I strained against the whine of the wind as a particularly sharp hailstone grazed my nose. Catching the strange warbling sounds emitted from Karissa's mouth, I processed them until they resembled words.
"Has anyone seen Jim?"
I groaned as a falling beam knocked me flat, and rubbed my forehead as I nudged the wood off of my chest.
"Saw him a few hours ago," I hollered, and Kevin, who was closest, raised an eyebrow. "Going towards the woods in a bit of a huff," I elaborated as loudly as I could, my lungs straining and straining.
"What was he doing?"
"Picking up wood," I said. "He was annoyed with Cass for some reason. I saw her go off in a bit of a temper just before he did. Except he went into the woods. Before the wind picked up big time."
"Why didn't you say?" yelled Kevin, and I cringed. Was it anger, or just shouting? And why should he be angry with me? I didn't know that Jim would be idiot enough not to come back after he'd got over his tantrum. He was probably still having a tantrum. We all went off, didn't we? And surely he should be shouting at Cassie first. She got him going in the first place, to all appearances.
I snorted and clammed up, and Kevin shifted over to where Karissa was struggling with a fat piece of driftwood, her makeshift spade. I saw him whispering directly into her ear. Blue and brown eyes fixed on me. Hard stares. I shrugged. Don't look at me.
As I waited, the wind deafening me and making the pressure pulse in my ears, the tip of my fourth finger found its way to my mouth, and I sucked at the splinter that had been lodged there since day one, kicking helplessly at the rain-packed earth as the hailstones pummelled through the tarpaulin and spotted our scalps varying hues of purple.
I felt a nudge, and saw the mellow blue eyes of Bree Sinclair suddenly hard and prickly. Her black hair bristled with damp and her pointed face seemed to become even more angled with every second that passed.
I met her gaze, surprised by the passion in her expression. What could she have to say to me? What had I done? Suddenly I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders, as if I'd been accused for a crime I hadn't committed. What had happened to the comradely grins? Why was the air suddenly hostile?
I rubbed my wet sleeve over my equally wet forehead. I was probably imagining it. Not that I had been deceived into thinking that Bree liked me very much. Or maybe I had imagined that she hated me in the first place, and it had come true. I was too used to people hating me for the way I was. I just seemed to expect it.
The crime I hadn't committed. It reminded me of my parents, back in my hometown, which I might never see again, who I might never see again. They always made me feel guilty for things. Things...what things? I had never understood that feeling of shame that passed over me with their blank eyes of plain disapproval. I was used to feeling guilty and being despised. I suppose my past experiences had shaped my destiny. I didn't know how to change myself.
Bree opened her lips to say whatever she intended to say. But she hesitated, and in the short pause I had time to shoot a glare at James, who was gawping from the other side of the pit with brows just as dark and drawn. At least he wasn't staring at me, I noted after my glare had been dispatched. So what was he staring at?
Ignoring Bree, I flicked my head to see, and heard a muffled scream as my wet hair slapped the younger girl full in the mouth. Whoops.