Tiff sat up with a groan and her muscles protested the movement. Obviously she hadn’t moved much while she slept. Staring at the waist high balcony, slightly grayed and cracked with age, she rolled her neck trying to ease some of the tension as she fully woke up. It had been a refreshing change to be able to fully sleep without having to force her body to keep her senses ready, to wake up feeling rested. Taking a deep breath of the morning air she had to admit she was glad she had stayed. She stood up and stretched, wincing as her knuckles brushed the door reminding her of what had happened. Studying her fingers she had to laugh at the situation. A year ago there was no way she could have imagined even speaking to Dustin Edels let alone punching him in the face and yet here she was waking up on the balcony outside his room. A knock on the door behind her startled her back to the present and she turned to see Adam waving at her before he opened the door.
Standing at the balcony doors and watching her rest, Dusty went over everything he had been told about her and Adam’s little encounter. Then he went over what the doctor told him. Apparently she was running a low fever, nothing serious, due to spending the last who knew how many months most likely outside without a roof over her head or any of the other luxuries most of them took for granted even now. Travis had assured him multiple times that she just had a cold and he knew the doctor wouldn’t lie about something like this. He sighed, hand on the door handle, and shook his head. After worrying over Adam’s late return and spending the evening trying to figure out what to do about their fast approaching supply problem all he had wanted to do was sleep. But knowing she had a fever he couldn’t just leave her out there. He ran a hand through his hair and glanced back to his bed with a frown before making up his mind. “You really should come back inside.” She had stiffened when the doors opened and tensed even further when he spoke.
Startled from her thoughts of the past Tiff looked around her room for the source of the noise.
She gasped a little as her butt vibrated a second time and she felt silly. It was just her phone. The one she wasn’t supposed to have that she had no one to talk to on. As if the person on the other end knew she was looking at it the phone lit up and vibrated in her hand.
There were three new messages, all from her cousin who she wasn’t supposed to talk to or even think of talking to. But she was a rebellious niece and broke so many of her aunt and uncle’s rules once she got a job and started going to school. So not long after starting her job when she had been given a generous tip she decided to use it to go buy a cell phone in secret. It was nothing fancy or expensive just something she could use if she got into trouble on the hour walk to and from work or school. Her cousin had found it one day while raiding her room for the sweets neither of them were supposed to have while she was in the shower. Soon after that she bought one for her cousin so they could talk without getting in trouble. He would leave her some money from his allowance each month to help pay for it and the only thing they had to be careful about was when they used them and keeping them hidden.
Opening her eyes she shivered and looked around the room. How typical, she thought, I’m in a house full of people and I’m just as alone as ever. At least she didn’t have any dreams this time; she realized as she folded up the blanket and set it on the couch. The old couch groaned and creaked as she finally got up with a groan of her own as her muscles protested. A moment later she headed out the door and wandered through the hallways on the lower level of the house, looking for Adam or Travis. For being on the rich side of town the house wasn’t nearly as large as she expected she realized as she reached the end of the hallway and looked back to the door. Glancing out one of the windows she tried to remember what this house had looked like from the street back before everything happened. She shook her head; the house’s grand appearance was apparently nothing more than an illusion after all.
Footsteps on the street below roused her from her sleep and Tiff cracked open her eyes. There had been a lot more memories then dreams lately and she was exhausted by them. Even the nightmares were preferable to the memories, she thought with a sigh before rolling over to look for the source of the steps. A young man, eighteen at most she guessed, was hurrying along with a stack of books in his arms. Throwing a quick glance behind him he didn’t see the man stepping out of the shadows and intentionally into his path. The books skittered across the ground and she could hear the small rocks on the road scratching at them, even from her spot on the balcony above. Tensing as she recognized the man - one of the big shots of the group of thugs that had claimed the area named Charlie- she watched them silently. When Charlie spoke the sound of this voice oozed over her and made her feel filthy. His voice dripped with hidden poison and barely masked insincerity.
Opening her eyes each morning and remembering that she was unable to leave the house had turned two weeks and counting of what the government called precautionary measures into a life sentence in hell. Her aunt and uncle weren’t the easiest people to live with on a good day and she was never their favorite person to see. Their mutual distaste for each other had peaked when she turned fifteen but now, three years later, the stress of what was going on in the world was getting to them all. Any normal day was barely tolerable for her in that house so being cooped up with them, police silently cruising through the neighborhoods every hour, just made things worse. She hadn’t been stuck inside the house since she was old enough to get a job and take care of herself. So she decided that it would be easiest on them all if she just did what she always tried to do: stay in her room and do her best to ignore everything that was going on with everyone else.