The apartment was small but tidy and Cloe loved her room. She had a beautiful old bed that had once belonged to her grandmother and she loved to sit on it and look out of the window to the building opposite. Her best friend Sylvie lived across the road and they could wave at each other and make silly faces after they were meant to be tucked up in bed.
Cloe relished her time in her room. Her mother Dessie was always at work and Cloe was the one that had to do all the cleaning. So her time alone was precious and she loved having the chance to play with her dolls and pretend to do the cooking without actually having to do it though she was sure it wouldn’t be too much longer before Dessie asked her to start making the supper.
Sylvie would invite Cloe around for sleepovers whenever she was allowed and Cloe really enjoyed the time she spent in Sylvie’s apartment. Life was different across the road as both Sylvie’s parents spent a lot more time at home than Cloe’s did and Sylvie had 2 little brothers who Cloe loved to play with.
Dessie did all she could to make sure that Cloe was well-fed and clothed but her job as a check-out girl didn’t pay too much and her husband Larry made sure that he spent most of the family income on beer down at the Y.
Larry was a good father when he wasn’t drunk. Cloe loved him dearly and didn’t mind too much when she would have to clean up his sick-stained clothes. But it was her mother that she idolised. Dessie was everything that Cloe wanted to be. Young and pretty and popular with everyone in the neighbourhood. And boy could she sing! Cloe’s favourite time was when she was in the bath and Dessie would sing as she washed her daughter’s hair.
Cloe just wished that her mother could be home more often as she wanted more than anything to spend all the time in the world with her beloved mother.
School was good and although Cloe wasn’t the best student in the world she did try hard and as a result was popular with the teachers. Sylvie and Cloe had their own group of girls who hung out at lunchtime and played skipping games and hopscotch.
Cloe lived in her own little bubble of school and friends and playing with her dolls. She did not spend much time at all watching television as her father (when he wasn’t out at the Y) would take it over to watch the racing. So it struck her as more than a little weird when she first noticed a tank rolling ominously through the streets one sunny summers day.
Larry wasn’t too fazed although he was surprised that his daughter hadn’t seen any news or read any papers and said that the army had been monitoring the city for a while. Hadn’t she heard of the Virus?
Cloe had heard of it because Mrs. Nelson from down the hall had gone into hospital the week before. But what that had to do with the army she didn’t know!
When Larry started to come home and was sick without even having been drinking at the Dessie started to get worried. She had been aware that more and more of the neighbours were going into hospital - and not coming back - and she was getting more and more concerned as customers were stockpiling groceries at the store and a group of kids had taken to the streets screaming about power and chaos.
Cloe remained blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world and thought that her father had some kind of sicky bug. She thought that the sirens she could hear at night were just the police.
It wasn’t until Larry started to stay home from work and sit in the bathroom for hours at a time that she realised that something more sinister was going on. Dessie sat with her daughter one night to break the news to her - Larry wasn’t going to make it. Cloe cried for what seemed like hours, days even but she snapped out of it abruptly when Sylvie phoned one afternoon.
Sylvie had some more bad news to break to her but this time it was anger instead of tears that tore Cloe apart. Sylvie was leaving the city with her family before any of them grew sick. She had an auntie up north who lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere and Sylvie’s parents thought that this would be the safest place for them all to go.
Cloe’s shouts of despair brought Dessie rushing in to see what was happening and she grabbed the phone out of Cloe’s hands. Dessie pleaded with Sylvie’s parents to take Cloe with them, to the safety of the countryside. Cloe couldn’t believe what she was hearing! Her own mother was trying to get rid of her!
In growing anger Dessie realised that her pleas were futile. Sylvie’s parents wouldn’t take Cloe with them because Larry had contracted the Virus and they were scared that Cloe might be a carrier. Dessie hung up and then hurled the phone against the wall, breaking down in tears. She and Cloe clung to each other - Cloe sobbing in fear and frustration. Her best friend was leaving, her father was growing sicker by the day and her own mother wanted her gone. Dessie tried to comfort her daughter, explaining that all she wanted was for her to be safe.
As darkness fell, Cloe hugged her mother fiercly and they fell asleep in each other’s arms. When Cloe awoke, tear stained and feeling sick from crying so much she noticed that her mother had blood streaming out of her ears. She screamed out in terror and as Dessie opened her eyes and felt the warmth of the blood on her face she knew that she would not be long for this world.
Cloe was beside herself with fear. How would she survive without her parents? How could she even begin to want to live without them?
After she had attended the mass burial and said goodbye to her parents Cloe wandered the city in a state of disbelief. She lived in the streets for days, foraging for food and ignoring the stares of passing kids. She hid from the noise of the sirens and tried to avoid contact with anyone.
She didn’t want to be on her own but she didn’t want to be with anyone that she could lose. She was depressed, scared and alone.
And then she met Amber and Dal.