In the After
We are holed up in a basement near the park, waiting for day to end.
    You’re not exactly lemon fresh yourself , I inform her.
    We need to wash our clothes too . She tugs at her shirt, stained with sweat and dust.
    I agree. I feel so gross. It’s taking me a while to work things out. We can go to the lake tonight and take a swim , I suggest at last. It is creepy to be out in the open like that, but I am pretty sure They don’t like large bodies of water. We’ve gone to the lake to retrieve drinking water, but I don’t want to run into any other survivors. Not yet anyway.
    I don’t know how to swim , Baby signs.
    You don’t have to swim. We’ll go to the beach. You can just stand in the water. It will be like a big tub .
    Can we bring soap? Baby asks.
    Sure. Why not?
    But we drink that water . She shakes her head. I smile. If she knew the sign for duh , she would have made it.
    We’ll bathe far from where we get water for drinking. It’s a big lake, Baby .
    Maybe —she looks at me slyly— you can teach me to swim .
    No. It would be too much noise , I explain. Baby frowns and twirls her hair. She’s started pulling out strands lately. I tell her to stop, but she still tugs at it when she thinks I’m not looking.
    Leave your hair alone. Do you want to be bald?
    She pouts. She looks at her book for a while, then signs, I’m hungry .
    It’s not dark yet. You can’t eat . Usually before daybreak I unwrap some food for us to eat, but I didn’t have a chance to last night. We barely found the basement in time. It is the closest we’ve ever cut it to being out at first light.
    Baby pulls at her hair again. I don’t know if it is from the stress or the boredom, but she needs something more than surviving the day. I need something more too. We are stuck.

    The lake is beautiful at night, even a dark, cloudy night like tonight. It’s strange to see the city skyline illuminated only by faint moonlight. Gone are the days of light pollution, and I wish I could remember the last time I saw the city at night from the lake, and who I was with. Fourth of July with my father? Out during the summer with Sabrina?
    We avoid the harbor area, where boats, half sunk, jut dangerously from the water. They could not survive the first winter in the ice-covered lake. Later I may look for a lifeboat or a dingy, something to take Baby out farther into the water.
    It’s cold . The way Baby moves her hands is the sign language equivalent of shouting.
    It’s good . I’ve already dunked myself in the water and am trying to convince Baby to wade in deeper than her ankles. If you just come in a little more, you’ll get used to it .
    She folds her arms across her chest and moves a little farther into the water. She’s shivering. I hold out my hand to her. She was happy to strip down for relief from the sweltering, humid heat, but when faced with the cold expanse of water, she shied away.
    Come on, don’t be afraid .
    I’m not afraid . She inches forward, taking small, dramatic steps.
    If you come out here I’ll wash your hair . I hold the bottle of shampoo up and shake it temptingly.
    Oh, all right . She plunges into the water, splashing slightly. I eye the shore. We aren’t being very loud, but I’m still concerned. I don’t know if They can swim.
    Baby’s eyes are distractingly white, reflecting the moon. I can’t help but think how eerie it is, as she makes her way toward me. She blinks and her eyes look normal again, a trick of the light.
    I stand where I know her head will be above the water. Her teeth chatter slightly with the shock of the cold and she opens her mouth wide to stop the noise.
    You’ll be warm once you get used to it , I tell her. I squirt the shampoo into my hand and massage it onto her head. We can do this every night in the summer, but maybe we will get used to a bath once a week during the cool months,

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