~ Chapter Twenty-Nine ~

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Wade nearly had to drag Perri to her bunk in one of the huge, shared tents.

She was so consumed by the loss of her older brother, her niece, and her four-legged best friend all in the one day. It was too much.

Even now, even though it was only a memory from a long time ago, Perri still felt it weigh down on her heart as if it had only just happened for the first time.

Once Wade had her sitting on her cot, she burst into tears and continued to weep until she could no longer keep her eyes open.

Utterly exhausted from her grief, Perri had fallen asleep in his arms.

When she woke, she felt changed. She felt... nothing.

She had cried until a numbness had set in and now that she was awake she only laid there in her cot, not entirely sure if she even could feel.

Someone sat on the edge of her bunk and the springs creaked under their added weight, but Perri didn't bother to look at them.

Once they spoke, she wouldn't need to see their face to know who had come to her side.

"How you doin'?" Asked Wade. When she didn't answer he continued, "You had a wound on your hand. I bandaged it."

His tone was slightly accusing, though Perri wasn't exactly sure why, or maybe she just didn't care at that particular moment.

Even the pause he left after he spoke seemed to insist that Perri answer to some unspoken question.

Realizing that she wasn't going to speak, Wade asked, "You weren't... bitten. Were you?"

"I don't know. I don't think so." Perri grumbled quietly.

Wade gently touched the back of his hand to her forehead.

"Well, you don't seem to have a fever. So, that's a good sign." He smiled at her hoping that he would receive one in return.

He did not.

Perri had still not deigned to look at him, instead her gaze remained fixed on a single spot, not really looking at anything specific.

If she could change what she did that day, she would.

Perri would have looked at him. Really looked at him. She would have gazed upon his kind face, taking in all his features, engraving them into the recesses of her memory.

If only she'd known then, what she knew now.

As if in a state of some kind of dream paralysis, she could only peer out at her memories, unable to alter them.

Perri told Wade that she was still exhausted and that she wanted to rest some more.

He gave her a glimpse of a smile as he nodded. Then, after standing from the bunk, he rested a hand beside her as he bent down toward her.

Knowing the truth now, Perri screamed at her paralyzed body. Screamed from inside. Screamed from her useless viewing platform behind her own eyes. Screamed at the top of her lungs: to turn away.

But, she laid there motionless. Unmoving. Despite her frantic attempts from within.

Then, her eyes shut as Wade pressed his lips to hers and cupped her cheek with his other hand.

His kiss was gentle and tender, yet the tiniest bit provocative. Perhaps an attempt to sooth her aching heart.

But nothing stirred in her. Her emotions were already too numb.

~~~

Before dawn broke the next morning, a jolt had woken Perri from her sleep.

She sat up immediately, heart racing from the sudden awakening, to find Wade fumbling at her side.

He groped at her sheets as he used her bunk to keep himself from being pulled to the floor by gravity.

"Wade?" Perri called to him softly. It was still dark, and she could only just see him.

He fell down to one knee and began to cough.

Perri shifted on her cot to place a hand on his back. As soon as touched him, her breathing quickened.

His shirt was saturated with sweat and his body was letting off immense heat.

"Wade?" She said again, though this time her voice trembled a little.

He'd stopped coughing up his lungs and managed to gulp down a few breaths of air, before he leaned an elbow on her bunk to look up at her.

In that moment, just as the light of the rising sun crept into the tent to illuminate his face, he spoke weakly, "I don't feel well."

Perri gaped at him and her eyes glazed over.

Wade was infected.

And it was her fault.

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