Vivienne yelled out and I whipped my head around to see what happened. The last man standing held an impressive hunting knife in his hand, while Vivienne had a fresh cut on her arm. Still, she held steady, sword gripped tightly in front of her, legs in a fighting stance.
Something stirred inside of me at the sight. Time slowed when I watched her wield the sword like an ancient warrior. It was hard to imagine that just a few years ago we were in high school worrying about football games and which party to go to on the weekend. Now we stayed in abandoned houses, scrounged for water, and spent most of our lives running. If things had been different, Vivienne and I would be graduating college this year. I had plans to go into medicine, and she wanted to be a vet. Funny how those dreams seemed so far away now.
A loud thump echoed through the now darkened night. She almost fell to the ground with the amount of momentum needed to decapitate the man. He dropped to his knees like a sinner begging for mercy, head rolling further down the hill. My stomach fluttered with admiration and annoyance.
“I didn’t need your help,” I said to her, getting up on my feet and trying not to wince at my injuries.
“Sure,” she huffed. Ripping her bandana off her face she tore it in two. “Here, wrap that up.” She nodded toward the tear in my sleeve and I stubbornly yanked the cloth out of her hand.
“I had everything under control,” I said between clenched teeth. It was the only way to mask the pain. “How did you know where to find me?”
“I followed the girly shrieks,” she said without missing a beat. I looked down at her in time to see a smirk pull at the corner of her mouth. “Let me do it.”
Once again, I allowed Vivienne to rescue me. It killed every part of that male ego inside, but I knew she’d let me do the same for her. In fact, I had. We always saved each other.
“Ow,” I said when she tightened the bandana a little too rough around my arm.
“Stop being a baby.”
“Stop showing off your man strength.”
She pulled even tighter but let a small laugh escape. I sucked in a breath at that sound, realizing how close I’d come to never hearing it again.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?” she asked, turning me around and patting her hands along my body. I froze, trying to ignore how comforting her touch felt. We’d been friends for years, and she was the only person in this world I trusted. Why had I risked so much for this run?
I stepped away from her, not liking where my thoughts were headed. “I’m fine,” I mumbled. “Stop mothering me.”
“I wouldn’t have to if you’d listen to me.” She stopped in front of my face and stared me down. I stood a little over six feet tall and she was just a few inches shorter. Together with that glare, almost any man would cower under her. “Was it worth it?”
“The water. How much did you get?”
I hung my head in embarrassment. “I had eight, but they shot through one. So six, I guess.”
“Six bottles?” She looked impressed.
“No, six liters.” Silence.
“You just made me kill three men for six liters of water?”
I shuffled my feet. “You only killed two.”
She reached out so quickly, I couldn’t defend myself. Both hands pushed against my chest and I stumbled back, falling to the ground.
“I could make it three,” she hissed. “I should kill you for your stupidity alone.”