That night, we sat around the fire, like we had the previous night, but this time everyone had a weapon in hand, terrified that the gummy bears would come back. And, again, I was never known for being paranoid or a scaredy cat, but even I had my gun tucked into my waistband. Chunks of gummy bears surrounded us, reminding us of the horrific attack earlier that day. Preston's friends were handling his death surprisingly well though. They were laughing, smiling, and cracking jokes just like last night. But, there was always the occasional laugh, a turn of the head, and you could tell the person expected Preston to be sitting beside them. Most of them had thanked me for trying to save him, telling me not to feel guilty about it. The thing was, I did. I felt very guilty. He was right in front of me. If I hadn't turned around to look at the gummy bear, I could have stayed concentrated and healed him, but I didn't. My own selfish instincts kicked in and I stopped concentrating on transferring all my power into him. Even though I never took my hand from him, I didn't try my hardest.
I thought about all of that while sitting around the fire, the laughs and jokes of the other recruits just white noise in my ear, until someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up and found the boy from earlier: the one who had helped me with the injured recruits and saved my life. "Hey, can we talk?" he asked, his voice low and scratchy. I nodded, stood, and began to walk away from the group with the boy. Just as the camp was about to be out of sight, I glanced back and caught Damon watching me intently, but he quickly looked away once we made eye contact.
I followed the boy down to the river I had sat at just the night before and copied him when he sat down on the dock. "Hey, before you start saying anything- thanks for saving me today." He chuckled, looking away from me. "I just did what any decent human would do. Also, you're kinda the leader. If you died, we'd all follow close behind." I smiled, looking at my hands and picking at a fingernail that still had Preston's blood on it. "I'm Graylon." he said, holding his hand out to shake mine. "Katherine." I replied. We shook hands quickly and as soon as we released each other's hands, he began speaking. "I admire you for what you did out there today." He said suddenly. I looked up to find him staring at me. "I think it takes real courage to risk your life to save others and I saw how much you wanted to save Preston. I went to school with him for three years and I know how much that meant to him- you trying to save him and being so passionate about it. I couldn't have done what you did today. You seem very strong and hard-headed. That's uncommon in women these days with all the laws we have that state their inferiority compared to men." There was a small pause between when he stopped talking and when I started, but only because I was incredibly surprised that he made this conclusion just from a few acts of kindness. "Yeah, well, I try not to be selfish and to take care of others first. But I'm not that strong. I can act that way sometimes, but most of the time I need someone to pull me into a hug and tell me that they'll take care of everything." He looked at me with a puzzled expression. "Do you have someone like that?" I didn't answer his question. I just looked back down to my hands and continued to pick at my nails.
Graylon and I headed back up to the camp together and found everyone getting ready for bed, unfolding their sleeping bags and stripping to their bottom layer of clothes. It was quite warm that night, almost to the point where I had wished I had worn shorts instead of jeans. I said goodnight to him before going over to the candy apple tree to find my sleeping bag laid out and connected to Damon's. He was sprawled out on his side, his hands tucked behind his head. I assumed he connected our sleeping bags to give us both more room to spread out, since neither of us were going to be sleeping with it zipped up. His eyes were open and he was looking up at the dark, starless sky. I walked over there, stripping off my shoes, socks, and top shirt.
As I crawled on my side of the sleeping bags, he looked over at me. "Don't you think you'll get a little hot in those jeans?" I shrugged. "Maybe, but I have nothing else to wear, so it doesn't matter." Suddenly, a playful glimmer in his eye showed up and he smirked. "Why don't you just take them off?" I rolled my eyes, lying down facing him, and curling up into my normal fetal position. "Why did you get recruited?" I asked out of the blue, almost surprising myself. I didn't like people asking me that question so I assumed he also wouldn't appreciate it, but I was curious. His brow furrowed and he was quiet for a few moments before replying, "Because I murdered my father and my pregnant girlfriend."