When we'd taken the walk in the forest, we'd been hostile. But at least we were making an effort. Now we just seemed to be ignoring each other. This power struggle was tearing us apart. I loved all of the others so much, and seeing us crumbling now, after everything we'd been through, made me die a little inside.
I stuck with Phoebe most of the time to avoid getting involved, but I also didn't like trailing behind her like a lost puppy.
She was going over strategies with Thalia when I saw Sophia sitting alone, just far enough from the group that she wasn't easily noticed, but not completely out of sight. I wandered towards her, and even in the pale light of the early morning sun, I could tell she was close to tears.
I must have surprised her, because she jumped, and looked up at me with wide eyes.
"Nothing, nothing," she muttered quickly, turning her head and gazing out at the blazing red horizon.
I sat down next to her, and hugged my knees. It had been so long since I'd had a proper one-to-one with any of the girls, and I was a bit nervous that I'd only make things worse. "You think I don't know when something's wrong, Soph?"
She flashed a watery smile. I smiled back and waited for her to talk. "Would you choose me, Flare? If it was down to me or Astrid as leader, would you choose me?"
In my head I could just see Astrid walking away in disloyalty to Sophia, and vice-versa. I felt sick at the thought of either of them leaving the team.
"Grace is right, Sophia," I said, purposely avoiding her question. "We're not gonna do this if we're so preoccupied with who-leads-who that we can't focus on the real problem. I'm not attacking you or anything, but... Gods, this has to stop!" A huge lump caught in my windpipe caused my voice to break towards the end. I covered my face, humiliated that I'd come over here to cheer Sophia up, and now I was the one who was upset.
"Flare," she said, reaching over and squeezing my arm.
"Sorry," I laughed nervously, wiping tears out of my eyes. "All this fighting, it's... It's just killing us. When the killing should really be aimed elsewhere."
We both turned to look at the view now. The Golden Gate bridge was far below now, no more impressive than a model in a toy train set. I could have crushed it with my thumb. So easily the world could be crushed from up here.
When I looked over at Sophia again, I couldn't read her expression. Had I convinced her at all? I opened my mouth to speak, but then a figure stepped out from the camp and spoke -
"Flare, Sophia. I think we're ready to move on."
We looked over our shoulders and saw Grace, the paleness almost gone from her face, looking a lot stronger, with a brave smile on her mouth.