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The reunion with Georgina wasn’t necessarily a happy one; at least from her perspective. Even in light of all that had been happening in the past number of weeks, she found herself not wishing to impart her ex-boyfriend with too much information. Georgina was curious to find out where he’d suddenly appeared from and probed him as they sat in his front room; ensuring she maintained as much distance between them as she could on the couch.
“I was in a Safe Zone in Sheffield and decided I wanted out,” Ryan said.
“You wanted to get out of a place where you could live comfortably to head out here where you might die any minute,” Georgina asked with a hint of derision.
“I was surviving in there; living under the rules and say so of others. I wanted to live by my own rules. I could only do that out here”.
“Typical Ryan Lloyd! Never happy!”
“Typical Georgina Stewart! Judgemental as ever,” Ryan said with a playful grin. The grin soon died when he received a reproving glance that he was only too familiar with.
“I’d do anything to be in that Safe Zone and here you are escaping it because you don’t like rules. Even during an apocalypse you know how to piss me off!”
“No chance of you getting in there while you’re infected”.
Georgina eyed Ryan with ireful suspicion.
“How would you know I’m infected? Have you been speaking with Harry?”
“If you mean the man who was lay naked in my goddamned bed then yes!”
“What do you mean ‘was’?”
“Well he sure as shit ain’t there now,” Ryan said with a smug smile.
“What have you done, Ryan?”
“Calm down, woman! He’s in the spare bedroom. He might come round soon”.
“Come round? What did you do,” Georgina asked; becoming frenetic.
“He started getting lippy so I pistol-whipped him and then dragged his bare arse into the spare bedroom. Might’ve tied him up as well so he can’t act the hero”.
“Fucking prick,” she said scornfully as she jumped out of her seat to head upstairs.
Ryan rolled his eyes and slowly got to his feet in order to follow Georgina. He doubted the guy would have come round yet. Sure enough, he was still laid prone on the floor and Georgina said reassuring things to him in a quiet and soothing tone as she cradled his head. Ryan couldn’t prevent a twang of jealousy.
“He’ll be fine,” Ryan muttered.
“No thanks to you! Having to show you’re the big man as ever, eh? You need to grow up, Ryan”.
“Excuse me, but this dude could’ve been anybody. He was in my bed. While we’re on that, why the fuck are you even in my house with your new fancy man,” Ryan asked; his voice and expression heavily laden with distaste.
Georgina couldn’t answer the question. She tried in vain to disguise a sudden look of guilt, but didn’t do a good job. Untying Harry’s wrists and ankles, she sighed aloud before gesturing for Ryan to head out of the room so they could talk away from Harry. Ryan head through to the master bedroom. They both sat down on the edge of the bed. Ryan couldn’t help but think of all the sexual acts the pair of them had performed in said bed in the not too distant past.
“I’m sorry for bringing Harry here,” Georgina said genuinely. “When I found out I was infected I only knew that I should head somewhere I know and that was likely to be well stocked. Harry insisted on staying with me. He surrendered his place in a Safe Zone to look after me. We hadn’t been seeing one another long before all this started and it was honestly nothing serious. I just needed to build my confidence back up after what happened between you and I”.
Ryan looked uncharacteristically sheepish as he recalled the reason things had ended between them. It perhaps stood to reason that she might have been feeling a little down on herself after that. Georgina continued; interrupting his thoughts.
“I just needed to be reminded I was worth something again and if a man surrendering the chance of a good life for my sake doesn’t make me feel worth something then I don’t know what does”.
“I suppose I can appreciate that,” Ryan said quietly. “I did appreciate you, Georgina. I mean…I do appreciate you. I’ve thought about you every day since we broke up”.
“It’s a pity you weren’t thinking of me the night you had not one, but two of my friends back here,” Georgina responded with a coldness to her tone that made Ryan wince.
“Look, I was a prick! I know I was a prick. I couldn’t control myself”.
“You don’t need to tell me that. I’m well aware. I’m not here to talk about you and I though, Ryan. That’s over. There is no more ‘us’”.
“If that were true then you wouldn’t be here”.
“No, Ryan; I told you exactly why I’m here”.
“You must’ve thought of me to have come here. You were surely wary of the fact that I might still be here”.
“The thought crossed my mind, but I figured it were unlikely as you’d either be in a Safe Zone or…”
“Or dead, right? I bet you’re disappointed I’m not,” Ryan said; sounding a touch childish.
“Don’t be so stupid! You could’ve been dead, but obviously that isn’t what I wanted to be the case. I’m glad you’re alive. I think you’re a stupid bastard for leaving the Safe Zone, but I would never wish death on you, Ryan”.
“I know. I’m sorry for insinuating you would”.
A silence followed. It was an uneasy silence. The elephant of their relationship was in the room to such an extent that it was all either of them could see. Ryan attempted to drive the conversation in any other direction.
“I’m sorry you found out you’re infected as well by the way. That truly sucks”.
“It’s not the most convenient of things, I must admit,” Georgina said with a humourless smile.
“You seem to be hanging on though”.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, I would’ve thought you’d have turned by now if what I’ve heard is correct. Schaffer said the host turns within a month”.
“There’s no way of saying how long I’ve been infected for or if I’m even infected at all. The equipment could have been faulty or anything, but it doesn’t feel nice waiting for the day when the virus finally takes hold of me. When it happens, Harry’s completely on his own and I don’t know how he’ll cope. He’s not the most resourceful of people”.
“Hence why you’re out foraging and he’s laid up in my bed asleep,” Ryan asked judgementally.
“We do the foraging in turns,” she replied defensively. “He’s not useless. He’ll go to the ends of the earth to protect me”.
“He doesn’t need to now I’m here. I’ll obviously do a far better job,” Ryan said with an air of cockiness.
“You’re not here to do anything for me, Ryan,” she said; waving her hands dismissively. “Look, I’m glad you’re alive and doing okay by the looks of things, but I have no intention of staying here now you’re back”.
“You’re going to leave just because I’m here?”
“Zombie apocalypse or not, it doesn’t excuse the fact that we were together for two years and engaged for six months. I can’t very well hang around here with my new fella. It’ll just make things too weird”.
“Things might be a little weird at first, but I’m happy you’re with a bloke who treats you right,” Ryan lied. “All I ever wanted was for you to be happy”.
“You had a funny way of showing it, Ry. Those times when you knew you were hurting me, but carried on regardless because you’re an egotistical arsehole!”
“You can keep on reminding me of all the things I did wrong, Georgina, or you can allow me the chance to make amends. I trekked all the way here from Sheffield. I’ve been out there and seen what’s going on. I can deal with these creatures. Three heads are better than one or even two. You can either head out there and try to fend these things off, or you can stay here and we can fight them off together; all three of us. I have no desire to make things more difficult than they need to be. We don’t even have to tell lover boy I’m your ex”.
Georgina chewed over Ryan’s words. She had to admit that he made sense; if he was being honest of course. She didn’t trust him at all and knew fine well that he was always out for number one, but she couldn’t argue with the fact that they were better placed to survive as a group. It was tough for her to deny that Ryan could look after himself too. He would certainly provide them with added muscle.
“I could be dead in a couple of days from now, Ryan. How do I know you won’t just leave Harry behind or even kill him after it happens?”
“You don’t. You’re just gonna have to trust that I won’t. In the meantime, maybe I could help toughen him up”.
“Forgive me for being sceptical, but I’ve placed my trust in you before and look where it got me. This isn’t the Ryan Lloyd I know and used to love”.
The words “used to” pierced Ryan’s heart like a dagger. Had she really shed her feelings towards him already? He took a hold of her hand and it felt quite cold; something that immediately caused him to worry as to her condition given that it was so sunny and warm out. Ryan looked at Georgina and she looked back.
Her eyes drew him in. They were the reason he’d first fallen in love with her. Their shape was slightly almond and gleamed a light blue colour, but with flecks of deep green around the pupil owing to her central heterochromia. Her slightly full lips arched into a natural smile with a quite prominent bridge beneath a straight, but petite nose. The cheekbones were high akin to a model and her lightly tanned skin virtually flawless and unblemished despite weeks of being unable to wash properly. Georgina was an achingly beautiful woman.
“I promise you that I won’t turn on you or Harry. Right now, we need to concentrate on surviving. I can’t do it alone. We all need one another. If this infection is going to take you then at least let me help look after you until it does. It’s the least I can do for all the hurt I caused while we were together”.
Georgina smiled and the beginnings of tears appeared in her eyes. She was genuinely touched by Ryan’s words.
“I’d hug you right now if I wasn’t worried about spreading the infection”.
“Frankly, I couldn’t give a shit,” Ryan replied; taking her into his arms. “So you’ll stay,” he asked as they embraced.
“Yes. Yes, I’ll stay,” Georgina responded.
Ryan took the lead regarding the sleeping arrangements and insisted on taking his bed back. Georgina didn’t argue and was happy to agree that he did while she and Harry stayed in the guest bedroom. They talked a little more before Ryan said he wanted to take a walk and see if he could source out more provisions.
The evening was on approach, but the weather was still warm. Ryan stopped at the end of Minerva Drive out of view of his house and sat on the kerb. He contemplated all that he and Georgina had discussed. He’d meant most of what he’d said, but not all. He had no intention of simply allowing Harry to carry on with the woman he still loved under his roof. No; he’d find a way to remove Harry from the equation. It wouldn’t be hard, Ryan reasoned. A simple supply run gone awry or something of that nature.
It would be hard for him to swallow his pride and take his love rival under his wing, even under false pretences, but he knew that the only way of getting rid of the little weasel was to get him close and earn his trust.
Ryan was convinced that Georgina had been misdiagnosed. Dr Schaffer had quite clearly said that all test subjects succumbed within a month and it had been well over that since the screenings. She’d have turned by now if she was suffering with it. All the more reason to reignite the fire between them and be rid of Harry. This would work; he was certain of it.
His train of thought was rudely interrupted by the sound of approaching lurchers. Ryan slowly rose to his feet and approached the two monsters; one attired in rather a revealing dress, but was now only revealing a chest whose breasts had since rotted to nothing but the muscle and bone beneath. Ryan swung his 7 iron and ended the suffering of both reanimated corpses in quick succession. He continued to thrash the skull of the lurcher in the dress until there was nothing left of her head; using her to release some frustration and splattering blood all over the pavement while growling irritably.
It proved therapeutic, especially as he’d imagined her head to be that of Harry. He got his breath back and smiled at his handiwork.
“You’ll regret coming between me and my woman, you little tosspiece!”
With that, Ryan began to walk away with a much clearer head than before; swinging his 7 iron and whistling a cheery tune like he didn’t have a care in the world.
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Image header from Culdesac Home Guide.