Mystery Girl (1)

Settling In

8. Settling In

The tour had only lasted about an hour. Kayla had shown them as much as she could, but told them that there was much more to see. On their short tour, they had been shown the Warp Academy, the main entrance to Draylon, and where to go if they needed Nicole or Kayla for anything at all. If Sydney and Joe were careful, they could explore the rest of Draylon in their free time. The final stop on their tour was the suite they would be staying in for the next few days.

"This suite is normally used for families who are touring or visiting the academy. That's why it's so close to the dorms. We would put you closer to the gods' and visiting dignitaries' quarters, but I'm sure you understand why we can't do that." Kayla handed each of them a room key. "I will see each of you in the morning. Have a nice night, and welcome back into the family."

She gave them both a pleasant grin before turning sharply on her heel and disappearing down the hallway.

Sydney glanced down at the room key Kayla had handed her. "Maybe Nicole is new to this whole mothering thing, because parents usually don't let their daughter share a room with an unfamiliar boy."

Joe laughed and peered at the door to their room. He almost asked why Sydney just referred to her mother as Nicole and not mom, but decided against it. It was probably too soon for her to call her mom anyway. He put the key in the lock. "I'm sure there's separate beds."

"That's a shame. Sharing a bed with you would be fun."

Joe nearly dropped the key onto the floor. His felt his face heat up and his heart beat quicken. "I- um, I mean, that's-" Joe stammered.

Behind him, he heard Sydney laugh. "Calm down. I was joking. You don't need to act like that's the most revolting thing you've ever heard."

"N- no, that's not it. I just... You caught me off-guard is all." Joe kept his face turned away and hoped it wasn't as red as he thought it was. He rapidly opened the door and rushed inside.

Sydney sauntered in after him with a chuckle. "Remind me not to joke around with you anymore. You clearly can't handle it." She stepped inside the room and studied her new surroundings. "Not bad. Not exactly a Ritz Carlton, but it's no cheap motel either."

Their room had pearly white walls trimmed with gold. The main room was small, and Joe couldn't help but notice it lacked a TV. A modest kitchen was set up in the corner with what appeared to be brand-new appliances. Three doors stood off of the living room, presumably leading to two bedrooms and a bathroom. The living room had one large floor-to-ceiling window that had a perfect view of an inviting lake waiting outside. It seemed to be begging them to jump in and go for a late-night swim.

Joe thought it was more than enough. "What? Is it not up to your standards?" He teased Sydney.

She stuck her tongue out at him in response. "I like luxury and comfort." She ambled over to the couch and crashed down with a heavy sigh. "Among the craziest days I've had in my entire life, this one is definitely in the top ten. Top five even."

"It sounds like you have a very exciting life." Joe put on an easy grin and sat down next to her. "I will admit, I'm surprised you're being so calm about all this. I would be freaking out."

Sydney scoffed. "You have to keep calm. When you let things get to you, that's when everything goes south. I can't exactly stop any of this from happening anyway. But it's crazy to think how much your life can change in one day."

Joe frowned. "I'm sorry. Part of this is my fault. I never should have warped you Greece. Technically, I don't think I was even allowed to show you The Book at all."

Sydney titled her head to look at him. "I'm the one who should be sorry. I said some pretty mean things on the beach. You didn't deserve that."

"Don't worry about it." The corners of Joe's lips tugged up in a reassuring grin. "You were stressing out and going through quite the shock. My uncle tried to kidnap you. Anyone would have reacted that way."

"Something tells me that all of this would have happened even if you didn't run into me at the mall of show up at my concert with that book of yours. It probably should have happened years ago." Sydney straightened and tucked her legs underneath her. "Why wait until now to bring me here? I can't stop trying to figure out what happened the night I was born. What could have been so bad that they had to send me away and keep me away for twelve years?"

"Every time someone answers one of your questions, you're just left with more questions." Joe sympathized with her. She may have been handling this all fairly well, but there was more going on underneath the surface that she wasn't showing.

"Exactly." Sydney sighed with a shake of her head. "I thought I knew who I was. I mean, who could know more about me than me, right? But after today's events... I'm just not sure anymore. And they kept mentioning how tomorrow was going to be a big day, but not saying why. I wonder what they have planned."

"We'll find out soon enough." Joe yawned. It was well past the time he normally went to bed and today's incidents had been more than exhausting.

"Thanks for staying," Sydney spoke, her voice taking on a sudden softness. "You didn't have to do that, but I really appreciate it. It'll be nice to have a friend through all this."

Joe perked up when she called him her friend. "I wanted to. This is going to be an interesting experience for the both of us. And I'm looking forward to it."

The bed in his room was so comfortable, Joe decided he never wanted to leave. He would just live out the rest of his days in this bed. And he was perfectly okay with that.

But he knew that wasn't possible. Begrudgingly, he dragged himself out of bed and shuffled into the main room, hoping there was some decent food in the kitchen for breakfast. He was pleased to find a box of cereal and fresh milk in the fridge. After taking a minute to look around for silverware and a bowl, he eagerly poured himself some cereal and sat down at the counter to eat his breakfast.

He glanced at the clock on the microwave and noticed it was already ten o'clock. He wondered if Sydney was up yet and scanned the main room for any signs she had been there already. Everything was the way they had left it last night after they had gone to bed. However, Sydney's bedroom door was wide open, making Joe curious.

Leaving his unfinished cereal bowl behind, Joe slid off his seat and wandered over to Sydney's room. After one glance inside, he knew Sydney was already awake. Her bed was empty and the sheets were haphazardly strewn about as if she had gotten up in a hurry. So then where was she? The rest of their deluxe suite was entirely empty except for him.

Joe scratched his head, puzzled. Sydney wouldn't just leave without him, would she? Before he even had the chance to think about it, he heard the front door swing open followed by an intense groan.

He looked over his shoulder and spotted Sydney straggle over to the couch. She collapsed with a solid thud and moaned again. "I think they're trying to kill me."

Joe tensed and made his way over to her as quickly as possible. "Who? What happened? Where have you been?" The questions poured out of his mouth before he could stop them.

"Nicole and Kayla." Sydney stretched her muscles and Joe could hear several pops. "They dragged me out of my bed this morning at some ungodly hour. Though I guess for them, for me too really, every hour is a godly hour. Regardless, the sun wasn't even up yet. I'm an early riser, but it was too early even for me. So they dragged me out of bed, claiming that there was no time to waste today with the big events they had planned. We walked to this gym and they told me to start running laps. Apparently, I had to do conditioning. Every part of me is sore now. I think I ran five miles and they said they were going easy on me for today."

"Conditioning? What are they conditioning you for?" Joe watched as Sydney attempted to rub out the soreness in her muscles.

"Training," Sydney simply responded as if that answered everything.

"Training?" Joe asked for clarification.

"Don't ask me." Sydney sighed and gave up on working out the tenderness in her muscles. "They said it would be a rough couple of weeks as I started my basic goddess training. They said we didn't have any time to lose and that I need to learn how to defend myself."

"So that's what you've been doing all morning? Running laps?" Joe was relieved to find out it was nothing serious.

Sydney nodded, even that slight movement made her wince. "I was told I have an hour to shower and eat breakfast and then Nicole and Kayla would be at our door ready to go for full-on training. Please tell me there's good food in that tiny kitchenette." She stared at Joe with hopeful eyes. He could see the exhaustion written all over her face.

Joe chuckled and nodded his head. "Yeah, there's plenty of food."

"Perfect." Sydney pushed herself off the couch and made her way over to the tiny kitchen. "So what have you been up to while I was being forced into physical labour?"

"I just woke up." Joe followed her and resumed his bowl of cereal at the counter.

Sydney raised an eyebrow at him. "It's ten o'clock. Don't you think that's a little late to be sleeping in?"

"No, I think that's normal. Maybe you're the weird one for getting up so early," Joe taunted.

Sydney grinned and Joe could see the witty retort she had ready to go on the tip of her tongue, but she never got the chance to say it. Their front door swung open again and they were greeted by the smiling faces of Nicole and Kayla. "Ready to start the day?"

Sydney dropped the food she had grabbed and gave them incredulous look. "You told me I had an hour. It's barely been ten minutes. Unless you plan on starving me to death, I have to eat."

"Sorry, but there's been a slight change in plans. You'll have to eat along the way." Nicole gave her daughter an apologetic smile. "We wouldn't do this if it wasn't absolutely necessary."

"Well what happened that caused this sudden change of plans?" Sydney put her hands on her hips and frowned.

Kayla and Nicole exchanged glances and seemed to have an entire conversation just by looking at each other. "That's classified, unfortunately. When the time is right, you'll know. Now come along, we have lots to do and so little time to do it."

They left the suite without another word. Joe and Sydney gave each other quizzical looks, the annoyance plain in their eyes. "This day can't get much better than this," Sydney said, a slight edge to her voice.

Joe slid her his bowl of cereal. "Here. I think you're going to need this more than me."

Sydney shot him a grateful smile before grabbing it, wasting no time in shoveling it into her mouth. "It could be a long day, you might want to bring The Book along with you. It will at least give you something to read."

Joe nodded, understanding her point and left to grab The Book from where he had left it. He returned and together they headed out the door side by side.

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