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My thighs are covered in goosebumps. I shut off the water pump in the backyard and pick up an overfilled bucket. Our homemade shower in the basement was bone dry when I checked it. Of course, I did the checking after I had taken off my dirty clothes. There was no way I was putting them on again, so here I am, traipsing around outside in my underwear. If Jacob saw me he’d die laughing.

Muddy footprints follow me inside and downstairs to the bathroom. I set the bucket on the edge of an avocado-green tub that’s easily twenty years past its prime. The water was shut off a while ago; however, the well in the backyard still works. Screwed into the shower wall is a two-by-four frame housing a large plastic jug. A plastic shower-head is attached to the bottom. It works fine, except for the water temperature. The word arctic comes to mind.

I pick up the bucket and stand in the tub, dumping the water into the top of the jug. There’s no drop ceiling, so the rafters and piping are exposed, giving me enough space to empty the bucket. I take off my underwear and pull out a slider on the bottom of the jug, letting the freezing water trickle out through the shower-head. The water pressure is just right, like soft rain. My body quickly becomes numb. Dirt and blood swirl around the drain and disappear through the tiny holes. I use an old loofah to wash away the remnant stink. Before the plague, I would never have cleaned myself in a place like this. Now, I’m thankful for this ugly shower and frigid water. Such a luxury!

Hands wrap around my stomach while my back’s turned. “Mind if I join?” Jacob says.

I almost scream. What a stinker! Does he realize how terrifying it is to sneak up on someone like that? 

“There wasn’t any water in the jug,” I say and hand him the loofah.

“Oh …”

“Yeah, oh. Who used it last?”

He begins washing his body. “Me.”

“I know it was you; it was a rhetorical question.”

“Are you mad?”

“No. I’m not mad.” I kiss him. Even in the shower, his lips are soft. 

He places his hands on my waist, running his fingers over my ribs. We used to be fit, but stress and lack of food have worn us down. My breasts are small and my shoulder blades stick out. The leg and arm muscles I had built up during softball are shrinking. Jacob’s six-pack is gone, replaced with a sunken-in stomach. The color of our skin is fading. Cuts and bruises cover our bodies. I have two bites; Jacob has four. Mine are almost healed, except for two incisor puncture marks on my left leg. Even my hair is starting to lose color and fall out. Regardless of what’s happened to us physically, Jacob is still beautiful to me. Nothing will ever change my mind about that.

I pull his body into mine and my breathing quickens, trying to keep pace with my racing heart. He’s surprised by this and places a hand on the underside of my thigh. It’s got to be the chocolate that’s making my body so tingly. The desire to be against him right now is intense. He lifts me as we begin to have sex, my back against the shower wall. I close my eyes, pretending we’re in some tropical paradise where impossibly blue lagoons surround us. The cold water makes us hurry, but every second is worth it.

After we’re done, we hug each other, letting the water fall on us. 

“I love you so much,” I whisper in his ear. 

Jacob catches his breath and says, “I love you too, sleeping beauty.” 

I chuckle at his joke about my name. The water runs out. We dry off and put on some clean underwear.

Jacob falls asleep in seconds when we crawl into bed. Typical. Peaceful slow breathing comes from his nose. I open the drawer on our nightstand (the one that’s covered in quarters, wah-wah) and pull out a Bible. There’s enough light for me to read a couple of chapters tonight. Reading helps clear my head, makes me forget the events of the day. Not everything was bad, though, especially the shower tonight. My lower body’s still buzzing from that.

I can’t stop thinking about what happened in the store. A voice inside my head almost convinced me that killing remnants were something I enjoyed, something I loved.

(you liked it you liked it)

Why am I thinking this way? Perhaps, I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Jacob told me he liked the aggressiveness. He said he couldn’t wait to see me fight like that again. 

(he wants you wild)

Stop it!

(he wants you wild and full of rage)

I take a deep breath and start reading. God, consume me with your Word because my head is full of turmoil.

Yesterday, I started reading Song of Solomon, which is a meditation on love. Many of the pages have words circled or underlined in different colors. The man who used to own this cabin wrote his name in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Jared Sp—Spitzer? Whoever it was, they had terrible penmanship. I simply call him Jared S.

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense. You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw.                               

My heart flutters. What a beautiful and poignant definition of love. I continue reading until it’s too dark. I fold the corner of the page into a triangle and put the Bible back in the drawer. I roll over and place my right arm around Jacob. He’s like a warm blanket, and I’m at peace. I slowly rub my fingers across his chest, not trying to wake him, but reminding myself that he’s real.

“Goodnight, Jacob,” I say and close my eyes.

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