Zoe was driving more hastily than she normally would. She was about 10 MPH above the speed limit. She didn’t look as if she was chasing anything down, though. She looked like she had just found some sort of joy.
“It isn’t every day I get to hear you admit you were wrong, Fifteen,” Zoe smiled and laughed.
“I suppose you’ll just relish this while you can.” I crossed my arms, and looked out of the window.
“I told you that I was going to tell her if you wouldn’t. Honestly, I don’t know why she still gravitates towards you. That doesn’t matter, you finally realised you’re capable of making a mistake!” Zoe took a quick turn at one of our stations, and we waited there for anyone who might do anything illegal.
“Yes, I’m aware. What I wasn’t aware of was the time restraint you were going to give me. You gave me less than a day.”
“I’m not a very patient person, pal. At least, not with issues like this. Someone had to put you in your place.” Zoe tapped the steering wheel with her fingers. It looked like she was tapping out the beat to some song.
“It doesn’t matter. I was going to tell her that same night anyway. There’s just something that eludes me.” I looked back toward Zoe. She continued tapping the upbeat beat.
“What would that be, little one?” She looked over toward me at this point, but her facial expression didn’t change.
“Shelby wasn’t angry. She just accepted what it was and moved along. I would have been furious if I had found that I had been lied to in such a grandiose manner.” I scratched the bottom of my jaw, right where it connects with the throat.
“I’ve already told you, Fifteen. She’s better than you are,” Zoe said.
“I’ll have to concede that. She is better than me. I suppose it was a good thing that she became Commander over me.”
Zoe didn’t say anything. Instead, she stopped tapping and looked out of the front windshield.
“Is something bothering you now, Zoe?” I leaned toward her a little bit.
“This doesn’t seem right. This is nothing like you at all. You never admit flaws like that. What’s gotten into you, Fifteen?”
I stared intently at the side of her face. She was right. Something was affecting me, but I couldn’t tell what.
“I don’t know, Zoe.” I shook my head.
“There you go again. Saying things that you don’t say.” Zoe wriggled her fingers, then gripped the steering wheel tightly.
“I’m not sure what it is, Zoe. I’ve already said that.”
Zoe shook her head. “Let’s just not talk for a little while. I think we’re both too weirded out for it.”
So we didn’t. The two of us sat in silence, waiting until it was time for us to move to our next patrol point. Once the time was there, Zoe started the car and drove us away.
Once we got to that next point, Zoe got out of the car. I followed her, if only because I didn’t know what she was doing.
However, I realised why she had gotten out once I saw the surrounding land. There was a small forest nearby, and it was the same one that had housed Annabelle. She was probably there, waiting for us.
“Annabelle! Are you out here?” Zoe called out.
It took a while, but Annabelle did appear from the forest. She rushed up to Zoe and I, and hugged my legs. I was surprised, so I only patted her head. Zoe got onto a knee, and gave her a proper hug.
“I didn’t know you guys would be coming back!” Annabelle exclaimed.
“Well, we have to patrol here pretty often, kiddo. You’ll see us more often than you think.” Zoe stood up, and opened the backdoor of the car.
“I would like that,” Annabelle said.
“Then you seem pretty lucky,” I told her. Annabelle smiled at me. She was missing a few teeth. On the bright side, they were likely teeth which were destined to fall out anyway.
“Are you hungry?” Zoe asked. She crouched down in front of Annabelle and offered her part of a sandwich.
“Oh, thank you, miss.” Annabelle took the sandwich, and scarfed it down. The child likely hadn’t eaten much that day.
“Annabelle, I don’t like seeing you out here and alone in these woods.” Zoe looked past the child, and into the forest beyond. Annabelle shrugged.
“Aren’t you getting colder every night?” I asked.
Annabelle shook her head. “It isn’t that bad.” She was acting like some sort of child hard-ass.
“I still don’t like it. You should come stay with me.” Zoe reached her hand out to Annabelle. Annabelle took a small step back.
“What?” Annabelle’s eyes darted back and forth.
“You heard me. Stay at my house, with me.” Zoe reached her hand out farther.
Annabelle looked around, and tucked her hands behind her back.
“You don’t have to accept if you don’t want to, Annabelle,” I interjected. Annabelle did have the right to choose this, whether Zoe like it or not.
“Will you be there, too, Fifteen?” Annabelle looked up at me. Once more, I was faced with someone who was attached to me, but I say why.
“I don’t live with Zoe, but I could help pay for your food, and visit sometimes.”
Zoe gave me another look. It wasn’t exactly one of anger, and not one of joy, and not one of shock, but it held every one of those emotions.
“I will, then.” Annabelle stood forward, and took Zoe’s still outstretched hand. Zoe looked back at Annabelle before pulling Annabelle into her embrace.
“Let’s get you to our home, kiddo.” Zoe let Annabelle into the backseat, and we took our proper spots up front.
I looked at Annabelle from the rearview mirror. She was still, and reminded me somewhat of another still body I had seen in the backseat of a car.
When we got to Zoe’s home, Zoe took Annabelle inside and came back out after a few minutes.
“I don’t know what Annabelle does for fun, so I told her to explore the house, but to try not to make a big mess,” Zoe told me after she got into the car. She started the car, then started driving away.
“I have a question for you, Fifteen.” Zoe looked very solemn. “Did you heart grow three sizes since I last saw you?”
I looked at my palms. “I’m not sure, truly. At first, I did nice things to appease other people. Now I just feel somewhat compelled.”
Zoe pulled the car over, and laid her head on the steering wheel. “Are you really going to help pay for everything?”
I put my hand on Zoe’s shoulder. She was slightly startled, but made eye contact.
Zoe reached her hand up and grabbed my arm.
Zoe smiled at me. “You’re a piece of shit, you know that?”