Things in the bunker had started off as more than awkward, Nellie couldn’t sleep at all the first night. She heard Zach whimpering in the other room as she stared at the ceiling. She knew better than to go wake him up because she could get hurt. She waited a while until he calmed down and got up. She tiptoed to the door and opened it a crack and peeking into the living area. Zach had a video game set up to a big screen TV. If you didn’t know better you’d think you were in a really nice basement game room. Zach was awake with the controller in his hands and earbuds in his ears. She felt bad for him but smiled at how innocent he looked in his boxers and undershirt. Like he might be a college student just hanging out in his basement, up too late because he needed to finish his game. Zach must’ve noticed the movement because he looked at the door. The light was out in the bedroom so he couldn’t see her, but he could probably see the crack in the door. She didn’t want to freak him out, so she opened the door and pretended like she needed a drink. She gave him a little wave and went to the kitchen area. She got a jug of juice out of the fridge and started looking for a glass. She opened a couple wrong cabinets before she felt someone behind her.
“Looking for this?” he whispered.
She spun around and Zach stood a couple inches away from her with a glass in his hand, “yea thanks,” she muttered, taking it from him. She turned back around and began pouring herself some grape juice she didn’t want. She felt him lean closer and felt his breath on her ear, softly he asked, “you like the bed?” Her hand shook and she spilled a little juice on the counter. She sat down the jug and glass and spun around to face him. He put his hands on the counter behind her pinning her in place.
“Well?” he asked with a grin. She knew what he wanted, but she didn’t know why. Was this him wanting to get back together? Or just a way to pass the time? Then she realized she wanted the same thing but if she’d asked herself why, she wouldn’t be able to answer either. She swallowed and started to answer him but before she could he leaned in and kissed her gently. She kissed him back hard, she felt desperate like she had been waiting for a kiss to feel like this for years. She felt his arms and let out a soft moan into his mouth, his body was a lot different after years of military service. She suddenly felt self-conscience, she didn’t look bad and usually didn’t even think about it, but she certainly wasn’t in the kind of shape comparable to him. He didn’t seem to agree because he pulled her fiercely by the waist towards the living area. She pulled away, “wouldn’t the bedroom be better?” she whispered. He nodded and took her hand and led her to the room. He turned the light on and looked at her. She saw something in his eyes and started to have second thoughts. They were stuck here for who knew how long and what they would about to do would change a lot, regardless of their reasons. But if they stopped now it would also change things but in a different way. He peeled his shirt off and all her thoughts left her.
After they’d both gotten some things out of their system, reality set in a little bit for Nellie.
“Zach?” she said.
“Hmm?” he answered, brushing her hair off her face as she lay on his very toned chest.
“Why did we do that?” she asked.
He laughed, “What?”
“I mean… shouldn’t we like talk about it?” she asked.
“What’s to talk about?” he asked.
She scoffed, “maybe how we feel?” She was offended and little confused, Zach had always been super sensitive and caring. Even before they started dating, he wasn’t the type to date a bunch of girls or use them.
“I know my feelings,” he said.
“And?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you what they are when you tell me what yours are,” he said. Then she understood, he knew her better than she knew herself. She had no idea how she felt about this, or him or why she had even done this. She had just wanted to and was going to wait on him to tell her what it meant for them. She had always been like that, not just with men, with everything. When it was something she didn’t want she had boundaries but when it came to her desires she never asked for what she really wanted. She was a push over and always had been until Zach. When they were dating he would always make sure she figured out what she wanted before he would tell her what he wanted. He did it all the time, from serious things to what fast food place they were going to on Saturdays.
“I don’t know,” she finally said, “please don’t take that the wrong way it’s just that, there’s so much, I haven’t seen you since…”
“I know, I understand,” he said.
“It’s just going to take me some time,” she said.
“Well you’re going to have a lot of it,” he chuckled.
They talked the rest of the night and Zach fell asleep under her. She stayed awake in case he had anymore night terrors, but he slept like a baby. She just lay there and watched him and rode the small rises of his chest as he breathed. She felt a little weird just watching him sleep but she couldn’t help it. Everything about his face was so familiar but at the same time not familiar. It felt like when you watch a cartoon you haven’t seen since childhood that you watched every single day. She had no idea what time it was because the sun wouldn’t come out for them. When Zach started to wake up hours later she pretended to be asleep. He gently moved her and kissed her forehead before leaving the room. She smiled; she knew what she felt being with him, but she couldn’t let her feeling decide what the best thing to do would be. There was a lot of history she couldn’t forget and answers she still hadn’t gotten from him about his leaving. After she heard Zach get in the shower she let herself drift to sleep.
From that first night on, things fell into a routine. They didn’t discuss much, but Chase kept them up to date on the outside world. He and Blaze were texting all the time and Nellie thought it was sort of cute. They reminded her of herself and Zach at that age. The more time went on the easier it was for them to fall back into the habit of just being together. Chase didn’t question it or seem to care what they were doing. Zach had even reverted back to calling her ‘babe’. He caught himself the first time and winced, but she had just responded to him, so he’d know she was okay with it. This was easier for her, so she let it happen. This way she didn’t have to think it through or figure out what she wanted; it just was.
After a few months, things improved in the outside world for a while, then it got worse again. Nellie threw herself into painting and taking care of the potted plants Zach had got to make the air cleaner and fresher. He had truly thought of everything down to the smallest detail. The storage room was like a small warehouse, stocked enough for probably years. Chase ate a lot more than her or Zach because he was a teenager but even with that, they had plenty. She thought about all her students out there and wondered how they were doing. She knew Blaze and Burn were both fine so far, but they were struggling with fear and couldn’t get their parent to listen to reason. She shuddered at the thought of being up there and trapped with people who didn’t take this seriously. She almost wished they’d have asked Blaze to stay and Burn. Her and Zach were acting like a married couple with a teenage child, it was kind of nice despite the circumstances. They played video games and cooked together like a family; Chase even joined them sometimes. Zach watched the news updates daily, usually while Nellie was in the shower, because he knew it made her nervous. A day it what she assumed was around the end of August, Zach came in the bathroom as she showered. It wasn’t that odd, so she peaked out and smiled at him. Her smile dropped when she saw his expression.
“What’s wrong?” she asked reaching for a towel.
“They are opening schools,” he groaned.
She dropped the towel she was wrapping around her and covered her mouth, “what?” she squeaked.
“Yea, schools, open, gah!” he rubbed his temples.
“I’m not going back,” she said.
“Oh, I know you’re not, I’d tie you to the bed if you tried,” he said, at any other time she’d find that hot but now it was just Zach being honest. She knew he’d do it if it came down to it.
“What should we do, all those kids?” she sobbed, a lump formed in her throat. Zach grabbed her and though she was completely naked, there was nothing sexual about it. She cried into his chest. She felt his shoulders moving slightly as he cried into her wet hair.
Finally, he pulled back and sighed, “I don’t know that there’s anything we can do.”
They stood there in silence for a while before she said, “I guess I’ll dry off and get ready for bed.”
“Okay baby,” he said kissing her forehead. She tried to focus on anything other than the fear she felt for all those kids. She got ready for bed and went into the living room; Chase was deep into something on his phone.
“Goodnight,” she said to him.
“uh huh…” he mumbled.
She chuckled and went into the bedroom; Zach was curled up on the bed staring at the wall. She went in and laid down with him, “Chase is still awake,” she said.
“It’s late for him to be awake,” he said.
“Or at least out in the living room,” she said.
“He’s up to something,” Zach said.
As if by saying it, it made it so, they heard the big door to the stairway close. Zach hopped out of bed and moved across the room faster than she’d seen anyone move in her life.
“Zach,” she yelled though she didn’t even know why, maybe because part of her knew exactly what Chase was doing and part of her wanted him to. She and Zach got to the top of the stairs in time to hear the army truck start up.
“Does he even know how to drive that?” she asked.
“I don’t know if he knows how to drive at all,” Zach said.
They stood there in the small cabin for a moment, both wondering what they should, or even could do.
“I have to go after him,” Zach said.
“On foot? You gonna run after him like a dog, Zach it’s one in the morning and who knows how safe it is to even be up here in the cabin,” she said.
“I can’t do nothing,” he said.
“I know where he’s going,” she said.
“You do?” Zach asked.
“Well I have an idea,” she said and told him what she thought Chase was up to.