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Author's note: This was my first full-blown, all-out, NaNoWriMo novel.
Eliza Summers sat alone, in her own row, in the back of the plane. In her right hand was an iPod, with a long headphone cord connected to its port. They sat in her ears and lulled her half to sleep, her head leaning against the plastic of the window and arms scrunched between her and the wall. This was what set her apart and alarmed her counselors and parents.
But it wasn’t so much her solitary behavior that concerned the adult figures in her life. Instead, it was how she responded to the behavior of her classmates. The group in front of her was out of control; jumping seats, texting, yelling- the typical high school class. But there she was, alone, not talking or moving. When one of the football team members was shoved into the seat beside her, she looked at him briefly with a weariness set in her eyes. Then she looked away, back out the window to the ocean underneath them.
The boy laughed, catching the gaze of Fynne, his best friend, and running up to join him. A teacher walked by, and everyone smiled and said hello. She didn’t smile back. One of the stewardesses followed, casting the teenagers reassuring smiles that said ‘I know something, but I can’t tell you.’ The teachers and staff grouped together at the front of the plane, talking in quiet voices. The science teacher, Ms. Oschwim, was upset. Her voice was rising, her tone was angry.
If anything happened to these students, she was reliable. Some of them were the children of the richest people in the country. The town they came from had an average of at least $200,000 income per household a year. They were privileged kids, on their way (via a private jet, may I add) to Australia for their Biology class final. According to the school board, it was an invaluable opportunity for real life experience in the art of biology. To most of the class, they looked forward to their free days in Sydney.
With the adults in a huddle, the group had quieted down. You could hear the music of someone’s IPod through their headphones, and the vibrating of someone’s cell phone when they got a text. At first they were only suspicious, eavesdropping, trying to make sense of the small snippets of the private conversation that they could hear.
‘How could this’….’Not enough’…’Will we make it?’… ’200 miles?’… ‘What the hell?’
Fynneck Gitarri heard them, and was turning to his friend Karrie when one of the engines cut. The silence was immediate and engulfing, an overpowering wave that fell on the students. Fear set in as they begin to sense the plummet. Another engine cut. Screaming started, people frantically buckled seatbelts. A heavy case fell against the door that the teachers had gone through. They knocked, but no one could get up as the plane spun. Another engine, a backup, cut as well. It was hell. The screaming, the panic. And then the world, according to Eliza Summers, stopped. Everything was black, gone, and noiseless.
Her eyes reopened an hour later, to a dim light a little bit away from her head. Pieces of metal lie around her and had cut her skin, making blood ooze from her body. Her face was especially bloody, and she couldn’t manage to call out to anyone. At first, she was hopeless. Maybe she even thought that she was dead. But she wasn’t a quitter, certainly, and tried to move. Though all the weight over her allowed scarce movement, it was enough to be noticed.
Two hands reached under her arms and hauled her out of the wreckage. At first, the bright light from the sun blinded her eyes. Sight was her first sense that recovered, followed by her hearing. That was the horrendous part. Everywhere around her, everyone was screaming. The girls from her high school, even some of the boys, everyone. But it got worse. The front of the plane had taken the brunt of the fall, since it was partially tilted down in the fall. All of the adults had been meeting in the front of the plane. Now, they were lying there, dying. Nobody wanted to touch them, because their bodies were mangled. But they could still moan, and groan. Eliza turned her head towards the front of the plane slowly and tried to speak.
“Shouldn’t we help them?” She murmured her voice scratchy and hardly audible while her savior set her down in the sand. She swiveled weakly and looked back at the group of teachers and flight attendants.
“I think they’re beyond saving.” Before she could catch a clear glimpse of him, the boy disappeared back into the melee, pulling out other survivors. The dead were left in their places during the race against time.
Eliza wasn’t inhumane. She wasn’t rude or cruel, and had been well raised by her parents. She got onto her knees with the world spinning around her and began crawling over to the cockpit area. It had dislodged from the remainder of the plane during the crash. She stumbled onto her face and her memories brought her back to another time when she had been on her knees trying to get away from something.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“That’s right. You run, b****!” The voices taunted Eliza as she ran from them. A red truck behind her, chasing her down the dirt road away from the school. No doubt she was fast, to be able to outrun them in such a state.
Sweat slid down her face as she ran, keeping the same fast pace as she came to a fork in the road. Quickly she glanced behind her to see how close the truck was. She had the time to get away, but she was scared that they would chase her even through the woods. Suddenly her foot caught in a root, and she came crashing to the ground. Mud smudged itself onto her shirt, into her hair, and in her backpack. Then the truck drove by, swirling so that a wave of muddy puddle water engulfed her. And she watched, as papers of her essay fluttered out of the sky and into the mud. They stayed afloat for a moment as the water seeped into them, until it engulfed them. Then, they sunk, like her hopes and dreams.
Eliza looked up at the fading truck as mud slid into her eyes and caught the gaze of the only boy who wasn’t screaming profanities at her. Then she looked away, hating the pity that had settled into his eyes, like he thought that she was helpless.
_ _ _ _ __ ___ _____ __ ___
Eliza’s mind flew back to the present as she reached the closest person to her and checked their pulse. She resolved not to let pity settle into her eyes while she felt their slowing beat. All that they were now, in this dying moment, was a mangled body.
“Eliza?” The words slipped softly from the lips of the person, and Eliza responded quietly. “Eliza, promise me you’ll make sure that you all do your best to stay alive. No matter….What...It...takes…….”
“Ms. Oschwim? Is that you? I promise. I promise that we won’t give up. Right? But you can’t give up on me either, right? Ms. D?” She swallowed her sentence as the pulse faded away into oblivion. She looked away from the body and the rest of the hubbub on the beach. The other section of the plane was still burning fiercely as people pulled other people from the debris. They weren’t saving things, only people. Then her gaze shifted to the silky blue ocean waters. At each lick, the waves were receding farther and farther away from the beach. The fire would have to staunch itself in its own time.
“Hey! Get away from the cockpit! Yo! Chick, that thing’s gonna blow!” Eliza processed the words slowly, her brain still sluggish. But as she realized what the person had said, she rose as quickly as she could and started towards the group of people near a forest. Running as quickly as she could in her dizzied state, Eliza was getting further away from the cockpit and closer to safety when it blew. Again she landed on her face, her hands sinking into the sand. For a moment, the bright light made her think she was dying.
But before she knew it someone was dragging her through the sand and up to the safety spot. Then she fell asleep- or blacked out, she couldn’t tell. Dreams taunted her- she didn’t dream of happiness or a life where everything was perfect. Instead, she was engulfed in dreams where darkness ruled. Terror held a grip on her heart even though she didn’t have a clue why. Faceless enemies crippled her, until she was thrust into a fiery room. The smoke choked her, and she woke abruptly. Just like in her dream, she was coughing.
Cold crystal water dribbled down her face. “Are you alright?” A masculine voice prompted softly, making her ears ring even with its quiet tone.
“Yes.” Eliza said, trying to open her eyes. They felt glued shut and heavy, like what happens when you haven’t slept enough. She tried to yawn but her jaw felt heavy too. And slowly, as she tried to move more and more, Eliza realized that her whole body was stiff and heavy. None of her limbs were willing to move.
“Sit still and sleep. You need it.” Fynne said as he rose up away from Eliza. Worry gripped him. She wasn’t the worst of their survivors, but she would’ve been fine if he had brought her to safety. “Aubrey, could you keep an eye on her?” He waved quietly to a blonde girl as Eliza slipped back into sleep.
“I guess so, Fynne. Should I rinse out some of her cuts with salt water?” Aubrey knelt next to Eliza and started to inspect all of the cuts she had. The blood had stopped flowing from them, but the wounds were still fresh.
“Yeah, sure, but you should clean off some of the blood around them first.” Fynne flashed her a standard smile and walked away towards another wounded person. This one was a boy named Jason. He was one of the worst, with a deep gouge in his torso. There were already several people watching him.
He didn’t want to disturb Jason in the sleep they had hardly managed to get him in to, so Fynne moved on. Even without an official role, the leadership came naturally to him as the football team’s quarterback. There weren’t any people left who were injured because the plane hadn’t been carrying many people. It had been a private flight. So he approached the group of people who were fine and not helping.
“Hey guys. I have an idea.”
Everyone turned slowly to look at him as he spoke. Nobody mocked him or made fun of his seriousness. “We need supplies and stuff to survive, right? And to save the wounded? Well, the only way to get the stuff we need is to get inside there.”
Fynne pointed one of his fingers towards the plane, which had finished burning overnight and was now just sitting there, alone. Everyone’s eyes followed his hand in astonishment and disbelief. “No, no way.” They all said.
“But, come on, we want to save ourselves and our friends, right?” People started to disperse from the tiny meeting as he spoke, shaking their heads or muttering to each other in disbelief. “Please, we have to do this? Come on, we can’t just leave them. Imagine if this was-“
His best friend, Karrie, put his hand on Fynne’s shoulder. “Dude, I understand where you’re coming from, but you’re crazy to think that people are actually going to go in there.”
“But isn’t there another opening for all the luggage and stuff?”
“Yeah, but there’s no way you’re getting into that without breaking into that without going into the body first. Sorry, dude, but with bodies in there it’s a no way.”
“Fine. If nobody will help me, I’ll just have to do it by myself.”
The next morning, Fynne started to hack away at the hatch for the luggage pocket. He had found a large wooden stick in the woods earlier, and he was using it like an axe. Rage and fury empowered him. He was furious that nobody else had wanted to help him. The question ran through his mind on a continuous loop: Wouldn’t everyone else have wanted someone to do this for them too? He imagined Justin and the girl he didn’t know, lying there helplessly.
In some ways he felt responsible for the girl’s injuries. Why didn’t he force her to go to safety? In some moments, he thought that she was stupid. Why did she go over there when the people were already beyond saving? And then he realized he did know her, and it started to make sense.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
It was a chilly day in the fall, and he was stepping off the field at the end of their game. They had just won with an amazing score, destroying the other team. Everyone was cheering. To top it all off, it was homecoming weekend, and the homecoming dance was a half an hour after the end of the football game. The weekend was perfect, and nearly the whole school was there.
Come Monday, they all gathered in their advisories like usual. This time, the teacher was dealing with a kleptomaniac in the hallway when Eliza Summers walked in. Her seat was in front of the table of football players, five members of the team having landed in advisory together. She hadn’t been at the dance on Saturday, and after hearing about who else hadn’t been there, Fynne’s friends were ready to tease her.
“Hey there, Ginger! How’s your day?” One of the boys yelled at her while she sat down, facing away from them purposefully.
“Heyo! You weren’t at the homecoming dance this weekend. Guess who else wasn’t there? Gracie over there’s boyfriend. Where were you?” He laughed as she shifted uncomfortably, brushing her hair back over her ear. “Are you going to tell her or can I?”
They laughed again and the first one stood up. “I will! Hey, Gracie! I think your boyfriend was getting it in with the ginger slut over here this weekend!”
The girl, a popular cheerleader, spun around and flipped Eliza off. “Get your own, b****.”
“Oh, wait, my bad Gracie. She couldn’t have been because, well, as we all know, Eliza here is a lesbian. Trying to be just like her dads you see, and so she could not have possibly been-“ The teacher walked in then and the first boy sat down.
The teacher looked at the table of boys, and for a moment Eliza must’ve hoped that they were going to get the talking to that they had always deserved. But instead, he smiled and said. “Nice game on Saturday, boys. Now that was football. You’re lucky to have Mr. Gitarri back there making it all happen.”
Fynne accepted the praise of his teacher and friends bashfully. For the remainder of the short period, the class talked about plays in the game. But when the bell rang, they all were getting up to leave. When Eliza reached over and picked up her bag, Fynne noticed scabby cuts that were clustered around the area near her elbow.
Genuinely concerned, Fynne caught her arm on the way out the door. “What happened on your arm?”
Eliza looked up at him briefly, and then looked down at the cuts when he caught her eye. “Oh, um, I…fell, on the walkway into my house. Such a klutz, I know.” Then she pulled her arm away quickly and vanished into the stream of kids in the hallway. The last thing he noticed was a black stain under her eye, like the makeup she had been wearing had run.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
“God damn it. She probably was crying in the classroom that day.” He hacked at the metal of the plane again, peeling it back slowly with each blow.
“What were you saying, Fynne?” His friend Karrie was behind him, holding a full water bottle.
“Hmm? Oh, it’s just you. Nothing, I was saying nothing. Just remembering some stuff from last fall.” He took the water and drank it willingly, letting the cool water soothe his throat. Sweat was dripping off his face, and his forehead was shiny in the bright sunlight. He drank the entire bottle of water in one breath, and when he handed it back to Karrie he sighed heavily.
“Something wrong? We all saw you attacking this thing like a madman, and I figured you could use some water. But you seem upset. Is something bothering you?” Karrie put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Nah, just those two I saw yesterday. They’re pretty bad, you know? And I haven’t seen the rest of them, but I just want to get them painkillers of something.”
“Fynne…didn’t you hear?”
“Hear what? Karrie, what happened?” When his friend looked away at the woods, up the beach, Fynne stepped in front of him. “Karrie, tell me what happened or I will…bring you into the cabin with me.
Karrie sighed and squinted up at the sun. It was halfway through the sky. His words were quiet, and they came out slowly. There was no confidence in them. “We lost two more people last night. Jason and that red-haired chick are the only two people that were injured in the crash that are still alive. And I hate to say this, but we’ll probably being losing them pretty soon too. The girl hasn't woken up since yesterday and Jason….”
Fynne had dropped the club and he had both his hands pulling on his hair. “What the hell, Karrie? You’re just ready to give up on them because they’ve given up on themselves? Well I don’t work like that. And don’t forget, you were just some low-down, almost druggie when I found you sophomore year and got you into football. So the hell if you do give up, if everybody else does too. The hell with it! I don’t give a s***. Because I will keep fighting for those two until they die and their bodies rot, whether or not anyone helps me.” By the time Fynne had finished, his voice had risen to a thundering yell. He nearly had Karrie by the collar of his shirt, and his face was red.
Karrie was not fazed, however. If anything, the look on his face was that of guilt. When Fynne realized what he had said. He dropped back immediately and his face drained of color. “Damn it, Fynne. What the hell are you doing? Going around descending on your best friend like freakin’ Godzilla or something, and not even realizing it.” He kicked a part of the plane while he was talking to himself and left a huge dent in it.
“Fynne, relax. I’m not mad at you. I’ve never seen you that angry, but I understand completely where you’re coming from. You’re a leader, and you hate watching people in pain. It’s agonizing for you because you’re a compassionate person. And you’re right about no one helping you, but I’ve got an idea- and I’m willing to help you.”
The two friends locked eyes and Fynne relaxed visibly. His dark hair was slick with sweat, but his blue eyes were crystal clear. Karrie grinned and pointed to the dent that Fynne’s kick had left in the airplane hatch. Then, he motioned for Fynne to do it again. After several more tries, there was a large indent in the hatch. It had a tiny opening at the top, but not enough for even a finger to slip through.
They stared at it for several minutes until one of them had an idea. “Let’s kick around that hinge.” Fynne pointed to a rusty, worn hinge that had been damaged in the fire. They started kicking at it again, this time in unison. It took a half an hour, but eventually it broke. Then, they kicked down the top enough so that they could get inside.
But instead of going in right away, Karrie reached his hand down in to pull the emergency door handle. It worked, and the hatch opened immediately. Both of the boys glanced at each other before going in.
After an hour and forty-five minutes, they had the suitcases sorted out of the beach. Most of the things in the luggage compartment were fine, entirely untouched by the fire that had mutilated the rest of the plane. The luggage was all tagged, and they sorted through all the suitcases without locks to take out any useful medical supplies. Fynne even took a sewing kit out of one of them, and then he walked away up the beach with Karrie, two suitcases in hand.
They walked by Jason and Fynne tossed one of the girls taking care of him a bottle of pills. “Ibuprofen. Oh, and if you want your suitcase, we’ve got them all out of the plane and out on the beach. But make sure you just take your own things.” The girl smiled and looked at the pills.
“Thanks Fynne. These will really help. So what did you say?” The girl looked at Karrie as he shook his head. Quickly, she looked away again and tried to distract Fynne from her words by giving Jason two of the pills.
“What do I say about what? Karrie?”
“Um, well, I…I will explain it on the way over to that red-haired chick.” They started away towards where Eliza and Aubrey were. When they were earshot of the girl watching Jason, Fynne looked expectantly at Karrie, waiting for an explanation.
“Well, dude, I kind of…volunteered you to be the leader this morning. Everyone wants to create a kind of, well, democracy here so that things don’t get out of control and cut throat. They wanted a leader and someone volunteered me. I was flattered at first, but then I realized who really wanted everyone to get off alive- you. And everyone was stunned that they didn’t think of you. It was unanimous.”
“No, Karrie. Not a chance. I am not strong enough to be a leader. Remember the way that I flipped out on you this morning? Yeah, well, the only reason that went through was because you’re my best friend. I can’t pull s*** like that off with nobody else, and I don’t want to be the jerk who messes up everyone’s lives. Not a freakin chance.” Fynne lowered his voice as the two reached the shade of the tree that Eliza and Aubrey were underneath. He smiled at an exhausted Aubrey, and knelt down next to Eliza. She was splayed out in the sand, her arms and legs at a crooked angle.
“Hey Aubrey, I can watch her for a while if you want to go get some rest. You too, Karrie. I’ll think about it, but I would like to get some painkillers into her system. I think she’s in shock from the explosion, combined with the blood loss and shock from the initial crash. She might have a concussion too.” Both Karrie and Aubrey nodded and disappeared.
Fynne was left alone with the limp form of Eliza, who slowly started to murmur things in her sleep. He took the opportunity of her movement to sit her up against a tree and give her a couple of the pills. Afterwards, he realized that most of this job was just sitting there and checking her pulse now and again.
His gaze wondered out towards the ocean, which was a beautiful aqua color. It got lighter and lighter until it merged with the sand of the beach, which was an unbelievably pale white. The sky was bright and a darker blue than the ocean, with few cumulus clouds floating across the horizon. In several hours, the sun would set over the ocean. He took a deep breath as he looked back into the forest. That was the real mystery. It was impossible to guess what was in there without going in. But there was no way he was going to ask people to wander in there when two of their classmates hadn’t even woken up yet.
Slowly his eyes wandered back to the limp form of Eliza, who had shifted her arms and legs slightly. He checked her pulse for reassurance, and then he sat back. There was something about the way she lying in the sand that triggered a memory. And it wasn’t a good one.
_ _ _ _ _ _
The high school Fynne went to had multiple levels. Most of the classes were on floors one and two, but the occasional class. Like horticulture and some of the other art courses, were on three. The weight room was on four. There was a day in November that he was leaving the weight room with Gomez, one of the football team members in advisory. Eliza was in front of them going down the stairs from advanced drawing class, and she was holding a portfolio of artwork for the quarter. Gomez ran by her, his shoulder knocking her over. She landed on the floor on her stomach, and her pictures went everywhere. Gomez stepped on one of them and muttered a sarcastic sorry.
Fynne hesitated when he walked by her. Gomez was looking at him expectantly, but Eliza was on her knees gathering her artwork. She pulled up one of her sleeves, revealing what seemed like several relatively fresh cuts. With most of her drawings back in her folder, Eliza was about to reach for the last one, a complicated self-portrait that was supposed to show how you felt inside. It was a dark, heavily shadowed yet beautiful piece she had made that reflected how she felt invisible, with slivers of white outlining her head and every part of her face. Fynne bent over and picked it up, holding it in his hand and smiling.
“It’s stunning.” He smiled as she stood up, holding it out for her. Then he saw the cuts again and he pulled it back a bit. “How’d you get them this time?”
His words had a larger impact than he expected them to. Eliza whirled around and disappeared somehow, invisible like the girl in her picture. And Fynne kept it, wishing he had never said those words that hurt her so much as he jogged down to Gomez.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Fynne looked at Eliza now, wondering if he had the picture with him. It was in his agenda, which, he realized, was in his suitcase. Slowly he unzipped and opened the blue suitcase, searching for the drawing from months ago inside. When he found it, he held it out to compare the two.
Eliza then was shy and invisible. But the Eliza in front of him was different- broken, but stronger too. Tougher, maybe, and also less invisible. Yes, definitely less invisible.
She was still asleep, he hoped, as he checked her pulse again and looked at the picture again. Then she shifted more visibly, with more strength, and he jumped. Quickly he grabbed the bottle of pain killers and read the directions. ’10 to 15 minutes to react.’ Had it only been ten minutes?
Then her eyes opened, and Eliza Summers was awake. And before she could stop them, words flooded from her lips. “Am I dead?”
Fynne jumped slightly, surprise creeping across his face. For a moment, he had to register what she had said. “No, no. You’re alive, Eliza. You hit your head pretty hard and you’ve been out of it for a few days.”
“Fynneck Gitarri?” Eliza sat up quickly, scooting away from him. She grabbed her head in pain when she moved. Fynne got up to help but she moved further away from him. “Get the hell away from me!”
Slowly, Fynne moved back towards the tree. A look of bewilderment had crossed his face and his spoke gently with his hands up. “Eliza, it’s alright. You’re okay. I think your head probably just…hurts really badly. Here.” Fynne threw her the bottle of ibuprofen. She caught it with two hands and took a few minutes to read the label before throwing the bottle back at him. Fynne, caught by surprise, managed to nab the rattling bottle before it hit his face.
“I don’t do Ibuprofen.” Eliza’s voice was dripping with disgust and distaste, and she looked out at the ocean like Fynne wasn’t even there. He sighed heavily and picked up a bottle of Advil.
“Do you do Advil?”
“Sometimes.” Eliza muttered, turning back to take two of the small pills. She tipped her head back and swallowed them as soon as they were in her hand. Fynne, who was surprised that she hadn’t needed water, tried to hand her a bottle. She shook it away and stood up shakily. “Well, I want my luggage.” She started off towards the beach and tripped. When she landed in the sand, she just sat there for a moment and Fynne thought that maybe she had blacked out again.
Eliza turned over and found Fynne’s outstretched hand wavering in front of her. “Do you really think I need your help, Fynnick? Hah! How amusing. Of course, of course you want to help me now. Where, on this island, you think that I can’t refuse it? You think that you can right every wrong? Well, you’re bullshitting yourself there, mister. Yes sir. And I’m not going to take any more of the crap I got in Rich Snob High school, got it?”
“Got it, Eliza, I’ve got it.” Fynne was taken aback by her outburst, but he knew that he couldn’t overreact. He had to do what Karrie had done, and remain calm. But as he watched Eliza walk away, he couldn’t understand why she was so upset with him. He hadn’t done anything he could remember to hurt her, and he had never tried to take part in her bullying.
The group gathered at sunset. Fynne was hanging back slightly, listening to them talk. They were arguing about everything; food, water, jobs, who was doing nothing and who was doing everything. No one was ready to admit that they weren’t as amazing as they made themselves seem. After a short time, Fynne was tired of the monotony. He stepped up and people looked at him expectantly. They were all silent when he started to speak.
“Just listen to yourselves! You’re arguing about everything, when in reality we should be working together, and trying to figure a way to survive until we get rescued. Sure, we may have rich families, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll find us in any shorter amount of time than a regular rescue squad would. So as of right now, or later today, we need jobs. Duties. And maybe a democracy.”
Everyone around him nodded in agreement, believing what he had said. They thought he was right, and that the words he said were true. “Well if we’re going to have a democracy, then we’re going to need a leader.” There was an edge to Karrie’s voice, meant to push Fynne into agreement. Fynne looked out to the ocean for a moment and then back at the group.
“Fine, I accept. You guys win. But you can’t hate me when I make you do things, like gather firewood, or hunt for food. This is a team effort. If we try to do this alone, we would all die. Do you guys understand what I’m saying?” Everyone nodded as they looked at Fynne, watching as he spoke.
“Makes sense,” One voice said, and then the others followed. After the chorus of voices finished, Fynne handed out jobs. People were designated to find and gather water, take care of the food supply, and find some materials to make shelters. Fynne promised to make an itinerary of the crash’s survivors, and that eventually a group could explore the forest.
When they were dispersing, he knew that one person hadn’t been there. Well, two, but one able-bodied person was absent. He looked around for Eliza for some time until he saw her sitting on the edge of the beach. The tide was coming in and lapping at her toes in the pale light. She sat and watched the sun, its red evening glow making her hair even redder than it usually was. Fynne was about to sit down next to her and see how she was, maybe even about to try and talk out what had gone down earlier in the day. Well, in the afternoon. Then Aubrey bounded up to him and nudged him with her arm. Before she spoke, she pulled him out of Eliza’s earshot.
“Fynne, I heard about your guys’ conversation earlier. I just wanted to talk to you about some of the things that Eliza went through last fall. Well, I guess that’s not really my place. But I want to tell you why she doesn’t take ibuprofen anymore.” Aubrey looked at him intently, her eyes frighteningly wide.
“Go ahead, Aubrey. I’m listening. It might help me figure out why she hates me so much. So what is it?”
“Well, last December she was having a really rough time. So one weekend, the one before Christmas, she decided she wanted to kill herself. Apparently she brought a bottle of Ibuprofen up to her room and said that she going to swallow fifty of them. One of her dads came up to get her for dinner and there were twenty-five lined up on her desk. She was passed out in one of their chairs. But Christmas Break started the next Monday, so it was a while before school started up and she had to go back again. Just keep that in mind when you go to talk to her.” Aubrey turned and left, leaving Fynne all alone. He looked back over at Eliza and walked towards her. When he was a few feet away she turned and faced him.
“So Aubrey told you about the pills, huh? I guess you’re here to judge me, to tell me how weird or stupid I am. I get that a lot. But nobody ever asks me why I did it. They don’t care about my motive; they just see me as the girl who couldn’t swallow all fifty pills. I passed out at twenty-five and when I woke up I was-“
“Why did you do it?” Fynne sat down next to her and watched her scoot further away. She faced the ocean again, letting the breeze push her hair back. It was tingling and cool on her cheeks, like a soft mist.
“That’s none of your damn business.” Eliza’s eyes took over a distant look, like she was staring at something that Fynne couldn’t see.
_____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
It was second block at Maverick High, the school that all the students on the plane were from. For Eliza Summers, that meant gym this semester. She was in the locker room changing from one long sleeve shirt into another when she heard some of the other girls talking about her.
“Have you seen the stuff on her arms? I think she’s a cutter.”
“Well, yeah! Why wouldn’t she be? It’s not like she has a life or anything.”
“Jenna, that is like, so mean. But kind of true….what do you think she uses?”
“I don’t know. Why not ask her instead of me?”
Eliza walked by them on her way out the door with her head down. She didn’t want them to see the tears that were brimming in her eyes or the mark she had on her face. But in the hallway another problem waited for her. Leaning up against the wall were two of the meanest football players, the two girls’ inside the locker rooms’ boyfriends. They saw Eliza and laughed.
“Hey Gingy. I heard you’re going on a cruise for Christmas. Can we come too?” They laughed and she tried to walk by them but the taller one stuck his arm out.
“I heard that you used to play football? Why did you play that? You can play tackle with me.” His face was so close to Eliza’s that she could feel the moisture of his breath. His arm was above her head and he was leaning closer to her. Eliza tried to wiggle out of his grasp but he only gripped her shoulder tighter. “What’s wrong, slut? I’m not your type?”
Fynne had just walked by and he was waiting at the end of the hallway for Karrie. He watched uncomfortably as two of his boys bullied Eliza. Karrie came out to meet him, and he looked back at the two. “You guys alright?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, we’re just waiting for Jenny and Steph to finish up in the locker room before we head to lunch.” They nodded to Karrie and Fynne, who left quickly for the cafeteria.
“Please, please, leave me alone. I didn’t do anything to you, did I?” Eliza was pleading, trying to look the boy in the eyes but finding it impossible. Her shyness was overpowering her, and she tried to stop the tears from swimming in her eyes but her attempts were useless. They started to stream down her face and across her lips, but she was silent. In her mind, nobody was hear her if she made a noise because she was invisible. And her bullies were still ignoring her, taunting her with names and uncomfortable accusations.
Out of the corner of her eye, Eliza saw someone else coming out of the locker room. They were walking by when they heard Eliza crying. Then, he threw up one hand and spun around. His head was cocked slightly when he grabbed the back of the other boy’s shirt. He pulled the bully away from Eliza. With one hand, he threw him up against the wall.
“So how does this feel, Gomez? Didn’t figure that anyone would ever bring it back around to you? Well guess what? Leave her the hell alone!” The boy was right in Gomez’s face, trying to give him a taste of his own medicine. But Gomez wasn’t at all shy like Eliza, and he pushed the other boy back.
“What’s it to you, Jason?”
“She’s my girlfriend’s ex-best friend, and that’s good enough for me. I can stand idiots like you who go around bullying the life out of people for kicks.”
“Yeah? Is that so? I bet you’re really just hoping that the bitch will-“Gomez’s sentence was cut short when Jason punched him in the face. Blood started to dribble down his lip. The two stood staring at each other intensely for a moment before Gomez nodded to his friend. Then the other boy, named Rico, shoved Eliza onto the floor. She sprawled onto the tiles weakly, already having given up on herself.
Jason backed down and stepped over to block Rico from her, but the bullies started to walk away. “That was low, Gomez! I hope you and your buddy there die in a hole and burn in hell!” He looked back to Eliza after yelling at them and extended his arm. “Need a hand?”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Eliza? Are you still there?” Fynne and Eliza were still sitting on the beach. She jumped slightly as she woke from her memories and looked at Fynne.
“Yeah, I’m here. And I have the short answer to your question.” There was an edge to her voice, an excitement. The sensation that she was ahead of the game overpowered her and with her words a certain giddiness overcame her. It was the joy of confidence, of standing up for yourself. And it was something that she had never really felt before.
“What is it?” Fynne wasn’t prepared for her answer. He didn’t comprehend the strange tone of her voice or the way she suddenly seemed happier.
“Because there was only one person who gave me a reason not to-even when he didn’t know me.”
Fynne was defeated by what Eliza said, and he acknowledged her victory by standing up to leave. “Just tell me what you want your job to be tomorrow.” His murmur was hardly audible as he walked away. Eliza felt a little bit guilty about making him feel upset, but she knew that she would have plenty of time to apologize for it. She also wanted him to feel the way she had when she had come to Maverick High as a sophomore.
Tilting her head back, her eyes linked with the last rays of sunlight. They quivered out over the gentle waters of whatever ocean it was and fell onto the beach. And in reality, they were a part of the only thing that Eliza had ever counted on.
At sunrise, everyone was busy on the beach. The day before had been very busy and packed with exciting happenings; Fynne had opened the hatch, Eliza had woken up, everyone had their luggage, and they now had a leader. Their leader was hoping that the day would go smoother than the days’ previous. He wanted some peace and quiet.
But unfortunately, that was not the group’s plan. Fynne was awake but not even up yet when someone came running over to him and pushed food into his face. “Here Fynne, breakfast.” Groggily Fynne took the food as the person ran away to other people and handed out the meal.
He was wishing that he had not handed out the jobs the day before when another person came running up to him. “Hey Fynne- how am I supposed to spilt the firewood?”
“What?” He tipped his head sideways a little bit and stared at the other person. Thank god that the sun rose on the other side of the island. But the white sand and blue ocean water was too much for his eyes. He squeezed them shut and scrunched up his face, trying to rid himself of sleepiness. “Okay. What was your question again?”
“I can help you, Quincy. Looks like Fynne here…isn’t quite awake yet…” It was Eliza, and she led the other girl into the forest a little ways until they found some small trees. Eliza took a jackknife out of her pocket and flipped open the blade. She sawed away at a small tree until it fell and she picked it up.
“Why did you have a knife with you?” The other girl was slightly confused, but willing to use it when Eliza handed it over.
“Well, I had it in my checked luggage because Ms. O said we would need small blades for some of our projects. I didn’t want to buy one, so…” She showed the other girl how to cut the small tree with the blade and then explained how to dry it. “If we leave it on the beach all day, then it should be dry enough to burn. I’ll find some larger branches to dry out so the fire has something to feed on.”
For several hours, the two girls gathered wood and cut wood together. They were hoping to build a few days’ worth of firewood up in a large pile, so they worked through the heat of the day. At the time it would have been about noon had they been home in America, the two girls started to carry wood back to the beach. Each trip they took, they would spread out the pieces of wood along the sand. With the intense sunlight and high temperature, it was highly likely that the wood would be dry enough to light later in the evening. On the last trip, both Eliza and Quincy were laying the wood out to dry when they noticed something in the ocean.
“Look!” Eliza shouted, and she went running into the water. It splashed and swirled around her ankles until she was soaked. Quincy, thinking that Eliza was a lunatic, followed after her more cautiously. People on the beach were watching them as well, and Fynne had come to the edge of the water.
When Quincy was standing next to Eliza in the water, uncomfortably up to her stomach, Eliza pointed to an object coming closer. At first sight, Quincy thought it was a shark until Eliza smiled. “Dolphins,” she whispered, “It’s a pod of dolphins.”
The pod swam up around the two girls. Both Quincy and Eliza laughed as the bottlenose dolphins nudged them and played with them. One, which seemed slightly older and more trusting, even came close enough for the two girls to stroke its back. After a short visit, the more trusting dolphin made a clacking noise and dove into the water. The others followed, and the pod swam back away into the unknown of the ocean.
For a few minutes, the two girls just stood there. Quincy was glad she had followed Eliza out into the water, and turned to talk to her. “That was uplifting. I mean, dolphins are kind of a symbol of...hope. If they can survive out here, so can we!”
Quincy had just finished speaking, and the two were wading back towards land, when she screamed. Then she vanished into the shallow water. Eliza jumped. Around her, the ocean was becoming red and bubbles were shuttling to the surface. She whipped her head from side to side, attempting to catch sight of Quincy in the murkiness. Then for a moment the thrashing stopped. Quincy resurfaced and was gulping in breaths of air when the shark grabbed her leg again. This time, however, Eliza managed to grab a hold of her, and she wasn’t letting her go.
It was still gripping Quincy tightly when Eliza had a novel idea. She spun towards the shark and kicked it between the eyes. The water was clear and shallow enough now so that she could see that it was a hammerhead. In turn, she kicked each of its eyes as well, until it released Quincy’s leg. Fynne was waiting with Karrie to take Quincy out of the water when it bit Eliza’s ankle. She was still moving forward and stumbled onto the sand. The shark let go, not wanting to be beached, and swam away.
Everyone was helping get Quincy to safety while Eliza pulled herself up. Fynne helped Quincy lie down and assessed the damage to her leg. It wasn’t that bad or deep, and it was mainly right above her knee. Hopefully, if they took care of her well enough, she could survive and walk again. “Where is Eliza?” He said angrily.
Quincy glanced up at him nervously, “Fynne, please don’t blame her. It’s not like she knew that the shark was going to come, and I did follow her out there to see the dolphins.”
Suddenly Eliza screamed. Heads whipped around to watch as she was pulled back under by the shark, which had come right into the shallows to get her. Several people ran over to help, but they were afraid to go into the water. Fynne and Karrie hadn’t noticed the scream since it hadn’t been very loud and they were taking care of Quincy.
It seemed like they had lost her until Eliza rolled up onto her knees in the shallow. It was an awkward position, they all thought. But she was trying to stand up, her bitten ankle still in the shark’s mouth. Again, she swung her right leg around and nailed the hammerhead between its eyes. It released her, and she stood up and ran onto the beach.
When she was ten feet away from the water, Eliza collapsed. Her ankle wasn’t bleeding too heavily but enough so it hurt and it had been rolled while the shark had had it in its mouth. Two people grabbed under her arms and helped her walk up onto the beach. They were approaching the place where Quincy was when the other injured girl noticed her ankle. “Eliza!” She called out, surprised, happy, and worried all at once.
Fynne spun around and started speaking before he even saw Eliza. “Where the hell were you? And why on earth would you wade out into the-“He saw the people holding her and the second small blood trail that was accompanying Quincy’s. “What happened?”
Eliza tried to shrug the people off but they set her down on the sand next to Quincy. Fynne bent down and looked at her ankle. It wasn’t badly cut, but he sensed that something more was wrong with it. Either that or Eliza Summers was a wimp, but he had the feeling she was a lot stronger than she had ever seemed.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
It was spring at Maverick High, but it was late spring. And in late spring, the summer sports recruiters came around for the sign ups. Three weeks before finals, a month before the end of the school year, and two weeks before the A.P. Biology class’ trip to Australia, and the day was a blast. There were different teams, leagues, and sports, all running around from classroom to classroom for the whole day. It was the one day you were guaranteed not to have any quizzes, because the recruiters were allowed to run into your classroom at any time.
The school and teachers supported it because they believed in the values that sports taught their students. So Ms. O. only smiled when a man appearing to be in his mid-forties barged into the room. She was talking about the trip with her students, and all the hands went down when they saw him. He was one of the soccer recruiters for the best team in the state. Last year, three of the school’s girls had been on it, and they had hardly played when the team hit it big all the way to nationals. And they were three of the best girls at the school, varsity ball players when they were only freshman.
But no one in the classroom was a known soccer player, so everyone was confused as to why he was there. He had opened up a boys’ team that year, but he didn’t know if anyone from this school was good enough for that. Everyone was staring at him except for Eliza and Fynne. Fynne was concerned that the recruiter was there for him because he didn’t want anyone to find out how much he loved soccer, but in a way he wanted to be asked to join.
The man smiled in the front of the room and looked around. Eliza was fortunate enough to be sitting behind the tallest kid in the class, and she slouched down into her seat. “Umm…I’m looking for someone specific…am I correct that Eliza Summers is in this class?”
“Right in the back row over there.” Ms. Oschwim pointed to Eliza. She was slightly surprised, as she had thought that Eliza was an uncoordinated, boring high school girl.
“Ah, yes!” The man scooted back to Eliza’s desk and kneeled beside it. “How many people have already asked you to join their teams today?” Eliza held up three fingers and faced the board. “Please, Eliza, join my team! It won’t be complete without you!”
“Why do you say that?”
“Are you testing me? Well, how about the bicycle kick into the back of the net in the junior global finals? Or the Beckham you pulled in that corner against the Aussies? I say I need you because you could very handily be the best soccer player that this country has ever seen. And you haven’t even touched a ball on the American soil yet. So when I say my team will not be complete without you, I mean that my team will not be complete without you.”
“Well then, I guess that your team is going to be incomplete for the summer. I’m not interested in playing ball right now. I have finals to focus on and I can’t afford to drop my GPA.”
“Fine, Eliza Summers. I’m happy just to have met you but I’m really hoping that you’ll show up at my tryouts coming around in a couple weeks.” He stood up and left a brochure on Eliza’s desk, nodding to various students as he left. Ms. Oschwim gave Eliza a surprised look and went on with her discussion about the trip.
“We will be gone for a week and a half. We will spend over a week in Australia alone. Are there any question?”
_ _ _ _ _ _
Fynne set Eliza’s ankle back down and motioned for Karrie to come over to him. “Can you ask her why it hurts?”
Karrie laughed. “I don’t’ know, why do you think it hurts? Fynne, she just got attacked by a freakin man-eating shark. Don’t you think that would hurt if one of those things snacked on your leg?”
“No, I just want you to ask because she won’t talk to me and I’m getting the feeling that something more than the bite is wrong with it. Could you just ask her, please?”
“Fine, I’ll ask her. But you owe me one.” Karrie turned to Eliza while Fynne rose with the excuse that he needed to find bandages. “Eliza, is there anything wrong with your ankle other than the bite?”
Eliza could barely move it; by she didn’t want to confess the real reason why. Instead, she made up a lie. “I think that the shark twisted it around pretty badly. It’s probably just rolled or something.”
Fynne came back with bandages in one arm. Well, really they were just old t-shirts, but they would have to do. Then he stopped and talked to Karrie briefly to find out what was wrong with Eliza before wrapping Quincy’s leg. When he was ready to wrap Eliza’s ankle, he took a deep breath and readied himself for her suppressive attitude. "How does it feel?" Fynne help it gently in one hand and looked up at Eliza's face. She was ignoring him. Or so he thought. But in reality, she was thinking about how it felt and why it felt so awful.
_ _ _ _ _ _
It was the final match between the European and Slovakian development teams. They had been at it for seventy five minutes, and there were only five left to go. Eliza was positioned as striker, also known as forward, which was a spot that she was quite accustomed to playing. Having played seventy five minutes of the game so far, she was exhausted. But it was soccer, and she was one of the best.
So she put aside her exhaustion and dug through it. At the top of the eighteen, she received the ball from a beautiful passing build. While she was just about to take her shot, one of the other team's defenders slide tackled her through her left ankle. Immediately, she was on the ground. It hurt like bloody hell. But with three minutes now remaining in the game, Eliza didn't want to be taken out. So she stood up, and the referee set her up for a penalty kick.
But when she planted her foot, it quivered and she missed the shot. It hit against the top of the goal's bar and bounced down. Then she caught it with her left knee and flicked into away into the net. It was an amazing goal, but with two minutes left in the game she still didn't want to be taken out. The score was Europe two and Slovakia one. With a score like that, Eliza knew that she belonged on the field. Besides, it was the last official match of the year. Her injuries could wait till later.
They hustled as a team, even though most of them spoke different languages. Enough of them spoke English so that they so could communicate well enough. Eliza was taking the final throw in for the match when the clocks went off. A horn blared. Europe had won! But Eliza fell on the ground, crying and holding her ankle.
It was later found out that she had fractured it, and the injury worsened slightly because she had played after the initial break. But she healed her ankle and never thought that the small nick that the injury had left would ever affect her again.
_ _ _ _ _
“It feels fine.” Eliza murmured, not looking Fynne in the eyes. She looked down at the waves curling onto the white beach sand. Except some of the water was still red with her and Quincy’s blood, so it left the sand an awkward pinkish hue. The slow sound of the waves lulled her into a calm, serene mood.
“Are you sure it feels fine? Eliza, you were just attacked by a shark.” Fynne looked at Eliza with concern as her eyes dulled slightly. For a moment, he thought she might be dying. But then he realized that she could be just falling asleep.
“Yeah, it feels fine. Just fine…I have a high pain tolerance. It feels just fine.” And with the sound of the ocean a sweet lullaby in her ears, Eliza’s voice trailed off and she fell asleep.
For a week, the two girls weren’t allowed to do anything. They had to sit still, eat food, and drink water. It wasn’t a luxurious life when you wanted to be moving, trying to help build a shelter or gather firewood. Instead of doing helpful things, the two had to lay low. They stayed right near each other though, and as a result they began to develop something of a friendship. Every day they had practically no one else to talk to but each other, and they started to open up more and more.
One night, Fynne was coming up behind them with salt water for them to soak their wounds in when he heard Quincy pushing Eliza into talking about something he wanted to know.
“Why do you hate Fynne so much?” Quincy asked, pulling her hair around into a braid.
“I don’t hate him.” Eliza tried to push the subject away, but she knew that Quincy would bounce back with another question.
“Then why won’t you talk to him? If you don’t hate him, are you nervous to talk to him? Do you have a crush on him?”
Eliza laughed uncomfortably, like she was slightly amused but embarrassed by the fact. “No. Just because I said that I don’t hate him doesn’t mean that I like him. In fact, I dislike him.”
“Oh, come on. Somewhere deep inside you have to have a crush on that boy, Eliza. Every girl does, and that’s why he gets his pick of the school. If anyone ever told him no, the entire girl population would probably send them through electric shock therapy.” Both girls broke down in a brief fit of laughter. When they stopped, Quincy looked expectantly at Eliza and waited for her answer.
“I did have a crush on him in the beginning of the year, when I first came to the school. He seemed perfect in every way. But after I realized he was just a bystander, I nearly hated him for it.”
“What do you mean, a bystander? I’ve always seen him standing up for people.”
“The night before I, I…did it; he was hanging around with some of his football buddies. It was right after Christmas break, which had been when I swallowed the twenty-five pills. I was coming from school late that day when they threw me into a car and started making fun of me. At school, it had always been one thing. Off-grounds, it was another. They were calling me the meanest things in the world. And then one of them gave me this.” Eliza pulled up her sleeve to show Quincy the scar from a cigarette burn. She didn’t bother to hide the scars from where she had cut herself.
“And what does any of this have to do with Fynne? Did he know what his team was doing or something?”
“He was sitting in the car behind me. And the worst part was that he didn’t say anything. He didn’t encourage them or stop them. It’s one thing to know where someone stands. But what hurt even more was to know that he didn’t stand anywhere…and then watch him stick up for every other person, like I just didn’t matter.”
“So when did you stop liking him?”
“The minute he made me feel invisible and disposable. This was, after all, only beginning into the second week of school. If he had stood up for me once, just once, instead of watching…”
Quincy smiled sadly and gave Eliza a hug, whispering quietly, “Life will be different when we get back home. You have me now.”
It was dark on the island, and a small campfire glowed in the distance. Crickets from the forest merged their song into the tumble of the waves.
Fynne turned away with the salt water. When he reached the campfire, he asked someone else to take it to them and they readily agreed. There was so much that he needed to worry about as the leader…Jason’s injuries, water supply, food supply, and what to do when they ran out of the things that they needed. But all that he could think about was what Eliza had said about him.
“If only she knew.” He muttered, prodding the fire with a branch to enrage it. Fresh flames curled around the stick and charred it. Fynne watched as it burned, wondering why Eliza never had addressed him about the way she felt. While he sat and pondered, the idea of confronting her now, in her injured state, was tempting. But then he would have to admit that he had been eavesdropping on the two girls’ conversations, and he couldn’t bring himself to do that. So he told himself that in time, he would. However, today was not that time. It was time for sleep, certainly.
In the middle of that night, someone aroused Fynne. “Jason’s gotten worse,” They whispered, and Fynne got up to follow them over to where Jason lay. It was no surprise that he hadn’t woken up yet, but the wound in his torso was alarmingly inflamed. No one could be sure if it had punctured any vital organs. They had no real means of medical treatment for the boy. And this left them, in a way, as bystanders- helpless and with no control.
Fynne sat with Jason through the rest of the night, giving him pain killers from time to time. When the sun came up, he was checking Jason’s pulse to be sure that he was alive. The matter of Jason’s injury was troubling. They were in need of some sort of assistance, and they decided to have a meeting with the entire group. This time, everyone was there- including Eliza.
When everyone was gathered together under Quincy and Eliza’s tree, Fynne started, “I’d like to congratulate all of you. Today marks over two full weeks of survival on this island. We’ve learned how to wash our clothes, build a shelter, and make a fire. But one of our classmates is still injured from the crash. And I can think of only one thing that we could do that might help us save him.”
Voices started to filter in. People knew what he was suggesting and they didn’t like the idea of entering the cabin. Eliza had stood up and Fynne thought maybe she was leaving to go sit and ponder her life somewhere. He was surprised when she spoke up and looked at him, even if only for a split second, right in the eye.
“I’ll do it, Fynne. I’ll go into the cabin and, I don’t know…take out all the useful things. Maybe we’ll find something in there that could help Jason.” Everyone was surprised that she had stepped up and said anything at all. The group was pleasantly astonished, and several other people volunteered after witnessing her model willingness.
Fynne led the group down the beach to the plane’s carcass. There were five of them willing to go into the body of the plane. When they reached the emergency door they were going to enter, a couple of them faltered. But Fynne wasn’t going to blame them or embarrass them for their reservations. Instead, he suggested that they stay outside and that the three on the inside would hand things out to them.
The three that were going to enter climbed around the other side with slight hesitation. For a moment, Fynne paused. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to go in there himself, rather than lead other people into the plane as well. When he stopped, Eliza shouldered past him and reached the emergency exit. Then she stopped, too.
Two of her fingers reached out and traced the logo OceanAir on the side as she forced herself to move forward. The door that they were planning on entering with loomed closer and closer until Eliza was down to the last part of the R. When she was standing outside the door, Fynne and the other boy, Ajay, came to stand at her shoulders. Then she wiggled a knife in through the keyhole and the door fell open.
Immediately a slightly disheveling smell wafted from the opening. The three brave forgoers felt sick for a moment. The third, named Damon, took several steps away and revisited his previous meal. But Fynne and Eliza were entering the plane by the time he got back. Fynne was surprised by how easily Eliza moved forward into the wreckage.
When all three of them were inside, they surveyed the damage. The back and front of the plane had sustained major damage. Eliza herself had been fortunate to survive, as most of the rear had crumbled. Large, broken pieces of the aircraft were now what once had been the tail. The cockpit was completely gone, sentimentally spared by several small pieces of metal that had been thrown around in the explosion.
As Fynne and Damon walked down the remainder of the aisle, they tried not to look at the six bodies that lay around the plane. They were still in seats, forever posed in their last action. One girl was holding her cellphone. Fynne grimaced and looked away from the popular girl he had once known. Then, he started to open the overhead compartments.
Several suitcases tumbled onto the floor, while other small things fell out too. Hairbrushes, laptop chargers, and water bottles all helped to break the silence. Damon picked the bottles up and set them an empty seat that faced away from the bodies. He was visibly uncomfortable in the ominous silence. Fynne noticed this and decided to provide him with direction.
“Damon, why don’t you check under the empty seats for blankets and maybe the life vests? Also, any left behind backpacks would be appreciated.” Damon nodded and started taking the blankets out from under the seats. Fynne was watching him, and Damon was on his knees reaching under a seat.
“Oh my God! Fynne, Damon, you have to come see what I found!” Eliza’s voice startled both of the boys. A suitcase that Fynne had been holding up fell onto his head as he jumped, and Damon hit his arm against the seat.
Fynne rolled his eyes in annoyance, holding one of the seats for support. Damon was rubbing his elbow and staring dubiously at the seat. “Eliza, it can’t be so important that we must rush over to see what it is!”
“Well I need help getting it out!” Eliza’s voice was still far away, and the two boys navigated through the aisle towards her.
When they reached her in the remains of the front of the plane, they were both slightly annoyed. “What was so important that we had to come up here?” Damon asked, his voice dripping with mockery.
Eliza looked at him briefly before pointing to a red cross under some metal. There was a filing cabinet nearby it, and she pointed that out to. “An emergency medical kit and the food and drinks. They’ll be better than regular planes because it was an overnight flight.”
Fynne inspected them with Damon. “And you couldn’t have just walked up to us like a normal person and told us you needed help?”
“No, because I’m not normal.” Eliza wasn’t looking at either of them when she said this, and Fynne forced himself to ignore her tone of disregard.
“So we just pick up the metal and you’ll take the stuff out?” Damon and Fynne watched Eliza nod before picking up the large hunk of metal. She reached under and quickly pulled out the medical kit, throwing it behind her. Then, she ripped out shelf by shelf. Bags of Ritz crackers and other assorted foods, along with cans of soda or water, lay behind her when she got to the final drawer. In that, there was personal belongings of the flight attendants. She took those out too, not wanting to have people forget them. When she was finished, the two boys set the metal back down. Well, more like dropped it.
They each took an armload of the things they had found and walked back to the center of the plane. Because it was unstable, they were forced to walk carefully and slowly. Damon started to throw things out of the plane through the emergency exit while the other two continued to scavenge for anything useful. The smell had stopped bothering them, but Eliza stopped suddenly by one of the bodies. It was Jenna, one of the girls who had been in her physical education class the previous semester.
Fynne was practically out of earshot when she whispered, “Do you want to know why I used to cut myself? I cut myself because every night it was the only way I could convince myself that I wasn’t living in my nightmares. It was how I kept it real; the pain, and the blood. They were how I knew that I was alive.”
Her lower lip quivered and her eyes darted away as she started towards the front of the plane again to go through overhead compartments.
“What did you say, Eliza? Did you cut yourself?” Fynne had stopped picking through a bag to look up at her.
“No, I…I thought I was going to get cut on the metal getting that kit and stuff.” She smiled wearily and opened the compartment. The first thing to fall out was a clipboard. She caught it over her head and stared at it. It was a flight itinerary for the class, along with trip plans underneath it. She had found Ms. O’s bag.
It got put in the pile of things to go back to the camp, which was getting larger by the minute. There were various objects and utilities that they had collected. Deodorant, which was a popular thing for teenagers. Food, blankets, sweatshirts, phones, iPods. Eventually, they just threw down every bag that they found. People might want their old belongings, they figured. So why not let them have them if they were willing to come get them?
Several hours later, the three had stripped the body of the plane of anything useful. The two kids outside had moved everything that they had tossed out from outside the emergency exit to a couple hundred yards closer to camp. That way, people could help them bring things back without getting too close to the plane.
Eliza was the only one that wasn’t happy when they were getting ready to exit. A frown had fallen over her face, and she kept glancing around uncomfortably. Fynne was the one who noticed it, and he mentioned something quietly to Damon. They agreed to see what she was looking for, and when Damon asked her she looked uncomfortably at the ceiling.
“There’s just this, well, you’re going to think it’s lame. But the backpack that I used for my carry on used to be my mom’s. The stuff in it I can replace, but I don’t feel like I can replace that. I was just hoping to find it in here.”
Fynne and Damon half smiled. It was clear to them that this was important to her, although they didn’t fully comprehend why. They didn’t realize that her mother and father had died within the last year. But they still stepped away from the exit and agreed to help her look for it. Ten minutes later, Damon spotted it in the wreckage of the rear of the plane. But he was unsure about reaching in to get it, so he motioned Fynne over and pointed it out to him. Eliza was still looking in some of the overhead compartments. When Fynne saw the bag, he reached his hand in without hesitation. He didn’t comprehend quite why it was so important, but he wanted to find a passage onto Eliza’s good side.
When he pulled it out, his hand was cut a little bit. The blood oozed out of it slowly, and he looked at it, relieved that they had found a medical kit. Damon saw the bag and Fynne smiled as he looked at it. It was an old style leather pack, with a buckle instead of a zipper.
“Is this what you were looking for?” Fynne asked when he was directly behind Eliza. She spun around and stared at it in amazement.
“Yes!” Her entire face lit up as her hand graced the leather. And in a moment of pure happiness, she hugged Fynne. But when she realized what she was doing, she stepped back awkwardly and took the pack. “Thank you- both of you.” She murmured, averting her eyes from their wordless conversation.
“Why don’t we get back to the camp?” Fynne asked, and they all turned gratefully towards the exit.
By the time that everything was back in the general area of the camp, sunset was long gone. There had been no time of enjoyment, and not a blink of boring nothingness that day. Eliza’s injuries had been entirely forgotten, or ignored, but she was limping badly by the time everything was said and done. Jason was still alive, though, and the plan was to fix him the next day unless his pulse slowed dramatically in the night. With this knowledge in her head, Eliza hobbled over to Quincy and slumped down.
Quincy laughed slightly. She still couldn’t walk on her own, and seeing the exhaustion Eliza had pushed herself to was puzzling. When Eliza tossed something into her lap, she wasn’t expecting food. “What is it?”
“It’s a Luna bar. There my favorite energy bars and I had an entire pack in my carry-on. Feast away.” Eliza’s words were slurred and falling together by the time she finished the end of her sentence. Quincy ate the food happily and turned to ask Eliza a question. But then she heard the light snores that her friend made in her sleep and turned back around.
“Of course she fell asleep. She’s bloody well exhausted.” Quincy took out her own carryon, which Eliza had brought back for her. Quincy remembered watching Eliza bring it back in the first trip, before the light had even began to fade, and the excitement she had felt. Now, she opened it and took out the contents that lay inside. She set things in her suitcase that sat next to her as she took them out. A cellphone, an IPod, a set of headphones. Tissues, a toothbrush…the list went on and on until she came to what she really wanted. Quincy pulled out a sketchpad and charcoal pencil.
Before the plane went down, she had been drawing portraits of her friends. Now, she wanted to make one of Eliza. She put the pencil on the paper and began to sketch the sleeping form of the other girl. Since her style of drawing was considered to be raw, she didn’t change what she saw as she put in on paper. Eliza’s clothes were still torn, her hair was in a messy braid, her ankle was swollen and bandaged, and her head still rested on her leather pack. It was all as Quincy saw it, in the way that she saw it. She was starting the stage of perfecting the drawing when a dim light illuminated the paper.
“Is that her?” Fynne whispered quietly as he looked at the paper. In one hand he had a flashlight and in the other a couple blankets and something indiscernible from Quincy’s vantage point. He gave Quincy one of the blankets and a bottle of water.
“Yeah, it’s Eliza.” Quincy watched as Fynne moved over to kneel beside her friend. He looked at her ankle slowly and shook his head. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t believe she did all that today. It must’ve started bleeding again, because I can see red on this side of the wrappings.” He started to unwrap it slowly, aware of Quincy watching his every move. When he slipped the bandage off, she decided to ask him a question.
“Did you know her before the plane accident, or even realize she was in our biology class?” Fynne paused as he was rewrapping her ankle when he heard Quincy’s question.
“Do you want me to be completely honest with you?” Fynne was trying to spare himself time from answering a question that made him feel uncomfortable in his own mind. He returned to wrapping Eliza’s ankle with another t-shirt strip.
“Yes, Fynne. Because I’ve heard how she feels about things, and I really like her. I really want to be her friend, and not just because of what she’s gone through. Because of who she is, and what she believes in. But she says some things about you that I have a hard time thinking are true. So tell me how you knew her.”
Quincy was trying to speak as quietly as possible in order not arouse Eliza. Fynne tied the bandage on and took a deep breath. He unfolded the remaining blanket and spread it out over her sleeping form before getting up. Then, he walked to the other side of Quincy and sat down.
“I can’t say that ever really knew her. I saw her around in school sometimes, but she wasn’t particularly…memorable.” Fynne’s voice changed on the last word and he started to play with the sand in his hands.
“Fynne, I want the truth, no matter what it is. And I will try not to judge you if you did anything that you aren’t proud of.”
“What, did she tell you that I’m a bad person? Did she-”
“No, but that’s kind of how she feels, Fynne. It’s the vibe that you get from her when she talks to you.” Fynne looked away, having meant for it to be a rhetorical question. But Quincy only looked at him more intently.
“Fine, I kind of knew her. Some of the other boys on the football team bullied her. I don’t know why. They called her a slut, and a ginger, and sometimes even a lesbian because her fathers are gay. I think that they originally took to her because she was new to our school. But something about made them stick with it. It was probably because she never fought back, never even said anything. And she was emotional, which only encouraged them. But sometimes I was there when they- okay, I guess most of the time. But I could never do anything because they were my people.”
“So you never wondered how it made her feel? Never thought about what she was forced to go through mentally because you couldn’t ask them to stop? Because you acted like you didn’t care?”
“I thought you promised not to judge me.”
“I’m not judging you; I’m just gently reminding you of what an idiot you are.”
Fynne was slightly annoyed by that, and he got up and left, muttering about other things he needed to attend to. Quincy wanted to apologize the moment he started to turn away, but she knew it was too late. And she also wasn’t completely guilty about what she had said to him.