In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 40 - Boarding the bus

Thia’s POV

“NO! It’s NOT him! Why is everybody chasing after him when he’s the one trying to protect us?”

“Claire, I don’t know what you mean by that but I don’t like you being involved with him. Especially right now!”

“I don’t care what you think! It is NOT him! Don’t you understand? Both your boyfriend and the police are chasing the wrong person!”

“He is hardly a person!” Retorted a fuming Clarisse.

“Really? Because you certainly seemed to find him quite hot a while back!”

“Absolutely! Up until I found out that he’s a bloodsucker!”

My granddaughters didn’t seem to be in any hurry to stop their bickering and this quarrel was going on for more than I was willing to listen.

“ENOUGH!” I shouted, getting them to shut up and turn to look at me.

“Claire, when was the last time you talked with Caio? And don’t lie to me!”

She glanced over at Clarisse for a second before turning her sight back to me.

“The night of the press conference.”

“Noooo! You warned him!” Clarisse pointed an index finger at Claire, definitely angry. “Now he will be on alert and it will make it harder to capture him!”

“SILENCE!” I raised my voice enough to get their attention again. “Clarisse, Richard has been trying to capture Caio all his life. In fact, his pack has been at it for as long as the day they established the pack here. Caio is called the Forest Ghost for a reason, you know?!”

Clarisse averted her gaze as Claire seemed a bit proud of the fact. Aww, younglings!

“Claire, try to avoid contacting him for now.”

“You too? Do you really think he’s the murderer?” She cut me, incredulous that I would say such a thing. I shook my head slightly, tapping my cane on the ground.

“I don’t think he’s the one responsible for this. No. Caio has a deep respect for life, he wouldn’t kill all those women and leave them to be found in gruesome ways.”

“Grandma, you can’t be defending him!”

“Clarisse, I happen to know Caio from back when I was just a little girl. I do believe I know him a little bit better than all those old geezers from the Police Department.” She opened her mouth to say something but closed right after.

“As I was saying earlier… Claire, deary, keep your distance from him for a little while. It will be better for both of you.” She nodded, slightly slumping her shoulders. “Did he say anything about the press or the murders?” She shook her head.

“He thanked me for warning him but he already knew of it. I told him to go to the Police so they could question him and remove him from the suspect list.”

“And what did he answer to that?” Asked Clarisse, lifting an eyebrow.

“He said he would wait a little longer.”

“HA! Why would he wait, if he is innocent?” I sighed, hitting my cane on the ground.

“Caio may know more than he leads on.”

“Why would he do that, granny?” Asked Claire, a bit confused. I smiled at her.

“Isn’t it obvious? He’s doing exactly what he knows to do best.”

“And what would that be?” Inquired Clarisse.

“He’s protecting your sister. He probably believes that the less she knows, the less involved and in danger she is.”

Clarisse nodded, softening her expressions as she glanced over to a blushing Claire. Standing, I walked to the door.

“Alright! Let’s all head back to bed. Claire, try to reign in those hot flushes you have for Caio. Clarisse, let your sister be! You have your own man now, you should understand how she feels now. Caio is not a bad guy, just… complicated.”

“Alright! But… promise me that you will stay away from him for right now AND that you will ask for help if you are in danger!”

Claire crossed her heart with her finger, smiling at her sister.

“I promise! Please, don’t tell Richard or his pack about Caio. He’s… important to me.”

Clarisse nodded, hugging her sister before following me out of the room.

Claire’s POV

*KNOCK, KNOCK!*

“Come in!” I shouted.

The door opened as I glanced behind me to see who it was. My mom came in with some newly washed clothes in her hands, which she placed over the bed for me. I watched her, hoping that my sister and granny hadn’t said anything about my nightmare to her.

“Oh, hey mom!” I greeted, going back to my packing but still keeping an eye on her.

‘Phew! She didn’t seem to know about it.’ I thought to myself after the third time of glancing at her, eyes landing on one specific cloth article that I had been looking for.

“Yes! My favorite jacket! It must have slipped my mind that I put it to wash.” I took it from the pile of clean clothes and held it up in front of me.

“Actually, I decided to wash it since I knew you would want to take it with you.” She corrected me, going to sit on my computer chair.

“Thank you, mom! You’re the best!” I separated my jacket together with the clothes I was planning on using for the field trip and went back to packing the rest of the stuff.

“You seem to be nearly done with your packing.”

“Hmm. I’m actually not sure.” Raising my head up, I glance over the computer table. “Can you hand me that paper by the laptop, please?”

Mom turned and took the paper, checking it up instead of giving it to me.

“I’m guessing the checkmark ones are done packing, right?” I nod and go back to work. “Let’s see. Swimming suit, pocket knife…”

Getting up, I go grab those two items to place in my bag.

“What else?”

“Your toilet bag… have you separated some thick sleeping clothes in case it gets cold at night? The weather is supposed to get colder now.”

I grab my toilet bag from inside of the bathroom, placing my toothbrush, toothpaste and the rest of the bathroom items that I may need on the trip inside it before heading back into my room. Stopping at the door frame, I think about her question.

“No, I don’t believe I did. I will separate a pair of sweater pants and a shirt for sleeping.”

After placing the remaining items inside my luggage, I look back at my mom, waiting for her to go through the list and tell me if I forgot anything else.

“Your swimming suit and pocket knife?” She asks and I snap my fingers.

“Ah! I totally forgot about those.” Turning, I go grab my swimming suit from inside my dresser and then go get my pocket knife from my bedside table.

“Think those were the last things you needed. Did you get your power bank and charger?” She asks while I put the last items inside my luggage.

“Uhmm… I don’t think I will be able to charge it there.”

She laughs, placing the paper with the list back over the table.

“Of course you will, Claire. You won’t be camping in tents. You’re all gonna be in a shelter. They have three shelters near each other for the field trip.”

My eyes widened a little as I tilted my head.

“How do you know that? Nobody has said anything!”

“What are you talking about, darling? It was written in the field trip booklet you brought home!”

I stared with my mouth hanging half-open. Mom picked up the booklet from over my desk and handed it to me. Immediately, I flipped the pages on it while scanning for the exact place where that information was written.

“Second page, about halfway through the text.”

My gaze raised to meet hers for a brief instant before I turned back to the second page and began reading it. When I was done reading, I looked up at her.

“How did I miss that?”

“You should try to read the entire booklet instead of the parts you’re more interested in next time.” She chuckled, winking at me while leaving my room.

“Ugh!” It wasn’t that I read only the parts that I deemed interesting, I was too distracted by all the things happening with Caio to really focus on reading this.

Sitting at my computer chair, I flipped back to the first page and began reading through the entire booklet again, making sure to pay attention. Once done, I closed my luggage and went to get ready. We are supposed to be in front of the school by 7 am to board the bus. Clarisse had told me she would give me a ride since she works basically in front of my school. That way, our parents didn’t have to go out of their work schedule for this. They have been so busy that I hardly see my father now.

After checking the time, I headed to the bathroom, figuring that one hour was more than enough to get ready. Once the bathtub is filled with water, I add some rose essences to bubble up and slip inside to soak in it for about 10 to 15 minutes. All the stress accumulated in my muscles seems to melt away as I feel my eyelids slowly closing.

*KNOCK, KNOCK!*

Both the loud knocking on my bathroom door and the door opening wakes me with a fright.

“Claire! You know you shouldn’t sleep inside the bathtub!” My sister shouts at me.

I hold both sides of my head, repetitively blinking so as to chase the sleep away from my eyes.

“Hurry up! We have 15 minutes to get to your school! I packed a sandwich and a granola bar for you to eat on the way. Come on!”

“WHAT????” I promptly stand inside the bathtub. “Have I slept this long? Shit!” Stepping outside of the tub, I remove the rubber plug from it and dry myself as fast as I can. Clarisse leaves the bathroom and I believe she was waiting for me while sitting on my bed.

As I exit the bathroom, I realize that both my luggage and my sister are missing. I shrug and start dressing up in what was probably my record time. I comb my hair, letting it down to air dry, put on my tennis shoes and my jacket right before sprinting out of my room and down the stairs.

We get to school a few minutes late, but luckily, the students are still boarding the busses. Clarisse and I exit the car together and after getting my luggage, we walk side by side towards the busses.

“Thanks for the sandwich and the granola bar!”

“No problem, sis! Make sure you stay out of trouble!” She hugs me and I smile in relief that I wasn’t messing up her day too much. “Have fun on your field trip, sis. Be careful at night. Even if I’m damn sure they won’t let any of you out after curfew. If anything happens, call me! I will personally come to pick you up.”

“Oh, geez! Thanks, MOM!” She gently slaps my shoulder, a smirk on her lips. “Really, thanks, sis! I will!”

“CLAIRE! Over here!”

Both my sister and I turn, watching all my friends waving their hands to me to come over to the second bus in line. We hug again, giving our final goodbyes before my field trip. I run toward my friends while Clarisse walks a few more steps behind me. The gym teacher grabs my luggage from me and rushes me to enter the bus while he places my luggage under the bus. I was apparently the last one able to enter the second bus and it soon departs. My sister waves to me as the bus drives away.

Thank God! I got to sit right by the window! I really hate sitting by the corridor. The only problem, if I could call that a problem per se, is that Cedric is sitting right beside me. Things are still a bit awkward between us and neither one knows what to say. Surprisingly enough, Tahice and Seth were sitting right behind us, Maya and Killian were sitting in front of us and Jayne was sitting across from us with a guy that I didn’t know his name. She didn’t seem to mind it though.

“Hey...” I say, elbowing Cedrick just enough to get his attention. “Why is everybody sitting in pairs?” I whisper and he shrugs. Maya promptly turns her head to answer.

“The teachers wanted us seated in pairs to try and keep the noise down.” She laughs. “As that would even work!”

She was right. Soon enough, everybody was singing camping songs together. Some, better than others.

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