I rubbed my hands together, waiting for Nick to finish giving his version of the story. Staying away from Mino, Ben, Newt, and Gally didn't help to calm my nerves. Nick stopped at the point that Brandon and I went into the maze. He stepped back, motioning me to the middle where I was completely alone. I tried to wipe the sweat on my palms onto my pants but it still stuck.
Before I gathered the courage to speak, Nick asked me a question. "What brought you down to the maze entrance?"
"A medical emergency. Hank hurt his ankle," I replied. My mind skipped the rest of the story and went straight to Brandon's death. No more words came out. Quite frankly, I thought I might throw up.
"And then Brandon and I came down there while I was showing him around."
I nodded, my eyes sweeping over the crowd of boys. All the attention was on me.
"What happened in the maze?" Nick asked, attempting to coax the story out of me. It felt more like an interrogation even though I knew that was absurd.
The conversation went on that way. Choppy answers from me while Nick asked more questions. I tried to avoid the ending, but Nick refused to accept my answer of "Brandon was killed". They wanted to know how. Even a few from the crowd had asked it.
"It's a simple question, Elira," Nick said. He stopped Ben from jumping to my defense. The room grew quiet and hot. I had to swallow down the food that threatened to come back up. Why is this so important to him? My heartbeat thumped loudly in my head.
"This is ridiculous, Nick. Ben and Minho were both there when he died," Newt's voice broke the silence. It made me feel a little better just knowing he wanted to help me.
"Just say it," Nick said. He walked toward me. He thought it would help me. Like it would take away the pain and the guilt.
Newt and Ben both sprang up and came to block him. The rest of the boys were mumbling among themselves. Hank spoke up from the front row. "Are you okay?"
"No." That caught everyone's attention and they grew quiet. "Brandon was going to kill me, no matter what the outcome… and knowing that, scares the hell out of me. I can't pretend to be fine."
"How did he die?" Nick asked one more time.
"He was crushed by a piece of rubble. You can only imagine what it was like to see it, but I can't stop it from replaying over and over in my head. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to save him," I paused, taking a deep breath. "I have a patient I'd like to tend to, if that's okay."
Nick gave a curt nod. That was all I needed to leave. Outside, I broke off into a sprint. In the cover of the trees, I leaned forward and rested my hands on my knees. Tears streamed down my face. The sounds of the grievers crying out echoed through the glade, mirroring my emotions inside.
The next morning, everything ached. I'd slept in the med hut again. When I'd returned last night, Adam was running a fever. I wanted to make sure it didn't get worse. Now he was sitting up and eating breakfast. My head spun when I sat up.
"Easy, E. You have a concussion," Clint said. Jeff looked at my head wound and concluded that it had gotten infected.
"Let me go get you something to eat," Jeff said.
"No! No! I need to get up and move around." I scooted up the edge of the bed and stood up shakily. The room spun but steadied after a moment. I'm okay.
"Are you sure?" Jeff asked. He had his hands out like he was ready to catch me if I fell over or passed out.
"Yes, I'm fine." I smiled and walked to the door. It was bright outside, which didn't help my pounding headache. Each step sent a shot of pain through my body. I'm just sore from the fall.
I tried to ignore the boys who were watching me. It wasn't a long walk to the hut where Frypan. was. I took a plate from the stack. He said something that I couldn't hear. It wasn't until Newt took the plate that I came back to reality.
"You're shaking," he said.
"Sugar crash. I haven't eaten in a while," I said, trying to brush it off. Newt didn't buy it. He took my hand with one of his and carried my plate. He led me to a shaded area. "I'm fine, Newt."
"Love, there is no reason to pretend," Newt replied. We sat under a big tree. There was no escape from the humidity. The silence between us didn't feel right. "Elira."
I had only taken a few bites before I felt sick to my stomach. Even downing some fresh, cold water didn't help. "Are we supposed to live here forever?"
"What?" Newt asked, surprised by the question.
"I mean, we're all pretty young, but what happens in ten years? Will the grievers kill us off? Or will we die of starvation because the people who send the box up stop sending it? I have no idea how to live anywhere else, but this… the glade… it's not home, Newt. I can feel it."
"Hey," Newt pulled me to his side and kissed my head. "Surviving out here is what we have to do. There is no reason to speculate on things we simply can't control."
"And us?" I asked, softly. We can control that. I slipped my hand into his.
"If things were different, then there wouldn't be any problems with us. But you know that we can't. And we're a family. The two of us together would hurt them. You know that." Newt rested his chin on top of my head. "I promised you I'd get you out of here, do you remember?"
"Most of the time you said that when you were drunk off your ass," I replied. A breeze swept through the glade, temporarily taking the heat away.
"I still mean it. The second we get out of here… I'm going to marry you," Newt said.
If we ever get out of here. Sometimes, I wonder if he just says that to keep me hoping for our escape, but… other times, I let myself believe him. No one would leave the maze because we knew there was no way out. The runners would have found a way. Every so often, I have to remind myself that falling in love was a luxury that I would never get to see through.