She could see why Baby preferred Mia. It didn’t matter that Charlie wad the one that had found her, didn’t matter that without Charlie, Baby would undoubtedly be dead on Shuck Street, or, best case scenario be wandering the giant building’s halls living on food scraps and sleeping with feral dogs. It didnt matter that Charlie had introduced her to Mia, cautiously, to protect her.
Within hours of meeting, Baby was trying to sit in Mia’s lap, curling tiny fingers around Mia’s thick black tendrils of hair with curiosity. Mia was instantly and without hesitation warm and motherly. Charlie was mesmerized by her transition into a cooing, baby-talking mommy, all smiles and shushes, delicately pulling Baby’s fine hairs out of her face. She could have sworn Mia’s breasts even grew into more voluptuous, and more comforting, as she snuggled Baby into them.
Drawing in a breath of cool air, she watched them sleep. The orange glow of the dying fire made both of their faces look flushed and young. Mia looked almost as sweet and tender as Baby. Maybe that was the kinship they had. Maybe Mia seemed so young that she felt like a sister.
Baby’s face intermittently puckered as she sucked her thumb in her sleep. A bead of drool collected under her protruded lip. Mia’s hair fell around both of their faces, peaceful while they slept. Charlie pulled the surplus jacket she had kept for herself tighter around her shoulders.
Had it been a month? The weather hadn’t changed much from hot days and warm nights, but the light hours were shrinking. In a month she had become almost an outsider from the two people she felt responsible for.
It would be getting cold soon. Unless they were further south than she thought. The landscape had turned from a dirty city scape into a trash strewn, barren landscape. They were following an old highway, but in some act of nonsensical vandalism, every sign had been removed. A few had been moved to the wrong location (thankfully it was obvious in each instance.)
And some days, particularly when Baby was cranky, they only made it what she guessed were a few miles. Other days it felt like they covered five times that, alternating carrying Baby every few hours. But as every day became more similar they all started to blur together. It was impossible to gauge how much ground they were covering, and at this point, she wasn’t even sure how much time had passed.
But they were headed in the right direction. The pull of The Compound was stronger every day. Mia swore she couldn’t feel it. But Charlie felt it like a swelling in her chest and throat, sometimes it made it hard to catch her breath. And she thought Baby could sense it too, in ways Mia didn’t notice. It seemed likely that Baby was modified like Charlie. She didn’t want to bring it up, but that would be an issue they would have to deal with as they drew closer to the border.
But for now, she was wrapped safely in Mia’s warm arms. Turning to the sky, she slowlybdrifted into a restful sleep.