fourteen

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I didn't know why, but Minho started avoiding me.

At first it was subtle. He'd run into the Maze with Alex (who was almost done with training) and then draw in the Map Room, but he would never visit me like he usually did. It sparked worry in me that almost sucked me back into a part of my old self- the part that questioned every little thing I had done. Did I critique him too much on his shading? What did I do?

That question came to the front of my mind every time I would see him. He'd talk with Ben, Newt, Nick, Theo, Garret, and literally everyone except me. Heck, even Gally saw him more often than I did. He still sat with me at meals, but he'd be stiff and try his best not to touch me. He'd freeze every time my arm so much as brushed against his.

It terrified me. The one stable, close friendship I had with someone was going up in smoke already. Sure, I had Newt, but he was never as close to me as Minho was, even in the short two months I'd been his friend. I often felt sick to my stomach. Even drawing didn't help. The pencil would move where I wouldn't want it to; nothing would seem satisfactory to me. My notebook was quickly filling with unfinished pictures.

Three days passed like that. They were long, insufferable, and tiresome. Newt had decided to join the Track-Hoes and Raisers since they didn't do much that required moving his legs. The Greenie, Jeff, was a fairly good Builder but Gally claimed he had the careful hands of a Med-jack. Clint seemed relieved that another person might join him in taking care of everyone.

I felt useless. I couldn't be a Track-hoe because I could barely bend my leg. Slicing was a no-go from the start. Being a Raiser sounded fun until I realized how muddy it was and my brace would be ruined within a week. Building required too much movement. All that was left was helping the Cooks or Clint.

The Cooks it was. Frypan managed to teach me the basics in a fairly short period of time. My job was easy - all I did was wash and cut vegetables or fruit - but it was enough to keep me busy. The atmosphere was calm and friendly because everyone was kind to one another. Nobody made me feel like an outsider; they welcomed me with open arms.

Rumor had it that Minho told everyone that he'd pound someone's face in if they made any sexist jokes about it, but I wasn't sure how true that was. It wouldn't surprise me if he had actually said it.

"Nadia, I am having an existential crisis."

I looked up from the strawberries I was cutting to see Clark barging in the kitchen. His red hair was mussed everywhere and his cheeks were tinted pink. It was a shock to see him willingly come to me because he was having an existential crisis- whatever that was. Clark and I barely spoke because of how our personalities clashed.

"What is it?" I questioned carefully. Clark was known to be very temperamental, and if he was going through something that turned his cheeks the same color as his hair, I had to tread lightly.

"Outside." He jerked his head toward the door. I glanced back at Frypan to make sure I could go. He merely nodded and waved me off, sending Alfie to finish the strawberries.

I followed Clark to the back of the kitchen and watched as he buried his face in his hands and ran them down his freckled cheeks. He directed his green eyes toward the sky for a second as if willing himself to continue.

"I..." He trailed off and shook his head as if mentally scrapping that sentence. He figeted before continuing. "Okay, I came to you because you're the only girl and you'll know how I feel."

"About what?" I asked.

"About boys." Clark huffed in relief as if saying it had taken a huge weight off of his shoulders. His eyebrows scrunched together. "I...I like boys. And I am a boy. That terrifies me. But since you're a girl whom I assume likes boys I figured you could help me because I am so shucking scared I might explode."

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