Hi Guys! :)
Okay, here's another 9-page chapter. YAY! haha...
Thanks for waiting a couple weeks while I posted poems. :) I wish there wasn't a post limit on AP but it's probably best that there is...seeing as I would be posting several things a day. LOL!
P.S. Enjoy!! Thoughts?
When I go to breakfast the next morning, the table is missing one person. Endriss.
Trixie picks at her oatmeal, as do I. Nobody seems hungry. We’re all wondering where the brown haired, soft-spoken girl is. Who wears skirts. Who has a pretty smile and is kind. Who is my friend.
“Where is she?” I finally hiss in Trixie’s ear, after deciding it’s going to kill me if I wait any longer. I’m panicking, and it’s not a good feeling.
“No one knows,” she mumbles, taking a sip of her orange juice. All the heads turn in our direction, and I blush.
“Last time I saw her was yesterday afternoon,” Kiev pipes up.
“Who rooms with her?” Nadine asks. She looks around, searching.
“Nobody does, remember?” Noah reminds his twin sister. “She moved into the Livi’s old room after she…” He trails off, as if remembering this is a sore spot. I expect Trixie to duck her head, or even leave the table, but she doesn’t.
“We can’t let them do anything to her,” she says with clenched teeth.
“What are we supposed to do?” Alva asks, sniffing. She’s sitting by Leif, who leans over and grabs her hand.
“We skip school,” He says with finality. “Selena isn’t here, either, so she won’t know. I checked this morning. We have to find them.”
Most of these kids I haven’t even talked to, yet now we feel like family.
Wadell swallows, standing up. “I’m not waiting any longer. Who’s going to look with me?”
Trixie immediately stands, followed by Edgar and Kiev. After a moment, Leif stands, too, pulling an anxious-looking Alva with him. They all begin to move as I sit, frozen, in my seat.
“Wait for us,” Noah says with a sigh, motioning for Nadine to follow him to the front hall. She does so, casting the rest of us a glare.
“I’m coming too,” I’m surprised to find myself saying. I stand.
Connor, sitting beside me, gets to his feet. “That’s not a good idea, Kate.”
“Why not?” I demand, placing my hands on my hips.
He offers me a timid smile. “Because, this is going to have serious consequences. And you’re new. Most of us going could be removed from the competition. Are you willing to do that?”
A few of the ones so intent on going before now look a little unsure. But I’m not one of them.
“Yes, I am,” I say without hesitation. I dart past him and into the hallway, where Trixie and Wadell are tugging their coats on.
“Wait a sec,” I plead, hurrying up the stairs three at a time. Caroline is right where I thought I’d find her--sitting on the bed, eating toast and reading.
“Caroline,” I say in a rush. “Endriss is missing and we’re putting a search party together. We’re going to skip school. Do you want to come with us?”
She looks at me, toying with a strand of her blonde hair.
I nod. “Yes. We’re all…” But I don’t have to say any more. Caroline is already standing, hurrying for the door.
I loved Livi, she tells me as we run back down the stairs. I stop to look at her.
“A lot of people did,” I say at last, and we continue on.
Connor is standing by the door, halfway in and halfway out, ushering people outside. When he sees me, he smiles grimly.
“We’re ready,” I say, grabbing Caroline’s hand. She looks at me before pulling away and rushing outside after Nadine.
“Good, you’re the last one’s out.”
I’m surprised when I look back into the dining room to find everyone gone.
“Did they all decide to come?”
He shakes his head. “No. Some of them are going to school.”
I sigh, disappointed. “I guess I don’t see how they can’t care.”
He shrugs. “They do, Kate, they just know that this could mean the end of their chance of getting out.”
There’s the sound of footsteps, and we turn to see Josh standing at the top of the stairs. He won’t look at me, just Connor, even though I’m staring at him.
“I’m going,” he says after a few moments.
Connor shakes his head. “Dude, I know you want to-“
He’s already shaking his head, rushing down the steps three-at-a-time. “Just shut up and move so I can get outside.”
I step back as Josh passes by, but he surprises me by instead grabbing my wrist and tugging me behind him.
“Wait--you’re walking too fast,” I say after a moment, struggling to pull out of his grasp. But he’s not letting go.
Connor catches up with us, looking at me and then him, over and over again. Obviously he thinks we’re some sort of couple or something. I bristle at the thought.
“I have to tell you something,” he hisses in my ear, glancing back at Connor.
He takes the hint, rushing ahead, yet still looking worried.
“Okay, fine,” I snap, finally managing to pull my arm away. I cross both of them over my chest, glaring at him.
He stops, turning to face me.
“I know where Endriss is.”
My eyes widen and I look over his shoulder at Connor, who is jogging to catch up with the rest of the group, some fifteen yards away.
“We have to tell him!” I exclaim, shrugging past Josh.
But he grabs my forearm and pulls me back, placing both hands on my shoulders. My skin is on fire where he touches it. It makes me uncomfortable.
I open my mouth to say something, to protest, to call him every bad name I can think of, but the expression on his face stops me. He’s telling the truth.
“Okay,” I agree after a minute.
He smiles, just a little bit. “Now, c’mon.” He turns and starts running, towards the woods, the opposite direction from the group.
I grit my teeth. If Trixie finds out I went off to look for Endriss with Josh of all people, she is going to kill me.
I begin to follow him, against my better judgment, hoping he is right about Endriss. I just want her safe. With us.
We begin to slow down as we near the woods. I hear voices.
“Just like I thought,” Josh says with a smirk, crouching down behind a shrub of some sort, I follow his lead, peering around the bush to see who else but Officer Greene standing there, talking to someone on his cell phone.
“Be quiet,” Josh murmurs, even though I’m not talking. I strain to hear what the chubby, plump man in front of us is saying.
“Someone called me this morning,” he grunts. “Said one of the girls was missing. No, I don’t know where she went, Carl.”
Carl. That’s Chief Williams’ first name.
“No, don’t think it’s Kathryn.”
Josh looks over at me, and I can feel his eyes boring into the back of my head. I ignore him though, intent on the conversation before me.
“If it was, though,” Officer Greene continues with a chuckle. “I’d be more than happy to ship that little brat off to prison.”
My blood boils, and I struggle to keep sitting.
“Yeah, yeah, I promise if we find her we won’t shoot her. What do you mean, I sound sarcastic? So? The last one was an accident.”
“They’re talking about Livi,” I whisper, horrified.
“Yes, it happened to be an accident that I pulled out my gun and shot her.” He laughs again. “It was her fault. She was running away like an idiot. I aimed for her shoulder but she moved just a little bit…” He shrugs, still grinning. “Oh, well. If this one acts like a fool I’ll just have to do the same thing. ‘Cept I’ll be more careful this time.”
“We have to get to her before he can,” Josh mutters. His eyes are flashing when I look over my shoulder at him. I nod.
“Just a moment…” He pauses, staring at Officer Greene. To my surprise, the chubby man’s cell phone starts to smoke, and he pulls it away, looking down at it.
Before he can finish his sentence, it explodes. I look over at Josh, grinning. Energy sucking strikes again.
Officer Greene mutters a string of curse words as he darts off into the woods. I try not to laugh at his running. His belly swings back-and-forth, back-and-forth, as he keeps up a slow and unsteady pace. After what seems like a long time, he finally disappears into the distance.
“Good work,” I say, standing up. We high-five before moving towards the woods. As we descend down a sloped hill into the heavy growth, the sky darkens, and shadows are cast here-and-there. It looks more like night than morning.
“How do you know she’ll be here?” I whisper after a few minutes of walking.
He looks at me, forcing a smile. “That is for me to know, and you to find out.”
We’ve suddenly stopped, face-to-face, and I stare at him.
“…you’re not bad. Not like you think you are,” I murmur after an infinite moment.
He smiles, and his black eyes crinkle. There’s a dimple on his cheek.
“Neither are you,” he says, before he kisses me.
I’m surprised by the sudden presence of his lips against mine, and I keep my arms limp at my sides. My head screams you hardly know him! but I let him kiss me anyway. After a few glorious seconds, I find myself kissing him back.
“How old are you?” He asks as soon as we pull away. He begins to walk again, completely unphased by this happening, but I’m dizzy and my ears are ringing.
“Fifteen,” I manage to say over my pounding heart. I turn to follow him, keeping a safe distance behind him, should I be tempted to grab his hand or do something equally stupid. We’re looking for Endriss. She’s in danger. And I’ve been kissing a Gothic boy. It’s so considerate of me, isn’t it?
He frowns, turning to look behind me. “That’s it?”
“Yeah,” I say, as the old dislike returns for him quickly. So much for the movies. Real kisses are nothing like that. They look good with people who love each other, like Lynda and Greg, but an awkward teenage girl and a punk emo kid? Nope.
“What’s wrong with that?” I ask after a short silence.
He raises his eyebrows. “Nothing.”
I wrinkle my nose. Why did I kiss him again? Oh, that’s right. He kissed me.
We don’t comment on the kiss for the rest of the walk, which lasts about fifteen minutes. My throat feels thick, and my palms are clammy. Where is Endriss?
“Stop!” Josh suddenly exclaims. My feet come to an abrupt halt.
We crouch down and scoot behind a thick tree trunk. Chief Williams appears, holding a limp girl in his arms. The second I see the warm brown hair I don’t even think. I’m on my feet, rushing forward, while Josh makes a mad grab for my ankle.
“Let her go!” I yell, going up to stand in front of him.
Chief Williams’ eyes widen. “Kathryn? What are you doing here?”
I grab Endriss’ arm and decide I’m not going to let go.
“The better question is what are you doing with her?”
His eyes narrow. “My job.”
I shake my head. “No you’re not. Let her go.”
He sighs. “Kitty, let go of her arm. And get out of here. Officer Greene is on his way and if he sees you…”
I just grab her wrist tighter. “No.”
He rolls his eyes. “Please, Kathryn. I don’t want to have to convict you, too.”
I shake my head persistently. “Remember Livi, Chief Williams? Do you know how much that hurt everyone? These people with different eyes…I fit in better with them than I ever will with any of you. So let her go. I’ll take her back to the house. All you have to do is tell Officer Greene that it was all a misunderstanding.”
His voice is broken, sad, when he answers, “I can’t.”
I shake my head persistently. “You can.”
For a moment I think he’s going to rip her from me, but I’m surprised when he gently sets her down. Endriss whimpers and rolls over, grabbing her head. I pat her back soothingly. When I look up, Chief Williams is gone.
“Josh?” I call into the brush.
He emerges a moment later, keeping his head low. I grab Endriss’ feet and he hooks his hands under her arms, lifting her up. She’s not very heavy. Together, we carry her back through the woods, keeping an eye out for either of the police officers who might or might not be looking for us.
Miss Selena is waiting for us when we come in. She lets out a cry, throwing her arms around Endriss, who is just regaining consciousness. I hurry to the kitchen to make her tea, and to my utter disappointment, Josh follows.
“Make her a sandwich,” I instruct, deciding to put him to use.
He heads for the fridge, emerging with a jar and peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. To my questioning look he responds, “Her favorite.”
I nod, keeping our exchange short, and go back to the tea.
We work in awkward silence, neither of us willing to make the first move. I realize how dumb it was to kiss him. I don’t even really like him.
“What?” He snaps.
I turn to face him, setting Endriss’ cup of freshly brewed tea on the countertop. He is just cutting the sandwich in half.
“I don’t…like you. Like, like, like you.”
He nods shortly. “Good. Because you’re a terrible kisser. And I don’t date girls who are more than a year younger than me.”
My mouth drops in outrage. “Well…that was my first…” I put my head in my hands, cheeks flushed in embarrassment. Then something dawns on me. “Wait…how old are you?”
He grins. “Nineteen.”
My jaw drops. Oh, ew. I kissed a nineteen year old. Punk. Rocker. Boy.
“-and I just don’t like you,” he’s saying. “Not just relationship-wise, but as a person. You’re way too nice for me.”
“Good!” I exclaim, slightly miffed. “You’re too weird for me! I mean, skinny jeans? And purple hair?” I laugh. “No thanks.”
For a moment he looks a little hurt, but that quickly vanishes. “Jealous of my looks? I guess I understand. After all, you’re awfully plain.”
I press my lips together in an angry line. “Great! After all, it’s ten times better than being a freak show!”
“Oh yeah?” He asks, stepping closer. His arms are crossed over his chest.
I nod. “Absolutely.”
One step closer. “Well…you’re boring. And skinny. Like a twelve-year-old boy.”
My eyes widen. “Your legs are like toothpicks!”
“So are your arms.”
“And…and…” I think of the best insult I can. “Um…you weren’t even strong enough to carry Endriss by yourself!”
He laughs. “Oh, no, I am. I was just giving you a hard time.”
“Well, your powers suck!”
“They do, do they?”
I nod smugly. “Yes, yes they do.”
Suddenly there is smoke coming from my pocket. I shriek, grabbing at the object that is now…a melted cell phone.
“You idiot!” I screech. “That cost me two hundred dollars.”
He smirks. “Not my fault you spent so much money on a cell phone.”
He closes the distance between us, crushing his lips to mine. Again. Again. After a micro-second, I push him away.
Before he can say anything else, I grab Endriss’ tea, her sandwich, and make a beeline for the stairs.
“Hello?” I say a moment later, pressing her door open with the toe of my sneaker. She’s sitting, propped up under pillows and blankets.
“Kathryn,” she breathes when she sees me. I offer her a timid smile and come up, setting down the tea and sandwich.
“Josh and I made this for you. Don’t worry; he didn’t spit in it.”
She laughs. The sound is weak. “Oh, thank you.”
I sit down on the edge of her bed as she begins to eat.
“Endriss…?” I ask after a second.
She looks up from taking a sip of tea. “Yes?”
I sigh. “Why did you run away?”
She purses her lips, thinking.
And then suddenly I remember the rest of the group, out worried and searching. A click glance at the alarm clock on Endriss’ wall shows they’ve been gone for over two hours. I turn and dart back down the stairs, offering no explanation to my poor friend sitting propped up on pillows. I feel like a horrible person.
“Selena,” I gasp, out of breath, as I hit the floor. She’s standing by the door, talking on her cell phone. When she sees me she says something about talking later and lowers it, ever-so-slightly.
“What’s wrong, Kate?”
I grab the banister, eyes wide. “Everyone else has been out looking for Endriss this whole time! We’ve got to find them. What’s Trixie’s phone number?”
She smiles. “Well, that’s considerate of you, but I happened to run into them about an hour ago. I was out searching for Endriss myself, and I sent them to school.”
“So…wait…” I give her a confused look. “You mean you didn’t report her?”
She shakes her head, aghast. “I would never…I mean, I’m supposed to, but I’d never report anyone who tried to run away.” She holds up her cell phone. “I was talking to Officer Greene. He’s convinced someone got out, but I told him no.”
“Couldn’t you get in trouble for lying?”
She nods shortly. “Yes. But it’d be worth it…to protect you guys.”
I find myself hugging her. She freezes and, after a second, hugs me back. It’s standing there, wrapped in loving arms…when the tears really start to come.
“My mother won’t come see me,” I whisper abruptly.
Miss Selena strokes my hair. “It’s hard, Kathryn. For everyone.”
“My sister has some weird sort of aversion to me. Her boyfriend, who has been my best friend for years…things are awkward between us. And my very best friend, Reida, is different around me. It’s like I have some sort of disease, and they’re afraid to catch it.” I look up at Selena, my eyes shining. “But I don’t. I just want out.”
She purses her lips and grabs my shoulders, gently guiding me to stand a few feet away from her. “We’ll get you out of here.”
I shake my head. “If you mean the competition, I can’t. Trixie asked, and only back-eyes can enter. I’ll have to live here forever.”
She shakes her head with a smile. “I talked to Trixie about that earlier this week.” She takes a deep breath, meets my eyes. “We want to help you. All of us.”
My eyes widen. “I-I can’t.”
Selena giggles. “Wow, Kathryn, I’ve never heard you stutter.”
I blush. “Well…I’ve never had a reason to stutter. This is insane. There’s no way I can possibly accept this. You guys could all get in trouble.”
Selena giggles, backing up. “Your new name will be Bethany Black. You’ll have black hair…pink strips…and black eyes.”
My jaw drops. “No! Selena, there’s no way I can accept that.”
She grins. “But you will.”
I turn on my heel and bound up the stairs. My head is spinning. I can’t breathe. But ever so slowly, as I enter my room and close the door, a smile stretches across my face. Because I now have a chance.
“Ow! Ow! Caroline, that hurts.”
Sorry, she says, running a brush through my hair. But we need to get all the tangles out before we can dye it.
Trixie comes into the room, holding a bowl of something that smells like chemicals. Very reassuring. In my fifteen years, I have never, and I mean never, dyed my hair--so this is slightly nerve wrecking. When they came up to me earlier today with evil little grins on their faces, I wanted to run. But before I could, they grabbed me and dragged me up to the bathroom.
“Don’t worry,” Trixie had said, “it will be positively painless.”
Well, she was wrong.
“Now,” Trixie says, setting the bowl down on the bathroom counter. “The instructions say to use foil…and paint the hair…and then, like, wait an hour and wash it out. It should last up to three weeks!”
“That’s it?” I exclaim, sitting up. I wince as Caroline accidentally jerks the brush down the back of my head too hard.
This is hopeless, she groans. Trixie, we’re just going to have to cut it.
“No!” I cry, leaping to my feet. I put my hands protectively on my thick, mangled hair that I prefer not to brush but put back in a ponytail holder. “Look, I’m letting you dye my hair. I’m letting you give me a whole new wardrobe-“
“And you’re letting us pierce your nose.”
“NO!” I exclaim, sinking back into the chair. My head is dizzy. “I’m going to die if my nose gets pierced. Absolutely die.”
“You will not,” Trixie mutters, coming forward. In her hand, she holds a pair of very sharp-looking scissors. Scissors that could stab into the back of my neck. Now, with this comforting image in mine, she begins to cut. The click of shears echo throughout the room as chunks of my brown hair fall to the floor. Oh, dear.
“Done!” Trixie exclaims after a moment. I keep my head down, unwilling to look in the mirror.
Good job, Trixie! Caroline exclaims. That looks awesome. Now, keep your head down, Kitty, because the dye is next.
“Whoopee,” I say in a flat monotone. Caroline giggles.
For the next hour and a half, I sit patiently while the two girls paint pieces of my hair and wrap it in foil, among other miscellaneous things. When Endriss of all people comes in, I look at her with confusion.
“Good job, guys!” She exclaims, walking over to stand in front of me. “She looks awesome. Nothing like before. Though she was just as pretty with her brown hair.”
I smile ruefully. “What are you doing?”
I feel Caroline’s hands clamp down on my shoulders, holding me still. Endriss stares at my face. I squirm under her gaze. Suddenly, my nose goes numb. Completely rid of feeling. It tingles all over, and I struggle not to sneeze.
I don’t understand what they’re doing until Trixie appears holding a needle, and by then it’s too late. She snaps the new nose ring into place only a moment later. Endriss steps back and out of the room, and the feeling returns. Caroline lets go and backs away, grabbing Trixie with her. They turn to me apologetically.
Ow, Ow, Ow. Now that I’m not numb any longer, this ridiculous nose ring hurts. I place a hand over it, grimacing.
“Please don’t kill us,” Trixie finally begs, clasping her hands together. “We’d already talked it over with Endriss. She can numb any part of your body she wants, you know, and I just had to give you the nose ring. They’ll never suspect anything, really-“
“It’s fine,” I whisper after a second, a little hurt that my friends would go behind my back to do this to me. “I guess I understand.”
“Good!” Trixie exclaims. “Now, get in the shower.”
Fifteen minutes later, after I’m dried off and into dry clothes, Caroline and Trixie come back in. I still haven’t looked at myself. When they see me, they jump around and do a little dance of happiness. Obviously, the dye worked.
Just sit, Caroline says, guiding me into the chair. And we’ll get busy with the hair dryers!
It’s exactly ten minutes later--I’ve been watching the clock--when each of the girls turn off their hair dryers. Caroline runs a brush through my hair and it glides through gently, which tells me the haircut actually served its purpose.
“Let’s have a look, shall we?” Trixie says with a squeal. She spins my chair around, and I’m face to face with a mirror. Or should I say me. Though it’s not really me. The girl in the reflection has sleek, glossy black hair that goes down to her shoulders, fraying up at the ends. She has bangs. There’s a pink strip going from the crown of her head all the way down to the bottom. Her nose ring is glistening in the light.
“That’s…that’s me?” I ask after a while, leaning forward.
“Yes!” Trixie cheers. “Isn’t it awesome?”
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
Caroline turns to me, holding the contact box. There’s only one thing left to do.
She hands it to me and I lean forward, slowly guiding the black contacts into place. I lean back and blink for a few minutes before they settle. I stare at myself in the mirror. Wow.
I’m not pretty in the way I was before--if anyone could even call me pretty--but there used to be something soft about my face. Now, just with the addition of black hair and an extremely sore nose ring--I’m different. Angular. Hardened. Mean, even.
“How are we going to explain this to everyone?” I ask when I find my voice.
Trixie waves her hand dismissively. “They're already in on it, Kate. Now…we just proceed.”
I sigh. “Aren’t they going to suspect anything?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t think so. Even if they do, it just takes a box of brown hair dye and taking out the ring in order to change you back. They won’t suspect anything. I swear.”
I run my fingers through my new hair. “This is crazy. We’re never going to pull it off. We can’t.”
She glares at me. “If you say never, Kate, then we never will. But if you say we might, well, we just might.”
I smile, despite myself. Caroline pats my back before shuffling from the room, keeping her head down.
“I can’t believe we’re going to do this,” I say as I stand up.
Trixie throws her arms around me. I stagger back for a second, then gain my balance, grinning at her.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, Kate! It’s exciting!”
I smile. “Me either. Though, for us, this might be a death sentence.”
“Or a prison sentence.”
Slowly, my smile fades. “Yeah, there’s that, too.”
Connor comes barreling around the corner, stopping short when he sees me. “Oh, wow…that’s…a nose ring, Trixie, really?”
She sticks her chin in the air stubbornly. “We can’t afford for them to suspect a thing, and a hair change is just not drastic enough.”
He rolls his eyes, leaning against the doorframe. “Did they sic Endriss on you?”
I guess my facial expression is answer enough, because he laughs.
“Ah, yes. They’re conspiring little brats.”
Trixie giggles. “Connor, you know you love us!” She reminds me of a child, jumping up and down the way she is. She claps her hands together. “I’ve got to go tell everyone to gather in the dining room for the big reveal!” She squeezes my hand and kisses Connor’s cheek before darting from the room. When I look over at him, there’s a slight blush in his cheeks. Thank goodness for brown-hair boy. Though I now look more like pink-hair than I used to.
“You really do look good. Not like before, but still good.”
“Thanks,” I say shyly, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear. I sit down on the counter, fiddling with a ring on one of my fingers. It’s from Trixie, who said that it would “complete my look.” I must agree; the little black band with pin-sized skulls on it does look kind of threatening. I just didn’t want to be that kind of person.
There was no going back, now. Tomorrow, I would fill out a form. I would be Bethany. I would train, fight, and win this competition.
Kathryn, Kate, Kitty…she is gone. Maybe she has been longer than I’d thought.