The splitting headache made itself known before Ryan even struggled to open his eyes. For a moment, he had no idea where he was. He instinctively reached out to his alarm clock and fumbled around. On feeling nothing he pulled a perplexed face and lifted his head slightly to look.
A few things hit him at once: firstly, he wasn’t at home; secondly, he’d drank half a litre of gin the night before; thirdly, he was knee-deep in a struggle to survive a zombie apocalypse. That was enough to cause a groan as he slumped back down onto the bed.
As he did so he felt a stirring next to him. He looked to his right to see the still sleeping form of Georgina. That was enough to awaken his senses. He lifted the quilt to discover he was naked; Georgina had wrapped herself up in the quilt in such a way that he couldn’t see if she was too.
The question was too manifest to ignore: had they had sex? The answer, however, wasn’t so palpable. He had no recollection of having sex. If they hadn’t then why was he naked? He could see Georgina was topless aside from her bra; that proved little as she’d always preferred to sleep with a bra on so could easily have put it back on after they’d finished.
As he tried to make heads or tails of the situation a knock on the door of the hotel room sounded. He sat upright. It took for the knock to come again before he sprang to action and pulled on his pants. He staggered to the door and opened it.
Jay stood there, his face somewhat stern. “Had a busy night have we?”
“I… honestly don’t know how to answer that,” Ryan rasped.
“You reek of gin!”
“Yeah, I might have had a drink or two.”
“No shit! We’ll talk about that later. You’re ten minutes late for your shift. Keith’s waiting downstairs for you.”
“Fuck! I completely forgot! I’ll go and get ready now.”
“Are you gonna be in any fit state for scavenging today?”
“It’s nothing a coffee won’t sort out.”
“Unless you plan on drinking it cold, coffee ain’t on the menu.”
“With my head swimming the way it is, I can’t afford to be choosy.”
“Whatever it takes to sober your stupid arse up, make sure you do it ten minutes ago!”
“I’ll be as quick as I can.”
One last reproving shake of the head from Jay and he walked away.
Ryan grinned and shook his head too. What a crank! He collected his clothes and then made his way upstairs to his room. He changed into his combat gear and affixed his weapons, guzzling a litre bottle of water as he went about it.
Once ready, he made his way to the kitchen by the restaurant area where he sourced out another litre of water and a drum of granulated coffee. He tipped a substantial amount of coffee into the bottle of water, screwed the top back on, and shook it up. There wasn’t a fibre of his being that wanted to drink the concoction; however, his choices were limited if he wanted a chance of seeing out the day alive. He unscrewed the cap and downed a quarter of the contents, willing himself not to vomit, and somehow kept it down.
When he got to the lobby, Keith stood waiting with a face like thunder. Their shift should have started over half an hour ago. Ryan offered a fictitious apology before they stepped outside. The sun did its best to poke through gaps in the cloud. While the heatwave had passed, summer was still in full swing, so the weather was far from bitter.
Keith, a former marine, was somebody with whom Ryan had experienced little interaction. Of all the men in the team, he was the most lacking in personality and conversation between them was extremely minimal as they did their rounds. Ryan tried to find a level on which they could meet. He attempted to discover more about Keith’s heritage given as he was black and his own grandfather had been Bahamian. It wielded dissatisfactory results.
When the several-hour-long shift of scavenging came to a conclusion, Ryan was relieved. Even when they were suddenly beset by a small throng of lurchers and gawkers, Keith had barely made a sound. He was as deadly efficient as he was quiet. Ryan was grateful for the former at least.
The first thing Ryan did when he returned to the hotel was go up to Georgina’s room. There was no reply when he knocked on the door, so he went down to the bar. She was sat on a couch conversing with one of the medical scientists. He walked over and cleared his throat.
Georgina turned her head to look at him and smiled slightly. The scientist didn’t need to be asked to leave, intuitively taking her cue. Georgina patted the space next to her on the couch and Ryan accepted the invitation. They looked at one another shyly for several seconds, neither knowing quite how to begin.
Ryan eventually stepped up to the plate. “Quite a night last night, huh?”
“Quite a night indeed!”
“How’s your head?”
“Delicate. I haven’t been much use to anybody today. I don’t know how you’ve managed out there looking for resources.”
“A lot of water and cold coffee!”
“You’re a braver person than I am.”
“Jobs need doing regardless of whether I get wasted or not,” he said with authority. He sucked in a deep breath before broaching the subject he really wanted to discuss. “About last night—”
“Yeah, about that. I think we need to… calm ourselves. We need to avoid any awkward situations. I can see how much you’ve changed and I couldn’t be happier about that, but we have to get a sense of perspective. Survival has to be our priority.”
“Survival is my priority. That doesn’t mean I have to stop feeling something for you.”
“Feeling something isn’t the problem, Ryan. I’ve never stopped feeling something for you; last night should have made that quite clear. I just don’t think maintaining a relationship, even if only sexual, is conducive to the group.”
“So, you want to treat last night as a one off?”
“A one off?”
“Well, you’re saying you don’t want anything at all, even sexual; I’m assuming last night’s bit of fun is gonna be left there.”
“Bit of fun?” Georgina laughed. “If having a drunken snog and touching each other up a bit before falling asleep is your idea of fun then you’re definitely not the guy I once knew!”
“Wait! You mean… we didn’t…?” Ryan raised his eyebrows suggestively.
Georgina laughed again, harder and longer this time. “How drunk were you?”
“Very from the look of things! I haven’t drunk like that since before all of this shit happened.”
“Okay. Well, just to clear it up, we were heading in that direction then somehow wound up unconscious instead.”
“I see. That’s why I was naked this morning then?”
“You wasted no time in getting your kit off. Some things never change!”
Ryan grinned. “At least you were treated to a pleasant sight then.”
“I was treated to two pleasant sights given how pissed I was!”
Just as Ryan was about to continue the flirting and attempt to wear Georgina down he was disturbed by a loud and stern voice.
“Ryan! A word please,” Jay shouted from the entrance to the bar.
Ryan rose to his feet. “Looks like I’ve been summoned. See you later?”
TO BE CONTINUED