Children's Crusade
Chapter 26

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Zoe took a bite of the pancake then stared at it in surprise. She'd expected something dry and tasteless, but this was warm, moist and chocolaty. She ate it all, and when Becky came around carrying a plate stacked high with extras, she grabbed two more.

Bobbi-Jo mixed up a final bowl of batter and set it on the counter next to the stove. "Cook it all, anything we don't eat, put in those ziplock bags for later. Then wash all the stuff we're taking with us. Remember which?"

Elizabeth pointed to some of the pots and pans. "These, then all the cups and silverware. The plates and bowls are already bagged up."

"That's right." Bobbi-Jo nodded, then picked up a bundle and carried it over to the loveseat. "How are you feeling this morning Miss Simpkins?" She didn't wait for an answer, instead she peered into Zoe's eyes. "They match now, do you still have a headache?"

She did, but she'd already taken as many painkillers as she dared. "I'll be fine," she said, "How many students are there?"

Bobbi-Jo swallowed once, eyes moist. "I ... I'm not sure. Jer was making a list, but three of the boys died this morning, and two more kids got bit. I'll tell him you want to know." She put the bundle on Zoe's lap. "We found some clothes that ought to fit, we couldn't get the blood out of your old ones. You go ahead and change, we'll take care of everything."

Zoe felt the gun and keys in the pockets of the robe she wore. "No, not everything. I'll change, you find Jeremy and tell him to bring me that list." A part of her was ashamed for hoping none of the kids who'd been killed or hurt were from her class. There was only a little dizziness when she stood up. "Don't let anyone go down to the bus until I say." She pointed at the television. There was a choir singing now, but there was still a news ticker on the screen, 'If anyone has been bitten avoid any contact, isolate them at once.' "Earlier they said if the ghouls didn't see or hear you, sometimes they would leave. Get a bunch of sheets together and put them by the door, I have an idea."

The teenager picked up a four year old with a chocolate smeared face. "Come on Sugar, let's get you cleaned up and ready to go."

The little boy swallowed the rest of his pancake and wrapped his arms around her neck. "We going to find Mommy?"

"We're going to a safe place, far away from all the bad people. We'll leave your mama a note so she'll know where you are..."

The rest was drowned out by Jenny. " ... twice already. You need something to do? Go get all the blankets and sheets off the windows."

Zoe didn't recognize the girl she was arguing with at first, she looked different in jeans and without most of the makeup. She'd put on a fresh coat of black lip gloss though, that and the piercings identified her. "Don't tell me what to do you little four-eyed bitch, just give me the fucking phone." She tried to stick her hand inside Jenny's denim jacket. "God..."

Crack. Jenny slapped her, slapped her hard enough to knock her off balance. For just an instant Jenny's fingers were outlined white on Tracy's pale face. Then the blood came rushing back, showing the hand-print red and flushed even as she tried to claw Jenny's face with her long black fingernails.

Jenny caught her arm and twisted, and they both tumbled to the ground. Despite the older girl weighing at least twenty pounds more, when they rolled to a stop, Tracy was face down on the carpet and Jenny was on top, her legs straddling Tracy's. Jenny had one of the older girl's wrists in each hand. She pulled them back then pushed them up towards Tracy's shoulder blades until she screamed. Her feet flailed wildly against the floor until Jenny shoved again. "Be quiet." Her words came out in a feral hiss. Her eyes were wild and hard behind her glasses, her face mask carved from ice as she stared through the girl on the floor underneath her. Her antagonist went limp and moaned softly as she eased off the pressure. "Don't do that again." Jenny said.

"Okay, okay," the older girl moaned. "Please, it hurts, it hurts."

"You're worthless and incompetent." Jenny spat the words out. "You're willfully ignorant and you probably don't know anything worth knowing, but Alex risked his life to save you, so here's how it's going to be." She leaned down and hissed the words into the girl's ear, twisting her arms a little more. "Are you listening?" The girl only moaned. Jenny shoved her arms up a fraction of an inch more. No one made any move to stop her. Zoe felt like she ought to do something, but only sat there stunned by both by Jenny's sudden brutality and by her restraint. It was obvious that she wanted to hurt the girl, and equally obvious that she was holding herself back. "I asked you a question. Are you listening?"

"Yes, yes! I'm listening. Please, just don't hurt me anymore."

Jenny leaned back, relieving the pressure. "Here's how it's going to be." She repeated. "You are going to stay alive. You're not going to freak out, or panic, or do something stupid and get yourself or anybody else killed. When someone makes food for you, you're going to thank them, not complain that it has meat in it. If someone gives you a job to do, you're going to do it, and if you see one of the kids doing something dangerous you're going to stop them." Tracy was crying now, tears fell from her eyes and soaked into the carpet. Jenny relaxed her hold a little more. It was like someone had flipped a switch, her eyes calmed, her face went back to it's normal pleasant expression, but her voice was almost as hard as it had been. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know." Tracy screamed as Jenny twisted her arms again. "I'll do whatever you say."

Jenny eased up again. "Good girl. Now I'm going to tell you how it's going to be, and you're going to repeat it so you can remember it. You're going to stay alive..."

"I'm going to stay alive..."

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