Saturday, October 22, 2016

Over The River And Through The Woods

Travis woke Amanda slowly, bringing her awake with his hands, his mouth, until she woke fully, gasping his name.

Afterwards, he lay catching his breath, his face buried in her neck, her arms and legs still twined around him.

“Good morning,” she said throatily, pleased.

Beautiful girl,” he murmured against her earlobe. “I love you.” He stiffened, his eyes opening, and he hastily scrambled to a sitting position. “I... I mean-”

She sat up too, quieting him by placing her fingertips on his lips. They sat face to face without speaking on her mattress for long moments.

That the sex talking?” she asked, and moved her fingers so he could answer.

Ah,” he said, swallowing. He stared at her helplessly, unable to lie to her. “No. But I don't – I wasn't saying it to get you to say it. I'm ok just-”

She touched his lips again, looking down thoughtfully for long moments again. “I want to talk about it tonight, ok? Before we go to bed?”

Here?” he asked.

She smiled, leaned over and kissed him. “Here. Before we go to bed here. Together.”

“Ok. Sure. Cold fry bread and jam for breakfast?” he asked, relieved. He'd been terrified for a moment that she would break things off because he'd said that so soon. Way too soon, probably, since they'd only been a couple for a couple weeks.

Since Amanda had declared the day a no school day, the children were building snowmen on the parade ground. Val sat in a disc sled scooting himself around and occasionally lobbing snowballs at the other children. Baby vacillated between eating snow, charging snowmen to enthusiastically hug them, and climbing onto Val's lap for a snuggle, which pinned him in place as he couldn't scoot the sled with both of them on it.

Will ran into the quartermaster's storage and came back out with some rope, tying it through one of the handles of Val's sled. He made a loop handle at the other end of the rope and began hauling Val and Baby through the snowmen and across the parade ground. Drawn by Val's laughter and Baby's shrieks of joy, the other children soon joined in, holding the rope, helping them gain speed.

They reached the end of the parade ground near the hospital, made a careful turn, and ran back toward the commander's house, dragging Val and Baby. This time they went too fast as they made their turn toward the hospital, and the two passengers were flung free, Val holding Baby tightly in his arms as they slid sideways toward the porch of the empty barracks.

Baby shrieked in joy.

Dis bad idea,” Val grumbled as they came to a stop just short of the path around the parade ground. His little passenger giggled and drummed her feet on his legs.

Kids!” Eve yelled from the door of the commander's house, leaning out and wiping her hands on her apron. “Tell everyone it's time and come down to the basement!”

Katrin, Owen and Aiden ran to gather the others at the Fort, aside from Ben and Lila who were already down in the basement of the commander's house. Will helped Val and Baby back onto the sled and began to pull them around the back of the barracks and down to the basement door; going straight around the commander's house would require using stairs.

You bad driver,” Val said darkly. “Manda is better driver than you. I like Manda do it.”

Maybe later Amanda can pull you,” Will said. “Suck it up, buttercup.”

No, your face is a butt cup.”

By the time Will and his passengers got down to the basement door, everyone else was there already and being shown into the brick floored basement by Ben. To their right was the kitchen, they were being led into the room to their left. Here was a bright, merry fire and two long tables pushed together with many chairs around them. Near the fireplace a sideboard had been placed and was now laden with pies, cakes, and bread – raised bread, biscuits and fried bread.

Down the middle of the tables were candles, colorful fall leaves, and so much food. At the center of it all were what appeared to be four small turkeys, but there were also sweet potatoes, corn, wild rice, cranberries, fried fish, green beans, baked beans, jam, stuffing and gravy.

Holy shit,” Ed said, and Lila beamed.

Surprise!” Eve said, her hands clasped together against her chest. “It's Thanksgiving today. Come in, sit down!”

They discarded their coats and wet outer things in the entry hall and the group hurried to take seats at the table. Ed took one end, and Lila sat beside him. Eve and Ben took the other end. The children, rosy from playing outdoors, sat nearest the fireplace, with Baby close to Eve and sitting on several thick books.

I didn't realize it was Thanksgiving!” Daria said. She burst into tears.

Oh dear!” Lila said standing up, grabbing some napkins to bring to her.

No, no, I'm happy, I just...”

Hormonal,” Haley said. Several of the group chuckled indulgently.

How did you do this?” Dana asked.

Well, Travis and Amanda got the turkeys. They were running wild near Coldwater Spring. Most of the rest is just canned goods from the quartermaster's stores,” Eve said. “Though, the bread, that's sourdough from scratch. I have more starter too. And more loaves. I made a lot.”

We roasted the turkeys in the big fireplace here in the basement,” Ben said. “Lila fried the fish and organized the order of all the rest of the food being cooked. Eve did the baking, and I made the stuffing and gravy.”

It smells amazing!” Amanda said. “I'm starving now.”

Should we say Grace?” Lila asked. “Ed?”

Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat!” Ed said with enthusiasm.

They ate and ate and ate and laughed all through the meal. Eve beamed with happiness and the pleasure of feeding a group and feeding them well. Val ate nearly an entire loaf of bread by himself, he was so happy to have something other than fry bread and biscuits.

Eve jumped up to clear the table and Haley, Dana and Tammy joined her. Ben and Lila moved the desserts to the table as they did so, setting out clean plates.

My stomach is going to burst,” Amanda said.

Do you not want any pie or cake?” Lila asked hesitantly.

Oh, no, I'm eating more, I'm just warning everyone.”

I am so thankful to be here, safe, having this meal,” Daria said, and burst into tears again. Haley wrapped her arms around her friend.

I'm thankful to have you as a friend,” she said.

I'm thankful these turkeys and the fish showed themselves to us so we could eat them,” Dana said.

By now all were seated again, passing around the desserts and helping themselves.

I'm thankful for Gary, without whom I'd never have found this haven,” Tammy said.

Hear, hear,” said Gary's young friends in unison, raising their steaming cups of tea. “To Gary!”

I'm thankful for the snowplow,” Amanda said. “It's what helps us get to the stores to gather supplies.”

I'm thankful that Amanda lets Ben drive the snowplow so we don't all die,” Travis said solemnly, and Amanda gave him a half-hearted glare, before snuggling up against him, scooting her chair closer.

I'm thankful for all the laughter,” Lila said softly. “It was so fun cooking with Ben and Eve.”

I am damn thankful for leftovers, and I know I'll be thankful for them again and again!” Ed said, and they laughed again.

I'm thankful for Samson,” Owen said. “Did he get a treat?”

We'll bring the pets some leftovers when we go up,” Eve said, smiling.

I'm thankful there was no school today,” Aiden said.

I'm thankful we have so many books,” Will said.

I'm thankful for my cats and my paper dolls,” Katrin said. “And my fluffy boots.”

I thank Sharknado,” Val said. He gave a flourishing bow at the table. “Thank you.”

Valiant James,” Eve said sternly.

Yes, thank you,” Val said with another grand flourish.

You little ham.”

Yes, thank you.”

Are you happy, Baby?” Eve asked the toddler.

Cake!” Baby said with longing, opening and closing her fists at the nearest cake.

I'm thankful for all of you,” Eve said. “I'm thankful we have a little community. I'm thankful we could have this day to celebrate that.”

I'm thankful I don't have to wash these dishes,” Ben said complacently, and Owen, Aiden, Will and Katrin groaned, knowing who would be stuck with that.

I'll help,” Tammy whispered across the table.

Me too,” Haley said quickly.

I want to help but I am falling asleep from being full and happy,” Daria said.

And enormously pregnant,” Dana said.

To us!” Eve said, raising her mug. “Who's like us?”

Damn few,” said Will. “And they're all dead.”

They all raised their mugs, even Baby though she wasn't sure what they were doing, and laughed.

Far, far away, Todd and his group gathered in a historical mansion, fireplaces blazing, and ate just as well. They didn't have fish, but there had been plenty of supplies in the pantry and real vegetables in the root cellar of this place, somehow forgotten and spared when the Red Flu Riots came. Lewis and Todd had managed to bring in venison and a couple of turkeys as well.

Ms Marvie, this is the best I have ever eaten,” Todd said with great solemnity. “I could not have done better. Thank you.”

I know,” she said, and grinned mischievously at him. “And you're welcome.”

Lewis snuck some more turkey and stuffing down to Scout, laying beneath the table.

Can I have some more pie?” Ryan said eagerly.

Can you?” Marvie asked, raising her eyebrow.

May I please have some more pie?” he said, unsubdued.

Baby, we have plenty today, and you are welcome to it,” she said.

Amen!” said Lewis.

Amen,” the others agreed.

We're here,” Donna said. “There's the dam. We made it.”

Let's go get my baby back,” Rebecca said. “I know she's there, I just know it.”

And introduce me to this Marine you mention,” Sherie said, grinning.

Amanda curled up in the darkness of the old Dredd Scott quarters, her mattress tucked against the wall kitty-corner from the fireplace, listening to Travis breathe. Listening to the calming beat of his heart, feeling his strength and his courage and all the things that meant so much to her about him.
Travis,” she whispered.
Mmm. Yes?” he mumbled, half asleep.
I love you too, you know.” She felt him wake entirely up.
I mean... I meant that I am in love with you,” he said at last.
Duh,” she said, snickering, and he pretended to bite her nose. “I'm trying to tell you, that's what I feel too. I love you. You're a big dork, and I love you.”
You're sure?”
Oh, god, shut up and lets just do this, ok? This big in love thing.”
Absolutely,” he said fervently, and rolled onto his side facing her so he could kiss her properly.

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