Chapter Fifteen

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Chapters, Love in the ZA
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Day Eleven

     Staring into her sister’s fridge, Maddie concluded that they’d chosen the worst place possible to ride out the supposed apocalypse.

     “These eggs expired four months ago!” Clutching the carton in her hand, she peered into the still-dark bedroom. “What the hell do you eat, Jess?”

     “Take-out,” Jessie groaned. Moving slowly, she rolled over in the bed and glared at Maddie. “Can we not talk about food right now? I’m gonna hurl.”

     “Well, I’m hungry,” Maddie said, “And the only thing you have in your kitchen is old food and vodka. I can’t even find the danish you were talking about.”

     With another moan, Jessie darted out of the bed and into the bathroom.

     You’d think she’d have better tolerance, Maddie thought, eyeing the closed door with distaste before turning back to the kitchen. “Looks like we’re not having breakfast,” she told Vinnie.


     “Whoa.” Maddie held up her hands. “Don’t shoot the messenger.” She paused awkwardly. “Uh…never mind.”

     “What?” Vinnie looked up from his phone, confusion on his face. “What did you say?”

     “Nothing.” Maddie gestured toward the phone. “What’s wrong?”

     “I still can’t get through.” Scowling, he threw the phone across the room, where it bounced onto the sofa. “Every time I try, I get the same damn busy signal.”

     “Same thing with mine,” Maddie said. “I tried calling my mom, but it doesn’t go through.”

     “Did you try texting?”

     Maddie nodded. “Doesn’t work either.” Every text she’d sent had bounced back, undelivered. “Is it…do you think they cut the cell towers? For the quarantine? Do they do that?”

     “No, I don’t think so.” Vinnie paced. “Could be the lines are overloaded.”

     “Oh.” Maddie chewed her lip, thinking. “Think we could find a landline?”

     “I don’t know. Dammit!” Vinnie turned and slapped his hand against the wall.


     “Give me a minute.” Pushing past her, he yanked open the balcony door and stomped outside, lighting one of Jessie’s cigarettes.

     Maddie watched him brood through the glass, wary and uncertain. She was unfamiliar with men who were this obvious about their anger and frustration; taking his cues from his mother, Jack had been a silent grudge-nurser. She’d known how to handle her former fiancé; with Vinnie, she was adrift. She considered going outside with him, cajoling him in to talking through their options, but she really didn’t relish the prospect of being yelled at.

     “What’s wrong with him?”

     Maddie glanced at her sister, surprised to see her upright. “We can’t make any cell calls,” she explained. “How are you feeling?”

     Jessie grimaced. “Like shit.” She looked outside and gasped. “Is he smoking one of my cigarettes?”

     “I’m sure he’ll buy you more,” Maddie said, rolling her eyes. “You shouldn’t have them anyway. Mom said you quit.”

     “Yeah, well. What Mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

     Maddie opened her mouth to argue further, then decided against it. Not worth the energy. Instead she asked, “Do any of your neighbors have a phone?”

     “How should I know? I don’t know my neighbors.” Jessie made her careful way to the sofa. “Who does he need to call?”

     “I have no idea. Maybe the cops? To report the car?”

     “He didn’t do that last night?”

     Maddie shook her head. “I don’t think so. Not when I suggested it, anyway. He could have after I went to bed, I guess.”

     “Speaking of that, did you know that you snore? You kept waking me up.”

     “I do not!” Maddie glared at her sister. “You’re no treat to sleep with either. You drool. It’s disgusting.”

     “Whatever.” Closing her eyes, Jessie leaned back, gingerly easing her head onto the cushion behind her. “Can you get me some Advil or something? My head is killing me.”

     “Big surprise,” Maddie grumbled. Rifling through the cabinet, she found the bottle she wanted, and a jelly glass that looked relatively clean. She handed her sister the pills and some water before sitting down beside her.

     “What are we going to do?” Jessie gulped down the pills with a grimace. “How are we going to get to Mom’s?”

     “I don’t know,” Maddie said. “Even if Caleb hadn’t taken the car, we wouldn’t be able to get past the barricades.” She glanced out the balcony door. “That’s what has him pissed off. He thinks…well, he doesn’t think it’s safe here, and now he doesn’t know what to do.”

     “Who is Caleb? One of his friends?”

     Maddie hesitated, not sure how much she should say. If she told Jessie about the attack, she knew she’d have to deal with her sister’s histrionics, and she didn’t feel up for that right now. On the other hand, when it came out later, Jessie’s reaction might be ten times worse for being kept in the dark. I don’t have to tell her everything. Just enough.

     “No, not his friend,” she said. “He was the photographer’s assistant. You know, from the wedding?”

     “No, I forgot all about the guy who died at your wedding,” Jessie said, rolling her eyes.

     “Shut up. Anyway, he came to my apartment yesterday, to return the deposit, because, well, you know. While he was there one of my neighbors went a little….crazy. Vinnie showed up, and he…defused the situation. The kid – Caleb – he didn’t have anywhere else to go, and he was upset about the neighbor thing, so we decided to bring him with us. Out of the city.”

     “Oh. So you didn’t even know him and you left him with the car?”

     Maddie sighed. “The kid was scared. He seemed harmless.”

     “They always do,” Jessie said.

     “I’m sure you would know.” Maddie dropped her head into her hands. “But like I said, it doesn’t matter. Even if we had the car, where could we go?”

     “My place.”

     She jerked her head up, surprised to see that Vinnie had come in. “What’s at your place?” she asked.

     “Well, food, for one thing.” He swept Jessie with a look full of contempt. “If we’re going to be stuck here – and I’m not sure that we are, yet – we should be somewhere that has supplies.”

     “I don’t get many visitors,” Jessie defended.

     Her words sent a pang through Maddie’s chest. Looking around, she tried to remember the last time she’d been to the apartment and was embarrassed to realize that she couldn’t. They lived on opposite sides of the city, in very different neighborhoods; Jack hadn’t even taken the train past the 30th block station, insisting it wasn’t safe, nor did he want Maddie parking her expensive car anywhere in the downtown area. She could have argued, and probably should have, but it had been easier to accept his rules and stay uptown; he’d provided her with an easy excuse for not visiting and seeing how her baby sister lived.

     Shaking off the guilt, she sat up straighter. “Okay. So we need to get to your apartment. How do we do that?”

     Vinnie frowned. “I need a phone. I have a friend who can pick us up, I hope.”

     “We could call a taxi,” Jessie suggested.

     “With what phone?” Vinnie asked.

     “Oh. Right.” Jessie blushed.

     “What about Roy?” Maddie asked. “He must have a phone at the bar, right?”

     “We’re not going back to Roy’s,” Vinnie said. “Not after the way we left.”

     “What about the bodega down the street? Maybe they have a payphone or something.”

     Vinnie thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah. Okay. Are there any other places like that nearby?”

     “There’s a place that sells cigars and stuff down the block,” Jessie said. “And a pharmacy, but that’s a couple blocks down.”

     “We can walk a couple blocks,” Vinnie said. “If we do that, we can pick up supplies at the pharmacy while we wait.” He clapped his hands together. “Great. Go pack a bag.”

     “Wait, me?” Jessie looked at each of them, incredulous. “I barely made it out here to the couch. You expect me to walk six blocks?”

     “We can’t leave you here,” Vinnie said impatiently. “I guess Maddie could stay with you, and I can run down-”

     “No.” Maddie jumped up. “You shouldn’t go out there alone.”

     He raised an eyebrow, surprised. “You think I’ll be safer with you?”

     Glancing at her sister, she grabbed his arm and pulled him away, into the kitchen. “Listen,” she said, keeping her voice low. “I still think you’re full of shit on this. But if you’re going to the pharmacy, you shouldn’t go by yourself. Sick people go there.”

     Vinnie smirked. “I think I can handle it.”

     “I’m sure you can,” Maddie agreed. “But if you can’t, then what? We sit here and wait for a guy who isn’t coming back?”

     “She’s right, though – she can’t walk the six damn blocks. She’ll puke on her shoes before we make it down the stairs.”

     “Then we leave her here. She can pack her shit, throw together whatever will be useful, and wait for us.”

     “That’s not really any different than you two waiting together,” he pointed out.

     “I know.” Maddie huffed, frustrated. “It’s just….I can’t just sit here. I barely slept last night. I need to do something. She’s used to sitting around and waiting for people to do things for her.”

     “And you’re not?”

     Maddie held his gaze. “I am. But I don’t want to. Let me help you.”

     He stared at her hard, taking her measure, and finally nodded. “Okay.” He turned back to Jessie, who was eyeing them both with suspicion. “Pack a bag. Clothes, shoes – sneakers, not that shit you were wearing last night – whatever you need. Any first aid stuff you have, pack that too. We’ll be back.”

     “How long?” Jessie asked.

     “However long it takes,” Vinnie said.

     “You have time to shower,” Maddie told her. “Which you should probably do. You smell like a bar floor.”

     “Thanks a lot!” Jessie looked at each of them, the annoyance on her face turning to concern. “You two will be okay, right? You seem…”

     Maddie forced a smile. “We’ll be fine. Pack up. We’ll be back before you know it.”

     Before she could say more, Vinnie grabbed her hand, and they were out the door.

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