Riding in the back of a car while being tied up and blindfolded isn’t exactly my idea of a fun night.
Well, at least they were kind enough to shove a clean sock into my mouth so I wouldn’t embarrassingly scream for help while begging them to let me go.
I had a momentary belief that they would let me go if I told them I could con Josh’s family out of millions.
Then, it happened.
The tears drop, leaking through the blindfold as they take me farther and farther away from school.
They all stop talking.
A muffled cry left my mouth.
Someone took out the sock.
I cried even harder, and with each breath I took, it feels harder to breathe.
I was wailing...hard.
I can only hear the faint sound of music playing in the background, then a cough.
A broad hand pats my back, slow and steady, seemingly in an attempt to calm me down.
I wail even harder.
“Stop the car.”
He sounds kind of familiar.
“Leave! Leave! All of you!”
I’m still wailing.
I can feel his hands reaching for my head.
This is it.
This is the part where he does terrible things to me that will potentially earn me a trip to a therapeutic house or the grave.
He exhales, “Open your eyes.”
I shook my head.
I refused to look at the monster in front of me.
He reaches for my wrists, “Hay Bug. Open your eyes.”
“N-No. I w-wo-” Wait. Hay Bug?
I peek open a lid, feeling the rope slipping off my wrists. The snot and tears were still drowning down my face.
One moment, I was on the edge of pissing my dress.
He smiles, “Surprise! Welcome to-”
I slap him.
It shocked both of us.
“You think this is funny!” I snapped, “You think making me feel like I was going to get raped and murdered funny?!”
“Don’t you fucking Hay Bug me, you mother fucking piece of shit!” I didn’t know I had it in me.
I threw the door open, realizing we were in front of the campus. They must have been driving me in circles.
I slammed the door and made my way towards the dormitory. Josh grabbed my wrist and spinned me around, “Now, you got the right to be mad.”
“Mad? Mad!” I know my face was burning red. “You think I’m mad?!”
He shook his head.
“Oh, you’re right. I’m not mad. I’m not mad at all! I’m fucking pissed off!”
Josh exhales, “Hailey. Hear me out. It was just a prank.”
I laugh slowly, “You think knocking someone out-”
“You actually fainted on your own.”
“And tying them up-”
“You wouldn’t stop punching and kicking everyone.”
“And shoving a sock into my mouth-”
“You wouldn’t stop screaming.”
“And blindfolding me-”
“Granted. We were going to do that.”
I puffed my cheeks and gave him a crazy glare.
“But...But, it’s completely understandable why you would feel necessary to do all those things. That’s why no one is angry when you bite me three times, kick two guys in the balls, and give the third guy a black eye. Wow! Hailey! Have you been working out?!” He smiles frantically.
I huffed a breath and turned my feet. I lost my heels when I smacked someone in the face with it.
Josh stepped in front of me, and I folded my arms. “Hailey. I’m so sorry for kidnapping you. But, I promise you, you weren’t going to get hurt.”
“Oh, I feel so comforted.” Sarcasm.
He exhales, “Hay Bug-”
“No!” I barked, “You do not have the right to call me Hay Bug after the shit you made me go through!”
“No!” I covered my ears and walked towards the dormitory.
I am quite pissed off.
Then again, anyone in my shoes would be too.
“Congratulations!” A crowd screams, and I couldn’t help but leap into the arms’ of the monster behind me. “Welcome to M.I.N.D!”
Madison and Mason walked out of the crowd, one with a bright smile and the other with his usual resting face. “Got you,” Madison laughs.
The crowd cheer abruptly died down when we heard a scream on the other side of the wood.
“You think you can fucking mess with Crystal! Ha! Ha!”
“Stop! Please! This is a prank! Please stop hurting me!”
We all made our way towards the bushes to see Crystal repeatedly kicking guy balls.
“Crystal!” Someone screamed.
She stopped and turned her head, “You were all this close, and you didn’t help me! These bastards were going to tie me up and get everything they don’t deserve!”
The guys who tried to kidnap Crystal ended up in the hospital.
I sat beside Crystal and ignored Josh’s pleading eyes.
“Now, I understand that you are all either really pissed off or terrified. But, understand, this is tradition. Our lovely founder, N&A-” she turns her head towards a mysterious dark painting, “believes this is a good ice breaker.”
Is kidnapping someone a good ice breaker?
“So, this program...M.I.N.D...Tell me the truth. Is it a cult?” Crystal asked.
“No, it’s a program for the gifted,” Madison responded.
“Really? It is not a cult? You guys faked a murder case and kidnapped all of us!” Crystal shouted, and everyone, the group of people that were also kidnapped, nodded in agreement.
“I peed in my pants!” A guy shouted.
Then, another scream.
We all turn our heads to see a girl wearing pajamas kicking and cursing at the man who brought her in over his shoulder.
He dropped her on the chair and groaned, “God, I cannot wait to be a senior, so I don’t have to do this kidnapping crap,” he felt the scratches on his face. “This girl was a fighter,” he took off the blindfold.
“What the bullshit is this?!” Taniyah screamed.
Madison clapped her hands, “Why is everyone so ungrateful this year? A little kidnapping and you’re all so riled up!”
“Why don’t you try getting kidnapped,” Crystal said.
“I did,” Madison snapped. She threw her hair back, “Now, you’re the few selected that we all vaguely agree to join M.I.N.D. I mean, there is someone else I want to join, but someone else-” Madison looks at Josh, “said he couldn’t.”
Josh looks the other way.
Madison clears her throat, “Now, some of you are here because of family names-” she looks at Crystal, “other of brains-” she looks at Taniyah, “and some by references,” she looks at me.
Now, that hurt.
Why is everyone crushing my self-esteem tonight?
The crowd of people in front of me lined up.
“Before we start, I would like to begin our pledges.”
Then, a flag drop.
Is that a muffin?
“Be honest, be truthful.
Get thrown away.
If you’re no longer useful.”
That is not an inspiration pledge.
Who came up with all of this?!
The murdering and kidnapping as a ritual.
The muffin on a flag.
What kind of sick person made this?!
After a few more very persuasive speeches, they let us all go. It seemed like a good amount of people forgave the kidnapping incident and were glad to join. I sat in the corner of the door, sipping on the punch.
Josh pokes my arm, “Hay Bug.”
I ignore him.
“Don’t you talk to him,” Crystal whispered.
“You take part in kidnapping us!” She rebuttal.
“It’s my job,” Josh pouted at me.
I glare at him before walking away. I sat down on the couch beside Taniyah. Earlier, I was so shocked by everything. I didn’t have time to really look at the room. It’s nice and cozy—a small fireplace on the side with a pool table in the center.
“So, you went to the party?” I attempt to make a conversation with Taniyah.
Taniyah looks up from her pants; her curly hair rests on her cheeks. “Does it look like I was attending any party?”
I look down towards her pajamas, “No.”
“I was sleeping, and they decided it was a good idea to sneak through my window, throw a bag over my head, and kidnap me to this place.”
“You sleep really early.”
“That’s what you get from this whole conversation?”
I shrug, “It’s just 8 pm is a bit too early to sleep, don’t you think?”
“Well, I’m sorry for not having a life.”
“Taniyah!” Madison stood in front of us with a broad smile.
“What do you want, Everhart?”
She playfully slaps Taniyah’s arm, “Oh, you seem upset.”
“Allow me to kidnap you while you’re sleeping next time.”
“Noted,” Madison settled down between us. One slim leg crosses above the other, “Now, tell me, why didn’t you go to my party? I clearly gave you an invite.”
Taniyah smiles, “Beauty sleep.”
Madison placed a hand on Taniyah’s cheek and grinned. “In my eyes, you’re beautiful enough.”
What is going on here?!
I fidget in my seat, not sure if I should leave or not. Before I could make a decision, Madison turned towards me, “Hailey. You look cute.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
She settled a hand on my thigh, and my eyes widened. “I’m so glad you’re both here,” she said. I watched as she stood up and walked away.
“What just happened?” I whispered.
“Love,” a voice whispered from behind, causing me to leap back. Ahmend crawled over the couch and sat down between us. “She loves you both, and I highly encourage all of us...to love each other,” Ahmend pulled Taniyah and me close together.
Taniyah threw away his arm, “Why are you all so weird?” She stands up and walks out of the room.
Ahmend looks at me and tugs his brows.
I grab his finger and pull it off my shoulder, “No, thank you.” I look forward to seeing Josh pouting on the other side of the room.
“Come on, Vaughn,” Ahmend said, “Greyson was just following tradition. He really didn’t mean to scare you. Plus, the guy pulled out halfway through.”
“I mean, you were there. Josh stopped. He saw you crying, and he couldn’t go through with it.”
I bit my lower lip and glanced at the pouting guy across the room.
“He’s a good guy,” Ahmend pat my shoulder, “Don’t be too hard on him.”
After the little gathering, we all went our separate ways. Josh and I silently walk down the hallway towards our room.
I huff a deep breath, “Okay! Stop pouting!”
He looks at me with his puppy dog eyes.
“Just don’t kidnap me anymore.”
“Okay. Definitely. No more kidnapping.” He smiles and spreads his arms. I grunted and hugged him. “I’m so sorry for scaring you.”
I wrapped my legs around his waist, and he carried us back into the bedroom.
“Where’s Ricardo?” Sometimes, it feels like he doesn’t even stay inside the room.
“Who cares.” Josh threw both of us on the bed. “I don’t like that guy.”
“Let’s get two beds next semester, so we don’t have to stay with him.”
“Or, you could’ve given me my own bed like I asked for at the beginning of this semester.”
“Wow, you’re such a smart mouth today.”
I smile, showing off all my teeth.
“But, you got the right to act the way you do; since I was an insensitive jerk.” Josh sat upward, his body hovering over mine. My body jolted, feeling his thumb caressing my cheek, “I ruined your makeup.”
He’s referring to when I was crying due to the kidnapping.
“You also ruined my hair.”
Josh rushes his fingers through my hair, “That...I did.”
“Why are you even in this program? It’s kind of weird...and cult-like.”
He exhales and drops his hand, much to my displeasure. “My mom wants me to be in it.”
“Nina Lynn Greyson?”
“The one and only.”
“Are you sure we’re not talking about your dad?” Mr.Greyson seems calm and collected, but he appears to be quite socializing in high school, from what I heard. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a part of this program. Then again, it was established after his time.
“Why?” Josh’s mom does not seem to be the type who would take part in this insanity. “Wait. Your mom never went to Pandora Academy? I thought she went to MistVille High School.”
“She did. My aunt was the one who made the program, and mom wanted me to join it in honor of her death.”
I snap my head towards him, “When did Crystal’s mom die?”
“No. My other aunt.”
“Aunt Amanda died?”
“No, I mean, Aunt Alice.”
“Oh, right. You never heard of her.”
I sat upward, “Who’s Aunt Alice?”
“Aunt Alice isn’t really my aunt. She is my mom’s best friend, but they were really close. Mom considered her as a sister...my aunt. She was the one who created the M.I.N.D program. I wasn’t really going to join the program, but-” he shrugs, “mom really wanted me to.”
So, Aunt Alice is the one behind this whole insanity.
“How did they meet?”
“They’re childhood friends; grew up together in MistVille. Mom gets really sad when someone mentions her, so dad doesn’t like it when we talk about Aunt Alice.”
“I see. So, what do the members of the program do?” I attempt to sway the topic away from Aunt Alice slowly. Josh doesn’t seem very comfortable talking about her.
“Nothing much. We do fundraisers sometimes, internships with different companies, network, academic competitions...general stuff like that.”
I smile, “I think I can manage that.”
“Exams are coming up.” Another unwanted topic had made itself present.
I grunted, “Don’t remind me.”
“Let’s study together and pass with flying colors; then we can go on the Winter Ski Trip together.”
My eyes lit up, “What? Winter Ski Trip?”
He nods, “Yeah. Every year, the school allows the students who passed all their exams to go on a nice trip together.”
I drop my head on the pillow, “Sleeping time. We need to study hard tomorrow.”
Monday arrived, and I regretted spending the weekend studying. My brain is physically throbbing. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
“I’m ready, Josh...I’m ready for you,” I said.