The Wanderers

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chapter 24

The next few days went by the same. My dad and the guardians worked all day every day and my mom just stayed out of their way. Josie came by to visit me a few times, but I still wasn’t in the mood to talk. I basically just kept to myself, isolated in my room, and sulked. By the time the weekend rolled around, Josie said she had enough of me being miserable. “That’s it Ella, I’m breaking you out of here.”

“Josie, you know my dad is not going to let me go anywhere and I really don’t feel like it either.”

“That’s why we’re sneaking out,” she said mischievously. I gave her a look letting her know that was not a good idea. “The Halloween party is tonight and you and I are going.”

“Josie, I –”

“No excuses. We found some kick-ass costumes and you need to get out of this hotel room. I’m tired of you moping around and feeling sorry for yourself. You need to get out of here, but first you need a shower,” she said, crinkling her nose at me.

“Hey,” I said, hitting her. “I took one this morning.”

“Whatever.”

I knew Josie was right. I did need to get out of here, but I still didn’t think going to the party was a good idea. “No worries, I already talked to Billy and no one has seen or heard from Tristan so I’m sure he won’t be there,” she said, taking my skepticism the wrong way. I sighed. That didn’t make me feel better about the situation. I would had rather been told someone heard something from him. Hearing nothing made me worry more. “Ella, I know you’re upset about Tristan, but he left. That was his choice, nothing you did. He was a dick for doing it but you can’t spend the rest of your life holed up in this hotel room.”

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go, and getting out of this hotel would probably be a good idea. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw the light of day. “Okay, what’s your plan?”

Josie cheered giddily. “You’re going to tell your mom you’re staying in my room tonight and I’m going to tell my mom I’m staying with you.”

“What about the guardians, they’re everywhere?”

“Already taken care of.”

“How?” I asked, not liking the sound of this.

“Well, I was doing some investigating and it turns out the first floor bathroom has an entrance to the back halls for the staff. We’re going to excuse ourselves to go to the bathroom and sneak out through the back where Billy and Dixon will be waiting for us.” Before I could protest she was pulling me off the bed and out the door. I did as Josie said and told my mom I would be spending the night in Josie’s room. She thought it was a great idea. I think she was just happy I was getting out of the bedroom even though I was just going to another one.

I felt bad for lying to my mom and hoped when she found out she would understand. She suggested I take Gabe and one of the other guardians with us. I knew my guilty conscious would eat at me if I gave Gabe the slip, plus I knew he was too smart for that, so I came up with some story telling my mom that I thought he would be better use to my dad. She agreed but still sent two other guardians with us. We told them we wanted to go shopping in the gift shops down on the first floor. Twenty minutes into it we said we had to go to the bathroom.

Josie shoved open the door to the ladies room and checked all the stalls for occupants. When she saw that it was clear she waved for me to join her by the back door. “Ready?” she said. I nodded and watched as she turned the knob on the back door only to discover it was locked. “Okay, I never said my plan was fool-proof,” she shrugged.

“Well, at least you tried,” I said, walking back to the front.

“Hey, since when did I give up that easily?” Josie said, hands on hips. I looked at her thinking there was no way out. She looked around eyeing everything. I could see the wheels turning in her head, coming up with another plan of escape. “I got it! The window.”

“Josie, that window isn’t big enough for us to fit through, not to mention it’s too high.”

“We’re not going through it,” she said, confusing me. She took out her phone and made a call. “Babe, change of plans. That backpack I gave you, bring it to the window of the woman’s bathroom on the first floor,” she paused, letting the other person talk. “I don’t know how you figure out which window it is. You just do,” she said annoyed, pausing again to let the other person talk again. “Okay, see you soon,” she said, hanging up the phone and sticking it in her back pocket.

“Josie, what’s going on?”

“We’re going out the front door,” she smiled.

“What? They’ll never let us leave.”

“They’re not going to know it’s us,” she said, shaking her head like I was an idiot.

“Huh?” I was getting more confused by the minute.

“It’s Halloween Ella, haven’t you noticed all the people walking around in costume?”

“Wasn’t really paying attention.”

“Of course you weren’t,” she said, rolling her eyes. There was a knock at the window. “Ella, give me a boost.” I interlocked my fingers, palms up, and Josie stepped on my hands. I lifted her up as high as I could so she could reach the window. “Thanks, babe,” she said, pulling through a black backpack. “Now meet us at the front entrance in ten minutes.” I let her down and she pulled out the contents of the bag. “Here, put this on.”

It was our Halloween costumes. “Josie, how is this going to work?”

“With our wigs and masks they’re not going to be able to tell it’s us,” she said, getting undressed.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” I said, getting worried.

“Is everything okay in there?” One of the guardians called, knocking on the door.

I looked at Josie, panicked. She just threw my costume at me and told me to get dressed. Then she walked closer to the door. “Sorry, you’re going to have to give me a few minutes. I think I had some bad Mexican food earlier,” she groaned. She made some gagging sounds, pretending to get sick and then some farting noises with her mouth. I had to keep my mouth covered to keep from laughing out loud.

She ran back over to me and said, “Hurry, we don’t have much time.” I quickly changed into my costume and then helped her with hers.

“Hey, what did you tell Dixon this was all about?”

“He still thinks this all has to do with just regular people getting killed and us having overly protective parents,” she shrugged. “Okay, ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said, taking a breath.

We walked right out of the bathroom and straight past the two guardians. “Excuse me, ladies?”

I froze. I thought we were busted for sure. “Just relax,” Josie whispered and turned around.

“Did you seen two young girls in the bathroom?” asked the one guardian.

Josie cleared her throat. “Oh yeah, poor little thang,” she said, trying out her best southern accent. “She’s a sick as a dog. I gave her some Pepto so she should be fine in a few minutes.” The guardian looked back over his shoulder. “But I wouldn’t go in there if I was ya, whoooeee,” she said, waving a hand in front of her nose.

The guardian cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Um...thank you.”

“No problem, cutie.”

I grabbed Josie’s hand and quickly pulled her in front of me. “Oh my god, that was close.”

“Yes, but thanks to my wonderful acting skills –”

“I’ll thank you when we’re in the car,” I said, pushing her along. I felt slightly guilty for tricking the guardians, knowing that as soon as they found out we eluded them their jobs were done. I made a mental note to speak on their behalf and do my best to save their jobs, but I might also suggest some retraining.

Billy and Dixon were right out front waiting for us. We quickly hopped in the car and took off. “I can’t believe that worked,” I said, breathless.

“You need to have more faith in me next time,” Josie said.

“Says the girl who has gotten me in trouble, more times than I care to admit, for all her great ideas.”

“Whatever. It worked, didn’t it?”

“So far, so good. I’m not even going to think about how much trouble we’ll be in when they find out we’ve snuck out.”

“Chill out, Ella. You worry too much and all that is going to do is give you premature wrinkles.” I rolled my eyes at her. “Here,” she said, handing me her make-up case and climbing in the backseat with me and Dixon. I took off my mask and Josie and Dixon helped decorate my face with glitter, all kinds of make-up, and some adhesive stars. Once they were done, Dixon and I helped out Josie. Although I don’t think I was much help. It was hard to keep a steady hand with all the bumps Billy was hitting.

He ended up stepping on the brakes a little too hard to avoid some trick or treaters and I ended up drawing a big line across Josie’s face. “Babe!” Josie yelled at him.

“Sorry,” he chuckled. I fixed the big smudge on her cheek and carefully applied the rest.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Josie said, leaning into the front of the car. “Where’s that little box?” she asked Billy.

“In the console,” he said, lifting up the center once she got out of the way.

She reached around and pulled out a little white box and handed it to me. “What’s this?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It was delivered to our room the other day and I just kept forgetting to give it to you.”

Curious, I opened it up. “God, I hope it’s not a finger,” Dixon said, making me almost drop the box.

I looked at him horrified and Josie hit him. He laughed. “Ella, I was just kidding,” he said.

“That’s not funny,” I said, no longer wanting to open it.

“Here,” Josie said, taking the box from me and opening it herself. I closed my eyes afraid of what we might find. “Oh, wow.”

“What is it?” I said, slowly opening one eye.

“Take a look for yourself,” Josie said, handing it back to me. When I hesitated she rolled her eyes. “It’s not going to bite,” she shoved it in my face.

I flinched. “Oh,” I said, once I saw what was in the box. Inside was a platinum chain necklace with a diamond pendant in the shape of a star.

“Who’s it from?” Dixon asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s beautiful,” I said in awe. “Here, help me put it on.” I handed it to Josie and turned around so she could fasten it around my neck.

“It surely does sparkle,” Josie said, admiring it. I touched it gently. It fell just below my collar bone. “Why don’t you buy me things like this,” Josie whined to Billy.

“Because I’m not made of money like Tristan,” he said, letting it slip.

“Wait, this is from Tristan?” I asked.

Billy shifted uncomfortably in the front seat. “He bought it a while ago...before he left.”

“Then why’d he wait so long to give it to her?” Josie complained.

“He had it specially made. It wasn’t ready, I guess, until after,” he paused. “He must have forgotten about it.”

I touched the necklace again, then closed my eyes, and reached around to take it off. “No Ella, keep it on. Who cares if it’s from him? It’s beautiful and totally goes with your costume,” Josie said. I sighed and decided to leave it on.

We arrived at the sorority house and so far no calls from either of our parents so we knew we were still in the clear. When we got out of the car I noticed the boys weren’t wearing any costumes. “Where are your costumes?” I asked the guys.

“They’re at the house. We’re going to change quickly and then meet you guys back here,” Billy said, giving Josie a quick kiss before taking off.

“Put this on before we go in,” Josie said, handing me my mask.

“Josie, you really think they’re not going to know it’s us?”

“Hey, if those stupid guards couldn’t recognize us.” True, I thought as I tied her mask for her. “You ready?”

“Absolutely.” I smiled and Josie linked her arm with mine as we walked up to the party.

Inside the whole house was decorated with fake spider webs and spiders. Pumpkins, witches, and ghosts were placed strategically around the house with streamers and lights. They even had a fog machine. The place looked great, almost like a mini haunted house. Everyone was dressed in costume and I instantly got into the spirit of Halloween. It was always my favorite holiday when I was younger and I was glad I got to get out and enjoy it with friends tonight.

“Hey look, there’s Cadence,” I said, pulling Josie with me. She was wearing a dress complete with corset. It was from an early era, but I wasn’t sure exactly when, I never paid attention in history. “Hi Cadence, your costume is amazing.”

“Ella, is that you?”

“Yeah, and Josie.”

“Great costumes guys. Heaven and hell, how clever,” she said with a smirk.

“Thank you,” I said, smiling politely.

“I’m so glad you guys could make it. I didn’t think you would, you know, with everything that’s going on.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Josie sang.

“Good, cause this party is going to be killer,” Cadence smiled. Something about the way she said killer made me shiver.

“You alright?” Josie asked.

“Yeah, just hungry I guess.”

“There’s plenty of drinks and food in the other room,” Cadence gestured with the wave of her hand.

“Good, I’m starved,” Josie said, pulling me away. When we reached the refreshments I saw they had everything from cats, bats, and candy corn shaped cookies, a cauldron filled with a mystery punch, and tons of other delicious Halloween themed snacks.

Josie handed me a cup filled with punch and a plate full of snacks. I took a sip feeling parched. “Whoa, what is this?” I asked, making a face.

“Is it bad?”

“No, just very strong,” I said.

“Perfect,” Josie said, pouring herself a cup.

We found some chairs to sit in while we ate and by the time we were done Billy had showed up. I looked at his costume and laughed. “Dracula, really, that’s your costume?”

“I already had the fangs,” he said, winking at me and making me laugh again.

“Where’s Dixon?”

“He’s around here somewhere. It took him a little longer to get ready so he told me to go ahead without him.” I just shrugged figuring I would find him later.

“Come on, let’s dance,” Josie said, pulling us both onto the dance floor. Billy followed with a sigh. He wasn’t much of a dancer but I knew he would do anything for Josie. I could tell he really liked her and I think she really liked him, too. I was hoping she would grow out of her stage of dating a guy for a few weeks and then dumping them because she claimed she was bored. I would hate to see her break his heart. I really liked Billy. He was definitely one of the good guys.

After about an hour of dancing we had to take a break before all of our make-up melted off. Josie and I left to refresh our drinks while Billy chatted up some of his fraternity brothers. While we waited in line I got the sense of someone watching me. I looked over my shoulder and noticed a man dressed up in a black pinstriped suit, with a hat, tie, and handkerchief to match. He was wearing a mask that covered most of his face. If I had to guess I would say he was supposed to be a gangster. He was tall, too, and the way he stood, something about him was so familiar. He caught me staring and nodded his head at me. I quickly turned away knowing my cheeks were flushed pink from getting caught staring. Josie turned to me and handed me a cup then we headed back out onto the dance floor. I sneaked a peek over my shoulder to see if the mystery man was still there standing in the corner. He was, and he was still watching me. I couldn’t look away. Something about him drew me in. Josie regained my attention by pulling me deeper into the crowd. When I turned around again, he was gone.

I stayed close to Billy and Josie most of the night where I knew I would be the safest. So many bodies packed closely together made it hard for anyone to move. If Jack somehow made his way in here he would have a hard time finding me. That little bit of knowledge helped me relax and have some fun. Josie and I danced all night long. I was having tons of fun until they decided to slow things down and play a slow song. Not having anyone to dance with, I made my way back to the bar. I tried texting Dixon, but he wasn’t responding. I knew he was okay because I just saw him flirting with some guy so I figured he was ignoring his text on purpose.

I sighed, feeling left out, and ordered myself another drink. Someone slipped a hand through mine and I spun around now face to face with the gangster I saw earlier. He gestured for me to join him on the dance floor. I knew the moment he touched me it was him. I followed him without a word.

His arms around my waist, mine thrown lightly over his shoulders, it felt right. The way his fingers danced lightly on my back, his smell, the feeling I got when I was with him, all came rushing back in that instant. He spun me around the floor as if we had done this a million times. I closed my eyes taking in the moment and when I open them, I was staring right back into his beautiful, dark blue eyes. My heart sank and before I had the chance to protest, he bent down, and pressed his lips to mine.

My head started to spin. All feelings of longing, despair, pain and guilt flooded me. I couldn’t take it. I pulled back and took off. I ran, pushing my way through the crowd as fast as I could to get away. Tears were threatening to spill down my cheek, but I told myself I would not cry. I would not let him do this to me.

I made it outside and sucked in a breath. Air, I needed it, but my momentary reprieve faded fast when I spotted guardians not far off in the distance. I turned around to make my way back inside only to be stopped by Tristan. “Ella, don’t,” he said.

“Tristan, I can’t do this right now,” I said in a panicked rush.

“Just talk to me,” he pleaded.

I didn’t have time for this and knowing he wouldn’t give up I said, “Fine, but inside, away from here.” he nodded and pulled me back into the party. “Where’s Josie?” I asked.

“You can look for her later. I need to talk to you.”

“No, I need to find her now,” I said, yanking on his arm.

“Ella, she can wait,” he said distressed.

“No Tristan we don’t have time!” He looked at me confused. “We’re not supposed to be here. We snuck out and now the guardians are here to take us back! Tristan you have to help me find Josie. I’m not ready to go back. I can’t, not now.”

“It’s okay Ella, we’ll find her,” he said, pulling me through the crowd in a mad dash to find Josie.

We spotted her and Billy over by the bar. I grabbed her arm and started to tug her away but she resisted. “Ella, what are you doing?”

“Josie, the guardians are here, we need to go now. Unless you want to go back?”

“No way,” she said, turning to Billy and grabbing his attention. Josie filled Billy in right when two guardians entered the front of the house.

“This way!” Tristan shouted, directing us to the back.

We shoved our way through the crowd, careful not to bring attention to ourselves. With all the people in the house we knew it would take the guardians longer to get through, but we still couldn’t take the risk of taking our time. We slipped through the back and made it outside undetected. “Now what?” I asked, knowing it would only be a matter of time before they sent back-up.

“The dorms, they’re just a few blocks away and no one is there. It will take them a while to find us there if at all. We should be safe for a while or at least until you’re ready to go back,” Tristan said, looking at me.

“Sounds good to me,” I said, looking at Josie and Billy. They agreed and we took off keeping to the shadows and off the streets so we wouldn’t be spotted.

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