“Should we tell him we’re here? He seems like a good person to have around. Good with a gun,” I asked.
“April already tried. He’s going to find his brother and niece when he’s done.”
I looked at Connor. “I’m sorry about your parents and your teacher. That sucks—a lot.”
“Yep,” he said before walking away.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WE’RE NOT GOING?” I said, balling my hands into fists.
Dad and Tavia had pulled me into one of the bedrooms minutes after I’d woken up. A candle was the only light. The sun hadn’t risen far enough from the horizon to light the cracks around the boarded windows. By their body language, I could tell this was a secret meeting, one that they were keeping from the younger kids.
Dad held up his hands, palms out. “Yet. I said, we’re not going yet.”
“Then, when?” I asked.
Tavia gestured for Dad to let her take over. “I understand that you want to get to your mom as soon as possible. I want you to, too. But we’ve had a long couple of days. We need to rest, eat, and make a plan. Then, we can decide from there.”
“Decide what?” I asked.
Tavia reached out for me, but I pulled away.
“If we’re going to try to walk the rest of the way.”
“If?” I said, my voice getting louder. “Try?”
“Jenna,” Dad said, “don’t upset the kids.”
“How many times do I have to say it?” I asked. “Mom is waiting on us. Every day we don’t show up there, the more she worries. What if she’s hurt? What if she needs our help? What if she’s alone? She’s only a few miles away!” I pointed at Dad. “You didn’t let me catch her last time. I’m not letting you wait until she leaves again.”
“What if she heads back this way?” Dad asked. “We would see her. We could bring her here.”
My face fell, and I blinked, unimpressed with his ridiculous attempt to appease me with false scenarios. “You’re scared. You’re too scared to keep going.”
“Honey,” Dad began.
“You had to walk one day, and you’re scared? You killed a dozen infected and walked away without a scratch. We hit a parked truck at fifty miles an hour and barely noticed. Why are you suddenly opposed to Red Hill?” I was trying to remain calm, but with every point, my tone got higher.
Tavia clasped her hands together. “We’re all scared—”
“Then, stay!” I said, my voice transitioning to a weird chuckle even though I found none of what they were saying funny. “You don’t have to come with us. But our mom is waiting for us at Red Hill, and that is where Halle and I are going.”
“Not today,” Dad said.
“Then, when?” I asked again, emphasizing each word.
“When I say,” he said, sounding final.
I laughed once without humor. “I’m not asking to go to the mall. We’re talking about Mom being alone without us! She’s waiting for us! Do you honestly think I care that you’re”—I used my fingers to make quotation marks in the air—“the dad right now?”
He stomped over to me and leaned into my face, taking me back to a time when my parents had still been married. “You’d better start caring. Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean I won’t whip your ass!”
Tavia pulled him back, and he flipped around, picking up a pillow and throwing it against the wall.
She eyed Dad warily. She was now seeing the side of him that Halle and I were used to, a side that I had been waiting for since this began.
“Andrew, maybe you should take a walk and see if you can do anything more to secure the house.”
Dad turned to her, his face severe. The skin between his brows had formed a crevice, as deep and as dark as his anger in that moment. His hazel-green eyes burned bright against his olive skin. Just when I thought he would start yelling again, he left the room.
Tavia took a deep breath and held her hand to her heart. “That was—”
“Typical,” I grumbled.
“You fight like that with him a lot?”
“We used to but not lately.”
“He gets pretty mad, huh?” she asked, glancing at the closed door.
“He has a temper. He’s working on it—allegedly.”
“Is that why you want to get to your mom so bad?”
My eyebrows pulled in. “What would you do if you were separated from Tobin?”
“She’s my mom. If I scrape my knee, I call for her. If I’m sick, I ask for her. If I’m scared, I cry for her. If there’s an apocalypse, I’m going to the ends of the earth for her.” My eyes and nose burned. The sudden emotion surprised me. I wiped my cheek and sniffed, staring at the floor. “It’s forty miles. We can make it.”
“We…we don’t know if Tobin can make forty miles. Who knows how long that would take on foot?”
“It doesn’t matter if we waste time here. What were you two talking about? How to convince me to stay? For a few days? For a week? Forever?”
“No.” She shook her head. “We’re just worried about the little ones being able to make it that far. We need a car—or at the very least, a way to carry the supplies. I can’t hold Tobin all day long. I can’t run with him. It’s too dangerous to try.”
“I like you, Tavia. I’m not trying to be mean, but no one’s asking you to come with us. If you want to stay here, stay here.”
She was taken aback. “I know, but we can’t do this alone. We need one another.”
“Brad will leave eventually for Shallot. You need my dad to stay.”
“It’s not so different. You need him to leave.”
“But he’s my dad. I’m not going to give up on seeing my mom again because you can’t travel with Tobin.”
Tavia’s sweet smile fell away. She wasn’t being confrontational, but she did have the look of a mother bear protecting her cub. “Halle can’t make the trip either. You would be risking her life if you go, especially if you try something as ridiculous as leaving without your dad. We’re the adults, Jenna. He’ll listen to me.”
I took a deep breath and lowered my chin. Tavia was pretty intimidating. I thought about what Mom would say when I told her about this conversation later. She would want me to fight. She would want me to do anything I could to get Halle and me to Red Hill.