Jamie sits across the table from me. He nervously twiddles his thumbs, picks up a crouton, and munches it like a mouse. He starts swinging his legs, and I know because he kicks me in the shins.
“Okay, Jamie,” I say while stopping his thumbs, “you need to calm down.
He lifts his face, studies me, then pushes his plate away to make room for his shaking head.
We sit there in almost-silence while everyone else eats. I look down at my pasta and suddenly lose my appetite as well. The other campers hardly notice Jamie anxiously tapping his fingers and wiping sweat off his forehead. They are, however, looking a bit nervous as well.
Finally, he sits up and looks at me straight in the face. “I can’t eve wield a sword.”
“Yes you can, I’ve seen you plenty of times. And there is literally a one in a hundred thousand chance you will be picked to fight… her.” I look away from Jamie to meet the stare of ‘her’. She looks away, annoyed as if I weren’t worthy of her eye contact.
“I’m no you,” he says, as if accusing me.
“I’m no me, either. Wait, what?” Before I let him explain I say, “Whatever, he doesn’t even match girls with boys.”
“He’d match her with anyone he wants. It’s her power. It’s her skill. She can’t lose.”
Suddenly I find myself overcome with heat and I feel a bead of sweat running down my temple. I wipe it off. “Relax.” I can’t tell if my advice is for me or Jamie, so I just take a sip of water to wash down the nervousness.
The Commander taps a walking stick on the wall for everyone to quiet down. The only quieter it could have gotten was for people to stop eating. Everyone is sweating.
“The list is up,” The Commander says, and then walks away. I stare at Jamie, and then Cameran, and then to every other soul in the room except Miranda. No one gets up. No one moves. So I do. I can’t even feel my legs, and I would have thought I were possessed or something if this were a different situation. I numbly walk to the bulletin and read off the list.
“Jamie Mullow and… and Augustus Blix.” I turn back around to see Jamie near the end of our long table nearly pass out. Augustus, too. Neither of them are fighters, and I imagine them being set up for supplies or handy work.
I search for another terrified face. Costello. “Costello Nightingale and Joseph Porter.”
I flit my eyes toward Miranda. Even she is impatiently waiting for me to say something. I look at the list again. “Miranda Cay and Rowena White.”
The whole dining hall gives out a sigh of relief. Miranda couldn’t be less interested.