The mailman was very late. It was dusk when he came skipping down the middle of the street, but he made no deliveries to the houses at the end of the block.
Tommy pushed past Careen and flung open the front door. He took two steps out onto the porch but couldn’t bring himself to go any farther.
“Hey! Hey! Where are you going? We need our doses. We’re out. Come back!”
The mailman didn’t seem to hear him. He staggered around the corner and out of sight.
Tommy turned back to Careen, who was peering around the doorframe. “I should’ve gone after him. It’s Friday. What the hell? Why did he skip us?” He ducked back inside and slammed the door in frustration.
“It’s Friday,” Careen whispered in horror. “We won’t be able to get any more antidote until Monday.”
“What about yours? Where do you live?”
“We’d probably be dead long before we got to my apartment. What if being inside the house is the only thing that’s protecting us? What if we chanced a trip to my apartment and my dose wasn’t delivered either? I’m not going out there.” She ran from room to room, looking around wildly. Finally, she scuttled under the dining room table.
He waited for her to come out, and when she failed to reappear he took a blanket off the back of the sofa and spread it over the table, then crawled partway in. She’d made a space for herself between two chairs.
“I used to make blanket forts under this table when I was little.”
Tears pooled in her eyes. “A blanket fort isn’t going to help. Can’t you smell the poison in the air?”
“Nah.” He tried to sound convincing.
“It’s black snow. Real snow is clean and crisp, and this…stuff in the air is going to kill us. I dream about it all the time. I dream they set the poison off at night.”
“But wouldn’t that be…kind of okay? I mean, in the middle of the night you’d never know what hit you.”
“So not okay! When all this is over and things get back to normal…”
He snorted. “Normal? How do we even know what that is?”
She brushed away a tear. “Normal should be school and work and ice cream and shopping. Normal should be someone waiting up for you when you stay out late. Normal should be complaining about the debit card bill or the loose brick on the front porch. Normal is not watching black snowflakes stain the sidewalk and hearing the grass scream as it’s being poisoned.”
He eased himself under the table as far as he could. “Normal is not both of us looking out the same window at the same time and seeing different things.”
She fought to keep from crying. “So what can I believe?”
“Believe that I’m here—I’m real—and I’m not going anywhere. Count on it.”
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