*more info as it develops...
[Race for Safe Haven - Sleepover]
Rhett was in the back of the room, looking down on his phone. On the screen was a message from Jake; "Are U dead yet?" Rhett smiled to himself as he texted his friend back. He informed Jake that he would be in Albany tomorrow and would know then what the situation would be. Jake meanwhile was nowhere near Buffalo yet, but he insisted he was making progress. Content, Rhett put his phone away and focused on the scene Tara was providing.
"You're taking this pretty hard for someone who didn't know her before all this went down," Rhett said as he walked over, beer in hand, and leaned next to the window. "I should have known," Tara said while not breaking her gaze from the window. "I'm more hung up about how we're probably all infected and just aren't showing it yet," Rhett said as he took a drink "Like one by one we're all gonna start dying. By time we get to Safe Haven it won't even matter."
Tara shrugged. "It might be better that way," she said as she leaned back and played with something at the end of her necklace. "Alright," Rhett said "I'll bite. What's really going on?" Tara looked up at Rhett as he noticed it was a wedding ring she was playing with. "I was married," she said. "Rhett waited silently for her to continue.
"Her name was Danielle," she said. "I'm not gay," she quickly added "She was though, I was bi. We were in love though, so we were going to make it work. We were happy..." she trailed off, Rhett unsure if she was trying to convince herself of that last sentence. "There was this guy, AJ, I used to see," she continued "In and out of jail, always lying, we always fought. I was bad for him and he was terrible for me, but we always found a way back to each other. I met Danielle during one of our "breaks" and we fell in love.
"AJ didn't like it. He would try to muscle back into my life but Danielle would help me reject him. I loved them both, and it was Danielle I wanted to be with, but I still found my way back to AJ from time to time. One time she found out I was seeing him and threatened to leave. She didn't, and I cut AJ back out of my life. This time though..." she stopped to compose herself as she tried to avoid crying "AJ came back and I...I don't know what I was thinking. I just wanted to get with him one more time.
"One more time. I always told myself that. One more time and he's gone forever. One more time, then I'd tell him to leave. One more time and then Danielle and I can finally move on. Well, this one more time, Danielle caught us again and she flipped. I didn't even know it until I came home to find her gone, a note left on the kitchen counter.
"She said she needed to get away from me. She was going to her sisters until she figured out what she wanted to do next. She left the ring. Of course the first thing my dumb ass does is run to AJ about it. Even with her gone and AJ going on about how the two of us can now live the life he imagined, all I could think of was her. Still, it took me two weeks to work up the balls to go to her sisters."
Tara stopped and closed her eyes, like she was struggling with a painful memory she was uncovering. "What happened then?" Rhett asked after a moment, snapping Tara back to the present. "She wasn't there," Tara said "She was in the hospital. Her and her sister were both sick with the epidemic and were taken away. The neighbors didn't know which hospital and I wasn't able to figure out the right one until the world was already in chaos. I needed help to get there, to find Danielle, but everyone I knew was gone or heading for the shelters. AJ refused to help and left on his own, abandoning me after I lost everyone else in my life because I refused to abandon him first.
"I don't know how she got infected. Maybe her sister was sick first, and Danielle was able to catch it because I drove her away, pretty much to her death. Or maybe she was always sick, and her sister got the infection that was meant for me. Neither one is a very comforting thought. But the worst feeling of all is the fact that I wasn't there for Danielle at the end. She died all alone and I never got to say goodbye."
Tara bowed her head down for a moment, streams of tears beginning to cascade down her face. "I ran into Jenny not long after, and she seemed so much like Danielle it was eerie. I thought this was a chance to be there for Danielle when I should have been. And now she's dead too and there is nothing I can do about it."
"What could you have done?" Rhett asked "It could have happened to anyone."
"But it happened to her," Tara said "She was my redemption for Danielle and the universe is snatching her away and taking another shit on me."
"You're not mad because she got sick," Rhett said "You're mad because she died without you having a chance to atone. If she really loved you, I don't think she would have cared at the end."
"If I really loved her," Tara said "She wouldn't have felt the need to leave." Tara dropped her head back and closed her eyes. Rhett tried to talk to her some more before he realized she was passed out. "We're all terrible people," he said to the sleeping girl "Doesn't mean we can't redeem ourselves, even if the people we're redeeming ourselves for are gone." Rhett looked about in the darkness for the liquor cabinet and rummaged through it to find something harder to drink. Whiskey in hand, he made his way to the kitchen and found Matt sitting at the table with a bowl.
"How's Tara?" Matt asked as Rhett looked for a glass and went to sit down across the table. "Sleeping," Rhett said as he poured.
"Who's on lookout then?" Matt asked.
"We're locked in a house out in the sticks, we're fine tonight."
"Mike won't like it."
"Mike is asleep. I'll wake Steve up in a bit if you're so worried."
"I think someone should play lookout with Jenny."
"Where's she going?"
"Well when she does die..."
"Damn," Rhett said as he sipped his drink "How long you think she has?"
"She doesn't look too good," Matt said "Anything she eats, comes right back up. We have no ice or anything cold to help with the fever. I'd say maybe a couple of days. As long as she doesn't start coughing up blood, she'll last the night."
"That's pretty informed."
"Jenny taught me the signs. I think she used to be a nurse or something."
"It just seems one day is too fast to deteriorate."
"We've been scraping by on uncooked food and anything in a can. Not to mention us always being on the move. Jenny was a little bit of a thing, malnourished to begin with. I wouldn't be surprised if we all got sick by this time next week."
"The dead are carriers, and they're everywhere now. More than one way to kill us."
"We don't last long enough to get to Safe Haven unless we fly," Matt said "Like you said, the infected are everywhere which means this infection is everywhere. Even if we're perfectly healthy and 100%, we'd be guaranteed to get sick long before we get to California. We just can't last long under constant exposure."
"So what if Albany is a bust?" Rhett asked.
"I've been thinking about it. If Albany fails, we should head for Georgia. The CDC is right outside of Atlanta. If anyone has a cure, the CDC would know. They were working on one before all this happened."
"What makes you think we can make that trip?"
"It just seems like a better idea than trying to get somewhere twice as far away."
"I was thinking that if everyone's dead, maybe there's an unused helicopter we can borrow."
"Can you fly one?"
"No. Can you?"
" How hard could it be to learn?"
"You want to try and learn on the fly?" Both men laughed.
"I got it," Rhett said "Make you a deal. I fly the chopper, you figure out how to navigate to Atlanta."
"What about Mike?"
"We can let him lead his road trip to California."