A couple days after her arrival in the community Kelly is now part way through her first day of school. She is the oldest of the girls of which there are only four others besides her. The rest, seven in total, are boys. It had surprised Kelly to learn that there were so few children in this community of just over sixty. But after what she has learned about how the world came to an end due to an infection that reanimates the recently dead, maybe it shouldn’t. She doesn’t know and that’s not the only thing she doesn’t know she realises as Evan and Eric, two of the oldest boys in Penny’s class, hurl abuse at her. They’ve been doing in for more than ten minutes without pause.

Kelly doesn’t like it and has no idea why they are doing this to her. Is it because she’s new? Or has she done something to anger them? She can’t answer either question but their taunts are really getting to her. She had been sure that she would be safe, but these two are really making her feel anything but now and she just wants it to stop.

“Oh look at me I didn’t know the world had ended.” Evan mocks trying to put on a girl’s voice as he does pretend curtsies.

“Yeah, what kind of dumbass doesn’t know the worlds fallen apart?” Eric, the oldest of the pair, adds with a chuckle, which Evan soon joins in on.

“Stop it.” Kelly demands. Her voice is weaker than she would like it to be.

“Why? You’re just a dumb little girl. Too stupid to know what’s going on. You must have been living under a rock.” Evan says continuing to taunt her. His words don’t make Kelly feel as bad as Eric’s. Maybe that’s because he’s only a year older than her and doesn’t use curse words to try and belittle her, but she can’t be sure.

“Cause you’re just a thick shit that too retarded to actually think. No wonder you sit at the front of the class near Miss Austin.” Eric spits disgusted by the girl in front of him as she cowers.

Eric is a good seven inches taller than Kelly as well as being two years older. He has brown hair that is darker than hers but grey eyes which sparkle. He is taking great pleasure in putting her down. She should never have been allowed to live here. This is their community and they, the so called children, were never asked of their opinion about her joining. If they had been he would have said no immediately. She’s clearly weak in both mind and body. He has no idea how she’s managed to survive but assumes that it must have been simple dumb luck, because she is completely clueless as far as he can tell.

“Leave me alone. I’ve done nothing to you.” Kelly fires back. She’s trying to sound confident and come across as strong but she doesn’t feel it. She’s been alone so long that she doesn’t remember how to deal with people and just feels the overwhelming need to run off and hide.

“Like hell I will you dumb little bitch. I would never have let you in. You’re a waste of space. In fact, we might as well feed you to the infected. Except I think they only like to infect those who actually have brains. So maybe they’d just tear you into little pieces.” Eric continues. He’s lost in the moment now and can’t contain the joy it brings him to make Kelly feel small and weak. But Evan thinks his best friend might be going too far. He won’t say anything. He knows better than to do that. But he is sure they’ll get into trouble for this.

“Wandering like a lost little lamb hoping to find her parents. Well news flash dumbass, they’re dead and it’s all your fault.” Eric adds with a sneer of satisfaction.

“Enough!” Kelly shouts before running off, tears streaming down her face as she goes. She can’t take anymore of Eric’s hurtful words and feels an overwhelming need to find somewhere safe to hide. It doesn’t even enter her head that Penny will notice she is missing and probably go searching for her.

“That’s right run you little shit.” Eric calls after her as he laughs.

“Damn Eric.” Evan replies shocked at just how far he’s taken it.

“What?” Eric queries with a wide smile carved across his face.

Until now the five foot four inch Evan with curly blonde hair and hazel eyes had never seen just how cruel his best friend could be. He’s never taken it this far before, Evan thinks as he looks at Eric.

“She had it coming. I know her type. They always think they’re better than everyone else.” Eric says spitting on the ground with disgust as Penny calls for them all to return to class for the afternoon.

At that moment Evan winces. How are they going to explain where Kelly has gone?

“Don’t look so worried. We’ll just play dumb. No one ever has to know.” Eric offers reading the look on Evan’s face. The older boy knows his younger friend won’t rat him out and that is for no other reason than because if he does he’ll get a beating and he knows it. Friend or not, Eric will not abide being snitched on. In the years before the world ended he’d been in a school for problem children because of his anger issues. He has a history of singling out someone and making their life a living hell and just because the world has ended that doesn’t mean anything has changed. Historically it had usually been whoever the newest addition to whatever school he’d been at. And he has to admit it feels better than ever to have a target again, he thinks as he smiles evilly. He just hopes Kelly comes back, he is sure she will as they always did before the apocalypse.

“Where’s Kelly?” Penny asks as everyone shuffles back into her classroom, but she her question is met with nothing but blank looks.

However, Penny knows that something must have happened as Kelly had been happy and cheerful before the recess. She hopes Eric hasn’t been causing trouble again. It wouldn’t be the first time, but right now her priority is Kelly. She has to find her. She could ask one of the other members of their little community, but doing such a thing doesn’t feel right somehow.

“Alright, class is dismissed for today. But I want you back bright and early tomorrow morning.” Penny announces after a few moments of silent thought during which she contemplates whether to question Eric Bird and Evan Cross. But she’s decided against it, at least for now. She needs to find Kelly first and find out what’s happened. She just hopes the girl is ok. She’s had a really hard time in the last few days learning about the infected and that’s in addition to an already harrowing life.

“Yay!” The calls of the children, including Eric and Evan, ring out as all eleven of them quickly jump from their seats and run out of the classroom.

“Penny, what’s going on?” Adam asks. He’d been passing the manor house when the children had come running out of the doors shouting with joy. They’d nearly knocked him off his feet, but he’d narrowly managed to jump aside just in time to avoid such a thing.

“Kelly’s gone missing.” Penny admits having been lost in thought for how long she doesn’t know before having heard Adam’s voice.

Penny exhales deeply and tries to put a brave face on, but Adam can tell she’s worried about the teenager. They’ve got pretty close in the short time they’ve known each other. That’s good he’d decided.

He looks at Penny and concludes that maybe she should take Kelly in. Someone will have to eventually, so why not Penny. It would make sense. Kelly loves being around the young woman who makes her feel safe. It seems like a match made in heaven. But with teenagers you can never be sure how long that’ll last, a voice in his head reminds. He admits that it is true as memories of his own family flash through his mind. They’re all gone now. They were taken by the infection. He misses them more than he will ever be able to explain. He doesn’t talk about them though. Carl knows, so does Melissa, but that’s it. No one else knows he used to be married, his wife’s name had been Alicia, or that he had two boys, Dan and Matt. Dan had been fourteen and Matt ten. He can still see all three of their faces and the fact that they’re gone still haunts him.

“Want a hand?” Adam asks trying to ignore the images of his lost family filling his vision.

“Yeah.” Penny says nodding absentmindedly. Her gaze flicks from being blank and focused on a spot somewhere ahead of her to being back in the here and now as she looks at Adam and then forces a  smile.

“Thanks.” Penny adds quickly in the moments before they leave the classroom to go in search of the now missing girl.

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