Unending Havoc: Montana Mayhem Book 1 | America's New Apocalypse
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There is edge-of-your-seat action, drama and all the emotions you would expect in such a situation. A very engrossing read, and now I am anxiously awaiting the next!Tonya Crawford
As always, this author has surpassed my expectations!Phycilla
Knocked my socks off! I very much enjoyed reading this book and I am so looking forward to seeing what happens next.Debra M.
This series has given me inspiration in my own journey. It has shown me things that I have missed my entire life.Chris Truman
Sometimes, you just want to be wrapped in the safety of your mother's arms...especially when an EMP turns your life upside down.
After losing her husband in a tragic fire, Tamra’s brother-in-law offers shelter and security for her and her daughters—which is essential in this new world that’s rapidly dissolving into chaos.
But Tamra soon discovers what she thought was security was nothing more than a lie.
Now all Tamra wants is to take her children and go home to her mom and dad. In the old world, home was only a quick hour and a half drive away. But now that cars and fuel are a thing of the past, nothing is quick, and it's certainly not easy.
It's not even safe.
Can Tamra and her children survive this dangerous journey? Was her hometown affected by these devastating attacks against the US? Are her parents even alive?
Unending Havoc, Book 1 of Montana Mayhem, is the highly anticipated follow-up story to the bestselling Havoc in Wyoming Christian Futuristic series, which follows societal collapse from a small-town perspective. Featuring engaging scenarios, riveting action, and flawed yet strong and complex women, the Montana Mayhem series is perfect for fans of Mark Goodwin, Jamie Lee Grey, and Kyla Stone.
Download today and discover why readers love this twist on the Post-Apocalyptic genre!
The Montana Mayhem series can be described as “Cozy” Apocalypse and contains no profanity, gratuitous sex scenes, or overly detailed gruesome death scenes. However, it does contain conservative family values and references to God, prayer, scripture, and Christianity.
Release date: September 9, 2021
Publisher: CU Publishing LLC
Print pages: 185
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Unending Havoc: Montana Mayhem Book 1 | America's New Apocalypse
“Is someone having a barbecue, Mommy?” six-year-old Debbie asks, looking up from the page she’s coloring.
I stop my scrubbing and take a tentative sniff. With a shake of my head, I say, “It wouldn’t surprise me. Lots of people are like us and only have an electric stove. Those stopped working when the lights went out, remember?”
“So they use their camp stove or barbecue grill,” she says with a nod. “I remember.”
“That’s right, sweetie.” I return to my cleaning. I’m on the last cabinet on this side of the kitchen, having taken everything off each shelf, giving them all a good wipe down before putting things back. I’m ready for a break as soon as this one’s finished.
I started my cleaning frenzy a few hours ago, shortly after an argument with my husband left me with too much pent-up anger. While scrubbing, I’ve been replaying our conversation over and over in my head.
There’re so many things I wish I would’ve said. But most of all, I wish he would’ve listened to me and did what I asked: put his wife and children first today instead of his job—a job he’s no longer getting paid to do since the banks shut down when the power went out. Sure, they say they’re keeping track of wages and will make things right, but will they? Dallas, my overly trusting husband, insists it’ll be fine, they’ll take care of us.
That man can be so infuriating! I understand he thinks he’s needed at work—I not only understand but agree with him. But we need him here! With the world going crazy, and our little town starting to show signs of falling apart, he should be home with us.
“Tamra, honey,” he said, reaching for my hand as we stood by his pickup truck.
I pulled my hand away.
He let out a sigh. “This isn’t like you. Don’t be like this.”
“Don’t be like this? After fifteen years of marriage, you should be the one not being like this. We need you here.”
“Why? What is it you think I can do here?”
“You can keep us safe.”
“You are safe. Look, I have to go. They’re counting on me. With the hospital overflowing— ” he shook his head “ —they need me.”
“We need you!”
He reached for me again.
This time, I let his fingers brush mine before pulling away.
With a hurt look, he said, “I’ll be home when my shift is over.”
“Doubtful,” I spat. “You haven’t been home on time since this whole mess started.”
“Are you going to kiss me goodbye?”
I turned away from him, rushing back to the house and slamming the door. I leaned against the door, willing him to follow me. My chin dropped to my chest when I heard the truck start up.
“Nice, Mom,” my older daughter, Beth, said. “I’m sure the neighbors heard you screaming at Dad.” She turned and went into her bedroom. I haven’t seen her since.
Letting out a long, slow breath, I begin replacing the dishes to the now sparkling shelves. I’m impressed how clean I was able to get everything with only a limited amount of water. When the power went out several days ago, the water stopped shortly after. There’s still water in other parts of town, but not here. My husband has been good about bringing jugs home to us and making sure we have enough while he’s at work.
Just a few days ago, things were normal. School was out for the summer. The girls and I were falling into a routine. As a stay-at-home mom since the birth of Beth, I try to make summers fun. Beth, turning thirteen in a few weeks, isn’t making it easy this year. She wants nothing more than to stay in her room or play on her phone or chat on the computer instead of going to the park, the lake, or the host of other activities our summers usually involve.
I almost smile thinking about, until last week, that was the biggest issue in my life—my preteen daughter wanting to hole up in her room. Now she still spends most of her time in there, but instead of being on her computer or phone, she’s reading or just staring at the ceiling.
I wish the phones were working. I’d call Dallas and apologize. He was right when he said this isn’t like me. Our marriage is a good one, and we rarely argue. And although I can get emotional—or as I like to think of it, passionate—I don’t usually overreact. What’s gotten into me?
I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. It’s hot today. And muggy. Wyoming’s an arid area, and we usually have dry heat—dry cold too. The extra bit of moisture today makes it feel hotter than it probably is.
Maybe I’ll go see Dallas during his lunch break and tell him how sorry I am for being such an emotional jerk, but also insist we need to talk about this and come up with a plan going forward. We’ve always been good at that—working together to do what’s best. His logical side combined with my slightly more emotional side seem to complement each other.
“So, what’s the deal with the toilet?” Beth yells from the hallway.
“Excuse me?” I call out. “If you have a question, please come and ask me properly instead of yelling.”
With a huff and a puff, she steps just into my view. “Can I use the bathroom or not?”
I force a smile. “You may. Don’t flush unless— ”
“I know that part. But I thought Dad said it was getting backed up?”
I lift a shoulder. “We don’t know. He was finally able to get it to flush last night. Just leave it for when he gets home.”
With a flounce only possible by a girl her age, she disappears. Seconds later, the bathroom door shuts much harder than needed.
Beth was the first to find out about the original attacks. Dallas was home from work, having already put in a twelve-hour day as an orderly on the surgical unit of the hospital. We were watching a movie when Beth rushed into the living room.
“There’s been a plane crash,” she said. “Not just one but several. At different airports. They’re calling it a terrorist attack.”
“What?” I asked as Dallas grabbed the TV remote. “How do you know?”
“It’s all over the internet. Everyone’s talking about it.”
We switched from the streaming service to a news channel, the three of us silently watching as the carnage was reported. I was grateful Debbie stayed asleep, especially when a reporter at one of the affected airports was doing a segment and a massive explosion interrupted the broadcast.
Soon, each of the airports that had plane crashes were in flames from secondary detonations. The worst part about the second explosions was they waited until first responders arrived—firefighters, EMTs, and police who were there to help. Thousands were killed.
It was terrible. But we weren’t directly affected, with none of the airports being near us or anyone we knew being on a plane or near the explosions. Still, we mourned with the country.
Then, the next day, a second attack happened—or more accurately, a series of attacks—as bridges across the country were destroyed. Day after day, the attacks have continued, targeting oil refineries and train stations.
For reasons I’ll never understand, scared people began fleeing the safety of their homes, which resulted in freeways and interstates, even small county roads, being jammed with travelers.
The TV showed roads in gridlock, and fuel trucks couldn’t even get where they were needed to replenish empty stations. Then a nationwide cyberattack took out the lights, cell phones, home phones, computers, TVs, and more. Once that happened, things went bad fast, and now our small town of ten thousand is a mess too.
People are scared, and scared people can do awful things. Prospect, Wyoming, which is always busy during the summer with vacationers, is suddenly bulging at the seams as visitors to nearby Yellowstone National Park try to make their way home, only to end up stranded here because our gas stations are out of fuel.
I know Dallas is seeing some of the worst of it since his small hospital is overrun. Under normal circumstances, there are forty-five staffed beds with fifteen of those in the ICU. Now they’re filled to more than four times their usual capacity. All elective surgery has been suspended, so Dallas is helping wherever he’s needed, still in surgery sometimes since there’s plenty of emergency cases.
Many of the injured are in the hospital after being attacked. Some were shot. Some were beaten. The hospital’s generator keeps the surgical suites functioning, but Dallas says it won’t last long. They’ll soon run out of fuel.
Not only is the hospital overflowing with people needing care, but it’s also set up as a refugee station. A soup kitchen operates out of the cafeteria, and people sleep any place they can find a spot in the building or on the lawn outside.
I get it. Dallas feels a need to be there, to fulfill what he thinks of as his obligation not only to his employer but to those he works with.
But as things deteriorate around us, I want him home. Especially after last night when we kept hearing gunshots. They were far enough away not to be a direct threat to us. But it was still scary. And we’ve been hearing about break-ins, not just at night but during the day too.
There’s a knock at the door, quickly followed by, “Tamra! You in there?”
Debbie peers out the window. “It’s Mr. Harv.”
Swinging open the door, I don’t even get out a hello before my retired neighbor yells, “It’s the hospital! The hospital is on fire! I’m going to help. Candice will watch the girls if you want to come along.”
He steps aside slightly to show his wife standing behind him.
“I’ll watch the children, dear,” she says, stepping inside.
“The hospital—how do you know?”
“Look!” Harv points to a huge plume of smoke. “Can’t you smell it? Dirk was just here. They’re rounding up as many people as possible to help. We need to go.”
“I need a minute!” I cry, running to my room to slide into tennis shoes. My hands are shaking so badly, I can’t get them tied. Leaving the laces loose, I race back to the living room. Beth and Debbie are sitting with Candice Murphy on the couch while her husband paces.
“Mom?” Beth asks with a quiver in her voice.
“Time’s a wastin’.” Harv strides toward the door.
I grab each of my girls, holding them tight while kissing them and admonishing them to mind Mrs. Murphy.
The fear in Beth’s eyes is evident.
Debbie, who’s still too young to really understand how devastating a fire like this can be, releases me. “Hurry home, Mommy.”
I quickly slip out the door behind Harv.
When we reach the downtown area, traffic is heavy. We park several blocks away from the hospital.
“Grab those buckets.” Harv points to an assortment of five-gallon and smaller containers. He grabs a shovel and bow rake before coming around the truck and taking a few of the buckets from me. “Can you handle the second shovel?” he asks.
With a shovel in one hand and four buckets held by the handles in the other, I awkwardly follow behind Harv. At his age, I’m surprised by how fast he’s moving. While not running, he’s definitely fast walking.
As we walk around a building, the hospital comes into view. I let out a cry when I see it. There’re flames coming out of almost every part of the large building, and at least three lines of people—bucket brigades—are throwing water on the fire. My stomach falls as I take in the scene. The smoke smell, which was light at home, is almost overpowering here—heavy and acrid. How will a few buckets of water put out a fire that’s already consumed more than half the city-block-sized building?
I frantically begin looking at the human chain, trying to find my husband.
“Let’s take the buckets to the start of that line.” Harv points to a group by a large portable cistern. After dropping off our buckets, Harv takes the shovels, going with a group that’s trying to keep a nearby building from catching.
I look at the flaming building, the heat from it sweltering even at this distance. I need to find Dallas. I start off in that direction, then someone hollers about needing more people. With a shake of my head, I find a spot in the bucket brigade.
There’s little talk while we work in the hot, ashy space. My eyes continuously dart around, watching the flame-engulfed hospital, trying to catch a glimpse of my husband. A makeshift triage area has been set up in a nearby park. Whenever I can, I look over there, trying to search out Dallas. That’s probably where he is, helping move people around so they can get the care they need.
After many minutes, my shoulders ache from grabbing the bucket from the person behind me and passing it to the person in front of me. More than once I slosh the water, filling my shoe.
“Careful,” the woman behind me hisses.
When I turn to get the next bucket from her, she’s looking behind her, asking what the holdup is.
“Everyone, get back!” a voice near the front of the line calls out. “The building’s coming down!”
The human chain breaks up, with people moving to the back of the line where I am.
“Oh, no,” the lady behind me cries, wrapping her pudgy arms around her ample chest, rocking back and forth. “God help us.” She crumples to the ground.
I sink to the ground next to her, tears filling my smoke-filled eyes as I watch the building begin to lean. A loud groan fills the air, then it’s completely silent for many moments before the hospital falls.
“Do you know how it started?” I ask, my voice hoarse from the smoke, exertion, and disbelief.
“There was shooting and then— ” She lifts her hands. “My son went in to help get people out. I don’t . . . I haven’t seen him.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. I’m going to look for my husband. He works here.”
I offer the woman a hand to help her off the ground.
Once we’re both standing, she says, “If your husband works there, he’s probably at the triage area, right?”
“I think so, yes. That’d make sense.”
“I hope you find him. I’m going up toward the front to see if I can find my son. God be with you.”
“Uh, okay. I hope you find him.” I jog to the makeshift hospital area.
A nurse I know catches my eye. She gives a slight shake of her head and a look I can’t quite decipher.
I stiffen my back, walking toward her. “Is Dallas here?” I ask in a rush, my eyes darting around the area.
“I’ll be right back.” She gives a half smile to the person she’s working on and then motions me to the edge of the space.
“What is it?” I blurt out.
Stepping close to me, in barely a whisper, she says, “I’m sorry, Tamra. He . . . did you hear about the shooting before the fire?”
I stop scanning the area and meet her eyes. “Yes. And?”
“Dallas—he was hit.”
“Where is he? Are they operating—out here?”
“No, honey, he . . . Dallas is a hero. Even wounded and limping, he did what he could to help us get people to the stairs. But he was too injured. We wanted to send him down on a gurney, but he insisted we get the floor cleared first. I’m sorry. I don’t think he made it out.”
“You left him in there? To burn to death?” My voice is a high squeak.
“I’m so sorry.” She touches my arm as someone calls her name. “I have to go. We’ll have grief counselors here as soon as we can. I’m so, so sorry. Dallas was a wonderful man.”
She leaves me there, staring at her. Another one of Dallas’s coworkers looks up from the person she’s tending to. She sees me and quickly breaks eye contact.
I run to her and scream, “Is it true? Did you leave my husband to die?”
“Tamra, it’s not like that.”
“Tamra!” a gravelly voice calls my name.
I whirl around. My heart skips a beat. They were wrong! It’s Dallas! He’s covered in soot and limping as he makes his way toward me. I begin to run. But after a few steps, I stop.
“Jackson,” I say numbly. It’s not my husband but his younger brother. From afar, especially with his face and clothes ashy, they look too much alike.
“Did you hear?” he asks, his voice thick and low.
“It’s not true. They wouldn’t just leave him to burn.”
“The gunshot . . . they said he bled out before the fire.”
He opens his arms to hold me, to comfort me. We grieve the loss of my husband, his brother, together.
The following March
“Is this sliced thin enough?” I ask, lifting my knife and using it as a pointer.
Rochelle scrunches up her face. “Close. Maybe a little thinner on the next pieces. It’ll dry faster that way.”
I bob my head before slicing into the next piece. We work in silence for several minutes until the snap of a log in the woodstove causes me to jump. I drop the knife on the wooden table, and it slides onto the floor with a clatter.
“Oh! I’m—I don’t know why I’m so jumpy.”
“This world we live in, it’s easy to react to every little sound.”
“Are you worried?” I ask. “About what we’ll find out there?”
She looks up at me, tears puddling in her eyes. With a shake of her head, she sets her knife on the table. “We probably have enough strips to fill up the bottom three racks. How about I put them on and then we’ll take a break, have a good stretch and a cup of tea before going back to work.”
“Good idea.” I flex my fingers. “I feel like I’ve been hunched over this table for hours.” I give a small, mostly fake, laugh.
“That’s because, my dear Tamra, you have been! We both have. I may never be able to sit up straight again. We’ll be thankful for our efforts soon. It’ll keep us fed.”
As Rochelle moves the thin pieces of venison to the newly constructed multiwire rack behind her roaring woodstove, I wrap the back haunch I was working on in a piece of cotton sheeting, then do the same with Rochelle’s roast.
“I’m going to peek in on the girls after I put this away.”
“Good idea,” Rochelle says. “Tell them we’re putting tea water on and to come over in fifteen minutes or so.”
I give a nod before stepping out the front door of Rochelle’s half of our duplex cabin. The bright sunshine reflecting off the snow is almost blinding. I take a moment to let my eyes adjust to the sudden change. “Wouldn’t do to stumble and fall off the porch because you can’t see,” I mutter to myself.
After tucking the packages of meat into the cooler on the front porch, I stand and stretch, then shiver. I should’ve grabbed my coat. The calendar may show March 1st, but it’s hard to believe spring could be anytime soon—not with several feet of snow on the ground and temperatures still well below freezing.
I shake my head. Two weeks until we leave. Maybe we’ll get a warming streak before then. Otherwise, we could be making a mistake. I let out a snort. If only the weather was our main worry.
Closing my eyes, I take in a deep breath. Even in the cold, the smell of the woods is strong, rich. The woodstoves burning in the two dozen or so cabins add to the pungent aroma. There’s something wonderful, almost healing, about living on the mountain. Or there could be, if I didn’t have to deal with the other people living around here, if it was just Rochelle, me, and the children.
Like me, Rochelle is a widow. Also like me, she’s a bit of an outcast.
But where I can’t seem to focus on anything except the terrible things people say behind my back, Rochelle lets it all slide off her. She smiles and offers a kind hello, drawing out her critics, holding her head high. Maybe my oldest daughter is right. Maybe I’m just being a big baby about all of this and need to grow a backbone—or find the one I used to have.
Sometimes, I wonder how I’ve become this weak, insecure woman. There was a time when I would’ve walked up to one of those old biddies and gave them a piece of my mind, telling them exactly what they could do with their opinion of me. Not now. Now I’m so insecure I barely recognize myself. I need a change. A big change.
I turn toward the second door on the large porch—my half of the duplex cabin where the girls are hanging out while Rochelle and I work. The older girls spent yesterday helping us cut and dry the front quarters of the deer, while the two younger girls played games. Today, Rochelle and I decided they could have a break. Our decision was partly selfish to give ourselves some quiet time.
“Knock, knock,” I say as the door opens with a creak.
“Hi, Mom.” Debbie looks up from her game, lifting her hand in the semblance of a wave.
“Hi, Tamra!” Rochelle’s youngest daughter, who’s around the same age as Debbie, copies the greeting.
Rochelle’s older daughter lifts her head from the daybed where she and my daughter Beth are looking over old issues of teen magazines. She smiles at me, while my own teen barely acknowledges I’ve entered the room.
“Everything going okay, Beth?” I ask my surly child—or as she prefers to be known at the tender age of thirteen and a half, young adult. Seems she thinks fourteen is the new twenty. And with the way things are, it’s understandable—to a point. I still want her to be my little girl, to protect her and let her enjoy her youth. But Beth, like all the children and teens living in today’s world, don't have the luxury of a carefree childhood.
“Fine, Mom.” Without looking up, she turns the page.
“Did you go through those clothes and remove anything that doesn’t fit?”
“Look at me, please.”
After a sigh that Rochelle probably heard next door, she says, “Yes, Mother.” She purposely bugs out her eyes, exaggerating looking at me. “I went through my clothes and Debbie’s. A few things fit them.” She haphazardly motions to Rochelle’s girls. “The rest can go to the supply house.” Beth turns back to her well-worn magazine. “Don’t worry, Mother. We know we can only take what we need to survive. We were at the meeting.”
“Thank you, Beth.” I force my voice to sound patient. Kind. Her life—all of our lives—has changed so much in the past nine months. And now we’re making another change. “I appreciate you doing that. Did you start the list of things you’ll need for the journey?”
Beth gives a slight lift of her shoulders. “Sort of. It’s on the table.”
“Will we need to take our summer clothes?” Debbie asks. “Last time we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s when it was hot, they let me run in the sprinkler. But I don’t have a swimsuit anymore.”
She raises a valid point. Anything that fit last summer, she’s long ago outgrown. “I’ll see if I can trade for a few things at the supply house. Because we’re taking the team and wagon, we’ll be able to pack in a few extra things. But we can’t go crazy.”
“It’s good we don’t have to just carry our stuff on our backs.” Debbie’s eyes are wide. “That’s what Naomi has to do. She can only bring clothes that fit in her backpack.”
“Yes, having the wagon until we reach your grandparents’ house is wonderful. You’ll even be able to ride some. Naomi too.”
She frowns. “I’d rather ski like you and Beth.”
“You can ski in my place,” Beth says. “I’d rather— ”
“Yes, Beth.” I muster every bit of patience I can find within me. “I know what you’d rather do. But once we get to your grandparents’ home, to Joliet, you’ll be glad we did it.”
“I doubt that, Mother.”
“We’ll discuss this later.” A fib. I have zero intention of doing so. We’ve already talked this to death. My decision is made. In two weeks’ time we’ll be leaving this mountain and heading for my childhood home in Joliet, Montana, whether my daughter likes it or not.
“And, Beth, please don’t call me Mother. Mom, Mama, or Ma—even hey you would sound much nicer than mother said in that tone.”
She lifts her hand and rolls her eyes. “Whatever you want.”
I square my shoulders and give the girls a smile, one that Beth misses as she goes back to flipping pages. “Head over to the other cabin in about fifteen minutes. We’re putting on tea and will have snacks.”
“Are we eating something good, Mommy?” Debbie asks, stressing calling me mommy in a sweet voice while widening her eyes.
I move to the kitchenette. “We got home-canned applesauce in our rations this week. How does that sound with mint tea?”
“Did you get cheese?” Rochelle’s youngest daughter asks. “We got cheese this week.”
“We did,” I say. “But we had that last night before bed.”
“We haven’t had ours yet. Maybe my mom will share with you if you share applesauce with us?”
“Sounds like a plan.” I give her a smile. “So we’ll see you in fifteen minutes. Right, Beth?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
Back in Rochelle’s cabin, I don’t even say hello before I start lamenting on my teenage daughter. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that girl. She’s so . . . so negative all the time. It’s like she goes out of her way to be difficult.” I drop my chin to my chest and whisper, “I know she has her reasons.”
Rochelle offers a sympathetic smile. “None of this has been easy for any of us, with everything that’s happened nationally, locally . . . personally.”
“Your girls seem to be handling it well. And with what they’ve been through—what you’ve been through—I’d think they’d be acting out too.”
“Oh, believe me,” Rochelle says, lifting her hands, “we have our days! When I start noticing the signs, I try and listen to the Lord, leaning on His Word to determine how I should respond. It’s not always easy.” She gives me a smile.
I take a deep breath and force myself not to roll my eyes. Surely, I can act more mature with my good friend when she starts spouting off about her newfound religion than my teenage daughter does with me. I paste a smile on my face. “I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. This new faith of yours seems to give you, um, comfort.”
Rochelle returns my fake smile with a real one of her own. “God has become the most important part of my life. Through Him, I’m learning how to be a better mom.”
“Are they angry at you? Your girls? For leaving them, I mean.”
Her smile falters. “It’s not going to be easy. I know that. We’ve discussed the dangers. And they’ve seen enough in the months since the attacks started and the EMP hit to be concerned. But they both understand I have to go. I must find their brother and bring him home so we can be a family again.”
I give a nod. “And you feel God is leading you in this. You’ve said you prayed about it.”
“I do. Even though it’s a risk and I know things might not work out as I hope—as I pray—I also know I might not make it back and my girls will be orphans. Even so, I can’t not go.”
“Don’t you think it might be smart for us to wait and leave after the snow’s gone?”
“When will it be gone?” she asks with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “This is not only the apocalypse but the snowpocalypse! I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, sure, we’re living on a mountain at high elevation—a former ski resort—so there should be snow, right? But even the lower elevations, back in Bakerville . . . ” She bites her top lip. “I hope things are going okay there today. Such a terrible, terrible thing.”
We move to the couch near the woodstove. My part of the duplex is a studio with a queen-size bed, a daybed with a trundle underneath, a loveseat, and a chair plus the small kitchenette and a bathroom. Rochelle’s side is a one bedroom, with twin beds in the bedroom and a queen bed in the living room, plus a sofa bed, kitchenette, and bathroom. The woodstove in this larger cabin warms both of our spaces, with the addition of several vents at the top of the shared wall.
“Are you expecting PJ to be back today?” I ask.
“That’s what he said. If he’s back early enough, he wants to have another planning meeting, ideally before supper so we can attend the church service after we eat.”
“He’d better hurry then. It’s already after three.” I point to the windup alarm clock sitting on her side table.
“How about you? How are you feeling about leaving?”
“Scared. But excited. What was that show about those oil drillers going into space? One of them said he’s 95 percent excited and 5 percent scared. Or maybe it’s the other way around and 5 percent excited and 95 percent scared. That’s how I feel.”
“I love that movie,” Rochelle gushes. “My heart was pounding during most of it. Watching movies and reading books about the end of the world was much more exciting than living it.”
“Yeah, I definitely liked it when those scenarios were purely fiction. Living it’s not that great.” I give her a weak smile.
“Exactly. And that heart-pounding action in movies and books, I don’t want that! Now, the less excitement the better. Instead of nonstop action, I want boring. I want to not have to worry about making it through each day, about being attacked.”
“But we’re putting ourselves out there by leaving the safety of the mountain. We know how dangerous it is. I mean, look at what happened to those that stayed behind in Bakerville instead of moving up here with us. They’re dead.”
“You could stay here, Tamra. No one’s forcing you to go. Wait until later, after the president has his reconstruction efforts in place and travel is safer.”
I let out a sigh. “I know. I’ve thought about it. But I don’t know if I can handle one more day of judgmental looks and talk about me and my girls behind our backs. I’m not like you.”
At her raised eyebrows, I quickly add, “I mean, there’s still a few who blame you for what happened, right? A few who think Fred was really innocent and you made it all up? But you don’t worry about them.”
“Sure, I guess. But those few—you’re right, I don’t put much stock in their opinions. You shouldn’t either. How were you supposed to know your husband was a killer?”
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