – the sickness was taking a toll on him. It didn’t take any acting on our part to look worn out by the time the sun came up.


They brought Sally back to us in the morning. She was pale and not moving very well, and the Pride members who escorted her made crass comments with sated grins. I tried not to think too deeply about how badly she might be hurt; I was afraid I’d break down again. The guilt that curled around my innards was a cold snake, one that knew it should have been me and was glad it wasn’t.

Before we could do anything, Masterson snapped. He saw their faces, heard one too many taunt about Sally’s performance, and he went for one of them before anyone could hold him back. We should have watched him more closely.

We hadn’t planned to make our break for it just then. There were four of them, four guns, though the weapons were held lazily. We hadn’t had a chance to regroup. But Masterson was flying at them, shouting, and the rest of us had to step in. He would have been shot if left to his own devices.

It was brief and nasty. All I remember is my heart beating out through my ribs, grabbing and wrenching someone’s arm, shouts banging around my head, and a shot or two going off. The sound was enough to give us all pause and there was a terrifying moment when I wondered if I was hit. Time just shortened on us alarmingly – the rest of the Pride would come and so we had to leave, right away.

The Proud four were put down as quickly as we could. We had to pull Masterson off one of them and manhandle him out of the building. There was more blood than I was expecting; I stopped and stared at it. I have no idea if they died. I hope not. Then someone grabbed my arm and shouted at me to run, and I did. I followed the others, diving down alleys and sidestreets, weaving away from that awful scene. Run, just run, bodies pumping as fast and as far as possible.


We kept going until even the strongest of us was stumbling, and the weaker ones were barely dragging one foot after the other. It didn’t help that it had been nearly a full day since any of us had had any food or water. We staggered into the first unlocked door we found. All we wanted was a place to hide, and the house had a basement, so we went down there to collapse.

We were a mess. Most of us were hurt, Ben could hardly breathe. But we were together. We were free. At that moment, panting into the daytime shadows and listening for signs of pursuit, that was all that mattered.

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