It's finally here!
Chapter 34: Stella
I try to ignore my growling stomach as we walk through the rainforest. The fish last night wasn’t as filling as we thought it would be, the snares I set were empty this morning and we haven’t found any familiar plants since the mango tree two days ago.
The midday Sun beats down through the leaves of trees; the birds seem to taunt us with their songs in the sky, knowing we have no way of getting to them. In fact after losing the backpack in the flood we have next to nothing. They only things we’ve got now are Fuchsia’s swords, Jed’s painkillers (which were in his pocket) and the things in Allaya’s pouch bag which I robbed from her corpse : matches, a switch blade, a packet of raisins, a water skin that’s half full and some bandages. Fuchsia glares up them.
“I’ve had it with these birds! They’ve been within shooting distance ever since we got up but we have nothing to shoot them with!” She mutters irritably. She’s found it the hardest to adjust to our lack of resources, the Career districts might produce the best fighters but there are few survivalists among them.
There’s just something about that girl that really annoys me but I don’t know what. And I still don’t trust her. I’m about to snap something about not complaining when a little sliver parachute floats down towards me. It gets stuck in some branches.
“I’ll get it!” I say excitedly, grateful to get something, anything right now. When I it reach I follow its tangled string down to our gift.
“What it?” Jed calls from below.
“Well…it looks like you got your wish, Fuchsia.” I say as I cut the stings with the switchblade. I hear her gasp.
“Is it a bow?” She asks hopefully.
“Umm… not exactly.” I answer as I climb down with the gift: a slingshot. We all reflect each other’s look of disappointment, in me and Jed’s time in training we never touched one, and I doubt Fuchsia did when there were bows and swords to play with. Jed sighs and puts on a smile.
“Well it’s not a bow but it’s better than nothing, and let’s face it, we need everything we can get.” I mirror his smile and nod. He always tries to see the best in things, that’s why he’s my friend. No, I shouldn’t call him that. Friendships are destined to be destroyed here. All he can be is an ally.
Fuchsia walks up to me as I jump down.
“OK, I think I’ll have that.” She says breezily, holding out her hand.
“Why?! I’m the one who got it, so it’s mine!” I say, sounding defensive. I’m not the possessive type but it’s just the way she simply presumes I’ll hand it over.
“There aren’t any rules that say it is. Besides, I’ve got a really good aim from doing archery so I think I’ll be the best at using it.” She retorts, keeping her tone casual. I look at Jed.
“She’s right, Stella. Neither of us have any experience with a shooting weapon so I think she’ll have the best chance with it.” He says. I still don’t want to hand it over but I know their right, and if I argue I’ll just sound like a brat. So I murmur an “Ok” and give it to her. She gives me and little smile.
“Thank you.” She says in a sweet voice. I’m starting to dislike this girl more and more with every minute.
After a few attempts she got used to the small weapon. In three hours she’s took out two colourful birds the size of ducks. They by their feet from her belt as she walks beside Jed in front of me. They laugh every so often, too far away for me to hear them. Fuchsia glance back at me and smirks, I glare at her. Are they laughing at me? She brushes his arm and he gives her a little, shy smile. My glare intensifies. I try to dismiss the jealousy that’s boiling inside me. I’ve never had a single thought of a romantic nature about him. It’s just that we’ve been in this, this nightmare together ever since we shook hands at the reaping and now there’s a third bird in the nest, a bird that seems intent on pushing me out.
They stop in front of a huge mound of earth almost as tall as the trees. I quickly catch up to them.
“What’s so funny?” I ask. Fuchsia keeps her eyes on Jed as she answers.
“Oh, nothing, just a little joke. It’s too inappropriate for someone your age.” She says it that sweet, casual tone that feels the slightest bit patronising.
“What do mean MY AGE!? I’m the same age Jed!” I splutter.
“Oh! Really? Sorry, it’s just that you’re so…little.” She says. For a moment I just stand there with my mouth hanging open like an idiot. Then the anger sets in.
“Are you saying I’m short!?” I struggle not shout as I draw myself up to my full height in front of her. She’s right of course; even now I’m only eye level with her collar bone. But nobody, absolutely nobody says I’m short!
“They mean pretty much the same thing don’t they?” She smirks.
“Fuchsia! Don’t be mean!” Jed cries, sounding totally shocked that this girl would have single mean streak in her body.
“Aww come on, guys. I’m just playing. You need to get a sense of humour, Stella.” She grins at me. If she says one more thing I swear I’m going to snap. I’m just about to say this when she adds:
“I mean, being a moody little girl hasn’t got anyone sponsors.” My built up anger erupts from me in the form of a scream.
“ALRIGHT! THAT’S IT! I’VE HAD IT WITH YOU! YOU NASTY, ARROGANT COW!” I yell at her, rage clouding my mind in a red mist. She gasps and looks genuinely hurt for a second. Then her eyes narrow and she slaps my face. I shove her. She punches me hard on the arm.
“NO!NO, STOP IT! BOTH YOU! WE’RE ALLIES, NOT ENEMIES!” Jed pushes us away from each over just as we draw our weapons.
“She started it!” She protests.
“No, you did, when you called me short!”
“I didn’t say that!”
“You implied it!”
“Hay, come on girls! This is no time to fight we’re supposed to be working together.” Jed says desperately.
“I’ve told you before Jed, we can’t trust her! I’ve only been putting up with her for your sake.” I say.
“But she’s not a Career anymore, she’s with us, and you saw how good she is with the slingshot. We need her.” He persists. Fuchsia smiles at him.
“I’m sorry, Jed but I’m going to have to be totally honest with you: you’re being naïve. She’s clearly planning something.” I say. He just stares at me, with a look that is almost physically painful.
“Stella. I know you don’t trust her, but I do, don’t ask me why because I don’t know. I just feel like we can, and if you don’t trust her, you don’t trust my instincts.” He says, sounding hurt. Fuchsia looks at him, with an equally sad expression. I’m about to tell him that I do trust him when the ground suddenly starts to vibrate at our feet. We look in confusion towards the mound.
A stream of big red dots are pouring down towards us! As they get closer I realise that’s not just any old mound: it’s an ant’s nest! And it’s giant residents are coming straight for us!