Sunflower

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I wake up when the van comes to a sudden stop. My body slides forward, knees hitting the back of the drivers seat. I peek through the front window of the van, curious, but I don't see anything.

"Why are we stopping?" Jose asks.

Anne, who took the night driving shift, says, "There was a dog."

"And you stopped why?" he asks.

"Because we've killed enough things. I'm not going to hit a dog." Anne jumps out the drivers seat and gets out of the van. "Watch out for me."

Jose sits back in his seat with an annoyed expression plastered over his face. He doesn't bother to look around for her protection, so I try to do the job. But as soon as I put weight on my leg it buckles from pain and weakness.

"Don't try to stand," Chris orders me. "Take it easy."

"This isn't a world that allows me to 'take it easy' anymore," I say. I feel bad, just a little, for being snappy at him. But really, in my mind, I'm angry. I'm angry at everyone in this van. They left me. And even if some tried to make them turn back, everyone else objected to it.

I peek over the window again and watch as Anne approaches the dog. It's a yellow lab. Mud and blood clings to its matted fur. It looks scared rather than defensive as Anne scoots a few steps closer. She reaches out her hand and the dog begins to sniff it. She reaches out a little more, just enough to stroke the top of its head. The dog slowly backs up, its body shaking. It saddens me to see it so scared, so dirty, so skinny. Its ribs are showing beneath its slicked fur.

Anne begins to reach out for it again. She starts talking to it with a light, comforting voice. "Come here. I'm not going to hurt you, pretty girl. I want to help you."

"She is not getting that mutt in here," Jose says. "I'll kill it myself and eat it."

"You put your hands on that dog-"

Jose cuts me off. "I'm not gonna touch it. I'm gonna shoot it."

"That dog is skin and bones," Chris says. I can hear the anger in his voice. "You wouldn't get anything out of it."

"Yeah I would," Jose says. "I'll get me a nice fur blanket."

"Didn't know you were high class." I turn around to see Tessa's teenage daughter eyeing Jose angrily. She must be fed up with him as much as we are.

That shut him up though.

Anne peeks her head in the van, a smile radiating joy. Actually joy. "She's beautiful!"

"She's covered in mud and blood. She's feral. Who knows if she's got rabies. Or if she's infected."

"I don't see any marks on her," Anne says, looking back at the dog that sits on the road. Its ears are perked up, listening to the sounds around her. "If we just cleaned her up a bit-"

"With what water? With what soap? With what sponge?" Jose shakes his head in disbelief. "You really think with all these people that we can take care of a dog?"

"She can be our watch dog," Anne says. "She's afraid and hungry. She stays out here any longer and she'll die of thirst and hunger."

"Not my problem."

"Why are you always such an asshole?" Kat asks.

I laugh at her words. She's a feisty one. I like her. She's strong and she can have power.

"Maybe because I like to be one. What it matter to you, 'lil girl?"

"An asshole and you can't even talk right," she scoffs. "You're one hell of a character."

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