If I Lay Here Chapter 2

Georgia was  cute, as always, in her nicely styled clothes and she bounced out of her house  when he pulled up. “Hey!”

“Hey.”

“Ooo grumpy.”

“This is just  such a stupid waste of time.”

“As opposed to  laying about playing video games all day?”

“Yeah. Dad’s  going to really divorce her this time.”

“What’s set her  off now?”

“Oh, they’re  going to quarantine the whole state this afternoon.”

The smile  dropped from Georgia’s face. “What?”

Noah shrugged.  “She said they told them at the hospital because they’ll get a wave of people  who aren’t sick thinking they are because of it.”

“But…they whole  state?”

“That’s half  the country away.”

“Yeah but…God,  Noah, maybe I should call my dad?”

“And say what?  Noah’s crazy mom is freaking again because the CDC is being a bunch of pansies?  I had the news on, it’s only a few thousand sick and no one’s reported dead.  How bad can it be? I mean, at most they’ll ask people to stay home for a few  days if they’re not feeling well.”

“But a whole  state?”

“Mom said I  shouldn’t tell anyone. That means she knows she’s overreacting.”

“Yeah, I guess.  It sounds bad though.”

“Sucks to live  in Arizona.  That’s what they get for not having snow.”

“You’re  horrible.”

“Yeah, but  having a loony mother makes up for it.” He grinned but didn’t tell her about  the tone of fear he’d heard from his mother, or the large amount of cash she  was having him withdrawal from the bank.

Georgia pushed  the wide, deep cart down another aisle as Noah tossed a case of toilet paper  in. “Think that’s enough?”

“After the  zombies attack, toilet paper will be the only real currency left.”

She laughed.  “Yeah, wouldn’t want to chafe. Anything frozen?”

“Mom said  staple stuff that won’t go bad.”

“This would be  amusing if she wasn’t so sad. You’re going to be eating macaroni and cheese  until you’re thirty.”

“And Spam.” He  made a gagging sound. “We ate Spam once a week for years after her Y2K mania.”  He dropped a package of a dozen cans of tuna into the cart and followed it with  oversized packages of canned chicken and the dreaded Spam. “Beans and rice too,  pasta and sauces.”

“Geesh how much  are you getting?”

“She said  enough for us for a couple of weeks.”

“Crazy.”

They wove  around the long aisles of bulk packages of food and other items. Noah added in  a large bottle of painkillers and various other medical and first aid supplies.  They made a game of it, weighing the merits of what they could fit in the car  and what would actually be useful if their fictional zombies did attack.

“No, come on,  Mom will kill me.” Noah pulled the oversized box of condoms from the cart.

“What?” Georgia  smiled sweetly. “You don’t know, she said to get necessary supplies. Maybe  we’ll be shut down next and you’ll have to sell your pretty ass for bread.”

Noah laughed.  “Seriously.”

“Besides, your  mom might thank you. Don’t want to find out you’ve a new sibling in a few  months.”

“Ew, shit, Georgia, don’t  put that mental picture in my head.”

“Condoms stay?  I mean, do you think she’s going to look at the receipt? Put them in your car  and you use them.”

“I’m not  getting this much action.” He waggled the huge box at her. “Maybe you’re just  asking for it for yourself, for you and Riley.”

Instead of  blushing she shrugged. “I could do worse than Riley for my first.”

“Are you  serious?”

She shrugged.  “If he wants to. I know, such a cliché, but he’s hot and I wouldn’t have to  worry about, you know, dating him.”

“You cheap  slut!” He laughed and tossed the box in the cart. “What kind of friend would I  be to allow you to go beyond virginity without the proper protection?”

“Aww that’s  sweet.”

They were still  laughing as they made their way toward the front. “Hey, wonder if Mom would be  pissed if I got a new game?”

“Doubt it, but  all the games here are stupid.”

“Yeah.”

As the turned  the corner they saw a growing group of forgotten carts and people gathered  around the big screen televisions. Someone had turned off the repeating loop of  whatever the newest family movie had been released on dvd and put the news on  instead. From a dozen televisions the same man, in a suit and standing in front  of a small sea of microphones, was speaking. He looked tired with a blank  emptiness to his eyes that almost seemed like a further mocking of their  ongoing zombie joke.

“As of right  now, we believe we have this virus contained to the state of Arizona. The  mandatory quarantine will remain in effect for the next week as we evaluate the  situation before we are able to lift it. We have the best medical minds in this  country and around the world working on isolating this pathogen, and we’re  confident we’ll be able to isolate it shortly. Until that time, we’re asking  anyone that has been to Arizona in the last month to please contact the CDC at  the toll free number given earlier. This isn’t cause for alarm, we simply want  to make sure this virus has been contained. Due to the contagious nature of  this virus, we’re asking everyone to help by remaining calm and cooperating  with authorities. To be safe, if you have traveled to Arizona in the last four  weeks, we ask you to remain home, simply as a precaution. If you’re  experiencing flu like symptoms, fever, body aches, chills, sore throat, a  cough, things along that line, please call. The incubation period makes it  highly unlikely you have anything to worry about, but in case it is this strain  calling the CDC will allow you to start antiviral treatment right away.” Below  the man the news ticker scrolled across the screen and Noah focused on that. It  reported a current reported infection rate of 5,346 confirmed cases and 672  deaths.

“Georgia?” Noah  tugged at her sleeve but her eyes were as transfixed by the dozens of big  screens as everyone else. “Georgia.” He hissed and pulled on her arm harder.  She stumbled away. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Noah…”

“Not here.” He  started to push the cart to the check out lanes with one hand and drag her  along with the other. She didn’t snap out of it until he was loading things  onto the check out lane.

“I think I  should call my father.”

“Meet you at  the car?”

“Yeah…”

As he was  checking out one of the cashiers stood to the side fighting with a manager. He  caught bits of their conversation, words about children at home and stupid jobs  and threats about being fired and each word felt surreal. He watched as the  cashier shook her head and walked off in anger toward the break room. The  manager glanced after her and over to Noah but the man’s eyes were worried and  dark.

“Cash back?”

“Huh? Oh,  sorry.” He finished pushing the buttons he needed to push to finish paying. It  seemed to take forever to get the receipt and, when it was handed to him, Noah  snatched it away to hurry outside.

Georgia was  pacing around his car, talking on the phone and looking upset. “Look, Daddy,  Noah’s here, we’re going to load up the car and come right home. You sure you  don’t want me to stop somewhere? Okay, okay, alright, yeah I’m okay. Bye.” She  flipped her phone shut. “He says I’m overreacting.”

“You are.” Noah  confirmed as the emptied the cart into his back seat. “Think about it, we don’t  even know anyone in Arizona  and yeah, this sucks, but the feds will lock it down and get it figured out. In  a week they’ll have a shot to cure it. It’s going to be fine, they’re just  being careful. Honestly? We haven’t seen something easily transmitted in  forever and they have to justify their budgets every year.”

She looked  suspicious. “You think this is all some CDC wet dream?”

“I’m sure  people are really sick, but you saw the numbers, it’s not even that fatal.  5,000 infected? The percentage dead would be the elderly and, like, babies and  shit. That happens with any bug that makes the rounds.”

“I guess you’re  right.”

“Course I’m  right, Mom just worries because she’s a nurse. Germs are her enemy. Catch.” He  tossed the box of condoms at her. “Put that under your seat for me, would you?”

“Dirty whore.”

“Wannabe slut.”  That made her smile again and he tried to ignore his own nagging worry.

 

“No, I can’t.”  Noah half whispered on his phone. His bedroom door was cracked open and downstairs  his parents were fighting.

“Noah, I need  to see you.”

“I can’t. My  parents are flipping out over this virus thing.”

“I know, the  world is going to end and I want my last night to be with you. Come over and  see me.”

He sighed. He  wanted to go, but his Mom was really upset and worried. They may have turned a  blind eye to almost anything he did, but if he tried to go out now she’d ask  questions. The last thing he wanted to do was explain that he was sneaking out  to meet his twenty four year old occasional lover. Just because he might be  almost eighteen didn’t mean his parents would want to know that he’d been  dating older men since he was sixteen.

“The world  isn’t ending and that’s an awful line.”

“Not a line, come  see me. Spend the night…”

“I can’t. Later  in the week, when things settle down a little?”

“I’m dying  here.”

“No one is  going to die from a hard on.”

“You’re such a  tease, at least have phone sex with me.”

“No, my parents  are home…”

“When did that  ever stop you?”

“I’ll call you  tomorrow.”

“Noah…”

“Tomorrow.” He  hung up because he knew if Bobby stayed on the phone he’d find a reason to  drive over. It wasn’t just his mother’s paranoia and his father’s frustration  at her phobias that kept him home, he just wasn’t in the mood. The news had  latched onto the story of the virus and kept repeating the same lack of  information over and over again.  He knew  that even if he was right and it turned out to be nothing, it was a major news  story, and while he tried to take it seriously his only thought was the same  lingering one. Riley was, without a doubt, straight and he’d asked his best  friend to the prom. He had known for years he had zero chance with the star  swimmer, but Riley’s lack of dating and interest in a social life had left him  some hope. Hope Georgia had crushed and he felt sick being happy for her. She  would have been happy for him and he was trying, but it didn’t make him feel  very amorous.

 

The microwave  beeped and Noah reached in to remove the bowl of oatmeal that was now thick and  steaming. He’d already nuked his coffee and was leaning groggily over the  counter sipping slowly at it. His parents had spent half the night yelling at  each other, and the other half loudly ignoring the other with door slams and  stomped feet. It almost made him sorry he didn’t have solid college plans, a  dorm room had to be better than listening to their drama. It hadn’t been the  fighting that kept him up, he’d hunkered down with one of his games and when  he’d looked up again it was well after midnight.

“Oh good,  you’re up. Saves me from having to write a note.” Noah’s mother, Annie, rushed  into the kitchen. She was dressed in her normal brightly colored nursing  scrubs, her fading blonde hair pulled back into a neat pony tail and her  handbag over her shoulder.

“Barely up. You  going to work?” Today was supposed to be her day off.

“I have to,  they’re calling everyone in who is able to come in. Stay home today. Okay? And  don’t have anyone over.”

“You’re going  out.”

“It’s my job.”

“Where’s Dad?”

“Golfing, he’ll  be back for dinner, hopefully.”

He shook his  head. “He’s golfing but I have to stay in like some grounded kid?”

“Noah, don’t  fight me, just stay home.”

“If you’re so worried  about this bug, you two should be home with me.”

“I’m not  worried about this outbreak, and you’re being difficult.”

“I’m not, and  the thousands of gallons of water in the basement say you are.”

She sighed and  put on her frustrated mother face. “The CDC is one of the best medical  organizations in the world. If they say they’ve it contained, they’ve it  contained. I’m not worried about this flu bug, but Noah, people get scared.  Everyone with a child or parent or friend with  a stuffed up head is going to be beside themselves and rushing to the doctors  today, and there are plenty of people that are going to use this as an excuse  to do bad things.”

“You make it  sound like a lifetime movie of the week.”

“I’m serious  Noah, stay home. People go a little nuts over things like this. If it gets bad  I want us to be able to be safely tucked away in our own little home and not  having to go out until level heads return. So you stay home and stay out of  trouble, I’ve enough to worry about.”

“Yeah,  whatever.”

She hurried to  the door. “And keep your inhaler with you, the spring mold count is high  today.”

“I haven’t had  an asthma attack in two years, Mom.”

“Noah…” She  said his name with the tone that meant she’d had enough.

“Yeah,  whatever, I’ll dig it out of the drawer.”

“That’s a good  boy, I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“Okay.” But he  was answering a closed door, his mother was already outside and gone. Noah was  used to it, both his parents were busy and rarely did a weekend arrive to find  them together as a family. He carried his breakfast into the living room and  turned on a movie channel as he ate. Hours went by and Noah stayed where he’d  flopped, happily on the sofa.

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