I know, it's way too happy at the beginning. Please PM and R&R telling me your thoughts and if I should continue! Thanks for reading.

"Gabby," a husky voice whispers in my ear. I tense up. Is it him? It sure sounds like it. "Hunter?" I whisper back, extending my fingertips, searching for him with my hands. And then the fantasy collapses when "Hunter" says: "Gabby, I looove you," and I punch out at my sister, who jumps back, laughing hysterically. "You fell for it!" She giggled, one hand over her mouth. "Fell for what?" I snap back, my cheeks blushing. "You thought I was Hunter!" Rachel chuckles. "You missed breakfast and mother wants you to pump up water and clean the dishes." I throw my covers off, swing my legs off the bed. I shrug my nightdress off and pull on black leggings, and a gray shirt. I lace up my boots and hurry past my sister, who can't choke her laughter back anymore and starts howling all over again.

Like all younger siblings, she manages to annoy me.

I pull my bucket off the kitchen table and skip out into the garden; I hate how there are high brick walls all around it, so all I can see is the sky, with tree branches reaching out and blocking the sun. I know the walls there are for protection, but I think that all we're doing instead of locking the Hollowed out is locking ourselves in. It's depressing and I hate it. I use the handle of the wooden bucket to hang itself on the nozzle of the water pump. Our water pump is awful—you really have to use elbow grease to get any amount of water out; it rusts up every time it rains, and it's a huge pain. The pump isn't the only poor object I have with me at the moment—the wooden bucket. As soon as I hang it on the water pump, the handle gives out; but only one side does. So the left side of the bucket swings down and collides with ground, caving in because it was so rotten through. "Huh," I said, hand on my hips. I ran inside, sliding to a stop in front of the staircase. "Mom?" I yell up the stairs. "Yes, Gabrielle?" My mother's sweet voice carries down wearily, along with the cries of my infant brother, Lowell. Cody ran down the stairs past me, with my shrieking sister after him, one hand reaching for Cody, the other keeping her unraveling braid in place. I catch Cody in the waist, take the the ribbon from his hand and give it to Rachel, who stomps back up the stairs, grumbling threats under her breath. I pick Cody up and he climbs onto my shoulders, grabbing fistfuls of my dark hair to steady himself.

"The bucket's rotten through and I can't get the pump to start." There's silence, besides Lowell's screaming. "Then go to one of the neighbor's to borrow a bucket and for help. And when I say neighbors, I mean next-door neighbors; and I don't care if Cameron takes it the wrong way, he's a very nice young man that you should consider marry—" I had Cody climb down my shoulders and onto the ground. "LA LA LA LA! I don't want to hear it! We've had this conversation before and I still say NO!" I scream over my mother and brothers and sister. I slam the door behind me as I stomp out of the house. I walk over to Cameron's house—his house is literally right next to mine. I find myself desperately hoping that Cameron did hear my mother's conversation. I wanted him to know that I wasn't interested in marrying him, which seemed to be incomprehensible to him. But it wasn't to me. I hated the way Cameron looked at me: like he was Hollowed, and I was the next living in front of him, only a hairs breadth out of reach. Like I was there and all he had to do was take me; but it wasn't that simple.

I favored Hunter over all others. Instead of going to close neighbors to borrow items, I would run all the way over to Hunter, and every time I went we launch ourselves into deep conversations; every time I went to Hunter's, we would talk longer and longer, getting closer and closer. The trouble with that is that I would stay for much too long, and Rachel would run over, drag me back and send me home on mother's orders. I had made myself out to be a very impressionable girl, though. I shivered at the thought of the last time I was at his house; he kept dropping more-than-subtle hints to me, like how I "was ripe for the picking," and that I had "better marry before I rot." And then he kissed me. I guess I destroyed the moments afterwards: I ran away.

I surprise myself my knocking on Cameron's door. He opens it, stops in mid-yawn, and stares at me. "Gabrielle," he says, but his voice is more like a purr. I nod, and cringe a little at how his words echo in my ear. I compare him to Hunter: Cameron has olive skin, raven-black hair that falls in his eyes, and eyes so dark their depths are unfathomable. Hunter seems so much different; he has fair skin, like mine, with sun-bleached blonde hair, twinkling blue eye, brighter than the clearest stream. He's always happy and bright, where Cameron is sullen and serious, strangely enough, though, his mood always seems to increase when I'm present. Lost in my thoughts, I'm jolted out of them when Cameron asks me sharply, "Do you need something, or are you going to stand here all day?" I jump, flushing red. For a second, I think Cameron knows about what I'm thinking. His shaggy hair falls into his face. "Can you even see me?" I ask suddenly, squinting. The question catches him off guard and he laughs, throwing his head back, and leaning against the doorway, he looks back down at me, his hair out of his face. "Now I can." He says, grinning. A lock of hair falls into his eyes, and I start laughing. A grin flits across his face, and I start to wonder if he did that on purpose, just to make me laugh. A warm blush starts on my cheeks, and I straighten up, done laughing. I can't help but look at Cameron with a new interest, that I quickly push away.

"I came over wondering if I could halve—I mean burrow—I mean—ah" I fumble quickly over my words, growing redder each minute. Cameron watches me, amused, until he holds up a hand to silence me. "You need a bucket?' He guesses. I always need a bucket. I smile meekly and nod. He disappears and then returns, tossing me an iron bucket. "You can keep it." He says. I smile gratefully. "Thank you." I say, and walk away. I can tell that Cameron can sees the flaw in the extent in his kindness—now that I have a good bucket, I won't have to keep coming back to borrow the bucket. "Gabrielle?" He calls after me. I pause. "If you need anything, just come to me." His voice his quiet and soft, begging me to turn around and look at him. I know that what he's saying is just a thin veil to over what he really means. I turn around to look at him, just to confirm my fears—which I do. Cameron stares at me, his face so open and vulnerable and caring and full of longing, with a little regret for letting me see him so fully. I'd be promising more than I'd want to to him. I swallow hard, and say weakly, "I'd hate to be bothersome like that, bugging you all the time," I can see Cameron's face fall, and he barely whispers, "It wouldn't be bothersome," and before he pours his heart out, I hold up one hand. "You didn't let me finish. I would hate to be bothersome like that, but..." I struggle vainly to say something that wouldn't give Cameron any wise ideas; I failed, but at least what I was going to say next would be heartwarming to him.

"But that's not going to stop me." and I turned on my heel and ran back to my house; before I turned, I saw Cameron's eyes widen, and that hungry look for me almost consume him. There was a weight to my words that I didn't feel, but Cameron certainly did.


I lifted the pump handle up. I shoved it halfway down. I kicked the bucket Cameron gave me, cursing at the pain as it hit the far wall to my left. Everyone in the village was busy stocking the platforms above in the trees, reinforcing the rope ladders that connected treehouse to treehouse to treehouse. The barriers around us were being reinforced, too. Everyone was cautious, because if someone got infected while reinforcing the barriers around the village, the infection would spread like wildfire throughout the village. I, however, was not exploring the treehouses above with my friends when we were supposed to be weaving ropes, oh, no, I was still being forced to get water that would not come out of the pump because it was so rusted over. It was late afternoon, and I still had not washed the breakfast dishes. All of my family was up in the trees, stabilizing and stocking and restocking while I was stuck here, with my infant brother, trying to get water that would not pump.

"I HATE THIS STUPID THING!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. Lowell started crying from somewhere in the garden. I found him hidden in the basil plants, his little dark-haired head tilted at the sky as he wailed. I scooped him up, bouncing him on my hip, singing lullabies over his dull roar. "Hush little baby, don't say a word, I'm going to find you a whole new world," I sang badly, singing off tune in attempt to be louder than my brother, who was wailing at a much higher volume. "Sunshine, you are my are my sunshine, you make me ha-ppy, when skies are gray. If you only knew, dear, how much I love you, oh please don't take, my sunshine aw-a-ay." A voice sang sweetly behind me. I twist my head, my muscles tensed because I was so startled. Hunter grinned at me, pecked me on the cheek, and took Lowell from my arms. He gently rocked and soothed my brother, until his tears and cries subsided. "Oh, you'll make a wonderful mother one day, Hunter," I said in an airy voice that I imagined sounded like nurse maid. Hunter laughed quietly and handed me Lowell, who was beginning to nod off. I walked up the stairs, trying not to jostle him. Hunter came up close around me, a goofy smile on his face. I laid Lowell gently in his cradle, and padded silently downstairs, Hunter at my heels.

"So how come you're not up helping?" I ask him, raising my eyebrows to indicate the platforms above us in the trees. "You know, I can ask the same thing and you would feel pretty guilty for not helping, too." He replied, pouting out his lip. I laughed at him, and he rolled his eyes at me, but grinned anyway. "They finished everything up there, pretty much, so a lot of people are coming down." I leaned against the brick wall. "So I missed my one and only chance to explore up there, huh?" I groan. Hunter's face darkens as he says, "Until the gates breach, yes." And then his face cleared up and he smiled at me. But my mind was more inclined towards the inevitability of our village's demise. "It could be that the barrier's are breached, but maybe some moron might stick their fingers through on a dare, and than get infected. I think the fences are doing pretty well right now." Hunter braced his arms on either side of me. "How come you have to talk about such depressing things?" He asked me. I shrugged. "It's just one of the possibilities." I say. "Yeah, well, there's a possibility that I might kiss you," Hunter said, a playful smile tugging at his lips. I can't help but smile back, and pressed his lips against mine so hard, it almost hurt.

I wish that moment lasted forever. But it didn't. And remember earlier, about the inevitability of our village's demise?

Please go to my profile; there's another story there that for some reason I can't publish. Please R&R or PM me your thoughts/ideas/comments! Thank you!