Today's First Chapter Friday comes from IT TOOK A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. This was a story I wrote at the end of 2016 when I was dealing with a lot of grief and anger. It was also when I was watching a lot of shows and movies about zombies. (The best is still Train to Busan! Fact!) I wrote this story incredibly fast to help me deal with a lot of my emotions then. Now, this story doesn't have chapters. It only has three parts. So, below is the beginning of Part 1: The Kiss.
Enjoy the beginning scenes of IT TOOK A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE...
RJ strolled through the booths at the fun fair. Another gathering where people either glared at him or pretended he didn’t exist. Growing up in West Vitula, one would think he’d be used to it. But a lifetime of not being welcome in the small town never came easy. Why couldn’t his father have secured a position at a hospital in Ostrander, only an hour away?
Women stood behind rows of wooden tables, selling pies, bread, and jams to other women. Some men gathered in various groups, drinking beer from plastic glasses and telling recycled stories from their youth or checking out the college girls who had returned for the summer. Just as RJ had come to do. Yet, he hadn’t seen anyone worth his time. If not for the anniversary of his mother’s death, he would have stayed away from this town and insisted his father take some time off to visit him.
Kids ran from games to rides to carts selling cotton candy and candy apples, spending their parents’ money like it would never run out. But the longest line was for a booth at the very end of the park. Males of all ages, from kindergarteners to seniors who needed a walker to travel ten feet, lined up in front of a hand-painted sign reading $5 for a kiss, and beside the words, a pair of bright red lips.
RJ bypassed the line to see who was so in demand with the male population. Sidney Flowers, former captain of the cheerleading squad and all-around bitch. The disgusted look she gave the crowd after she’d kissed various men on the cheek proved she hadn’t changed. Yet, no one in line seemed deterred. Only him.
No way did he crave the touch of the girl who’d falsely accused him of killing his own mother and sending his father to the psych ward. All because RJ had caught Sidney helping her boyfriend cheat on a test. Though the rest of the school knew his mother had been killed on the highway by a drunk driver, they seemed to like her version of the story better.
He turned away. He wouldn’t pay a penny to receive a kiss from anyone in this town. Well, except one girl, but he hadn’t seen her yet this summer, not since two years prior when she’d left for Cremshaw without a backward glance.
“Melissa Ruth Smith, I insist you come back here at once.”
Missy rolled her eyes as she stormed away from her father. The man had helped her celebrate her twenty-first birthday yesterday—with a simple birthday cake and a glass of wine—yet still treated her like a child. “It’s to help Billy and the band, remember?” she shouted over her shoulder. “That’s why I came home.” Though she wished she hadn’t. Not with only two weeks off between her summer classes and fall term.
“But, the kissing booth?” Her father rushed to keep up with her. “Jesus wouldn’t approve.”
The religion card. What a surprise. “Jesus wouldn’t approve of half the shit that goes on in this town, especially how you treated that family next door.” She spun around and faced her father with her hands on her hips. “And you certainly haven’t been struck down yet.”
“Missy, please don’t talk to your father like that.” Her mother hooked an arm through hers and paraded her closer to the booth she was scheduled to volunteer at. “It’s just, aren’t you concerned about the germs? The diseases you could catch?”
“C’mon, Mom. I’m just kissing them on the cheek.” She glanced over at Sidney who tapped her watch before kissing Old Man Samson on the small patch of cheek not covered by his fluffy white beard. “Besides, you asked me to come home and help with this fundraiser.”
“I know, but there are other things you could—”
“I’ve gotta go, Mom. Sidney’s waiting for me to take over.” Jogging over to the booth, Missy took her place beside the bench.
Sidney grabbed her purse and left without a word, no different than when they’d attended high school together. Hence, why Missy had fled West Vitula right after graduating high school. No one who stuck around seemed to change.
The line thinned out with the departure of her former classmate, but there were still plenty of cheeks to kiss and a plethora of greenbacks deposited into the jar, money that would help her brother and the rest of the band get to Nationals. And maybe they would see there was life beyond this backward town.
After numerous kisses, her lips burned. She reached into her pocket for her lip balm and took a break to apply it and let it soak in. When she glanced back at the line, everyone had disappeared. All the males except the one her parents would blow a gasket if she kissed. Which made her want to lay her lips on him even more.
“Fifty dollars for a kiss.” RJ held the bill and waved it across the counter. “It goes in the jar if I get a kiss from you.”
“I’d do it for five.” She pointed to the paper sign on the jar. “But if you’re willing to donate more, go ahead.”
He walked into the booth and sat on the bench. “You misunderstand me, Missy. I don’t want a peck on the cheek. I want a real kiss, your lips on mine.”
Her cheeks reddened, making her all the more adorable, and she stepped back. “I, um.... It’s not.... I can’t.”
“It’s one kiss.” He waved the money around again, enjoying her discomfort. “The same money you’d make kissing ten old guys with beards, or ten creeps who gawk at your cleavage when you bend over to kiss them.”
The flush on her face disappeared. Maybe he shouldn’t have included that last observation.
“Hey.” He needed her attention back on him. “One kiss, and you never know, you just might like it.”
“Really?” She placed a hand on his knee then waltzed in front of him with a confidence he’d never seen from her before. “You’re that confident of the power of those full brown lips, are you?”
Before he had the chance to think of a response, she snatched the bill from his hand, leaned between his spread legs, and kissed him. He barely had a chance to close his mouth when it was all over.
“Thank you so much for your support.” Missy curtsied then stuck the money into the collection bottle.
RJ gripped the bottom of the bench, trying to process the fact the kiss had already happened. He’d hoped for so much more.
“Another.” He stood and yanked his wallet from his back pocket. “I’ll give you one hundred dollars if I can kiss you.” Yanking the bill from inside the leather fold, he held it out in front of him to prove he was good for it.
“Now, that’s against the rules.”
Her jaw shifted to the side, but when she tilted her head, he hoped she was actually considering his proposition.
RJ hopped off the bench and took a tentative step forward. He’d didn’t want her to automatically say no. “You know I’ve never played by the rules. Why would I start now?”
With a laugh, Missy playfully pushed on his chest. “You’re trouble, RJ. And you’re looking to get me into trouble with you.”
Returning to the stool, he stared into her crystal-blue eyes and smiled. She hadn’t said no. “Just a kiss.” He nodded to a patch of bushes with a bench set amongst them. “No one will see us over there.”
“Is that brown boy bothering you, Missy?”
The twang in the woman’s voice bothered RJ more than her reference to the color of his skin.
“No, Shelley.” Missy turned her back to him. “He was just leaving.”
“Good.” Shelley, another of their classmates, sized up the jar of money. “’Cause we don’t need his cash. We’re doing fine here without it.”
The punch to the gut that used to come with such ignorant comments never came. Some people refused to change, especially in this town. But he’d always believed Missy to be different. Maybe he’d been wrong.
“Are you taking over for me, then?” she asked Shelley.
“Yeah, your dad followed me around for the last fifteen minutes to make sure I was here on time. He was really freaking out about your kissing guys on the cheek.”
RJ walked away. He’d been dismissed. And if Missy’s father was that upset, he was probably waiting with disinfectant or something.
No, there was nothing good about coming back to West Vitula for the summer. His dad still worked the same long hours, so except for the day spent together on the anniversary of his mother’s death, RJ was spending his summer alone.
He turned with the hope Missy was talking to him for some reason.
And she was, standing right in front of him. She grabbed the money he still held in his hand. “You forgot to put this in the jar.” Without giving him a chance to question her, she jogged back to the booth and shoved it through the glass bottleneck.
Did that mean he was going to get his kiss?
Jessica E. Subject is a USA Today bestselling author of Sci-Fi and Paranormal Romance.
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