Weeks passed and nothing happened.
We were recovering from the disaster that had claimed a dozen or so lives; the one where the camp had nearly gotten overrun and Cancer had broken his ankle. Crutches were a necessity for him and he could only walk a little way. Mostly he just stayed inside with Eloise playing nurse to him. I hadn't felt the need to go in and check on him, not anymore. I had other priorities anyway.
We held a memorial for the ones that had been killed, burning the bodies. Some had been crushed under the rubble, others had been killed by the zombies that had managed to penetrate our enclosure. It felt proper, and human, to pay respects to the dead. We hadn't managed to do much of that since this whole thing had started. I sent a prayer up to my mum and dad, hoping they weren't disappointed with how I had turned out.
'What are you thinking about?' Robby asked, twining her fingers in mine.
'Death,' I answered truthfully. 'It's pretty much all I think about now.'
She reached a hand up and stroked the side of my face. 'You shouldn't. You should live in the present.' She shifted forwards, towards me. 'Do the thing you're most afraid of, live your life.'
Suddenly, her lips were on mine. I was frozen in surprise and shock for several seconds before it became natural that I was to kiss her back. Feeling clumsy and ineffective, I brushed a hand through her hair, my other hand trailing down her back, bringing her closer to me. I didn't know how much time passed, in that moment I honestly couldn't care less. Eventually, she pulled away a little and I couldn't help the smile that crept its way onto my face before it was replaced with a crippling sense of insecurity.
She kissed me again once more, lightly this time. 'Be quiet Joe.'
The next day brought sunshine and a change in my attitude. My chest felt lighter, I didn't feel as tired. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but it seemed like things were turning a corner. I know how naive that sounds, but I had lost virtually everyone I had ever cared about in my life and it seemed like the universe was throwing me a bone. "Here Joe, we know you've suffered, so here's your chance at happiness. Don't fuck it up, or we'll take it away just as easily as we took away your mum and dad."
I wasn't going to fuck it up.
When I went outside, it appeared to just be me that felt light. People were still mourning the dead that had perished weeks before. It was an entirely different atmosphere.
I started to head over to Robby's flat when I heard my name being called.
Adam was by the cafeteria. 'Joe? Can I have a word with you?'
'Now please.' His tone was authoritative.
We walked into the cafeteria and he headed for the hot water and coffee. There were a few luxuries that we had managed to hold onto and coffee beans was one of them.
'Joe I've been meaning to talk to you for sometime.'
I instantly grew uneasy. For some reason Cancer appeared in my mind. Had he done something? Was Adam going to throw us out?
He led me to a table away from the crowd and sat facing me. He looked very tired; dark circles lined his eyes and his eyebrows seemed permanently etched together.
'The disaster that struck us a few weeks ago is still fresh in everybody's mind, you know?'
'Yes, of course.'
'A true tragedy. I saw the way you reacted though; how you were quick to help and your impeccable use of a firearm.'
'What do you mean?'
'You were cautious and calm Joe. I could always use men like you on the firing squad.'
I was stunned into silence.
'You've been here a while haven't you? In all that time you haven't given me any cause for concern, you're a decent and respected citizen of Riverton, Joe and I want you to join the ranks of my soldiers.'
'S-Soldiers?' I spluttered. What the fuck was he talking about? 'You've got the wrong end of the stick Adam, I don't fight. I avoid violence where I can! I'm only sixteen years old!'
He held up a hand cutting me off. 'Don't act so surprised. Think it over and let me know?'
With that, he swiftly got up and left.