Finally, they were dating.
Tabitha and Ronnie had grown up together: neighbors, two houses apart. They had seen each other through everything: happy summers of camping trips and marshmallows; scary twilights when they believed air-conditioning units were monsters; sad shoulder-to-cry-on sit on the couch and eat jelly beans and not talk days…
When Ronnie got into baseball, Tabitha came to every game — little league through high school. When Tabitha got into makeup, Ronnie stoically provided feedback on every new eyeshadow look and lipstick color she demanded he evaluate. When Ronnie had been a ball of nerves waiting for the team roster results freshman year, Tabitha had made him M&M brownies. When the Accident happened, Ronnie had supported Tabitha through all the trauma, every single day.
Ronnie loved the way Tabitha would get so focused when she was concentrating on anything, whether it was math homework or eyeliner.
Tabitha loved how Ronnie always acted tough but would instantly melt in front of a kitten, cuddling it and baby-talking at it.
It was orange candy autumn, and Dylan’s Halloween party was the perfect opportunity, and Tabitha looked so perfect in her chunky sweater, purple rain boots and smile, and suddenly, fifteen years of friendship was worth risking if there was even the slightest chance that she would say yes…
“Really? That’s the best you could do?” Tabitha gestured at his baseball uniform, admittedly the laziest costume he could have come up with.
Ronnie made a face, mock-hurt, “What?! It’s classic! Besides, it goes with your zombie cheerleader thing — which looks awesome by the way.”
He was right. Tabitha’s makeup seemed practically real.
She softened at the compliment.
“Fine, but only because we’re going to be late. I’ll get you to let me do your makeup one of these days. Girlfriend privileges.”
Both of them blushed. Neither was quite used to their new relationship status.
They made their way down the quiet street. Ronnie cursed himself, wondering why it was so difficult to reach out and hold her hand when it had been so easy just a few years ago.
They turned down an ally for a shortcut.
All of a sudden, screeching tires cut the crisp air and a black van blocked their path. Four figures in hideous masks leapt out and stalked towards them.
Ronnie grabbed Tabitha by the hand — something now very easy — and turned to run —
Ronnie crumpled to the asphalt, his head an explosion of pain. Blearily, he saw a masked figure leering over him, holding a brick.
Tabitha screamed and courageously kicked their attacker, but he caught her foot.
The other figures grabbed her by the arms and started yanking her towards the van.
Ronnie tried to move, but everything was spinning.
Tabitha struggled hard, trying to free her limbs, snarling fiercely.
“Aw, a cute lil zombie cheerleader,” one of the figures stroked her face with his meaty hand.
Tabitha snapped her head around and bit him, flailing with everything she had.
Her leg came off.
The brick-basher holding it screamed and trembled, dropping it on the ground.
“Oh-oh sh** man. O-Oh sh**! She’s a real — She’s a real —”
Horrified, he pointed at the bitten man, “She-She bit you! Y-YOU’RE INFECTED!”
Terrified, the attackers released Tabitha and ran.
“DON’T TOUCH HIM! HE’S BEEN INFECTED!”
They drove off, leaving the bitten man stumbling behind.
The bitten man felt a chill down his spine.
Slowly, he turned. A baseball player, blood dripping down his face, white hot rage in his eyes, loomed before him, holding The Leg by the ankle twisted behind his shoulder like a bat:
The bitten man was out cold.
“You ok?” gently, Ronnie helped Tabitha reattach her prosthetic leg. She had lost it in a foresting accident on a camping trip.
“Sorry that I had to borrow this.”
“I’m fine — you’re the one who’s bleeding!” she sighed, “Dylan’s house is the closest from here. Not the first date I had in mind, but at least we’ll have the coolest costumes,” she deadpanned, gesturing at Ronnie’s blood-stained uniform.
He helped her to her feet.
Finally, they were dating.
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