Each long, miserable second that ticked by following Daniel' announcement to the school seemed to last an eternity as heads slowly turned towards Lucas and Maya, an expectant look in each student's eyes. Farkle seemed to be the only one who didn't want them to go.
What... what just happened? Cory was still trying to wrap his head around the situation, feeling numb. There was a criminal inside the school. And he was after Lucas and Maya.
"W-what?" stammered Maya after what seemed like ages. Cory hated the terrified look in her eyes- he'd thought things were falling into place for her, with Shawn coming back into her life and all. Now, that flicker of uncertainty was present, all hope fading from her.
"You heard what he said," the unmistakable voice of Missy Bradford spoke up. The girl in the pink sweater stood up, glaring at Maya.
Oh, great, Cory thought. "Missy-"
"You bring your criminal of a father here, you pay the price," she spat as if the teacher had never spoken. Maya stood up, anger in her fiery blue eyes.
"He's not my father," she growled coldly. "He missed his chance to be that. But I'm going, so that none of you get hurt..." her voice cracked a little, the only thing betraying her fear.
"Maya," Cory said softly. "You don't have to do this..."
The blonde met his eyes. "I do. If I don't go on my own, he'll make me... And who knows what he'll do to make it happen. I'm going."
Cory opened his mouth to protest, but his words died in his throat. He had known Maya nearly her entire life- he knew there was nothing he could say or do to stop her. She was just that stubborn, and usually that was cute. But not when lives were on the line.
It was too late to do anything, anyways. Because she unlocked the door and walked out without another word, the echoes of her footsteps dying away.
"S-sir?" Lucas stammered fearfully, speaking for the first time since the announcement. Cory stared into his eyes- fear and anger was all he saw. But he seemed to be looking for his permission to make the slightest movement.
"Go. I'm calling the police now, just go with her, please..." he could hardly believe what he was saying. It was like "Yeah, go ahead and find your abusive father! What can possibly go wrong?
Nonetheless, that was all Lucas needed to hear.
Maya's entire body trembled uncontrollably as she made her way down the hallway. It was dark and quiet, the absence of students quite eerie. She was used to seeing these halla bustling with students, talking and laughing so loud she could hardly hear her own thoughts. Now, it was quite the opposite.
So, in her mind, it was perfectly natural to be scared out of her mind when a new pair of footsteps joined hers, and a hand reached out to brush her shoulder. She whirled around ready to scream and take off, but-
To her relief, it was just Ranger Rick.
"Maya!" Lucas whispered softly, his voice echoing through the empty halls.
"Oh, thank God it's just you," she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Who did you think it was?" Lucas asked.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe our psychopath father who's in our school trying to get to us? Why would you sneak up on me like that, Huckleberry?" the blonde growled, the color slowly returning to her pale face.
She knew she was overreacting just a tad, but she was stressed, and Lucas seemed to be able to tell. They were blindly stumbling into possibly the stupidest thing they could ever do, she had a right to be stressed.
"Come on," the boy said with a sigh, leading the way through the halls. Maya followed him. "Mr. Matthews called the police. If we have any luck they'll get here before he does too much damage."
Usually his presence would have annoyed her, but now, having relaxed after her scare, it was almost comforting to know that she wasn't alone. "Good," she replied. "I don't want anyone hurt, especially you."
There was a long silence before he replied. "Maya... Maya, whatever happens when we walk into that office, whatever he does to me, don't try to stop him." his voice cracked slightly. "I'll be fine. We both will."
With each step the office drew nearer and nearer, but Maya didn't notice. "Lucas," she said, not having the heart to use any of her old nicknames for him, "If you think I'm just going to stand there and let him put his hands on you, you're dead wrong. You've dealt with this for way to long."
"No. Lucas, he's my father, too, even if I don't want him to be," she told him. "If he tries to touch me, let him. If that's the kind of father he wants to be, so be it, but he never wanted me anyways. After today, he doesn't have me. Us."
She spoke with confidence she didn't know she had. It made her feel good, because now the office doors loomed in front of them, big and tall and imposing. They were always like this, bt even more so now.. This was it. Whatever happened next, it couldn't be good. Daniel Clutterbucket was right here in the school. Just behind those doors.
Lucas had opened his mouth to reply, to protest, but now it snapped back shut. She did't blame him, because behind those doors was the man who had made most of his life a living hell. The man who beat him and yelled at him. The man they had to call their father.
"A-are you ready?" he asked her nervously, looking at her with wide green eyes. She shook her head.
"No," she replied softly.
"Me neither," he said shakily. Maya glanced at him, and her stomach dropped. He was truly terrified. She idn't want this any more than he did, but sh barely knew Daniel... he'd had to deal with his abusiveness his entire life. He didn't deserve to go through it any more.
I'm sorry, she wanted to say, but the words just wouldn't come out. How insensitive would those words be? "Sorry" couldn't change what had happened to him, nothing anyone could say or do could. She wasn't like Riley, with her twisted need to fix things, but she knew one thing.
And so she did the only thing she could think to do, something that just a few weeks ago, just thinking of it would have made her want to puke. The reachd out and took a hold of his hand, squeezing it tightly, with no intention of letting go any time soon.
"Let's go," she whispered softly, and Lucas nodded.
Maya grabbed the doorknob with a trembling hand. Here goes nothing, she thought, twisting it and pushing open the heavy door.
There sat Daniel, behind the front desk with th office ladies tied up, gagged, and unconscious behind him. There was a nearly empty beer bottle near the computer, and a gun lying next to that. Her father's sickening grin made her stomach lurch.
"Well, well, well," he growled menacingly, his words slightly slurred, giving Maya the impression that this hadn't been his first beer. "Look who finally showed up."
"Wh-what do you want?" Maya felt Lucas's grip tighten as he stammered out the words. "Th-the police are on their way."
Daniel chuckled darkly, as if that only made things more amusing. "I'd like to see them catch me," he snorted, "Since we won't be here when they try."
Oh, we aren't? Maya tried not to laugh. We're not going anywhere! she smirked up at her father, who had gotten up from the desk and started towards the door. Lucas moved to follow him, but Maya kept her feet planted firmly on the ground, and Lucas stopped.
"What are you two waiting for?" barked Daniel, "Come on!"
Maya drew in a deep breath, feeling herself trembling. She looked her father in the eye, and gathered her courage. She uttered one, single, harsh word in the firmest voice she could muster.
Riley fluttered open her eyes, letting out a soft groan. She yawned and lifted her head from Farkle's lap, briefly forgetting what had happened. The memories came flooding back in an instant- the lockdown, freaking out, Lucas... she glanced around. Lucas?! Maya?! Where were they.
Farkle obviously noticed her distress, trying to lay her back down. "Riley, lay back down. It's okay," he soothed. "It's okay.
She only sat back up again, ignorin her pounding headache. "Where are they?" she asked, surpried at how low and hoarse her voice sounded. "What happened?"
"They... er... M-Mr. Matthews?" stammered the boy, turning in the direction of her father with a panicked expression. When the man didn't respond, Riley felt her pulse quicken.
Cory stared at the ground. "Th-they're gone," he whispered softly. "Daniel... he's in the school... he called them to the office, and they went... I'm sorry, sweetie.
N-no... Riley thought numbly. They can't be... Didn't they realize what they were getting themselves into?! Now who knows what he's doing to them...?
Using her left arm, Riley struggled, but ultimately drew herself up, leaning on a desk for support before stumbling towards the door on incredicly shaky legs.
"Riley?" questioned Farkle, his blue eyes wide.
"Riley, what are you doing?!" cried Cory. Riley stopped, looking her father in the eye as she uttered her next words.
"I have to go after them, I just have to!" she told him. "Daddy, please let me do this..."
"But last time-"
"This could go way different from last time, Dad," Riley reasoned with him, staring with pleading brown eyes. "Daddy, please let me go. I'll be fine, I promise." she wasn't too sure about the last part but it had sounded good in her head.
Cory closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, staying silent for what felt like ages. "Riley," he finally mumbled. "The police are on their way now... they might even be here as we speak. There's no need for you to go, o put yourself in danger."
"There's plenty of need to go!" Riley protested. "My friends need me, and they're always there for me. Let me be there for them." without waiting for a response, she turned back to the door.
"Riley, wait," called Cory. She slowly turned to him. "Be careful, alright? I love you..."
"I love you too, Daddy," she called back. And then she dew in a deep breath, breathing it out in a soft sigh, and praying that she wasd doing the right thing as she stepped out into the dark halways.
To Be Continued...