Chapter 2: Fresh Start, Stay Strong
"Whoa, that place is huge." There was a sparkle in my eye at the sight of the mansion, and I didn't stop the excitement from showing in my voice.
"Yup, it's nice and cozy. Lots of room for us all to have our privacy when we need it. Lots a places to sleep so it can accommodate a bunch a folk, but we haven't really found anyone to invite for a while."
But something was still weird to me. I looked around, wondering why this was the only house in this area. "How come there's no more houses out here?"
"Well see, Vert is a millionaire, or was, whatever. He wanted a place that was away from all the civilization, said he couldn't stand it. He hired some contractors and builders to build him this house, with a lotta room to spare. It's nice, like we said before, the dead are pretty rare around here." I smiled, allowed myself to take in a moment of joy. If walkers really didn't come around here too often, surely it must be a good place to stay. But the people here could very easily change that.
When we got closer I saw a dark skinned man chopping up some wood. He didn't seem to notice us until we got near and Bella had to bring him to attention. "Hey, Leroy!" she called and he looked up, smiling then a face of confusion. He had a little more hair than Thomas and his eyes were dark brown.
"Hey guys, that was a quick run. You found a little girl? By herself?"
"Don't call her little, she'll give you crap for it. Her name's Clementine, and yeah. Told us that Savannah had thousands of the fuckers, everywhere, all through the streets. No way to safely get in." Bella glared at her husband as he swore again. "Clementine, this is Leroy. He's only sixteen but he got a good head on him and a good heart."
He smiled at me and I waved at him. "Hey Clementine, you here to stay with us? I don't mind but y'all have to take that up with Vert. He kind of has final say since he owns the house and all. But I dunno anyone in their right mind that would let a child go on her own. I certainly wouldn't."
"Thank you, you're very kind. It's nice to meet you. How come you're cutting all this wood?" His face lit up as he looked at the pile of chopped wood and readied another log.
"Forest here gives us plenty of wood to keep our wood stove running. Cooked food every night, at least when we got the supplies. And I thought tonight would be a good night for a camp fire. Could be one of the last before the winter rolls in, y'know? It's pretty nice out and I don't think it's going to get too bad tonight. Plus, we got marshmallows."
"I've never had roasted marshmallows before!"
"Hey, sorry to break this up but we gotta find Vert. Any idea where he at?" Thomas asked. "Hon why don't you take our newest guest here and run her a bath and wash those clothes up."
"Sure, you go talk to Vert. C'mon, sweetie." She held out here hand, like I was going to take it but I didn't. She frowned but moved on into the house and I followed her. She opened the door and I gasped as we entered a big entrance room, there was a few pairs of shoes off to the side, a nice carpet covering the floor, and a closet with what I guess had coats and other things for colder weather in there. This room alone could fit a bunch of people in it. To the right was a staircase to the upstairs and to my left I saw the living room, and in there were three people. The looked to us and smiled again, the people here were very friendly. But not as friendly as the St. John's, so I felt a bit more relaxed. The older girl looked over to us and seemingly rushed over almost instantly. She had dark brown hair that was fitted into a neat pony tail that fell to about her shoulder blades and she had pretty blue eyes. She knelt down to me and held out her hand.
"Hello, my name is Samantha. That's my brother over there. His name is Lucas and he's a little bit shy. We're identical twins, you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between us if our hair was the same! People say that may make me look a bit manly or him bit girly but you know what? That doesn't matter because I think we're both very pretty human beings. Oh I'm so sorry, what's your name?" She spoke so fast I could barely understand most of what she said, but I giggled nonetheless and gave her my hand and she shook it.
"My name is Clementine."
"Oh Clementine what a cute name!" she said, a bit loudly. She was really happy. I don't think I've seen anyone this happy, except for maybe Lee when Carley was still around. I tried not to think about them for now, and Bella spoke up.
"Okay how about you go introduce her to Angel and your brother, I'm going to go run a bath for this sweet girl."
"Okay Bella! C'mon Clementine," and she grabbed my hand and dragged me into the living room with her brother and Angel. Her brother did look a lot like her – they had the same hair colour and eye colour but his hair was much shorter than hers. It was more hair than Leroy and Thomas though, and it was really messy. Maybe he liked it like that? I saw Lucas and Angel on the floor colouring together, it was really cute and I smiled. It reminded me when Lee would come and draw with me, and I sighed quietly.
"Lucas, Angel, I'd like you to meet Clementine." Angel sniffed hard and looked up at me with cute and innocent eyes. Her parents must be protecting her from witnessing this world, she looked happy too.
"You smell funny," she said as she rose to her feet and I nodded.
"I didn't have a lot of choice. Uhm, are you Angel?"
"Yup that's me! Isn't it the best name ever? My mommy and daddy gave it to me, they're just the best!"
"And you're Lucas, hi." I looked at him and smiled.
"You're... covered in blood. Are you okay?" He asked.
"I'm okay. It's still gross but I think I got used to it when I was getting out of Savannah. Bella said she'd wash my clothes for me, I can't wait. I haven't been in clean clothes or had a bath in forever." He nodded and went back to drawing whatever he was.
"Don't mind him, he's a bit socially awkward but you'll grow on him," Samantha spoke sweetly and sat down beside her brother. He gave her a small glare she didn't see but just got back into his drawings. I looked back to Angel, who seemed to be getting a bit impatient.
"Are we done meeting everyone? I want to play some more! But... you, you can't play until you smell nice, like me!" She pointed at me. I just smiled.
"That's okay, I wouldn't want to play with me either."
"Angel!" Bella cried out. "That's rude, you have to be nice to people, especially ones you haven't met before." She walked back into the room. Angel frowned.
"I'm sorry mommy! You can play then, uhm, what was your name again?"
"That's a big word for orange right? I'm going to call you orange!"
"No, not exactly-"
"Okay Orange, but just sit a bit further away from me okay?" She interrupted me and I rose my hand but I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Clementine, your bath is ready. How about we go up there and you can get yourself cleaned up while I wash your clothes."
"Okay, that sounds nice. Thank you Bella." She smiled at me and nodded and led me to the bath.
I sat alone in the bathroom, feeling the warm water against my skin. It was really gentle and they even had bubble bath, which I really wanted to use. I smiled as I played with the bubbles, Bella told me to take as long as I needed to, and I was really enjoying it. It felt so nice, so clean. And it was really quiet in here too. All I could was the sounds of the water moving around as I moved. I sighed happily, but my thoughts soon returned to everything that just happened. I sighed again, but this time it was because I was getting sad.
I never should have talked to that man on the radio. He lied to me and kidnapped me, and that all caused Lee to get bit. I clenched my fist hard, so hard that my fingernails left marks in my palm, and I felt really angry at him. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth, but before too long I noticed I was holding my breath and breathed again. My fist relaxed. Was that... hate? I had a lot of love for a lot of people. Duck, Katjaa, and Kenny. Carley, and my parents. Even Lilly. And Lee, almost as much as my parents. But he never did anything wrong or got mad at me, like my parents sometimes would when I made mistakes or did something they wouldn't like.
But... I've never hated anyone before. I remembered what happened, when I had shot that stranger in the head... to help Lee. A part of me was happy I did. Is this what revenge feels like? Not like when I'd get revenge on Duck for putting bugs on his pillow after he took my crayons. It was different than that. I put my hand on my chest and felt a little pain inside it. Did it hurt like this too? Tears formed in my eyes and I cried quietly, sobbing too.
"It's... okay..." I heard a weak voice whisper, and I gasped. I picked up my gun from the sink and looked around the big bathroom. A nice toilet, a mirror that reflected me pointing my gun at it, the curtains covering the windows, but no one in the room but me. I shook a little, then I heard it again. "Don't... worry..."
But for some reason the voice seemed really calming and I relaxed. I put my gun down but I still couldn't help but to ask. "Who's there? Please, show yourself." I waited for a full minute but got no response. The pain I had felt in my chest before had went away too. Was it because of that voice? Was my mind playing tricks on me? But strangely, I wasn't scared.