Tendal saw her hair first. It looked almost golden with the hue of the sun radiating behind it. His eyes squinted trying to keep sight of the rareness of her beauty. He remembered girls in school. They were pretty, cool, nice… but not like her. His heart seemed to stop.
Being attacked by a giant—practically, was one thing. Now her. His words were somehow caught in his throat. Or, was it the dry air he suddenly forgot existed?
She peeked out from behind a large boulder, cupping her hands tightly together in front of her. Blood pulsed back into his palms and he wiped the sweat off on the side of his legs. He wanted to turn and help Monal up from behind him, but his gaze couldn’t let the sight of this amazing woman, suddenly appearing before him in full length, be taken away.
He blinked. Staring. Taking in her tender eyes and perfectly proportioned cheekbones, lips, body. Everything was perfect. He was stunned. Not by how ridiculously hot he had become, and thirsty, but by her shear beauty. Was this a dream? He licked his dry lips. Nope. Still reality.
She stood with fear trembling her eyes. Her soft flowing gown shivering as if she were cold. Her shoulders heaving under what appeared to be tears and maybe fear? He wasn’t sure.
It was then he realized that she was speaking to him.
“Is—is he.” She coughed out a cry, “Is he de—dead?” Her brittle voice asked.
Sorrow shuddered through him. She was so upset. One of her hands released, reaching out towards him. Or, maybe that is what he hoped for. Probably, it was toward the man that was slumped at his feet. His mouth agape, Tendal looked down at the man underneath him. Right. He just beat this guy up! Slumped onto one shoulder, looking dead, all done by his hands. She must think he was a murderer. Was he? Could he be?
Regretfully, breaking his gaze off of the beautiful girl, he examined the man near his shoes. Lifting his feet and planting them carefully away, he knelt and felt for the man’s pulse. Turning towards the girl, he nodded, adding a thumbs up motion.
Seeing his palms near the person he could have easily killed to protect his sister, he winced. His hands came into view. He flexed and stretched out his fingers.
Would I have killed him? Father never taught me to do that? “A man who lives by the sword, dies by the sword…” The sound of his father’s voice was echoing through his brain, mixing with his own.
What came over me?
Audible, it came to him; as if it were a voice—not like his father—a thought—not of himself. Yes, I need to protect my sister. No matter what. She is all I have left and I can’t loose her. He kept staring at the lines creased into his hands from birth. Deepening them by curling in his fingers and the smoothing them by stretching them back out again.
He mused. Prints that marked him forever, etched into his skin. A clear connection to the perfect designer.
He felt the drift of air and the flow of her soft gown, before he saw the mysterious girl approaching him—the girl who said she was a misfit—was right there, standing beside him. There was nothing about her, in his very fond and very recent opinion, that could possibly be a misfit. Could it?
Something strange crept into his gut, along with a sweet smell wafting over his senses. He marvelled in the small breeze her walking had created as it whisked away the sweat beading on his skin. The girl carefully knelt down beside the limp man’s body on the ground. His breathing becoming heavier and agitated.
Tendal noted how the girl winced as her knees touched the ground, even as careful as she was. Realizing he had completely forgotten about his sister, he turned behind him.
“Are you okay Monal?”
“Yeah.” She cleared her throat, saying. “I need a drink of water. Or, a large body of water to drink up and not stop.” She coughed and attempted to swallow. “Anyone of those options sounds good to me!” She laughed.
“I feel like, all of me, needs water right now. And sleep.” Monal’s hand went to the back of her head. “I did get an instant headache, though. I think it’s the sun…” She pointed in front of her, “…but I think, he will be hurting more than all of us.”
She paused, scratching her head, “What did you do to him, Tendal?”
“Nothing,” He looked at his hands again and pressed the sweat back into his pants.
Defending his actions, he began explaining, “He came running at me. And throwing huge rocks at you. He’s huge, actually. I—I was just trying to protect you Monal.”
He shook his head at himself. Was he? Or, was he defending himself? Ugh! He needed his dad. He needed him right then. Was he making the right decisions? Could he really protect Monal the way she needs him to? How could he know what he was up against. So far—well, he did okay. But what else? He had no gun. No weapon—
Monal interrupted his nagging mind.
“Thanks.” Her small side smile—the one they would give each other after their little child hood fights—that smile—told Tendal, she meant it.
Maybe he did do what was right. This time.
“Are you okay?” Monal’s voice came from Tendal’s left side and was directed at the girl. Not him, he noted. Just saved a girl’s life and she cares about the monster’s friend more than him? Girls? He puffed out a sigh.
The strange beauty lifted her fragile eyes up to Monal. He noticed the girl’s soft glowing, tanned coloured skin as she confirmed she was indeed “fine.”
He took note of everything about her. It was so hard not too. He was trying to guard his heart. But, her appearance demanded attention. Everything about her radiated femininity. Beauty.
He tore his eyes away from her, yet again. He had to think of something else. Her voice seemed kind.
Was she kind?
Why was he so captivated by her? Was she an enemy they needed to worry about? Was her beauty a disguise? A hidden threat?
His spine straightened and his body tensed beside her.
Casually, Tendal pulled out a water bottle and took a long drink, pondering. He poured some out, letting it flow over his hair and handed the rest to Monal, giving her a concerned look from under the tails of dripping ends. He hoped she got his cue. They needed to keep moving. This was unsafe. Everything about this didn’t seem right.
Monal rolled her eyes at him. Yup, she understood. But completely ignored his warning. Girls?
What a burn! He flicked the water from his hair like a dog wold after getting out from the ocean. He remembered they once had a dog. A Labrador. She was they’re family pet for so long. She didn’t make it into the Fall out with them in time. Wiping his hands down his face along with the memory, he noticed the stubble he let grow in, was much thicker. He didn’t care. It’s not like he was in the mood to shave.
Loosing two parents in a matter of a few weeks of each other, can really do damage to your psyche—make you forget the small and needless things in life. Yet, with the heat of the sun beating down on him, Tendal wished he had shaved when he had the chance. It could have lessened the effects of the squelching heat.
A noise startled him and he planted his feet steady on the ground. His ears perked and he followed the sound to the ground. The earth slightly rumbled under his feet, which he steadied underneath himself.
Must be why our lights were flickering, his first thought told him. The second thought explained that the vibrations were surely awakening the giant who was ripped from pure protein, and who he just put to sleep, and whose coffee coloured arms looked like they could crush Tendal by simply flexing; Who probably—most likely—won’t be happy with the thought of being beat up by a scrawny six foot light weight. And would want another match in the fighting ring, just to prove his point.
Tendal certainly didn’t want to encounter that.
“Monal.” He darted his eyes towards the desert, “Time to leave.”
When she didn’t budge, anger twitched his arm out and snagged her sleeve as a reminder of his earlier “eye” warning. She was still consoling Mrs. Beautiful Threat and shrugged off his tug.
“We need to help them first.” Monal pleaded. What? Help Mr. Mean Muscles? Really? Does she want us killed?
Tendal half laughed—half scoffed. He stepped over Mr. Mean Muscles and breathed into Monal’s ear, so that only she could hear. “You don’t know them. It was clear from Dad, people above were not to be trusted. We need to keep moving Monal.” He gave Monal a serious look and nodding, gave a fake smile to Mrs. Beautiful Threat. Turning his back to leave, he saw Monal bend down and start trying to wake Mr. Mean Muscles up. Again.
Panicking now, Tendal dropped beside Monal and started whispering again. “What are you doing? Monal? I don’t know if I can protect you again. This guy is huge! Look at him!”
“He won’t hurt you. “ She said confidently. She continued to tap Mr. Mean Muscles on the cheeks and arm. His meaty and massive arms that bulged with adrenaline.
“He looks meaner than he is.” A gorgeous smile exploded on Mrs. Beautiful Threat’s face. Really? How could she be so sure? She wasn’t a threat to him.
Her eyes glinting with something she knew. A secret perhaps? No matter how breath taking this girl was, she was definitely not to be trusted… yet.
“I’ll be the one to determine that.” He didn’t smile back. He looked at Monal.
“Honestly,” He said, unashamed and without bothering to hush his syllables. “I don’t care what he looks like, we can’t trust anyone right now Monal.”
Monal’s eyes darted, burning right through Tendal.
“Since when have we ever trusted men? We trust in the One who created men. And Him alone.” She looked back at Mr. Mean Muscles. Without looking up at Tendal, she continued, “Besides, Jesus taught us to love our enemies.” She slapped Mr. Mean Muscles harder and his black skinned made a wave like the ocean over his thick cheek bones and big lips. He laid still.
There was a pause and Tendal noticed Monal looking at Mrs. Beautiful Threat—to her—not to Tendal.
“Not that I feel like you are. My enemy, I mean.” She attempted to laugh and reassure her. Giving Mrs. Beautiful Threat a comforting smile that Tendal wished he could feel. But didn’t.
He wasn’t comfortable with this. Any of this! Being above the surface, being attacked, being around tempting Beauty and scary Muscles, being double-minded in his thoughts, causing him to falter in everything he was raised to believe in. He hated every minute of the earth so far.
What had the world come to?
Guilt, Anger, and a strange feeling of helplessness gripped his soul. Strangling him. Chocking out everything he once knew.
What had he become without the godly guidance of his father? Only a few hours and I am failing miserably already at being a leader! He kicked the dust and walked around in an aimless circle, hands perched on the top of his head.
“Fine! But if you die, you’re on your own.” His voice filled the dry air with something dreadful. Miserable.
He kicked a large rock making it ding off the metal door they just came out of. Images of death buried into his mind. Fresh thoughts of loss. Vivid. Real.
Why do we have to die Lord? He knew the answer. His heart ached regardless, making his whole being stunted somehow.
Monal laughed, irritating him. “Actually, I won’t be and you know that. I would be a lot more happier than you right now.” Her eyebrows swung at him from where she was. She stood and gave him a side hug. “I feel His Peace.” She whispered. “Come on Tendal. Trust me.” She gave him another quick hug before going back to reviving Mr. Mean Muscles.
He wanted to believe her. He did.
But, life was so fragile. Their lives were fragile. So fleeting. Who knew what was ahead for them? God did. He should trust his sister. He dropped his hands down and pulled out another water bottle.
“Here.” He handed the water to Monal. “This should help.”
He looked at Mrs. Beautiful Threat, his teeth grit. “You should have some too. It will help.” His head bowed. He placed himself on a rock near the two girls, waiting; Waiting as Mr. Mean Muscled stirred to life once again.
He let his eyes scan the environment around him. Everything was changed. Gone was the yard, the house, the shed, his toys, his dads car, the street lights, the signs, the grass, the trees. Everything except the concrete entrance in the small hill, now a dirt hill, hiding their whereabouts.
He wondered what exactly happened that day. When the world seemed to come to nothing. He wondered if the reason his parents held back from following them into the fall-Out shelter was to see their dying world come to an end?
Maybe they just couldn’t leave it right away? Was it shock? Was it like Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt looking back to what was lost? Maybe he shouldn’t look back anymore. Sadness started to cripple him. Think of the future. Think of the future. The past is gone…
Not all was lost.
He smiled to himself. He still had Monal.
He glanced back to the girls. Mr. Mean Muscles was up on his side. He was propped up with his thick, dark, black hand. Suddenly, his white eyes locked onto Tendal’s.
Instantly, his fist clenched.
Mentally, he pushed out the past, preparing for what was happening… the fight he was about to face.
He stood rigid. Solid. Ready.
There was no going back.
to be continued…
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