Thursday, 2 July 2009 - 5:56 pm

Standing up

Ben and I had a blow-up today. The only saving grace about it was that we did it in private, not in front of the whole group.

There was a discussion about stopping to search for supplies over breakfast, involving everyone; we’re getting short on food and water, particularly. We’ve put a couple of days between us and the shamblers, so it should be safe to pause here, even if the car park is starting to creep me out. I can’t tell what time of day it is, and the rain runs down the entry ramp towards gutters that are sounding dangerously full. There are sounds in the dark corners that I have wish to investigate.

The question of the two newcomers came up as we talked. How we can’t afford to be picking up strays and how it’s dangerous to stop to do it. We can’t just leave all these people to die out here. The siblings haven’t been any trouble. They’re too weak to be a danger to us, but not to be a burden. We shouldn’t feed them. Our injured are a burden too – should we stop feeding them? Where do we draw the line?

The group split predictably. Matt, Sally, and Dillon (who had hobbled out of the campervan to join us) backed me up. Masterson, Jersey, and Thorpe disapproved with varying levels of voracity. Nugget, Conroy, Dale, and Ben all stayed silent but watched us to see what we would say. Bree’s little bunch and the siblings stayed well out of range, sensing that their presence wouldn’t help matters, especially not for themselves.

It was difficult to argue with them and not just because they’re friends. The problem is that they’re not wrong; we just disagree on what’s an acceptable risk and effort, and the level of compromise we’re willing to make. We didn’t come to any kind of agreement; we barely agreed to disagree before we all moved off. The whole episode left a nasty taste in my mouth.


A group of the boys went out to search for supplies and I turned my attention to the vehicles in the dim lighting. Some need minor repairs after all the grabbing-on that’s happened lately. Desperate people will ruin what they’re trying to get their hands on, if they can. That’s when Ben came to check on me. I thought he’d gone with the others, but there he was, standing at my elbow and making me jump. I nearly hit him with a spanner.

He asked if I needed a hand. It was a simple offer, but I was still stinging from the argument. I snapped at him about needing his help earlier; I didn’t realise until that moment just how much his lack of support had affected me. It’s not that I think it would have helped me ‘win’ the argument; seeing him standing on the sidelines, watching me fight my corner and not stepping in, hurt more than I’d realised. I had always been able to rely on his support before, he had always been rght there with me, but since he recovered from the Sickness, that has changed.

It changed him. Maybe it was the helplessness, maybe it was facing death and the prospect of becoming a mindless expression of hunger. Maybe it was because he had to fight to survive and now thinks that everyone should. Maybe something hurt him that I don’t know about.

“The problem with you, Faith, is that you think everything should happen your way.”

Those words still ring in my ears. I stared at him and it took a stunned moment for me to loosen my tongue enough to respond. Of course I thought that. Of course I did. Everyone wants things their own way! I stand up for what I believe in – when did that become wrong? But I’m not selfish with it. I’m not. I listen to the others and we make decisions as a group when we can. I try to be fair. I try to do what’s best for everyone. Maybe I don’t always get it right, but I try.

I haven’t changed, but he has. I told him that. The Ben I got to know wouldn’t have tried to turn those kids away. He would have shown them some mercy and understood what I was doing. The Ben I knew had a kinder heart than the one that’s here now. What happened? What’s wrong?

He wouldn’t answer the question; I tried a few times. Finally, he hit back.

“And what about you and your ‘friend’?”

It was such a change of tack that I struggled to keep up with him; it left me stumbling and breathless. Matt? He thought that Matt and I–

I told him no. I explained to him why some of the others might think that (and that I didn’t care what they thought now, with Ben back and me apparently switching beds). It was for safety, because being single and alone is dangerous. It was because he left me on my own. It wasn’t what he thought, dammit.

I missed him, and I worried about him, and I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again. Now he’s all distant and weird, and I still miss my friend called Ben. Not just my lover who slept with me, but my friend, the one who stood next to me,. He won’t tell me what happened to him, he won’t explain anything. I was crying then and I’m crying again now, because I don’t know what’s wrong, let alone how to fix it.

He looked at me as if he was trying to figure out the answer to eternal life from the trails on my cheeks, then cupped one side of my face. “I’m working it out,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

I let him hug me until I had calmed down, then I got back to work. The lack of proper lighting gave me a headache but I kept at it anyway. Anything other than dwelling on it all. Anything other than thinking about how he didn’t want me to help him work this out; he made that clear.


When the boys got back, Matt came over to ask me what was wrong. Trust him to spot it from across a room. I brushed him off, told him it was nothing, cut too freshly to know if I should open up to him or stay away because it might upset Ben. Then I got upset with myself for not daring to talk to my best friend and went away to smack at a stuck window lever for a while.

At dinner, Ben was attentive to me, as if trying to make up for the argument. I’m too off-balance to know what to do with him. I want to lean on him, but it feels like he might shift at any moment. I can’t tell which way he’d go any more.

I guess it’s time I learned to stand on my own.