Exhausted, Kendra leaned back against the tree. The quiet of the night surrounded her, and in the distance she could see a small orange glow here and there of fires set by those who had been forced to leave their homes and set up camp in this park.
She closed her eyes, rested her arms on her knees, and put her head down on her arms, cushioned by the sweatshirt she wore. The sweatshirt smelled of fresh air and smoke. She pulled the sleeves down over her cold hands.
She sat like that for a while, motionless and quiet, until she heard footsteps behind her: heavy, slow footsteps. Then she heard breathing, close. She held her own breath. The footsteps stopped. Kendra turned around slowly, clenching her fists.
"Oh, itís you," she said, letting out her breath in relief. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, I guess. What are you doing?"
"Resting. Watching. Waiting." She stared off into the distance, but could see nothing but patches of flame and sparks, and smoke as it trailed off into the night. "Iím so . . ."
"Tired? Hungry? Thirsty?"
"All of that. And cold."
"Come on, then. Weíve got a fire going, and Colin is out gathering more wood."
Kendra got up slowly and stretched.
Nathan came over and pulled her toward him, wrapping his arms around her. Kendra awkwardly accepted the hug.
"Kendra, Iím going to take care of you," Nathan promised. "Youíll see. You donít have to worry."
"Letís go." Kendra said as she started to walk down the hill. She tried not to show her annoyance at what he just said. Why did he think she needed him to take care of her? Because she was a woman? It didnít help that she was so small. Men thought she looked like she needed taking care of.
Colin was standing by the fire, arms crossed, staring into the flames. He looked up quickly when he sensed them, and squatted down and warmed his hands before the fire.
"Kendraís back," Nathan announced.
"Great." Colin replied, still staring into the fire.
Kendra went to the fire, turning around so that she could get warm on all sides.
"Was that you on the hill, sitting under the tree?" Colin asked.
"Me? Yeah, that was me. I didnít think anyone could see me. Itís so dark."
"I could only see your silhouette." Colin shook his head. "You shouldnít be alone."
They were silent, listening to the crackling of the fire and their own thoughts. Kendra sighed. She wanted to complain, to tell them how hungry and cold she was, but she knew she shouldnít. They were all cold, hungry, and tired, and there was little relief in sight.
"Look, Kendra, Colin, why donít you go to the car and get some sleep? Iíll keep watch," Nathan suggested.
Colin looked at Nathan. Kendra was sure she saw a flash of suspicion on his face before he assented.
"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Kendra, you go ahead and use the car." Colin looked around on the ground, then sat down on the ground instead of going to the car. He gazed into the fire, then up at the moon. Kendra watched him for a while as the reflection of the flickering flames danced on his face. She looked away quickly when she realized she had been staring too long. Nathan was watching her, and then he looked away.
She tried to snuggle further into her sweatshirt, tried to make herself smaller so that more of her would fit inside her clothes. She walked over to Colinís old BMW. "Come on, Colin. Itíll be warmer in here."
"Maybe in a minute."
Kendra opened the car door and sat down on the back seat. She punched up the pillow she had grabbed from the living room as they fled and slumped down in the seat, pulling the jacket sheíd left in the car over her.
Six days. Every night, before she fell asleep, she counted the days to herself. Six days, five nights. Six days ago, she had stepped out of the shower, dried herself, walked into her bedroom, put on clean clothes - these jeans and this sweatshirt - and walked out into the crisp autumn day. She had gone out to the front porch in her socks and sat