“A lady shouldn’t smoke,” Remy muttered as the camper bumped along down the rough road. She stared out the window and watched the sun setting, painting the desert orange and pink.
“What was that?” Angel spat as she turned her head to glance in the back. Between her teeth she pinched the nastiest of cigars; the sickly sweet smoke filled the camper with a thick fog. Her feet were propped on the dash as she shuffled a worn deck of playing cards. Her face was dirty, her finger nails dirtier, and her scowl made her look more than her seventeen years.
“Nothing,” Remy cleared her throat, “are we stopping before we get back to camp?”
“No stops,” The driver announced.
Both Remy and Angel huffed and shuffled in their seats. “Come on, Tara,” Angel whined, “I want to look through that haul before we take it in. There might be something I ‘need’.”
“I want to get this box open before we get back. I want to see what’s inside it.” Remy said quietly, as she pried at the lock on the front of the old rusty box. “Maybe it’s important.”
Tara laughed, “Important?” she tested, “ It’s probably someone’s birth certificate or marriage license, old tax forms, social security cards…”
“Social what?” Remy interrupted.
“It’s nothing. It’s ALL nothing”
They drove in silence. Remy continued to dig at the lock until a loud snap finally broke the silence, and the boxed opened. “Oh, wow!” she exclaimed.
Tara quickly stopped the vehicle, climbed into the back, and huddled next to Remy; Angel followed.
Remy pulled a crudely bound book from the box; the thickly laminated pages were held together by three metal rings. The pages were grouped into three sections: “past”, “present”, “future”.
“Comic books,” Tara gasped and she lovingly took the book from Remy, “My brother use to have so many of these… before the evacuation. I used to sneak them out of his room.” She was staring at the pages with tears in her eyes.
“I’ve heard of those,” Remy whispered, “My grandmother said my dad used to collect them when he was little, but I’ve never seen one.”
“This isn’t just one,” Tara continued, ”it’s many.” She began flipping through the pages excitedly. “Look, this is the Silver Surfer… and this is Super Man… and this…”
“Who’s that?” Angel smacked her hand on a page of a girl with blue hair, eye patch, and a cigar hanging from her lips “… is that a kangaroo?”
“No idea,” Tara said, “this is amazing; we should keep it.”
“We?” Remy quickly snatched the book from Tara and clutched it to her chest, “I found it. It’s mine.” She had found this book, she had dug it out of the rubble, and she had insisted on opening the box.
“Hey, we are to turn in all findings. You know the rules,” Tara snapped.
Remy was shaking, “You wanted to keep it a second ago!”
“I think we should ALL keep it,” Angel broke in, “it’s not a real book, we can divide it up… share it.”
Remy shook her head, “I found it!”
“We split it up,” came the steady Tara, “or we turn it in.”
It was final. Tara took the book and opened the rings that bound the slick pages together. She removed each section, keeping “past” for herself, handing “present” to Remy, and leaving “future” for Angel.
“I want ‘future’!” Remy whined.
Mischief played on Angel’s face, “Play me for it,” she smiled as she pulled the dirty cards from her pocket.
Hours passed as the girls sat at the make shift table fashioned from old wooden crates. Hand after hand was played, Angel’s pile growing larger than the other two as they played into the night.
Tara stood up from the table and stretched, “We need to call it a night…”
“No,” Remy screeched, “I only have a few pages left. I need a chance to win back my pages.”
“Not tonight, Rem. We’ve lost a lot of time, so we need to get up in a few hours and head on back. They are already expecting us.”
Remy grabbed her small pile of pages and stomped to the front and climbed into her cubby over the cab. The last thing she heard was Angel gloating over her winnings.
Morning came too soon, and the usual groaning erupted from Angel. After a few minutes, groaning gave way to swearing and then anger, as she pushed through the camper looking for something.
“What’s your problem?” Tara asked returning from checking the load preparing to leave.
Angel’s face was contorted and her eyes wild, “Where is she?”
Tara looked around, “what did she do?”
Angel roared as she burst out of the cabin, “Remy!”
Remy was nowhere to be seen. Angel spent several minutes screaming her name and kicking up the desert around their camper before climbing into the passenger side of their vehicle.
“We can’t go after her,” Tara stated.
“Good... because if I find her, I will KILL her.”
“She’s only fifteen,” Tara was disgusted and stared out the window.
“A thief is a thief… she better hope I don’t see her again.”
Tara started the camper and pulled out onto the dusty road. Quietly, she slipped her left hand into the slit in the door to make sure her pages were still there. With a sigh of relief, and a burden lifted, she slowly accelerated down the road.
Remy watched them pull away from her hiding place; an alcove carved into the side of a large rock. She didn’t care. She stared at the pages spread around her; memorizing each one, and began to plan how she would make her collection whole again.