Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

Newt's Story

Flore sees her chance that afternoon, when she and Winston walk towards their picnic table to have lunch.

Newt is sitting alone, on a picnic table right next to the Deadheads. Flore feels a sting of pity for the blond boy, and she feels an urge to talk to him that has nothing to do with her mission.

She turns to Winston.

"I'm going to sit with Newt," she says, knowing that she sounds really rude right now. "Alone."

Winston frowns.

"What... Why?" he asks, sounding confused.

"I've been having weird dreams," Flore blurts out, before she can stop herself. "Some woman told me that I have to fulfil missions, or something bad will happen to me or to my friends. Yesterday's mission was to become a Slicer, and today's mission is to make sure I don't have any enemies."

She spins around before Winston can say anything, but before walking away, she quietly says: "I'm sorry, Winston. I promise that this is the only time you have to sit without me."

She doesn't even know if he has heard her, but she leaves him standing there, hoping that he won't sit alone somewhere.

Biting her lip, she tries to focus on making friends, now. The heavy nervousness in her stomach grows with every step she takes towards Newt, but she knows that she has to do this.

She probably only has one chance.

Swallowing difficultly, she puts her hands in her pockets and tries to look nonchalant, though she is probably failing miserably.

"Hi, Newt," she says, trying to sound cheerfully. "Mind if I sit here?"

The boy doesn't reply, but he moves to the side to make space for her to sit.

Her lungs feel like they are filled with cement as she sits down next to him.

"So," she tries, "nice weather, isn't it?"

"The weather is always nice here," Newt snaps. "Didn't notice that it never rains here, did you?"

Shit.

"I-I'm sorry," Flore stutters, not knowing what else to do. Then she decides to take a great risk. "You know, I just want to talk. Can't you tell me why you're acting like that to me? Wh-What have I done wrong?"

She knows very well what she has done wrong. She was talking about that other girl, his girlfriend, who died, and she made a mistake by doing that, but it wasn't that bad, was it? Everyone makes mistakes.

For one frightening moment, it is completely silent. Then Newt asks something totally unexpected.

"Are you sure you want to hear the whole story?"

Flore freezes in place at the question, only able to stare.

She didn't expect this to happen.

She expected him to snap at her again, tell her to leave.

"Eh... Well, why not?" she replies, trying to hide her surprise.

Newt carefully smiles. It looks more like a grimace, but it is enough to make Flore freeze again.

"It all started, like, three weeks ago," he begins. His voice sounds hoarse, as if he hasn't talked to anyone in days. "Gally, George, Billy and that month's Greenie attacked me, for no reason. Gally had been stung, and he and his friends had knives. They started to stab me."

Flore catches a glimpse of white bandage under his vest, and she makes a mental note to stay away from Gally, Billy and the Greenie, whoever that may be.

She listens as Newt goes on.

"I'm quite sure that I would've been dead if Alby, Minho and Nick hadn't stopped them in time, but that wasn't even the worst. George was my friend – or so I thought – and he had just tried to kill me. I didn't dare to trust anyone, anymore. The second horrible thing happened the day after that. Nick tried to escape, through the Box hole, and got cut in two."

Newt's voice breaks, and Flore feels that her heart gets filled with pity. He doesn't deserve all this.

Nobody does.

"He was like a brother to me, to all of us. We all tried to forget him by working extra hard, but nobody could sleep, and the mix of those two things takes its toll really fast."

Newt swallows difficultly, as if he is in pain – which wouldn't be strange – and Flore wonders how it is possible that he has changed from a snappy boy into someone who is sharing his misery with a girl he barely knows. It seems impossible.

"It went wrong two days after Nick's death. I was doing my job as a Runner when I ran into a Griever. I fled, fell over something and broke my ankle. It was fifteen minutes before the Doors would close, and I couldn't walk."

Ah, Flore thinks. So that's why he limps.

Newt looks down at his lunch, an untouched egg. He looks the way most people look when they are lying, but Flore doesn't believe that he is lying.

Why would he lie about something like this?

"How did you survive?" she asks when Newt doesn't go on.

He looks up, as if she has pulled him out of his thoughts.

"Minho found me," he says. "He went back to get help, and he and Alby simply dragged me back to the Glade. They were just in time; I never would've made it back on my own."

He stops for a moment.

"Of course I couldn't be a Runner, anymore, and I actually didn't want to be. To be honest, things went better after that. Alby made me second-in-command, and..."

He bites his lip.

"And Lauren came."

Flore's mind immediately connects the name 'Lauren' and 'the only other girl here, who died'.

"It was like we were meant to be," he says, sounding dreamily, but also in pain. "She was just perfect. But then WICKED decided to take her away, too. There was a Griever attack, and the Grievers took me away from the Glade. Lauren and my friends came to look for me, and they found me, but the happiness only lasted for a couple of minutes. Four WICKED people came, carrying guns, and they told us that they had to kill us. They started shooting, and Lauren got hit while trying to protect me. She died, and she died for me."

Newt's voice sounds choked by then, and immense sadness streams into Flore's chest. She didn't expect that his story would upset her that much.

"And then you came," he continues, his voice not bitter or angry anymore, just sad. Really, really sad. "I'm sorry that I acted so mean to you. It just... It just felt like they had replaced her, and that made me angry. It wasn't your fault, I can see that now. I'm sorry."

Flore feels her mouth drop open, and then she closes it again to swallow the lump in her throat away.

"I-It's all right," she says, feeling stunned.

How is it possible that he has changed that much in ten minutes? she wonders again. And how is it possible that he can take that all? No wonder that he was acting so mean.

"I understand it."

The blond boy's face brightens at that.

"Really?" he asks.

Flore nods.

"Why don't we just start all over again?" she asks, smiling a little.

Newt frowns, but nods. "All right."

Flore walks a couple of metres away from the picnic table, to walk back towards it.

"Hi, I'm Flore," she says, holding out a hand.

Newt shakes it, smiling a small grin. "Newt."

"How are you, Newt?" she asks him, and he replies: "A lot better, thanks."

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