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Chapter 34

Essie glanced down at her hands. “I don’t know who my dad is. And my mom, she would be frantic about me. You know how Liborio Fragale works; she knows exactly who has me, and that I’m still alive.” She replied.

The ninja next to her played with the ends of her hair. “I lost my father seven years ago. But at least I knew him. I can’t imagine never knowing who he was.”

Essie smiled. “Mom and I, we’re close. So I know she is out there trying to get somebody to find me.”

Shyla sat and thought for a moment, sorting the sequence of events in her mind. “Essie, do you think your mother would have reached out to the ninjas for help? As a last resort, I mean.”

Essie shrugged. “I didn’t know Mom had any contacts with any ninjas, or anybody who…”

Shyla looked at her. “Did your mom have contact with a ninja?”

Essie shook her head. “No, but she might have had contact with somebody who knew a ninja.”

Shyla froze. “Do you know who it was?”

Essie frowned. “I heard her name a couple times, but don’t remember it now.”

Shyla nodded. “You want me to take over getting that bar out?”

Essie rested her head back against the wall and shut her eyes. “That would be great. My nails need a break.”

Shyla pushed herself to her feet and went to where the knife was hidden. She looked through the bars of the window, and began to scrape at the plaster at the base of the bar. Time passed slowly, and as Shyla scraped, Essie asked her questions. Eventually, the subject switched over to Henry. Shyla took a small break, and sat back next to Essie.

Essie looked over at Shyla. “What’s Henry like?”

Shyla smiled. “Henry lives with his uncle,” she said. “His parents left shortly after he was born. They wanted to travel the world, and felt that a baby would just weigh them down. Jacob, his uncle, took him in and raised him as his own child. Henry hears from his parents every now and then, but he doesn’t like to talk about them. He considers his uncle his father, and refers to his parents as ‘them’. I don’t think they’ve ever returned to Rutherford, not as long as I’ve known Henry. He’s sweet, kind, and doesn’t care who says what about him. Even Shaun, a guy from our school, he can say what he likes about Henry; Henry doesn’t let it get to him. He’s laid back, basically the perfect ninja.”

“He sounds really cool.” Commented Essie, wringing her hands. “What about Shaun? Surely he isn’t that bad.”

“Shaun is a different case altogether.” Said Shyla, shutting her eyes. “He lives with both his mother and his father. His two older brothers moved out when he was small. He has been spoilt, but his parents are away on business a lot. He is used to getting his own way a lot.” Shyla’s hands balled into fists. “He just batted those big, brown eyes of his and got his way with everything. But it wasn’t always like that; only recently. It was the group of friends he was hanging around with. They were a bad influence on him.”

“What does Shaun look like?” asked Essie, curious. She needed anything to get her mind off the fact they were both trapped.

“Dark brown eyes, light brown hair. He’s tall, and fairly muscular.” Replied Shyla. “You’ll probably see him after we get rescued. He’s actually a fun guy – we used to be friends – but he just demanded his own way a lot after he began to hang out with Harry.”

“Why was Harry a bad influence?” asked Essie.

Shyla stretched her legs out and rested the knife on her knee. “Harry doesn’t realise that Shaun is slightly self-destructive and obsesses over small things. So whatever they do for fun, he takes it seriously and personally.”

Essie thought for a moment. “Shouldn’t Harry be more sensitive to his friend’s needs?”

Shyla shrugged. “Harry is sixteen. He doesn’t know what happens in Shaun’s mind when things begin to unravel. He just cares about girls and having a good time.”

Essie sat for a moment. “He needs somebody to tell him where to draw the line.”

Shyla shook her head. “He needs people in his life who care about whether he’s obsessing over nothing.”

Essie looked at Shyla again, abruptly changing the subject. “Why is your hair so long?” she asked.

Shyla ran her fingers through the ends. “I got it cut the day before my dad died.” She replied. “I haven’t cut it since then. I can’t bear to, because it’s a reminder of his sacrifices. I have worked out how to fight with long hair too. That’s why I always wear it in a plait.”

Essie smiled. Shyla stood up in one fluid movement. “We need to get to sleep. The next few days will be hell for both of us.” She pulled Essie to her feet. “You go ahead and sleep on the bed.” She offered. “I have been trained to sleep pretty much anywhere.”

“You sure?” Essie asked.

Shyla nodded. Essie curled up into a small ball on the bed, and Shyla curled up in the corner nearest the window. Both girls slid into a restless sleep, unsure of what the new day would bring.

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