I couldn't take my eyes off the slab of the wall that lay where Brandon used to be. Blood oozed out from under it slowly. Another crunch and a hand fell to the ground.
"Elira," Minho said, taking a cloth from his pack and wiping off my face. He grimaced and pulled the nerves attached to my hair off, at the end, dangled an eyeball. "Talk to me." He tossed it aside.
"We have to go," Ben said. "The maze will be closing soon. We can't be left out here."
Minho guided me down to the solid ground. I couldn't stand him touching me. Processing what just happened wasn't going well. My mind raced with many thoughts. I felt hot and it was making me sweaty. I placed a hand on the wall to keep myself upright.
"We're almost there, Elira," Minho said.
I turned a corner and emptied the contents of my stomach. Blood dripped off my hair, making me dry heave. Ben rubbed my back and talked softly about the Glade. Nothing serious, just the grass and the way the wind gently sang as it went through the trees.
I pulled myself together as best I could and accepted the bottle of water that Minho gave me. I stayed silent. The desire to talk about what just transpired didn't exist.
All the boys in the Glade were waiting by the entrance to the maze. The little cheering died quickly at the sight of my state. I didn't speak to anyone. I weaved through them. There was nothing I could say right now.
"Let her go," I heard Nick say.
"What the bloody hell happened?" Newt asked. That was the last thing that I heard.
I normally would be able to imagine what he looked like. His tone was angry and his hair probably stuck up in places from where he'd been pulling at the sweaty locks. He always scrunched up his nose when he was angry.
Right now, I couldn't picture any of it. The only image in my brain was an endless loop of Brandon. His face before the rock fell. The shock that spread mere seconds before he was crushed and splattered all over me and the rubble. It kept replaying over and over. Crunching, squishing, screaming.
I dropped to my knees by the creek. Scooping up the water in my hands, I tried to wash off the blood. My chest heaved and I began to cry. The blood wouldn't come off. I feared that it would stain my skin forever.
"Elira," Newt's voice came from beside me. He took the rock out of my hand. I'd been scrubbing my skin with it. "Breathe, you're alright, love."
His arms wrapped around me and pulled me close. Normally I would have felt calmer but my mind raced. My body shook from the shock. Only a few words played in my mind.
"It's my fault," I said, my voice cracking.
"No, it's not. He made you go in the maze."
"I… I killed him. I climbed up and... I slipped. I caused it to fall." I cried harder and Newt held me tighter.
Tangling his fingers in my hair, he shushed me. "None of it is your fault. He made you do it. He would have killed you."
"I couldn't help him."
Newt fell silent, simply holding me. The sobs racked my body until I couldn't cry anymore. Newt didn't speak until I'd calmed down.
"Look at me," he said softly and waited for me to do so. "Whatever happened out in the maze, none of it was your fault. You did what you did to survive. The fact that you even tried to help him after what he did to you, proves it. None of us would have done that."
He must know because of Ben and Minho. I closed my eyes. I hadn't even hesitated in helping him. It didn't matter what he'd done. I knew he'd done it because he was scared. No part of me blamed him for his actions.
"You are the kindest, most selfless person here, Elira. Never blame yourself. We need the light you bring," Newt said. He brushed the tears off my cheeks with his thumbs. "Now, you need medical attention. Let's get you back."
Newt kept his hand in mine while we walked back. It was a small gesture but it comforted me more than he probably knows. The sun was setting, creating a flow across the Glade. He made sure the pace was slow, to not hurt me but also to waste time.
"Hey, Elira. I heard you had a rough day."
I felt like bursting into tears again. I covered my mouth with my hand and Newt gently pushed me forward. "You're awake."
Adam broke out in a grin. "Thanks to you. I held onto your voice. Every time you spoke to me, even the boring medical talk, I heard it."
I crouched down and started to unwrap the wound. Adam took my hands. "I just want to check."
"Clint already did."
"Well… you shouldn't be sitting up."
"If I promise to lie down, will you let Jeff fix your wounds?" Adam asked, looking to the wound on my head and my arm. All of the boys were concerned.
"Deal." I smiled. I sat down and let Jeff clean the cut and stitch it up, and then he wrapped my arm from where I'd scratched the skin with the rock. I spent time talking about anything but what happened. The moment didn't last long.
"I need you to come to the meeting hall," Nick said with a somber look. Gally stood behind him.
Newt jumped to my defense. "It can wait till tomorrow."
"I will throw you into the pit if you get in my way," Nick threatened. I'd never heard him talk to another Glader. Gally moved past Nick and over to me.
"You know we can't make exceptions for you. But no one believes you did anything wrong. They just want to understand," Gally said as Jeff felt my ribs. I stiffened up and sucked in a breath.
"Gally, you can't force her to-"
"Newt, it's alright," I said softly. It would be a lie if I said I wanted to do this right now. The rules hat to be followed.
"I need to wrap your ribs. Can I do that before she goes?" Jeff asked. His tone couldn't stay even. The way he folded his arms and wrinkled his forehead showed how much he detested this as well. With Nick's nod, Jeff said, "Wait outside."
Everyone but Adam left me with Jeff. He had me to take my shirt off with his assistance. He moved slowly, taking care not to hurt my ribs any more than they already were. I knew he was also stalling. "I can tell Nick that you're too hurt."
"Its fine, Jeff. Stay here with Adam for me. And you," I slid my shirt on and turned to Adam. "You rest. I'm so glad you're awake."
"Don't let Nick walk all over you, E," Adam said.
When I went out of the hut, Gally was the only one waiting for me. He leaned against a tree and watched me. I tried not to move with a limp. The soreness was setting in from the fall. I hoped he wouldn't notice but the shake of his head said different. He slipped his arm around my waist and supported my weight.
"No one thinks Brandon's death is your fault. It's just a formality," Gally said. He stopped outside of the meeting hall. "Talk to me."
"He was going to kill me, Gally," I replied. That realization washed over me. I'd seen it in all of his actions. That crazy look… He wouldn't have spared me even if there was a way out of the maze.
"He had no… He would have killed me without a second thought." I ran my hands through my hair. "A-and I feel… guilty for not being able to save his life."
"You're still a girl. No matter how much you try, you will always have more emotions and kindness than any of us boys. You don't want to go in there crying."
I could see this was hard for him. Part of him wanted to comfort me, but his tough boy act wouldn't allow it. I smiled little and wiped my eyes. "Thank you. I need to remember that."
Gally gave a nod. "Are you ready to go in?"
Did I have a choice? It terrified me that I had to give a detailed account of what had happened. I wanted nothing more than to go back and sit with Adam for a couple of hours, and maybe eat some food. I stood up straighter and took in a shaky breath.
"Yes," I answered and walked inside.
Everyone fell silent and all eyes were on me. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Newt looked angry, Ben and Minho were watching me like I was about to pass out, and Nick, he was unreadable. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that he acted like this was my doing. He didn't believe that, right?