And then David goes, “Well, thank God someone here knows how to start a fire.”
“Rude,” Jackie said, and then everyone started going off on David while Jenna retreated into the background.
The water we found wasn’t more than a slow stream, but we each filled our canteens and swished a couple of drops of bleach around in them so that we didn’t wind up drinking the piss of whatever animals had used it as their toilet upstream. Already, little alliances were forming. We hadn’t had much opportunity for that at the Bend. Dipshit Doug and his minions had worked us each day until the only thing we could think about at night was sleep. For a camp that had emphasized the value of teamwork, they hadn’t actually let us become anything resembling a team. But now that we were out on our own, Cody and Georgia were starting to pair up, which made sense, and David had sort of inserted himself into their group. Jenna, Lucinda, and Tino hung around each other, though I wouldn’t call them friends, while Jackie, Jaila, and Sunday seemed to have formed an uneasy alliance.
I danced from group to group with ease. That’s always been one of my gifts. The ability to move around like a social chameleon. I fit in wherever the fuck I felt like being. And it’s not that difficult, either. All you have to do is listen a hell of a lot more than you speak.
Before we’d even had a chance to rest, Tino started in on how we needed to move, figuring we could make the hike in two days instead of three and blow Doug’s idiot mind. That kid was all bluster if you ask me.
“What’s the point?” Cody asked. Even he looked surprised that
he’d spoken up. He lowered his head sheepishly, like he was waiting for someone to tell him to shut his word hole.
“What do you mean?” Sunday asked.
Cody mumbled, “Forget it,” and fell behind Georgia.
Jaila stepped up to finish Cody’s thought, telling Tino that it was stupid to try to rush back to camp because we had nothing to gain by returning early, and if we weren’t careful in the woods, someone might get hurt. It was clear to me, and probably to everyone else, that Jaila had the most experience and that we should listen to her, but Tino couldn’t stand the idea that he wasn’t in charge.
“I only have one inhaler,” David said, holding the thing up into the air like he thought some of us didn’t know what one was. “I don’t think I can do much running.”
“As much as I wouldn’t mind abandoning the perv in the woods,” Lucinda said, “Dipshit Doug would probably frown on it.”
“Great,” Tino said. “So we’re stuck out here an extra day because David can’t breathe. Just fucking great.”
Lucinda clenched her fists. “That’s not his fault. He can’t breathe because he’s got asthma, whereas you’re just an asshole for no reason.”
Jackie threw up her hands, grabbed her pack from where she’d dropped it, and started marching northeast, which I know because I asked. It was the direction Jaila had said camp was, and she was the only one even willing to make a guess, so it’s what we went with.
The rest of us picked up and followed her—even Tino, though he grumbled about it for at least an hour.
“I’m hungry,” Cody was saying to Georgia while we walked. “What’re we going to do about food?”
“I’m not killing anything,” Cody kept going.
Now that we had water, food was the next thing on all our minds. Some of them, like Cody and Georgia and Sunday, probably never worried about where their next meal was going to come from. They probably thought the food fairy delivered that shit to their fridges while they slept. But I figured even the rest of us had never hunted our own food. We couldn’t have had at least one delinquent in our group who’d gone hunting or fishing?
As the day wore on, we started shedding layers. The ground was uneven, and our meandering route through the forest took us up some steep inclines that David struggled with. But he didn’t complain. Much. Yeah, okay, he did some complaining, but he was only voicing the shit we were all thinking. About how this was fucking ridiculous. About how none of this was teaching us anything about being the “good citizens” Doug kept telling us we needed to be if we were going to stay out of juvie. All it had taught any of us so far was that we weren’t cut out for living in the wilderness and that adults were a bunch of assholes who got off on torturing kids.
Jaila fell back to the middle, letting Tino take the lead for a while. It was a smart move on her part. He was walking in the direction she’d laid out, but he thought he was the one making the decisions, which kept him quiet. A good leader knows how to get people to do what she wants without them knowing they’re doing it.
After we’d walked for about an hour, Cody jogged up to hike beside me. He asked if I really had a hundred dollars, keeping his voice low so that the others wouldn’t hear.
“I do.” I patted my pocket.
“Where’d you get it from?”
“Would you believe me if I said I stole it from Doug?”
Cody shook his head.
“Well, I did. I lifted it from his cabin the second night.”
“That’s a story I’d like to hear.”
“I’m the judge of the competition,” I said. “You all are the ones supposed to tell stories, not me.”
Cody chewed on that for a moment. “I stole some money once. A lot more than a hundred bucks.”
He’d said it loud enough that Lucinda had overheard. “I call bullshit,” she said.
“It’s not bullshit,” he said. “Here, I’ll prove it.”