The Long Walk Home

Submitted for Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic romance.... view prompt

19 comments

Sep 19, 2020

Romance Adventure Drama

“I’ve brought water in, put new bedding in the chicken coop, and set out some big rocks to warm up to put in there tonight. I put more wood in the greenhouse yesterday so I think we’re good. The only thing left is to move Lucy and her eggs and we can do that just before dark. So unless I forgot something….”

“Wow, my brothers are working their asses off over there, and I get to hang out over here with you. Suckers,” he said laughing. 

His mama had sent lunch and dinner with him, so we ate a picnic lunch by the pond. As we were cleaning up, the wind picked up suddenly. “You finish up here."

“Got it,” I said.

By the time we had finished, the temperature had dropped over twenty degrees. “Let’s move Lucy and her eggs and cover the chicken coop,” I said. “It looks like my knee was right.”

We put Lucy’s nesting box into the box that Jeb had built and carefully carried her into the greenhouse. Then we covered the coop with tarps. 

“I think we have done all we can, bring it on Mother Nature,” Jeb said.

“I’m going to take a shower before it gets too cold in the bathroom,” I said.

His mouth dropped open. “Your shower works?”

“No, not like it used to, but I put my camp shower out in the sun and so if I take it into the bathroom I can use it in the shower. I have plenty of water, you can go after me if you want,” I said, laughing.

“I absolutely want to,” he said.

We went into the greenhouse and I grabbed the camp shower bag. “I’ll be quick,” I said.

The water was so warm and felt so good, I even washed my hair. When I finished I pulled my hair back and brushed my teeth, Then I found a cute shirt and skirt to wear. It felt nice to ‘dress up’ for a change. 

I walked out to the greenhouse and he was outside playing with Hope. I stood and watched for a minute before I stepped outside. I could hear my Grandpa’s voice, “You can tell a good man from a bad man by how animals treat him, and how he treats animals.” 

“That is definitely a good man, Grandpa,” I whispered. 

I stepped out the door and he turned to look at me. He whistled, “Wow, you look amazing!”

I blushed. “Your turn in the shower,” I said.

“If I had known we were dressing for dinner, I would have brought a suit,” he said.

As he walked past me, he stopped and smelled my hair. “You smell almost as good as you look. I’ll be right back.”

He came into the house in fresh jeans, a plaid button-down shirt and cowboy boots. He took my breath away. 

“Now that I know you have a shower, I may never leave,” he said.

‘Maybe I don’t want you too,’ I thought. “You have a standing invitation, don’t forget that,” I said. 

We sat on the deck and watched the clouds roll in until dark. 

I heated up the stew that Cindy had sent over and made some skillet bread to go with it. I also opened one of my precious bottles of wine. We ate our dinner listening to the wind howl outside. 

“I don’t normally miss my cell phone, but I wish I could check on my family right now,” Jeb said.

“I feel bad about you being here now,” I said. “If you want to go home, it’s okay.”

“If I was home I would be wishing I could call you. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I would rather be here with you wishing I could call home, then the other way around.”

“Well, just know that I’m a big girl and if you need to go, I’ll be okay.”

“I know you can take care of yourself, I just don’t think you should have to,” he said.

“That is the most incredibly sweet thing anyone has ever said to me,” I said. 

“Sweet or not, I mean it.”

I think he was just about to kiss me when there was a crash from outside. “Sounds like a tree, I’ll go check the chickens,” he said, getting up. “Could you make some coffee while I’m gone? I’m pretty sure I will need some when I get back.”

“Do you want me to come too?”

“No need for both of us to get wet,” he said. “Just make me some coffee, please.”

“You got it!”

The temperature outside was already in the low forties. I put two of the blankets in front of the stove to warm up. Then I took one and wrapped it around the box Lucy and her eggs were in, as I was finishing up the door opened and the wind and rain blew in. 

Jeb was soaked. As he peeled off his outer layers he said, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”

“Good news,” I said.

“The good news is the chickens are fine. The bad news is, your outhouse is gone.”

“Like gone, gone? Or just like inconvenient to use gone?”

“Like gone, gone. Like a tree fell on it and squashed it flat gone.”

“That sounds pretty gone,” I said. 

“I was going to build a new one anyway,” he said. “I should have done that this afternoon instead of playing.”

“I’m glad you didn’t. I had so much fun with you today. I don’t remember the last time I have enjoyed a day as much as this one. And if you had built a new one, it might be the new one that was squished,” I said.

“You’re right, this was the best day I’ve had since I was a little kid. You are wrong about the new one getting squished, I am putting it in a much safer spot this time,” he said smiling.“I’ll rig up a tarp and a bucket out here in the greenhouse for tonight and tomorrow if the weather is better I’ll build the new one,” he said. “Now where is my coffee?”

“I’ll go pour it now,” I said. I went inside and poured a coffee for each of us and put a generous dollop of whiskey in his. I handed it to him as he walked in the door along with a warm blanket. 

“Thank you,” he said, settling into the recliner with his cup and blanket. “There is an extremely primitive facility in the greenhouse. It’s the best I can do for tonight.”

“It’s fine. Whatever you came up with is better than my flattened outhouse,” I said, laughing. 

“I wouldn’t say that until you see it,” he said. 

“I have faith in you,” I answered.

“Good, I’m trying really hard to give you reasons to,” he said.

“I don’t think you have to try.”

“Yeah, I do. I always want to be someone you can trust,” he said.

“Hope trusts you and she is a really good judge of character,” I said.

“I hope I never let either of you down,” he said.

I lit one of my candles and we sat and talked until late. He told me all about growing up on the farm with his brothers. It made me wish we had been neighbors. 

“You must be exhausted,” he said, looking at my antique clock. “Is that right?”

“Sort of, I didn’t know what time it really was when I set it but it’s close, maybe? I don’t know for sure,” I said.

He laughed. “Well, I don’t know about you, but we have been going to bed with the sun across the road. It is way past my bedtime.”

“Me too,” I said. “I’m going to change” 

“I’ll take care of the stove and Lucy. You go change and get ready for bed.”

I didn’t go for the sexy lingerie, but I didn’t do flannel pajamas either. When I went back inside, he was feeding the stove, so I pulled out the sofa bed and started making it up.

I sat down on the bed. He looked hesitant, then he sat in the chair. “I’ll sleep in the chair tonight. I never did get you a mattress.”

“You will not sleep in a chair. We are grown-ups and I think we can handle sharing a bed,” I said.

“I was hoping you would say that,” he said. He blew out the candle and I could hear him undressing. Then he got into the bed. “I want to take this slow. I want you to know that this isn’t about sex, it’s about how I feel about you as a person. I have never felt the way I feel about you with anyone else. Tonight I want to hold you close, that’s where we start.”

I had tears in my eyes as I slid closer to him and put my head on his shoulder. It was the most amazing feeling. I hadn’t felt that safe and loved since I was a little girl. “This feels so good,” I said, moving closer.

He wrapped both arms around me and kissed the top of my head. “Yes, it does, and I hope it always will.” Then he kissed me and it was the most amazing kiss. 

The light woke me up the next morning. I was still wrapped up in his arms. I kissed his cheek and he opened his eyes and looked down at me.

“Well, good morning, Sophie,” he said.

“Good morning to you too. That was the best night's sleep I think I have ever had.”

“I agree,” he said. “It is really cold in here. I think I can see my breath.”

“I hope the stove didn’t go all the way out, it will be a pain to get it going again. I can’t believe I didn’t wake up to feed it.”

“I’ll get up and work on it. You stay in the warm bed.”

“My hero,” I said.

The next thing I heard was, “Holy shit, come here you have to see this!”

I jumped up, slipped some shoes on, wrapped a blanket around me. He was standing in his boxer shorts staring out the door. 

Snow in Alabama is rare, real soft fluffy snow is well, unheard of. Usually, snow is either preceded or followed by ice. This was pure unadulterated snow, four or five inches of it. 

Hope went completely bananas when I let her out. Jeb and I went inside to work on the stove. It wasn’t completely out, but it was close. 

“We can’t let that happen again,” he said, scowling. “A mistake like that could be deadly now.”

“I can’t believe I slept that hard and that long,” I said. 

“I don’t usually sleep like that either these days,” he said.

“I guess I’m a bad influence,” I said.

“Not yet, but I hope you will be. Let’s go check the chickens and maybe throw Hope some snowballs,” he said.

“You don’t have to ask me twice, I’ll be right back,” I said. 

Hope was only fooled by snowball twice, the third one that Jeb threw she just let it land at her feet, then she ate it.

“That’s my girl!” I said.

“She is a smart one,” he said, laughing.

We walked past the remains of my outhouse. “Well, I guess you know that this won’t get fixed today?”

“Yeah, It’s okay, I did without one for a few days when this all started,” I said.

“It is absolutely at the top of my list now,” he said.

“I know,” I said, then I put snow down his shirt and ran. Not very far though, I tripped over a rock that was under the snow and fell on my face.

“Karma in action,” he said, helping me up. “Have you learned your lesson?”

“Yes, I believe I have,” I replied. “Let’s go make coffee, I definitely need some right now.”

“I imagine you do,” he said.

He took my hand and we went into the house. “Go change, I don’t want you to get sick,” he said. “I’ll make breakfast.”

I went to the bedroom and quickly changed my clothes. It was freezing in there. By the time I got back to the kitchen, Jeb was warming up the leftover stew. He pulled a chair up close to the stove and pointed. I sat, then he covered me with a blanket.

He poured a cup of coffee and added whiskey to it. “Here, drink this,” he said, smiling.

“Thanks, sorry for putting snow down your back,” I said.

“Heck, you didn’t even do it right. None of it went down my shirt,” he said, laughing. “You face planted in the snow for no reason!” He was laughing so hard there were tears in his eyes.

“I guess I don’t have to tell you that I can be a bit clumsy and awkward,” I said.

“No, I see that now,” he said, still roaring with laughter. I had to join him, I mean I did fall on my face in the snow. 

I heard Hope barking outside and Jeb turned to me. “Sounds like friends are coming,” I said. “She tends to silently sneak up behind enemies.”

“She is a good dog,” he said. He grabbed his pistol and stepped outside. “Hey Mama, what are you doing out in this weather?” 

“Just wanted to get out a bit and make sure everything was good over here. I see the outhouse bit the dust.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, as they walked in.

“Do you think the snow is over, Sophie? Or does your knee work that way?” Cindy asked.

“It is still hurting, but I fell on it today too, so I’m not sure. Sorry,” I said.

“That’s okay, if you hadn’t told us before this whole thing would have caught us off guard and we could have lost animals or worse. There are some weird looking clouds out there, so I don’t think it’s over. We are doing fine over there, I just wanted to make sure y’all were good over here before it starts up again.”

“We have everything we need,” Jeb said. “I’ll walk you back, it’s starting to spit something outside.” 

“Your dad is out by the fence looking for a cow, just walk me that far,” she said.

Jeb walked out the door, with Hope at his heels.

 She hugged me. “You be careful and stay warm.” Then in my ear, “He’s not like Rick, I promise.”

“I know,” I said.

“I hoped you did,” she said, looking at me intently.

“We are taking it slow,” I said. “I would never want to hurt him.”

“I know, I don’t think you will,” she said.

I walked her to the door.

“I’m taking Hope with me, is that okay?” Jeb asked.

“Of course it is,” I said. “I don’t think anyone with nefarious intent will be out in this weather.”

“I’ll only be gone for a few minutes. Keep your gun handy.”

“I always do,” I said. 

“Good girl,” he said. Then they disappeared around the corner.

I went inside and poured another cup of coffee and sat in front of the window. Snow around a pond is so beautiful. The trees were coated and it looked like a Christmas card photo.

 Not five minutes later, the clouds opened up and freezing rain and sleet began coming down hard. I grabbed some towels and a shirt and pants for Jeb and put them close to the stove to warm up. I paced the small cabin, going from window to window looking for any sign that they were coming. 

Almost two hours later, I heard Hope’s happy bark coming down the path. I ran to the door and had it open when they turned the corner.

“I was getting worried,” I said. “I know that sounds stupid.”

“No, it’s not stupid. Everything is different now, and a simple trip to the road can be dangerous,” he said, grabbing me and hugging me.

“I’m glad you’re back,” I said. “I’ve gotten used to having you two around.”

“Good,” he said, looking at me. “My evil plan is working.”

“You don’t have an evil plan,” I said.

“I might, you never know,” he said, laughing.

“No, you have a good plan. I’m sure of it,” I said. I handed him the warm towels and clothes. “Here I warmed these up for you. Change in here so you don’t get chilled. I’ll go to my bedroom and get some of my clothes and some more blankets while you change. I set the whiskey out, in case you want some to warm up.”

“Wow, you thought of everything. Thanks,” he said. By the time he was changed, the ice was already covering everything. 

“I’m so glad you made it back before we got all this,” I said.

“Me too,” he said. “I put the stew back on and it should be warm in just a few minutes. I’m starving.”

“So am I,” I said. 

We ate our stew in front of the window and watched the ice cover the snow and everything else. 

“At least we don’t have to worry about the power going out,” I said.

He was quiet for a minute, then he started laughing. “Oh my God, I can’t believe you just said that! We never have to worry about that again, do we? We can sit here and enjoy watching it without that worry.”

“We don’t have to worry about going to work, or needing to go to the store. There is nowhere to go and I like it.”

I cleaned up from our meal and we sat in front of the window and just watched the ice coat the trees and ground until it was too dark to see.

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19 comments

Thom Brodkin
17:25 Sep 21, 2020

How sweet. You managed to make an outhouse romantic. That's talent. I am afraid of this weeks prompts but you jumped right in with both feet and wrote a great and romantic story. Great job. Two thumbs up.

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18:07 Sep 21, 2020

I didn't think about it that way! lol But I gues if the grid is down someone who can build an outhouse would look really good! Thank you so much for reading!

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13:19 Sep 23, 2020

This is an excerpt from a novel that I am trying to finish. I was excited that it fit into the prompt. There is another section from 2 prompts ago if you are interested.

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Thom Brodkin
14:01 Sep 23, 2020

I am. I'll go back and check it out. :-)

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14:17 Sep 23, 2020

Thanks!

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Thom Brodkin
17:07 Oct 01, 2020

Hey there Ms. Stephanie. I have a new story I just posted and I'm looking to get as many trusted eyes on as possible while I can still edit it. Can you give me a read and some feedback?

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17:11 Oct 01, 2020

Absolutely!

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Thom Brodkin
17:17 Oct 01, 2020

Thanks, you are the best!!!

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17:27 Oct 01, 2020

Anytime!

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Charles Stucker
23:53 Sep 30, 2020

You managed the apocalypse well. No reason given because it doesn't matter. You have a nice, well-paced tale with a strong romance element which gives a glimpse of people surviving after something turns out the lights. The only real tension is in the romantic element and that is pretty low key. Of course, a Pail of Air by Fritz Lieber is fairly low tension, and many consider it one of the ten best sci-fi shorts ever written. I saw you have other work at Wattpad. I might check it out, if I ever get less busy. This was quite good.

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13:25 Oct 01, 2020

OMG! Thank you so much! I can't express how much your words mean to me. This is part of a novel I am working on. The rest is posted on Wattpad. Wow! This made my day!

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20:17 Oct 01, 2020

I ordered A Pail of Air. Can't wait to read it!

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Miles Gatling
17:57 Sep 21, 2020

Nice one, I kept reading wanting to find out if they were outlaws or victims or why it was dangerous. Because of wild animals? Loved the natural setting. The romance is cool, makes them human

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18:05 Sep 21, 2020

Thank you so much!

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19:11 Sep 27, 2020

This is actually part of a longer piece. If you would like you can read more of it here. https://www.wattpad.com/user/StephanieAlbright

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Leilani Lane
19:22 Sep 30, 2020

Hi Stephanie!! I LOVE a story that's almost all dialogue! It's so easy to visualize. Great job!! The only critique I have is that there are a few lines of dialogue that would benefit from contractions to make it seem more natural/realistic: “I think we have done all we can, bring it on Mother Nature,” Jeb said. Use "we've" instead of "we have" “That is the most incredibly sweet thing anyone has ever said to me,” I said. Use "That's" instead of "That is," and perhaps "anyone's" instead of "anyone has" “Could you make some cof...

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20:05 Sep 30, 2020

Thanks so much for the feedback! I usually try to read it out loud to help and I've been experimenting with a voice to text program with mixed results. Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave feedback!

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Leilani Lane
20:10 Sep 30, 2020

Of course!! Oooo interesting. That makes a lot of sense. Keep up the great work!! Looking forward to reading more of your work. :)

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20:14 Sep 30, 2020

Thanks!

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