Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies

The Day We First Met

Flore hesitates before she knocks on the door of Josiah's room.

It has been nearly an hour since the small group – Tim, Clint, a Runner, and Jeff and a Builder with the stretcher – had carried Josiah into the Glade.

Flore was extremely worried by then, especially after Dave came to get two people with a stretcher. When Flore rushed towards the small group and asked what happened, Tim only shook his head and went into the Homestead, along with Josiah and the Med-Jacks. Flore felt that she had to leave them alone and she had gone back to her work, but the worry kept eating on her, so while the other Gladers were having lunch, she had gone into the Homestead.

And here she was, standing in front of Josiah's room, only a closed door keeping her away from her friends. All she has to do, is knock, but she hesitates, though she isn't sure why.

After sighing, she knocks.

"Come in," Tim's hoarse voice replies.

Flore pushes the door open and closes it behind her.

"Hey, Tim," she quietly greets him.

The tall boy is sitting on the edge of the bed, his long fingers intertwined as if he was praying. He doesn't look like he has cried; he only looks very, very tired.

Flore's eyes shift to Josiah. He is lying in the bed, two pillows put behind his back so that he can sit upright. His eyes are closed, and his face is clean, not covered in blood like Flore saw an hour ago. The blanket is pulled up to his chest, but not high enough to hide the white bandage.

"Hi, Flore," Tim replies, moving to the side so that Flore can sit next to him.

She sits down.

"So... How are you?" she asks him, trying to sound as caring as possible.

Tim grimaces. "Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Well... How is Josiah doing?" Flore asks, and exactly at that moment, as if it is to answer the question, Josiah gasps for air.

"T-Tim..." he breathes.

His eyes fly open, and what Flore sees, frightens her.

Josiah's pupils are huge, so big that nearly all of the brown in his eyes has disappeared, but he doesn't seem to see anything; he seems to be looking right through them.

"Tim," he whispers again. "Tim... Are you there?"

Tim looks at Flore for a moment, his grey eyes filled with fear, but then he replies: "Yes, Josiah. I'm here."

"Good," Josiah says, his voice nothing more than a hoarse whisper. His eyes are still darting through the room, still not seeing anything. It is simply said terrifying.

"Tim..." the dark-haired boy then whispers, "do you remember the day we first met?"

Tim bites his lip, looking scared.

"Josiah, please, don't," he says, obviously trying not to sound like he is on the edge of crying, but failing. "You talk like you're going to die."

But Josiah goes on, as if he didn't even hear Tim, hoarsely whispering.

"You were one of the first Greenies to ever come up with the Box," the dark-haired boy says. "You were so upset, and you ran away as soon as they had pulled you out of the Box. I remember telling Nick that I would talk to you. I found you in the Deadheads, crying and telling me to leave. I didn't, and it's the best decision I've ever made."

The tears are now really streaming down Tim's cheeks, and Flore feels the urge to cry, too.

"I remember that," Tim whispers, his voice choked. "Your hair was longer, then."

Josiah's eyes finally stop moving, and they fix on the tall boy on the edge of the bed.

"Yeah," Josiah whispers. "Good times."

His eyes close and his head falls backwards, his breath leaving his mouth in a quiet puff.

Tim looks at Flore, his eyes unbelievably worried.

"He's not breathing," the Slopper whispers. Then he seems to wake up. "He's not breathing. Flore, go get someone!"

Flore doesn't even take the time to nod. She races out of the room, through the wooden walls of the Homestead, towards the picnic tables where the Gladers are having lunch.

Thank God – the Med-Jacks are sitting on the closest table.

She grabs Clint's arm and pulls him towards the Homestead.

"Hey... What's going on?" the older boy asks, and Flore replies with a stressed: "Josiah isn't breathing. You've got to do something."

Now the boy is running, too.

They dash through the Homestead as fast as they can, and when they have reached Josiah's room, Clint races into the room and slams the door shut behind him.

Flore stays behind, in the corridor, leaning against the wall.

Oh, God, she thinks. Josiah is dying.

He is really dying.

The realization hadn't hit her like that before, and now that it has, Flore can't do anything but sit down on the wooden floor and sob.

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