Come Alive

Page 33

“And now she’s getting a little extra help to step through. Next time, you might not be so lucky.”

I rubbed at my forehead and glared at my Bloody Mary. Stupid reality was still here, loud and clear.

“Please, Dex,” she asked. And then I had to ask myself why she wanted to do this so badly and how much I actually trusted Rose.

I gave her a noncommittal smile. “Let’s go see what the others say.”


“Fuck no,” Perry said, shaking her head vehemently. It was the first time I’d seen her all day, and I hadn’t even said hello before Rose bombarded her and Maximus in the lobby as they flipped through magazines, waiting for us.

Maximus seemed on the fence. “It’s risky, even if we don’t find anything. You know how bad the neighborhoods are. The chances of us getting carjacked are extremely high.”

“And that’s why we have guns,” Rose said brightly.

I looked over my shoulder at the receptionist who was pretending not to listen to us. She was doing a bang-up job, rubbing oil into the leaves of her plastic houseplant.

“Okay, I’ll go,” Maximus said, obviously wanting to make Rose happy. But that wouldn’t do if Perry wasn’t coming.

“You guys are crazy,” Perry muttered. I was staring at her, begging her to meet my eyes, but she looked everywhere else except my direction.

“Wait a minute,” I said, stepping into the middle of the room and raising my hands. “I’m not leaving Perry here by herself.”

“I’ll be fine,” she muttered. “Why do you care anyway?”

“Really?” I asked, feeling like I was about to get sucked into something I couldn’t get out of.

Maximus picked up on it and quickly said, “Then I’ll stay with Perry. You and Rose go together.”

Rose and I eyed each other. She looked a lot happier than I knew I did.

“Uh, thank you Maximus,” I told him. Perry sighed but I could tell she was relieved. I wanted to know if I was the only one who’d seen crazy shit in the last twenty-four hours. I wanted to ask her what she was so afraid of. I wanted to talk to her, to hold her, touch her, love her. Last night was the first night I’d slept away from her in weeks and it was already killing me inside, feeling like a million years had already passed between us. I couldn’t let it be like this.

I looked to Rose. “So when should we leave?”

“Well, I’ll go back to my place and get some stuff together. I’ll pick you up around 5PM, just before darkness falls.”

“Should I bring anything?” I asked.

“Just your sanity,” she said. “And your camera, just in case.”

I watched as Rose left the lobby, and when I turned around, Perry had gotten up and was making her way across the lobby to her room.

Maximus caught me staring and grabbed my arm. “Let her be, she’ll be fine.”

“I know. But I won’t.” I ripped my arm out of his grasp and went down the hall after her. She was almost in her room, the door just closing, until I stuck my foot out and wedged it in the space between.

“Perry, please,” I said.

She glared at me from the door, trying to close it shut. “Go away.”

“I won’t. And you know I can break this door down if I have to.”

“Then I’ll yell for help.”

“Why? Who is going to help you? Help, help, my boyfriend is trying to talk to me?”

“Dex,” she warned.

“I just want to talk to you. Give me two minutes of your time. I promise. Then I’ll leave. Or you can scream.”

She thought about it, her eyes displaying a wealth of emotions that I was itching to get to the bottom of. And while she thought, while she was looking away, I took in the rest of her—her lips that she was rubbing against each other in worry, the delicate definition of her collarbone as it stood out above her square-necked tank top, the curve of her breasts, her little waist that was hidden somewhere in the breezy folds of clothing. I wanted nothing more than to kiss her hard as fuck, throw her on the bed, and devour her from head to toe. Tell her I loved her, that I’d always love her, and I wasn’t about to give up on us. I’d tell her the truth, I’d tell her everything. I’d share my burden with her and decide on our future together.

But she looked back at me and I knew it wouldn’t happen. I couldn’t say a thing.

“I’m sorry, Dex. I can’t.”

The wall was back up. She took her heart back. Maybe I never even had it to begin with.

In a daze, I removed my foot from the door and she closed it in my face. I stood there outside of it, listening, hoping I could hear more, that she’d come out and see me again and let me explain. But I too was afraid to talk, too afraid to hear the answer.

“Dex,” I heard Maximus whisper from down the hall. I turned and looked. He was waiting at the stairs, looking pretty pleasant considering the circumstances. I had to wonder if he was enjoying this, that Perry and I were as miserable now as he and Rose were. If this all came down to one-upmanship in the end, if we were doing it even now. I had to wonder what Maximus and Perry talked about in the lobby while Rose and I were gone. I bet it wasn’t anything close to the truth.

I wiggled my jaw, trying to disperse some of the anger that wanted to come out. Now wasn’t the time. If he said something to her to make her hate me even more, I’d find out about it. I couldn’t even like that damned ginger for more than a day.

I walked toward him, balling my hands into fists.

“What is it, fire pubes?”

He grimaced. “Dex, grow up.”

“Oh I can see it’s worked out real well for you.”

He muttered something to himself that sounded like “back to crazy” and then headed up the stairs. “I just want to make sure you’re taking the right equipment with you. I’ll be staying behind so I can’t help you once you’re out there.”

And now I was wondering if Maximus was staying behind because he really was worried about Perry, or because he just wanted to plant more lies in her ears about why she and I weren’t meant to be.

I missed the days when I wasn’t so paranoid. I missed a lot of things.


“Hmmm,” I grunted.

He stopped outside his room and put his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you for going with Rose. I know this is important to her.”

I grunted again. “I hope I can trust her.”

He took his hand away and frowned at me. “Rose?”

“Yeah. Considering I’m heading into one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, let alone the country, with a nutso Southern girl carrying a bunch of guns, who wants to hunt down some zombies, yeah I really hope I can trust her. Well, can I?”

He nodded grimly. “I’d trust her with my life. I’m sure she’d be no different with yours.”



“You know, I appreciate how fast we’re racing around here, but I think if you want to see some zombies, you’re going to have to drive just a tiny bit slower,” I said to Rose. “It’s not like zombies are known for being Olympic sprinters.”

We’d been driving around Treme and some other inner city ghetto that Rose had dubbed “No Man’s Land” for about an hour. Despite her guns in the crew cab, she was playing it extremely safe, which meant driving fast and running every single stop sign or red light. She said the minute we slowed down or stopped was the minute we were car-jacked, which I thought might be a slight exaggeration. That was until I think we witnessed a robbery at a 7-Eleven and a drug deal dispute that spilled out onto the road, guns blazing, and I realized that it was good that Rose was erring on the side of caution.

Still, if she really thought we were going to find any zombies, we’d need to go a bit slower.

“Fine,” she said, but didn’t let up on the gas. “I’m not getting a bad vibe here anyway.”

“You’re not? Because the minute I see people waving guns in public, I know the vibe ain’t good.”

She glared at me, her eyes flashing orange and grey in the passing streetlights, her hair taking on the color of a creamsicle. “Supernatural vibe. Don’t you ever pick up on that?”

“I did earlier in the week,” I admitted. “Guess I just haven’t been paying attention lately.”

“Well, I reckon whatever we’re looking for we would have picked up on already. Let’s just head back to the Quarter.”

I exhaled in relief. That sounded like a plan. Each minute we were away, I felt like Perry was being taken further and further from me. It had taken so much to get her to open up as much as she did, to let herself be vulnerable with me, and now I was afraid that door was closing and I’d never get that chance again. Yes, it was all of my doing but I couldn’t help but go over what Rose had said earlier, that it wasn’t over unless I let it be.

“Thinking about Perry?” Rose asked after a few minutes.

I stared at the window, at the darkness that did all but swallow the abandoned vehicles, the splintering houses, the people who watched the street with angry eyes waiting for an excuse to let the world know how pissed off they were at the shit hands they were dealt.

“I’m always thinking about her,” I said.

“Dex,” she began, maybe another reminder that love was worth fighting for, maybe another condolence. But it sounded like her words were getting strangled in her throat. I turned to look at her, concerned. She was staring straight ahead of her, eyes wide, mouth open in surprise.

In our hurry to get back to the Quarter, she had pulled the truck down a long, dark street where low cars weren’t loitering and people weren’t yelling. I guess hoping to bypass the worst area and cut through to one of the main drags.

But this street wasn’t as harmless or as abandoned as it looked. At the very end of it, near the lights and bustling traffic of the main thoroughfares, there was a mob of people standing in the middle of the road. There looked to be about twenty or thirty of them, but they were too far away to make out any individual features. At the moment they just seemed to be standing there, swaying back and forth on their feet. A group of people waiting for something.

“Neighborhood watch meeting?” I asked, though I was getting this particularly unsettling feeling, like my scalp was prickling.

“I don’t think so, sugar,” Rose said uneasily and slowed the truck down. “I reckon we better turn around.”

“Good idea,” I said. She checked in the rear view mirror to make sure no one was behind us, and was about to turn the wheel when suddenly the truck sputtered and rolled to a stop, halfway across the shoddily-painted dividing lane.

“The hell?” she cried out, slamming down on the gas. The pedal flopped under her weight. The truck had completely died, lights dimming down to nothing. She frantically tried the ignition, but the key wouldn’t even turn. “Shit, sorry, but shit, shit, shit!”

My heart had finagled its way out of my chest and up to my throat. I kept my eyes on the mob in front of us, watching them as closely as I could. At the moment they were too far away to be a threat, whoever they were and whatever they were doing. But if the truck didn’t start soon, we were going to get noticed. And if we got noticed by this mob in one of the New Orleans’ ghettos, I had a feeling things were going to get real ugly.

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