Kallima hung over the foot of her bunk and stared at the tiny, stone girl on the bed beneath. She was curled up on her side, black eyes staring blankly, unblinking, at the wall. It scared Kallima.
“Oi, let’s go get some dinner, Say,” the redhead insisted.
“Oh, come on, Say. I’m hungry.”
“What did he make you do this time, then?” asked Kallima. “Was it that bad?”
When Sable did not answer, Kallima groaned in frustration.
“You need to keep your strength up, Say. You’re not going to pass gymnasium if you can’t move.”
“Bloody Hell, he got in your head again, didn’t he? You have to stop letting him do this to you, Sable!”
Kallima said, “Good. Now let’s go eat.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Oi. You need to eat. Hungry or not. Okay?”
Kallia slid off her bed and onto the carpet below. She quickly exited the room, rushed from the dorms, and descended the steps. Then she ran not to the dining hall, but to the medical ward, where she pounded the door feverishly until Anna opened it. The dark woman sighed at the sight of the redhead, asking what had happened this time.
“It’s not me. Something’s wrong with Sable.”
“The garg? Where is she?”
“She’s in our room. She’s not moving, she won’t eat, and she’s saying weird things.”
“That it doesn’t matter whether or not she fails school.”
“Ah. Sounds like OPS,” sighed Anna, turning back inside.
Kallima tipped her head, asking, “OPS?”
“O’phaned Personality Syndrome,” Anna said as she left the ward. She shook a small jar and smiled sadly at Kallima, saying, “You go eat, Miss Kali, an’ Ah’ll go see ta Sable.”
Instead of obeying, though, Kallima chased after the nurse.
“Will she be all right?”
“Ah kin only do what Ah can, chil’. OPS usually set in before now, but everone different. Somethin’ must a happen that she realize they ain’t comin’ back.”
“Is it- Is it possible that her uncle did something to make it worse?”
“Depends what he did.”
Kallima bit her lip, then said, “I know he beats her.”
“Yeah, that’d do it.”
“Isn’t there anything-?”
“Orphanage would be harder on her. You gonna send her there?”
“Go ‘n’ eat, Miss Kali,” Anna insisted. “Ah’ll make sure Sable gits taken care of.”
Kallima groaned, but shuffled to the dining hall in defeat. The far corner table where she usually sat, though, was already full. Ignatius glanced desperately at the redhead, and Shay sat next to him. Amelia and Mateja conversed softly on his other side.
And, between the two darker boys, an even darker, thin girl laughed, her moss-green hair shaking as she wagged her head.
Kallima gathered some food and, grabbing a chair from the neighboring table, wedged herself between Ignatius and Amelia.
“What is she doing here?” Kallima hissed to Ignatius. “Didn’t they split up?”
“Don’t know. Don’t trust it,” Ignatius admitted. “Shay says she just caught up with him in the hallway and apologized. Normally I would believe him, but he’s acting… weird.”
Amelia shrugged, and Ignatius rolled his eyes.
“Shay,” he asked, “Kali’s here. Is that everyone?”
Shay glanced around, confused. Acacia pet his hair, tucking it behind his ear. A smile graced his features as the dryad kissed his ear and whispered to him.
“Shay,” Ignatius said.
“Sorry, what? Is something wrong?” the spirit fae asked.
“Quite a lot, actually,” Kallima breathed, earning a short nod from Ignatius. “What’s she doing here?”
“I asked him to take me back,” Acacia said, grinning, “and he did.”
“I’ll do you right this time,” Shay promised.
Kallima pouted and asked, “Are you… You’re really not going to ask? None of you are going to ask?”
“Ask what?” Shay inquired.
“Where Sable is.”
Shay glanced around in horror at the revelation that his best friend was missing. Then Acacia ran a finger down his arm, somehow calming the panicked teen. Everyone else at the table only stared as Shay rubbed a temple and sighed.
“Is she okay?”
“Anna’s doing what she can.”
“Okay. Then I don’t care.”
Ignatius gestured to the indifferent boy as proof. Kallima only gawked, and the two newcomers sitting with them exchanged a concerned glance. With a grunt, Kallima rose, took her plate, and turned on her heel.
“Where are you going?” Ignatius called.
“Out. We can take the plates to our rooms, right?”
“Then I’m leaving. Taking food to Sable.”
“I’m going with her, guys. You stay here.”
Once out in the hallway, Kallima drilled the golden senior for information.
“I don’t know for sure,” he insisted. “I think she’s using pheromones, but I’m not sure.”
“Pheromones? As in animal attraction?” Kallima sneered.
“Plants produce them, too. Where do you think floral scents come from? Did you see how she kept touching him, though?”
“Yes, that was odd.”
“She either spent all weekend learning how to make it,” Ignatius said, “or she got her hands on a potion. If it’s a-.”
Both fae turned to the voice, and Mina ran towards them. She panted when she reached them, and her hair seemed to have been tied up in a hurry.
“I need you… to come… to the med… medical… ward. Sable… It’s not good.”
The sound of ceramic shattering echoed in the empty hall as Kallima dropped her plate and dashed towards the medical ward. Ignatius chased quickly after her.
When Anna saw the duo at the door, she quickly ushered them to a private room where the tiny gargoyle laid on a gurney. If Kallima were not a dream fae, she would have thought her roommate was asleep. She did not react in the slightest when they entered. After a moment, Kallim noticed that her wrists were bound to the sides of the bed, and vivid red lines formed around her throat and under her ears. Kallima teetered woozily until Ignatius grabbed her arms.
’I can’t thank you enough,” Anna whispered. “You may done saved her life, Miss Kali.”
“Thank you, Anna, we’ll take care of her. Can we… untie her?” Ignatius asked.
“Long as someone’s in here with ’er, course.”
Kallima forced herself to Sable’s side, and Anna shut the door. The redhead brushed the gargoyle’s hair from her face. Sable sighed and opened her eyes.
“Who did this to you?” Kallima asked.
“Who. Did this.”
Ignatius brushed Kallima’s shoulder and breathed, “Kali…”
“Because I know after all I’ve done for you, you didn’t do this to yourself!” Sable bit her lip, and Kallima continued, “What happened, Say?”
“After you left, I ripped the seams on a pillowcase,” Sable rasped, “rolled it up into a rope, and tied it into a noose. But Anna found me too fast.”
Kallima slid to her knees and bawled as Ignatius undid the restraints.
“Why? Why does this keep happening?” Kallima cried.
“Two certainties, Kali,” Ignatius muttered. “Death. Tax. That’s it.”
“Iggy, is there any way at all to get Shay away from that prat?” Kallima asked.
“Not with the magic she’s working, no.”
“Don’t let him see me. He’ll hate me.”
“He won’t hate you,” Ignatius assured the girl.
“I hate me.”
Infuriated by Sable’s words, Kallima rose and stormed out of the isolated room, ignoring Sable’s pleas for her to stay. She blew into the dining hall like a hurricane, marched to the back corner table, and slugged Acacia.
Right out of her seat.
“What the fuck?” the dryad screamed, black blood dripping down her lip.
“Get the hell out of my sight,” Kallima demanded. “I’m taking Shay.”
The spirit fae blinked and stared in confusion at the two girls. Acacia reached for him, but Kallima kicked her ribs. The dryad yelped and clutched her side.
“I’m taking him to see Sable,” the fiery girl said as she grabbed the boy’s wrist, “and there is nothing you can do to stop me!”
“Sab-? Where’s Sable?” Shay asked, rubbing his head.
Shay whimpered when she tugged him through the gathering crowd and out of the hall, turning away from the normal path to the dorms. When she pushed him into the medical ward, he started muttering prayers to an unknown deity, begging for his friend’s safety. A clatter in Sable’s room, though, made their hearts jump. Then Sable started screaming.
The two freshmen charged the door and pushed it open to a sight of which they were not certain what to make.
Ignatius locked his arms around the tiny girl’s torso, pinning her own hands to her chest. Sable kicked and thrashed and begged him to leave her alone.
“Kali, help! She freaked out the second you left,” Ignatius said.
“No! No! Don’t…! Leave me alone! No!”
Kallima grabbed Shay and shook him, asking, “Is there anything? Anything at all?”
“I… could try calming her, but it’s-.”
“Well, do it!”
Shay nibbled his lip but did as Kallima ordered, taking Sable’s face in his hands. At first, the action only riled her up and made her struggle more desperately. Then, like a sedative taking action, the calming effect of Shay’s magic took hold. Her eyes shut gently, and she leaned into the bronze boy. Ignatius loosened his grip, allowing Sable to throw her arms around her friend.
“Shay… I’m so sor… I wanted… I’m sorry…” she sobbed.
“It’s okay now. Just…,” Shay said, hesitating as he carried her back to the bed, “tell us what happened.”
“No… No…,” Sable moaned. “Don’t… Don’t make me…”
“That’s fine, Say. Take your ti-. Oh, Say, again?”
Sable whimpered as Shay brushed his fingers over the forming bruise around her neck.
“Why do you keep doing this?” Shay asked. “What did he do now?”
Sable rolled away from him and stared blankly at the wall, just as she had in the dorm room. Concerned by the behavior, Kallima stepped towards the bed, but Shay waved her back. The tan spirit fae sat on the mattress next to her and combed her dirty hair with his fingers.
“Um, Shay? Kali and I are pretty… pretty lost,” Ignatius said. “Could you maybe…?”
Shay continued stroking Sable’s hair and explained, “About two years ago, maybe two-and-a-half, Gavin threatened to send her back to Orphanage. She was so terrified by it that she slit one of her wrists.”
“Couldn’t bring herself to do the other one. She ran over to my house, told my parents that she fell in the kitchen, let Mom patch her up. I knew she was lying, of course. Then she vanished for a couple weeks. I thought Gavin made good on his threat, but, turns out, he just locked her up.”
“Don’t you dare!” Kallima snapped. “Don’t you ever do this again! I already… I can’t go through that again, Say! You’re only fourteen!”
Sable whined, and Shay cursed himself.
“I forgot! How did I forget? Oh, Say, I’m sorry…”
“Sable’s birthday was Friday,” Shay said. “We were so distracted by everything, I completely forgot.”
“I don’t care,” Sable said again.
“Oh, Sable,” Kallima breathed, “I didn’t know! We’ll do something special sometime, okay? Once you’re better-.”
“Really, don’t,” Sable hissed. “I don’t want to celebrate. I don’t want to be older. I don’t want you to waste any time or money on me. Strap me up, Ig. And leave me alone.”
“Sable-,” Ignatius said, hesitating.
Kallima, Shay, and Ignatius all flinched. The senior trembled as he fastened the restraints around Sable’s wrists again, sat her up to drink, then usured the others from the room.
“Is anyone else terrified of her?” the golden boy asked.
“Of her? No,” Kallima said. “For her? Completely.”
“He broke her. He broke her. She’s gone. He broke her…,” Shay muttered over and over.
Kallima pulled the boy close to her hip in a one-armed hug. She glanced at Ignatius, whose eyes darted between Shay and Sable’s door in question. Sensing the same thing, Kallima nodded silent agreement. Shay did not belong with Acacia. He did not even like Acacia.
He liked Sable.