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DescriptionSeven years after they move to their new home in Idaho, it’s time to finish the wall that will close the community in for the next twenty years. Hannah and Justin need to find a way to keep the community from dwelling on their voluntary imprisonment and keep morale high as they make their final preparations for the disease that’s about to ravage the world.
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Hannah walked into the community center for the council meeting. She was dreading what she needed to tell the others, but it was time.
She looked at the group seated around the table. The teen council was there with members of the council that had served the previous four years. The teen council had been in office for three years now, and they were about to be tested.
She took her seat beside Justin, squeezing his hand under the table. Justin was the leader of the teen council, and the future lawyer for the group. He’d been apprenticing under his father for the past seven years, and he was ready. They were all as ready as they were going to get. It was time.
Justin called the meeting to order. “Hannah needs our attention,” he told them.
At once, all the eyes went to the girl who had founded their community. She twisted her hands on her lap as she spoke. She hated to be the center of attention, but at times like this, she didn’t have a choice. “It’s time for us to remove our gate and finish the wall,” she told them. “As soon as Ray comes back from this last trip, we’ll have everything we need.”
Ray was the truck driver who had brought the supplies to the community for the past seven years. They all knew that as soon Ray returned, they would be walling themselves into their community for the next twenty years. Hannah’s visions had told her to do it one month from now, to preserve the lives of all the children in the community. After seemingly endless talks with the council, they’d all agreed to do it one month early, hoping the illness that would kill all the adults would pass over them.
Everyone stared at her. They’d known this day was coming. They’d worked toward it for years, but now that it was finally here, they didn’t feel ready for it.
“Are we doing this a month before your vision says, like we decided?” Jim Ryder, Justin’s father, asked.
“Yes, sir. I don’t know how it will change the things I’ve seen, but it’s what we’re doing.” She considered the lie she told them a necessity. She knew it wasn’t going to change anything. The adults were all still going to die. Every single one of them. To keep morale up, she felt the need to tell them she wasn’t sure. She couldn’t be completely sure, of course.
Their community was completely self-sufficient. They had four greenhouses to grow enough fruits and vegetables for the entire community. They had enough canned goods to last them a few years. They had an arsenal to defend themselves and hunt for food. They were prepared, but could you ever truly be ready for the entire adult population to die off?
Hannah looked around at all the current and former council members. Some of them had come here hoping to survive. Some had come hoping to make a better life for their children. She looked at all the faces she knew would soon be gone. How could they live without them?
“When is Ray due back?” Justin asked.
Jim looked down at the paper in front of him. “Should be back tomorrow afternoon if he’s on schedule. Let me call and see where he is.” He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and quickly dialed in the number. “Ray, it’s Jim. When will you be home?”
He got his answer and told him to hurry. “He said he’d be here around eight tomorrow morning. He’s driving through the night.”
Justin nodded. “Good. We’ll take the gate down this evening. I think everyone needs to be a part of building the wall tomorrow. We’ll make a ceremony out of it.” He paused looking over at Mrs. Grant, who ran the kitchen. “Can you ladies prepare a huge barbecue for tomorrow?”
“Of course. I’m going to slip out and get started on it now.” She stood and left the room.
“I think some races would be good,” he said, looking at the general who had trained the children for years. “Can you arrange that?”
The general nodded. “We’ll do a couple of races. Maybe an archery competition.”
“That sounds good. Everyone who is able will work on the wall. The rest of us will make it as fun for them as possible. We’ll take them water to drink, and just make it a huge occasion.” He looked around. “We’ll ask for volunteers to build tonight at dinner. The rocks have been beside the gate for months. We’re ready.”
The general sighed. “We’re as ready as we’re going to get.” He turned to Hannah. “Do you have any idea what closing us in a month early is going to do for us?”
She shook her head. “I don’t. I’m hoping it keeps the disease out and keeps all the adults healthy, but I haven’t seen anything to indicate that.”
“Why don’t we declare tomorrow ‘Wall Day’? It’ll be our very own holiday.”
Justin nodded. “I think that’s a good idea. We need to make this a celebration instead of acting as if we’re building our own prison.” The entire council nodded in agreement. “Is there anything else we need to discuss?” This meeting had been specially called so Hannah could speak.
No one had anything. “Okay, let’s go.” He stood and left the room, Hannah trailing behind him. “You okay? I know that was hard on you.”
She nodded, tears springing to her eyes. “I don’t think it’s going to work, you know. I’m more than willing to try, but there’s been nothing in my visions to make me think any of the adults will live.” She had to tell someone the truth, and Justin had been her confidante since they’d met seven years before at his family’s home in Wisconsin.
He looked down at her. “I know. But we’ll try anyway. Another month locked in for the hope of saving a hundred lives is worth it.”
She shook her head. “It’s more than a hundred.” She looked down at the ground.
“What do you mean?”
She sucked in a breath. “Some of the kids will die as well. Most kids will live, but not all. Being here isn’t a guarantee of life for us.” There. She’d said it. She’d admitted they were only going to be able to save some of the children and no adults. Would he hate her for not telling them all everything upfront?
“Who are we going to lose?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I can’t tell you that, Justin. You know I can’t.” Her eyes pleaded with him to understand her decision to not spill her guts on everything she had seen in her visions.
He nodded. “Okay.” He took her hand and led her out of the building. They walked in the direction of the woods, like they had for the entire seven years they’d lived there. “What can we do to keep morale up until we know?”
“I’m not sure. I think we need to have some sort of event to plan. A big party maybe. We need a theme, though. Any thoughts?”
He stood for a moment, thinking. “I don’t know. I guess we could get married. I mean, we know we’re going to. Why not just speed things up? That will give everyone something to plan and do.”
“So we should get married next month just to keep morale up?” Hannah laughed. Justin was her best friend. She knew she was supposed to marry him; she’d seen it in her visions, but the thought of doing it now just to keep everyone’s minds off of upcoming events was crazy to her.
“I also think we’d both like it if our parents were there for our wedding.”
She thought about that for a minute. He had a good point. She couldn’t imagine getting married without her parents present, but that’s exactly what they’d have to do if they waited. “But do you have any desire to marry now?” They had never been a couple who wandered off in the woods to make out like the others. They’d never even kissed. They had always treated one another with respect and friendship, knowing they’d marry one day, but it seemed so sudden.
He shrugged. “I’ve wanted to move in that direction forever. I just didn’t want to add anything else to your plate. You have enough going on with trying to save the world.”
She smiled up at him. He had grown during the years they’d been there. He was six-three to her five-seven. Sometimes she felt dwarfed by him. “I was afraid you weren’t interested in me as anything but a friend.”
He looked at her in shock. “Are you serious? How many other girls do I go for walks with? You’re the only girl I spend any time with at all. When I’m not with you, I’m working.”
“Okay, so I’m silly. It’s just what I thought.” She tilted her head to the side considering his idea. “I do think a wedding, especially between the two of us, would keep everyone’s minds off their fears. Why don’t we announce it at the picnic tomorrow?”
His eyes lit up. “Seriously? You’ll marry me?”
She grinned. “I believe I told you we’d end up married when I was twelve and you were thirteen.”
He laughed. “Yes, you did.” He reached out and pulled her to him, gently brushing his lips across hers. “I guess I should ask you right, though.” He dropped to one knee on the forest floor. “Hannah, will you marry me? And together we’ll rule our universe?”
She giggled softly. “I’ll marry you, but you have to rule.”
He stood up and hugged her close. “I can handle that.” She had no desire to rule anyone. She would rather stand in the background and direct things to the best of her ability.
They walked back to the settlement, holding hands. Several people hid grins as they watched them. The entire group had been waiting for the two of them to admit how they felt to one another for a while now. This was the first time they’d made any sort of public demonstration of affection.
They had a few minutes before dinner, each of them having been excused from their internships for the afternoon due to the council meeting. They slowly walked toward the cafeteria. “Are you thinking we’ll have a huge white wedding?” she asked. Please say no, she thought. I don’t want a big wedding.
“Yeah. We need to get everyone involved in planning it. It’ll be a good diversion.”
“Yuck. I mean, I understand the reasoning, but I’d rather not have to go through it all. Are you going to tell your parents this evening?”
“Why don’t we all sit together for dinner and make the announcement together?”
The group had long since stopped assigning seats for dinner to help everyone get to know one another. That had been the policy for the first two years, but they all knew each other well now. There had been worry at the beginning about cliques forming, and there had been some friendships that were closer than others, but for the most part, they were a strong solid community.
They went in and stood in line for their food. Since they were the first two in line, they chose a large table in the back, and while Hannah waited with their food, Justin waited for their families to come in and asked the others to join them at the table.
Once they were all seated, Justin drew attention to himself. “I have an announcement, but for tonight, it needs to be kept to the people at this table.” He made eye contact with them all individually. He’d become a good speaker over the years, thanks to his father’s teaching.
They all looked at him for a second, but then Emily squealed. “You finally asked Hannah to marry you!” She clapped her hands excitedly.
Hannah immediately looked around to see if anyone was listening and then blushed. She hadn’t realized others in the community had noticed how she felt. Jason grinned. “I’m happy for you, bro. When’s the wedding?”
Justin sighed. “Way to steal my thunder!” He reached over to squeeze Hannah’s hand. “In a month. We thought September first, the anniversary of when we all came here, would be good.” It also was when the outbreak was supposed to take place out in the real world. He kept that to himself, though.
Leah, Hannah’s mother, smiled. “We’ll pick out a pattern for your dress right away. I’m sure everyone is going to be excited.”
Jim looked between Hannah and Justin skeptically. “Are you two getting married because you’re in love or because you want to distract the community?”
Justin shrugged. “We’ve always planned to marry. We talked about it our first night here. We’re doing it now as a distraction.” He didn’t have a problem admitting it to the people at this table, but the others could never know. “Of course, everyone else will think we just can’t wait another minute.”
“I can see where it would help. We’ll go all out.” He looked at his wife. “You’ll need to get with Leah and start planning.”
Melanie Ryder smiled. She was one of the teachers for the younger children. “I think we can do that. Hannah will have to join us this evening, and we’ll all talk about exactly what she’s looking for.” She looked at Hannah who nodded.
Ryan sighed. “I can’t believe I’m sad about this. I want to see my baby happy, but it means she’s all grown up.” Ryan was the doctor for the community, and had been secretly working with the symptoms Hannah had shared with him since they’d arrived.
Hannah shrugged. “I don’t know about that. I certainly don’t feel all grown up. I do love Justin, though, and want to be his wife.”
Justin covered her hand with his, looking into her eyes. “I see you as all grown up,” he said under his breath.
Hannah blushed. “Where should we go to talk after dinner?” she asked her mother to change the subject.
“Why don’t we meet back in our rooms above the medical center?” Leah suggested.
Emily glared at her mother. “I better get to be a part of this, since I’m the maid of honor.”
Jason rolled his eyes. “Who asked you to be maid of honor? I didn’t hear anyone say anything about that.”
Emily folded her arms across her chest. “It’s just a formality. Right, Hannah?” The way she said the words wasn’t a question. It was a statement that had better be agreed with.
Hannah found herself laughing. “Of course, it is. Would you be my maid of honor, Emily?” She was used to Emily’s forcefulness, and honestly, she would have already asked her if she’d thought of it. She couldn’t think of anyone else she’d rather have standing beside her during the ceremony.
Emily smiled and said in her sweetest voice, “I’d be happy to. I should probably come tonight to talk about what I want in a bridesmaid dress.” Again, Emily wasn’t asking, but she never had. The two sisters were as different as night and day, but they loved each other, and it showed. For a long time, Emily had resented Hannah for dragging her off to the middle of nowhere, but as she’d adjusted, the sisters had grown much closer.
“Would you like to be part of my wedding planning powwow, Emily? I’d be so happy to have you there.” Hannah said the words sweetly, rolling her eyes. She knew they were expected of her and said them to keep her little sister happy.
Emily nodded regally. “Thank you, Hannah. I’d love to.”
After dinner, they stacked their plates at the front to be washed, and Justin took Hannah’s hand to walk her back to the medical center. They only had two hours of recreation time before lights out, so she needed to hurry. “Is there anything you want for the wedding? Since you aren’t going to be involved in the planning?” she asked.
“Nahh. You and the moms can figure it out. Don’t let Emily force you into anything you don’t want,” he warned, knowing her little sister’s propensity for trying to run Hannah’s life.
She turned to him with a grin. “I won’t. I promise.” She just wished she’d be able to convince them all to let her get married in her tennis shoes. Of course, she knew it wouldn’t happen, so she’d just keep her mouth shut.
He pulled her into the waiting room of the medical center and dropped a quick kiss onto her lips. “I’ll see you in the morning. Save me a dance tomorrow night.”
“Are we dancing?” she asked.
“We always do!” Every time they had a community celebration, they had a dance in the community center. At least once a month they did a community celebration of all the birthdays for the month. From the beginning they’d all had the attitude of working together and playing together being the way to form a tight-knit community. So far, it had worked out well. When the adults were gone, she hoped they could hold it together.
“Then I’ll save all my dances for you,” she said with a grin. Not that she ever danced with anyone else. The two of them had paired off since the very beginning, and no one had ever questioned it.
“Wear your steel toed boots then!” He was one of the fastest runners of everyone there, but he was not a good dancer. He’d stepped on her feet so often it had become a joke between them.
He left and she went up the stairs where Leah, Emily and Melanie were already waiting. She sat on the couch next to Melanie and looked at what they had. The community had several PO boxes in the nearest town of Fudville, Idaho. They subscribed to most magazines, because the members of the community liked to keep up with the outside world. The magazines were kept in the library adjacent to the community center.
There were several current bridal magazines spread out on the table in front of them. Each woman was flipping through one. “Do you have any idea what you want for your dress?” Melanie asked her, barely glancing up as she walked in the door.
Hannah shook her head. “I hadn’t even thought about it. Justin just brought up the idea of getting married immediately today.” She didn’t want to have to pick a dress. Couldn’t someone just deal with all that nonsense for her?
Melanie slipped an arm around her and gave her a half-hug. “I’m glad to be getting you for a daughter-in-law.”
Hannah smiled. “Thanks! I’m glad to be joining your family.” She was, too. She’d always had a lot of respect for both Jim and Melanie. They were the first to agree to join the community seven years ago.
Emily interrupted, turning her magazine around and showing it to them all. “I want this dress!”
They all looked. It was a low-cut dress with puffed sleeves and a tight waist. It would look great on Emily. “I think I want a soft pink and forest green for my colors,” Hannah said. “We could have that made in pink.” She waited for her sister to protest, but to her surprise, Emily seemed happy with the idea.
Emily nodded. “I can just see it. No offense, Hannah, but no one will be looking at you. They won’t be able to take their eyes off me.”
Hannah laughed. “That works for me, Em. I’d love it if no one looked at me.” She hated the idea of being the center of attention for the wedding and the next month leading up to it. Better for a wedding than for her visions, though. She hated the looks she sometimes got from other members of the community like they were slightly wary of her.
Leah rolled her eyes. “Why are you always so rude to your sister, Emily?”
Emily shrugged. “I have to have fun somehow. Besides, Hannah knows I love her.”
“Mark that dress, Em. I’m sure Erika can make that with no problem.” Leah was still shaking her head at Emily, but she was willing to let her have the dress she wanted.
Emily marked it and continued to flip through the magazine looking for the perfect dress for Hannah.
“Should I ask more girls to be in the wedding?” she asked. “The more involved everyone is, the less we’ll all worry.”
“Do you have anyone else you really want in your wedding? I know we’re doing this partly to distract everyone, but it’s still your wedding day, and you have a right to have what you want.” Melanie rubbed her arm as she said the words. “Your feelings matter in this.”
Hannah considered the question. Her closest friend was Justin. She didn’t have a lot of close female friends because they were all a little intimidated by her. “Probably not. I think I’d rather have a small wedding party, but if it will help, I’ll do it.” She trusted the older women’s opinions on this and waited for their response, hoping they’d think she didn’t need anyone else.
Leah shook her head. “I agree with Melanie. If there’s no one else you want, there’s no need to have anyone else.”
Emily squealed interrupting once again. Hannah was used to Emily’s need to be the center of attention and shrugged it off. “Hannah, this is it. This would look perfect on you. Of course, you may take a few of the eyes off me in it, but you have got to have it.”
Hannah grinned taking the magazine from her sister and studying the dress. It had tight sleeves and a molded waistline. It wasn’t low cut enough she’d feel uncomfortable in it. She smiled. “I think you’re right, Em. I really like this!” She showed the magazine to Melanie who nodded approval and then handed it across to her mother who studied it for a minute.
“You’re right, Em. It’s perfect for her.” She studied the picture a little more. “Do you want pure white or off-white? Eggshell?”
Hannah shrugged. “I don’t know. What do y’all think?” She’d always been a tomboy and what color clothes she wore was the furthest thing from her mind.
Leah studied her daughter. “I think with your coloring, you’ll probably want to go with a traditional white.”
Melanie nodded. “I totally agree. If you didn’t have that good tan, you’d be too washed out in white, but with your tan and your fair hair and blue eyes? Definitely white.”
Emily nodded. “I agree with the old people.”
Leah turned to Emily. “You need to behave yourself, or I’m kicking you out of Hannah’s wedding planning party.”
“Okay, I’ll be good. What are we going to eat at the reception? Food is important, you know,” Emily said.
Hannah shrugged. “I don’t know! What do you serve at weddings?” She suddenly found herself interested in wedding planning. Food was something she was always interested in.
Melanie smiled. “Well, we want this to be a huge affair, right? So let’s go with a nice sit down meal. What’s your favorite kind of food, Hannah?”
Hannah sighed wistfully. Since they’d left Texas, she’d missed Mexican food horribly. She didn’t think it would be good for a wedding, but she mentioned it anyway. “Mexican. The only Mexican we ever eat here are tacos. I want enchiladas and queso and tacos and fajitas and refried beans. And sopapillas. I think I’d kill a small animal for a sopapilla right about now.”
Emily burst out laughing. “You always loved Mexican food. I didn’t know you’d kill for it, though.”
Leah shook her head. “I think we could do Mexican for the reception. Why not? It’s messy, but we’ll live.”
“Really? I can have Mexican?” Hannah finally felt some excitement about the wedding. Sure, she wanted to marry Justin. She’d loved him forever, but she didn’t want to have to get up in front of everyone to do it. She wished they could just have a small ceremony with only their families present. That would be her ideal wedding.
Melanie squeezed her arm. “We can definitely do Mexican. The bride wants Mexican? The bride gets Mexican. It will give even the cooks something to work on. I don’t know if any of them know a lot about Mexican food, so they’ll have to practice to get it right. We may all be sick of Mexican by the time your wedding rolls around.”
Hannah smiled. “It would take a lot longer than a month to make me sick of Mexican!”
They went on to discuss decorations and a rehearsal dinner. Hannah started spacing out after a few minutes. She didn’t care about much else. She’d show up and wear the dress and eat the Mexican food and kiss Justin. What else was she needed for?
“Flowers. What flowers do you want, Hannah?”
Hannah sighed. Flowers. “Umm…pretty ones?” Why did everything have to be analyzed to death? Couldn’t they just pick some dandelions and be done with it?
Melanie laughed. “Do you care about anything other than your dress and what you get to eat? I mean, do you have any interest in the rest of the planning or do you just want to see what we come up with.”
Hannah grinned. “I guess I’m pretty transparent, huh? Just do what you want.” Was it really going to be this easy to get out of planning her wedding?
“What about the wedding cake?” Leah asked. “You have to have an opinion about the wedding cake.”
“Umm…white with flowers and those column thingies.”
“You want a white cake?”
“Yeah, wedding cakes are supposed to be white, aren’t they?”
“No, what flavor cake do you want?” Leah sounded exasperated.
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Well, I like chocolate. Could we do chocolate with a white chocolate icing? That would go great with Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food.” Hannah really didn’t care about the cake. She’d fill up enough on the Mexican food, she wouldn’t have any room left for cake anyway.
Emily rolled her eyes. “I’ll help with the rest. Go to bed, Hannah. Dream of tamales.”
Hannah stood up and walked toward her bedroom. “Tamales,” she whispered.
The other three looked at one another and laughed. They’d do it without her.
FoundationsBy: Abigail Denver