Towards dawn my mother came up to the front of the bus and stood next to me. “Jennifer, I know something horrible happened and I need to know.”
I took my eyes off the road long enough to look up at her, tears in my eyes. “Ma. I’m so sorry.”
“Honey, it’s not your fault.” She put a hand on my shoulder.
“No.” I angrily wipe a tear from my cheek. “But I wasn’t there soon enough. They burned him Ma. They burned Da alive and Xavior just stood there smiling. He just smiled.” I glance up at my mom again and see tears running down her face. “I’m sorry Ma. I am so sorry.”
“Baby. We should have done something about that boy a long time ago. I told your father he would get better. If anyone is at fault it’s me.” My mom sits down on the floor and puts her head on my leg. “I failed your Da. Did you give him peace?”
“Yes Ma. I’m just pissed that the last thing he saw was his own son, the ass.” I grip the steering wheel, hard.
“He is at peace now. Your father always told me if anything happened to him you would become the leader of the family. I am sorry I’m not strong enough. Do you have a plan?”
“Ma we all have our contribution to the family. We head into town and trade and from there we plan to get far away from here.”
“Ok. I am going to try to get some sleep before we get there.”
I wait until my mom goes to the back before I let out the breath I have been holding. I can feel the pain rolling off of her and it makes my heart hurt. She met my father right before The Fall and they have been through so much together. I check the rearview mirror to make sure we haven’t picked up a shadow before picking up the radio. “Ashtin is everything good up there?”
“Yup. No tail and I don’t see anything in the distance.” He pauses and I know he is trying to work up the courage to ask a question, he has always been this way. “Jennifer - why did Xavior betray us? I thought he loved us.”
“Honey I don’t know. People do things for the dumbest reasons. One day we are going to get the chance to ask him, right before I put a bullet in his head.”
“I just want Da back.”
“I know, we all do but now we have to look at the future and move forward. Keep watch.” I click off and put the radio down. Looking over my shoulder I see everyone is sleep, or pretending to, so I turn back to the road and my own thoughts.
As the sun starts to peek over the horizon the small outpost of Sunny comes into view. It’s hard to think, the last sunrise I saw was the last my father would ever see. No tear, chin up. Pulling up to the gate I wait for the guard to approach before I open the door.
“Hi and welcome to Sunny. You will need to check your weapon in. Oh it’s you Jennifer, I’m use to seeing your father driving.”
“Hi Tim, we are just here to trade.” To tell him that my father was gone is asking for trouble. Many people see an unprotected female as free game. “I brought most of the family with me, we are making it an outing.”
“Well you know where everything is. Just park over there and have fun.”
I pull the bus into the parking spot Tim points out and cut the engine. My mom sits up and looks around. “Are we there?”
“Yes. I think we should leave someone with the bus in case we need to get out fast.”
“Ashtin can drive.” My mom stands up. “I want to get some food for the road, something that will keep.”
“Here take this.” I give her two sacks, one of potatoes and the other carrots. “See if you can get some canned goods, if not rice will work.”
“How long do we have?”
“I want to be out of here in two hours. I don’t want to give the cultist time to catch up with us. No one needs to know Da isn’t with us anymore, it will cause trouble.”
“You know what’s best.” My Ma kisses me. “Be safe. I will be back in an hour.” I watch as she climbs off the bus and pray it’s not the last time I see her.
“What do you want us to do?” My sisters look up at me from where they are sitting on the floor.
“We need to refuel. Take some of the metal and see if you can trade for a few gallons. Stay together and if you see anything suspicious come back here, fast.”
“What are you going to do?” Meredieth asks.
“We need medical supply. I will see about getting some.” I put a back of potatoes over my shoulder. “I know the doctor loves to make potato soup.” Getting off the bus I close the door and look up at my brother. “Keep watch and if you need to drive that bus to the safety point.”
The last time my Da was in town he pointed out a route through town that our bus could take and it would be safe and get us to the other side fast. If anything every happened we were to meet there.
“I got you sis. Just make sure everyone gets back here safe.”
Waving at him and watching until my sisters disappear around a corner I start for the medical house. I always have fun talking to Anna.

© 2019 by PAULINA WOODS.