A Beautiful Affair in the Zombie Apocalypse

Sam sat alone. The lab was empty before the last finals of the semester.

He walked in and scanned the rows for a seat. She smiled. He sat down.

A term paper was printed. A couple of ebooks, too.

Sam kept working. She peeked at him.

“I’m Sam.” she said.

He looked over his glasses.

“Ward.” he said.

They sat together in quiet. At the hour, she shut down. She gathered her things. He followed her out into the snow.

“Would you like to get some coffee?” he asked.

She bit her lip.

“I have a test, now.” she said.

“I have time.”

***

“Well, I just failed philosophy.”

Sam tossed her study guide in trash. She’d finished first and ranked last.

Ward took her hand. “Coffee?”

Neither ordered coffee. Hot tea and sandwiches in snow. The wind blew them away and chased them inside. Ward warmed her hands in his.

Their first kisses were soft. Toes in the water.

In an abandoned classroom. Hidden beneath a table. His fingers mapped her face. Her hands slid up his back. Fingers pressed strong shoulders.

Sam breathed him in. His scent. His touch.

“Will I see you again?”

Ward kissed her forehead. “Soon.”

She could wait.

***

Sam watched her town swarm with sickly throbbing shadows. An invisible flood around her legs as she walked to the first class of the new semester.

She stopped outside the same classroom they’d defiled several weeks prior.

He’d never gotten back to her.

The hall was empty but for her and one other. And something was off. The slack-jawed behemoth started towards her with quick, stumbling leaps.

His meaty hand grabbed at her blouse.

Sam broke his head through the glass of the emergency fire alarm.

The alarm sounded. Sam ran out into the quiet streets.

Ward was waiting there.

***

“I just shot you an email.” Ward lifted a white bag and smiled. “Donut?”

A girl with a yellow backpack came out of the building and walked past Sam and into the lab. Sam looked through the glass doors behind her. No sign of her pursuer. No blood. No glass.

He pulled Sam close. Patchouli, smoke, and leather. She breathed him in.

“You’re seeing things aren’t you?”

She met his eyes. “Something’s coming.”

He kissed her head. “I’ll protect you.”

His strong arms. Heartbeat. She kissed his neck.

He left her in class with a persistent shiver and a donut.

***

Katie was skeptical.  “A Zombie? Are you sure?”

Sam poured a scoop of fries on her plate. “He attacked me. Then he vanished.”

“Like the ghosts last summer?” Katie picked up a burger from the counter.

“No. He wasn’t a ghost.”

They found a table in the corner of the cafeteria.

“I broke his head open. The blood was gone too.”

Katie sipped her tea. “And that’s when this Ward guy showed up?”

Sam dropped a fry in mustard. “Yeah. But I don’t think he’s dangerous.”

“Of course not.” Katie smirked. “Just be careful. Get a knife, maybe.”

“I will.”

***

Sam dusted off the old toolbox. Everything they’d used last summer was carefully wrapped in canvas and tied with wool yarn. She unwrapped the knife and measured it against the palm of her hand.

It was never meant for combat. It was little more than a box cutter that had lost all its spellwork.

Sam ran her finger along the blade. It wasn’t even sharp.

She closed it and put it in her back pocket.

She unwrapped the small wand Katie’d made for her and strung it through her keyring. That would keep her safe.

Some spells never lost power.

***

Sam turned on her computer and checked her email. Junk, junk, subscription, reply, “Strangers in the Night, Exchanging Glances.” Well, there it was.

She opened it.

“Perhaps I should reintroduce myself. My name is Ward Lyonell. We met in December.”

Sam smiled. “We did quite a bit more than meet.”

“I was not able to contact you over the break as I had lost your phone number. I apologize for not getting in touch with you sooner. I would like to see you again. Please email me so our paths may cross once more.”

Sam had a feeling they would.

***

Sam checked the hallway. No towering monsters waiting. She sat by the door and settled in with her book.

Ward sat down beside her and passed her a coffee. He had another white bag.

“Donut?” he asked.

Sam leant against him. He took a blueberry donut from the bag and passed it to her.

“How’d you know I’d be here?”

He silenced her with a sticky kiss.

She took one with chocolate and sprinkles.

Ward finished his coffee and left her with the bag of donuts.

And another kiss.

“He’s gonna make me fat.” she said.

And she didn’t mind.

***

The class packed up and left in a frenzy. Sam took her time to avoid the crowd.

When she opened the wooden double-door, the campus was unnaturally quiet.

She wandered into empty streets. The trees void of squirrels.

“Hello?”

No answer.

A movement in the distance. Running fast towards her.

Sam ran back through the door of the lecture hall and down the steps. The professor was gone. She ran through the doors to the empty science hall.

“Help!”

No answer.

She heard the doors crash open behind her.

She couldn’t outrun the monster.

So she turned to face it.

***

The College of Science flag was terrible. Dull blue, white text. A spattering of blood could only improve it.

So Sam grabbed the flag pole and thrust it into the slackjawed’s skull.

It tried to keep running but was held at the length of the pole. It swung its arms with force. It only managed to rattle the pole jutting from its eye.

Sam pushed the pole forward and forced the monster to the ground. It kicked and flailed. It stayed on its back.

She pushed with her full weight until the pole went through.

And the brute stopped moving.

***

Sam ran away from the mess and out into the quad. Several students followed her out.

The picnic tables outside were packed with people. She went back through the door and was hit by a wave of students running off to lunch.

The flag was back in its usual place.

But the toe of her sneaker was still spattered with blood.

An arm wrapped around her and she was pulled down the hall and out of the building.

“Let’s get you cleaned up.” Ward said, pressing a wet paper towel to her face. “What happened?”

Sam wasn’t sure. “A Zombie?”

***

Sam sat on the covered patio.

RrrrrrrrKAKAKAKArrrrr

Dark hair and a leather jacket rushed past her and into the rain.

“Ward?” Sam looked up.

The rain poured over his hair and into his jacket. He turned around and pushed his glasses up to see through the rain and fog.

“Sam.”

Krakerrkrkrkrkrkrkr

She pushed herself up and stood at the edge of the rain. It had been months. He’d drifted into her life and drifted out again. Like others she’d known.

“I’m sorry.”

He stepped toward her, still in the rain.

“Are you back?” She asked.

“Yes.”

He took her hand.

***

“Where were you?” Sam rested in Ward’s arms.

His coat was hung in her bathroom to dry.

“I can’t always come out here.” he said.

Sam sat up. Ward grabbed her arm.

“Don’t leave.” he said.

“I can’t promise that.” Sam didn’t remove his hand.

There was a bit of silence.

“I’m from the other world.” he said. “Where the Zombies come from.”

“Why are you here then?”

“I find the doors between our worlds and close them.”

“You’ve been gone for months.”

“There hasn’t been a door for months.”

“There’s one now?”

“Yes. Until I close it.”

“And there’s Zombies coming through?”

“Yes.” Ward pushed her hair behind her ear.

“That’s almost romantic.”

***

Ward removed the lock that was holding the doors of gymnasium closed. Sam could hear the horde pushing against the doors.

“Damnit.”

“What?”

“I left it open too long.” Ward said. “There’s too many.”

“Good thing there’s two of us.”

Sam broke a branch off the tree in the garden and stripped the leaves. Ward pulled out a large knife. A daggar, really.

He opened the doors and jumped away as the undead came lumbering out towards them.

“Rock Smash!” Ward yelled.

He stabbed the ground with his daggar.

Several zombies took the opportunity to attack.

Sam knocked them back with the end of her tree branch.

“What. The. Fuck. Ward.”

***

Ward’s dagger fell from his hand. He scrambled after it. Zombies lumbered after him.

Sam broke her branch over a burly, rotting face.

“Ward, I need another weapon!”

Ward grabbed the dagger and fell under assault. Sam put herself between him and the horde. She took the dagger from his hand and buried it in the closest skull.

The undead soldier exploded and those behind him fell back.

Ward grabbed her hand and the dagger and shouted “Suit up!”

Ribbons flew from the dagger’s hilt and wrapped around her. When they receded, her clothes had changed. Short skirt, tall boots, and ribbons. In pink.

“No way.”

***

“I swear, it gives me stone armor when I do it!”

“I have a bow on my butt!”

Sam beat him about the head and shoulders with a gloved hand.

“Zombie!”

Sam turned around to find a large chunk of dead in mid-swing.

“Step off!” She shouted. She slashed the dagger into the beast’s stomach and was showered with blood.

But there were more coming.

She looked down at her dagger and backed away.

“Use the magic.” Ward said. “Just ask it.”

Sam thought. “But it’s just gonna give me glitter-” A zombie rushed towards them, “Sandstorm!”

And a sandstorm of glitter abrasively pushed the zombies through the double doors.

***

“Katie, can I talk to you?”

“Ominous.”

Sam sat down at the computer next to Katie’s.

“I think I like this new guy.” Sam typed her password, “Like, really like him.”

“Good. Keep seeing him.”

“But I don’t know.” Sam hadn’t brought this up in months. “I still like Ward.”

Katie sighed. “He disengaged. Guys do that. Pull up your panties and move on.”

Sam never said Ward was from another world. Or that he released Zombies when he came over.

But he’d never come back.

“You like Scott? Go out with Scott.”

“Right.” But she still had her doubts.

***

Sam stared out the window. Scott’d been going on about the superiority of his field again. He called himself a scientist. Sam was starting to think he meant Asshole. She knew CSE was hard. She also knew that’s where the jobs were. She also knew she’d never get through Calculus. But that was not why she studied lit.

“Read any good books?” She asked.”

Been reading about C++.” He said.

She didn’t tell him what she’d been reading.

They walked back in silence. Until they saw the zombies in the quad.

Sam grabbed her knife.

Scott screamed like a bitch.

***

“Calm down!”

Sam put her hand over Scott’s mouth. “You can’t just stand there screaming. Get a weapon.”

Scott’s eyes were tearing up. He fell to his knees and kind of crab-crawled back.

He screamed again and Sam turned around to plunge her knife in the skull of an undead. It wasn’t too bad. Only three zombies had come out. The problem would be the cleanup.

“You can take care of that one over there and I’ll get the big guy.” Sam offered.

Scott just stayed on the ground, trembling.

“Fine.” Sam got to work.

She wondered where Ward was.

***

“Don’t come near me!”

Sam put her knife back in its sheath. She looked down at her date. “What?”

“You just killed those guys!” He screeched.

“Zombies.”

“Zombies aren’t real!”

“Then why were you so scared?!” Sam yelled.

Scott fled.

“You know what? Fine.” Sam looked around at the doorways. If she could figure out where they’d come from, she could push the bodies back through.

She pulled out her cellphone. Ward called once. Maybe he was here.

She pressed call.

“Where are you?” He answered.

“I’m near the bodies.”

“Okay. I’m on my way. Wait there.”

“I will.” Always.

***

“I never thought it’d be so easy to kill someone.”

“It’s not. They’re decomposing.” Ward kicked the door, carrying two bodies.

There were too many for Ward to carry through the gate. Sam waited for him come back for the last two.

“Why’d you come tonight?”

“I found a portal and snuck through.”

“Why?”

“Didn’t you want me to?”

His hand was on her face. It was sticky with gore. He hadn’t come back but she’d been waiting. Even with Scott, she’d been waiting. She still hadn’t moved on.

“I need a shower.” Kiss. “Block the door and come on.”

***

The soap was long gone but the water was still hot. Sam cherished his bare skin. They’d fought and they’d loved and they’d showered. Now there was peace.

Sam hugged him from behind, pressed her cheek against his shoulder. “Don’t wait so long next time.”

“I bring trouble.”

“Trouble I can deal with.”

He squeezed her arm. “I’ll be around.”

Sam turned off the shower and reached for their towels. He smelled girly. She’d left her mark on him. He’d left a longer lasting mark on her. Turnabout and whatnot.

They walked to the portal together. She walked back alone.

***

“I don’t wanna meet someone.” Sam said to her cereal more than to Katie.

She wasn’t listening. She was texting.

“You’re gonna love him! I promise!” She said.

Sam hadn’t told her about Ward’s visit or the zombies ending her last date.

“I haven’t even heard from Scott.” She said, “What did you do to him?”

“He didn’t like my hobbies. They’re more important.”

Katie looked at Sam over her glasses, “You told him about the slashy stuff?”

“God, no!” Sam said, “We just didn’t click.”

“You won’t click with anyone you haven’t met!”

“Okay.” Sam gave up.

Katie smiled.

***

Ward called. He’d killed the Zombies and locked down the area. He’d be here in ten.

But the new guy, Kevin, would be here in an hour.

Sam had his number. She could cancel.

But she shouldn’t. This was Katie’s friend.

But Ward would be here soon.

Without warning. Ward never gave any warning.

He’d come back later.

Maybe months later.

But Katie had a point. She couldn’t keep wasting her time like this.

Going back and forth with someone she could never have.

Ward was from another dimension.

But Ward was ward.

Sam got out her phone.

“Sorry, Kevin.”

***

Sam waited downstairs for him, hair still wet.

“I feel underdressed.” Ward rounded the corner.

She’d put on the same dress she’d picked out for Kevin.

“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” He wrapped his arms around her.

“Katie set me up on a blind date.” Kiss. “I cancelled.”

Wade frowned but said nothing. They went upstairs, like each time lately.

“I wish I could just have you.” Sam pulled him close.

He untied her hair. “You should find someone who deserves you.”

“You deserve me.”

“I really don’t.” Wade kissed her.

Sam closed her eyes. Wishing could only hurt.

***

“I just realized something.”

Wade hummed.

“We’re taking a shower before we go kill Zombies.”

The hand washing her back paused.

“You may have a point there.”

Sam turned to face him. “But I like this.”

She turned him around and rubbed the soap on his back.

“Me too. It’s intimate.”

Sam kissed his shoulder.

“We should get out, though.” Sam rinsed him off. “It’s a shared bathroom.”

Wade turned off the taps and kissed her again.

“Stay tonight.” Sam whispered.

His forehead rested against hers. “I can’t.”

She knew that. “Alright. Let’s go kill some zombies.”

She stepped back.

***

“Here’s the dagger.”

Sam held the blade in her hands and frowned.

“Just in case.” Ward pulled out the metal pipe he’d put in the door. “It’s in an active zone.”

The crash of doors drowned Sam’s dismay.

“Suit up!”

Still Ribbons. Still Glitter.

Sam dug the blade into the first Zombie she could reach. It cut through flesh like air.

“I’m stronger?”

Sam, the chubby bunny, leapt at the next corpse. The dagger shined with fire. She slashed deep but the fire slashed completely through.

This was much better than the glitter storm.

She could get used to this.

***

“That’s the last of ’em.” Ward tossed an arm through the portal and wiped his hands off on his jeans.

“Back to your world then?” Sam frowned.

Ward pulled her close. “Not just yet.”

His kiss was too soft. Sam wrapped her gloved arms around his neck.

Ward pulled on one of her twin tails.

She swatted his hand away and let her hair down. “Fucking magic.”

“You just torched a horde of Zombies.”

“I’d still like some pants.” Sam pulled her skirt to cover more of her legs.

Wade touched the back of her thigh. “I’m not complaining.”

“Pervert.”

***

After ditching Kevin, She had to tell Katie the truth. The Zombies, Ward, the magic and their affair. Everything.

“Okay. So what’s opening these portals?” Katie asked, mouth full.

Sam stopped mid-bite. She’d never thought to ask that. And where else were these portals opening? Was Ward in charge of closing them or was he just doing it? How was there never anyone else to come through?

“Seems a little fishy.” Katie swallowed. “It’s always the same guy coming through.”

“It’s in the same place every time.” Sam argued, “Maybe something’s causing it.”

“But how would Ward know it’s open?”

***

Sam dropped her bag on the carpet and fell onto the bed. She wished she could just call him.

Ward was probably just escaping to her world to get a break. A zombie apocalypse had to be stressful. His trips to this world were like little vacation. A small number of zombies, good coffee, a girl to fawn over him.

She opened her phone. Ward had a number. She pressed Call.

“Hello?” A man’s voice. But not Ward’s.

“Sorry, wrong number.” She hung up.

Someday, he would just stop coming. And she wouldn’t get a call or anything.

“Damnit, Katie.”

***

Ward had been gone for weeks. At least there weren’t any more dates.

Sam flipped her knife in her hand and opened the door to the science building. She’d started patrolling the campus. She didn’t have Ward’s magic dagger but she did have her old hunting knife.

She was pretty sure the protection spells she’d put on it were nonsense. Maybe all of the “magic” from that summer was nonsense.

She knew real magic now and it made everything else feel silly.

She heard a crash outside. She rushed out, ready to attack.

That possum barely escaped with its life.

***

Pain was the first sign that Sam might not be in that building alone. She flinched away from the knife that had buried itself in her arm from nowhere.

“Fuck!” She was bleeding. A lot.

Zombies didn’t throw knives. She turned toward the staircase and saw a woman standing there, hunting knife in her hand.

“You’re human?” She asked.

“What the hell were you expecting!?” Sam cried.

“Asks the girl carrying a dagger!”

The woman reached for her arm.

“Lucky it’s just my arm.” Sam took the offered scarf and pressed it against the wound. “So, Zombies?”

“Yeah.”

“Sam.”

“Jeni.”

***

“The portal didn’t close when I took the zombies through. There’s something else on this side.”

Sam adjusted the pressure on her arm. “I haven’t seen anything. Did you check for debris?”

“Unless they ate something, they’re clean.”

They climbed upstairs onto the third floor.

“What’s with the portals anyway?”

“Failed evacuation efforts. People got desperate. Mistakes were made.”

“But the portals would infect our world too.”

“We know that now. The real portal is closed. These are aftershocks.”

“Do they happen on other worlds?”

“Yeah. The target world and some we scouted.”

“Will they stop soon?”

“We don’t know.”

***

Sam’s phone rang in her pocket.

“Sorry, just a sec.” She took it out and looked.

“Ward?”

“Sam? Are you in?”

“I’m on campus.” She stepped away from Jeni, “Science hall.”

“Science hall? I was just there.” Sam heard a band in the background.

“Are you at my place?”

“Yeah, but I’ll meet you at science hall.”

He hung up.

“How long have you been here?” Sam asked.

Jeni hummed, “not long. half an hour?”

Not much longer than it took to get to Sam’s apartment from here.

“Well, that’s why the portal wouldn’t close. Ward’s here.”

“Ward? Ward Kruger?”

***

Ward appeared through the double doors with a wave. He was wearing a suit and tie, maybe for Sam.

“Hey there little girl.” He said, wrapping his arm around her.

Jeni stepped around the corner and Ward pulled his arm back like it’d been stung.

“Jennifer.” He smiled.

“So you two?” She asked.

Sam smiled and took his hand. It was a little sweaty, probably from walking there.

Jennifer looked to Sam. “If you’re sure…”

Sam smiled. She didn’t care if he was a decade older. She was sure.

“Just close the portal.” Jennifer sneered and disappeared upstairs.

“We will.”

***

Sam traced hearts on Ward’s chest with her fingertips. He was too quiet.

“So how do you know Jeni?”

“Our offices shared a hallway.” He took Sam’s hand and wove their fingers together. “I had to unlock the door for her.”

He looked Sam in the eyes and frowned. “You are sure, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t be with you if I weren’t.” Sam squeezed his hand, “No one else could keep me waiting as long as you.”

Ward kissed her forehead. The streetlights turned off.

“I should get back. Close the portal.” Ward squeezed and let go of her hand.

***

“I swear to God, Sam.” Katie pulled the bandages off Sam’s arm. “She got you with a throwing knife?”

Katie looked at the wound, “Only about an inch deep. Was she even trying to kill the zombies?”

“She was trying to get them to follow her back up to the portal.” Sam gasped when Katie poured alcohol on her open flesh. “Pretty smart actually. Those things are hard to move around.”

“At least we know Ward isn’t responsible for the portals.” Katie finished treating the wound. “But I guess this is worse.”

“I guess, yeah.”

Katie kissed her shoulder. “Be careful.”

***

Sam didn’t go on patrol for a while. It was dangerous, it made Katie worry, and it risked missing Ward when he came through. She’d just have to wait in her room for his call.

Waiting was driving her crazy. She opened her phone and checked her messages. Nothing.

He’d gone months without seeing her before. It’d been months without a portal before.

All aftershocks stop eventually. There might never be another portal.

She put her phone down on the bedside table.

“It’s not like he’d stay.”

She got up and put on a dress.

She needed to get out.

***

The club was too loud but Jack grabbed Sam by the arm and led her to the dance floor. He was showing off to the boys, grinding on a fat girl who wouldn’t try anything.

This may not have been the best idea.

Sam danced a bit but made her way to the bar when Jack was swept away with the other men.

She pulled out her phone. No messages.

The bartender brought her a sprite that looked like a gin and tonic.

Bar Rule #1: Always be more sober than they think.

Her phone buzzed in her tiny pocket. Ward.

***

‘you home?’

She could be. It’d be a short cab ride. And she’d be leaving early enough that the cabs wouldn’t all be taken yet. But Jack was drinking and Sam didn’t like the way he was gyrating on Mr. Barely Legal’s lap.

Bar Rule #2: Never leave your drunk friend alone at the bar.

‘out with a friend’ She texted back.

It could be months before he came back to her world again. It felt like months before he responded.

‘k later’

Sam wished she could rip Jack out of that kid’s arms, drag him back to campus.

‘next time’

***

Jack fell on his bed in a drunken heap.

“Go to sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Sam dug the spare key out of the window box and locked the door. She planted it back under the purple flowers and patted the soil down.

When she got to her dorm, Ward was waiting outside.

“I thought you went home.”

Ward frowned, “There’s too many Zombies on this side. I can’t use my magic here. Had to just barricade the door and come get you.”

Well at least it wasn’t creepy.

“Is it a strong door?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Sam took him upstairs.

***

“I feel like I should have a name.” Sam said.

“What?”

“Like a superhero name.”

Ward looked her over. Sam pulled her skirt down.

“Boob-Chan.”

“What? No, like a real Superhero name!”

“Superbust?”

“I asked for this.”

“You did.”

Ward pulled the sign post out of the door handles and jumped away.

An abnormally large horde spilled out onto the staircase.

Sam lifted the knife, praying for anything but glitter, and felt the blade lengthen into a sword. She could deal with that.

“Ward, take this!” Sam threw her own knife into the soil at Ward’s feet. “Don’t get eaten.”

***

Ward pulled the knife out of the ground and plunged it into the gut of one of the zombies.

The zombie burst into flames.

Ward looked at the knife and made a small cut on his finger. Nothing but a small bead of blood.

He dug it into a corpse’s back. Again, it combusted.

“Are you sure you have no magic?” He asked.

“What?” Sam sliced down two dead and turned to look. zombies were catching fire from her knife.

It had never done that in her hands. It’s just a knife.

“Try using it like your knife!”

“Suit up!”

***

“Shit!” Ward stabbed another with the knife, it burst into flames. “Don’t look!”

Sam was not going to just not look. She sliced through the two mostly decomposed zombies in front and turned around.

Ward had laughed at her so many times. His karma had become poofy shorts, sleeves and hat. His shoes, pointed and winged, were trying to fly but Ward couldn’t keep balance.

Ward fell to his knees, face deep red and shoes hovering behind him.

Sam looked away and finished off the rest.

Ward tossed the knife to her feet. His costume faded.

“I’m going now.” He said.

***

“Ward, wait!” Sam grabbed his arm. “It’s okay. Don’t run off.”

Ward wouldn’t look at her.

“Remember my first time? My skirt was a belt and I made sandstorms out of glitter.” Sam pulled him back towards all the bodies, “Let’s get these on the other side.”

Sam let go of the last body and looked around. It was just rubble like every other time. She took her own knife out. “Suit up!”

Chains circled her across her body and down to her feet. The chains glowed and plate appeared in places atop the mail. Her knife lengthened.

“That’s better.”

***

Sam tossed Ward’s knife to him and he raised it overhead. “Suit up!”

Tiny particles of rock weaved together across his torso and onto his fists, hardened together. His knife turned into a hammer.

“Wow.” Sam looked him over. “That’s… impressive.”

Ward sighed, “Sorry, it was just… unexpected.”

Sam laughed, “My world sucks for magic.”

“It does.” Ward broke a boulder with his hammer and pulled Sam into his arms.

“Much better then the poofy shorts.” Sam kissed him.

When they separated Sam turned to pull him back to her world, back to her room.

But the portal was gone.

***

A piece of debris rolled down the cliffside. Ward startled.

“I thought I’d find you here, Ward Kruger.” Jeni stood up on the rockface.

“Jeni?” Sam looked up, “The portal’s gone! I’m still here! How’s the portal gone?”

“Things from your world can stay here.” Jeni slid down, knives out. “It’s things from our world that can’t stay there.”

Sam looked at Ward.

“Your boyfriend’s been going through for supplies, but staying for booty.”

“Jeni, don’t. Please.” Ward dropped his hammer.

“What about Katherine?” Jeni snapped, “She know about your side girl?”

“Who?” Sam stepped away from Ward.

“My wife.”

***

Jeni looked between them. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know!”

Sam ignored her. “You’re married.”

Ward nodded.

“Why keep contacting me?” Sam wanted to run away but the way home had just closed.

“You could use magic on your side.” Ward stepped forward. “And you were my friend.”

“We were more than friends.”

“It was never anything official.” Ward said, looking too sad.

“No, you were official.” Sam threw her knife on the ground. The armor disappeared. “With someone else.”

Jeni threw her knife into a wandering Zombie’s face. “Let’s get out of here.”

Sam let Jeni take her home.

***

“I don’t know what to do.” Sam pulled her feet under her.

Jeni’s bunker was cold and felt like a prison. The scented candle they had lit was not helping much.

“You’ll go back when we find the next portal back.” Jeni handed Sam a cup of water. “And forget all of this.”

“My heart doesn’t want to forget.”

Jeni sat down next to her. “It’s going to hurt. I know.” She pet Sam’s head, “But you’ll move on.”

Sam watched her phone. She just wanted to go home.

Her stomach and chest felt tight.

“I love him.”

“I know.”

***

Jeni walked Sam out to the portal Ward had found.

Ward walked her through.

“I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”

Sam turned to face him. He took her hand.

“I’ll come back to you.” He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her.

“You’re leaving your wife for me?” Sam asked, shocked.

Ward pulled back, stiff for a moment. They both knew he couldn’t do that.

“Don’t come back.”

“Sam, my heart burns for you.”

“No. I won’t let you set my world on fire.”

Sam watched Ward as the portal closed. She still loved him.

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