After three hours standing guard and a few words with his replacement, Matt returned to the office and spread out on his cot with his hands under his head. He watched hints of dawn spill through the picture window. After a time, Matt realized he was anxious to get the day started as he lay there, plotting and planning while he waited for the house to wake.

The sound of small bare feet padded down the hall. Amy shushed the baby in her arms as she made her way to the kitchen. Matt turned to look through the doorway and saw Amy slide Claire into a highchair that Jake had brought back on one of the supply runs.

Amy warmed a bottle on the stove then used the milk to make a small bowl of dry cereal. She poked a spoonful of the wet-paper looking concoction at Claire’s mouth. Claire stuck out her tongue and let the glob of brown splat on the tray. She slid an open hand through the glob smearing the sludge across the white plastic.

“Claire….” Amy chided. “You have to eat.” She reached into a cabinet, retrieved a jar of baby fruit then disguised the next bite of cereal with a covering of the fruit.  The response was a second lump of baby food on the tray.

Matt got to his feet and padded into the kitchen on bare feet. “We got a problem in here?”

Amy looked up exasperated. “She won’t eat her cereal.”

Matt dipped his finger in the cereal and stuck it into his mouth. He made a face and tickled Claire’s chin. “It tastes terrible.” Amy’s eyes grew big, and Matt laughed. He opened the refrigerator and took out three eggs. “You go get dressed, and I’ll make you girls some scrambled eggs.” He grinned at Amy. “You like scrambled eggs, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.” Amy ran from the room, her bare feet barely making a sound.

Matt sprayed the pan with non-stick then placed it on a lit gas burner. He broke all three eggs into a bowl and used a fork to assault them. Finding a box of powdered milk, Matt added a white powder to an old juice bottle of cold water, shook the jar, then added some of the liquid to the eggs before pouring some in Amy’s cup. He poured the eggs into the skillet and then turned around to make a pot of coffee.

When Amy reappeared dressed in shorts and a sports shirt, Matt had the table set and a plate of scrambled eggs in front of each of the girls. Clare dug into the pile of eggs with both hands and pushed a hand-full after handful into her mouth. She licked at the yellow lump, swallowed, and grinned as she reached for another handful of scrambled eggs.

Matt stepped to the stove and poured a fresh cup of coffee. He turned back to see Amy with her head bowed and hands folded.

“And bless, mommy, daddy, Daddy Matt, Mr. Larry and Mr. Jake, Ms. Amanda, and the new baby.” Amy looked up and smiled sweetly. “Oh, and please help us get to grampy’s house soon.”

“Eat your eggs before they get cold,” Matt ordered a little more gruffly than he intended. After a few minutes of awkward silence, he spoke again. “I’m going to be gone for a day or two. When I get back and get things squared away, we’re going to head to your grandfather’s place. I’m going to need you to pack for you and Claire. Maybe Ms. Amanda can help you get together what we’ll need to make the trip.

“Yes, sir,” Amy answered with a big smile.

“Good morning.” Amanda with her newborn in her arms appeared with Jake close on her heels. She passed the baby to Jake and turned to pour a cup of coffee and put on a pot of water to boil. “Glad you noticed the eggs. Claire is getting a little picky about breakfast lately.”

“Not the little man here.” Jake laughed. “He knows exactly what he wants.”

Amanda slapped at Jake’s arm with a wide grin. “Shush.”

Matt chuckled. “Amanda, you need to be at the meeting today. Everyone that hasn’t been training will need to start. As soon as you’re able, that means you, too. In the meantime, Jake can teach you gun safety then hit the target range and use an air gun to get a feel for shooting.”

Amanda nodded. “Jake explained the plan, and I agree. I want to be able to protect my son and myself. We had no chance at the park because the civilians were all helpless. Military took all the weapons.”

When he had finished his coffee, Matt picked up Claire and walked out into the morning sun. Jake and Amanda followed behind, chatting together and fussing over the new baby.

Amy picked up the carrier and followed close behind chattering as they walked. “Mr. Larry brought Claire Bear new shoes. He brought baby Alex shoes too, but they’re way too big.”

Matt led the small group to the food truck where taquitos were being served for breakfast.

He stationed himself at the side of the serving window greeting each of the residents coming for their breakfast. Maggie, the women rescued from the mad preacher, and the girls that composed her new family walked toward the residents looking a little uncertain. They each looked clean and well-rested but had not lost the haunted look on their faces. Matt waved them toward the serving window. “Come on over. We line up and get meals from the food truck.”

Doc, his wife, and granddaughters appeared at the front of their trailer and crossed the grounds to meet Matt. “Well, young man, you have quite a set up here. Thank you for the trailer. It’ll do fine for the four of us. The FEMA trailer next to it will do just fine for my medical office. If we can get someone handy with a hammer to help remove the bed in the bedroom, I think with some Texas engineering we can set up an exam room. Meanwhile, the wife and girls can spend the morning sorting and set up supplies. I imagine we can start treating patients this afternoon.”

Matt nodded. “You can make an announcement at the meeting right after breakfast. We’re asking everyone to be there.”

“No problem, young man. If you’ll excuse us, I see a couple taquitos with my name on them.” Doc chuckled as he turned and headed to the serving window.

“Y’all enjoy your breakfast,” Matt answered.

Jake led Amanda to a concrete picnic table and helped Amy set Claire’s carrier on the seat then spent a few minutes fussing over her. Amy settled next to carrier and placed a bottle on the table. He slid Claire into the chair and buckled the harness. “Will you girls be okay while I get some breakfast.”

Amy nodded. “I’m a good babysitter.” She handed Clare the bottle then looked up smiling. “Can I have one?”

“You’re a bottomless pit, pumpkin. With catsup or hot sauce?”

“Hot sauce, please.” She answered with a grin.

Matt laughed as he headed for the food truck. Jake quickened his steps to elbow Matt and comment as they walked away. “You’re just downright domesticated.” He laughed.

“And look who’s talking.” Matt jabbed back.

By eight o’clock, everyone in the camp had made it through the breakfast line, and except for three of the men who’d had breakfast delivered because they were standing watch at the gates and front road. Jasper called the meeting to order. After a few internal matters had been addressed and the introduction of the newest arrivals, the meeting was turned over to Matt.

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