Harriet whipped her head around and shook free from her girlfriend’s grasp.
“Do not-“ Nasreen began, but she didn’t have a chance to finish the sentence as Harriet sprinted away.
Harriet had seen something that made her heart pound. It was not the actual zombies closing in on her, but instead a tube of lipstick on a display case.
The pair were downtown on a scavenging mission and they had found their way into a mall.
Most of the food in the grocery store down the hall had been picked over so Harriet and Nasreen had planned to reach the roof from the department store which was on the other side of the mall.
When Harriet had noticed the almost intact makeup display she had made her choice. You can’t fight zombies if you aren’t cute.
Harriet cracked a baseball bat over a zombie’s head and the zombie staggered backwards and slumped to the ground.
She reached for the tube on the counter and pocketed it in a swift motion, turning back to where Nasreen was fighting off another few.
Their rotting flesh was seriously gross, but Harriet was used to fighting them. Another one came at her from the left and she kicked it in the leg.
The best part about zombies was their weak bones. The leg cracked under the pressure and the zombie fell. She punched yet another and continued her assault on the crowd.
“What is wrong with you?” Nasreen asked when Harriet ran past her.
“Come on,” Harriet yelled back.
Nasreen grunted in frustration and continued after her. They sprinted up the broken escalator and up yet another flight of stairs until they burst onto the roof.
They were temporarily blinded as their eyes, used to the dim light of the mall, adjusted to the bright of day.
In the downtown core Harriet, Nasreen, and the survivors they camped with had devised an elaborate series of bridges arching over the downtown core.
Harriet stepped onto one, scurrying over the lane way between that building and the next. They continued their rooftop trek until they reached a fire escape and Harriet released the ladder.
They slid down the ladder and Nasreen pulled her onto their motorcycle.
“Ready?” Nasreen asked.
Both their bags were now stuffed with essentials like food, weapons, and clothing but Harriet patted her pocket where her new treasure was.
She replied, “Yes,” with a smile.
Nasreen kicked the vehicle into gear and they roared off back to camp.
Harriet looked over the hand mirror at the unzipping tent flap. Nasreen poked her head inside, grunting as she shook free from her shoes.
Nasreen crawled inside and shut the tent flap behind herself. Harriet dug around in her makeup bag, looking for the perfect eyeshadow to match her lipstick. Nasreen watched her quietly.
Harriet pulled an eyeshadow case from the bag and swore when she saw it was broken. She set it aside.
“Is it worth it?” Nasreen asked.
“Is what worth it?” Harriet retorted, not looking at Nasreen as she opened her mouth and pulled the mirror closer, eyes widening as she placed a mascara wand to her lower lashes.
“The makeup, the shaving, the…you know,” she said, flapping a hand at Harriet’s bag of makeup.
Harriet looked over at Nasreen, “Why do you keep bringing this up?”
Nasreen pulled her legs close to her chest and rested her chin on her knees, “I was so happy to give up the performance when life changed to be this way.
It’s not like I’m going to be bullied for choosing bullets over blush anymore.”
“Look,” Harriet said, “It’s like, I was always feminine.
When things were normal…when we were just dumb teenagers with no responsibilities…I liked shaving my pits and putting on makeup and stuff.
I know everyone says women are pressured to be feminine, but I really did like feeling pretty. I guess this is my way of coping or something.”
Nasreen cocked her head to the side, “I would still think you’re pretty even if you had hairy armpits and a unibrow.”
“I know but I might not.”
Nasreen frowned, “Oh.”
Harriet picked up the lipstick by where she was kneeling, “I haven’t used this brand in years. It was always too expensive.”
“Hey…I think I know that brand.”
Harriet looked up at Nasreen.
“Yeah,” Nasreen said, “I’ve worn it before.”
Harriet laughed, “You never wore makeup.”
“No, I did, really. I wore it to my cousin’s wedding!” Nasreen replied. She had a half-smile on her face, but it faded after a second, “I haven’t seen her since before it happened.”
Harriet placed the lipstick in her bag and took up Nasreen’s hand. Nasreen stared at the makeup bag. She looked ready to tear up.
Harriet reached for her hand and Nasreen gripped Harriet’s with white knuckles.
“You can try it on if you’d like,” Harriet said quietly.
Nasreen shook her head, “I’d probably overapply it and end up looking like a clown.”
“I know a different way we could apply it,” Harriet said slyly.
Nasreen turned towards her and Harriet leaned in for a kiss. When they broke apart Harriet laughed when she saw Nasreen’s face. Nasreen snorted out a laugh in return.
“It smeared,” Harriet explained.
“I don’t care. Come here.”
Harriet climbed into Nasreen’s lap and they kissed again. Inside Harriet knew that the makeup meant nothing.
She knew Nasreen was right and that earlier in the day risking herself for a stupid tube of lipstick was pointless in the long run, but she needed it more than she wanted to admit.
It was a tether to normalcy, a relic steeped in memories of before the world went mad.