I spent the next hour with Matt, making and serving breakfast, hoping against hope that the storm didn’t blow our tents right over and trying not to think about whatever Greg and Thom might have been talking about other than designing the greenhouse. If I was lucky, that was the only thing they were discussing.
The only warning we had was a gust of wind before we heard he loud crack of wood snapping. Someone screamed, and the second of the two tents we were living in started to fold in on itself.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I grabbed the bucket of soapy water we’d been using to rinse dishes and dashed into the collapsing tent to douse the fire at the far end.
“Marin, what are you doing?” Kellin shouted after me.
“The fire!” I reached it as the wall on that side was folding inward, upending the bucket onto the flickering flames just in time to look up and see one of the tent’s posts coming down toward my head.
Something knocked me sideways. I landed near the edge of the fire pit and the heavy, wet tarp of the tent’s walls buried me. I lay there for a moment, listening to the pounding rain, the howling wind, and the others yelling at each other, catching my breath. I lay still for a few long moments before I started trying to claw my way out from beneath the suffocating weight of the tarps, heart starting to beat a little faster as I realized what a small space I was trapped in and that the tarps were too heavy for me to easily force up and off of myself.
God, don’t panic. Don’t panic, don’t panic.
The mantra wasn’t working. My heart hammered against my ribs and I was having a hard time breathing. The rain was still pounding down onto the plastic above me. I tried to scramble, uncertain of where the light would be, where the air would be. Thunder rumbled, so loud and so close the ground quivered under me. I couldn’t breathe.
Something ripped to one side of me. My senses tunneled down to that sound, the sound of ripping, plastic-coated canvas splitting. It screamed in my ears, echoed through my skull. I could see light, dim though it was, to my left. A thick, meaty hand thrust into the gap in the tent and hauled me out and into the rain.
God, was it cold. The rain was like ice, but it shocked me out of my panic and I clung to J.T. who’d hauled me out. I was shaking, but not from the cold, heart still racing. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, too close for comfort, but I couldn’t move. I was rooted to that spot, panic still gripping me.
“Marin, walk. Move.”
I jerked, looking up at J.T. He tugged on me again, toward the safety of the other tent, which was still up, still intact, though a few were scrambling to get walls up along the side that was suddenly exposed. Carolyn was standing in the gap that remained, eyes wide, face white. Was she afraid? Kellin stood next to her, though it wasn’t me she was looking at.
J.T. tugged a third time and I moved, stumbling over the slick canvas and tripping a little over some of the debris beneath the collapsed tent. We were both soaked to the skin and then some by the time we made it to the safety of the still-standing tent. J.T. didn’t let go until we’d made it that far. My heart was still hammering against my ribs as I collapsed.
“I saw it coming down,” Carolyn said in a broken voice. “It was going to hit you, Mar.”
I blinked up at her, trying to process what she was saying. The mark on my arm was warm, tingling, not cold like it had been for the past few days. “Huh?”
Very nice Marin. How articulate of you. I shook my head to clear it. “What are you talking about, Care?”
“She did it, Marin,” Kellin said in a low voice, crouching next to me. “Knocked you sideways so you wouldn’t fall into the fire or get hit by that pole.”
It took another minute for me to process what she was saying. About the same time my brain caught up, the cold caught up with me and I started to shiver violently. My clothes clung to me, soaking wet, and might as well have been coated in ice. Goosebumps raced up and down my limbs. I looked up at Carolyn and tried to speak through my chattering teeth. “Are you okay?”
She ulped, then nodded. “I—I think so.”
I nodded, almost convulsively. The only spot on me that was warm was my arm, where I’d been hit by the Grays. “Good,” I managed to say. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
She nodded mutely, looking from me to the spot where I’d been standing before, before the other tent came down. Then Davon appeared, hauling a wall up and clipping it into place, closing us off from the wind and rain.
J.T. was already stripping out of his wet clothes, ignoring any sense of propriety. Drew and Matt appeared with towels. I just sat on the ground, shivering, mud-spattered and freezing. My brother wrapped one of the towels around me and started pulling me up to my feet.
“You need to get out of those clothes, Mar,” he said quietly. I leaned against him, all the strength gone from my legs. I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I was just so cold.
Thom and Greg appeared, Thom leaning against Greg, both looking concerned—Thom more than Professor Doyle. I fixated on them for a moment.
Put them together and they maybe make a whole, functioning human being.
I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. As my laugh edged toward hysterical, Thom was suddenly just there, taking me in his arms and away from my brother. I leaned against him, letting his warmth penetrate me to my half-frozen core. My laughter turned into sobs and I buried my face in his neck.
I don’t know how long he held me, or how long we stood there. All I remember is that he did and the panic and fear finally went away, and I was warm again. Maybe not dry, but warm, and safe.
It was a feeling I never, ever wanted to go away.
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