Shift by Pili Yarusi – Chapter 7 – Friendship

Chapter 7 – Friendship

I walk out of the locker room feeling something close to happiness. I’d taught myself not to hope but the feeling was creeping on me. Hope. The hope of friendship. The hope of being able to hang out with someone after school instead of being alone.

Alone.

Now that was a feeling I was used to. Even now it threatened the little bit of sunshine in my world. Alone. I was all alone in this terrible school. The biting voice of self doubt tries to move back in to secure its place in my mind.

Not anymore. A little voice fights for me, it has a girlish slight Chinese accent.

I smile. I have friends now. Maybe I could find Allison. See if she wanted to sit with me for lunch.

I practically skip to my locker. It was too late now; I was letting the happiness and hope infect me. It lightens my step and made me feel that, perhaps for the first time this school year, I belong.

I come to a complete stop. Someone bumps into me from behind. I hardly hear or feel them. Maybe if I had been paying closer attention to where I was going I might have avoided this. I would avoided my locker all together, found a safe little corner in which to hide myself until she left.

Laurie is waiting at my locker. She leans lazily beside it, her black nails scratching up against the painted green metal.

I turn around immediately to run away.

“Hey Julia.” I could have sworn she’d been at least ten feet away but now she was right next to me, whispering in my ear. I spin around. She is still at my locker, right where I’d seen her. How’d she throw her voice so far? She smirks.

I might as well face her. If I was going to get over this and take my life back I neded to do this. I walk up to her. She slides in front of my locker, blocking the lock. “Ah, Julia … just the little bird I wanted to catch … I’m angry at you again.”

I swallow. At first glance she didn’t look angry but her deceptively warm smile flashes in the bright halogen in the hallway revealing a row of sharp white teeth. How did that old children’s story go? Better to eat you with my dear. I look away. What had I done now? I’d stayed away from her. I’d stayed away from her boyfriend. I’d disappeared over the last few weeks.

“Do you know why?” She took out a smooth black phone from her skirt pocket, Nicolas’ iPhone.

I cringe but I found my voice. “Look, Laurie, I sent those messages ages ago and I haven’t called in weeks. I really don’t want any trouble…” I try to reach around her to get into my locker. She plants herself firmly and grabs my shirt sleeve with her free hand. Her nails dig in.

I bite back the yelp that wants to sound out of my mouth. I would not give her the pleasure of seeing me in pain, again.

“You’re so silly, I got rid of those long ago … so pathetic. I’m angry about these.” She pushes the screen in front of my face. There on the screen were pictures … of me. Recent pictures. In study hall, reading my worn copy of Dracula. In gym, running. A few were taken in Sciences sitting staring out the window while Mr. Stiller had been lecturing.

Her tongue flashes out of her mouth, licking at her red lips. “I thought I told you to stay away from him? I thought we agreed it was for your own good?” I cringe, I couldn’t help it. This girl scared the shit out of me. I didn’t think it was possible but her grip on my wrist got tighter. If the cuff of my shirt wasn’t there she’d draw blood. “I thought I’d made myself perfectly clear that I would make you hurt if you had any contact with him.” She twists her grip making me face directly her way and in her face. “He’s mine.” Into her soulless black eyes I fall. The world blurs.

No.

I close my eyes and almost immediately the familiar blinding white sensation of my migraines flare into my head. For once I was glad for them. That was a pain I was used to. I twist my arm in the same direction she was pulling it. I feel her body tilt off balance in surprise … that is all I need. I twist out of her grip and with my free hand, I find her exposed neck and slam her up against the locker.

I open my eyes. Everyone in the hallway was looking at us with unabashed amazement. “Don’t do that.” I seethe at her, avoiding her eyes. I slam her head against the metal again for good measure.

I was crazy but now I knew for certain that she had some sort of freaky power to render people incapacitated just by looking at them.

She laughed, “So the little birdie knows how to fight back.” She licks her lips again, her face quizzical. I could see a million different reasons why this girl was so popular. But she was just such a wicked bitch. I couldn’t stand to touch her. I put my hands up and back away.

Laurie’s eyes widen. “What’s that on your wrists?”

Three people appear out of nowhere, flanking her. The exotically beautiful, Camille Hong, her fiery hair a smooth cap of lava on her head, bangs framing her large green eyes. Those eyes were two emerald slits of menacing danger. Laurie’s brother, I think his name is Sam, he just stood there, looking down at me. That’s all he needed to do to make my blood turn cold.

“Then it is true.” Cami pointedly stares at my wrists in distaste. “They had to cuff you! I knew something was wrong with you.”

Were they talking about my bracelets? Strange.

There was one last person, standing a little aloof … not knowing what to do he looks from me to Laurie. Had he really taken those pictures? When he looked at Laurie I saw the blood drain from his face. He saw his iPhone. There was a flash of recognition in his eyes.

I took my chance. “Nicky! Look at me! Don’t look at her…” It was too late, he was already moving to her side, looking at her like a whipped puppy. He wraps his arms around her. She looks at me scathingly and smiles a sweet little smile at Nicolas. I keep my eyes on her mouth … anything to keep me from looking at her eyes. Bad mistake. Huge mistake. I watch, my heart tearing into little bleeding strips of flesh, as her lips met his.

I shatter. I couldn’t stay here anymore. My will to fight drops out from under me. I turn on my heels and walk away, a dead thing … numb. I try to search for the strength that I’d found during the weekend even the strength I’d found in my new friends. Friends … that had probably just been a dream.

Where are your friends now? You don’t have any friends. You’re an ugly little girl with no friends. The hissing voice of self-doubt slithered into my mind.

***

I am in my New York History class. Then in my calculus class. It all went by at a snails pace. I didn’t let myself focus. If I did I would see Laurie kiss Nicolas and the tears would come. I didn’t want that. I just wanted the bliss of nothingness. The Professors asked about things and I answered. I must have got them correct but I couldn’t really grasp what I solved. I couldn’t grasp the complicated equation that had become my life.

The bell rings. There was no way I could go back to my locker. My feet take me to the library. I find a secluded couch in a corner and I just stare into the endless shelves of books. Unseeing, I take my books out of my bag. I try to work on the mundane school work of the day. My face becomes wet with pain. I can’t concentrate. All I want to do was fall apart. I don’t think. I let myself slip away.

I stumble to my locker an hour or so later. I almost convinced myself that I’d been in the library to catch up on homework, but failed. I didn’t get anything done. I stayed there in hopes that there would be no chance of running into Laurie or her friends again. Nicky’s blank stare flashes into my mind. His lips meeting hers. I don’t think I’d be able to take the humiliation or the pain again.

My mind wanders as I walk through the empty halls. Camille wasn’t any better. Shuddering, I remember how her piercing green eyes had lashed into me as I had fallen into Laurie’s two black holes. Laurie’s brother, almost as large as Rich and more menacing. He made Rich look like a goofy teddy bear. I felt strangled just thinking about the three of them.

I wouldn’t think about the fourth person. My hand trails against a row of lockers for support. I would crumble.

Laurie… She seems to almost taste the air. It would have been comical on anyone else, her tongue constantly lashing out, like she was taking sips of the air. Her long tongue continuously licking her lips, as if her words weren’t dripping with enough venom to tear through my heart, she needed to keep the message clear. Bite me and I’ll bite you right back. Laurie bit hard.

I make it to my locker. Leaning my head against the cold metal, I try to make my headache go away. I shake myself. I was being ridiculous. I need to get out of here. I try the combination on my locker. My hands are clammy and clumsy and I have to start again … two more times. I finally get it open.

“What the…” I jump as a small pink note floated down harmlessly off the top shelf. I must be on edge. Someone must have slipped it in through the vents at the top of the door. Maybe it was from those crazy-looking twins I’d met earlier. They were nice.

I pick up the letter.

I can not breathe.

My name is scratched on the front of the folded pink binder paper. It’s in Nicolas’ slanted messy writing.

Julia,

Meet me in the gym at 6pm. I’m sorry about today. We need to talk. 

-Nicolas.

My heart leaps into my mouth and does a little dance. The letter is short and to the point, which is not normal for Nicky. There is a faint glimmer of suspicion. Nicky’s letters were always long and drawn out. He loves to write. Okay… I need to think positively here. Number One: It was Nicky and Number Two: he wanted to apologize. Maybe he’d been in a rush. Maybe he had to write it fast enough so that he could slip it in my locker without Laurie noticing.

But… He wanted to meet me in secret. So… He didn’t want Laurie to know.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I should be angry that he wants a secret rendezvous. I should be furious at him. Any misgivings I have, though, are greatly over shadowed by the fact that Nicky wants to apologize and hopefully explain his horrible behavior of these past three weeks. Maybe I could live with the fact that he was involved with that snake of a girl. I just really want my friend back. I feel a little of the weight lift off my chest. The fear and suspicion flies from my mind. Even his writing made the sunshine through my clouds of doubt.

My friend.

I could be Nicky’s friend again.

I look at my watch: 5:55 PM.

Crap. I don’t think. I run.

It’s going to take me five minutes just to make it back to the library, and that’s only halfway. In that moment I miraculously forget the awkward clumsiness that’s been infiltrating my limbs since school started and I feel my body sprint with the loping grace it once had. I feel free in my long strides, my army boots pounding against the white linoleum. Running toward happiness.

Bam! “Shit!”

Unfortunately, the gym doors are locked when I slam my body into the long metal handle. I smash my face against the wire laced glass and ricochet off the huge doors. I fall to the cold linoleum, laughing painfully at my own stupidity.

I hear someone laugh inside the gym, too. Nicky? Yeah … he was probably shooting some hoops and seen me splattered against the glass like a bug. He’s going to poke at me for this stunt for the rest of the year.

I reach for my glasses, which had flown off and bounced off a locker, and pick myself up. I try all the doors. The last one clicks open. By now all my anger and misgivings have disappeared. I left them trailing behind me in my race to get here. My face hurts from smiling and I’m bursting at the thought of being able to talk to Nicky again.

Pushing open the door I am greeted by the old sweat smell of the Gym. It’s normally bright interior opens to a gaping blackness. I squint into the darkness. At the far end there is one overhead shining brightly. The florescent beam lights a small twelve foot circle. My giddy smile falters. Nicky is there but he’s not playing basketball. He’s not doing anything. Just standing with his head down, his features shadowed under the overhead light.

“Nicky?” I walk slowly toward the light. His hair looks oddly dull in the beam. He probably just felt miserable for treating me so badly and maybe he didn’t know how to properly turn the gym lights on and maybe he was just joking and at any moment he come rushing at me and we’d fall to the floor in a laughing mess and maybe he’d …

The gym doors slam behind me. I whip my head back. I’m already halfway into the darkness and I can’t see anything behind me in the light streaming weakly from the hallway beyond the doors. I shake myself. The door must’ve closed of its own will.

I turn back to Nicky his head was up but the strange shadow still covers his eyes. His face is calm.

I’ve gone through almost five years of emotions with the boy standing ten feet in front of me. Fear wasn’t one of them. Until now.

“Nicky?” I can hear the hope and cheer falter in my voice. I take a few steps closer into the light. I can see his eyes now, the glaring light above glinting off his cheekbones.

“Nicolas?”

He wasn’t looking at me.

He is staring blankly over my shoulder.

This was a trap.

“Hello, Julia.” I see her fiery hair first as she walks out of the shadows and into the light about three feet to the right of Nicky. Cami laughs and her green eyes tilted up as if she enjoyed the spotlight and wanted me to see the full scope of her joy. She revels in the fearful surprise that flushes my face. “Did the little birdie get herself lost?” Her light giggle is in direct contrast with the fear that is just beginning to grip me. “Poor little birdie, I think she’s fallen into a trap.”

“Oh NICKY!!! Nicky!!!” another voice growls from the darkness to the left. “Nicky doesn’t like you? Do you Nic?” Another immense figure is inches from mine. The guy was so close I could smell the hunger radiating off of him. I’d seen him around Laurie and Cami before but never this close.

I turn my focus back to Nicky. I wouldn’t let my gaze focus on the others in the room. I swallow my fear and stare at Nicky, pleading with him for the second time today. Then it clicks. I think I’d been expecting this. I lied to myself in thinking that this meeting would go any other way. I should not have hoped. Hope got people hurt.

I take Nicolasʻ crumpled note out of my back pocket. I didn’t need to read it again. What it said wasn’t important anymore but it served its purpose. Nicky did write it. Nicky set me up. The paper falls from my hand.

My fight or flee instinct kicks in and my mind screams at my body, FLEE! I turn and bolt for the gym door. I see a face, brown eyes staring at me in the gym door window but then its gone as strong arms grab me from behind and toss me into the smaller but equally strong arms of a girl. The boy and Cami pushed me between themselves. I try to stop them, I try to right myself, but I just numb. I fall into a familiar set of arms. The jeers stop. They want to see what happens next. I hear a new breath hiss out as I look up into Nicolas’ eyes. They are blank. Still staring out into the black behind me.

Something in me fissures right then, a small crack that lets the lava of my pain explode up from the depth of my heart. The world is just me and him and it is an angry blistering hot world. I feel it surge through my body. I push off Nic and backhand him. The pain feels good across the back of my hand. It wakes me up further. A hard angry red welt blooms on his face, but the boy standing in front of me, this shadow of the boy I once knew, does not move. He didn’t even flinch when my hand met his face. It was the absolute worst response I could have hoped for. If he hit me back it would be better. Any response would be better.

I search his face again. I feel the heat begin to fade and I shiver. My eyes graze over his neck and I see a familiar cord. Almost shyly, I reached up. He doesn’t stop me. I pull the necklace out of his T-shirt and give it a small pull. It gives way easily, as if it doesn’t want to be there anymore and was waiting for me to come back to get it.

I look back into his eyes, my will draining. There is something there. A small twitch of his eyes as they meet mine. He is looking at me. Really looking at me, not just through me. His lips move as if trying to speak.

“Nicky?” I whisper.

I hear a small clap from behind me. The tooth cuts into my hand as I grip the necklace. I put it in my pocket.

“Very interesting. I’ve been trying to get that piece of crap off his neck for weeks now.”

Laurie was somewhere. I try to run away from her voice and am greeted by laughter. Nails bite into my arms as inhumanly strong hands grip me. I struggle in Cami’s grasp.

“Stop.” There was a slight hiss to Cami’s voice. “Sam! A little help here?” She holds me tighter and pulls me back to the light. Nicky moves aside and into the darkness.

“I’ll push it around… shit… I’ll even kill it if you want me to. But I ainʻt touching it.” The guy named Sam laughs. He’s tall and lanky, black hair falling into familiar brown eyes.

Out of nowhere, eerily beautiful students of Stellar Academy surround me. I didn’t recognize any of them. Except Cami, her silky red hair was now sticking in every direction as if her fanatic fire within had set her head ablaze. Her green eyes were trained on me.

My eyes fall on back on Nicolas standing amongst the strangers. He was still staring blankly over my shoulder. I felt the tears stream down my face. My body quakes in Cami’s tight hold. I don’t care. I don’t care what they all thought about me now. In Nicolas’ blank face I feel my world crumble.

“Nicky,” I sob softly. I thought I saw something flash again, there in the blue depths of his eyes. It doesn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

A familiar hissing laugh slithers out of the darkness. The fear I had swallowed before was streaming out of my body in waves. I can’t tell from which direction she was coming from. I knew she would be here. As soon as I had figured that I’d been set up, my brain had been screaming her name in fright.

“I. Thought. I. Said. To. Stay. Away. Do you not listen?” I struggle in Cami’s grasp. Shes holds me firmly. “You are right to be afraid of me, Julia.” She caresses my name with her husky voice. “You shouldn’t have come. I really hoped you’d come … but you are really going to regret coming here tonight. How many times have I told you to stay away from him? If you had followed my directions you wouldn’t be here in this unfortunate situation.” Her teeth rest on the s-sound of the last word. Her slight accent gives her speech a menacing quality. “I told you to leave Nic to me. He’s mine.” I feel her hand trail up my neck, nails scratching my skin.

“Shall we try again?” Laurie hisses and reaches for my chin. Her black painted long nails dig into the flesh there. Her eyes, two midnight pools of empty universe, bore into mind. I will myself not to scream as my soul shutters and I fall into a searing white migraine.

Then it stops. My head flops to the side and Cami staggers under my weight. I can barely look at her. Her features soften and she looks slightly askance, not wanting to look at me as she whispers into my ear, “This really isn’t about Nic. Well… maybe a little.” she laughs huskily. “It doesn’t have to be like this. You could just accept the power. There is power and all you have to do is reach for it.” She grips my face with both her hands.

“Laurie… I don’t think you should…” I feel the rock hard grip around me loosen, slightly. Even Cami was trying to make her stop whatever she was about to do.

“Shut up, Cami. No one needs to know. I just need to push her a bit more.” She chuckles.

“You know the rules… I thought we were just playing…” Cami’s voice is an uncertain growl.

“Just do it.” Sam laughs. “Grow a pair, Cami. When did you get so soft?” Why did this guy hate me so much?

“Screw you, Sam. I’ll kick you in your pair if you don’t shut up. I just don’t want my ass sent to the Zoo, shithead.”

They weren’t making any sense. I feel utterly powerless. I could only think about getting out of here.

Laurie grips harder, her face becoming frenzied. “You all won’t tell anyone! This little one,” she turns her attention back to me, “we’re going to become best friends. Aren’t we Julia? Be my friend, Julia. It’s an easy choice, once you make it. I see the power in you. I can help you achieve that power. Just let me IN!” She unleashes her full gaze into mine.

My mind blazes with pain. The searing migraines I was accustom to have nothing on this. The crystal white world that my pain lives in turns into a black hole. I fall into a river of blood. I toss, screaming, in the torrent. The river of blood becomes a snake. The snake screams and opens its jaws wide. I am engulfed in the bloody red snake. The coppery blood fills my throat, the poison of it licks at my body. The snake is still screaming.

The nightmare shifts. I am in a very familiar alley. I can hear screaming in the back ground. A torrential river of blood runs under my feet. The rapids should pull me under but I walk calmly on the surface to the back of the alley. There is a Man and a Bear. They attack us. The bears brown eyes widen with fright as I look at him with my weird eyes. The other boy runs away and the Bear follows him. I try to save the other little boy. The man disappears and now I am fighting with a very big Lizard. I see my Mom. She fights the Lizard too. The other little boy comes back and watches as the Lizard and my mom fight. There is a bright light above and something flies into the darkness swirling around me. It catches me and flings me back into consciousness.

I let out a gasp as I am dropped to the floor. I look up and see the beautiful nightmare in front of me.

Laurie is screaming and drops into Cami’s arms as they both fall to the floor in front of me. The is blood coming from Laurie’s nose.

“Laurie?” Cami shakes her. Laurie’s body begins to twitch and seize. She stops. Her breathing settles. “What the hell are YOU?” Cami looks at me with actual fear.

“What the f—…” I scuttle a few feet back from Laurie as Sam steps over me to check her.

I close my eyes and try to go back to the scene that Laurie had made me remember but even as I do my head begins to heat and the pain of my migraine begins again. I ignore it. I need to remember what happened. My wrists are burning under my bracelets as distorted images of Bears, Lizards and blood flood in to my mind. I scratch at my wrist. The silver bracelets are hot.

I am heaved up and made to stand. “What did you do to her?” Sam is shaking me. The headache disappears but my fear spikes. A look of extreme surprise mingles with disappointment in Laurie’s perfect features. It’s worst than if she’d been mad at me.

“What the hell was that?” Cami shoots a fateful look in my direction.

“That was…” Laurie’s eyes flicker with a second of pain before a smooth mask replaces it. She grabs both my forearms and holds my hands up for Sam, Cami, and everyone else. “This is why we can’t touch her.”

My bracelets shine in the spotlight of the gym.

“Holy shit.” Sam lets go of me and backs away. “No wonder it burns to just touch her.”

“What the… What?” Cami looks at me with amazement, “Are you crazy!”

“Sam!” Laurie barks his name and I feel Sam’s hands grip my shirt, careful not to touch my skin.

“I saw those things on your wrist earlier today. I can’t imagine what you are thinking wearing them. But you don’t know, do you? You don’t know that all silver is banned from this school. You ARE as dangerous and as naive as they are all saying.” She backs up into Nicky. He stands there behind her. A shocked look replaces the blank stare that I thought was frozen there.  He hadn’t realized that she’d walked right in front of him. Nicky wasn’t looking at Laurie.

He is looking at me. I sob harder and look away. I don’t understand what she’s talking about. But, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

“Nicolas?” Laurie’s demanding voice echoes through the Gym. He blinks and places his hand on her shoulder. “That’s better.”

“Julia, you disappoint me. I tried to do this the easy way … but I guess you don’t want that.” She laughs. “This is against school policy, hell … it’s against the Law, but once I’m done you won’t remember that I made you Shift. Please look up, little birdie. I don’t want you to miss this.”

I didn’t want to look up but her voice is too compelling, demanding my cooperation. I look up. The room swims in front of me. I see Cami approach me with metal pliers. She has one of my bracelets in its teeth. I try to struggle. Laurie’s figure blurs and distorts.

“STOP!” A clear voice rings through the gym. I blink. My vision is restored. I feel Sam’s arms let go of me immediately. Unable to hold myself, I tumble to the ground. Sam draws back behind Laurie. I try to scurry away but Cami’s green eyes are trained on me, hungry. I stiffen.

I hear a low growl and all eyes shoot up, even Cami’s. Everyone backs away from me forming a wall behind Laurie. I look into the faint light shining in from the hallway. There is a silhouette there. “What the hell do you all think you are doing?”

The voice is vaguely familiar but it was the low growl that accompanied it that I couldn’t place. It sounded a lot like Alison, but it couldn’t be. I hear a light flapping sound in the distance and another low growl.

“Oh Alison! Welcome to our little gathering. I see you’ve brought some friends! Too bad they’re not presentable.” Laurie smiles sinisterly, “I would have invited you… but I guess someone else had to spoil our party.”

I squint into the darkness as the light shown off Alison’s pale face, her gray eyes penetrating the thick air. What was Laurie talking about? Alison was alone. I want to scream out to her, to tell her to run. But, I could barely save myself.

“Shut it Laurie.” I look at her in surprise as she kneels down in front of me. “Are you okay? Did anyone hurt you?” I can’t move, not even to answer. How could Alison stand up to Laurie? I shudder uncontrollably. Alison’s eyes fill with barely restrained rage. “I’ll get you out of here in a moment. You’re safe now.” She turns to face the others.

“I am only going to ask once more … what have you done to her?”

“Oh Alison!” Laurie uses the same fake bright voice. “You jump to such conclusions. We haven’t done anything to her. We were just discussing … things. We were having a great time before you came and ruined our fun. Please remind me to thank Rich for letting you in on our fun.”

What did Rich have to do with this?

“How could you? Laurie, you know the rules. You know the Law.” Rules? That word again. I was really confused. Alison’s hand wipes the tears that were flowing freely from my eyes. I couldn’t stop them from coming. I didn’t understand anything. I didn’t want to feel anything but I couldn’t help myself. I was terrified and my heart was torn to shreds. I’m a mess.

“She’s one of us.”

“She’ll never be like us. I looked into her. There is nothing but a glimmer. She’s worthless.” Cami let her breath hiss through her teeth on the last word.

What were they talking about? I canʻt stop shaking.

“Look at her! You’ve scared her to death.” Alison’s worried grey eyes become stormy. She stands to face the otherworldly and dangerous beauty before us. “You shouldn’t have done this, Laurie. What did you say to her?”

Laurie feigns interest, “Oh nothing … really. I just wanted to see…” She laughs, “But, I was wrong … I guess. This one’s got nothing.”

“You’re lying. I know you too well, Laurie. Mr. Stiller will hear about this. You do not have the authority…”

What did the science teacher have to do with all of this?

“Oh? Who’s going to tell him? You? I thought we were sisters, Alison?” Laurie’s coal black eyes gazed into two stormy gray eyes. I felt woozy again … her eyes were driving my mind back into the abyss. I feel another pair of arms pick me up gently, cradling me and holding me up. I look up. It was Caleb.

“Stop it, Laurie.” Alison’s gaze was steel. “You know your crap doesn’t work on me…” Alison glances at Nicolas for the slightest second. “But now I see you’ve been working on another project.”

“This is none of your business.” Laurie slithers back to Nicolas’ side. I cringe as her arms snake around his. “Nic wants to be with me … he wants me. Not some murderous little girl.” She snorts.

“Murder? It that what you think? God, Laurie, you’re so dumb.” Alison shook her head, “Nic … wake up! Can’t you see what your new girlfriend is doing to your best friend?” Alison seethes. There is a flash of recognition … again. I see Laurie grip his arm harder. He looks into her eyes and any realization that had flickered in his was gone.

“You know you’re going to lose him, don’t you? It’s already happening. He’ll Shift and walk away from you. He’s not like you. He’s going to figure it out.” Alison shakes her head  as she takes stock of the group around her. “You don’t have any real friends, Laurie. You force them to be at your side, bating them with power or illusion. When you’re through with them you’ll just discard them like trash,” Alison glares around the room. “Cami? I should have realized. You are such a follower. Laurie’s little errand girl.” Cami simply glares back, standing her ground behind Laurie. “That’s right, Cami, be the good little deputy. Maybe Laurie will give you a dead mouse to play with.”

Alison walks straight up to Laurie, her face tilts up a bit. She should have looked smaller than the tall snake but I could tell they were equals. Alison, even in her slight stature had more authority here where she was out numbered. “What do you think will happen when Nic finally wakes up? At least Rich finally woke up and sees you for what you really are. What happens when Sam finally realizes that he is nothing but a little toy soldier to you? Hmm?” She whispers right into Laurie’s face.

Laurie was thoughtful and her eyes flashed momentarily with something close to fear. I don’t think that fear was a concept that she could grasp completely. Myself on the other hand, I was about to crumble in Caleb’s arms. I think I may have. He held onto me a little more tightly. For a boy that was so slight, he seemed really strong.

Laurie snorts. “How pathetic.” She’s obviously talking about me. “You better get her out of here before she falls apart. I’m bored and we’re leaving.”

Caleb gathers me in his arms and helps me to the exit. When I look back into the bright overhead light the last thing I see is the retreating eyes of my former best friend. Nicolas.

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