What I wouldn’t give to see someone walk by my house. To see life as
it was before. I sat at my window seat and gazed out at the wet, empty
road. With curled up legs I pulled the blanket tighter around me and
rested my head on my knees with a sigh. I needed a sign, any sign that
life still existed and would return to normal. An empty wish, for deep
down I knew my life never could be, and never would be the same again.
The temperature warmed so the usual snow fell as dreary sheets of rain.
A continuous torrent showered into large puddles at the sides of the
road and with nowhere to go, flooded the already saturated ground.
Mounds of melting snow scattered along the fence lines where it sat
higher from the winter’s drifts, while matted yellow grass surfaced
across the front yard.
My tears receded and the pain inside me turned into a hollow emptiness.
I wished the tears would come back. At least then, I could feel
something. So many died and I knew I should be thankful, but couldn’t
help but think, I wasn’t much better off.
I would have settled to see just about anyone. However, there was one
person in particular I hoped to see again. Thoughts of a guy who used to
walk by my house entered my mind. Months passed since I saw him last,
that fateful day, the first day of September, the day my world ended.
He showed up not long before that, everything unsuspecting and normal. A
clear summer morning before the blistering heat grew unbearable, a month
before school started and the first day I noticed him. He had to be new
in town, because I knew just about everyone and I didn’t know him.
It started with a jump that my horse, Fire and I never missed. I counted
wrong and her hoof hit the pole. I stopped to fix it and saw him,
intrigued instantly by this stranger, I watched him as he passed by.
More days than not, I would look down the road and see him as he headed
up the same dusty path through the tall, uncut grass along the side of
the road and it became our silent routine. Me outside in our arena as I
exercised my horse. Then him, as he walked by my house, his destination,
to me, unknown.
When he didn’t walk by, something seemed out of place. I didn’t
realize how much I depended on seeing him pass by and I missed him. I
longed for that sense of normality his routine brought.
The memories lingered painfully. I sighed as I pulled my gaze from the
window. I absently twisted a strand of my hair as I looked around my
room. Nothing but reminders of a life I once had. My soccer trophies
cased in the wall shelving with a few ribbons and pictures of me and my
twin brother, Trey. Just underneath the shelves sat my soccer ball on
the floor, untouched since last September. My math book sat as a
constant reminder on my desk. A light dusting revealed how long it had
actually been since I opened it.
Movement outside drew my attention back to the window as a grey ford
pickup truck parked down the road. I’d seen it before and there was
nothing comforting about it, just eeriness from the silhouette of a dark
figure in the driver’s seat. My chest grew tight. Something unsettling
grew inside me, as the truck sat there again this morning, parked under
the shadows of the old maple tree two houses down and I knew it didn’t
belong. I noticed the truck there lately on occasion and only when Kane
Nine days passed since my oldest brother, Kane, headed south. He
promised he would be gone maybe a week and I wanted him to come home. He
warned me from the beginning, that our way of life changed instantly and
not for the better. The world grew dangerous quickly outside the walls
of our home and he didn’t want me outside.
Pulling me from my revery, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. I looked
back to see a somber face, my younger sister Emery. She put her head
against mine and wore the same worry in her hazel eyes that I felt
inside and I hoped that my expression didn’t show it. She ran her
fingers through my hair as she picked up a long blond strand and braided
“He’ll be home soon,” I said, answering Emery's question before
she asked. I forced a smile, and then noticed Trey, his arms crossed as
he leaned against the doorway.
“He’ll probably be back tonight,” he said.
She seemed a little less worried but I wondered what we would say if he
didn’t come home tonight. By the look Trey gave me, he thought the
same. However, at least for now, my sister seemed satisfied.
“Are you going to sit here all day?” He asked. I sighed, ignoring
his question as I turned back towards the window and slowly traced a
neverending swirl into the fogged glass. I did spend too much time up in
my room doing nothing but stare out the window when there were things
that needed attention. This winter had been hard on all of us and my far
from jubilant mood made me, in my own opinion, unpleasant to be around.
I couldn’t blame him.
“That grey truck is parked down the street in front of Zach’s house
I gave him a sidelong glance. Alarm surfaced in his eyes, and then he
walked through my room. He stretched across the window seat as he placed
a knee in the cushion and pressed his hands against the glass,
disrupting my perfect swirl, as he peered out the window. “Yeah,” he
said, and then glanced at me with an afterthought. “Zach hasn’t
lived in that house for almost ten years.”
“You know what I mean. Do you know who it is?”
“Maybe,” he said, his brows furrowed and the strain intensified his
green eyes, the same color as mine.
“Do you think he’s watching our house?”
“I don’t know… Come away from the window… We have plenty we need
to do, come on, I’ll help you,” he said, as he attempted to distract
me. I knew he worried about me, even more so since the truck started to
make an appearance.
“In a minute,” I said, grudgingly.
“One minute,” Trey said, with a huff and a stern glare, and then
left my room. The soft sounds of Emery humming behind me, oblivious to
our conversation of the truck as I looked outside.
I drew in a ragged breath as my heartbeat quickened in my chest. The
truck sat in the same spot, its rear window, completely unobscured and
the driver, the dark threatening figure, gone.
My panic grew. I looked closer, scanning across Mr. Taggart’s front
yard in search for him. I pressed my forehead against the cool glass and
strained to see as far to the side as I could, then down to the bend in
the road, no movement, nothing.
Alarm sounded in my mind through the buzzing silence and I grew
increasingly angry that Kane wasn’t home. The stranger couldn’t have
gone far, but wherever he was, I knew he shouldn’t be there.
As I debated, find Trey or continue my watch for the stranger, I
realized Emery’s humming stopped, with a sideways glance I looked to
see she had left my room. She straightened my bed up nicely and made it
look like she spent time making it. I turned away from the window and
sighed. I haven’t been the greatest sister during all of this. It was
still hard for her to understand the worldwide devastation the virus
caused. It’s been hard for all of us, but it was the hardest for
eleven-year old Emery.
I walked into the hall and stopped, briefly stunned by my image before
me in the mirror. Sallow-faced and thinner, my cheekbones looked more
pronounced from my waning appetite and dark circles formed under my eyes
from too much sleep and not enough fresh air. I felt weak, looked weak
and it irritated me.
I would have never let myself get to such a sad state before. As a
small, sixteen year old girl, I didn’t look like the tomboy type.
Thin, short and small boned, but growing up, I would much rather be out
with the boys than taking dance lessons. I was active, fit and
competitive, and took pride in my ability to beat them at their games.
I learned at a very early age that I needed to keep up. Trey and Kane
played rough and I learned to as well. They weren’t mean, and they
didn’t tease me, at least not to the point it wasn’t fun. They
looked out for me, especially Trey, and they still did, but differently.
Something changed between us as Kane kept us hidden and we spent the
winter trapped inside.
I glanced into my parents’ bedroom. She immediately glanced up from
their bed, waiting for me to walk by. I hesitated, wondering who needed
me more. Emery, or the truck with the missing driver, and I sighed and
walked into their room.
“I miss mom and dad,” she said, clutching a wooden picture frame
with an image of them in it, once perched on the lacey bedside table.
“I miss them too,” I replied, the springs to the old bed creaked as
I climbed onto it. She rolled over and curled up next to me.
Tears filled her hazel eyes and she blinked them away as I pulled a
blanket around us. The shock still raw for both of us, that they were
among the many that got sick. A pang of sadness stabbed in my chest. A
dull ache compared to the anguish I felt for months after. I closed my
eyes to see my mother’s face.
Her warm brown eyes with faint laugh lines at the corners were the color
of melting chocolate, warm and happy. Her natural giving spirit carried
an immeasurable strength and I wished I could possess just an ounce of
her strength as I searched for words of comfort for my little sister.
“Will we ever get to go back to school again, Jade?” Emery asked and
set the picture down on the table.
“I don’t know… I hope so.”
I sighed, the waver in my voice, thankfully, gone unnoticed. I knew the
answer to her question, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her we
wouldn't. The life she longed for of friends and school and security,
didn’t exist anymore.
I reached for a brush on the nightstand and pulled it softly through her
long, dark tousled hair.
The mention of school brought the memory of that guy to my mind again.
My high school experience lasted a two whole weeks, a drastic change
from junior high with a pleasant surprise. The stranger who passed by my
house, passed me in the halls at school. A senior and three grades older
than me, he had all the girls attention, so to talk to him and risk
public humiliation amongst my friends became rather quickly, completely
out of the question. Content to watch him from a distance, I did catch a
glimpse of him every day through the narrow crowded hallways at school.
He left the gym as I got there. His face looked heated, flushed with his
chest and arms pumped from an intensive workout, his dark hair damp from
“What are you thinking of?” Emery asked.
“No one… uh, nothing,” I fumbled, slightly startled as she pulled
me from my thoughts. She looked at me strangely.
His heart-melting smile made my stomach flip with the feel of
butterflies and chills that rushed down my spine when he flashed it my
way. Just the thought of him brought a whimsical smile to my face.
“Jade… You have that look on your face,” she said, she looked back
over her shoulder and gave me a mischievous grin.
“I do not,” I said, instantly on the defense. My cheeks flushed with
heat but I would never admit he filled my thoughts.
He looked at me differently than other guys did. Not the usual, like my
status as one of them, thanks to my reputation of being Trey’s twin
sister and the fact I’d grown up with all of them since kindergarten,
but like he saw me differently. Despite him being new around town, I saw
a familiarity in his eyes when they met mine, as if he knew me and I had
no idea how. Maybe from his walks by my house, but for some reason, that
didn’t feel like the cause.
“You zone out a lot lately,” Emery added, with a raise of her
eyebrows she interrupted my pleasant thoughts. “Kane said it’s not
healthy to dwell on what we don’t have anymore... but I don’t want
to forget it, Jade.”
“I know… me either,” I sighed, my smile faded, realizing I might
never get another chance to see him again. I wished I made some sort of
effort to smile back or hold his gaze longer. At the very least, say hi.
I thought I had plenty of time to get over my unusual shyness, the whole
school year to get the guts to talk to him. I had no idea a time would
come that I wouldn’t see him again, especially like this.
I pinched her playfully, distracting her to pull us from our melancholy
mood and unwilling to reveal my deepest thoughts. She giggled then
jumped up and grabbed her pillow. Wisps of her hair floated softly as
the pillow rushed through the air.
“Thanks,” I said, as I blocked it and placed it comfortably
“Hey that’s my pillow!”
She ripped it out from under me and with a whoosh, hit me upside the
head. “Pillow fight!” She squealed loudly and jumped to her knees.
I laughed at her and grabbed mine, returning the favor. The blows from
the soft fluffy pillows continued as she bounced on the bed. An
occasional fluff of downy soft feathers escaped into the air. We both
fell to the bed laughing as she hid her pillow under her body and curled
up next to me. The sadness in her eyes, lost in her smile, at least for
Bam! Bam! I gasped and whirled around towards the doorway, startled by
the sudden thud. Emery practically jumped out of her skin, terrified,
clutching her pillow. We still hadn’t become used to the ominous heavy
knock at the front door. I wondered if the stranger from the truck
finally made his appearance.
Kane and Trey were on guard almost constantly, the threat of looters,
very real. It was not about if someone would come, but when and how
many. I heard heavy thuds as Trey ran up from the basement.
“Em… Stay there! Jade…” Already off the bed, I met him in the
doorway as he handed me my rifle. “You know what to do…”
“Do you think it’s the guy from the truck?” I asked, slightly
panicked then followed Trey into the hall and stopped at the top of the
“I don’t know…quiet. It could be anybody,” Trey said, “if they
get past me-”
“Trey I know… Shoot them.”
The thought made me sick. Kane had to pull out his gun on more than one
occasion when transients came through. Some, who were like-minded,
stayed maybe a day while they searched and took possession of empty,
abandoned houses. Most people were desperate and begged for food, water
and maybe a night’s rest as they fled the big cities, which Kane gave
if they looked like decent people. A days’ supply in exchange for no
problems, continuing them on their way, but there were many times when
others wanted to take what wasn’t theirs. Kane and Trey learned
quickly they needed to protect what was ours and on more than a few
occasions, they did just that.
The rustic, knotty alder door creaked as Trey slowly swung it open. The
hinges needed oil but Kane left it like that on purpose. I watched from
the stairs, peering through the railing.
“I need to talk to Kane,” a man grumbled, around Kane’s age and
someone I’d never seen before. He stood just outside the door, his
dark hair short but unkempt and not the cleanest in appearance.
“He’s not here,” Trey said, his back to me. His expression,
unseen, but by the stoic tone in his voice, I grew wary of our
“When’ll he be back?”
“He didn’t say.”
“Who’s here with you?”
The man reached for the screen that separated him and Trey. I clutched
my rifle tightly in my trembling hands.
“You can stay right where you are... What do you need?” Trey said
firmly, my heart surged in my chest.
The man paused and tried to look inside as Trey closed the door slightly
to limit his view. I couldn’t see him anymore, but heard him say,
“just tell him Rubin stopped by, Dale Morrison wants to talk to
him.” He chuckled, and then I saw him through the window as he walked
down the driveway.
“That was strange,” I said as I walked slowly down the stairs.
Trey just nodded, a little irritated as he took my rifle.
“Who was he?”
“I don’t know,” Trey said. “I’m going to feed the horses so
lock the door behind me.”
“No you’re not.”
“Lock the door, Jade… And stay inside, away from the window.”
He glared at me until I finally nodded. I followed him towards the back
door and stopped at the table. I felt reluctant to agree, but only
because I was sick of being stuck inside and I didn’t want him to
leave by himself. No way would he let me go, I knew that, and not just
because Emery would be left alone.
I watched Trey through the double paned kitchen window as he jogged
through the light misty rain through the fields, the opposite direction
of the barn. Frustrated, I sighed as I leaned over the sink to get a
better look. I knew by the determined look on his face when he left he
was headed somewhere else and I watched him disappear down the wooded
trail at the back of our property.
I turned from the sink and walked through the kitchen. I stopped next to
my mom's china hutch and leaned up against it as I looked through the
front room to the door. Trey had returned my rifle to its usual place,
safely propped in the corner, mainly for Emery and me since Kane and
Trey sported arms at all times.
Despite Trey’s meaningful threat, I drew my gaze to the big bay
window. I moved towards it and pushed the sheer curtains back. With the
window inches from my nose, I looked through my faint reflection as my
breath clouded the glass. I balled my fingers and with the side of my
palm, cleared a circle of the condensed moisture causing the pane to
squeak. I shuddered at the sound and looked across the yard, down the
road. The grey pickup, gone.
Excerpted from "The Color of Jade (Jade Series Book 1)" by Mae Redding. Copyright © 2015 by Mae Redding. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.