It's been a whole year already, she thought to herself. A full year since her parents were gone, and she was forced to live this new life.
She had just started her journey to becoming a nurse, a free ride through college thanks to her family's wealth. She wanted nothing more than to end up with a big family at the end of it all, a few kids. No more than 4 or 5, you gotta have a big family to fill a big house. You need all the hands you can get for the extra yard work.
Down the hall Kieth stumbled along slowly dragging his fingertips across the wooden trim that lined the halls. He was just bored, every night was the same thing. Stay quiet, don't talk too loud after dark. Move slowly through the house, so you don't make any big noises. The last thing they wanted to do was draw attention. A scrawny little city kid, always wearing baggy clothes, as if there were still anyone to try to impress. In reality there wasn't, but there also was. Her.
He made his way to the glow at the end of the hall, where he knew Julie Ann sat at the fire. She did most nights. Maybe she wanted company tonight? If that's the case, then he was willing to be the perfect company.
Ever since Kieth ran into the duo, he had an eye for Julie Ann. It was hard not to, she was a well-kept girl. She was sweet, eyes like emeralds and a perfectly fit athletic body. In the old world, a girl like her probably had no problem getting what she wanted. Options were limited these days, so perhaps he had a chance.
Kieth rounded the corner to see Julie Ann sitting just a few feet from the fire with her face buried in the crook of her arm that rested atop her knees. She was gorgeous in this light. He took a deep breath and forced his heart back down out of his throat.
"Hey jewls!" He whispered.
She lifted her head just enough to reply.
"Mind if I sit?"
"Course not, here."
She moved over slightly and patted the hardwood right next to her.
"Enjoying the fire?" He asked, trying to get a conversation going.
"In a way, I suppose."
Kieth mimicked the way she sat by the fire and also pulled his knees to his chin.
They both sat silently for a few moments, staring blankly into the fire. Kieth didn't want to ruin the opportunity he had sitting next to her, so he respected the silence and let the fire dry out his eyes for as long as he could tolerate.
They both watched the flames dance and pop, as they somewhat fell into a trance.
"May I ask you something?"
"Absolutely! What's up?"
"Before this, what did you want to do? Like later in life?"
He pondered for a second, nothing really came to mind. To be honest, he never actually had the drive or the desire to do anything in particular. A lack of support from his family and most importantly money. Knowing that much, kind of made up his mind that he would be a nobody forever.
"I really don't know. Sorry for such a lame answer. But I'm not really talented."
She never moved her face from her arm, and her eyes stayed locked on the fire.
"What about you?"
"A nurse, I had just started college."
"Oh? You like helping people, I take it?"
"Yeah, it's kind of a typical answer for that. I do like taking care of people and making people feel better. So, I guess being a nurse was the best way to do that."
"That's pretty great if you ask me."
Her eyes continued to stare into the hot coals.
From down the hall, the smell of canned ravioli began to fill the airspace.
"Smell that? Smells like dinner's ready."
"I'm so tired of ravioli..."
Julie Ann said sadly under her breath.
Kieth reviewed her silently, sometimes it was hard to try to keep her mood up. He wasn't about to give up, though.
"Come on, Desmond has been slaving away at dinner for us."
Kieth said as he stood to his feet and reached out a helping hand to Julie Ann. She looked up at him and a smile tugged at her face.
"Is that what you call it?" She said with a giggle.
Kieth grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet, almost forgetting how tall she is. She stood a whole six inches higher than him, and he was embarrassed by it. He couldn't help but glance at her tattoos, blue and tribal like. They twisted up her long legs and disappeared under her clothes and reappeared out the collar of her shirt. It split like vines and sprawled halfway up her neck.
"Something the matter?" She asked.
"No, sorry. Let's get some grub!"
They walked side by side up the hallway to the kitchen, following the smell of food. Around the corner in the kitchen stood Desmond at the stove. A behemoth of a man, standing at a powerful 7 feet tall and nothing shy of 300 lbs. A walking tower of pure intimidation and every bit as powerful. The older brother to Julie Ann also bearing the blue tattoos, his, on the other hand, adorned like gauntlets. Also, tribal in nature, traced each individual finger and spiraled up his forearms and when reaching his elbows went back to a singular thick line that disappeared into the sleeves of his shirt.
"You guys hungry?" He said without turning his head.
"Starving!" Smiled Kieth.
"That's good to hear, I've prepared something special for us tonight."
Julie Ann rolled her eyes as she took a seat at the table.
"Oh yeah, and what would that be?" She mocked.
"Close your eyes and see if you can smell what it is."
Kieth played along excitedly, as well as Julie Ann who was less enthusiastic.
Desmond turned from the stove and wafted the steaming pot in front of their faces and sniffed hard and loud.
"You smell that? Mmmmm a big juicy sirloin steak!"
"With sautéed mushrooms, and potatoes!" Whispered Kieth.
"That's funny because I can't get past the scent of meat shoved inside a little pasta pocket." Julie Ann said with her eyes still closed tightly.
"Bah! Nonsense, you need to get that sniffer checked, jewls."
He sat the pot down in the center of the table and joined the two.
"We both know that's not the problem." She said as she opened her eyes.
"Oh boy steak!" Kieth said as he rubbed his hands together, still playing along.
Desmond smiled and brought his eyes over to Julie Ann, who was fiddling with her hair. He nudged her and nodded toward the food. She smiled back and leaned in to grab a scoop of the ravioli.
"Now save some for the rest of us." She said jokingly at Keith.
He smiled and scooped up a single piece and plopped it over on her plate.
"Here you go mah lady, a mushroom."
She glared at him with a wry smile. Kieth was funny, but she wasn't about to let him know that. Kieth was sweet, but unfortunately had the habit of becoming incredibly annoying, sometimes a little too easily. But this wasn't one of those times, so she didn't mind playing along.
"Go ahead and dig in you two, after dinner we need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be an early day."
Both of their faces dropped from a smile to like they were taking a mugshot. Kieth looked at his plate and pushed around a single piece of ravioli.
"Trouble?" Julie Ann asked silently.
"No, but we've been here for 3 days. Our scent is getting heavy, and we need to move."
They all finished dinner with nothing else said, Keith's eyes never left his plate and Desmond stood from the table and grabbed all of their plates.
"Welp, time to hit the hay, huh?" Mumbled Julie Ann as she too stood from the table.
"Would you like an escort to your room?"
Kieth jumped on the chance for just an extra minute with her, but also quickly glanced at Desmond for a sign of approval. The comment did not even phase him.
"Sure why not."
Julie Ann put out her elbow, and looked through her hair at Keith. His face flush with red and his confidence seemed to have almost left him completely. He didn't expect her to say yes honestly. She smiled and walked towards him.
"Well, my good sir?"
He quickly straightened up and looped his arm through hers, and they turned to leave the kitchen. Desmond chuckled to himself as he dropped the dishes in the sink.
"Crazy kids." He whispered softly.
Walking up the stairs still arm in arm, Kieth chewed at his lip nervously and tried to think about what to say. Julie Ann looked down at the way the dust was kicked up by their feet with each step, and how the moonlight from the window atop the stairs made it shimmer.
"Never thought I would get so tired of seeing a full moon." Kieth finally broke the silence.
She looked up and out the window, and the twisting feeling started in her stomach.
"Yeah me either."
"I'm sorry, I didn't-"
"It's okay, no harm done." She smiled down at him.
They reached the second story and made it to the end of the long upper hallway and stopped at a closed door.
"Well, ma'am, here we are." Kieth said with a blush and a smile.
Julie Ann tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled back.
"Such a Gentleman." She said playfully.
"Goodnight, jewls. I'll see you in the morning."
He turned to walk to his room when suddenly, Julie Ann said his name.
He turned back to look at her.
She leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Thanks." She said,
All he could do was stare and smile. She chuckled and turned into her room, closing the door behind her.
"Goodnight Kieth." She said through the door.
Placing his hand where her lips, just were like a schoolboy who just got his first kiss. What did he do right? He thought to himself. How was he supposed to sleep after that? He turned back to go to his room and nearly ran right into Desmond. He looked up, almost terrified, did he see that? Was he going to pick him up and tear him in half for touching his sister? Instead, when he looked up, Desmond had a considerable grin on his face and his eyebrows were raised.
"Oh! Hey Dez." He said, still holding his face.
"Hey Keith!" He replied, still holding a huge smile.
"I was just..."
"Heading to bed?" He cut him off.
He nodded and looked at the floor, and stepped past the giant.
"Night Kieth." Said Desmond.
As he passed, he placed his massive hand on Kieth's head and ruffled his hair in a playful show of respect and care. He understood the feelings Kieth had for his sister and wasn't against them. It was fun to pick on him occasionally, and he was well aware of the intimidation his size had. Before going to his room, Desmond placed a gentle tap on Julie Ann's door.
A soft "goodnight" came from inside.
He laid down and the bed creaked beneath his weight. He, like the others, didn't want to leave either, but he also knew the danger that came with staying too long. He wasn't about to put Julie Ann in harm's way.
"We have to keep moving. Even if we don't know where we are going." He said to himself.
Desmond's eyes followed the shadows of the leaves from outside on the wall of his room and let their rhythmic movements carry him into sleep.
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