You know, my friend confused East Jesus Nowhere with Jesus of Suburbia the other day...
There were two blondes, each of them had two guns. The one closest to me and Christian had guns trained on both of us. Gently I shook Christian awake, whispering him not to make any sudden movements. When he realized we were in danger he tried to pull me into him, to protect me, but I didn’t let him. No weakness.
“There are four of us, and two of you.” Mike threatened as he stood up. The two girls held their ground, but the one closer to Mike had fear in her eyes. “Four bullets do a lot more damage in two targets than four bullets in four targets.” Under the blanket I felt something bump into my hand, and when I reached for it, my fingers closed around a gun of my own. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Christian nod. The two of us stood in sync, pulling our guns out and targeting the girls before they even knew what was happening. With skill we shot a gun out of each other their hands before changing the bull’s eye onto their foreheads.
“Drop ‘em, or we get better at our aim.” I said slowly. Both girls did just that, letting the guns fall to the soft earth where Mike rushed to retrieve them. Now it was Tre and Mike holding the girls at gunpoint while Christian and I did the talking.
“Who are you?” Christian asked as we circled them. They sat on Christian’s and mine’s bed, we weren’t as rude as to not allow them comfort. At least they warned us when they targeted us. But this didn’t mean they were going to talk.
“He asked you a question.” I snapped at them, kicking the sleeping bags right next to the girl in the cheetah print tank top. She jumped, but quickly regained her composure. The girl in the zebra print laughed, spitting at Christian. She opened her mouth to talk, but I was lunging at her, a growl erupting from some primal part of my brain as I grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into the ground.
“GLORIA!” Christian yelled, pulling me back off her. “No!” I shrugged him off; the girl on the ground was alright, just a bit shaken up.
“Gloria?” She said softly. “As in Whatsername’s daughter?” I gave the most defiant look I could but didn’t say anything. That was not something you go around bragging about with people you didn’t know. However, we didn’t have much time to wonder who they were because the other girl opened her mouth and blabbed all.
“Oh Emm Gee! It is you!” She sounded like she was fifteen and meeting her favorite writer. “I’m Lilly, and this is Molly. We’ve been looking for you forever. When we found East Jesus, we saw it was gone.” She paused, I guess in reverence for the dead, and then her prattling continued. “Molly wanted to quit, to go look for Christian instead. She said you weren’t real. But I told her you were!” Lilly spun to face the other girl; I was assuming that was Molly. “I TOLD YOU!” Molly rolled her eyes.
“You do realize I never did admit to being this, Whoserface’s kid.” I said coldly. I was trying to ignore the dirty look Christian was giving me. I guess he believed these girls. I still didn’t know.
“Whatsername! Come on, Gloria! We know it’s you! What other girl would be in the woods, armed to the teeth, so close to the ruins of East Jesus Nowhere? Now, can you lower the guns?” Lilly was silly, and over the top, but refreshing. Christian was even smiling a bit, his body relaxing. Thankfully Mike kept his head about him, interjecting himself to the conversation.
“Prove it!” He shouted, cocking the gun in Lilly’s face. “Prove you aren’t AMEU!” Lilly shrank down, sitting back down next to Molly. But it was Molly who answered, standing up.
“Our mother fought with Whatsername. Not just in the sense of they fought the same fight. They were friends.” She was looking at me, not hostile or anything, just speaking with me. But she suddenly looked over my shoulder at Christian with too much knowledge in her eyes. “Our mother told us the secret between Jesus and Whatsername. We know they were never together.” I side stepped to put myself between Christian and Molly. I didn’t know if I liked her yet.
“You must have never listened to the songs. Of course they were lovers.” I scoffed, wanted to put myself in Christian’s arms for some irrational reason. But I took solace in just standing in front of him. Molly smiled then, I don’t know if it was because of what I said or because of the way I acted. Either way, I didn’t like it.
“Sometimes people embellish on things. And everyone knows had hard it is for girls and guys to be just friends. So Whatsername had to be sleeping with at least one of them, if not both. But we know the truth. Now, Gloria, will you please have your lap dogs lower their guns.”
“Mike, Tre, at ease.” Christian said softly, putting his hand on my shoulder as if to tell me it was ok. I shot him a look over my shoulder, but decided I would be good and not contradict him in public. After all, as soon as they found out who Christian was they would be all over him as well. And to have a disagreement like that, in public, would do us no good. “I’m sorry, but you can understand why we have to be so careful. Gloria isn’t just anyone.”
Christian dropped his arm around my shoulder. It was kind of nice, the way he was holding onto me. But then I remembered myself and shrugged it off. I opened my mouth to speak, but Christian continued. “This is Tre and Mike. I’m Billie Joe.” He smiled softly, not quite as warm as if he meant it, but still enough they wouldn’t know he was faking it. I waited; bracing myself for the bomb he was about to drop, but it never came. Mike started barking orders about it being almost dawn and we had to pack up. As Tre and Mike kept close tabs on the newcomers, I grabbed Christian’s hand and dragged him into the woods.
“What the hell are you thinking, Christian? We don’t know these girls, and it is scary when someone walks up and tells you all about yourself. My mother would have never given in so easily.”
“Yea,” Christian came back, “well, my father would have said second guessing every person that comes along is just a waste of time. If they are gonna stab you in the back, and then they will no matter what.”
“Well, anyone who knew Whatsername would know that, in the end, she was only stabbed in the back by ONE person. The Jesus of fucking Suburbia!” I was shouting, and Christian and I were circling each other. The tension seemed to crackle between us, and I couldn’t tell you were the emotions came from.
“The fact you lived underground proves that statement false.” Christian said softly. “Why can’t you just put your faith in a miracle?” He was already backing down, already trying to get away from the fighting. Sometimes it killed me that Christian had no spine.
“Only if it’s nondenominational. I am not a member of your church of wishful thinking.” I spat, thinking myself very clever. Christian shook his head, his body opening up more.
“My father was loved enough to be called Jesus, he was worshiped, and even feared-”
“What, are we going to have a full out ‘my parent was better than your parent’ battle on our hands here?” I was ready to defend my mother’s honor and authority until the end, even if I was the one person who refused to follow it. Christian chuckled.
“No, that’s not where this is going. What I was trying to say is that I am not one who wants to be like my father. What is it that Merlin says? Uther was a deplorable king, Arthur. Be nothing like him. That’s how I feel. My dad did a good job for him, but I am so much better than he is.” He came closer to me, smiling down in a way all my anger dissolved. I gave him a simple smile before lifting onto my tiptoes and peck his lips.
“Ok, then. Let’s go rule Britain.” We laced fingers and walked back to see the two girls helping Mike and Tre load the remaining 4runner. Mike Molly sat in the front seats, Tre and Lilly in the next row, and Christian and I in the very back.
“Where are we headed?” Mike asked, easing the vehicle through the woods... Every single person in the car looked at me in the same moment. I, however, locked eyes with Christian. While I knew the others were looking for guidance, Christian’s eyes told me everything was going to be ok, that I could do this. Mike made his way to a road, and then stopped. It was now all in my hands. With a deep breath I nodded.
“East.” Mike smiled, turning left onto the road. We were off, with two new members to our merry band. While the others talked like they had been friends for years, I looked off out the window. There were six of us now, but who knew how long that would last. Just from stories I knew that Christian had lost at least 17 ‘followers’ and that was since he was 13. I’d watched as every person I knew all died at once. I wasn’t naive to ever thing I wouldn’t lose someone. But with new people it was ever more apparent, but there was something more. The bigger we traveled, the more notice we brought, and the more chance someone we knew would get hurt. I hoped it was one of them, and not my boys. Or, you know, me.