School let out, and the students poured through what was once a side entrance of Four Oaks High School. Mary and Eric walked together, hand in hand, an eddy of quiet in the current of chatter. Outside, the parking lot was full of campers and even a few tents. Most of the campers looked battered, bearing scars left by the beast’s five-day rampage across the world. School had been open for only a week, but the kids were getting back into a routine. Meanwhile, the grownups were trying to rebuild.
Mary and Eric made their silent way through the parking lot. Finally, they reached the camper they shared with Eric’s Aunt Circe, the only surviving close relative either of them knew about. She was out, probably helping with the cleanup on the other side of the school. The tornado, then the beast, had not been kind to the building. But fewer than half the students were left, so the part left standing was enough.
Dropping their bookbags under the small table, they plopped down on the narrow sofa. They sighed as one. Mary idly flipped through her sketchbook, then laid it aside. “This sucks,” she grunted.
“It’s not that bad,” said Eric, waving at the camper around them. “Aunt Circe’s cool. Besides, they’re using all the fuel for cleanup and rebuilding, and it’s too far to walk from my old apartment.” He put an arm around her before she could argue. “Besides, as long as I’m with you, I’m cool with wherever we are.”
“Yeah, me too,” she said, and kissed him. For a blissful moment, the only sound was their breathing as their kiss deepened. That now-familiar warmth kindled in Mary’s guts, and spread all over her. His breathing grew deeper with hers, and they held each other tight. She pulled him down—
“It’s not just us,” Eric said softly, stroking the back of her neck. “Word’s getting around. It’s anyone who wants to do something… sinful, I guess. As soon as they start thinking about it, they feel the angel watching. Nobody wants to talk about it, but…” he shrugged.
Mary turned and buried her face in his shoulder. “I can’t live like this!” she wailed. “Why can’t we just, just have things like they were?”
“You mean with guys like that creep coming onto you? Amber Garner making your life miserable? Us not together?” He squeezed her. “I know you think this is your fault—”
“It is my fault. I made the beast.”
“No. It was there already. It just tricked you. Remember?”
She thought back to the day she drew the angel. “You were right. But how did you know?”
Eric paused. “I don’t know know,” he said. “I guess it’s intuition. I don’t have hard data, but—well, you never made things happen with your drawings before, right?”
She shook her head against his soft chest. “I thought it was girls who have intuition.”
“I don’t think it’s gender-specific,” he said.
Mary laughed. Eric was a geek, and he talked like a geek. Her rampaging beast, killing over half the world’s population, couldn’t change that. He liked to figure out how stuff worked, and she just did stuff. He devoured the news, where hearing about the billions of casualties kept Mary awake at night. Left brain and right brain. Oil and vinegar. They completed each other.
“Anyway, I still think you could draw it gone,” Eric told her.
“I’ve tried. I can’t draw anything. Ever since I drew that last one, where the angel killed the beast.” And I made you like me, she thought with a pang of guilt.
“Maybe it’s something different.”