Chapter 11

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We're still relaxing on Nicoli's bed by the time Wendi returns with Zayla bringing lunch. Nicoli wakes up from the scent of fresh fruit. We all perk up our heads. We haven't had fresh anything in weeks. They must really be pulling out all the stops since we've only got, like, eight days left.

As we take our seats, everyone is wide-eyed about the fresh fruit. Strawberries and pineapple, a tiny bit on everyone's plate. Nearly everyone dives for it the moment we finish the prayer. I try to savor mine a tiny bit. It's sweet and tangy, and my face puckers a bit as I take a bite of the pineapple. It's juice drips down my chin; I can almost taste the sunshine that it grew from. By the time the meal is over, we all have sticky smiles from our little surprise.

"I'm glad you guys enjoyed the little treat," remarks Zayla, "we're trying to get rid of anything perishable, so get excited." She wipes off the table and leaves with Wendi. We all look at each other as our smiles grow. We may be losing our only home in a world where safety is nothing more than a dream we've tried to create, but are failing, but at least we'll get awesome food for the next week. The miniscule silver lining on our massive gray cloud.

At one end of the table Cavan has pulled out a deck of cards, and started a massive game of BS, and on the other end of the room Dalton and Jethro have hidden forks from the meals, and started carving their names into the bed frames. We head out the room and head to the very end of the hall.

A large window is set near the top, streaming in thick rays of afternoon light. They go running down the hall, seeing how far they can go. We sit against the wall, letting the light sprint over our feet.

"In a week's time, all of this will be gone," blurts Marco, "we'll go back to being street rats, like the rest of America. No more meals at set times or having vitamin shots jammed into our arms. What are we gonna do? How are we gonna live?"

We all share a nervous look for a good minute. We thought about it for ages, but know it's happening. And we know we're not nearly ready.

"What are we gonna do if we get hurt?" Shouts Nicoli.

I think back to before everything, pulling scraps from the past to use.

"We'll get jobs, and make money," I assure! "And we'll save up for that beach house. And until we get it, we'll make do."

"And how are we gonna do that?" Marco asks, annoyed.

"You'd be surprised how well a tarp and some wood works to make a lean-to. Am I right Nicoli?"

He high fives me and turns to Marco. "Everything will work out in the end if we work hard. I mean, it's our trio. We always make things work for us. We'll be fine, I can feel it."

We sit for hours. We talk about everything, from serious things, like finding families, to stupid things. We're still talking when the last rays of the day fall over us, and dinner carts roll into the room. We follow behind them and take our seats.

We devour everything like wolves. There's almost nothing left by the time we finish. When we're all finished, we slink into our beds, and the night creeps into our bedroom. Most fall asleep pretty quickly, not me. Shocker there.

I toss and turn for ages. The anxiety of the rest of my life gnaws at me from the inside out. So many new decisions. Most being of life or death. The moment we all leave here it will be a trial and a struggle to keep living. We'll be taking it day by day. And every moment still alive is our own little miracle.

Eventually I fall asleep to my worries. I have nightmare after nightmare, but at least I'm asleep.

~~~

The next few days go by so quickly they blur into simple hours. We start having larger meals to get rid of all the food. They hand out bags to store what we want to take. Just about anything is fair game. We take some blankets, clothing, a pillow, two fully packed first aid kits, about ten dollars in random change, a book, and some rope from the shed outside.

We've started saving food from our meals. A piece of bread, an apple or orange, a piece of jerky. We keep them in one of the bags, wrapping in them in strips of cloth.

Instead of roaming on our own free will during the day, we go to seminars about the next weeks and so on. They talk about how we should watch out for each other. Try and join other groups of kids. Be wary about finding parents or relatives. Don't do anything to put ourselves in trouble. Most kids come out of them in tears.

The worst are all the kids in R8-R10. They've tried assigning kids in rooms 1-2 to be their buddies, but not a lot want to. They've tried taking kids off machines, but they get so sick they're put back on. They're terrified. One in R9 cut off all his aids and nearly killed himself.

~~~

Finally the day comes. The one day where we lose it all. Everyone wakes up earlier than normal. By the time breakfast comes, we all have runny noses and puffy red eyes. Even the nurses do as they dish it out. We devour everything, as usual, but we're not hungry. Most of us will be sick within the day.

"Everyone, the mayor is here, along with the people who will be taking over. Please gather everything and head out to the driveway."

I grab my bag and Nicoli's hand. He's been crying all morning. Marco takes his other and we join the flow of kids down the stairs.

"I don't want to leave Alek," he snivels.

I squeeze his hand. I can't cry-not now. Not when he needs me to be the strong one, with Marco. I hold back my tears.

"It'll be okay. Trust us."

We reach the doors and squish by. We're some of the first to make it out. We walk to the far edge and stop. Marco drops his bag and begins to sit down.

"We can't watch. It only hurts more." I remind. Marco stands and grabs his things. We turn and begin heading down the driveway.

Then it happens. The single second where everything falls apart. The solid moment when you want to run into it and die with it, but you stand and watch it fall apart. Just to see how bad it gets. 


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