The reunion with Georgina wasn’t necessarily a happy one, at least from her perspective. Even in light of all that had been happening, she found herself unwilling to impart her ex-boyfriend with too much information.
She 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 out of a place where you could live comfortably so you could head out here where you might die any minute?”
“I wasn’t happy 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; sassy and judgemental!” Ryan countered with a playful grin that soon faded when he received a familiar reproving glance.
“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 naked man who was 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 around soon.”
“Come around? What did you do?” Georgina asked, growing frenetic.
“He started getting lippy, so I pistol-whipped him and then dragged his bare-ass into the spare bedroom. Might’ve tied him up as well.”
“Arsehole!” she said scornfully as she jumped out of her seat to head upstairs.
Ryan rolled his eyes and slowly got to his feet to follow Georgina. He doubted the guy would be conscious yet. Sure enough, he was still prone on the floor and Georgina murmured reassuring things to him as she cradled his head.
Ryan couldn’t prevent a twang of jealousy. “He’ll be fine,” he muttered.
“No thanks to you! Having to show you’re the big man as ever, eh? You need to grow up!”
“This dude could’ve been anybody! He was in my bed. While we’re on that, why are you even in my house with your new fancy man?”
Georgina couldn’t answer the question. She tried in vain to disguise a sudden look of guilt. Untying Harry’s wrists and ankles, she sighed aloud and then gestured for Ryan to head out of the room so they could talk in private.
They went through to the master bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. It was tough for Ryan not to think of all the sexual acts the pair of them performed in said bed.
“I’m sorry for bringing Harry here,” Georgina said genuinely. “When I found out I was infected I felt I should head somewhere I knew 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 when all this started and it was honestly nothing serious. I just needed to build my confidence back up after what happened between us.”
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. “I 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 quietly admitted. “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 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. That’s over; there’s 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 have thought of me to have come here. You were surely wary of the fact I might still be here.”
“The thought crossed my mind, though I figured it was unlikely as you’d either be in a safe zone or…”
“Or dead, right? That’s nice!”
“You could’ve been. Obviously, that isn’t what I wanted. I’m glad you’re alive. I think you’re stupid for leaving the safe zone, but I’d never wish death on you.”
“I know. I’m sorry for insinuating you might.”
An uneasy silence followed. 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. That truly sucks!”
“It’s not convenient, I must admit,” Georgina ceded with a humourless smile.
“You seem to be hanging on though.”
“How do you mean?”
“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 or if I’m even infected at all. The equipment could’ve been faulty or anything. 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 asleep in my bed?”
“We do the foraging in turns. He’s not useless. He’ll go to the ends of the earth to protect me.”
“He doesn’t need to anymore now I’m here and I’ll obviously do a far better job.”
“You’re not here to do anything for me,” she responded, 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 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 make things too weird.”
“At first maybe. Not always. 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; those times you knew you were hurting me yet carried on regardless because of your big ego.”
“You can keep on reminding me of all the things I did wrong, Georgina, or you can allow me to try and make amends. I trekked all the way from Sheffield to here. I’ve been out there; I’ve 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 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; however, she couldn’t argue 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’d certainly provide them with added muscle. “I could be dead in a couple of days from now. 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.”
“I don’t know whether to trust you. This isn’t the Ryan Lloyd I know and used to love.”
The words pierced Ryan’s heart like a dagger. Had she really shed her feelings for 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. He looked at her 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 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, petite nose. The cheekbones were high akin to a model and her 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,” he almost whispered. “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 his words. “I’d hug you right now if I wasn’t worried about spreading the infection.”
“Frankly, I couldn’t give a toss!” Ryan replied, taking her into his arms. “So, you’ll stay?”
“Yes. Yes, I’ll stay.”
Ryan took the lead regarding the sleeping arrangements and insisted on taking his bed back. Georgina wasn’t about to argue as she and Harry were relegated to 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 weather was still warm despite evening’s approach. He stopped at the end of Minerva Drive, out of view of his house, and sat on the kerb. He contemplated all that had been said with Georgina. He’d meant most of it, though not all. He had no intention of simply allowing Harry to carry on with the woman he still loved. No, he’d find a way to remove him from the equation. It wouldn’t be hard. A simple supply run gone awry perhaps. While it would be hard for him to swallow his pride and take his love rival under his wing, even under false pretences, he knew the only way of getting rid of the little weasel was to get him close and earn his trust.
He was convinced Georgina had been misdiagnosed; Schaffer had 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 derailed by the sound of approaching lurchers. He slowly rose to his feet and approached the two monsters: one attired in rather a revealing dress, now only revealing a chest whose breasts had since rotted to 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 Harry’s.
He got his breath back and smiled at his handiwork. “You’ll regret coming between me and my woman!” With that, he walked away with a much clearer head, swinging his 7-iron and whistling a cheery tune like he didn’t have a care in the world.
TO BE CONTINUED