"We accept the love we think we deserve."

- Stephen Chbosky


In the mirror, a girl stares back at me. She has curly and wavy black hair with matching dull dark eyes. Her pale ivory skin is rough but unblemished. Her expression is indifferent, but her eyes held distinct despair in them. Her peach lips are bare and parted, her nose a fair-sized button. She is not beautiful, nor is she ugly. She is simple but in her own unique way.

That girl is me.

Rei Divata.

I wrap my arms around myself in a sense of insecurity. I know it was just me and my reflection, but whenever I'd stare back at her, it would seem like she's judging me. Memories of a dreadful time fill my head, and I shiver. I brush a wavy strand of hair away from my face, and I look down at my bare body. I let my hands glide down the slight curves of my hips. I caress both my breasts. They weren't small or big, nor were they ample or saggy, but I was still insecure of them as I was with the rest of my appearance.

I know how foolish it is to worry about looks during an apocalypse. Still, that uncertainty of mine had never died down, even when this all started. It has been so long since someone has touched me sensually, and I was yearning for someone to hold me in mild sentiment, but deep inside, I felt something repulsive. Despite my need for touch, I still struggled with my trust in others.

Before, I wasn't one for affection. The very thought of a hug or kiss would sicken me, but now, the feeling of either one would make me feel content. I sighed heavily, snatching my clothes off the hanger and putting them on. After clothing myself, I looked back at the mirror again. My hair was unkempt like always, which still irritated me. I grabbed a brush from one of the drawers nearby and ran it through my hair, albeit not very smoothly.

Checking myself in the mirror once again, I was not satisfied, which was not surprising. I rolled my eyes, annoyed by my hair's natural puff and frizziness. Grabbing a hair tie and tied my hair back into a low ponytail. I hardly ever tied my hair back. I would always let it down freely with no sense of care in the world, but I guess today was different.

Dropping my brush, I headed out the door of my bedroom and went down the stairs. I checked the kitchen to see if my brother was there, but he wasn't. He must be outside doing his own thing. He had knocked on my door this morning, rallying info about the Rector's news. We were not allowed to go on voyages until we were sure it was safe to go out. Maxim and his little army were still out there, and the Rector did not want to risk us getting mugged again or potentially killed. Today was a relaxing day until the Rector summons us to the Alcove again.

I wondered what I'd be doing today. I barely had time to rest, and I was always on my feet. Maybe this was a well-deserved rest after all the shit that happened the past few days. I decided to take a visit to the plantation. It's been a while since I went there. I took the long way towards the plantation center, and on my way there, I ran into someone that I haven't spoken to in a while. I was so occupied with all the crap that was happening that I forgot some of the people I've met in my life.

"Hi, Saya. What are you doing out here by yourself?"

"Aniki sent me out here to get some vegetables from the plantation." Saya tilted her head to the side, squinting her slender eyes at me. "Since when do you tie your hair back?"

I was a bit taken aback by her sudden question. "Is it really that noticeable?" Saya bobbed her head, waving a finger at me.

"Ya know, aniki would be upset about what you did to your hair!"

I placed my hands on my hips. "Oh, hush. Aaron wouldn't care about things like that." She stuck her tongue out at me. Saya's a tomboyish, thirteen-year-old girl that's like a sister to me. Despite being Aaron's younger sister, they are barely alike other than appearance. Aaron's friendly and selfless, while Saya is careless and bold. They share the same jet black hair and green eyes. Still, I always questioned if they were entirely Japanese or not since Aaron doesn't have the same monolid eyes as his sister.

"So where are you headed to, Rei?" Saya asked me. "Are you headed to the plantation center too?"

"Yeah. I thought I'd go check it out and see what's up."

"I don't think Izabella's gonna like seeing you just sticking your nose into her precious farm."

Izabella was one of the caretakers of the plantation center and Ignazio's "on-and-off" girlfriend. She was one of the many women in the settlement that wasn't fond of me. It was one-sided, and I honestly don't bother hating her. It's a waste of time and emotions. I don't know what I did to make her hate me, but I can only guess that it's because of Ignazio's flirtatious advances on me, which isn't my fault.

Saya and I entered the estate, and attending to the crops was none other than Izabella. Her natural blonde hair shined in the sunlight as she watered a couple of plants. As we approached her, she turned to look at us, the neutral look on her turning bitter. "Oh, it's you. What are you doing here?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but Saya cut in. "Hey, Bella. Can you help me gather some vegetables? Aaron plans to cook something up, but we don't have enough veggies."

"Of course!" Izabella's sour face changed quickly. It's like she completely forgot about me answering her question as she walked away with Saya to get their vegetables. I rolled my eyes and wandered about the area, picking up a few fruits, and gathering their fresh scent. My thoughts began to drift elsewhere.

I started thinking about the relationships I've had with people in the settlement. I wasn't the most liked person, nor was I likable. I did not engage in the same activities or opinions as many of the others would. I preferred to keep my distance and not follow the pack. I used to be afraid of expressing my different views to others. Whenever I did speak up about such things, I would get shit for it, and now I have kept quiet. I have always feared making friends with others, no matter the situation. I've been stabbed in the back too much to trust anyone anymore.

I plucked a tomato from one of the plants and stared at its red hue. A sudden burst of anger shot through me and grasped the tomato in my hand until it burst in my hand.

I hated them for it. For judging me for making tiny mistakes that I could recover and change from. However, I knew deep inside that these people could never change their way of thinking. The instant you do something wrong, they'll have a bad impression of you. It's as if they are unaware that they're giving in to their cruel, ignorant human nature.

From the palm of my hand, the extract of the tomato dripped on the floor like it was blood pouring from my fingertips. I can't say that I have completely changed. A part of me still clings to the past, and honestly... I wish I didn't have to.

"Hey. You done sulking over there?"

Of course. My thoughts had to be disturbed. It was Ignazio calling out to me from afar. I dropped the remains of the tomato on the floor and looked at the blue-eyed beast who had accosted me.

"What do you want this time?" I questioned him.

"I'm bored." He walks closer to me until we are a few feet apart. "I figured you weren't doing anything, so I came here." He stepped closer. "So... Are you free?"

I was about to say no, but it wouldn't hurt to say yes for once to this guy, right? I wasn't actually doing anything productive. I placed my hands on my hips, "What would we do to free ourselves from boredom if I said yes?"

"Whatever sounds fun to you, Rei. I know for sure if I even recommended one of the things I'm thinking right now, you'd beat me senseless."

I scoffed. "Right... Let's just hang around the barnhouse. I wanna see the animals anyway."

Before I left the plantation, I looked behind me to see Saya and Izabella still picking up vegetables from the garden. I could only wonder what Saya's relationship with Izabella was. I never saw them engage each other before like this. I sighed and followed Ignazio out the exit.


"Aera!"

I threw my arms around my favorite horse's neck. She belonged to one of the farmer's sons. Aera was a beautiful white mustang with silky platinum blonde hair and was the fastest horse in the settlement despite her age. I pressed my lips against her nose and brushed my fingers in her mane.

"I always thought you were a dog person," Ignazio snickered, watching me as I lovingly embraced my favorite horse. I shook my head at him and said, "I'm an animal lover. I just love dogs more because I lived with them most of my life."

"Heh. Cute."

I ignored his comment, and Aera nudged her nose at me. "What's up, girl? Is something bothering you?"

Aera brayed and snorted at something past me. I turned to look in the direction of her line of sight. She seemed to be interested in the other horses hanging around the small pasture surrounded by a fence. "Do you want to go to them?" She nudged me once more, and I giggled. "Alright, alright. I'll let you out." I opened her stall gate, and she instantly bolted out of there, jumping over the fence and joining her fellow horses.

I breathed out heavily and scanned the now empty barn. It was strangely peaceful, something I didn't expect during an apocalypse. Yes, it was daytime, and the revenants were not as active, but the feeling of accord was not out of the question. I was overwhelmed by the abnormal tranquility that I forgot about the other person with me in the barn.

Before I could do anything, Ignazio snatched my wrist and pulled me into the back room of the barn. I let out a small gasp as he pinned me against the wooden walls. His hand was pressed firmly on the wall near my head. His face was inches close to mine, and he was staring at me with those ocean eyes of his, unblinking. I snapped my head away from his intense gaze, but that proved futile. His other fingers, free from burden, strongly held my chin with his thumb. He titled my head up, forcing me to look back at him.

Realizing what was happening, I lifted my leg and attempted to strike him in his manhood, but he quickly blocked it with his knee. I tried again, but he blocked once more, resulting in him chuckling under his breath.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" I screeched, making an effort to backhand him in the face. He swiped my hand away with ease, and I gulped. His response to my question was a cocky smirk and his leg lodging between my thighs. I drew my breath in sharply at his sudden action. I tried once more to disable him, this time with a headbutt, but he threw his head back before I could land the hit.

He was too fast for me.

He was always faster than you.

He was too strong for me.

He was always stronger than you.

I shut my eyes. "Whatever you're going to do, just do it..."

I could feel Ignazio's hot breath tingle against my skin as he whispered into my ear, "You drive me fucking nuts, woman. Ya know that?" I felt my face heat up at the tone of his voice. He sounded like he wanted to devour me any moment now. I was about to turn my head away from him again, but he said, his voice low and dangerous, "Look away from me one more time, and I'm going to bend you over and plough you mercilessly."

I let out a small squeak and immediately looked back at him. I couldn't tell if he was angry, but I knew for sure that he was serious. I hardly ever heard him take that tone of voice with me, but this was enough to know what kind of man he was.

I gasped when he suddenly stuffed his face onto my neck. I felt his lips tickle my skin, and I whimpered.

"Hmmm... Beautiful," he purred. The hand that once touched the wall beside me grabbed my rack, fondling it like a ball. He slowly peeled my bra strap off my shoulder, and my hand shot out to stop him from going further. "Ignazio... Please stop. I-I don't think I can—"

My sentence is halted, his lips crashing hungrily onto mine. I could not bear it. The strength of his kiss was overwhelming, and I felt like I was floating, but I brushed off the feeling and attempted to break off the kiss. However, it was to no avail. He did not stop.

He was the hunter, and I was his prey.

My mind was telling me to surrender to his obscene authority, but my heart was telling me to cease such a carnal act before I could fall victim to his sensual power. I didn't know which to follow, and I no longer cared. I'd let the heat of the moment guide me.

I felt tears sting my eyes as he eagerly tasted me, his tongue begging for an entrance. I cried softly when his hand groped my breast and pinched my nipple. My hands were tangled in his dark, wavy locks. I felt like screaming when his mouth moved to suck on my nipple. He lashed his tongue feverishly against me, and I could feel my face get hotter and hotter by the minute. I was held up by the feeling of giddy suspension. I refuse to be withheld in this erotic snit any longer.

I snap out of my vulgar trance and shove him off me. Ignazio is taken aback by my abrupt action, but that does not stop his eyes from wandering all over my partially exposed figure. I wrap my arms around myself, doing my best to cover up my bosom. "Why? Why are you doing this?"

He licked his lips and wiped his mouth with his sleeve, laughing. "You're a mystery to me, Rei. I just couldn't help myself to someone like you."

"You violated me!"

"And yet you enjoyed it..."

"I'm just another one of your girl toys, aren't I?" I managed to speak loudly, but my voice was quivering with uncertainty. Ignazio's smile faded, and he simply stared at me with a steady gaze. His blue eyes locked onto mine made me feel like we were staring into each other's souls. As much as I wanted to look away, I remembered what he had told me before if I were not to face him, so I held my eyes with his own.

"As cheesy as it sounds, Rei, you are different. Way different than them." A shadow cast over his eyes.

"That's what they all say to make people feel special when they really aren't," I spat. I didn't want to hear that from anybody, especially from someone like him. "Being different isn't always a good thing!"

"You undervalue yourself."

"Because it's the truth!" I cried out, my stone walls shattering. "You wouldn't get it! You have everything!"

"But I don't have you!" Ignazio shot back.

I ogled at him, completely shocked at his sudden outburst. I had no words to say. I couldn't comprehend the situation, and my mind was foggy.

"I love you, Rei." He gently grabs my hands and laces them with his. "I want you to be with me through these troubling times."

I could only stare blankly at our intertwined hands, trying to process what was happening. He loves me? But why? What did I do to deserve this? I looked up at him, his eyes peering at me intently. "Why?" I could only muster up a whisper.

He leaned his head forward against mine, "Because you are you, and I couldn't ask for anything more..." And his lips tenderly captured mine. This kiss felt so much more different than the first. It was captivating and emotional, to say the least, but what mattered most was that it actually felt real. I debated on whether or not I should kiss him back, but this trail of thoughts was put to a pause when he broke his kiss. His cold hands left my own, and I was left with a palm-full of nothingness.

I looked up at him, and looked back at me, an indescribable expression on his face. "I'll be waiting for an answer." Before he walked away, he turned his head to look back at me and said, "I love you."

With that, he disappeared out of the barn, leaving me alone with my thoughts.


Sunset.

Another time of day that envelops me with contentment.

I sat on the front porch of my house, staring at the glowing sun, a perfect circle in the scarlet sky, shielded by the white-tipped peaks of Mount Charleston. A soft breeze blows my hair about, caressing the dark strands of my mane into the wind. The flowers on the porch dance to its soulful music, and it brings me a sense of delight that only a mother's lullaby could bring.

My thoughts drift to the memories of this morning. I felt myself shiver at the thought of his strong hands holding me together like a puzzle, and his lips draining me of my energy. I shroud myself with arms like I was quaking from an abhorrent cold.

I felt conflicted.

What exactly did I feel about Ignazio? Was he more than a friend to me now? Was I just another fuck buddy to him? What about Aaron? Who do I like more? I shake my head, trying to erase the countless questions in my mind. "Why me?" I cover my face with my hands, tears threatening to come out of my eyes.

As I was drowning in my emotions, I heard footsteps come my way. I quickly shot up from my position and saw a tall, familiar figure, now standing a few feet away from me. It was the Rector.

"Rei, we need to talk."