Her side still ached. It had been nearly a month since the bullet grazed her hip and she still had a limp, though she refused to walk with the cane Emmett had fashioned for her—much to his disapproval.
“We’re walking nearly twenty miles a day, Dre,” he’d said, once, offering his hand to help her over a fallen oak tree. Adrienne had brushed him off and hoisted herself over it, ignoring the twinge in her pelvis.
“I can handle it,” Adrienne had replied, hobbling ahead of him, still quick despite her handicap and despite their less-than-ideal circumstances. The world around them was in ruins; her body was the least of their worries. Except for the fact that she hadn’t had a proper shower in weeks and was sure that the lack of deodorant was starting to have its toll on the both of them. Emmett had been using his supply of spearmint leaves in an attempt to make his own stench more bearable, but now he just smelled like rotted toothpaste.
He stopped trying to argue with her, but he kept the cane strapped to his back, just in case.
“How much further?” Adrienne asked, glancing up at him. Emmett was like a brick wall now; so much larger than the tiny, frail little boy that she remembered from their childhood. She used to be nearly a foot taller than him, but his growth spurt had caught everybody by surprise. He’d attempted to keep himself ‘in balance’ by spending more time at the gym with his father. His father, who would have certainly lived into his hundreds if he hadn’t…
“A couple more miles,” Emmett said, looking down at his cell phone. It was a wonder that it still worked, after all it had been through. After all they had been through. “There’s a building about two miles away. Maybe we can set up camp inside for once.”
“Maybe it has food,” Adrienne added, patting her stomach and wince when the heel of her hand brushed her still healing scar. Emmett carried rations in his pack, but they were tiny and meant to last an indeterminate length of time. They had no idea when they would come across another market, or even if it would have anything worth salvaging. Still, Adrienne couldn’t help but be annoyed by the fact that Emmett wouldn’t allow her to have just one bite more of her rations.
“Let’s hope,” he said, adjusting his backpack. “You sure you don’t want a lift?”
“For the last time, no,” Adrienne huffed. “I’m not an invalid, Emmett.”
“But you are injured,” he pointed out. “And tiny. I could easily carry you and give you a chance to rest.”
“I’ll rest when we get to wherever it is we’re going,” she rebuffed. “It’ll only be another twenty minutes. Fifteen if you pick up the pace.”
“Me?” Emmett chuckled. “You’re the one walking like a dying snail.”
“I am not!” Adrienne huffed hitting him on the arm.
“You’re right,” Emmett said, softly, then grinned. “You walk like a dead snail!”
“Oh, fuck off!” Adrienne growled, but couldn’t help the smile on her lips.
They walked in silence for a long time after, just enjoying each other’s company as they had for the last…what was it now? Adrienne couldn’t even really remember when everything went to shit.
The last thing she remembered before…before was her husband tugging her out of bed, her son placing a stack of freshly made pancakes in front of her, and a messily made banner that said “Happy Mother’s Day!!!” She can’t even remember if she finished the pancakes, but damn did she want them now.
“We’re almost there,” Emmett huffed, squinting up at the sky. The sun was now hidden by thick gray clouds, threatening rain in the late afternoon. “Looks like we’re right on time, too.” He picked up his pace and Adrienne met it, ignoring the throb in her side, as well as the sharp splinter of pain that shot up her spine. She could do this. She could keep pace.
Within no time, they approached a tiny cottage in the middle of a clearing. Vines grew out of windows and cracks in the foundation, leading them to believe that the house was abandoned, but as they grew closer, a voice rang out like a shot.
Adrienne heard the unmistakable cock of a gun and immediately reached for hers, but Emmett’s hand reached it first, blocking her.
“My name is Emmett,” he said, taking a step forward, his eyes scanning over the house, looking for the source of the voice. “This is Adrienne. We’re not here to harm you; just looking for a place to set up camp for the night. We’ll be out of here by sunrise.”
“You’ll get off my property now,” the voice—a watery warble—warned. “You have til the count of three.”
“Look, lady,” Adrienne said, “we just need a place to sleep. I’ve already been shot in the side and I—”
An actual shot rang out and Adrienne dropped to the floor, covering her head with her hands, her eyes shut tightly, her heart beating out a heavy pattern against her ribcage. Her ears were ringing, her breathing stuttering out harshly. She felt a hand against her back and she jumped, turning her head to see Emmett kneeling down next to her.
“It was just a warning shot,” he whispered, rubbing her back. “You’re okay. We’re okay.”
She nodded and allowed him to help her to her feet, before turning to the porch, where she could now see an elderly woman wielding a shotgun. “What the hell?” she growled. “You can’t just let us pitch a tent in your backyard? We’ve been walking for twelve hours, lady. We just need sleep!”
“Then you pitch it right there and you come no further,” she replied, pointing her gun right at Adrienne’s chest. “One single step and I’ll blow your heads clean off. Understood?”
Adrienne and Emmett shared a look, then nodded to the lady. “Understood,” they said in unison. The woman nodded and then retreated back into the house, just as the sky opened up above their heads.