30k Bonus: The Shed

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The people have spoken! Between this book's comments section, your suggestions in the bonus-challenge chapter, and your votes on those suggestions, I've received over a dozen requests for this scene. Meg and Ditzy's first (accidental) kiss.

Let the chaos continue!

I still can't tell if Calico J sent me and Ditzy out foraging together on purpose, but I swear it's going to be the death of me yet

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I still can't tell if Calico J sent me and Ditzy out foraging together on purpose, but I swear it's going to be the death of me yet.

"No," I say, with as much force as I can muster.

Ditzy treats me to a pout as devastating as it is unlikely to sway me. "Just once?"

"If you break a leg hurtling down a children's slide, I will not be able to treat you. I said no."

"Legs are hard to break."

"An arm, then. Or a concussion. My point stands."

Ditzy sighs deeply, but releases her hold on the ladder of the playground. I give the slide a final side-eye as I walk away, forcing our departure. I'm honestly shocked this thing passed muster in such a posh neighborhood. Rich people are notorious helicopter parents, and this playground can't meet any safety code. The slide alone is a sixty-degree sleigh ride with a sideways hook that's just begging to send someone over the rail to eat wood chips on the ground below. It's a drop taller than I am.

Ditzy, at least, follows me away from the playground. If we can just make it back to the safe house, this will have been a successful foraging trip. Both our backpacks are full, and I even tracked down vegetables this time—beans, bamboo shoots, and canned corn that I'm sure will be cornbread by the end of the night. Someone brought it up yesterday, and we've all been craving it ever since.

"There's a nice view from here," says Ditzy. She tips her head back, baseball bat swinging like a metronome. "My... I used to come here at night. There's a little parkette around the corner. It's a good place to watch stars."

I spare the sky a glance. It is more open here than the streets we came in along. The neighborhood is a newer one, and the trees have yet to mature into a proper shading canopy.

"You don't see a lot of sky again until south of Claye Street," continues Ditzy. "And the grass here is nicer."

I'm not sure what the point of this ramble is, unless she's just reminiscing. Except she doesn't usually do that. Whenever me or Calico J asks her about her life before Red Thursday, she deflects into crazy mode until we stop asking.

That thought is cut short, though, as something rustles behind a nearby fence. Ditzy runs into me as I stop dead in the middle of the street. She opens her mouth. I put a finger to my lips. The rustle comes again. It's longer this time, and all the hairs on my scalp rise. This could be anything. A stray cat, though I haven't seen one of those in weeks. A stuck branch springing free. A survivor.

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