Chapter 51

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It is said that before you die you remember things, the memories can be good or bad. Something that you could have forgot long ago. A good day that faded as time went on, lost and overwritten by time.

My memories were all good, none of them were before Carl, that's what confused me. I expected to remember something from so long ago, but I didn't. My life began again when I found his baby sister in a cupboard, as stupid as it sounds. And it lead to the hardest decision of my life.

"Her eyes flickered!" Someone shouted as I tried to pry them open, only to be greeted by a harsh daylight. I let my eyes adjust to the light and I felt a pair of hands push my shoulders back.

"Please don't get up too quickly your stitches might come out." I looked up to see Rachel looking down at me.

"I'm not dead?" My voice came out as more of a croak then any speech but Rachel smiled and nodded.

"No Lauren, you aren't dead. You fell unconscious but you were still breathing. We were able to get you to a safe place and I took the bullet out. You're alive." She explained and smiled again. I let my head fall back on the pillow with a sigh of relief, I had hoped my time wouldn't come yet.

"How long have I been out?" I asked slowly. Looking around the room for anyone else. The door was shut and it was just Rachel. I was laying on a small single bed in a blue-walled room. The sheets were white and it did slightly resemble a hospital room, a leather chair sat beside my bed.

"About a week." She replied with tired eyes. I could imagine how long she had been up looking after me this past week.

"Is Carl okay?" I asked timidly, remembering the last few moments before my body gave up. I couldn't imagine the pain he was going through and it pained me to even think of it.

"Well," Rachel sighed. "As you can imagine he's been a bit out of it. Staying in here most nights and days. I'm sure he'll be okay seeing as you are alive. He'll probably be here any second, someone would have heard me shout."

I nodded and pulled up the clean cotten t-shirt that I was dressed in and took a look at my wound. It lay above my trouser-line and to the right, almost across from my belly-button. The gunshot wound was red and angry-looking, sewn together with some kind of string which was red from my blood.

"You're alive, so I don't think it hit anything important." Rachel smiled unsurely, like she didn't know how I would react or what I would say.

"Thank you." I simply replied with a small smile. Rachel nodded in appreciation and the door abruptly flew open to reveal a panicked looking Carl. Rachel immediatly excused herself and left me with him.

Carl bounded across the room and wrapped his arms around me, careful not to touch anywhere that would hurt me.
"I'm so happy you're okay. Please don't do that ever again, I don't think I can take it."

I laughed, tears welling up in my eyes.
"I won't. I'm okay, Carl. It's okay."

"We should go tell the others." He smiled through the tears of happiness that clouded his blue eyes. I shook my head and smiled.

"Let's just sit here for a minute."

So we did, I took the moment I needed to get my head together. Carl never let me go, he buried his head in the crook of my neck and let it finally wash over him that I didn't die.

When I decided that we should leave, Carl complied instantaneously. I winced and sat up on the bed, letting Carl lift me the rest of the way. He handed me a wooden walking stick to lean on and I laughed before accepting it. I walked wherever Carl lead me, one arm over his shoulders and the other pushing up on the walking stick.

We eventually found ourselves in a living room, where everyone sat patiently waiting for what I assumed was my arrival. Judith bounced on Rick's knee and I felt a pang of sadness for not being there while she grew so big. Judith was talking and walking and she was over a year old by now. I smiled and entered the dimly lit room.

"Well look who decided to join the land of the living!"

-

I winced and pushed myself off the leather couch in the living room of the two-storey house where we were residing until my injury was healed. Carl put an arm around me and helped me up but I shrugged him off.

"I swear I'm fine," I smiled at his helpfulness, I got the feeling that he blamed himself. "It's been two weeks since I woke, it's just a little tender that's all. Rachel took the stitches out and all, it healed quite quickly."

"Yes," Carl rolled his eyes, but let me walk on my own. "It's not fully healed inside yet. You need to be careful and not move too much."

"Pfsh," I scoffed. "I'll not be able to shoot straight from months of no-use if I listen to you."

"Okay princess," Carl raised his hands in surrender. "Have it your way."

I smiled and kissed his cheek before shrugging on my hoodie.
"I'm going for a walk. I'll be fine, I have my gun. And don't call me princess."

Carl nodded reluctantly, smiling as I left the house. Daryl and Kirsty were taking a perimeter check when I left. I waved and pressed on into the forest. Noone had been allowed to do perimeter checks on their own anymore, always in groups of two or three.

I finally reached my destination, a small stream just a minutes walk from the house. I had often come here to think, usually with Carl but seeing as I'm getting better he's let me leave on my own.

I've needed to do a lot of thinking lately because ever since I was captured I couldn't stop thinking of death. Not just my death, but Carl's. For a little while I almost believed that he could have been captured and tortured, maybe killed, and it killed me inside. I blamed myself for putting him in those situations where he could die.

I always had the feeling deep down in me that one day one of us would die saving the other. I know that if I died, he would find it hard to continue, and me the same. I don't want to feel the pain of his death and I don't want him to break because of me.

I'm not fearful of anything, and that is my problem. I always go head on into my problems and that's fine when I have noone that cares about me but now I have Carl, and wherever I go, he goes and I can't put him at risk because I can't leave a fight. If he dies because of me I would never forgive myself.

I know that one day I'm going to crack and I'm going to bring him down with me.

I don't want that.

I dipped my hand into the cool water, letting the calming feeling wash over me. I stared at my reflection in the shimmer of the water and sighed.

I can't do this.
I can't put them in danger anymore.

With one final release of a shaky breath I closed my eyes and leaned back against one of the many trees that surrounded me.

I need to make sure that they are okay. I can't drag them into my fights, my problems. They will die, and it will be my fault.

I knew I had a choice to make, and it would kill me inside.

Fight or Flight.

-

Dun dun dunnnnnnnn.. no she's not dead YET! There wouldn't be a sequel without dear angry, tempermental, hate-filled Lauren.

The epilogue will be updated with this chapter and probably the sequel info and the first chapter of said sequel :)

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