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Darkest Before Dawn

By:Amelia Hutchins

Darkest Before Dawn


   
Chapter 1


The day the virus came to town.

“You can’t be serious,” Addy laughed.
“Dead serious,” I said as I checked my watch for the fifth time. Grayson would be out of school in the next hour, which meant my shopping buddy needed to move her ass.
“So how many more hours of clinical do you have?”
“Five, and then I start an internship at the hospital. I worked my schedule around Grayson, but I’m hoping Dad will snap out of his prepper state and man up.”
“You know that won’t happen,” she said as she grabbed popcorn and turned to head to the dairy aisle. “So, what’s he say about that virus?”
The virus was bad, and the news was just depressing. Rh Viridae or ‘Pacers Flu’ had hit Europe hard; hospitals there were overflowing with the sick and the morgues couldn’t keep up with the dead. “He says it’s the end of days, but he said that about the war in Afghanistan, too. I just hope they find a cure for it before it can get this far.”
“Chocolate, or no chocolate?” she asked as she wiggled her eyebrows.
“You have to ask?” I mocked.
“You’re right,” she said as she added a few bars to basket. “So, is he all prepping or…”
“Or,” I said as I reached for a gallon of milk, and put a few cartons of yogurt into the cart. I was still dressed in my plain blue scrubs from the hospital, which did nothing for my figure. I caught Miss Smith watching me, her eyes narrowed on the items in my cart.
She was one of the teachers at the high school, and had always struck me as pretentiously prim and proper. She’d also been the one to report my father to Child Protective Services because she believed Grayson would have been better raised by a ‘normal’ family, instead of our little broken one. I gave her a sharp look before I purposely added more flavors into the cart.
I had been failing school back then, so I knew where she had been coming from. Did I care? Nope. He was my family, and while my dad seemed crazy to everyone else, I knew he had his reasons for what he did. He wanted to protect us, and I think it was his way of coping with my mother’s death. He’d started his prepping the week after her funeral.
I’d only been eleven when she had been brutally gunned down and killed in a robbery gone wrong. It had been a low point in our lives, but we’d dealt with it. Grayson was only two when she’d been killed, so to him, she was just gone. He’d been a surprise to my parents who thought they couldn’t have any more children. Hence the huge age gap. He was twelve now, and in fifth grade. I pretty much raised him, and so far, I think I’ve done a good job of it.
Grayson was a normal twelve year old boy. He got in trouble once in a while, but managed to keep his grades up. Unlike me, he had more than one friend, and was outgoing. I was more of an introvert. I loved Addy, but I had never been much of a social butterfly. I was driven, and had plans.
“We should invite some guys over tonight. Dillon has been asking about you. You know he likes you. I don’t see why you keep refusing to go out with him.”
   
   
“He isn’t interested in me, he’s only interested in something new,” I said dropping Captain Crunch cereal into the cart. “I think he has three more to go until he beats Brad’s score.”
The problem with small towns was everyone knew what everyone was doing. I have to agree with my dad sometimes when he says that boys act like some sort of weird species that are best avoided until they grow out of the phase where the little head does more thinking than the big one. In a small town, their competiveness can take on a bizarre twist.  Brad and Dillon were best friends, and we’d gone to high school with them. Dillon had chased me up until Candace had moved to town. He immediately stopped chasing me and started chasing after her, right up until she gave it up to him. The very next day he was after me again. “I’m not interested in being used.”
“It’s just having fun, for crying out loud,” she mumbled as we headed to the register with her back a little stiffer than it had been. “You should try it sometime.”
“No way on the Dillon thing, and there’s a ton of things I know I’d find to be more fun. Half of our graduating class is hopeless! They barely managed to graduate because most of them already had children. Look at Tabitha, she slept with Dillon and nine months later she’s jobless, a mother, and on welfare. Worst of all, I know she was on birth control because I was there at the clinic when she got the shot. I just don’t get why people would play with their lives like that. There is so much more out there, and we can do anything we want to. A child or a disease is so not on my to-do list right now.”

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