A Vigil for Justice, is a serial post-apocalyptic fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.
Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.
Melanie awoke piece by piece. First, she could feel herself laying in a bed and a blanket pulled over her. Something was pressed up against her leg. Second, was the smell of the hotel room, a hint of her mother’s soap and Mitchel.
The something began to move toward her head as if it were crawling.
“No Daisy, let Melanie sleep.” It was her mom’s voice that broke the fog.
Melanie took a deep breath and fluttered her eyes against dim yellow hotel light. Once they were open, it was Daisy’s brown eyes she looked into. Daisy used her head to bump Melanie’s and then licked her on the cheek.
Melanie’s hand felt foreign as she lifted it to stroke the broad black head.
“Melanie?” Her mom’s face popped into her line of sight.
Melanie nodded and smiled, as if she would be someone else. “Good Morning, mom.”
Melanie pushed herself up, moved the pillow against the headboard, grabbed the other one, and stuffed it behind her back too.
Her mom was handing her a glass of water.
“Thanks, where is Mitchel?” Melanie asked.
“He and Seth went to get dinner.”
The glass slipped from her fingers, water splashed her face, and soaked into the comforter.
“Sam, can you bring a towel from the bathroom?” Jennifer called. She brushed Melanie’s hair back from her eyes. “Are you alright? The doctor said your blood sugar was low and with the stress, you just fainted. Mitchel wanted to have food here when you woke up. He and Seth have gone to get food all day, so you would have something warm to eat.”
Melanie stared without recognition at her sister who came into the room. Her mother’s stroked her hair again. “Melanie?”
Melanie shook the thoughts of Mitchel alone with Seth the Butcher from her head. She could do nothing right now, but hope he came back.
“Hi Mel,” Sam said bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Can we go now mom? We’ve been here forever.” She stopped bouncing and lulled her head all the way back as she drew out the last word.
“How long was I asleep?” Melanie asked, turning to her mom.
“All day, it’s eight now.”
Melanie’s eyes grew wide. “The safe zone. We need to be there at sun set.” Melanie swung her legs around the side of the bed and dashed to the window. She threw open the blinds. Too late. They were too late. Never safe. Melanie laid her hand on her lower abdomen and closed her eyes.
The beep of a card sliding to unlock the door caused her to turn. Seth’s eyes met hers as he came through the door. They had changed, no longer did she see Mitchel’s eyes there. Seth’s were darker, not the color, but the thing that looked out from them.
He smiled. One look at Seth, and she knew he knew she had fit the pieces together that he had left in his wake. Did he see her as prey or as a member of his pack? She wasn’t even sure which was a better position to be in.
Seth stepped farther into the room. “Glad to see you’re awake.”
The smell of Chinese food filled the room. Mitchel pushed passed Seth, set the bag of white cartons on the bed, and went to Melanie.
He looked her over and then pulled her into his arms.
She squeezed his shirt in her fists. He was safe.
His lips brushed her ear. His warm breath caressed her neck.
“I couldn’t leave him with you.” His words were barely audible.
She tilted her head back, looking into him. He knew. He and Captain Jackson must have put it together after she fainted. But why would Seth still be here if they had?
Mitchel kissed her for a long time. “How’s your ankle?” The doctor gave you some pain medication for it.”
Melanie looked down at her foot. She hadn’t even noticed it. She held it up and rotated it a few times. “It’s fine.”
Mitchel smiled. “Good.”
Sam came running into the room. “Food.” She sprang onto the bed right next to Daisy, who barked and wagged her nub.
Melanie’s stomach grumbled. Mitchel glanced over at her. He tried to squeeze his smile in to a line while stifling a laugh. Melanie shoved his shoulder and snatched a plate from her mom. She loaded it up with ham-fried rice, orange chicken, lo mien, and egg rolls.
The others hovered, waiting for her to take what she wanted before the moved in for their share.
It was silent while everyone began to eat. As Melanie swallowed one bite and another was already on its way toward her mouth. She moved systematically from one food choice to the next, one bite at a time. Her gaze flicked to the last egg roll in the carton. Seth’s white plastic fork prodded the carton toward Melanie with two lingering pokes. She didn’t move her eyes from the red sweeping lines of the pagoda etched on the side of the carton. When she didn’t reach for it, he extended his fork again moving it within a few inches of her.
“Go ahead, Melbelle.”
The muscles in her jaw ceased their chewing and mashed the remaining lo mien from between her teeth. Seth withdrew his fork. Heat flooded through Melanie’s body. She locked her eyes on Seth’s. He was threatening her.
Mitchel picked up the carton and tilted it toward Melanie. She took the egg roll. Mitchel crushed the little pagoda and tossed it into the black trashcan across the room.
Sam bounced on the bed between her mom and Melanie. “Good shot.”
“Seth and I stopped at the gatehouse for the safe zone on our way to get food,” Mitchel said. He took a bite of orange chicken.
Each pair of eyes moved from one to the other as they chewed.
When Mitchel had finished he continued. “Sargent McCall said for us to come back at first light. He has a few more things to check into before we could be interviewed for entry.”
Melanie covered her half-full mouth with her fingertips. “Interviewed?”
Mitchel held up a finger and continued to chew the food he had just shoveled into his mouth.
Seth nodded. “He said it was standard procedure and not to worry about it.”
Melanie’s thoughts circled. Another night. Out here. Never safe. She clenched her eyelids together. She felt a hand on her thigh and opened her eyes. Mitchel. It would be alright, she told herself, it’s just one more night. Everything will be fine.
“I’ve booked our rooms for another night and spoke with Capitan Jackson. He said there will be extra guards patrolling the hallways all night and they’re activating the door alarms on all the rooms. The alarm will sound if someone opens a door after ten. All the guests have been notified of the curfew.”
Jennifer placed her hand over her heart. “Thank god.”
Seth stood and walked his plate to the garbage. “No wonder, Sargent McCall believes this place is the safest to stay while waiting for him to do his job.” It slipped from his fingers and he stepped toward the door. Without turning around, he said, “Sleep well and I’ll see you all in the morning.” The door clicked shut behind him.
Jennifer did the same with her plate. “Finish up, Sam. We need to get back to our room, get you bathed and to bed.”
Sam continued to bounce as she took her last bite. “And a story.”
Melanie’s stomach was heavy and happy. Mitchel took her plate. He stretched his neck to toward each shoulder and let the plates fall into the garbage.
“Come here,” Melanie said and wiggled up onto her knees.
He sat with his back to her and she began to kneed his shoulders.
“I was so worried when you passed out. They called for you mom to come into the room. The medical guys asked if you had any other medical condition other than being pregnant.”
Melanie’s hands came to a stop.
“What I’m trying to say is your mom knows.”
She began working his tense muscles again. “Did she say anything?”
“Not a word. Just told them you were allergic to penicillin. She hasn’t said anything about it at all, even after they all left.”
“Does Seth know?”
She didn’t think his muscles could get any tighter, but they contracted in her hands.