Chapter Thirty-Two: Emily
I stare at myself in the mirror to ascertain that not a trace of ink remains on my body.
“God, help me,” I whisper, placing the beret on my head, preparing to play the perfect puppet to protect what is left of my mind. “God, help me.”
I run into Christopher outside the cafeteria as he leaves, and the food flies everywhere while I fall backwards.
Christopher grabs my arms and rights me. “I’m so sorry.”
He studies me. “Yes?”
“Do you… remember me?”
“Of course I do, Emily. You’re my girlfriend.” He gives me a half smile. “Why are you talking that way?”
“Do you remember last night?”
“I remember crashing for the test all night. Why?”
I lick my suddenly very dry lips. “Why are you taking food outside the cafeteria?”
“I was going to study some more. We can hang out after the tests.”
His smile widens and he kisses me on the top of my head.
Then I watch as he walks off without his food and without me.
I glance around my science classroom, where I’m taking the test. Mickey, Donald, and Destiny are here with me, but Christopher is taking his test in his history classroom and Violet is taking hers in her literature classroom.
And Professor N. is standing at the front of the class, looking calm and happy and the very model of a perfect science teacher.
For a moment, I search his eyes to see any remnant of last night. But there’s nothing I can detect.
I force my gaze down at my test. The gaze I will pass not to please Dr. Earnestine or whoever he works for. But to buy Christopher and me time until help comes.
Until I get something more tangible than hope.
When the time is up, I hand over the test I finished early on and read through multiple times. Then I stand up to follow the rest of the class to the athletic section of our class.
I will literally have to swim for my life. Again.
Because that worked out so well the other times.
A mental list of times when my life depended on swimming:
(1.) When my cruise ship went down… but Christopher was there;
(2.) When I fell into a river… but Christopher was there;
(3.) Now… when I have no Christopher;
When we line up at the pool, I try to catch Christopher’s gaze.
But he never looks at me.
When we finish, I go to draw for our lives.
He pauses in the hallway and glances back. “Emily.”
“Where are you going?”
“I heard they got some early results in the office. I wanted to go find out.” He moves to walk away.
I stare after him for a moment, feeling shy. Like I would with a stranger. But he’s not a stranger. I refuse to accept that. He’s just… acting weird. It’s all in my head.
Summoning my courage, I call, “Why does this matter all of a sudden? The test?”
“Because I want to pass. Go to Harvard with you.”
“Who says I passed? I mean, I tried my best.”
He gives me a half smile. “You will.” He glances down at my arm.
I do too.
New ink is there.
Still smiling, Christopher walks away from me.
And I stand frozen in terror.
Violet looks up when I come into our room. “Are you okay?”
“No.” I walk toward my dresser and grab hold of it to keep from collapsing. “My therapist is evil. My boyfriend is a stranger to me. And at anytime, I could be too.”
“I won’t let that happen to you.”
“Christopher promised to protect me too.” I open my drawer to throw my beret into it.
And find a note there.
I scream and jump back.
Violet jumps up, knife ready. “What is it?”
“Another note.” I shakily approach it, Violet looking ready to throw her knife at it.
Taking a deep breath, I open it.
Meet us at your school’s running track at eleven tonight.
N & H
I gasp. They’ve come.
“I still think I should come,” Violet says as I pull a black hoodie over my head.
“No. I can’t risk you getting compromised if I do. I can’t lose you too.”
“Fine, but don’t run off this place without me.”
“I won’t leave without you or Christopher, and I don’t think he’s leaving anytime soon.”
“You could have one of the superhumans carry him off or something. He’s super fast.”
“And keep him restrained forever- or at least until we know he won’t kill himself or something.”
Violet cocks her head at me. “Well, be careful out there.” She holds out her knife at me.
I shake my head. “I’m done with knives.”
Then I turn and sneak out of my dorm.
All the way to the meeting point, doubt racks me. They won’t be here. It’s a trap. I’ll get turned around and go to the wrong place…
But then I see two people in the distance, standing by a tree. The taller of the two figures is a boy wearing all black clothing, a black baseball hat, and- despite the fact that the sun has long since set- sunglasses. He’s not at all what I expected.
Then the shorter figure comes into focus. Despite the fact that she’s wearing black clothing, a headscarf, and sunglasses instead of the karate robe costume like the last two times I saw her, I still recognize her.
I take a deep breath. “The Ninja. I just can’t stay away from trouble- and there she is.”
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