Previously our protagonist Sarah had witnessed Buck and Chloe making goo goo eyes at each other in the face of a global holocaust. This takes place about a week after that incident.
Sarah pulled down the security gate, Chip, Chip Hooray! had new hours as she didn't want to get home before it got too dark. She took a cursory glance around the small storefront, everything had been cleaned and readied for the next day. She took the till to the tiny room that served as the office and storeroom and began to count.
She didn't know why her thoughts kept returning to that couple but a prickle of guilt that had been constant since reminded her. She probably judged them too harshly, or at the least was hardly in any position to lay down judgement on anybody else. She wasn't supposed to be here.
Chip, Chip, Hooray! was an owner operated franchise, with the owner vanished the store should be closed. And it was, for a day. She had delivered the water to the EMTs and fled back to the storeroom to cry until her eyes ached on the day of The Event. Deciding to close she stopped in front of one of O'Hare's many TVs before exiting the airport.
Another scalding bath of panic washed over her as she saw it was global, as previously unflappable news anchors began to break down as they informed the viewing audience that no child under 12 seemed to be in existence anymore, and that riots were breaking out everywhere. Shaking with fear she started for home.
What was a 15-20 minute ride on the El took three hours as the El wasn't running and she had to walk. She passed more EMTs pulling people from cars and when she saw she could be of help she stopped. She ached to go home, to bury herself in her mother's arms like a little girl but she couldn't keep going. Not when there was a stretcher a pitifully lone EMT was trying to load onto an ambulance. Not when a man begged her to use her cell phone as his wasn't going through and knowing that the lines would be jammed and hers wouldn't either she gave it to him anyway.
The closer she got to home the slower her pace became and a gnawing fear that her mother was among the vanished began to overwhelm her. She walked up her block and saw her mother waiting anxiously on the stoop and she ran to her before her mother even had time to leave the stoop and meet her halfway. She began to cry again and her mother led her into the house and sat her down at the kitchen table and busied herself making hot chocolate.
Sarah tried to collect herself, she realized how insulated her life had been. Her father had left her mother when she was still a baby. Paying his child support regularly including an extra check at her birthday and Christmas. He had sent one for her high school graduation and that had been that. School had been okay, neither the pariah or head cheerleader she had enough friends, enough invitations to sleepovers, and a date for the prom not to feel left out. In truth her greatest pleasure was to be able to spend the lunch period in the library reading.
The worst ache had been when her grandmother passed away when she was seventeen. It had been a crippling blow to the family's fiances too, though her mother had tried to keep it from her. Her grandmother had fallen into dementia and required round the clock care. When her mother started mentioning that she might want to considering taking a year off before going to college Sarah realized her college fund was gone. The next blow came when her mother was laid off from her tech support job the following year. Sarah decided to forgo even community college classes and get a job.
She knew how unhappy her mother was at this and tried to assure her it was "just until things straighten themselves out", and her mother would smile wanly and pretend, "of course sweetie". Her mother had been temping as her year off from college was beginning to stretch into two. But even then they had managed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. And evenings provided plenty of time for reading, or even calling up an old school friend who was still around to go to a movie. Nothing had ever pierced that rock hard shell that there would always be a place to live, electricity, food to eat and clean water to drink until The Event.
As she watched her mother slowly heat the milk in the pot she took stock of where things stood. The power was still on for now. The contents of the fridge where a little a scanty but it would be better to start stocking up on canned goods. She knew she needed to be watching the news but she wanted just a few more moments of blessed quiet before reality had to be faced.
Her mind raced wondering if anyone would be calling about Jeanine, her boss. Money, she wondered if the dollar would mean anything after something like this and made a mental note to talk to Shanti. She worked at the airport's duty free shop and Sarah had a feeling that a bottle of good scotch would get more things done than a hundred in the coming days. She recalled reading an article couple of weeks ago about rumblings that there were serious moves being made to adapt a single global currency. A warm mug was pressed into her hands and her mother and she walked like mourners into the living room and turned the TV set on...
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