Madge disentangled herself from Johnny’s arms and walked towards the large window. The doctors had released them from the hospice three days after the outbreak. Now they were back in the small flat she and Johnny had rented. She looked up at the stars; they still seemed as far away as when she when she was little. Johnny stirred on the bed behind her.
“Coco Puff?” he said sleepily.
“Yes, Johnny?” she replied gently.
“Come back to bed.” He mumbled, slowly drifting in and out of sleep.
“I’m so restless, Johnny,” Madge sighed, misting the glass of the window with her breath.
Johnny sat up a little bit straighter. “I can take care of all that adrenaline.”
Madge smiled and walked back to the bed. She sat on the edge of the bed, and Johnny pulled her closer to him, burying his face in her neck.
“Stop!” Madge laughed airily. “Johnny, I’m being serious.”
Johnny let go of her and lay back.
“Talk to me, Coco puff.” He said, a tad gruffly.
“I want to be back on the road, Johnny.” Madge lay her head, on Johnny’s bare chest, feeling comforted by the rhythm of his breathing. “we need to get to the bottom of this.”
Johnny put his arm around Madge and rubbed circles into her shoulder. “Get some sleep, Coco Puff, we will find the answers in time.” He murmured gently.
There was a huge map spread over the mahogany table in the doctors’ lounge. After the Second Scourge, Lusaka had been reorganized into four major districts. Lusaka North and South, the Dead District and Academia.
Madge placed a manicured finger on the district edge between Lusaka North and Academia.
“That’s our destination,” Madge said simply, as she shuffled several stacks of notes away.
“I’ve never been to Academia,” Johnny said, scratching his head. He was lounging in an office chair, his injuries had taken a toll on him and he couldn’t stay standing for long.
“As a general rule, you could call it a restricted area,” Madge said patiently. “Most of the guys out there are on the verge of madness.”
Madge turned around, trying to gather all the notes at once. Johnny kept looking at the map.
“How did you survive?” he said quietly.
“Hmm…?” Madge said absently, as she begun to pack a first aid box.
“How did you survive, out there all on your own?” Johnny pressed on, doggedly.
Madge turned around and looked at Johnny sympathetically. “I wasn’t alone, remember?”
Johnny was quiet, his brow furrowed in thought. Johnny knew how important this journey was, both to himself and Madge, but he was beginning to feel like he was chasing after ghosts. What was the chance of ever finding Bella, alive and well?
Madge had noticed his silence. She stepped forward and knelt before Johnny, placing her small soft hands in his large calloused ones.
“Johnny, I didn’t have access to everything, but as I was leaving, I saw them bring some people in. men and woman. I asked Matty and he said he wouldn’t let them die, they were too important. I can’t promise that we will find her, but I do promise I will at least try.” Madge said gently. She pulled Johnny’s face closer to her and kissed his forehead gently.
Johnny sighed heavily. So much of his family was torn apart and suddenly in the wake of the new relationship it was scary to build a new one. How would Bella react?
“Matty?” Johnny said heavily.
Madge scowled and stood up. “Matthias. Once upon a time, we were friends.”
Johnny shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Were you also his lover?”
Madge looked angrily at Johnny. Her eyes were alight with a certain passion that he rarely saw.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that. Do you understand me?” she said icily. She walked away in a huff and slammed the door shut behind her.
Madge revved the engine to get the car to warm up before they started off. The sun had barely risen and neither of them had slept that night.
“Can I please drive?” Johnny sighed for the umpteenth time.
“You’re in no condition to drive, Johnny.” Madge said flatly.
“Neither are you.” Johnny retorted sulkily.
Ever since Johnny’s slip about Matthias Madge had been cold, but looked after Johnny well nonetheless. His injuries were weighing down on him and he was constantly tired. Johnny reached out and held Madge’s hand.
“Two hours of a real rest,” he said imploringly. “We don’t even have to go inside. Right here in the car, we can just cuddle till the sun comes up.”
Madge was quiet for the longest time ever. Johnny thought she was going to drive off anyway until she reclined her seat. Johnny mirrored her movement. Her intense brown eyes met his warm hazel ones, and she just stared at him, unblinkingly. She put her hand forward and caressed his face.
“What are you afraid of, Johnny?” she whispered.
Johnny brushed her hand off his face, and turned himself to face the other direction. For him everything was happening too fast and too slow. His world was spinning out of control and was falling into place at the same time. He had one goal, and that was to find Bella. What was he afraid of?
He was afraid of Madge and what she was doing to his brain and emotions.