Each time she heard the footsteps, she would lie on her cot, praying that he would pass by her tent without incident. In the weeks she had been at the refugee camp, every imaginable horror had happened. Seeing people gunned down right in front of her and watching her friends die of illnesses had done little to ease her fears.
When the footsteps died away, she pushed aside the thin blanket she had been using, then slowly crawled off the cot to the end of the tent. Kathryn then stepped onto the concrete pavement and glanced around. Seeing no one, she pulled her jacket tightly around her to ward off the cold wind and ran toward the clump of trees that stood nearby.
Using the specks of moonlight to light her path, she walked as quickly as she could, going in no specific direction. Knowing that there was no one around for miles gave her little comfort.
Kathryn walked hour after hour without rest. Exhaustion began to set in by the time the morning sun lit the eastern sky. Moments later, the sun rose above the horizon, sending glorious rays of bright sunlight in every direction. Kathryn stopped to admire the sunrise, suddenly feeling a pain in her chest when she remembered the last time she had watched a sunrise with her husband, Randy. She remembered everything about that morning, especially how loud the birds had been.
It was then that Kathryn realized how quiet it was. There were no birds or bugs celebrating the new day. It was completely silent.
After giving the sun a final glance, Kathryn continued walking. She was just about to stop and rest her aching legs when she came upon a small cabin nestled in the woods. Slowly, she walked toward it, hoping that no one was currently occupying it. When she reached the front porch, she noticed the pile of freshly cut wood that sat nearby.
As if that didn't give her enough reason to believe that somebody was living there, the cock of a gun behind her did.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" The male's voice resonated through the silence sending a shot of panic through Kathryn's body.
"Um." She slowly raised her hands when she felt the head of the gun on her back. "My name is Kathryn. I-I came from the refugee camp in. . . in. . ." She stopped. For all the weeks she had been at the camp, she hadn't even thought to ask anyone about their location. "From a few miles back."
"You're a refugee?"
She nodded and sighed with relief when the gun fell. She slowly turned. "I, uh, I'm really sorry about that, Ma'am," he said, tipping the hat that sat on his head. "I don't get many visitors out here and I, uh. . ." He stopped as his eyes looked her up and down. "You look like you could use a good meal," he said, looking back to her with a perfect smile, his chocolate colored eyes watching hers for an answer.
She slowly nodded, her auburn hair falling over her shoulders. She couldn't even imagine how she must have looked. She had hardly eaten in days and hadn't used a hairbrush in weeks. "Yes, Sir. I would appreciate something to eat."
With a quick nod of his head, the black haired man turned and walked up the stairs and into the cabin, motioning for her to follow. Upon entering the home, she smelled the smoke that came from the wood stove in the corner. "My name is Alec, by the way," the man said as he walked into the kitchen that sat directly to the right.
She nodded then paused, taking in the warmth that enveloped the cabin. "Um, where am I?"
He looked back to her, his eyebrows raised. "You don't know?"
"No. I've been at a refugee camp for a long time."
"The one back in Kansas City?"
Her eyes locked with his. "Is that where it was?"
He shrugged then turned to the fridge. "That's where the nearest refugee camp is. It's about fifteen miles back, though. Uh, listen." Again, he turned to her, this time holding a can of brown beans. "I have lots of food and I've got an extra bedroom. If you'd like to stay with me. . . you'll be safe here."
Kathryn glanced to the door that she suspected was to the bedroom then back to him. "Thank you, but. . . I think I'll keep going. I want to go home."
"And where is that?"
"Little Brooke. It's a small town near Denver. My husband and I lived there before the bombs."
"He was in Denver when the bomb went off." She was surprised by how easily the words came.
She nodded. "I know, but. . . I need to go home."
His eyes searched hers for a moment before he nodded. "Alright. Well, I'll give you as much food as I can spare and then you can go."
"Thank you. I appreciate it."
Kathryn thanked Alec for his assistance, then began her long and arduous journey home.