Ann rolled over and threw her arm out across the empty space on the other side of the mattress, the empty space that should have been Jim. She woke immediately, fully alert and scanning the room for any signs of trouble. She could dimly remember a time when waking was a slow, luxurious process full of stretching and blinking and drifting from dream to reality and back. In the months since the outbreak, waking up had become like flicking a light switch.
She didn’t see Jim anywhere in the room and the bedroom door was shut and intact. She closed her eyes and listened. At first, she didn’t recognize what she was hearing – a bird singing. She sat with her eyes closed, a smile spreading across her face. She sat like that, listening, for a long moment, just enjoying the simple beauty.
Ann’s eyes popped open as she realized where Jim was. A bird singing meant that winter was finally over. The bright sunlight peeking around the edges of the heavy curtains hinted at a gorgeous early spring day.
Jim was getting ready to grill out.
She climbed off the bed over the footboard, shaking the blankets and sheets from around her legs as she stumbled to the door. She threw it opened and stopped short of hollering Jim’s name. Bellowing like that was sure to call their attention and that was the last thing they needed. She calmly walked down the stairs. She turned the corner at the bottom and could see into the kitchen. Sure enough, Jim was there, apron around his waist, peering out the now not-barricaded patio doors. He was using his favorite spatula to shield his eyes from the glare.
“Don’t,” Ann said plain and simple.
“Honey,” Jim didn’t even turn around, “I’ll be careful.”
“Jim,” Ann said in the way that reminded her of her mother.
“Hon,” Jim cut her off, turning to her with a smile on his face. It had been so long since she had seen such a genuine smile, on him or even in the mirror, that it took her aback. “I’m tired of this. It is a gorgeous day outside and the backyard is free and clear. I have these last few chicken pieces and come hell or high water I am going to barbecue them.”
“But the smell. The…cooking meat. It’ll bring ‘em.”
“I’ll be careful. You sit upstairs in the bathroom and watch me with the rifle.” He smiled even more widely. “You’re a crack shot, hon. You’ll keep any zombies that climb over the fence off me and you and me will have barbecue chicken for dinner!"