Dandelion Crowns and Paper Butterflies



Flore is sitting on top of a picnic table, early in the morning. All of the picnic tables are standing in a circle, filled with Gladers, and inside that circle are the Keepers, sitting on chairs.

They had decided to keep the Gathering like that, so that all the Gladers could see it.

Two of the Keepers' chairs are empty, though – Gally's and Billy's. The two 'rulebreakers' are sitting on two other chairs, facing the Keepers, and seeming angry.

Flore can't hear what the Keepers are saying, but she can hear what Alby shouts as he stands up.

"All right, everybody, listen up!" the leaders yells. "The punishment for Gally of the Builders and Billy of the Baggers, for killing Victor the Greenie and attempting to kill Josiah of the Runners, is two weeks in the Slammer, only water and bread."

Flore smiles at the idea of the two big guys in the small hovel. They must be crazy by the time they can get out.

"Wow, now that's a horrible punishment," she hears Josiah, who is sitting right next to her, whisper to Tim, and she giggles.

The injured Runner had convinced Tim that he was strong enough to get out of his bed, and apparently, he is. Flore finds the two simply said adorable together. She is so happy that they have given each other a second chance.

Alby's loud voice pulls her attention towards the Keepers again.

"Gathering clo-" he starts, but he gets cut off by Winston, who stands up.

"Excuse me, Alby," he says, sounding a little shy. "I've got an announcement to make."

He gestures that Flore has to come, and she stands up, frowning.

What is he trying to do?

As soon as she steps into the circle of Keepers, Winston grips her hand. Surprised, she gently squeezes his fingers, the way she always does when they hold hands. He squeezes back before turning to the Gladers.

"Flore and I," he shouts, uncontrollably smiling, "are officially a couple!"

"Huh?" Flore asks, surprised. Of course she had just assumed that they would be a couple by now, but they never said it out loud. "Are we?"

Winston smiles at her. "Yep."

And as he kisses her, all of the Gladers start to cheer.


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