Those nice days when the snow is melting but it should be freezing out… we’re seeing more and more of them. Everyone laughs and says it will come back to bite us in the ass later. All those freak storms, tornadoes, and earthquakes happening at odd times of the year or in parts of the world they’ve never occurred before… well, you’ve all heard the comments about global warming and how these are Mother Nature’s way of telling us we’re destroying the planet. Plagues, pandemics, natural disasters; all of these a warning from Her that none of us seem to take seriously. What we didn’t know was that She had a breaking point. And nothing could have prepared human kind for what she had in store for us…
My arm hurts. Seriously. It hurts a lot. Or maybe the best way to describe it is burn. It burns. I reach down without thinking about it, trying to pull the edge of the bandage down so it completely covers the gash in my forearm. The pain is like a paper cut; but like I’d slid the entire five hundred sheets of paper in the pack across my arm. Being thrown into a power pole and sliding down one of the thick metal wires that helped keep it straight could do that to a girl. It’s a miracle I hadn’t broken anything. Now that the excitement is finally at an end, it occurs to me that I’d kill for a tube of Polysporin right now. My arm isn’t infected; I make sure to clean it a few times a day, but there’s that one kind, the kids’ one, that has a pain killer in it. It would have been nice to just take the edge off.
I look around the living room of the little house we’d been living in. The whole place is cute. Cozy. Whoever had lived here had taken care of the place. Of course, now, it’s covered in a layer of dust, the windows are all broken, and some of the furniture has been destroyed. There’s no more power, well, no more anything anymore, really. No phones, no radios, no computers. No cash machines, no jobs, well, you get the point.
There’s a groan from the lump under the sheet on the couch and I make my way over to it. The dark blue sheet slips to reveal a mess of blond hair falling over a pale face. I frown. Max is usually a shade lighter than everyone else, but this is extreme even for him. It was one of the reasons I’d thought him to be about fourteen the first time I’d seen him. It makes him look younger than his nineteen years. I press my lips to his forehead to check for a fever and brush his hair back with a sigh of relief when I can’t feel any.
A glint of sunlight on something metallic catches my eye through one of the shattered windows and I go to stand on the front porch. The first thing I see is a German Shepherd loping towards me. I recognize the tattered white t-shirt and bloodied jeans as they ride over the next hill on a little bay mare. I know that as he gets closer I’ll be able to see the swollen left eye, the cut on his left leg. I lean against one of the railings, ignoring the protesting my stiff and sore muscles are doing, and watch with a small smile.
It feels good to smile. The past year hasn’t given us many reasons to do so.
Lane slides out of the saddle and sits beside me on the steps while Bella drops her head to graze.
“It’s warm, but it’s still beer.” He grins and hands me a can of Canadian.
“Where the hell did you manage to find these?” I tap the top with my fingernail to get rid of any fizz that might have occurred do to traveling on horseback. I am not wasting one drop of this beer. Both of our cans crack open with a satisfying ‘pshh’.
His grin widens. “Just drink the beer.”
I take a long swallow and I know he’s watching me because it’s what he’s done since we were five. The beer is hot and bitter because of it, but I don’t care. I down half the can and sigh.
Lane tucks some unruly red hair behind my ear and turns my face gently so he can press his lips to my forehead. He pulls back and smiles softly.
I blink. A year. I have to admit that I was just reaching for a ball park figure when I told you the past year had been rough. God, who am I kidding? You’ve probably figured out that rough doesn’t come close to covering it. It’s hard to keep track of time since the seasons don’t exist anymore. It’s supposed to be winter right now. Winter in Canada means freezing temperatures and snow, yet I’m walking around in capris and a tank top. I honestly have no idea what day, let alone what month it is. But Lane knows. Today is January fifteenth. Last January fifteenth, I turned thirty-two and life as me and the rest of the world’s population knew it went to shit. Complete shit.
I lean against Lane and he wraps one of those strong arms around me, careful of the gash on mine. Maybe I’d better start at the beginning. You’re probably wondering what the hell happened, who I am, where I am, and all that jazz. Sorry. I’ve never been great at introductions.
My name is Gabrielle Gauthier, though most people call me Gabby, and this is my story…