Chapter One: Scene 2

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Mondamin Court, Des Moines, Iowa

"Does anyone have anything else they would like to discuss?" Jack asked. He was in his fifties, a fair amount of gray creeping into his short, black hair. He had a stern face, a good cop face. He was a cop, an ex-cop anyway; at least that was what Holly had been told. He walked with a slight limp and was on disability; he had been shot in the back or something.

"Do we have a plan for the zombie apocalypse?" Jacob Crighton asked. The chubby eight-year-old glanced up from his Nintendo DS as he said it. His mother Jessica just rolled her eyes.

Holly snorted. Nicky scowled at her.

"No," Jack said, indulging the boy, "the Mondamin Neighborhood Association does not have a plan for the zombie apocalypse."

"Zombies are scientifically impossible," Rick put in. Rick was sitting on the couch opposite of Jacob, who was on the floor. Rick was heavyset, with bronze skin and dark, curly hair. Even though he'd been raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Rick's mother spoke Hindi at home, and Rick had an accent. Holly had always meant to ask him what his Hindi name was, if only to show her interest and acceptance of diversity.

"Are not," Jacob insisted.

"Yes, they are," Rick said. "First of all, to reanimate dead tissue is not possible, according to the basic laws of biology."

Holly searched desperately for an escape. She spied a half-empty tray of appetizers and snatched it up. "I'll just go refill this real quick," she said with an attempted smile at her wife Nicky. She held the tray out to the room. "Anyone want something before I take it?"

No one did. Every chair in the house was currently in the living room and currently in use. It was a good turn out for a community meeting in a neighborhood like this.

Holly fled to the kitchen with her tray. Rick was . . . she paused and tried to think of a polite word for it . . . special. He was a smart man, Holly entertained no doubts about that. He worked in computers, something deep, like programming. But he was, well, he was the kind of forty-year-old man who would spend the next forty-five minutes debating the existence of zombies with an eight-year-old if someone didn't stop him.

Indeed she could hear the debate even as she stood in the kitchen. Holly rubbed her temples and looked around, wondering if there was any Tylenol nearby. Rick and Jacob's zombie debate was the final straw. Why did Nicky want to be on the neighborhood association board anyway? And did she have to host these meetings?

Holly knew the answer. That woman always had to push the envelope. The first couple of years they lived in the neighborhood, Nicky had no interest in the association at all. Then she found out that their ultra-conservative neighbors, the Hillcrests, were on the board. From that day forward, Nicky had a new obsession. She had to prove, to herself and everyone else, that the lesbian couple were just as much solid members of community as the right-wingers.

Holly agreed with the sentiment, but she would have preferred a way of proving it that didn't involve sitting in the same room as Maggie Hillcrest and enduring her hard stares. There were others on the block that weren't accepting, but none as bad as Maggie.

Tonight, the tension had been thick. For once, Holly and her wife weren't bearing the brunt of it. Lydia's kid was back from college. Devon . . . no, what was her new name? Zoey.

Not that anyone was particularly surprised. Devon had been seventeen when Holly first met him, a tall, slender redhead. He had struck her as an introvert and a geek, obsessed with cosplay, renaissance fairs, and science fiction books.

Neighbors who had lived on Mondamin Court longer than she had told her, in whispers, that he had been something of a princess boy, wearing dresses and carrying a doll well into elementary school.

The fact that no one was surprised to have him come back from two years of college as Zoey didn't mean they accepted it. Her hair was a few inches longer than when Holly had last seen her, and she was wearing a woman's top. She looked remarkably feminine even without noticeable breasts or wide hips. Jack had given Zoey a long, hard stare at the start of the meeting and then refused to look in her direction again. Maggie kept glaring and scowling. More than once, she seemed on the verge of saying something, then stopped herself.

Even Nicky was none too thrilled. Nicky had come out as a lesbian in college, surrounded by a radical feminist philosophy that put a lot of stock in "women born women."

Holly thought it was all outdated crap. At twenty-six, she considered herself a product of this century. She didn't care what some feminist author two generations ago thought on the issue. What was the point of being a feminist if you didn't support the rights of transgender people too?

She would have to be sure and catch Zoey when she saw her on the street and ask about her transition, if only to show her that someone on the block was accepting.

From the next room, she heard Jack's voice as he interrupted the growing argument between Rick and Jacob, assuring both of them that, if there was any truth to zombies, the government no doubt had a plan. He said Mondamin Court did not need its own individual plan and "Could we please move on?" He called for any other business.

Holly quickly reloaded the plate of appetizers and headed back into the main room, certain the meeting was close to over.

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