We started walking again, as we walked’ Livy talked. She told me of war, which I already knew about. And she told me about family, which I had barely knew about. She talked of how she knew her sister and her mother, her father was fighting when she was young. She told me about how she used to run in open fields with a smile. It sounded wonderful. She said that her family had only had a small shack but she was happy all the same. I asked her about things over and over again. I hadn’t been so interested in anything since… since Zellie. I feel my eyes getting wet at the thought of her happy-go-lucky character and how she made small jokes up to keep me happy.
“You ok?” I nod quickly when Livy asks this. Then she keeps talking. After a while we come upon a large river crossing our path.
“Everyone stop!” Koda yells with a frown. I had been keeping to the front of crowd. It made me feel safer to be with a leader in sight. He stares at the river, you can see his brain thinking of a way to cross it. He knows that if we get wet then we could die of cold. “Does anyone know if we can cross this?” He asks, still thinking. Livy steps forward.
“We could build a bridge of some sort?” She suggests. She wears a long dress that looks like it used to be the color blue, now it’s just a brownish but… It’s still pretty. Much prettier than my dirty baggy shirt and ripped pants. I wonder if she can fight in it. I find myself adjusting my hair so that falls slightly in my face and I straighten my shirt. Then I find Koda staring at me with a funny look.
“Can you do it?” He asks.
“Do what?” I start to blush, I must have missed something he was saying.
“Can you go hunting while we build a bridge?” He repeats. I nod and I take his bow and his quiver from him. There are only a couple of weapons in our group, they are only used for hunting. I take it and push my way through the leafless trees. The leaves fell quickly and it makes the woods seem lifeless. Our company is going to be in trouble when the animals go to hibernate. I watch the trees carefully, watching for any sort of movement. I see a branch move and quick as lightning I have an arrow notched. I see a small squirrel and I let the arrow fly. It hits the squirrel in the eye. I smile with pride. I usually hit the squirrel but not usually in the eye. When you hit it in the eye you save some of the meat because you’re not damaging it with the arrow. I had to practice with bows and arrows while training. It was brutal work. Mostly because they beat us if we didn’t get it right. I used to hate training. But now it’s more sport, a little bit more satisfying. I soon have three furry creatures. I go back to camp and bring them to Koda. He’s waist deep in the cold water.
“What are you doing?” I shout, “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Did you get some meat?” He grunts as he places a large log into the firm river bed. He’s shivering and his lips are blue. So are his hands, ears, face and everything else.
“You didn’t answer my question,” I demand. “What are you doing?”
“Livy said if we get in the water the work will go faster,” He shrugs.
“You are going to get sick,” I glance at Livy, she’s helping one of the woman with a child, “Livy come here.”
“Yeah?” She smiles and glances at the bridge, “Yay! We’re almost done!”
“Why is Koda in the water? It’s to cold, he’ll die if he stays in there too long.” I use hand movements that don’t even match with what I’m saying. One of my nervous habits.
“Sorry. I just thought work would go faster.” She smiles again and I start to get angry.
“Why don’t you think of someone else?” I sigh. I know Koda won’t get out of the water if I tell him to. He must think he’s being brave or something. Or maybe he’s just going to listen to whatever Livy says. I whisper to Livy so Koda won’t hear, “Tell him to get out of the water.” She nods.
“Koda get out of the water.” She turns to him with a loud commanding voice.
“Nice try Poppy. I’m fine,” He’s shivering so much that he studders when he talks.
“Fine. I’ll help.” He whips his head around. I think I’m surprised as he is. I don’t want to get into that cold water but… It’ll get the job done faster. I pull my hair up with a loose piece of string and step into the water. It’s freezeing and the current is strong. I go deeper in and I’m not sure how Koda stood the icy water for this long. I wade until I’m where he is. “What do you want me to do?”
“Help me get this piece of wood to the other side.” He looks slighty bugged with me but I ignore it. If it gets him out of the water faster, then it’s worth it. I grab the wood, it’s rough in my hands. I pull it to the other side and firmly implant into the mud of the bank. I test it and it sticks. Then I walk back over to Koda. They must have found the wood from a fallen tree. I wait for him to give me instructions. He looks handsome in the water, he tan skin is almost glittering the weak sunlight and muscles seem to bulge out of his skin, he’s shirtless. I remind myself not to stare and that he has other things to think about than about people and how they look. We spend another ten minutes of moving wood along and soon we have a bridge. It’s a little wobbly but it works. Everyone crosses over it and I grab the meat. Then we destroy the bridge so thar it didn’t look like we were here. Then we walk. I shiver and my teeth chatter. My hair hangs in stringy strands around my face and my hands start to turn purple, Koda doesn’t look any better. We walk and my feet get muddy and Livy walks up to me with a smile.
“I know a good way to cook those.” She nods.
“Can you cook them for me?” I ask.
“Of course. I’m so glad can be helpful!” I nod slowly as she takes the meat from me. I try wrapping my long shirt around me tighter, it just makes me colder. I walk up to Koda.
“How are we going to make it through the winter?” I ask, my voice worried.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know…” He murmurs.