Nick took a couple creeping steps backward, arms shaking from the strain of holding out the weapon like there was anything in the world it would do, legs prepared to fold his body onto the sopping ground at the least provocation, ears tuned for the slightest whispering thwap
of an arrow beginning its flight, eyes reluctantly tearing themselves from Jennifer's face again and again, scanning the mossy boulders and pale snags that blocked his line of sight for any hint of movement, human or otherwise.
It was his turn now to hear but not listen. Spinning irrational thoughts into a tangle of paranoia, he suddenly found himself jerked back to reality, watching words spill out of Jennifer's mouth in that impossible to describe but intimately, disturbingly familiar way. She was talking about Maf, telling him he was a friend, that she wished she could've done something. Nick tried to keep his face impassive, would have succeeded if not for the biting of his bottom lip showing outwardly his intense cogitation, and looked into Jennifer's. Lean but not yet gaunt, smooth and shining, the last friendly face in his world.
Why did she have to do that? She'd apologized. Again. Earnestly, he knew, feeling her words as if they were dribbling out of his own mouth. What good could that do? To say sorry - to voice a regret - it conjured up a world free of drama and misunderstanding and that horrible heartache, a tantalizing taste of a world where he could view all of his classmates not as obstacles but as allies. A horrible, bitter, nasty world, because it didn't exist and it never would and why couldn't Jennifer realize that? Didn't she understand? Was it really, honestly possible to be so, so - he scolded himself harshly for the word- ignorant?
But no, he'd said it himself - you could play to survive, or to live. And she, in contrast to himself, had decided to live, to try to make people happy, to live out her last days in peace... And yet, seeking her out, wandering the island in search of a temporary respite that he knew would never end well - what in the world was he doing? He was supposed to have made his choice, consigned himself to his goal and nothing else, finding his respite with every name that blurted from the speakers and slid past his ears, avoiding that stupid drama that destroyed people. And there he was, fighting to let Jennifer raise false hopes for himself, catalyzing with every smile a future conflict that would tear them both apart. It was unconscionable what he'd done, ruining someone else for his own sake when he knew that to find true happiness he need only a sharp bla-
He opened his mouth for a second as if to speak, but merely exhaled, turning to pick out a path that would lead them away from danger, turning to save them both the pain of having Jennifer watch his careful facade falter momentarily as he squeezed back tears. He returned his gaze to scan frantically for a threat that he knew might not exist but that he couldn't afford to ignore. He looked at Jennifer once more, just long enough to begin a short address as he scooped up his bag and pointed off towards safety.
Right. That was a good one. Could there be anything right in the world any more?
"Umm. We should leave. Quickly."
He started off on a path leading in the general direction of "away from the chick with a bow".
"Oh, and Jennifer? Don't get too close, um, someone might hit you if they miss."
((Nick Reid continued in Keep On Smiling