Chapter 53

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Pitching a tent by yourself is hard. Mum and Dad used to do most of it, whilst I did things they told me to do, like holding that peg down and flattening this bit of tarp.

Now it's just me and Angie doing it. Together. The powerless two.

It takes longer and, by then, people are disappearing from their own tents into what seems like a massive marquee, that Sarah said was the dining room.

We're so excluded we're not even allowed to eat with them.

So, we just sit in our tent, eating our cans of baked beans, watching the entrance flap in the wind, staring through a metal mesh that separates us from everyone else.

"I can't believe they'd do that," says Angie next to me. "Just because we don't have some wintry power, doesn't mean she can kick us out like that!"

I want to agree but there's something in Sarah's thoughts that kind of makes sense. I hate to admit it but it's true.

"She has a point, though," I reply. "They're absolutely jam-packed with people—they don't need us getting in the way."

Angie scowls at the mud, poking a lump of it with a dirty stick, and I can't help thinking she's agreeing with me. Then that makes me wonder. What if one of us gets the power and leaves the other alone out here?

The thought's so depressing that I block it from my mind instantly.

Angie drops the stick and continues eating, taking a while, tomato sauce staining her lips. I can barely see her it's so dark. At the fence, people are leaving, returning to their tents, chattering like birds.

They don't notice me. I'm invisible to them.

"I'm going to bed now," Angie says gently.

I turn to her and nod. "Okay. I'll join you later."

She leaves and then I'm truly alone on my side of the fence, trees closing in on me, squeezing me to nothing. The wind picks up and then dies down but it's there, tickling my cheek.

I think about the others. I think about how Mum's getting on with her new power. What's it like, finding out like that? How does it feel to be able to conjure such a thing?

I don't know. Maybe I'll never know.

The sky is almost black. It was orange before, like it was on fire and, for a minute, I wonder who lit the match. But now the flame has died and part of me has died along with it.

Here I am. On this side of the fence.

On the other side, everything's gone still. Nearly everyone's sleeping but there are still people moving around, a few torches nearby, scanning like searchlights.

And I'm here. On this side of the fence.

One of the torchlights gets brighter, swinging around less as it comes closer. Soon it's shining almost right in my eyes and I can hear faint footsteps.

"Amelia," whispers a voice.

The light switches off.

"Amelia," it says again.

I'm plunged into darkness.

"Amelia—"

"Here," I say quietly. "I'm here."

There's scuffling. I can't see. But slowly, I walk to the fence where the other person is, hands gripping the metal wire, knees digging into the mud, cold and wet.

"Hey," says Josh softly.

"Hi," I say back. "What are you doing here?"

"Just checking up on you."

'You.' He means me. And he didn't say anything about Angie.

"So," I begin. "What's it like?"

There's a pause. "It's boring," he replies eventually. "They feed you and all, but it's dull. There's nothing to do."

Silence falls through us again. We're bad at this conversation thing. Then, before I can confirm that thought, Josh speaks again.

"I tried to ask Sarah to bring you back."

I lean in at his words. "And what did she say?"

"No, obviously."

A small hopeful part of me fades away.

And then there's a small of something powerful, something that infiltrates my nose.

"There's a patch of it near my tent," says Josh. "Can you believe it?"

I don't think I can.

"Here. Take it."

Something brushes my fingertips and I accept it, holding onto the crumbling plant, inhaling the scent that associates with him.

"You must think I'm really weird," he says. I swear I see him smile, "taking lavender to you."

"What?" I reply. "It's not a nice thing?"

There's silence at his end. I can't see him that well and I don't know if he's looking at me or not. There's something within me that wants him to look at me. I want his eyes on mine, on me, only me.

Then something brushes my cheek, a soft touch, like the wind. But this is something more than that, something like small sparks, making me feel warm inside.

Buzzing in my stomach.

His hand cups my chin. I look in the darkness, not sure if the gleam in the darkness is his eyes. And, slowly, he pulls me closer to him, closer to the barrier separating us.

His lips on my forehead.

He pulls away but in a way I still feel him near me, lingering.

"Bye," he whispers.

Then he's gone, and the torch swings through the rows and rows of tents again.

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