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<div style="width: 341px; text-align: justify; font-family: trebuchet ms;color: 000; font-size:9px">Alone, one of the finer states of being and for the first time in a long time- he was out on his own, doing his own thing. It wasn’t like he was antisocial; but there comes a time in every person’s day when they need a little... space, some downtime, perhaps. The day had dragged horribly, it had literally dug its proverbial heels into the dirt and refused to budge, or at least it felt that way to one whose activities had centred on little to nothing. The dwindling sun filtered over the jagged edges of broken windows and glanced off dust motes that whisked around in thick shafts where the light hit; as he stepped gingerly over fallen chairs, carefully placing his boot clad feet in contact with linoleum that had been generously dusted with glistening shards of broken glass. They were so, beautiful- attractive in their malicious glinting. <p>
As he advanced, gracefully dodging fallen objects and broken machines, light columns blurred and whirled around him- obscuring the previous clean lines and creating a sort of silent chaos amongst the calm. His tongue flicked over his lips thoughtfully, the department store level wasn’t somewhere he usually frequented. There was, however- the need to find a new shirt, and a sweater was pressing in ways that no one else would ever quite understand.
Dale's nose wrinkled in disgust, the stale scent gushed all too eagerly up his nostrils as he rounded the corner, gently placing his palm flush to the psycho ward green painted plaster only to drag his hand down and over the light switches in turn. That green, it was the most insipid colour and yet it was everywhere, the skirts hanging from the racks on the wall, that littered the ground covered in dust, the rims of sunglasses stacked in their packets... the walls. It was common belief that the colour was calming, but why not a pale purple, or even blue? Pale turquoise was just the worst colour in the palette- but it didn’t stop him from bending down and retrieving an unopened pack of shirts from the ground. He studied the packaging carefully for a moment, carefully tucking it beneath his arm.<p>
He was about to carry on down the corridor when he picked up, over the white noise of desolation, a sound which entirely betrayed the presence of another being. Staring ahead of himself, fixing a point so far along the aisles that he had to squint to see it, he reached up to his forehead slowly and pushed the tiny curls that rested against his forehead up and out of the way. He scratched the end of his nose, using the back of his wrist and then ran his finger over his top lip; his right eye narrowed thoughtfully, the curve of his brow quirked with intrigue. He stood stock still, his chest barely moving as breathing seemed to diminish almost entirely and he listened intently to his surroundings. The muscles of his jaw flexed, his temple bulged and the corner of his eye twitched mercilessly. One hand snaked into his coat pocket and played with the fragile of silver chain that resided there in an attempt to bring his heart rate back from the gallop that had erupted. What if something had got in? Christ. That wasn't even worth thinking about- He'd only gone up there to pick out a shirt and a sweater. Heck, it wasn't like he'd been up there ever, before. He'd managed on what he'd managed to grab from various houses on scavenging trips.<p>
Thinking about it- what on earth would he do if there were 'walkers' along the aisle? He was on his own. He'd left Dylan sleeping on his sleeping bag, curled up next to the oil heater he'd found in the camping department.Without the keen snout and ears of his terrier, he was pretty much relying on himself- and he was tired. Actually- tired really didn't cut it where Dale was concerned right now. Exhausted, was more fitting. He'd managed to fight off a nasty chest infection with little help from dwindling medicine supplies. He'd, in the same week- managed to get Dylan, himself and a couple of kids out of a sticky spot whilst attempting to leech some fuel from one of the tankers. Sadly, not only was that not successful for obvious reasons, the place was absolutely crawling with shuffling, rotting corpses. He couldn't recall a time in the past where he'd lifted three kids, in one go, onto the roof of a rickety tin shack to keep them safe whilst he broke into a Land Rover to drive them to safety. Yeah- the week hadn't been particularly kind, but then- when was it? He supposed, you learned to live with it, tolerate and allow it to wash over you. Well- as long as you didn't let it drown you, that was the main thing, as far as he was concerned.<p>
Nothing, again the static of silence took over and, satisfied he wasn’t about to be ambushed, he decided to advance. Taking a laboured step around a particularly badly arranged set of shopping baskets, using the stack to balance his weight as he manoeuvred, he suddenly froze as the noise reached him again. Gasping, he flinched noticeably almost toppling over a pile of chairs; pale eyes slipped from side to side. He jerked his head in the direction of the noise. Well, clearly avoiding contact for the sake of solitude meant that he would, inevitably, come into contact with someone. Go figure. <p>
“<b>Ssshhhhit...</b>” he pressed his hand over his mouth, his brow knitted together in a semi-confused and yet altogether intense frown of an expression which didn’t drop even as his hand dropped from his face. He hopped over the mound of chairs, his embellished jacket slapping against the metal frames as he did so, and he sprung lightly down the aisle. Careful not to lose the packet he'd already stowed between his arm and chest, he tightened his arm against his side, craning his head in different directions to try and assess as to where the noise was coming from. He came to a stop opposite an aisle T-junction as it were, and much to his distress; there was a trolley of dust covered shoes stood proudly on the right of where he stood.<p>
He opted to press his back up against the right hand wall, his attention flitting between a very nice looking pair of trainers, and the office door which stood ajar. He nibbled along his bottom lip, his brow faltering as he eyed the pair of shoes, but as broken glass shifted under under a foot that didn’t belong to him, his attention snapped to the gap between the door and its frame. He studied it for a while, his fingers slowly tracing a path over the trolley top, and before he made a leap away from where he was positioned, he hauled up a pair of the correct size trainers, with one feline motion, slipped them under his arm and patted them for good measure.
<b>ooc:</b> behold... the bawlz.
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Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?<br>
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
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<p>The store was creepy, eerie, quiet, dark. Dust hung like a shroud upon goods left untouched for months, still in a freeze frame of the panic that had unsettled them so many months ago. Being on the top floor, but distant from the hub of current civilization that the food court was, this particular department store bordered on the edge of unsafe, potentially containing a member of the shambling undead. None of this much concerned Lexi. A flashlight negated the patches of darkness that the skylights had left unattended, and in similar roles of preparedness were the whistle and aluminum baseball bat she’d brought with her. No, what most concerned Lexi was waking her baby.
<p>Napping like the world never ended, three-month old Amelia was curled up in the fabric of her carrier, hanging off the back of the nearby desk chair. The long piece of stretchy fabric that Lexi would once have frowned upon for carrying a child around in had turned out to be surprisingly useful in the apocalypse scenario; regular carriers were solid, inflexible, bulky, and heavy. The all-cloth carrier could be tied around mother and daughter in a myriad of manners, not to mention used to secure the baby to an out of reach place, double as a blanket, or carry supplies in. And Lexi had hung it off the back of the chair just so. Should need arise, the whole thing could be lifted off, slipped back over her head and pulled tight around her torso, all the while keeping the infant swaddled up. Lexi glanced back at it, checking on her daughter in the back corner of the office, every few seconds. You could never be too careful anymore.
<p>That’s why this particular office was currently playing the role of changing room. Having finally managed to drop enough clothing sizes to make a trek to the store absolutely necessary, Lexi had crept through the aisles, loaded her arms and the top of the diaper bag up with possible selections, and withdrawn to this office in the back of the store to try things on. Normal changing rooms just didn’t cut it anymore; nothing scarier than a having a zombie crawl under the door that doesn’t touch the floor and you half naked with no room to swing a baseball bat. So office it was. The glass window in the door had been smashed in long ago, the desk rifled through, and papers scattered everywhere, but having three solid walls and only the one entrance to keep an eye on made dealing with the broken glass, dust, and shadows worth dealing with.
<p>Even if she could have found someone to watch Ames for the afternoon, Lexi would never have allowed it. After the recent surprise blitz move the undead had pulled during movie night, Lexi had not let Ames out of her sight. At least Tobi could and knew when to run. Ames would be absolutely helpless if left alone for just the wrong moment. So, for now, Tobi was off playing with some of his many “aunts and uncles” while Lexi was questing for new clothes with the snoozing infant.
<p>And the baseball bat was always in arm’s reach. Right next to Lexi, who, without fail, kept herself positioned between the door and her baby.
<p>Amazing how much she’d changed since giving birth. Holding her daughter for the first time was like staring reality in the face. She’d been so selfish while pregnant, so wrapped up in her own fears of giving birth that she hadn’t fully processed the magnitude of the trouble she was in: single parent of two in the zombie apocalypse, husband surely dead, entire world crumbling down in a wake of destruction and death unlike the world had ever known, and living every day with the very real possibility of not making it to the next. Terrified, yes, but Lexi was beginning to find a strength she had long forgotten about, a strength that had nothing to do with her and everything to do with throwing all that she was into being a mother. A good mother. Everything revolved around the kids and focusing on them both forced her to deal with reality and gave her the means to do so. It was hard, of course, but Lexi was just beginning to accept that the gravity of her role in this apocalypse. It killed her to feel so useless, as she’d always been so independent and action-oriented, but someone had to the mom, someone had to bring forth the new generation. A year ago, Lexi would have hated to think that one of those ‘someones’ would be her; now she wouldn’t trade it for the world if only because Tobi and Ames were her everything now.
<p>Sounds of movement brought Lexi sharply to attention with a small gasp. A purely reflexive glance was thrown back toward Ames before Lexi realized she was half-dressed and the lights were flickering on with the damnable buzz only fluorescents are capable of. Heart racing, Lexi very quickly pulled a shirt down over her head and snatched up the baseball bat, gripping it tightly, raised and ready to swing. Lights had to be good, right? Zombies wouldn’t turn on the lights, would they? The lack of moaning and shuffling sounds did little to ease the new mom’s nerves. If anything, it made her more nervous, not being able to hone in on the location of what could very possibly be one of those decaying monsters. Jerking around to check on the still sleeping baby once more, Lexi accidentally knocked the end of the baseball against the edge of the wooden door, causing a hollow, ringing thunk to echo through the aisles. Cringing at her carelessness, Lexi jumped back from the door as if electrocuted, pausing at the ready for a moment in wait for a shambling visitor and glad that her new boots were on and tied. And that she was wearing pants. Nothing to make you feel helpless like facing off with a zombie sans pants. When nothing came to the door, Lexi slowly crept forward, glancing out through the broken window carefully before pulling the door open a few inches. In doing so though, she made yet another noise, this time stepping on a larger piece of glass strewn across the floor. It shattered under her weight with a crunching like a sharp and bitter snow. Movement caught the corner of her eye through the crack in the door as she flinched from her own ineptitude. Frightened, unsure, and unable to see the figure fully from her vantage point, but knowing someone was there, Lexi gave a harsh, shaking whisper, <b>”You’ve got two seconds to prove you’re still alive before I bash your head in.”</b> Knuckles white, body trembling slightly, she made a hurried addition, <b>”But you yell and wake the baby and you’re as good as dead anyway.”</b>