I wake and hear many voices chatting excitedly, among them I hear James. I step out of my tent and see James in the middle of at least five strangers. He sees me and runs over – there is a slight skip in his step and his injury from last night is gone.
“There are so many people here Lottie! I’ve even made some new friends.” I chuckle, James makes friends whenever we meet new people (even though it isn’t often), he is a people person – everyone loves him. People aren’t so friendly towards me, but I don’t mind because I think of friends as more people to lose. “Come and have some breakfast. They said we can have some of their food. It’s just as well, because we’re really running out.” I sigh as James tows me over to a lady handing out fruit; I don’t like taking other people’s food - because I have nothing to give in return. I reluctantly take the pear from the lady, who, after looking over, I guess is in her mid-thirties, and smile.
I crunch into the fruit - and for a moment I am glad that I took it – and an unfamiliar hand taps me on the shoulder. Surprised, I spin round and end up face to face with Zach. Our noses are almost touching so I think it necessary to step backwards. When we are a suitable distance apart, Zach laughs.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, I was wondering if we could talk.” I swallow the remains of the pear and reply.
“Sure…I wasn’t startled though.” I lie. Zach motions for me to follow, he stops when we reach a quiet spot inside the Circle.
“I don’t know how to ask this without sounding pushy or desperate, so I’m just going to say it. Would you like to join me, I mean my group so we can find Tierra de Esperanza together? I’ll understand if you don’t want to, but you could feel comfortable with us. Well, James is already.” I am surprised by the offer; I am not used to kindness. When he asked to talk, I thought of possible things that he wanted, but this wasn’t one of them. I am not sure what I want to do yet, but I know that I will have to talk to James before I make any decisions.
“Thanks, Zach. I’ll have to think about it though. How about I come and find you in a bit.” He looks slightly disappointed, but lets me walk away.
I wolf down the rest of my pear and go to find James. Before I have the chance to find him, he finds me.
“Lottie! Lottie! Has he asked you yet?” James shouts.
“You knew?” I am confused. Though by the way he asks, I guess he wants to stay.
“You were asleep forever! I’ve been talking to Eliza and Ben for at least an hour.” James laughs. Now I am really confused.
“Why did you let me sleep so long? Who is Eliza?” I question.
“I’m Eliza.” A voice chirps from behind me. “I’m Zach’s little sister, well, not that little. So, has he asked you yet? Are you joining us?” My brain processes a little slowly and I take a while to let Eliza’s appearance soak in. She has the same blonde hair as Zach, but her eyes are a dazzling emerald-green.
“Well I guess so.” Eliza smiles. “Not for too long though.” I finish quickly, yet Eliza’s smile does not falter.
“I’m glad.” Eliza sounds like she means it. She turns to face James. “Can I speak to Charlotte alone for a second?” James turns and leaves with no fuss. Turning back to me, Eliza carries on. “James told me about your parents, and I know what you’ve been through to get here. Zach and I have been through something similar. He tries to pretend that he’s coping with all the death, but he cares about people so much that sometimes, he finds it hard to let go. He needs someone like you who can relate; he needs someone to talk to. We all do, but Zach seems to keep certain emotions locked away in a dangerous place. I’m afraid one day that it’ll all be too much and the kind guy we all know, and love, will be gone, replaced by a bitter one who can’t stand the world we live in.” Eliza finishes with a sigh. I am shocked by the last part, but I don’t let it show.
“If he wants to open up to me then I have no problem talking to him, but I doubt he’ll want to talk to me – I’m a stranger. I don’t think I’m the right person.”
“Well thanks anyway, Charlotte.” Eliza smiles bashfully at someone coming up behind me. I turn to face the new comer.
“Oh, Ben’s right you are pretty. Hi, I’m Mark.” Studying him, I see he has light brown hair and bright blue eyes, he is handsome, but I’m not interested. Eliza clearly is.
“Hi Mark.” Eliza says quietly. “Um, I’ll speak to you later Charlotte.” With that, Eliza quickly leaves, I am left alone with Mark.
“Alone at last.” Mark jokes and raises an eyebrow.
“No you’re not.” Laughs yet another unfamiliar voice. “Hello Charlotte, I’m Ben. I’ve been dying to meet you.” The little boy grins at me, so genuinely happy that I can’t help but smile.
“Right Ben, you’ve met her now, so leave us alone.” Mark says rudely. Ben sighs, but leaves with no objection.
“Is he okay? You didn’t have to send him away like that.”
“Ben’s fine. Forget about him and listen to me.” His arrogance annoys me. “Will you be joining us?” Mark asks, trying to be casual. I am annoyed that Zach has told everyone that he was asking me to stay, before even I knew.
“How does everyone know?” I ask impatiently.
“So that’s a yes?” I give Mark a look that makes him stop laughing and start talking. “Don’t worry, Zach isn’t some big mouth who tells everyone everything. We all guessed he’d ask you. He loves meeting new people, so he was bound to ask you to stay. He also took a certain…shine to you. He’ll be thrilled that you’re joining us.”
His answer is good enough for me. I realise that maybe his arrogance is to shield a shy kind hearted boy, from the world, who is afraid of being rejected.
“Right, since just about everyone else knows, I better tell Zach.”
I find Zach helping the lady who gave me the pear – they are clearing up. I call out to Zach and he rushes over.
“Hey, what’s up?” He pants. I smile and shake my head gently.
“Oh, nothing much. I wanted to tell you that James and I would like to take up your offer.” Zach grins.
“That’s great! How long are we talking? A few weeks, months?” He speaks with such excitement that I know I am doing the right thing by staying with the group.
“I’m going to see how the next few days go before I make any decisions. I need to know that this is the right place for James.” I know that this is the right place for James to be, but I’m not sure whether I want to allow myself to become attached to new people. More people who could die and cause me more sadness.
“Well, welcome. We’ll all enjoy having you with us … we need some new company.” Zach grins and I smile because I am genuinely happy. He seems to have that effect on me.