20k Bonus: Post-Apocalyptic Valley Girl

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20k who? You guys are blowing this book out of the water, and it sailed past the next major read-count milestone sometime yesterday. THANK YOU! This is making my whole spring. It took me a hot second to get my life together, but I've come bearing the second promised bonus chapter. 

It's Meg and Ditzy's first meeting. Their meet cute, as it were. 

Enjoy these hopeless gays.

"I recognize this area," says Calico as we pass yet another cookie-cutter bungalow on a street whose name I've already forgotten

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"I recognize this area," says Calico as we pass yet another cookie-cutter bungalow on a street whose name I've already forgotten. I glance at him sideways. He doesn't catch the look: he's too busy making faces at the houses like they'll start talking if he frowns hard enough. "I've been past here," he continues. "There's a little art store at the other end of this neighborhood, and I think this was the street I came back along. There was... oh, look at that yard!"

Squirrel. The yard is a pretty one, outfitted in vegetation grown in some curated semblance of a meadow at a forest's edge. The asters and coneflowers bloom their little hearts out as though the world didn't end two weeks ago for the bipedal mammals that give them sustenance. Though I suppose when you're a native meadow plant, you can do pretty well without water.

Calico J stops dead. "Wait," he says. "Wait. I think it was this one."

Before I can ask what in Chesnet's name he's talking about, he takes off up a driveway like a border collie after the aforementioned squirrel. I stare after him in bemusement as he bobs about the backyard fence, trying to peek through it, then over. He'll report back eventually. I drop my backpack to the curb and sink down beside it. I'm starting to regret hoarding so much food in my dorm room after Red Thursday. Not actually, but I'm pretty sure lugging forty pounds of sustenance around a deserted residential area is enough to make anyone question their life choices.

Early September sun beats down on the back of my head as I size up the street. There's a Sleeper on the lawn of the next house over, a dropped garden hose draped across his knees. The houses are quaint and old, but most are in good condition. No visible fires. No water main breaks. There's a busted door further up the street, and quite a lot of Sleepers, but this wouldn't be the worst neighborhood to stay in. My only qualm is that we're three streets from the university. I'd prefer to get farther given what we saw in the cafeteria yesterday. But there are also benefits to be had in sticking to familiar territory, and this is one part of Chesnet I think we've both explored.

"Meg! I was right!"

I look up to find Calico J waving wildly. He beckons me over to the fence, then rattles its gate and jams an eye to a gap in it, presumably in search of a way through. It's latched from the inside. I get up with a sigh, shoulder my bag, and join him.

"I was right," he says, bouncing like a kid in a candy shop. "Last time I came down this street, someone had a campfire going. I could smell it." He points through the fence. "It was this house."

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