Firewatcher

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School

My mouth hung open as I stared at my mother in shock.

“Two years?” The words barely made it out of my mouth. I was in a coma, for two whole years? Sure, two years don’t seem like a long time, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. So much could happen in two years, so many things could change. I blinked hard, not even feeling it when the nurse jabs a needle in my arm to pull blood.

Two fucking years?

The nurse puts a Band-Aid on my arm before letting go of it. It didn’t feel like I had been gone for two years. It felt like I had just woken up on a normal morning, but there was nothing normal about this. I looked down at myself. I was thinner, but I was still me. I had the body of a sixteen year old, not an eighteen year old. Okay maybe my breasts did look bigger, but I felt the same.

“Are you stiff? Can you raise your arms?” The nurse asked.

“My neck...” I whispered before raising my arms without difficulty.

“Incredible,” the nurse said as she examined my arms. “There is no muscles wastage at all; in fact it appears like you’ve gained muscles.” She wrote something on my chart before telling me to lower my arms.

“Water?” My mother rushed forward then, pushing through the doctors and nurses to grab the glass of water by my bedside. She handed it to me and I had no difficulty holding the cup. I haven’t used my arms for two years but I felt like I could lift a tank. Everything about this was strange.

The water went down nicely and my throat felt a little better. The nurse grabbed my head, shining a light into my eyes. I pulled away, closing my eyes. The light hurt like a bitch.

“Interesting…” The nurse mumbled, writing on my chart again.

“What?” My mother asked, seeing my exasperated expression.

“It appears that your eye colour has changed. Now it could be because your pupil size changed while you were in the coma, causing the pigments in the iris to compress or spread apart, changing the eye colour a bit. It’s very common, but it usually changes dark brown to light brown, or dark blue to light blue, but I’ve never seen it change green to grey.” The nurse explained.

My head was spinning. She used too many big words for someone who just woke up from a coma. My eyes changed colour?

“We’ll have to do some tests ma’am,” one of the doctors told my mother and she nodded.

The rest of the afternoon, I spent in and out of MRI’s and CAT-scans. My left arm was blue from all the needles they stuck in me and I was getting irritated. I just wanted a moment to collect my thoughts.

I had been in a coma for two years. I wasn’t sixteen anymore. My boobs were bigger and my eyes changed from green to silver. Great, what else? It was April, so I wasn’t eighteen yet, but I was only a few weeks away from legally drinking and driving. That was a bonus.

When they finally took me back to my room I was ready to punch anyone who came close to me with a needle. I was just done for the day. I sat in my bed, reading the cards that people had left on my bedside table.

Get better soon. – Van

We miss you, hope you wake up soon. Things aren’t the same without you. – Myra

Wake up soon, we miss you. – Ash

I hope you get better soon Mina. – Marx

Please get better Mina, I miss you more than anything. I’m so sorry. – Cade

I miss you Mina, wake up soon. – Scott

Their names seemed familiar, but I couldn’t remember what they looked like. I knew these people were my friends, Cade my almost boyfriend, but I couldn’t remember. I read over the cards again, taking each message in and looking at the handwriting as if it would tell me how my friends looked, and that’s when I realised that I was missing someone; Ridley. There was no card from Ridley, my very best friend. I frowned, trying to picture her. Why wouldn’t she send me a card? Did I do something to her that I can’t remember? Are we still friends?

The nurses brought me some food, but I wasn’t hungry. I put the cards down, leaning back against the pillows. I wanted to sleep, just to get away from my thoughts, but my body wouldn’t let me. It has been asleep for two years and now it wants to be awake.

“Mina?” I opened my eyes to see my mother standing in front of my bed. A look of relief washed over her face when she saw that I was awake, and I couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through these last two years, and what she would go through from now on. She would always be scared when I fell asleep, scared that I wouldn’t wake up for another two years. “How are you feeling sweetheart?” She moved around the bed to sit next to me.

I shrugged, really looking at my mother for the first time. She had the same platinum blonde hair and emerald green eyes that I had, well used to have, and the same heart shaped face. She was a very beautiful woman, but she had aged these last two years. Her forehead had wrinkles on it that it didn’t have before and her face looked tired. There were dark circles under her eyes and lines next to her mouth as well. Catelyn Carlisle had aged before her time. “A little confused,” I said softly. “What happened to me Mom?”

“You don’t remember?” My mother asked, setting her bag down on the floor. I shook my head. I tried to recall the last memory I had before the darkness, but my brain just didn’t want to function. It was like someone built a wall in my mind, keeping me from accessing the memories of the events that led up to my coma. My mother smoothed down her black skirt, pulling on the hem, something she did when she was stressed.

“You were…” she swallowed hard and I could only guess that recalling the details of that night was hard for her. “You were out for the night with your friends at Jetty 1906.”

As she spoke, I tried to remember the Jetty. I knew I had been there before many times, I knew what it looked like and even what it smelled like, but I couldn’t remember my last night there.

“You were walking home, like you usually did because it’s not far from home, when you got mugged. You were stabbed and left in an alley,” mom’s voice broke a little and she looked away from me for a moment, regaining her composure before looking at me again.

“I called the police when you weren’t home by midnight, you weren’t answering your phone and your friends said that you had walked home. By the time they found you, you had lost a lot of blood.”

“Stabbed?” I asked, my hands immediately going to my stomach. I thought I was going to find stitched up wounds, but instead I found smooth skin.

“Through the chest, it barely missed the heart.” I could see this was hard for my mother. Her eyes glazed over and for a moment, she looked like she was going to cry. I grabbed her hand, holding it in mine to comfort her. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with my mother if she started crying. “Your heart stopped twice during surgery,” she continued, “and twice after. You never woke up the second time.”

I blinked, my free hand moving to my chest. There was no gaping wound like I expected, but just a small vertical scar between my breasts. I was unable to make sense of any of this. I get stabbed while walking home and then I’m in a coma for two years. How does any of this happen? My life didn’t feel real anymore. “I don’t remember anything.”

“It’s alright sweetheart, the doctors said that’s normal for someone who’s been in a coma for so long. Your memories are bound to be a little fuzzy. I brought something to help with that,” my mom remembered, bending down to pull a photo album out of her handbag. She put the album on my lap, opening up to the first page. There was a picture of a younger version of my mom; her arms wrapped around a baby me. There was a man in the picture as well, a blonde haired, blue-eyed man. At first I couldn’t place him, but then it came back to me.

“That’s you, me and dad. He died in a car accident two weeks after this photo was taken.”

My mom nodded, turning the page. There were more pictures of me growing up, the first day of pre-school, the day I lost my first tooth, the first day of primary school, all the pictures of my childhood. Then came high school, along with the memories that were most recent. There was a picture of my first day, my arm wrapped around a girl that could only be Ridley. She had raven black hair and dark brown eyes that almost appeared black, and she was smiling along with me. Then came the pictures of me and my other friends. I recognized Cade, the green eyes and the messy brown hair. Ash and Myra were there too, along with Scott and Vanessa. I felt better now that I could remember them.

“Thanks mom,” I said, closing the album. My mom smiled, and I could tell it was the first real smile she gave anyone in a long time.

“You’re welcome sweetheart.”


Mina! You’re going to be late for school!” Catelyn’s voice drifted up the stairs and Mina closed her journal. She stuffed the black book into her school bag before tossing it over her shoulder. Mina wanted to leave it at home, but she was supposed to write down everything she could remember when she remembered it, like the night she fell into the coma, which she had no memories of.

Mina walked out of her room, closing the door behind her. She was wearing black jeans and a white hoodie with black boots. It was the only clothes she had that wasn’t pink or red or yellow so they would have to do. Her brain hurt when she thought of just how many pink she actually had and she shuddered at the thought of wearing it. It took her most of the night to find a pair of black jeans, but it didn’t bother her since she didn’t actually sleep at night.

Catelyn was downstairs in the kitchen, reading this morning’s Alder Port Post. Her hair was tied back into a sleek bun and she was wearing a black dress. Mina walked into the kitchen, heading straight for the fridge even though she wasn’t hungry. She knew her mother worried when she didn’t eat, so she made sure to eat something when her mother was around.

“Are you ready for today?” Catelyn asked, putting down the paper to look at her daughter. Mina nodded, grabbing an apple from the fridge before closing it. She leaned against one of the counters, biting into the apple. It was a sour one, but Mina didn’t even taste it.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“If you feel uncomfortable or if you need anything just call me. You have your phone right?”

Mina patted her jean pocket, where the brand new iPhone 6 was hidden. She was still getting used to the phone, the last one she had was an iPhone 3, but at least she knew how to make a phone call. She didn’t want to give too much thought to the day ahead, it would just make her more nervous. Dr Wade had told her mother that she should go back to school as soon as possible, just to get things back to normal. Mina didn’t feel very normal at the moment. She knew it was going to be a tough day.

“If you want to stay home for a few more days it can be arranged,” Catelyn said, watching her daughter carefully. Mina shook her head, as much as she dreaded going to school, she would rather just get it over with. “Alright then, let’s go,” Catelyn said, grabbing her car keys.


The school looked just like Mina remembered it.

It consisted of two large, yellow brick buildings, appropriately named Block B and C. The three story, rectangle shaped buildings were parallel to each other, connected by a bridge in the middle on the second story. Block A was a two story building opposite Block B, also connected to Block B by a bridge on the second floor. Block A housed the Great Hall, gym and office whilst Block B and C housed the classrooms. In between the blocks were four courtyards, each with their own unique nickname.

Right in front of the school in between Block A and B was Hawk’s View; it was given that name because the principal’s office looked out over that courtyard. If you walked underneath the bridge to the other side, you’d find Piss Square, where the bathrooms were located. The one next to Piss Square, between Block B and C, was named Stoner Corner, because that’s where most kids had a smoke during break, and if you walked back underneath the bridge you’d find the Lunch Yard, where Mina and her friends used to sit every day. Beyond Block C were the rugby and hockey fields, but only the losers hung out there during break.

Mina stood in the front office, a cold room that smelled like bleach and other cleaning products. Green and purple curtains hung in front of the large windows that made up the entire right side of the room, letting in no sunlight at all. There was a large black counter in front of the room, cluttered with papers and folders and coffee cups. Next to the counter was a set of wooden couches and chairs, all decorated with green pillows. A set of doors behind the counter led to the back office where there was a conference room and where the principal’s office was located. The back wall was decorated with photos of the current Student Council and various trophies that the school won.

Mina stared at the photos, recognizing her friends. Scott and Vanessa were Head Boy and Girl, and Cade and Marx were on the council as well. Mina wasn’t surprised, they were the cool kids after all, people would vote for them.

“Here you go Mina,” Miss Murray said as she returned from the back office. She was carrying a stack of books and a few papers. Miss Murray was short, plump woman, and has been the secretary at Alder High even before Mina started. She was in her late forties, and Mina thought she was a little bitter about that fact that she was still just a secretary. She was mean to almost everyone and she complained about her job a lot, so maybe Mina wasn’t too far off. Miss Murray put the books on the counter and tapped the papers on top. “Just give those to your mother, she’ll know what to do with them. These are all your textbooks, and here is you schedule and homeroom.” Miss Murray pulled a paper out from the bottom of the stack and gave it to Mina. Her classes were printed on the paper, as well as the rooms that they were in. “Do you need a map?”

Mina shook her head, she didn’t lose her memory, it was just a little foggy. She could find her own way around. “I’m good thanks.”

“Well then off you go,” Miss Murray said, shooing Mina. Yeah, the woman definitely hated her job. Mina picked up the large stack of books, carrying them effortlessly to one of the couches. She sat down, opening her school bag and putting the papers her mother needed in first. Then she went through her textbooks, putting each one in carefully.

Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, English, Maths, Afrikaans, English Literature.

They had given her all the subjects she had two years ago, subjects she chose because she wanted to go into Business Law. It felt strange going through her books, like she was catching a glimpse of the things the old Mina had and wanted. She suddenly felt uncomfortable, like she was some kind of imposter taking over someone else’s life. She was living old Mina’s life, with old Mina’s friends and school and subjects, but she didn’t feel like old Mina anymore.

“Pull it together Mina, it’s just first day jitters,” she told herself, zipping up her bag and getting up. She tossed her bag over her shoulder before looking at her schedule. She had Mathematics first thing on a Monday morning.

I hate my life, she thought to herself as she took a deep breath before putting on her game face and heading outside.

The entire hallway fell silent as soon as Mina stepped foot outside the office. Kids she recognized but couldn’t remember stared blatantly at her, as if they couldn’t quite believe that she was actually here. Mina expected a reaction like this, she was practically dead to the world for two years and now she was back at school as if nothing ever happened. The old Mina would have blushed cutely and relished the attention she was getting, but the new Mina’s cheeks were pale and she just put her head down and made her way through the crowd. Her fingers went up to her mouth and she bit at her nails, her feet automatically taking her to the Math classroom on the second floor of Block B. She kept her head down, avoiding eye contact with everyone. She was not in the mood for this.

“Holy shit.” Mina’s head snapped up as she stepped into the classroom. It was painted an ugly green but at least the windows let in lots of sunlight and fresh air. You needed fresh air to concentrate on maths. The classroom was full, and it fell silent as soon as she walked in. Because Mina had been out for two years, the school had no choice but to hold her back a grade. She was supposed to be in Matric this year, but instead they put her in the 11th grade. She missed too much work and she never would have made it in Matric. All of her friends were in Matric, and she didn’t know a lot of 11th graders. They were beneath old Mina’s notice. Once again, the faces looked familiar, but she couldn’t remember their names.

“Quiet down,” Mr Wright snapped, glaring at the boy who spoke. He shrunk back into his seat, but his eyes were still glued on Mina. Mr Wright was a large man with a round face, and just like his classroom, he always wore green. He was a very intelligent man and very good at math, but he had trouble explaining math to his students in a way that they would understand. He was too smart for them. “Miss Carlisle, I’m glad you made such a miraculous recovery. However, it is going to take another miracle to actually get you through the 11th grade, so I suggest you sit down and listen.”

Mina couldn’t help the small smirk forming on her lips. To most people he would seem rude, but Mina was grateful for his comments. He wasn’t treating her differently, he was treating her like he treated everyone else, and it was refreshing. She was tired of the stares and being treated as if she was fragile. Mina walked to the back of the class and sat down, fishing out her math books. Maybe things were going back to normal after all.


Mina was grateful by the time lunch rolled around. Her head hurt from thinking too hard in maths and accounting. She remembered enjoying accounting and maths when she was fifteen, but right now, it just confused her too much. Mina hadn’t seen her friends all morning, but they were in different grades and on different schedules, so she understood. She just wanted to get through today. Mina walked through the school toward the Lunch Yard, she wasn’t really hungry but she knew she would find her friends there.

Most of the kids had stopped staring at her during the morning; some came up to talk to her and to find out how she was feeling, but others just kept their distance. She got a few stares when she walked into the Lunch Yard, but she just ignored them.

“Mina!” There was a blur of blonde hair and a pair of arms wrapped around Mina, hugging her tightly. Instinctively Mina’s arms wrapped around the blonde-haired woman, hugging her back just as tightly.

“Vanessa.”

Vanessa Greyson was a whole head shorter than Mina with long dirty blonde locks that she always wore in a high ponytail. She had a sharp face with piercing blue eyes and a slender body. She had lost a few pounds since Mina last saw her, and she looked a little older, but two years would do that to a person. There was coldness in her eyes that hadn’t been there before, and she looked at Mina with a condescending smile.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” Vanessa said, but Mina had a feeling she was lying. Only one person came to visit her after she woke up, and that person wasn’t Vanessa. If she really cared she would have at least made an effort. Vanessa has always been jealous of Mina, Mina just never noticed.

“Me too,” Mina replied, letting go of Vanessa.

“Come on, the rest of the guys are waiting for you,” Vanessa said with a lofty smile. She was acting, and Mina couldn’t help but wonder why. Vanessa led Mina toward one of the tables at the back of the yard. Cade, Marx and Scott were all lying with their heads on the table, their eyes closed. All of them looked tired and dishevelled.

“Yeah, it looks like they’re real excited to see me,” Mina said. At the sound of her voice all three of them raised their heads, their eyes wide. They jumped up, their previous fatigue forgotten, and raced towards her. Three strong pairs of arms wrapped around her in a group hug and for the first time since she woke up, Mina genuinely laughed. “Careful, you’re going to break me!”

“We’re just so glad you’re back,” Scott said, giving her a squeeze.

“Yeah, we missed you like crazy,” Marx added.

Mina had missed her friends as well, she missed what they once had, and she missed the time she lost with them. When she looked at each of them, she could see the signs of aging, the signs of stress and pain, and the signs of laughter and joy.

Scott Spencer was now a whole head taller than Mina with light brown eyes and matching hair. Two years ago he was still shorter than she was, and had boyish looks. Now he was kind of hot. He had the same build as Cade and Marx had, who were always taller than she was, muscular and solid. All three of the were rugby players, but the last time Mina saw them they were just gangly boys, now they were men.

Mina felt her eyes burning slightly and she quickly wiped them. She was not going to cry, she hated crying, especially crying at school. Everyone already treated her like a fragile doll, crying would only make it worse.

“I’ve missed two years of partying guys, when’s the first one?”

Scott grinned, throwing his arm over Mina shoulder and walking her to the table. Mina could feel Cade’s eyes on her, but he didn’t say anything as he and Marx sat back down. “I’m glad you asked Firefly, we were thinking that you need a welcome back party,” Scott said, sitting Mina down.

“Firefly?” Mina asked a little puzzled. She’d heard that nickname before, but she couldn’t remember the reason why he called her that. She did remember it was only Scott who called her that, but she couldn’t remember anything else.

“Yeah, you don’t remember?” Scott asked, raising an eyebrow.

“My brain is fuzzy; just give me a few minutes. Keep talking about the party.”

“I was thinking next weekend?”

“No, next weekend is my birthday party,” Vanessa said as she sat down next to Scott, giving him a glare that gave new meaning to the phrase ‘If looks could kill.’

At this point Mina tuned out the conversation, trying to remember why Scott called her Firefly. She knew the memory was there somewhere, but it was like watching TV with bad reception, she only saw snow. Dr Wade had told her that if she experienced fuzzy memories she shouldn’t look too hard, she should just wait and let them become clear on their own. She looked around the Lunch Yard, watching everyone eating, talking, and laughing. Vanessa was still going on about her birthday party, completely self-absorbed, but Mina ignored her. Even before her coma, Mina would sometimes ignore Vanessa. The girl was a straight up attention whore, but still Mina’s friend. Vanessa had always been loyal to Mina, bit it was obvious Mina wasn’t queen bee anymore. Not that she cared anymore either.

Mina stretched out, fully turning away from the conversation to watch the kids in the Lunch Yard. There was a hierarchy here, there always was. Matrics got the tables at the far end of the yard, underneath the trees and in the shade. The 11th graders got a few tables in the shade, but most sat out in the sun. The 10th graders had a couple of tables, all in the sun and in front of the cafeteria doors. The 9th graders were allowed to sit on the edges of the yard, but they didn’t get any tables, and the 8th graders didn’t even bother coming near the yard.

“8th grade!” Mina said, remembering why Scott called her Firefly. Vanessa fell silent, glaring at Mina for interrupting her, but Mina hardly noticed.

“What about 8th grade?” Cade asked, raising his brows.

“That’s why Scott calls me Firefly,” Mina said, excited that she was able to remember. “The two of us played fireflies in our 8th grade concert!”

The 8th grade concert was something they put on every year. It was a play the eighth graders had to put on as part of their initiation, some years it was hysterical, other years it was drab. The quality of the play determined how well the seniors treated you for the next few years. If the play sucked, they weren’t treated nicely, but if the play was awesome they were treated like legends.

“Hell yeah! Mina’s back!” Scott cheered, holding his hand out for a high five. Mina smiled, giving him a high five, feeling like she was finally getting some normality back.

“That’s great Mina, but can we get back to my party now?” Vanessa said, looking at her nails boredly.

“Have at it V,” Mina rolled her eyes. “I need to get to class anyway.”

Vanessa smirked, clearly thinking that she won whatever game it was they were playing. Mina just decided to let Vanessa’s behaviour slide. She knew the old Mina would have taken Vanessa on, she would have fought to regain her place as queen bee, but the new Mina could not care less. It was high school for fuck’s sake.

“I’ll walk you,” Cade said, jumping up and grabbing his bag.

“Laters Firefly,” Scott said, throwing his arm over Vanessa’s shoulders and turning back to the conversation. Marx just waved at his brother and put his head back on the table. He was a quiet person, unlike Cade, and he never talked much.

“See you guys,” Mina said, turning around and walking back to the bridge.

“Where’s your next class?” Cade asked, falling into step next to her. Mina dug her schedule out of her jean pocket, handing it to Cade. He checked it before handing it back to her. “English with Miss Khan. Second floor, block C.”

Mina followed Cade silently up the stairs, she didn’t know what to say to him. He was close to being her boyfriend before the coma, and it must have been hard for him to lose her, but that was two years ago. He couldn’t have held on to the feelings he had for her all this time, could he? Mina didn’t love Cade, she knew that. She cared about him as a friend, but that was it. His visit during the last two weeks was awkward enough, and she didn’t know how to talk to him anymore.

She was about to say something to him, anything to break the awkward silence, when they reached the first floor. Mina stopped in her tracks, her mouth dropping open slightly. Against the far wall was a large picture of her and Ridley, one they took at a party two years ago. The old Mina was gazing up at her, green eyes and bright smile, as well as her best friend with her dark brown eyes and sneaky smile. Above the picture, written in large letters were their names. Ridley and Mina. About a dozen smaller pictures of Ridley and Mina with their friends framed the larger one, and on the ground stood pots with flowers in.

“What the hell is this?” Mina asked, turning to face Cade.

“We built it after they announced that you had slipped into a coma, and after they closed Ridley’s case.”

“Closed Ridley’s case? What do you mean her case?” Mina asked, frowning as she walked closer to the shrine. Some of the photos had writing on them, messages from her classmates and the kids in school, bible verses and quotes. It felt so strange to see the shrine, Mina didn’t know if she should be happy or sick.

“Didn’t your mother tell you?” Cade asked, frowning as he stood next to Mina. “The night you were stabbed Ridley was walking home with you. They never found her body or any indication that she was hurt, so they declared her missing. They never found her.”

“What?” Mina breathed, her head pounding. “Ridley, my best friend, has been missing for two years?”

Mina couldn’t believe it, she didn’t want to believe it. How could Ridley just have disappeared without a trace? What the hell happened to her?

“Mina, are you alright?” Cade asked, seeing that she’s turned as white as a sheet. He reached out to hold her arm, afraid that she might faint. Mina was feeling dizzy, and like she was going to throw up.

“I need to sit down,” she said and Cade helped her to the wall. Mina leaned against it, sliding down until her ass found the floor. She pulled her knees up and rested her head on them, wrapping her arms around herself. She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm down, but it wasn’t working. Her mind had gone into overdrive, imagining every possible thing that could have happened to her best friend. She didn’t want to think about it, but the thoughts still came. Some sort of psychopath or sociopath had her best friend, she could have been tortured or raped or beaten before they killed her, or worse, she could be alive, hoping that someone might find her.

“Why have they stopped looking for her?” Mina asked, looking up at Cade suddenly. She jumped to her feet, forgetting her dizziness and headache. “I need to talk to the police and kick their asses.” Mina turned, heading for the stairs, but Cade caught her hand.

“Whoa, slow down Mina. It’s the middle of a school day and you can’t drive. The police station is in town, you can’t walk that far.” Cade had a point, but Mina didn’t want to listen to his point.

“My best friend is missing Cade! And, I’ve only found out about it now! I have to go, I have to help her!” Mina struggled, trying to break free of Cade’s hold. He was supposed to be stronger than she was, but she surprised them both when she broke free. “I need to find her!”

Mina ran for the stairs, the fierce desire to help Ridley had completely taken over; she didn’t care about the logistics. She would find a way, she just had to help Ridley. She took the stairs two at a time, not looking where she was going until it was too late. She collided with someone, sending both of them stumbling a few stairs back.

“Watch where you’re …” Mina looked up, swallowing her words when she saw who was standing in front of her. A short, and impeccably dressed, Indian woman stood in front of Mina. She looked to be in her late twenties, but the lines around her eyes and mouth suggested she was at least in her early thirties. She was wearing a black pencil skirt and a white blouse, with heels that made her five inches taller than she really was. She had jet black hair that hung in curls down her back and piercing blue eyes that reminded Mina of Dr Wade’s eyes. The woman’s eyes gave Mina the same eerie feeling that Dr Wade’s eyes gave her, as if they could see right through you. ”I’m so sorry ma’am,” Mina apologized to the woman, who was obviously a teacher. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Clearly,” the older woman said with a hint of sarcasm. She had a nice voice and an accent Mina couldn’t place. She was very beautiful, Mina couldn’t deny that. “You must be Mina Carlisle?”

Mina nodded, watching as the woman pulled her skirt right.

“I’m Miss Khan, your English teacher. Care to tell me why you were bounding down the stairs like a madman?”

“I…” What was Mina going to say? That she freaked out when she found out that her best friend had been missing for two years? That she was determined to get Ridley back, even if it meant looking for her by herself? “I’ve had a rough day.”

Miss Khan’s blue eyes looked Mina over with a type of concern she hasn’t even seen in her mother’s eyes, but instead of being creeped out Mina felt slightly comforted in Miss Khan’s presence. “I can see that sweetheart, would you like to go home?”

Mina bit her lip, thinking about it. If she went home now she could start looking for Ridley, she could go to the police station and find out what they had on her case, and she could ask her mom why she thought not to share this information with her. Then again, if she left now it would be all over the school that Mina couldn’t even handle one day, and everyone would treat her like a glass doll again.

“No, I’m alright ma’am,” Mina said.

“Excellent, class is this way,” Miss Khan said, walking past Mina and up the stairs.

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