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Where does one begin to say I'm sorry?; Anna
Topic Started: May 16 2012, 11:20 PM (723 Views)
Mat Preston
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Mat had made it as far as the outskirts of Atlanta. By now he was getting used to groups of those...things. He hated that he was getting used to them, but he really was. Still as he traveled alone, it was easier to try to outrun them, get away from them, instead of staying and fighting them. If you killed one there'd always be another one to replace it, it just didn't matter. Saving his strength for another day seemed more often like the better part of valor these days. Mat knew he was gonna need all the strength he could muster if he was going to survive until they found a cure.

As he journeyed south from Louisville he'd done all he could to avoid large cities, or at least avoided stopping in large cities. The Mustang didn't exactly scream fuel efficiency, so he'd rounded up a few gas cans so he could fill them any chance he got to do so. In this day and age so may fuel pumps required payment first, so he'd quickly learned how to over ride those controls to get fuel. More and more there was no fuel to be had. In Nashville he barely made it through before starting to sputter just south of Smyrna. Still the old 'stang managed to limp into the Kroger fuel center on Lowry parkway and he refueled and filled his spare cans too. There he'd had to shoot a walker, it was a former employee it had seemed, but it was gone now.

After that stop he didn't stop again until just outside Chatanooga. That town...that town had been a boon to his stores. He found a nice hunting knife, so many cans of chef boyardee it wasn't even funny. The trunk had two full cases of ravioli now, with pop tops too! He wouldn't go hungry anytime soon.

Now though, the gas was running low and Mat navigated the mustang off the main road and towards a little area called Wiltshire Estates. It was a nice middle class looking neighborhood, a few minivans, some SUVs....some bodies, some roamers. Mat stopped the car and backed up, he drove back up the road about a mile and parked in some trees where no one could see from the road. He stuck the key in the trunk lid and popped it open, grabbing the syphoning hose and two of the gas cans. He should be able to hit a few of those vehicles he saw still in driveways and fill his tank. That'd get him at least beyond Atlanta and closer to his dream of finding a nice safe island somewhere.

With his shotgun strapped to his back, the nine millimeter tucked in the waist of his black jeans, and a gas can in each hand he set out for Wiltshire.

In about fifteen minutes he crossed the hill and could see the large brick construction of the entry to the place. He didn't want to just walk right down the middle of the street, so he stopped and sat down behind a tree. He pulled out a pair of binoculars and scanned the first few houses. Some had seen a bit of action it looked like, doors stood open, windows busted. That could be a bad sign when it came to fuel. Someone might well have beat him to it and he might well be putting his own life in jeopardy just trying to check. Thing is, he didn't have a choice. It was go in there and look or get back on the road and run out of gas in a half hour or so. Might as well see what's what.

Mat sighed as he steeled himself for what was to come, either a lot of running, or a lot of killing, probably a little of both though, like always.

He stood up and grabbed the cans, careful to stay low, and out of sight of any biters. Those things were everywhere and he couldn't be too careful.

The first house in didn't have a vehicle, so Mat decided not to even bother, fuel was more important than other supplies right now, so he knew he needed to keep moving. The next house though, it had one of those oversized SUVs, a damned H3 Hummer actually. He knew those things had tanks the size of, well a tank. It'd probably have a ton of fuel in it, and most of the owners were usually such arrogant pricks they used the 98 octane, so not only a lot, but it'd be the good stuff on top of everything.

He ran bent completely over from behind the first house to the second and then just as quickly out to the hummer. He popped open the door, quietly, to look for the fuel level release. An arm fell out and slapped him atop the head and Mat collapsed backwards, reaching for his pistol. As he brought it up he got a good look at the rest of what was attached to the arm, it was a dead soccer mom type. He sighed again as he tried to catch his breath. The pistol was put back into his waistband and he pushed himself up off the concrete driveway. For some reason he looked down at his Bulova watch, a present he'd bought himself when he remodeled his house on his own, like a reward or something. Why he looked he wasn't sure, it didn't matter what time it was, but it was fairly early morning, just after six AM.

Days and nights seemed to run together, but Mat had always seemed to do his best work in the mornings.

With trepidation he moved past the deceased soccer moms arm and flipped the switch that popped the gas tank lid open. He scooted down to the end of the hummer and unscrewed the cap. Before he started he took a peek around the corner of the vehicle, just to be sure none of those damned biters were too close, when he was confident none were headed his way he threaded the hose into the tank and started the hard part, getting a flow started.

The amber liquid poured to the top and he spit out the little bit that managed to get into his mouth while at the same time he pushed the hose into the can, letting it fill to the top before he started it into the second can.

As he sat there, he looked back towards the first house....in the upstairs window he was sure he saw something, someone rather, looking back out at him.

Survivors?

It couldn't be....could it?

Mat forgot the gas as he stood up and headed back that direction. It had looked like a child, maybe 6 or so.

Maybe it was just his eyes playing tricks on him, maybe he was just seeing what he wanted to see, but he had to check. Didn't he?

He went around to the back, there seemed to be less chance of company that way. Mat rapped on the door quietly, unsure if someone upstairs would hear it or not. Then he saw something out of the corner of his eye, one of those rocks people had that they hid keys in. It was worth a shot.

"Fuck yes." He said as he slipped the little trap door and a silver key fell out into his hand. As fast as he could he slipped the key into the hole and turned the knob, just as fast he ducked inside and closed the door behind him, praying like hell he didn't get a bullet in the head.

"Hello? Anyone there?" He whispered up the stairs as he looked around the house. It seemed undisturbed, quiet, normal.

"Anyone?"

He drew his gun and headed for the stairs....
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Anna was up already that morning she was tired but she needed to make sure that her mom was okay. She went over to her mother's room and checked on her like she always did before she headed downstairs to get a can of fruit for her mother to eat for breakfast. She opened it with the can opener which she left on the counter and took up the small can with a fork for her mother. She handed it to her sitting on the bed next to her mom before hugging her softly, "You will get better mommy" She whispered to her softly with a small smile and her mom smiled sadly and stroked her hair softly. She sighed a little bit and got up to go over to the window to look out at the zombies.<br><Br>

She didn't know what to do about her mom. They were running so low on supplies and her mom was so sick. She watched the dead walk around from the upstairs window and she noticed someone living walking around down there as well. He was getting gas out of the neighbors car. She closed the curtains on the window when the man looked up at her. She didn't want him knowing they were in there. She smiled at her mom said and took the trash from her and went downstairs to put the can in the trash bag and the fork in the sink. She rubbed it off as best she could because she didn't like to use water unless she got it from the barrel outside after a rain. She left it in the sink and sighed some. She then heard the door lock turning and she gasped some before running up the stairs to hide. She wasn't sure what to say. She heard him asking if anyone was there. She didn't say anything and then she heard the steps coming up the stairs. She bit her lip. What was she suppose to do?<br><Br>

She got up quickly from her couched stand around the corner from the stairs standing at the top of them not wanting to let the man with the gun get close to her mommy. She looked at him. "What do you want?" She asked as bravely as she could. What else could she do? Her hair was braided back away from her face in a slightly messy braid and she was in a dress and tights, her feet bare. She crossed her arms. She didn't want him to get past her.<Br><BR></div>
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Mat Preston
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It was a kid, just like he'd thought, a little girl with pigtails and from here it looked like big brown eyes. How the hell had a kid survived through all this alone? Well she just hadn't, thats how. She couldn't be alone, there were some adults somewhere. The basement. Upstairs. Out on a supply run, somewhere.

But the house wasn't all boarded up so....

Maybe there weren't adults around here.

One plus one wasn't equalling two no matter from what vantage point Mat looked at it. He was nervous, but he realized he had a gun in his hand and there was just a little kid standing in front of him.

"What do I want? Well...honestly nothing really. I uh....well....are you ok? Are you here alone?" He asked as he put away his gun, hoping not to startle her or scare her anymore than she probably already was.

Mat stopped himself from talking, or babbling really. He sang sometimes to the radio, but for the most part he hadnt spoken to anyone since he was turned away from Ft Knox what seemed like weeks ago now. His voice really wasn't used to talking and he found himself coughing just a little bit from being borderline hoarse.

Instinctively his hand covered his mouth. He wished he had a swallow of water, no, bourbon right about now. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he looked at the child, scared that she had an adult or ten hiding right around the corner waiting for him so they could steal his guns and car and gas and whatever else they wanted.

Slowly Mat took a single step closer, waiting for the sound of impending doom. When none came back to meet him, he took another, and another, and finally another until he was at the top of the stairs. The little girl acted as though she didn't want to move, but she was tiny compared to Mat, what was she going to do? He knelt down, face to face with her and just looked her over, she was so...normal.
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Anna looked at the man not sure exactly what he wanted. He seemed startled by her, and she tilted her head to the side a bit. She didn't have a lot of time to think about him or the gun in his hand because he moved it and she tensed. What was she supposed to do? Feel normal? She didn't have a lot of time to duck or do anything, but he didn't shoot at her. He started to put his gun away as he walked up the stairs. It was times like this she wished that her mother was better so she could hide behind her. She had to be brave though. This man could want anything from her, she remembered some of the stories her mom told her before this all happened about how men could hurt her very badly. She didn't take a step back though, she wouldn't back down from him. She refused to let him hurt her mom. <br><br>

He knelt down in front of her and asked her if she was okay and if she was there alone. She carefully uncrossed her arms as she looked at him. He didn't seem like he was going to hurt it because he would have already done it, right? "I am fine." She answered his first question thinking if she should say she was alone or if she was with her mom. Would this man hurt them? She figured the best thing she could do was tell the truth. Her mother always told her the Truth was the best policy. "I am here with my mommy, this is our house. Did you lock the door so those things can't get in?" She said all in one breath. If he didn't she wanted to run back down stairs and lock up the back door so that none of the undead could get in and hurt her mom. She took a step away from him some so she could get a better look at him. What did he want? Why would he enter a locked house? "Why did you come in here? Didn't you just come to get the gas I saw you getting?" She asked him honestly. Her curiosity was getting in the way of her common sense. If she were smart she would turn around and run to her mommy's room where there was always a gun sitting next to her that her mom could shoot. She thought about it for a second looking at the closed door at the end of the hall. She then looked back at this man.</div>
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Did he lock the door? Mat tried to remember. He did.

Didn't he?

No.

Did he?

No. He definitely didn't lock the door, but nothing had followed him, he was sure of that. At least pretty sure.

"I didn't lock the door. I'll go do that right now. Don't leave ok?" He asked as he leaned his head forward and looked at her with that puppy dog look adults tried to use on kids even though they didn't know they were doing that always.

"Just wait right here, I'll be right back. Then we can meet your mommy." He added just before he headed down the stairs again. Nothing had changed, the door was still closed and there were no signs of any of those things in the house, or and mud on the linoleum floors. He practically leapt across the kitchen and locked the door before he turned back around. Mat wasn't mister macho, full of bravado and swagger, not anymore at least. Now he was almost as scared as what he imagined that little girl up there was.

Mat leaned against the door for a minute then decided that he needed to get back to the little girl. She'd asked something else before he became pre-occupied with the door and came down to check on it.

He came back up the stairs to find her there, right where he left her.

"Ok, door is locked. We are all safe again. Now...you said something about a mommy?" Mat wanted to meet the girls mother, another adult would be nice to talk too for a minute. Maybe they'd let him stay a night, that way he wouldnt be stuck sleeping in the Mustang.

"Can I meet her?"

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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Anna looked at the man as he completely ignored her other question, told her to stay right where she was and then ran down the stairs to lock the back door. She thought about darting for the room and disappearing she wanted to run and hug her mom and have her protect her. She didn't want him to see her when he came back up the stairs. She thought about the face he had given her before going down the stairs, puppy-dog eyes. She never thought that anything like that was even possible for a grown up to do to a child. She moved a bit down the hallway but was still close to where she had been before. She was just about to complete her way to her mother's room but she didn't have the chance he came back up the stairs.<br><br>

He was asking to see her mommy, probably to talk to her. Hopefully not to hurt her. She nodded some and led him down the short hallway to a white door that she opened slowly. "Mommy, someone came inside the house" She said and opened the door to show her the man. She then ran over to her mom's queen sized bed and crawled up wrapping her arms around her waist. Her mother did not look like she was in good shape. She sounded like she could hardly breathe and was much too thin, but wasn't everyone these days? Her skin was pale her hair just pulled away from her face as she leaned down and kissed her daughter's head before looking up to see who it was. It was Mat. She recgonized him on the spot, he hadn't changed much from when she met him all those years ago. She kept her mouth from falling open in shock as her daughter crawled up next to her. She looked at him "Hello, Can we help you with something?" She asked casually like there were not zombies outside the window, like the world was not in pieces, and like she didn't know him at all. She knew it was him though, and she couldn't let him or Anna know the truth.</div>
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Mat Preston
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Mat did a double take. It wasn't....no, couldn't be her.

"I uh, no. I just saw your daughter in the window and was surprised to find more survivors." It was true, Mat was shocked. He knew there had to be other survivors, thousands if not more. But in a nation that used to be hundreds of millions, even tens of thousands of people could be spread all around it might be days, weeks, or months before he saw any others.

As he entered deeper into the room the morning light was a little better and he could see more. No electricity these days made for some difficult situations inside a house or building. It was even more so in this place because they were obviously trying to stay clear of anything that might be out there, hoping it didn't get inside here.

What Mat saw though was a sick woman but one he knew, one he knew well. Maria.

His Maria, or at least the Maria that was his once upon a time, five or six, no seven years ago. Just before his first novel broke and he was able to finally call himself a success. They'd been close, more than close, but once his book hit he was on tour after tour being shuttled around the country like a rock star or an athlete. He woke up some days unsure what day it was or in what town he was. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

Wait, seven years ago.

He looked at the little brown eyed girl.

The little brown haired girl.

The little girl with the pointed chin, like his.

He looked at....could it be?

Mat started to open his mouth to ask that very question, but the look shot back at him from Maria almost pleaded with him not to ask the question, not to say anything. How could he not?

"Are you ok? You... He realized he couldn't just say you look like shit, but she did, clearly she was sick. He stepped back, just in case she was on the path to becoming a walker.
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Maria looked at him not sure what to say to him at all. She knew he wanted to ask, though if he wanted to ask if Anna was his daughter or if she was going to become a walker or both she wasn't sure. She uncircled her daughter's arms from around her waist and asked her if she could go downstairs and make something for the three of them and bring up some water. Anna looked from her mother to the man before nodding and stepping around him to go down the stairs to the kitchen. She looked back once to see what was happening before she went down the stairs and got some fruit out of the cupboard. She opened it and put it in a bowl wanting to make it look like they were doing well. She made three bowls of fruit putting them on a tray and grabbing three waters and putting them on the tray as well. She laid some sliverwear down as well on the tray before looking to see if there was anything else she could bring up to them. <br><Br>

Maria looked at him sitting up a bit against her pillows "I'm not becoming one of the undead" She said looking at him seriously. She didn't know what else could make him reel away from her like she had the plague. She ran her hands through her hair pulling out the hairtie holding it back. "I have cancer" She finally added. She looked out down the hallway for Anna but she wasn't back yet. She wasn't sure what else she should say, should she not mention the daughter? She didn't think she should unless he asked, but she knew she had to mention why she looked so sick. He couldn't look at her as a bad mother because she was allowing her daughter to take care of her even though she knew that she was dead. </div>
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Mat watched as Anna departed, off on an errand that he was sure was little more than a mother convincing a child to clear the room so she could talk without her sensitive ears hearing what was being said.

Where was a bottle of bourbon when he needed it most?

He felt relieved to hear it wasn't this illness, but that joy was muted quickly when she said it was cancer. There was no getting over something like that, not now, not without hospitals and doctors.

"How long Maria?" He asked as he used her name to let her know that he knew who she was, that he remembered her. He took a seat on the bed next to her and cautiously let his hand rest atop hers in a comforting gesture. Mat wasn't sure if he was asking her how long she had left or how long she'd been sick or how long had it been since they'd last seen one another. He knew he'd thought about her fairly often those first few weeks and months, and then honestly it became less and less. As his fame grew, more women seemed perfectly content to throw themselves at him, and as Mat became more and more wary of people he seemed more inclined to let them.

Suddenly a wave of questions rushed to mind, but he didn't want to inundate her. If she even remembered him at all.
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Maria looked at him as he asked her how long she had left. She didn't know exactly how long she had left, she felt his hand rest on hers. He remembered her at least. Would it be such a stretch to believe he would believe her if she told him about Annabelle? She wouldn't risk it not yet. She figured the best way to describe how much time she had left. "I've had cancer for three years" She said with a slight sigh looking down at their hands. "She doesn't know" She added nodding towards the door letting him know she was talking about her daughter. She knew she had maybe a month left if she was lucky, there were times she would wake up not being able to breathe and thinking her lungs collapsed. "A year ago I was surviving, now though, I would think my lungs are just about to cave in" She said honestly with a sigh. She smiled at him some. "Its good to see you again, just not under the circumstances" She added. <br><br>

Annabelle knew her mother had sent her to get the food because she wanted to talk to the man alone. She bid her time on the ground level checking the locks and the barriers and taking stock of what they had left. She knew her mom would get better because she wouldn't leave her alone in this world. She wouldn't leave her alone in the last world either. She carried the food up the stairs and to her bedroom which she shut the door to so they could continue to talk for a little bit before she went back in with the food. She opened one of the books she had read a hundred and two times. She laid on her bed opening her book wondering what they could be talking about.
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Mat sighed at her declaration that her lungs were going to fail any day now. That meant that any day now Maria would be gone, and that little girl downstairs would be all alone. That made the child no more than walker bait at that point. She was going to be a snack for one or several of these things. Maybe not the day Maria died, but sooner or later. She'd run out of food, or she'd open a door for water, something would send her outside and she'd be bitten. If she was lucky they'd eat every bit of her and there'd be nothing to come back, but as tough as that kid looked he was sure she'd get away, hide, die, and turn. If he ever came back here he'd very likely see a little biter in pigtails.

That thought just disgusted him.

"If she doesn't know, what are you going to do? If you can't get treatments, can't get better, then what happens to her?"

While he too was happy to see Maria, albeit not in her current condition, his focus was for some reason on this child. Maria was done for, today, tomorrow, next month, her days were limited.

Then again, weren't everyones?

Mat couldn't think like that. Maria was on borrowed time, but Mat wasnt, Anna wasn't. Something had to be done.

There was so much the two of them could discuss, the old days, their dates to downtown Atlanta when neither could afford a cheeseburger much less a steak, but he had to know what Maria was going to do about Anna. Were there others here with them he hadn't met yet? Maybe that was the plan. A neighbor, a husband, someone.
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Maria didn't want to think about what would happen to her daughter when she died. She didn't want her daughter to have to deal with her death all alone but there was nothing else she could do. There was no one else Anna could go with that would care about what happened to her. She rubbed her eyes a bit. "I don't know" She said honestly. What else could she say, no one else was alive around here. Most people were dead and couldn't do anything else about it. She could have tried to take her away a while ago, but she thought it was safer here, but before she knew it, she was too sick to leave her bed for more then a few hours. She let out a small sigh "I don't know what she is going to do. What's going to happen to her" She said honestly. <br><br>

She was being as strong as she possible could. She didn't know how much longer she could survive. She coughed a few times covering her mouth with her arm. She laid back against her pillows. "I have just put off telling her. I can't end her hope. There is very little hope for anything in this world" She said honestly. She quieted down when Anna came back in with the tray that had the fruit and water and forks. She gave him a bowl and some water and then her mom before she sat down on the bed starting to eat hers slowly. She figured she had given them enough time to talk about whatever they needed to. <br><br>


They finished their breakfast and Maria told Anna to go find her a book she hadn't read yet for the day. Anna left.
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Mat Preston
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King Nothing
Mat watched as the little girl ate. She was fairly proper, especially for her age. She wasn't messy or sloppy like so many at the age. In fact he was certain he dropped more of the juice from the canned fruit on himself than she did on herself. She was an impressive child. He still couldn't get over her appearance, her eyes were just like his, her hair was like his mothers. She was...so like him.

Soon enough though Maria had sent her on the way. Mat couldn't bury the burnig question he had inside any longer. He had to ask, he just had to know. Maria wasn't long for this world, and from the sounds of it, unless he walked out the door right now, he was taking Anna when he did leave.

"I have to ask Maria. How old is she?" It was not as subtle as he'd like it to be. He hoped she'd have slipped up and revealed the answer to the question. He wasn't sure he wanted to be the girls father, but whether he was or wasn't he couldn't stand to not know.

He stood up from his seat on the beside near Maria and walked to the window. He looked out and could see the Hummer he'd been syphoning from earlier. The gas had filled his tank and spilled the excess all over the ground. It had run down the driveway and into the street. He could follow the line down the street a little until it disappeared beneath a camry parked on the street instead of in a driveway.
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Annabelle Byron
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<div style="width:400px; background-color:#fff; border: 1px dotted; ">Maria's heart stopped when he asked how old she was. Was she suppose to answer that question honestly? She hoped that he would take her if he was her father. She hoped that he wouldn't leave her here with her dying mother to be zombie food. When he turned away from her she closed her eyes and bit her lip "She's barely seven" She said very quietly. She held her breath waiting for him to reply. She wasn't sure what she was suppose to do from there. Anna had gone probably downstairs to look though the books for her mother to read. She pulled her hair back up again while she looked at him "What were you doing in the area anyway. No one has come by here since the beginning" She asked honestly. She rubbed her face softly and pushed the blankets off of her sitting on the edge of her bed.
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Mat Preston
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Seven.

That sealed it, unless he didn't know Maria like he thought he did back then. Anna was his. He didn't know why he needed the math to prove it, he could see it in the little girls face, her eyes, she was him made over.

Mat didn't leave the window as he tried to steel his resolve. From here he could see much of the neighborhood. Just a few doors down there were two of those roamers in the front yard, it looked as though they'd caught some small animal, a cat, a skunk, something. They were tearing it to shreds. He hoped it wasn't Anna's pet.

"I was on my way south, to Hilton Head, or Tybee. You remember that little bed and breakfast we stayed in in Charleston. Well Savannah is a lot like that place, or at least it was I guess. Well there are a couple islands there, maybe you've been, I don't know. Anyway, I figure it would be a safe place, none of these walking demons there. Maybe life can be a little normal, or normal as it can be. Well, as you can guess, getting gas for the car isn't easy. I was next door stealing fuel from that hummer of your neighbors when I saw Anna."

Mat turned around finally to see Maria trying to sit up on the edge of the bed. She was so thin, gaunt really. She'd said earlier she might have a month, but Mat put it more at days at best, if not hours. He was sent here for a reason and that reason was Anna.

"Shes mine, isn't she?" He finally had to ask, be blunt about it. Maria didn't want to tell him outright it appeared.
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