Riley might as well have been a baby, with everything she couldn't do on her own.
Breaking an arm was never fun, but when it was her right arm, her dominant arm, everything was made ten times worse. Simple tasks she'd been doing since she was three, like dressing herself or writing her own name, were made increasingly difficult, nearly impossible without help from others. Sometimes help simply wasn't available, and so she had to do it herself. So getting dressed with one arm plus her own clumsiness gave her more bruises than she could count.
School was the worst place to be in weeks following Maya's birthday. Daniel still hadn't been caught, and it was clear that nobody wanted his kids or their friends at the school- the students, the teachers, the rest of the staff all appeared to be ready to go on lock down in case he were to try anything during school entire situation, as told on the news, was sure to end in disaster, and to the kids who stared at them in the hallways and teachers who ignored them in the classrooms, Riley, Lucas, and Maya were living proof.
Just ignore them all, Riley, she told herself one Tuesday afternoon in early Febuary, just less than three weeks since the incident. But she couldn't ignore them. It was like their eyes were burning holes in the back of her head. She didn't feel safe in the one environment other than her own home that she was supposed to feel safe. She wished a pit like the one in her stomach would open up in the middle of the hallway and swallow her whole, so she didn't have to be here.
She knew, however, that would never happen, and so, she was stuck here.
"Hey, Riles!" Maya called breathlessly just as Riley was turning a corner to head towards her father's classroom. She stopped to allow her best friend to catch up.
As far as Riley could tell, despite the while thing with Daniel, things were looking up for Maya. Any spare second her mother had was spent with her, and Shawn hadn't left for any jobs that took more than a day or two. She was being more open to Farkle's flirting, flirting back rather than turning him down like she had in the past. Riley loved seeing her smile like that- she hadn't seen that smile in forever.
"Hey, Maya," Riley replied softly, sparing a glance at the students around her, their nervous stares boring into her. She still wasn't used to them. Why wouldn't they just stop it, leave them alone?
Maya noticed her unease as she skidded to a stop next to her. "It's because of Daniel," she spat the name with disdain. "They're still worried about him. Like he'd come here."
"Nobody's seen him since your birthday," Riley whispered fretfully, leading the blonde down the hall. They'd had similar conversations every single day since the incident. Hardly a word ever changed, until now. "He could be anywhere."
"Will you please just shut up about it?" Maya hissed. Riley's eyes widened and she stepped back a bit, sort of scared.
"O-okay," she stammered.
Maya frowned. "I'm sorry, Riles..." she said, speaking in a hushed whisper that only Riley could hear as they entered Cory's classroom. "I'm just as worried as you are. I want to hope he's out of the state somewhere but... I just can't.." her voice began to falter. "Everywhere I go, even if it's outside of school, I feel like I'm being watched. I don't like it."
Riley opened her mouth to agree- she felt the same- but realized that they were the last ones in the classroom so instead she dragged Maya to their seats.
Her father was just about the only teacher that didn't treat the three of them like they were time bombs ticking as if they were about to go off. Farkle was the only other student who did the same. So having them both in the same room at the same time made fifth period allmost like Riley's escape from the world. But as she saw the words written on the board, she wanted to get as far away from the room as she possibly could.
September 11th, 2001
Okay, Riley, she tried to soothe herself, taking in a few deep breaths. Not everything he teaches has to do with my life right now, right?
Oh, who am I kidding!? This day is going to be a disaster!
"Nine-eleven," said Cory as he walked into the front of the classroom. "What do you guys know?"
"We've only learned about it every year of our lives since forever," Maya pointed out, seeming just as nervous as Riley. "But usually we learn about it in September, not February."
Cory didn't respond, turning to the one boy who undoubtedly knew everything there was to know about the historical date.
The boy sighed, the reluctantly stood up. "9/11 was the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Nobody knew what would happen that day, and went to work anyway. Families lost loved ones who didn't even get to say goo-"
"Attention students and staff, this is NOT A DRILL. The school will be placed on lock-down immediately. Please turn all lights off, close all windows, and lock all doors. I repeat, this is NOT A DRILL."
There was a panicked edge to the principal's voice over the speakers, and instantly the classroom fell apart. Riley's heart rate escalated as the lights were shut off and windows were covered. She fought as hard as she could not to scream like the others, but it didn't work, and she rose her voice into a wail.
"Everyone, stay calm and be quiet!" Cory whispered softly, though the terrified look on his face wasn't exactly what Riley would call reassuring. "We're going to go into the corner of the room, away from the windows."
Fifth period was a pretty small class, but it was still a pretty tight fit. Riley ended up with Lucas's knee digging into her ribcage on the left and Maya holding her hand- or more accurately her fingers- on the right, Farkle freaking out on her other side.
What's going on? Riley wondered with a slight whimper as the class fell silent. Her father stared at his laptop, waiting for emails to tell him what was happening.
Nobody, not even her own father, knew what was going on. Had someone been killed nearby? Was there someone on campus? Someone dangerous? Somebody who possibly shared the same blood as both Maya and Lucas?
The cause of this lockdown being Daniel was Riley's biggest fear, and now, shriveling under the harsh stares and glares from her classmates, she felt as though her nightmares could be coming true. There had been hundreds of lockdown drills in the past, but those were nothing compared to the real thing.
"Peaches?" She whispered softly, looking at Maya, whose grip on her fingers tightened. "Should I be scared?" she felt her head begin to swim, panic tightening in her chest as she spoke.
The blonde looked at her, a frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Little Plant-" she began, but whatever she was going to say next, Riley never heard. The classroom had fallen completely silent, save for the sound of heavy, struggling breaths.
"Riley?" Cory whispered, his voice laced with worry for his daughter. "Are you okay?"
N-no, I'm not, Riley wanted to say, the words not coming out. Stinging hot tears brimmed in her eyelids, but wouldn't spill over. She took in many gulps of air but couldn't seem to get enough oxygen into her lungs. Her throat felt completely dry and she wished she could just pass out.
"I... I don't like this!" she managed, sending most of the class into quiet laughter. What might have been a feeling of embarrassment flooded her mind, and with a groan Riley let herself lay down, pressing her head against the cool floor, Maya stroking her back soothingly.
"She's such a baby," someone whispered. Missy, maybe? Probably...
"If it is that Clutterbucket guy then she has a reason to be one," another student spoke up softly. It must have been that one girl, Sarah or whatever her name was. It didn't matter. To Riley, the voices sounded really far away, like they weren't real, or not in the room.
Why?" It was the first voice again, Missy Bradford. "If it's him then she brought this on herself. It's not our fault we're all in danger because of them."
"Girls, please," Lucas whispered. "We've been doing lockdown drills for how long? Why can't you be quiet and leave us alone?"
Riley raised her head slightly. Though he spoke calmly, she could see the anger in his eyes, and the way his shoulders tensed as his hands knotted into fists. It was eerie, the way he looked... almost like his father.
No.. he's not like him... he'll never be like him... not ever..
Before she could finish her train of thought she felt herself pulled from the floor and into his arms, and her back being stroked soothingly. "It's okay, Riley," he whispered gently, his breath tickling her ear.
"B-Bu-But w-what if-"
"Shh," Maya interjected. "Don't even get started on that."
"Y-you know getting stuck on what-if's will help nothing," Farkle added.
Lucas held her head so that she was forced to stare into his fiery green eyes. Even in her panicked state they made her heart flutter and her head spin.
"Riley, look at me," he said, his voice firm, yet somehow gentle at the same time, a little hint of his southern accent making itself noticeable. "I don't know what's going on but I know that whatever it is I will not let you get hurt."
Riley sniffed softly, trying to catch her breath. "I know... I-I-I'm just... re...ally... scared..."
"I can't help it..."
"Shh... just relax," Lucas told her, wiping her tears for her. She sighed, feeling her eyelids drooping as if being weighed down by cinder blocks.
See? She told herself, laying her head on his chest. Her breathing began to even out, her thoughts becoming more coherent. He's nothing like his father. He'll never be...
To Be Continued...