I pick at my tray of food in the mess hall, pushing my salad around, completely distracted. Counting down the minutes before I can head upstairs, already on edge, unable to think about anything else despite telling myself I'm only making it worse. My nerves are already shot.
Meadow is keeping her distance, sat down the far end of the long table because she knows she won't be able to hold it in if we sit close. She isn't really doing a great job of acting natural either and I can almost taste her tension waving this way. I catch her eyes on me a couple of times, but she looks away quickly, as though we've had some sort of lover's tiff and I wish she would stop before someone picks up on it. I think she's the reason I'm on such high alert because she's adding to my stress levels.
The rest of the sub pack are dotted around me, although still grouped in an obvious unit. I'm stuck between the twins, who decided they were flanking me in here today and they are arguing about who got more coleslaw with their potato jackets while reaching over me in a bid to steal one another's food. Radar watching them silently across the table, like an amused parent who is not inclined to intervene, until I can't take it anymore.
"Here. Just take mine okay. I'm not hungry and you're making me crazy." It's a despairing snap as I push my tray at Remi on my left and skid my chair back to escape this nonsense. Not really caring if all eyes turn to quiet little me in surprise, because they're behaving like a couple of toddlers.
They behave like this at every mealtime, but I'm on edge and tetchy, and my nerves are pulled taut with the knowledge I have to get going soon if I'm going to be ready by dusk. I have so much going on in my head, my heart is in eternal conflict, and I just need time out.
I stand up, ignoring the enquiring glances but no one questions, probably guessing I finally got as fed up with them bickering, as everyone else, as they do it almost daily. Everyone has been feeling the strain of late, with more trucks arriving this afternoon, more prisoners carried in from around the mountain, so I can be forgiven for the random outburst at the two most irritating of this sub pack. They may be older than me physically, but it's obvious the twins are the two most juvenile among us.
The mess hall is full of Santos chowing down at this hour before they get called out to assemble for evening chores and duties. Patrols get pulled out on the main field an hour before dusk so that gives me a window of opportunity. To pack, get out, and move before the first patrol starts walking the perimeter. We have a rest and refresh hour in our rooms after meals, and for me that signals the last time I carry out my normal routine I have fallen into the past few days. It's my window of opportunity.
I'm supposed to help with the cleaning crews every day after our evening meal and tonight I'm in the laundry hall for the first time ever, as they like to rotate duties. It says so on the checklist I got given a few days back, but as I've never been in there before, I doubt I'll be missed.
"I'm going to get changed and freshen up before chores begin." I say it to no one in particular, trying to act natural and weirdly, Jesus, is the one to reply. Eyeing me up in that odd paternal way he has become accustomed to doing lately.