After crossing the river I haven’t been able to get warm. I continue to shiver and shake. Somehow Livy gets the meat cooked without a huge fire so I know a couple of children will eat tonight. The children always eay first, then the older women then the youger woman and finally the men. I usually eat last since I know certain men eat very very last. By certain men I mean Koda. He puts on such a bravado that I think he might not be human. I section up the food and hand it out to some of the familes. I know of one mother with four children, she struggles to keep them alive and I wonder how she does it. She seems to magically finds ways to keep them fed and surviving. I hand half of a rabbit to her. She nods and gives a weak smile of thanks and I give her a sad smile back. How are we still alive. That seems to be the ever present question. I believe most people don’t ask themselves these questions until they are so close to death they can practicly hear it coming. I walk up to where Livy sits huddled with another group of people.
“Give this to someone who needs it. Someone who really needs it.” I hand her some of a squirrel and she nods with a look of importance on her face. Our company has stopped for a few minutes so we can take a short break. We will be traveling through the night. I split the meat up into a couple more pieces and hand it out, you can see the hunger in their eyes. My stomach growls loudly every now and then but I decide it’s worth to make these children somehwat happy. I go back to Livy and she cofirms that she’s given out everything. Then I take care of the animal pelts, these are almost as helpful as the pelts because they can keep you warm. I’ve been working on figuring out how to bind different pelts together but with no such luck. I usually just wrap them around feet that are almost too swollen to walk on or I make hats out of them. Excpet for hunger and this is our biggest problem. We have had people freeze to death many times. Thrist has never been a problem because there are plenty of fast flowing rivers going through the forest. I’m afriad thrist migth be a problem when the waters will freeze over. As I sit with Livy my skin has goosebumps all over it and my hair is still soaking wet.
“Who were you working for?” Livy asks suddenly.
“Oh, um I was working for the Dogs, I don’t think I would run away if I was fighitng with the rebellion,” Dogs was what the soldiers called the government, the real name was something I never learned. Those working with the rebellion was often called the Foxes but there were so few of them that it was hard to tell what their real name was. “Who were working with?”
“Same as you. Did you have a war number?” Everyone had a war number, every group had 600 soldiers and the first group was numbered 1-600, the second group would be 700 to 1300 and so on.”Mine was 708.”
“Mine was 509.” I almost say Zellie’s was 355 but Livy knows nothing of my first and only friend. I guess Livy is now a friend but I really don’t know her. Livy’s number means she was in the second group, I was in the first group. You got new number when you became an adult, after you have served for 15 years. Therefore you were usually 18 when you got your new number unless you were like Livy or Zellie and you got to stay in your home until you were 6. I’m not sure how you got that lucky, to stay at your home for three extra years but it must have cost the parents something. Then a call comes from the front, it’s my name. “Be right back,” I murmur to Livy. I walk to the front of the company and find Koda waiting for me. He beckons for me to sit with him on a fallen tree trunk. I slowly sit down and watch him. Why does he want me?
“Why did you do that?” He pauses, “You didn’t have to.”
“Do what?” I furrow my brows with confusion.
“Why did you get in the water?” His lips are starting to return to their normal color but his skin still has a tint of blue. He has put his shirt back on which makes it eaiser to focus.
“Because I didn’t want you to die.” My brows stay in their confused state. “If you died then our group would fall apart and even more people will die.”
“Ok, well it was smart of you.” He pauses again. He looks so uncertain that it makes me uncertain. “I was really cold.” Then he blushes a bit. This boy is confusing me.
“Is that all you want? Because I have some stuff to do-” Koda cuts me off.
“I have this feeling. I know that sounds weird but bare with me. I have this feeling that you would make a better leader than me. I think maybe you should take my place.” He says most of this really fast and all in one breath.
“Me?” I scoff. I shake my head, “A leader? No thanks. I won’t make a good leader, your feelings must be wrong.”
“Fine. Then can you at least help me? I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.”
“What do you mean?” I ask him as he runs his hands through his thick chocolate colored hair.
“I mean that I suck at leading, I used to know what to do instantly but now… Not I’m just constantly second guessing myself. I need a second in command or something.” He stares off in the distance as if thinking really hard.
“But why me?” I murmur.
“Like I said I have this feeling in my gut that’s telling me that you would make a good leader.” He shrugs. I don’t what to say. I guess I could help, I mean if it makes him feel safer and more secure.
“Ok fine.” I sigh. I really don’t think this is right but he is my authority even if he’s pig headed and stubborn. He gives me a look that makes my heart jump a little.
“Thank you so much Poppy!” He smiles and that makes my heart jump even more. Is this the feeling his gut had because it just feels wrong to me.
“I need to go hand out the animal pelts.” I get up and walk back to where Livy is examining the pelts. She turns to me and smiles.
“Do you have a needle?” I shake my head, she frowns.
“Do you have a knife?” I nod and hand her a rusty old hunting knife. She takes the knife and grabs a short stick from a tree. Then she begins to widdle a small point on the stick until it’s sharp enough to pierce human skin. Then she takes a peice of twine and starts to bind the pelts. Suddenly I have an idea.
“Hey Livy? Would you mind being the food and resources distributor?” Since I’m now going to be part time leader then I should probably find someone else who can distribute food. She nods with a even bigger smile. I wonder why she smiles so much.It must be her way of covering her pain up. “Ok I’m going to go talk to Koda.”
“I’ll see you later.” Her voice is strong but her face shows anger or something like it. I just ignore it and run up to the front.
“How can I help you?” I ask.
“In which direction should we go?” He bites his lip as he pulls out a battered old peice of paper. He unfolds it, it shows a vaugue path trough the trees in smeared ink.
“This is the map we’ve been following the whole time!?” I scoff, Koda looks at me. He’s clearly surprised. “It’s just a few scribbles!”
“It’s the only thing we have and I was desperate at the time when I found it.” I twist my lips in thought, this makes me a little mad. Koda has been leading us the whole time on mere guessing, it makes me see him as childish or naive.
“Fine. How do we read it?” I give in, we don’t have many options.
“That’s what I’m asking you to do.” He smiles sheepishly and I realize Koda was never the leader I thought he was.