Lou watched the crowd drift apart, taking Taylor with it. She only moments to react before people pushed against her and she was separated from Izzy. It happened too quickly, less than a minute later the crowd calmed and she found herself only a few feet from where she had been standing, the bathrooms still within sight. Her movements were too restricted in the tight dress. She wanted to rip it apart.
Parker was still right there, with Phaedra Behrstable, but Philomena appeared to have been pushed away. When Parker saw Lou he sneered and looked down his nose. He elbowed Phaedra and whispered something to her which set the other girl laughing behind her hand. She was identical to Philomena, of course, except for the few tells like that behind-the-hand laugh.
Lou's fists balled. She snarled, took a step toward Parker without any thoughts formed about what she was going to do. A single word boomed inside her head, repeated: bully, bully, bully. Parker sensed something and he moved behind Phaedra, who looked shocked when she saw Lou's expression. It was very satisfying for Lou. Lou had only been a few steps away and she covered those rather quickly. Just as Parker ducked behind Phaedra, Lou's hand swung backwards, her balled fist aimed and flying. Something grabbed her from behind, pulled on her backwards-extended arm and she was stopped mid-swing. Phaedra's eyes widened and she smiled. Lou tried to pull free but couldn't. She was swung around.
It was the security guard. He had a blank expression on his face, Lou's arm firmly within his grasp. Standing just behind him was Philomena.
“Tsk tsk, Lou. No fighting at our party.“ Philomena said. “Throw her out.“
The grip on her wrist grew harder and the large man pulled her through the crowd. Lou struggled a bit, but he was too strong. She decided not to fight it, knowing already how strong the man was from the last time he had attacked her, along with her limited ability to move in her tight dress. Parker waved sarcastically, nudging Phaedra to do the same. They were drawn out of sight as the guard dragged Lou. His grip didn't lessen until Lou was bodily pushed out a side door of the mansion, several of her schoolmates and other teens gaping or laughing at her. Lou's remained stoic outside, but inside she seethed and burned.
It was cold outside and Lou was uncomfortable in her dress. She pulled her cell out of her purse. As she contemplated what to do next, Lou realized there was at least one good thing to come of it all: the security guard had not appeared to recognize her. She smiled as she pulled out her cell phone, thinking out the text she would send to the others. Lou had just begun to enter characters when she heard a familiar voice.
“Lou?“ the voice said, causing Lou to whip around in surprise.
Of all the people she expected to see Mrs. Helen Jones was positively the last. The older woman was dressed in khaki slacks and a loose-fitting denim shirt, a pair of sensible shoes on her feet. Mrs. Jones smiled, hesitantly, cast her eyes around secretively, but clearly trying to seem as if she were not doing anything such thing.
“Mrs. Jones?“ Lou said, startled enough to forget the women always insisted Lou call her Helen.
A slight tightening of Mrs. Jones' lips was the only sign of her annoyance. “What are you doing here?“ Lou said.
A plainly guilty look flashed across the woman's face. Have I ever seen that look on Helen's face? “I came with Myth, dearie.“ Helen mumbled.
Lou sighed. Of course. Myth never intended to just stay at HQ. Somehow she convinced Helen to let her come to the party at Gracie Mansion. I made Helen promise to watch Myth. Knowing Helen, the only way she agreed to let Myth go was for Helen herself to accompany the dark girl. Judging by Helen's outfit she thought the whole ordeal a grand adventure.
“Where is she?“ Lou hissed, all her thoughts about the text she was trying to send evaporating. She looked around up and down the street, nothing. “Where is she?“ Lou insisted.
“I'm not quite sure, dear. She managed to get away from me.“ Helen said, laughing. “I'm not as fast as I once was!”
Lou sighed. “C'mon. We've got to find Myth and get out of here. It's not safe.“ Lou grabbed Helen by the arm and led her away from the door, down the street - it was really more of an alley than a street - towards the area where cars and attendants waited. The pair was just about to turn the corner when commotion wafted from around the corner.
“Inside! Now!“ came a rough shout,. followed by the clopping of feet in boots running. Lou held her arm up protectively in front of Helen, keeping her back. She leaned forward and looked around the corner. Three blazer-clad men disappeared into the Mansion, one talking into the cuff of his jacket, a cord dangling from his ear.
When they were gone Lou leaned back and whispered loudly to Helen. “Something's happened. We have to find the others and get out of here!“ She remembered her phone and felt like slapping her forehead with it. Moments later she had sent a text to Myth asking the girl to stop whatever she was doing and meet her near the side door. Lou wanted to text the others, but she more than suspected they were involved in whatever had drawn those guards inside and likely were already trying to get out themselves. She settled for texting Izzy. The response was immediate.
"”Guards everywhere, trying to slip out now.“
Frustrated, Lou looked around one last time, in vain hope she might see Myth. She turned to walk back towards the door she had been tossed out of.
Myth. The small girl slipped from between some cars and ran towards Lou, her head tossing side-to-side constantly as she ran. Myth's running was impeded by the elaborate dress she wore. And the heels. Lou might have laughed, on the inside, had the situation not been so dire.
“I know!“ Myth said once she reached Lou and Helen. “But, I couldn't resist, I just wanted to dance with him. Once.“ Myth's mouth turned down into a half-pout. Lou wanted to shake her.
“Well. At least you look nice.“ Lou said finally. “But something's up, gone wrong“
Myth nodded, excited. “I texted Taylor and Winston when I saw the guards run out of the little guardhouse.“ She looked abashed as she said, “I was about to try and sneak in.“
Lou didn't need to ask why she had not texted. Sneak? In a ball gown? Myth had hoped to hide her presence; sneak in, get her dance with Winston and slip out. Did she think Winston would even bother to agree? What was she THINKING? Lou knew it was fantasy, even if Myth seemed incapable of seeing the same.
“What are we going to do?“ Myth said.
Lou said: “You two need to leave. Now. Get back to the subway.“
Helen shook her head. “We drove.“ Lou wanted to swear.
“Where are you parked?“ she asked.
“Four streets over.“ Helen replied.
“Get there. Stay there, until you get a text from me.“ Lou ordered. Myth pooched her lip out and started to gather steam to argue, but Helen shrugged wistfully and pulled at Myth's satin-covered shoulder.
“No arguing! Just go!“ Lou snarled. Myth jerked back almost as if she had been slapped. She and Helen trotted off down the alley, Myth looking back once, obviously hurt. Her billowy dress swayed in the breeze. Gritting her teeth, Lou pulled her own dress up from the bust. Her phone vibrated just as she was about to send another text. It was Izzy again.
“out front, waiting on car.“
“forget the car. the others?“ Lou responded.
“idk. haven't seen since I saw you.“ Izzy replied.
Lou moved back towards the front of Gracie Mansion, stashing her phone in her purse as she ran. She spotted Izzy almost as soon as she turned the corner. A large, and getting larger, mass of teens spilled out of the Mansion. Whatever was going on, the party seemed to be ending abruptly. No one looked happy about it. Lou stopped running, walked briskly, occasionally having to gently push her way through other teens until she stood next to Izzy.
“Myth and Helen are here.“ Lou said angrily. Izzy's shock broke through the fake calm and inviting expression she had been wearing. But she recovered quickly, though she frowned first. “They are parked four streets over, I made them go back and wait at the car. We should go there, and text the boys to follow if they can.“ Lou said, not feeling bad about it at all anymore. Do what I have to do. Maybe she should, but right then, she knew it was useless.
Izzy looked torn. “But...“ the other girl started to balk.
Something distracted her. Lou felt it as well: her phone was vibrating.
“in car. waiting.“ it was from Myth. Lou wanted to snarl. She had hoped it would be from one of the boys. More guards appeared in the crowd. Lou tensed up, grabbed Izzy's arm. “We have to go. Now.“ she murmured. “We can't wait, they have to fend for themselves.“ She didn't stop to think. Act before you're forced to act! Zahi's voice said in her mind, one his first training lessons.
They maneuvered through the press until they reached the corner, started to turn when a door opened. It slammed into the wall from being thrown open incredibly hard. Lou stopped short, threw her arm up, protectively, to hold back Izzy. The din grew in tempo and Lou couldn't make out much. Lou moved forward slowly, and leaned around the corner. She wanted to scream with rage at what she saw.