They are all hesitant around me, as if I am a precious substance like glass. I wonder if Iam see-through like glass too; sometimes, I feel like they can all glance through my skin,and see my heart bleeding inside.When I feel like I am at the highest point of breaking, I watch my classmates work around me. It is comforting, knowing how machine-like they are; how their cogs are sowell oiled I never need to wind them up.In the morning, I wake in the dawn to observe the girls cook our meals. As the fog burnsaway in the daylight, the boys go to the river for what¶s left of unpolluted fish, and Iwatch as they whip their makeshift lines into the swift stream. Midday is another round of insubstantial food, and in the afternoon they all gather together, training. Occasionally,they give me nods of reverence, making me feel light-hearted, if not healed. I wonder if they think I can still live up to the standard I set when they elected me leader; I wonder if they think I am not as cracked as I feel. Across the woods, I see the tiny frame of JessieTilman shoot an arrow straight into the eye of a bird floating across the red sky. Even agirl two years younger and half my weight is accomplishing something for this motleygroup.At night, Kiara tells me things about our friends before we go to sleep: how Max is soangry at everything that he punches trees to break his bones, or how Liza and Tania donothing but sulk during training and spend their hunting shifts brushing twigs out of their hair. She tells me how Jerri is getting better at reading and how Drew makes the bestrabbit sandwiches in the world. I sometimes wish that I knew all this myself, because Iknow Kiara is distorting what she says so I¶ll be happier, content.That is when I realize I¶m sick.It starts as sweaty flashes when I try to eat or how heavy the air feels after I¶ve run only ahundred feet. One day, I collapse, and I vomit until there is nothing left to heave, andthen I just throw up air. The kindest people always rush to me as I am about to buckle:Kiara, of course, but also Matthew and Timothy, and Georgia and Elizabeth. I mustgrudge a smile even when I feel like spewing my guts, because it is hard not to feel aswell of pride.Sometimes, I am so angry with them that I throw things and yell; I know a fever hasstarted up, but I can¶t face it. Because a fever, as yet, has always meant death. So I take itout on people who come near me. They¶ve strapped me to a cot on occasion, and now, Iam always just lying in bed. Staring at canvas.I¶m sure Amy¶s dead boyfriend has infected me. It was when I was shaking him, shakinghim so hard that his cold blood tinted my skin. I am always offended when I remember the origin of the infection:
To eliminate the weake
t chain in the link
. I may be weak, yes.Unwanted, even. But I contribute, and the hot flashes return when I think about death.