Quote: “I have loved to the point of madness. That which is called madness, that which to me, is the only sensible way to love.”
~ Francoise Sagan
Song Playing: Love At First Sight by Kylie Minogue (yes, I played this song on purpose, I couldn’t resist)
Just kidding, today’s post isn’t a continuation of my How to Write a Novel Series, but instead, it’s my blogfest post! Hooray!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Even if you don’t have a Valentine, it doesn’t mean you can’t buy yourself some chocolate and watch a cheesy romantic movie. Might I suggest Hitch? The Mirror Has Two Faces is another favorite of mine, and so is Bed of Roses.
So! Here is my Love at First Sight scene. It’s a scene I wrote on the fly for the purposes of this post, but I already had the book idea and characters, and even the first 30 pages or so of the book written. It’s my zombie apocalypse book. Please be aware that I will write the rest of this book someday (soon), and so this scene might not be canon. But it was great fun to write. I love my characters!
We are all in the process of dying. If I concentrate hard enough, I think I can feel the death of my skin cells, flaking off one by one.
I can sense the zombies circling around us like slow vultures, always on the back of my subconscious. It helps me survive the zombie apocalypse, but robs me of sleep and peace of mind. Still learning to cope with this, I woke up in a foul mood, which for once had nothing to do with zombies.
It was Valentine’s Day, and no one knew it.
I rubbed my eyes, sitting up and checking on everyone else. They were still asleep. Even the early morning sun looked sleepy, barely peeking out over the rust red hills of Arizona. We decided after one too many zombie break ins to sleep in the same room, so mattresses covered the floor of large master bedroom in the ranch style house we currently called home. It looked like a slumber party gone horribly awry: my best friend Sasha lay with her back to me, whimpering in her sleep, my twin brother Matt lay splayed out on his stomach, his mouth open, and one sock dangling off his foot, Austin, the gun expert, lay with his cowboy hat on his face, Mandy, the gorgeous blonde from Kentucky had an arm over her face, Robert, Matt’s almost sidekick looked worried even in his sleep, and lastly, Rowan, my crush, lay on his back, one hand under his pillow, his hair out of it’s ponytail, and falling around him in thick, black disarray.
I sighed and grabbed my back pack. I picked my way around the sleeping bodies, and into the adjoining master bathroom. Valentine’s Day was always a dreadful holiday for me, being a plain Jane and all, but this year would be particularly awful. I knew for a fact I wouldn’t be getting chocolates or flowers, not even from my brother or father or stepfather. Zombies overrunning the entire planet had seen to that. It might sound like a petty concern, what with running for my life to worry about, and keeping my family and friends safe, but I couldn’t deny how depressed it made me feel to know for a fact that NO ONE would be asking me to be their Valentine today. I like to look on the bright side of things, and normally can find the silver lining in even the darkest of storm clouds, but not today. Each Valentine’s Day I nursed the tiny hope, the fantasy, that someone would sweep me off my feet and woo me with candy, and chocolates, and mint condition Firefly posters, but I would count myself lucky if I made it through today without getting attacked by a reanimated corpse. Chocolate, or jewelry, or Firefly memorabilia seemed as likely as growing a third arm.
I looked out of the bathroom window, making sure we were safe.
The Arizona desert looked back at me; I could see the town of Sedona down the hill, the houses painted all sorts of bright colors—seashell pink, robin’s egg blue, reddish brown—and a zombie or two shambling around the streets, like late February tourists. None of them were too close to us, so we were okay, for now. But we were low on supplies, and would need to restock soon.
I turned the shower on.
A small victory: the water still worked.
Normally I cheered when I woke up to running water, lukewarm though it may be, but not today. My normal morning routine of getting up, stumbling around, looking at the internet, eating, and showering had forever been interrupted, and I still didn’t feel as awake as a result. I squeezed out an extra large dollop of my Twisted Peppermint shampoo, and scrubbed my hair. I love my Twisted Peppermint Shampoo. It was a three in one, and doubled as a body wash. I also had the matching lotion.
“What, are you five?” Matt had asked, when I bought my yearly supply from Bath and Body Works a few months ago. The store only carried it around Christmas for some reason, even though it was the greatest scented lotion ever.
I had very maturely stuck my tongue out at him in response.
Matt hated the smell and taste of mint, a fact that made me question whether we were truly related, much less twins, despite our mother’s assurances that she was present when both of us came out of her.
But you never know, my mother could be in on the conspiracy.
Despite my efforts to think of happy thoughts, like the fantasy that FOX would start airing Firefly again, or just get back on the air period, my thoughts returned to zombies inexplicably attacking, starting a couple of months ago while Matt, Sasha, and I were at an anime convention. It’s ironic, when you think about it. You would think the zombies would be appreciative of nerds like us, keeping them alive as cult classics, and go attack banks or something, but noo. They attacked us.
Actually, from what the news managed to report before going off the air, they were attacking everywhere.
I stepped out of the shower, smelling like a candy cane and feeling like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Okay, maybe not a butterfly. Maybe a moth then. But never underestimate how good a shower and fresh change of clothes can feel after a zombie onslaught. Matt and the others were up and about, milling around the house, making breakfast.
Just another day during the zombie apocalypse.
I sighed, and followed Sasha into the kitchen. Mandy, her sleek blonde ponytail bobbing as she grinned, asked, “So the shower’s still working?”
“Yep,” I said, wandering over to the kitchen. “Knock yourself out. Well, not literally.” More granola for breakfast. Goody.
“Yeah, then I’ll have to do my nurse thing, and it’s too early.” Sasha said, helping herself to a cup of coffee from the French press.
Matt and Austin were arguing, something about going into town.
“We need supplies, there should be somethin’ other than just healing crystals down there,” Austin said, his Texan accent thick as he gestured with an oat and honey granola bar wrapped in green foil.
I wandered over to the coffee as Daisy, my chocolate brown lab, bounded over to me, butting her head under my hand, and throwing her hundred pounds of doggy weight against me. I almost spilled coffee everywhere, but her undying love and affection was worth it. Maybe Daisy would be my Valentine. Maybe Sasha would remember what day it was too, and we could have a Girl’s Night Out. Or a Girl’s Night Holed Up a Few Doors Down from the Boys. “Yes, there you are, there’s my good girl,” I petted her, while Daisy licked my hands, wiggling her entire body. She’s adorable when she gets herself worked up. It’s like she can’t just wag her tail, but instead her entire brown body wiggles. Matt calls her Wiggles as a nickname. Actually, so does most of my family.
Matt rolled his eyes, and raked his hand through his hair, “Yes, Austin, but I can still see a few zombies down there. We should wait, and then take Lilah when—“
“What, until they have themselves a little barbeque and invite us to join ‘em?” Austin said.
Robert came out of the walk-in pantry with more granola and some oatmeal, his sensible brown hair slightly mussed from sleep. He looked at me, “You want some oatmeal, Lilah?”
I looked at Robert and sighed. I didn’t want oatmeal, or him. But I was probably stuck with both. “No thanks. Not hungry yet.”
Rowan walked into the kitchen, and my heart did a tap dance as he passed me. I tried not to look at him, but couldn’t help but notice how his forest green t-shirt brought out his brown eyes. Rowan was a hunk, and his Asian features were more pronounced now that his hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Rowan nodded at us, and started rummaging through our food stock. Rowan was the quiet sort, something I still had to get used to, with the way Matt and I run our mouths whenever we get a little upset or nervous, or conscious.
“What do you think, Tall, Dark, and Ninja?” Matt asked Rowan, and gestured with his hands towards Austin. That was another family trait; we were both very expressive with our hands and facial expressions.
Rowan shrugged, “It could be better to wait, but we need some supplies.”
Matt rolled his eyes, “Thanks, that really helps.”
Rowan was unperturbed by Matt’s sarcasm, used to it by now, and went about making a list of supplies we needed.
Robert started to make some oatmeal, and chimed up with his two cents, “We could go now, before more zombies show up, and then—“
I tuned them out, fiddling with my granola. Sasha cocked her head at me. She wanted to know what was wrong. I pretended I didn’t know what that look meant. Mandy joined us, looking fresh from her shower, completing our little zombie survival team. Austin, Robert, and Mandy were traveling together when Matt, Sasha, Rowan, and I met them. We were still getting used to each other.
I knew my romantic fate was sealed when I met Robert. He was a nice guy; not a hunk, but genuinely a decent, nice guy. Exactly the sort of guy a girl like me ended up with. It cheered me up a little to see Austin to take note of Sasha sitting down next to me. Sasha wasn’t ugly, but she wasn’t a supermodel either. She was tall, towering over my five three, and Matt’s five four at five seven, and a little chubby. Sasha called it fat, but if she lost too much more weight, she would look like she suffered from bulimia. Sasha would never be a size five, not even if she starved herself. Sasha accepted this bitter truth, but she was still more self conscious about her appearance than she should be. Even though Sasha was curvy in the right places, had gorgeous skin, eyes, and hair, she still wasn’t America’s idea of beauty either. Neither was I, for that matter, but I blended in better. I was plain, neither remarkably ugly or pretty. Plain straight brown hair, plain brown eyes. Normal complexion. Guys didn’t pick on me, like the jocks did to Sasha in high school, but they ignored me. I’ve always thought I could walk into a room, and stand against the wall and be mistaken for furniture.
Of course now, with living, breathing people scarce, I might have moved up a point or two on the one to ten scale, but I was still nowhere near Rowan’s league. When the zombies first attacked, Rowan was there to help Matt, Sasha, and I. At first, Rowan and I would pair off, like when we were getting around on four wheelers, and then when we switched to driving two cars in case one of them broke down. When the temperature dropped we even shared a sleeping bag, because I would have rather it be him than Matt, and the guys didn’t want to pair off with each other (and because he’s a hunk, and like a mini-furnace). I was lucky the zombie apocalypse cropped up a cute Asian guy for me to be paired off with, instead of some creepy guy named Clarence who liked to collect his toe lint. Actually, come to think of it, I am surprised that’s not exactly who turned out to help us out at first. It was my luck, anyway.
I thought Rowan must be married, or had a girlfriend, or gay. Possibly all three. Rowan was the guy who initially seemed to be the love interest for the spunky, yet ultimately plain girl who redeemed herself from not having blonde hair and large breasts—like Mandy—with her clever escapes from sure danger—like me—but in a surprising turn of events, the hunky hero would be pining away for his wife who was in a coma. The spunky girl always ended up with the sidekick, the guy who was lovably geeky, but not that attractive. It was how the world worked. I was a four on most days, a five in knock out heels and a tight black dress, and Rowan rated at least an eight, even when he was sleep deprived and unshowered.
In short, he was waaaay out of my league, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoying looking at him.
When Robert and Mandy showed up, I knew my number was up, or my number was closer to matching up, as it were. Robert is closer to my type, and Mandy is much prettier than I, so it’s only a matter of time. And as if Rowan knew it himself, he started to pull away from me after they joined our group. He was no longer stuck with settling for me. But he hasn’t pursued Mandy, at least not yet.
“Lilah could come with us and just—“ Austin barked, and Matt saw Austin’s bark, and raised him an angry scowl, not to be outdone, “Don’t volunteer my sister for zombie detail, she needs to rest.”
“What’s wrong?” Sasha asked me.
I shook my head at Sasha, not wanting to go into it. “I am going to walk Daisy.” I stood up and shrugged into my coat, moody and disoriented. I looked at Matt and Austin, “Stop talking about me like I am not here; I am not going anywhere today, so stuff it.”
I turned on my heel, and walked outside with Daisy.
The air was clear and slightly sharp. It was cold, but in a refreshing way. There were little patches of snow, almost like it was part of the house’s décor. The white looked startling against the backdrop of the square red mountains.
Maybe the mountains would be my Valentine. They were already red. And solid, you couldn’t say mountains were push-overs. That made me remember how it felt to have Rowan sit behind me on the four wheelers, his arms around my waist like a vise, and my heart felt sick. I sighed again. Robert was really nice. He was closer to what I could manage. It didn’t matter I seemed to have some sort of power over the zombies and control them a little. It still didn’t make up for the fact that Rowan was waaaay out of my league. I should just accept it, and move on.
I looked over my shoulder, and Rowan walked around the corner of the house, some firewood in his arms. Daisy chose that moment to jerk me forward, and I almost lost my grip on her lease.
“Whoops, careful,” Rowan said, shifting the firewood in his arms, and walking over.
I swear I trained her better. Okay, maybe not trained, so much as asked really, really nicely. I grabbed Daisy’s leash as she dragged me forward, her muzzle snuffling the snow and grass like it was doggie ambrosia. Daisy wagged her tail, a doggy smile on her face as she perked up and rammed into Rowan. Rowan, used to her by now, braced himself, and pet her head with his free hand.
“You need some help?” I asked, nodding at his load.
Rowan shook his head no, always one to express himself silently whenever possible. “The woodbox is pretty full. Just wanted this to dry out a bit. You could open the door though.”
I nodded, and followed him to the garage, holding the side door open.
“Thanks,” Rowan said, and dropping the wood onto a pallet on the floor in the garage. No cars were parked in the garage; we preferred to keep them outside for a quicker escape if we needed to.
I watched Rowan shift the wood, and realized not only would he never be my Valentine, but I would never have a Valentine’s Day again. I watched him concentrate on the covering the wood, and felt the impish urge to kiss him, so strong for a moment I almost did, but then my better senses returned, and I looked away.
“What’s wrong?” Rowan asked, dusting his hands off.
“Why do you ask?” I tried to play my mood off, but Rowan always seemed to know what I was thinking. Always. Which did not bode well for me and my crush. It was still a little strange to be around Rowan. It was totally out of character for me to spent quality time with a guy I thought was cute. I have this wonderful procedure of pretending a guy that I like doesn’t exist. I stayed as far away as possible, so he can’t guess my true feelings, and stomp all over them, like Mikey Caldwell did in eleventh grade. Or that cute office assistant, Tom Banker did a few months ago, before zombies took over. I admit, it’s not a perfect system. Half the guys I have had crushes on were never the wiser, or only found out because one of my well meaning coworkers told them.
Rowan was friendly towards me, but it wasn’t like he wanted to date. It was for his own survival. I was willing to bet my entire b horror movie collection, that just like woman liked to date taller men than Matt, I wasn’t Rowan’s type. I was Robert’s type.
“You’re upset,” He said, like this was a statement of the obvious. Rowan held the door open for Daisy and I as we walked back inside through the garage.
I shrugged, knowing I only needed to put off his questions until we got back into the kitchen, where everyone else was.
But the kitchen was empty when we arrived. I pulled some dog treats out and handed Daisy one. The house was very quiet.
I whirled around, walking right into Rowan, and stepping on his feet.
I wasn’t even embarrassed about running right into Rowan, my heart pounded so hard. I couldn’t sense any zombies in the house, but I wasn’t about to rely on a power I didn’t fully understand. But if the zombies had attacked, I should have heard something. “Rowan, stay behind me, get your gun out.”
Rowan’s eyes widened, and he pulled his gun out of it’s shoulder holster. He grabbed me around the waist, and shoved me behind him, “Stay behind me. It’s easier for me to cover you from the front.”
I wanted to beat my fists on his back in frustration, but he was right. He was the one with the ranged weapon.
“Where are they?” Rowan said, frowning at Daisy. She normally barked and snarled when zombies came near, but right now she was happily inhaling dog food from her purple bowl.
“I don’t know,” I said, every single nerve in my body tensing up. I placed my hand between Rowan’s shoulder blades, trying to steady myself. I hated fighting, I hated every single second of it; it made me sick, and I had to struggled not to faint at the mere sight of blood, as embarrassing as that was. But the thought of someone I loved getting hurt, or dying, terrified me more. “But the house is too quiet, I don’t hear anyone—“
Rowan turned around, frowning slightly. Frowning for me was my entire face pulling downwards; for Rowan, his eyebrows knitted together a little bit. “You don’t sense any of them? You don’t feel them?”
“No, but I am not about to trust something I don’t fully understand either.”
Rowan shouldered his pistol, and put his hands on my shoulders, “Lilah, they went to the store.”
I blinked at him, unable to process what Rowan was telling me at first. “What?”
“The store. Sasha, Mandy, Matt, Robert, and Austin went to the store. They figured we would be okay by ourselves, if we stayed in the house. They won’t be gone long.”
“But…I didn’t…I didn’t even hear them leave,” I said.
“You were around back. They took the sedan.”
My shoulders relaxed, relieved and embarrassed, both at the same time. “Oh, gosh, I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s fine, I should have told you.”
I shook my head and walked around him, “I didn’t mean to…” I trailed off, unable to explain my stupidity.
“Lilah.” Rowan said my name in that quiet yet powerful way of his, and sent little chills running down my arms. “It’s okay. I am glad you’re being vigilant.”
I nodded, unable to settle myself. I picked up a notepad from the counter, only to put it back down again; I looked outside without really seeing the blue Arizona sky. I was careful not to look at Rowan. I wanted to cry, and scream, and laugh, and didn’t know what to do with myself. It hurt inside. I was sick of loving, of being afraid to love, of being happy, and then being afraid of that happiness. I sat on the couch, wondering what to do with myself. Where do you run when it’s yourself you’re trying to escape? I rubbed my face in my hands.
Rowan came and sat down next to me. I tried to pretend that I didn’t care, but I could feel the inches between us.
“You don’t have to tell me what’s on your mind,” Rowan said, leaning back on the couch and watching me. I could feel the weight of his gaze. “But if you want to, I’ll listen.”
He was a good listener, it was one of the things about him I held so precious. How many times had I cried on his shoulder? My throat closed up with the thought, and I missed him even though he sat right next to me. I missed what I wanted; I missed what I would never have.
I can’t settle. I’ll just wait to get over Rowan, or just not have a boyfriend. It was probably better that way, safer. “You’ve been distant lately.” I said, my mouth moving before I could think about whether or not I wanted to bring up this particular subject.
Rowan shifted a little, surprised. “Sorry.”
I waited for him to explain why, but he didn’t seem like he was going to elaborate. That’s how Rowan was, never speaking more than he had to. I was angry, all of a sudden, that I had poured myself out to him over the last few months, and he had given me nothing back. I was stupid for thinking I was anything other than a friend of convenience to him. I stood up, biting my lip.
“Lilah,” He sat up, grabbing for my arm.
I stood still, and let him stop me, but flinched a little. My emotions were a mess, and I felt so exposed.
“I just…new people, and I…I wanted you to get a chance to get to know them.”
I swallowed hard, looking up at him, and then flinching away at the intense look on his face. I didn’t want him reading my emotions, not now, not when he knew exactly how I was feeling even when I was relatively composed.
Rowan pulled on my arm gently, nudging me to sit back down. I sat down, and he put his arms around me. I folded myself into him. I closed my eyes, leaning against his chest. Nothing had changed. He held me like this when I was upset, like I was a small child afraid of the dark. “It’s okay, Lilah. We’re all on edge lately. I don’t like having them so close by.”
Rowan hardly ever said zombie. Mostly he referred to them in the third person.
I mumbled into his shirt, “I’m exhausted. From being scared, and upset, and worried, and sick to death with fear that something’s going to happen to you guys.”
Rowan shifted a little, putting his arm around my back. I curled my legs up underneath me, completing the customary position we sat in when Lilah Has a Nervous Breakdown. “I can’t imagine it’s easy sensing them all the time.”
I nodded. For once, someone understood. They all acted like I was their ace in the hole against the zombies. I felt like a weapon more than a person sometimes.
“We’ll survive, Lilah. We have this far.” He sounded so sure of himself.
“At what cost, though?” I whispered. “So many things I’ll never do again.” My eyes welled up with tears. “I’ll never have ice cream again. Never go see a movie. Once the last of the electricity goes, I’ll never listen to Dragonforce again, never watch Firefly—“ My voice cracked, and I started to sob. Two weeks without breaking down into tears: a new personal record.
Rowan did his part, and petted my hair, and held me while I soaked his shirt with snot and tears. It only made me want him more. After a few minutes I got myself under control, and felt content to just lie against him. We were rarely alone anymore.
“I have something that will cheer you up,” Rowan said, still stroking his hand through my hair. I wondered how many female friends Rowan had that carried secret flames for him over the years. Rowan told me he had more female than male friends before. Before the zombie apocalypse.
“Does it require moving?” I asked, feeling sleepy. Having someone stroke their hand through my hair was my Kryptonite. Seriously, it’s more relaxing and sedating than Valium.
Rowan paused for a minute, “Yes. But it’s followed by more sitting.”
“Okay, you wager a fair barter,” I said, sitting up with much reluctance. Who knows when the next time I would get to cuddle against Rowan again? It was only a matter of time until Mandy and Rowan starting going out.
“Come on,” Rowan said, looking pleased with himself. I followed him downstairs into the basement.
Downstairs was a man-cave, with all the latest stereo equipment, and a large flat screen TV. It looked like a mini-movie theatre, with reclining seats, and even a popcorn machine. The walls were decorated with framed movie posters. Another pang of sorrow went through me, when I remember all the movies I would never watch again. It sounds silly to mourn the loss of luxury items when I should have been worried about medicine, and doctors, and food, but to me, it wasn’t just a movie, or just a song, but a memory. A piece of my life that I would never get back again.
I plopped down onto the couch, assuming this is what Rowan meant by more sitting. I tried to hide my disappointment, but the mini movie theater was just another grave to human civilization.
Rowan knelt down in front of the TV. I wondered what he was doing. The power was out, so there was no way he could get the DVD and TV to work. He turned the TV on, and the opening credits for Firefly began to play.
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t have been more surprised than if Nathan Fillion, the star of Firefly and my celebrity boyfriend walked through the door himself. “How did you…?” I jumped up off the couch, pointing at the TV. The sweet, sweet twang of the vaguely Western sounding theme song continued.
Rowan affected nonchalance, and shrugged, but he couldn’t hide his grin, “I found a generator.”
“You know how to hook those up?”
“I was a computer programmer; it wasn’t too hard to figure out.”
“But…but…should we save it for things like heat, and the stove?” I said, staring at the TV.
“Why? We have plenty of matches, lighters, and flashlights. We really don’t have to have power to survive day to day. Why not use it for something that we can’t have without power?”
I didn’t know what to say. I stared at him. He pretended like it was a big deal, but it must have been hard to find a generator, and hook it up. And keep it a secret so he could surprise me. I blinked, tears stinging my eyes. I stepped forward and hugged Rowan.
He laughed a little, “You’re welcome. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
My heart swelled, and I knew I was in love with him. I squeezed him tighter, not wanting to ever, ever let go.