"Will you go out with me?"
"Because I don't like you."
"I don't like you either, who's complaining?"
"Go away, Tom."
We scowled at each other and then Maddie dragged him away to show him something.
This was a conversation which was repeated similarly quite often. It was more of a joke, really, even though we both ended up annoyed when it lasted longer. It had started about a fortnight earlier, when Anna had pointed out that we acted like a couple all the time.
I had looked to Rhubarb. "No we don't. Tell her, Rhu."
Rhu had shrugged. "Sorry, but you do behave like that a lot."
"Yes," Anna agreed, "And it's obviously because you really like each other, so why don't you just go out?"
Tom and I had simultaneously declared our hate for each other, and they had both smirked.
Later on, while I was hanging up the washing to dry, Tom had walked up to me.
"Will you go out with me?"
I had looked at him like he'd gone crazy.
"Tell me you're kidding."
"I'm not exactly serious, no, but Rhubarb and Anna had a point."
"Tom, it would never work. No matter how many times either one of us ask, neither of us will really want it."
"I challenge that," he'd grinned, and from then on he'd asked me out three times every day, knowing what the answer would be. It irritated me because I knew I was right, and it frustrated him because he knew I was right.
** * **
Owen walked up to where I was teaching Maddie how to write my name and sat on the swivel chair nearby, telling me that everyone else was going to turn up in about five minutes.
When a large group of fifty-eight had gathered, he leant forward, addressing us all.
"Right, we have a few issues to look over," he said, scanning the group. "Someone will have to tell everyone who's missing. First off, Jon got the shower working, so thank you Jon. Showers will be taken on a rota. You will be allowed one shower a week, because we don't know how long the water supply will last. If you miss yours, tough luck. You may only take ten minutes every shower. The children are only allowed five minutes, less if possible."
Everyone muttered about this new arrangement, some in disapproval, but overall in relief at being able to be properly clean.
"Second," Owen amplified his voice to be heard. "Since the children arrived, our food supply has been diminishing rapidly. I have said already that anyone allocated a child must share their food with them. There was barely enough to give everyone full portions before, there is definitely not now. Please stick to the rules. Next week, I will be taking a group of five on a two-day supply run. Simon, Thomas and Jonathan will need to come, and we'll need two volunteers."
"I'll go," Rhubarb said. "My leg's been better for ages. I need something to do."
Jon frowned at her but didn't object after a stern look from Owen.
"I'll get the last volunteer later. Third thing. About a month or so ago, it was brought up that the children don't understand what happened to their friends and teachers. I handled this unprofessionally, and I'm sorry for that. Because of the way I handled it, they never got told. Funnel, I'm still leaving that to you, you should know by now that everyone here is responsible for their own ideas. Tonight, you'll be given a period of time in which to tell them."
I nodded and swallowed the lump that formed in my throat at the thought.
"And fourth, Anna is in charge while I'm gone tomorrow. Everyone is to do what she says, and treat her respectfully. She'll give me a report on what went on when I get back. I've already discussed this with with her, and she knows what she's doing. And finally, last supply run we broke into a bakery. All the bread and stuff was rotten, but we found enough stuff stored to make around a week of bread for everyone, and there was enough sugar to make two thousand cookies for the kids. Any volunteers are on that job. I need it done by the end of the week."
A few people sniggered, and the children present were delighted. Maddie went up and hugged Owen, and he smiled awkwardly. Obviously he wasn't used to this kind of affection.