Part One

I hate getting a lecture. I especially hate getting a lecture in front of everyone else even worse. They already think that I am the weakest one. This only makes them think it more. But I wanted this notebook. I wanted it bad and I don't care what anyone else thinks about it. I'm tired of having nothing to do but run and run and run. And when I'm not running I'm scrounging for food or other supplies the group needs and praying that I get a bit of what I help to find. Survival of the fittest and all that. The biggest and baddest always get their share first.

Well I wanted this notebook. It didn't matter that I almost got torn apart. It doesn't really matter that I got beat on again. Well, yeah it does but it was kinda worth it. And I didn't go down this time like I normally do. I felt righteous. I wanted something for myself and I got it for myself. I even got myself out of the jam without anyone's help. They just saw me get in trouble is all. But I got out of it before they could decide whether they were going to take the time to help me. That's what really stunk their britches up. That for once I didn't need any of them.

I mean but still. C'mon. Jerry is the one that beat the crap out of me yet I'm the one that Moses lectured. How totally unfair is that?! Sherry said that he was doing it to toughen me up, that Jerry didn't need toughening up. Geez. No kidding. The guy makes a raw hide dog treat look like soft cheese. She added her own bit of salt to my wounds by saying that if I didn't toughen up I was going to get left behind. But you know what? That is scaring me less and less every day.

Let's see, would I rather be chewed on by the monsters or chewed on by the monsters the guys are all turning into? Hard choice right there. I mean gross. Mr. Morris offered me an energy bar if I'd do something for him. Uh ... no ... don't think so. As in absolutely no freaking way in you know where. Mr. Morris is like this old guy in his 40s and I'm fifteen. You tell me there isn't something wrong with that particularly gross picture. And his breath makes me want to hurl big time.

Mr. Morris isn't the only one. Some of the girls go along with one of them when they get hungry or scared. Most everyone in the group still try and pretend nothing is going on but everyone knows. I mean come on, sound carries which in and of itself is a spectacularly nasty bit of information that needs bleach to get out of my brain. Only I don't have any bleach. The only thing of my own that I have I carry around in my backpack and I've had to fight to keep that a few times. And this notebook. I've got this notebook now too.

I've paid attention even though none of them think I have. They seem to think I am some kind of half-wit or something. Shows what they know. I notice a whole lot more than they give me credit for. For instance, I notice the girls and women aren't any less hungry or scared the next day after doing whatever the guys ask them to do so whatever they get from doing it doesn't last long. That's what my economics teacher would have called a high cost, low return equation. I may not have much but Mom said no matter what I could always have self-respect. Dad said self-respect and honor go hand in hand and they have to be cultivated. Going with one of the men would be like cutting my own wrists. I'm not that bad off. Not yet.

I wanna go home. I wanna go home so bad. I know there is no one there. I know it isn't really home anymore, but it is still a place I want to go see one more time before ... if ... I turn into one of the infected ones. I just want a picture of my family. Just a picture. I don't want to forget their faces and I'm afraid I'm starting to. Is it too much to ask for one stupid picture? Mom had cleaned out her purse that day so she could take her small one and so only had a few things with her. I just want a picture of us all together. Surely not everything has been destroyed. I'd even settle for that really bad family portrait we took when I was in sixth grade where Toddie has the leftovers from a broken nose and I'd just gotten my braces.

Maybe nothing has been destroyed. Maybe I could find not just pictures but enough other stuff that I could make it on my own ... or make it on my own until things get better. They have to eventually get better. They have to. But it is going to be awhile, probably a long while, so I need to be prepared for that.

We had camping gear in the garage and my bike is in there too; everything BUT the car was always in the garage. I could fly like the wind on that bike. I can go anywhere I want ... well maybe not anywhere but certainly someplace away. Or at least as far away as I can get. Maybe I could take Toddie's mountain bike and head towards that place we used to go camping; there's cabins and everything up there. I'm sure Toddie wouldn't mind. It isn't like he is ever coming home from college to get it.

God. Did I really just write that? God. My parents would kill me ... or not. Maybe they are all up there in Heaven together wondering what in the heck is taking me so long to get my crap together and my head screwed on right. I'm not a little kid anymore. I know I haven't done anything to shame them - not yet - but I haven't exactly done anything to make them proud either. I haven't been a hero and saved a bunch of people like Moses. I haven't found some huge stash of food like Sherry did although it is all gone now. I can't shoot a gun worth spit because my glasses are all scratched up. About the only thing they keep me around for is to help with first aid but they've got Doc for the important stuff.

And speaking of Doc, he's another one that is weirding me out lately. He used to be cool most of the time and weird only some of the time, now it is the other way around. He's always wanting to examine me to make sure the other men haven't been messing with me. Ew. He wants me to sleep beside him so he can "protect" me. OK fine, I'm young but I'm not young enough to be that stupid. Then he gets all weird when I do have to go off with one of the guys for scavenging and stuff. When I get back he's like all over me, asking rude questions, acting ... well acting all jealous and stuff. It's not just gross, it's embarrassing.

Sherry said it is because I'm the only girl that hasn't chosen a protector, temporary or not. So that's what they're calling it these days I say back to her. She shook her head and said I was acting too old for my britches again and if I didn't stop I was going to get into some trouble I wouldn't be able to run away from. Sherry ought to know. She used to be a real tough kinda person but then she mouthed off to one of the guys and he "put her in her place." She was hurt for a long time after that and a lot of the guys took advantage of her making her hurt worse. She's better now but not the same as she was and I get the feeling she'll never be the way she used to be.

Sherry is with Moses now. I guess it works for her because he treats her better than a lot of the women and girls get treated. Some of them are even jealous and try and take pokes at her but she has toughened up enough that she won't be pushed off from him.

I suppose Moses really isn't such a bad guy if you like the biker guy thing. But I don't think he ever wanted to be top dog ... or at least didn't want to be top dog the way he got there or of a bunch of "leftovers." He sure doesn't like some of the people in the group and would probably kick them to the curb if we didn't need numbers to keep us all alive.

Moses used to be a felon. Seriously. He told us he was like in the city jail waiting to be taken to the courthouse when things blew apart. But he is an honest felon. He doesn't mind that my dad was a cop. Geez that doesn't even make sense. I just mean he has his own code and sticks with it; you know his rules and follow them then you haven't got any problems. And even though he slept around ... alot ... before him and Sherry hooked up he never went after young girls and wouldn't let anyone take one if they were unwilling. That's probably the only reason I've been able to make it as long as I have. The men are all too scared of Moses to force me into anything.

But I'm not so sure they are scared enough of him anymore. Moses is getting tired and it shows. And he has to fight with the men more and more to prove he is top dog. I think he's been thinking of taking Sherry and moving on and seeing how far they can get on their own. I think Sherry has been thinking the same thing because I'm pretty sure she is going to have a baby; she pukes in the morning but no one says anything. There's a couple of guys who could probably take Moses' place if he does take off but I'm not sure how long they would last. Moses isn't what you would call book smart, but he is street smart. These others guys, I don't know; they think they are smart and talk about it alot ... which kinda tells me they aren't.

Crud, gotta run. Looks like the infecteds have found us again.