40 Chapter Forty - Baking away Unhappy Thoughts

    Autumn quietly rose from her bed and tip toed out of the room that she was sharing with the older woman.  She hadn't slept well, her mind replaying the scenes of the day before over and over, causing her to be unable to settle.  A thought of irony caused her plump lips to curve slightly; finding this place, being welcomed here and having the ability to sleep in a bed rather than on a narrow sofa in the R.V... and yet still suffering from insomnia.

    She and the rest of Jonah's people had settled in the west side of the property; partially as most of the bedrooms in the east side had been claimed.  The other reason, she felt, was likely a question of trust.  Those men had been here a while and had developed a good relationship amongst themselves; they'd worked together to make this place safe and more secure.  It seemed a wonderful place to live.  But as welcoming as they had been to Jonah, herself, her cousin and the others, there was bound to be friction in the beginning.  No one could guarantee that everybody was on the same page.

    The stairs squeaked beneath her weight as she slowly stepped downstairs and she flinched and bit her lower lip, but no one came to question her, so she continued to make her way downstairs.  She had always been of heavier build, curvy and plush, her daddy used to say when mummy compared her once more to her willowy cousin.  And even though she had lost weight due to the lack of substantial food after the end, she was still not a slim girl.  Her inability to reproduce the waif-like figure that Brooke had weighed upon her mind as heavily as her body did upon scales.

    Her old habit probably did not help.

    The kitchen had always been her haven and whenever she was upset or feeling low, she would almost automatically wander into it, open the cupboards and take out a few things.  It had been a while though.  When she had attended university, before the apocalypse, she had lived in a shared house and the tiny kitchen always seemed to have someone occupying it; boiling the kettle for a cuppa or for pot noodles, making a sandwich or heating up a microwaveable meal.

    And then her mother had called and told her that Brooke was very ill and could she look after her cousin.  "I know I can rely on you, Autumn," her mother had told her.  "I would take care of her myself, but your grandmother is also very sick and we need to drive up to Manchester to take care of her.  You understand, right?"

    You understand, right... she had heard those words many, many times in the last decade or so Brooke's parents have died in an accident, so she'll be coming to stay with us.  She had a much bigger room at her old home, so we think it's best if you give up your room and move into the smaller room this time, you understand, right?  I know you love that doll, but think about Brooke, what she has had to give up, you understand, right?  The last cookie?  There will be more in the future, let Brooke have it this time, you understand right?

    Even her mother's last words... Please, take care of Brooke, she's your cousin, you understand, right?

    Throwing the dough upon the lightly floured side, Autumn kneaded all of her frustrations, her sadness and melancholy into it.  She didn't blame her mother, though, not really.  They had all become used to revolving around Brooke; poor orphaned Brooke, who had to move in with her Aunt, Uncle and Cousin at the tender age of seven.  She was pitiful, right?  Didn't have parents, didn't have friends as she was too pretty, didn't have the head for academics nor the talents in practical things like cooking... but she could sing and had her looks... Autumn's mother said that Brooke was born to be a star.

    Cooking, cooking was Autumn's thing, but that still did not her mother happy.  With her size, being surrounded by the temptation of food was surely not a good thing, right?  Her fingers slid against the smooth dough with satisfaction, before she placed it into the bowl to rise, a clean tea towel covering it.  Ah, how long had it been since she had made bread?  The squad were not chefs, did not cook at all.  When they gathered food, it was mostly bulk rice, pasta and tinned food.  Things that could be heated up and eaten.  No real skills involved.  She had once tried to volunteer to cook, at the beginning, but Brooke had wanted them both to be cautious, integrate well with the others, so that they were not abandoned and Brooke had completed her own wish by climbing into bed with Jonah.

    Autumn didn't blame her for seeking shelter in the older man's arms.  He was strong, a bit fierce looking, but had a good heart.  And Brooke was not so strong in personality to weather the storm brought by the end by herself.  When they had first discovered that the illness that they had thought was just one of those viral things that seemed to make waves over the population like colds and sickness bugs, they had no idea it would lead to so much death... and worse.

    Thankfully, when Autumn had left university on leave to take care of Brooke, she had brought with her plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and other things.  Sure enough, Brooke's fridge had a couple of shop bought salads and soups, but not a lot else.  Autumn had also brought with her many bottles of mountain spring water as she recalled that Brooke did not like to drink tap water.  Her cousin's fickle habit was probably what saved them in the end, though.

    Autumn glanced towards the electric oven, which she knew would not work and then to the range cooker behind her.  Shaun's friend, Paul, had cooked stir fry vegetables on that, right?  They had been a little bland, but filling with the rice and frankly the refreshing taste of crisp vegetables without the processed flavour was still a delightful change to Autumn's tastebuds.  But she had never used a range before.  She'd heard that they remain 'on' though, that they constantly burned fuel.  Carefully, she opened the oven door with an oven glove and instantly felt the heat.

    She sighed in wonder.  It was no wonder the ugly thoughts within every person's heart awakened yesterday.  These people lived too enviously.

    As a former police officer, Jonah recognised that his men (and women) must have these thoughts; how dare these guys live so well when so many others were struggling!  Dark thoughts were human nature and human nature was at its darkest when things were difficult.  Worse, perhaps, when survival was at the forefront of people's minds.  Jonah also believed that not recognising their own unpleasant sides would actually make them more likely to act out; to put into action the nasty thoughts that might be morally wrong.

    Such as; why do we not rule this piece of paradise?

    So they had gathered in the large downstairs bedroom that Shaun had claimed for himself to speak of those thoughts and settle their hearts before things came to a head.

    Which was part of the reason that they had gathered in the large downstairs bedroom that Shaun had claimed for himself, to discuss things, to sound out their minds before those opinions caused friction.  Likely, they already knew what the outcome of this meeting would be, but clearing the air first would settle all of them.

    Autumn, herself, hadn't intend to add any arguments or doubts.  Her thoughts were simple; to continue to live quietly and not make unnecessary waves.  Well, it would be good if she could cook.

    "Dexter and the other's truly landed on their feet," Jimmy had sighed as he stroked the thick pile carpet beneath his legs.  "A house filled with luxury and a garden filled with food."

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    "Luxury is overrated," Monika had sneered, pushing the man lightly.  "Stupidly big television screens, chandeliers, clawfeet bathtubs... so what!  If it had been before the end, we would have arrested them for squatting!"

    There had been a few snickers at her joke.  "Seriously though, can you really call it squatting now?" Jimmy had asked.  "I mean, what does 'ownership' mean nowadays.  Not like anyone will do anything about deeds and rights."  He had been pressing for someone else to say the words, not comfortable to be the one...

    "Want to claim all of the assets and usurp the throne?" Cole had asked with a dark tone.  Autumn had not been entirely surprised that he had been the one to say these words.  Those dark thoughts... they all had them, but dare not voice them.  So Cole would often play the villain.  Perhaps this was as he had been viewed this way for a while, being a convicted criminal, but Autumn felt that he was misunderstood.  She could accept that he had done horrible things in the past, he had spent eighteen months in jail after all, but that didn't mean he was a totally bad person.  He had fought for their safety just as much as his comrades, even pushed her out of harms way once.  Bad people don't tend to save others when there is no reason to do so.

    "I get the impression that Dexter and the others are protective of that young man," Eraj mentioned.

    "That's not really surprising when you consider he is the one who has grown all of that food!" Monika had pointed out.  "Who wouldn't look after a person who could help keep their stomachs full?"  Relying on prepackaged things only helped a person so long.

    "Pfft," Eraj had pouted, slightly. "You guys never considered looking after the I.T. Department when we were the only ones helping you keep your computers working!"

    "Aw, there, there," Shaun teased, leaning over the side of his chair to pat Eraj on the head.  The dark-eyed man flinched and flicked his hand away with a growl.  The silliness eased the atmosphere once more.  "Obviously, despite my greatness, sitting on Nathan's little throne doesn't interest me.  There's no wheels attached to a throne.  So I'm all for going with the flow and eating one of Paul's stir-fries.  It's been a while."

    "Who said you should sit on the throne?" Brooke had teased, slightly sharply as her hand ran up Jonah's chest.  "Surely, that's my man's place!"  Jonah's had eyes softened and he had kissed her forehead, affectionately.  But behind her back, several eyes had rolled heavenward and Jimmy had fake gagged.  Even now, Autumn felt her lips twitching in amusement of the memory.

    "I'd say Jonah's more a minister of war or justice type of person," Shaun had continued to joke.  "Someone who would ensure the safety of the Empire and its people with his actions, rather than sit on a hard throne and make everyone do his bidding."

    "He's not wrong," Jonah had rubbed the stubble upon his face, before squeezing gentle the woman in his arms and saying; "But you'll always be my Empress."

    "Now I really think I'm going to be sick!" Jimmy had claimed.  They had continued to discuss things for a while, but not everything was settled as they had been called for dinner.  And perhaps because things had been left that way, Autumn hadn't felt right, had felt like an intruder in the other squad's turf.  Hence why she was placing a loaf-tin filled with bread dough into the oven and thinking over just what she could bake next...
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