I pulled my legs up and wrapped my arms around them, putting my head onto my knees. The steady rhythm of the rain was like a fast pattering drumbeat in the background.

And then there was another drumming - a louder resounding thumping. I opened my eyes and realised I must have fallen asleep because it was pitch black outside the window, and very dark in the room. Evelyn had turned on the corner lamp which illuminated the room dimly with yellow light. She was sat up, stiff and scared, staring.

“It’s okay,. Evelyn,” I whispered, soothing her. It was like she was a frightened toddler.

“Who is it?” she whispered, clutching a tissue to her mouth and coughing into it quietly. To my hidden horror it came away flecked with red.

“I’m going to go and see,” I said, crossing to the window and shutting the curtains. I didn’t like having them open - the light being on with them open meant that people outside could see everything while we couldn’t see them.

I went into the hall cautiously. It was very dark and the rain seemed louder here. The thumping started again, three knocks. I knew that Summer always knocked like that, but what would she be doing here at this time, in this weather, with her family ill, and no doubt herself…

In a moment of relief which drowned out any cautious warnings my brain had to give, I pulled the chain off and opened the door quickly.

It was Summer. But she wasn’t alone.

Behind her, a menacingly large figure lurked. Once he had seen who was stood in the doorway, the man shoved Summer aside and tried to push past me.

“Get outta the way, kid, ya hear me?” he snarled. As his breath wafted into my face, I was stunned by the powerful stench of alcohol and smoke coming off him. I was too shocked to do anything, so I couldn’t move. The door was only half open, and I was filling half of the space. He couldn’t get in.

“I said, move, kid!” He yelled angrily, grabbing my shoulder with thick fingers. His knuckles were like bolts. “I got a knife, bitch, now move or it’s going through your ribs, get it? Let me past and I’ll take your valuables and go. Nobody don’t have to get hurt.”

He lifted the shining silver blade with a growl when I didn’t comply. Then suddenly he yelled in pain as something smashed into the back of his skull with enough force to knock him forwards into the door. As he crumpled, dropping the knife, I saw Summer, shock clear on her face as she held the long plank of wood raised above her head. It had been propped against the fence, ready for my dad to shore up the gap where the wood had rotted through with damp.

“Oh my God,” I said, breaking the silence. I kicked the blade away from his curled fingers. “Thanks, Summer, I don’t know what - “

“I’m sorry,” she gasped, struggling with sobs. “He must have followed me here, I saw some other people raiding houses and a shop on my way here - “

“It’s not your fault, Summer, you saved us,” I babbled, cutting off her hysterical apology. “Where’s Caitlin? I’m glad you’re here, but why did you come?”

She steadied herself, brushing rain from her face. I realised she was as soaking as I had been before.

“Why didn’t you bring an umbrella!” I cried. “Come on, get inside - wait. Help me - “

She understood before I told her; together we grabbed the thief’s arms and dragged him across the muddy front garden, dumping him unceremoniously in the road. I threw his knife down the drainage grid at the end of the drive.

When we were inside at last, I locked the door firmly, putting on the old fashioned chain and bolt for extra security. I led Summer into the living room and sat her down, reassuring Evelyn - Summer looked at her with wide eyes, obviously seeing that she had the virus - and did the same with the back door. I closed all the curtains on the ground floor.

“Come on Summer, before you freeze,” I muttered. She followed me upstairs, shivering and looking as if she might cry at any moment. I handed her a thick fluffy towel and some of my clean clothes for her to change into.

When she came downstairs, dry and warmer, Evelyn was asleep again and I had vacated half of the sofa and left a blanket for her to wrap herself up in. It was comforting to be able to wrap up and curl into a corner.

“Tell me what’s happened, Summer,” I said quietly, watching her tired, worried face. She gulped back a sob and brushed back her damp fringe with a trembling hand.

“I went home. I - I waited for hours… but nobody was there… and nobody came home. I tried to ring everyone, after a few hours, because I was really worried, but…”

“All the lines are busy,” I nodded. “I tried to ring everyone too. Evelyn was here when I got home, and I’ve been trying to look after her, but nobody else has come back yet…”

Summer turned her head almost involuntarily to look at my sister then swivelled it back instantaneously, as though the virus could be caught just by looking at a host.

“Yeah, I know. And nobody came, not my sisters or my mum or dad. I think my sisters are probably with their boyfriends, but their numbers were busy too. I waited for even longer… but I figured that if they were going to come home they would have been there by now. I couldn’t stand being there alone.”

I understood. If Evelyn hadn’t been here, I don’t think I would have been able to stay cooped up by myself.

“I went to Caitlin’s house first because she lives closer to me. Her house was all dark, and there was no answer from her mobile even though I heard it ringing inside - the mobiles worked for a while. I tried again on my way here, but it wouldn’t work.”

Summer took a deep shuddering breath and continued, staring at the wall.

“I knocked and knocked, but the noise was really loud and I had seen one person already breaking in - I didn’t want to hang around in the dark by myself… so I came here. I saw a light in your window from the end of the street so I started running - I didn’t think that anyone would hear me or follow me…”

She gave a frightened glance at the curtained window to where the drunk would still be unconscious in the road. I hoped he didn’t wake up any time soon. I tore my eyes away from the wall.

The End

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