"Leave. Now," I order the family, scowling at them and trying to look as threatening as possible without harming AJ at all. I feel really guilty for doing this sort of thing, but Jane and I don't know these people.
And by the way that this red-headed guy is reaching behind his back, I'm guessing that he's not the friendly sort.
"You sure you wanna do that, little girl?" he spits, glaring at me as if that'll change my mind. If anything, it just strengthens my resolve. "What if we decide to come back and take your place over anyways? What if we're dangerous?"
"Then I'll be waiting for you," I snarl, aiming my pistol directly at him as his son widens his eyes. "I'm not gonna tell you again! Get out of here before things get violent!"
His wife walks over and sadly tugs on her husband's arm. "Come on, Randy. Let's just go…" she murmurs, giving me the stink eye before slowly walking back towards her son.
I glower at the bespectacled man and silently dare him to take one more step towards us. As he sees that I'm dead serious, he shakes his head and starts to walk away with his family. The young boy turns one last time to see if I'll change my mind, but I will not be swayed – his puppy dog eyes won't work on me. Trust me, I used to use those on Lee all the time, and I know every trick in the book.
"I hope you know what you're doing, little girl!" Randy shouts back at us, and I don't turn away until they're almost completely out of sight.
Once they're gone, I put my pistol back in my pocket and look at Jane expectantly; all the while rocking AJ back and forth slowly.
"That couldn't have been easy," Jane comments, placing her hands on her hips, "but thanks for doing that, Clem."
"We can't trust anyone. Remember?" I mention in a deadpan voice, turning away from the gate and heading back into the staff room of Howe's.
"Umm… yeah," Jane grimaces, probably reminded of what happened last week with Kenny. I still haven't fully forgiven her for what she did, but she definitely proved her point. The Kenny I knew before he lost his family was gone. I was naïve enough to think at the ski lodge that he'd changed a little bit, and perhaps he did with Sarita to keep him occupied. But ever since I cut off her arm trying to save her… Kenny never looked at me the same way again. Our friendship had broken to the point of almost no repair, but at least he's with Katjaa and Duck now.
At least, that's what I told him anyways. I wanted him to feel better in his last moments.
"Let's go check out the greenhouses," Jane says, snapping me back to reality as she holds the door open for AJ and I. This little guy's one hell of a baby; hardly ever making a fuss when he's around me and cute as a button. I think that even Jane's started taking a liking to him a little bit, even if she won't admit it. But I've caught her smiling and making goofy faces with AJ on more than one occasion when she thought I wasn't looking.
We're not completely heartless, Jane and I, even though we just turned those people away. It's just that… we've had too many problems with big groups, especially when we don't know the people we're with. I'll do whatever it takes to keep all three of us alive, even if it means turning away people in need.
But sometimes I wonder what Lee would think if he'd seen what I've become… Would he be proud that I'm keeping us safe? Would he be pissed and disappointed that we've forced people out who need our help? Who knows, I suppose. Lee can't exactly say anything, seeing's how he's dead and all.
Ouch… that was a bit harsh there, Clem.
"What do you think happened to Tavia and them?" I ask inquisitively, opening the door to the greenhouse and basking in the smell of fresh plants. The two berry plants that Sarah and I were working on are still sitting on the table, although the fruit has most likely spoiled by this point.
"Maybe the walkers scared 'em off," she replies, shrugging her shoulders as she grazes her thumb over some weeds growing in one of the soil pots. "Clem… I think we just hit the jackpot here! If we grow some vegetables in here, plus all the canned stuff that we've got downstairs, we might not have to leave for at least a few months, if not more!"
"You really think that the food'll last that long?" I question, setting AJ down on a workbench as he tries to grab my hand. I indulge him for the time being, as he grabs my pinky finger and moves it back and forth as if it's one of his toys. "I mean, how much could they have stocked up here?"
"The only redeeming quality about Carver was that he was always well-supplied. They used to go on runs into Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte back when I was still with them. Have you ever been there?"
"No… I'm not from around here," I explain with a sigh, thinking about my parents and our house back in Georgia. I'd be dead if Lee hadn't come along to take me with him.
Sensing that I don't really want to go into details, Jane nods and continues searching around. That's one of the things that I like about Jane – she can practically always tell what I'm thinking, and can read my body language like an open book. She's certainly not the most comforting person around, but I've gotten used to not having people around like that. There's not a whole lot of room for softness out here when you're separately trying to survive.
"They've got seed packages over here," Jane remarks, holding up a few small packs while smirking slightly. "Which would you rather have? Tomatoes, eggplants or beans?"
"Eggplant?" I question with slight disgust, making a mock grossed-out face as Jane chuckles slightly.
"Yeah, not my number one pick either. Beans or tomatoes?"
"I've had enough beans to last a lifetime," I comment dryly, smiling down at AJ as he makes his famous cooing sounds that I'm told most babies make.
"Tomatoes it is then," Jane concludes, opening up the package and starting to plant them in one of the soil pots they've got lying about. "You know, when I think of surviving in the apocalypse, this is the last thing that comes to my mind of what we should be doing."
"Yet here we are," I say quietly, picking up Alvin Junior and walking over so we can observe her handiwork. "It's pretty nice though, don't you think?"
"I guess so. Better than freezing our asses off up north," she replies, digging her bare hands into the dirt and dumping the package of seeds inside. "This fantasy-land that we were going to, Wellington… it was gonna get us killed. Even if it did exist, we wouldn't know where to look! And what if the people there were just bat-shit crazy people who'd sooner stick a knife in your throat while you slept than let you live in peace? I don't know why we'd go anywhere else to be honest, not with this little fortress we've got going here."
"A fortress needs people to defend it," I remind her sadly, despite having turned away that family back there. "But… yeah. This is a good setup we've got going here."
"I'm glad you think so," Jane acknowledges, "and… I wanted to thank you again, Clem. I was pretty surprised that you still wanted to come with me after the shit I pulled, but – "
"It's okay, Jane. You don't have to say anymore," I interrupt, not wanting to delve into that conversation any time soon.
Nodding her head in appreciation, Jane finishes up and wipes her hands on her jeans.
"Come on," she tells me with a wave of her hand, "we're burning daylight."
She must've cared about Luke a lot more than she was letting on.
Two weeks later…
"Hey, big guy… it's okay, it's just a storm. Don't cry," I soothe, sitting in one of the lawn chairs that I brought in from the pen. It was more like a slave pen if you ask me. I gently rub circles on his back as the thunder claps again, startling the young infant and making him cry. It's a good thing that we're under a roof right now, otherwise we'd probably be getting soaked.
Jane told me that she was going to check the perimeter for walkers, but she's been gone for quite a while. Yes, this place is pretty freaking big, but you'd think that we'd at least hear her by now.
Of course, though, Jane insisted that I stay in here with AJ instead of coming to help her. I'm pretty sure it's just because Jane's paranoid – that incident with the baby throwing up on her had taken its toll.
I hum the tune to a children's song that used to put me to sleep when I was younger, hoping that by some miracle it'll work on little AJ here. I haven't listened to music in forever – it's one of the things that I really miss. Things just feel so much more vibrant and alive when a song comes on the radio.
Though now I suppose that most things aren't vibrant or alive these days. Everyone's gone except for Jane, AJ and I. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be in this situation.
"Clem?" Jane calls out, causing me to look towards the door and breathe out a sigh of relief when I see that she's alright. Why was I worried in the first place? Jane can handle herself just fine. "We've got another one coming to the front gate."
"Walker?" I question, getting my pistol ready in response to an immediate threat.
"No, it's a woman," she explains briskly, folding her arms across her chest. "Skinny, kind of tall, long, brown hair. She looks pretty dangerous to me."
"She's all alone?" I ask, kind of surprised. Usually, except in special cases, people choose to stick with at least one other person. "Did you tell her to leave yet? Was she armed?"
"One question at a time," Jane chuckles, before her face regains its stern look. "She's got a rifle, but she's just rooting around outside. I don't think she's noticed me yet, so we'll have to play this cool. If she tries breaking in, we'll just shoot her and be done with it."
"What can I do to help?"
"Just back me up, alright? And if shit hits the fan, which it always does, take AJ and run."
"I'm not going anywhere, Jane," I respond, following her towards the gate. "Not after all this. We can't split up now."
"Sometimes you don't have a choice, Clem," she retorts as we make our way to the gate. The storm's really raging out there, as the rain pounds on the parking lot and lightning occasionally lights up the surroundings. The roof is a little leaky where we're standing right now, so I hold one arm over AJ so that he doesn't get wet.
"I don't see anybody," I comment, watching as Jane furrows her brow.
"There's no way that she just disappeared," Jane whispers, turning the safety off of her pistol. "Stay close to me – we're gonna find this girl."
"Don't shoot straight away unless she's dangerous, Jane."
"Somebody skulking around our home seems pretty dangerous to me."
With a sigh, I follow my friend (it doesn't feel as weird when I call her that now) back upstairs; placing AJ in his little makeshift bed before doing so. He's fallen asleep, so hopefully the noise won't wake him up again.
The rain soaks through my jacket as we try to scan out all around the parking lot. Nothing so far.
"Really wishing now that you still had that leather jacket," I comment dryly, earning a small chuckle from the older woman. She's not so cold and isolated once you get through to her. "See anything yet?"
"No not rea – Wait! There she is, over there!"
Jane points towards a rusted, overturned car where, sure enough, the shadowy form of the woman Jane was describing is checking out carefully. I'd yell to her that nothing's inside if I could, but she'd probably just shoot at us. If she has a rifle and is all by herself, then I've got little doubt that she'd be able to make that shot from here.
"What do you want to do?" Jane asks, her eyes piercing as the woman exits the car and puts her hood up over her head.
"Let her come to us," I suggest, not wanting to get caught out in the open. "We don't want to draw any of her fire towards us. If she tries to break in, then we shoot, but let's get back downstairs."
"Shit! She's coming this way!" Jane hisses, doing as I suggest and quickly making her way back down the steps. She almost trips over AJ, and he starts crying as he's rudely interrupted from his sleepy time.
"Go, I'll meet you there," I instruct, bending down to scoop the baby up in my arms. AJ's had a bit of a rough night with all the loud, scary noises going on, so I try to comfort him as best I can. Sometimes I wonder if Rebecca was just telling me that I was a natural with him to make me feel better, or if she was really telling the truth. I hope that I'm doing her and Alvin's memories some justice with him…
"Well? Who the fuck are you?!" Jane yells, no doubt getting riled up by the possible intruder already. I'm pretty sure that the woman has snapped back at her, but it's difficult to hear with the storm raging outside. As quietly and stealthily as we can, AJ and I make our way towards the gate.
"We're all full up here, unfortunately. I think it'd be best if you just left," Jane instructs coldly, brandishing her weapon at her side as she throws a steely glare towards this stranger.
"Listen, lady," she argues, the rain pounding on her sweater as she talks, "I've been through fucking hell to get here, alright? This is the only good place that I've found in a while, and my food's almost completely run out. I've lost everyone that I've cared about – "
"Everyone has!" Jane barks back, venom slipping over her words.
This woman sounds vaguely familiar… but I'm not sure why. Everyone that I know has either died or left (here's looking at you, Bonnie and Mike), so who else could possibly be left?
I walk out beside Jane and cock my head to the side as the woman studies my face. I can't really make her out under the hood and the darkness, but she can't seem to tear her gaze away from me and argue some more with Jane.
"Umm… do I know you?" I ask inquisitively, cocking up an eyebrow as AJ fiddles around in my arms.
Lowering her hood, the woman stares wide-eyed at me and drops her weapon uselessly to the ground.
Instantly, a flash of memories come back to me, with the motor-inn and Macon and the RV… and Carley.
Taking out my pistol, I aim it right towards Lilly and glare as fiercely as I can manage. I may have gotten over all of that a long time ago, but it still doesn't change how I feel about her.
"Oh fuck," Lilly says simply, holding her hands up in surrender.
AN: Alright, so what do you guys think of this so far? This story's not going to be that long, as I suspect that the very most it'll be is four or five chapters, but I just had to put this out. Thanks for reading, and please drop a review if you'd be so kind :) Later, gators!