Alas, I'm not. Lydia was the brave, outspoken one. Not me. Never me.
So when their attention is averted, it's something I notice. Partly because of my heightened senses, partly because their attention is passed on to Russell Wilson. The newest member of our community.
With the majority of our days filled with raging storms, we don't attract many others. Perhaps, that's why everyone in this community is so close. The supernatural tends to stick together.
Russell handles it the same way I did. He keeps his head down and settles into the desk behind me. I can feel his sadness radiating off of him. One of my gifts, I suppose. Feeling what everyone else feels.
Mr. Rogers finally arrives and for the most part, everyone turns to him. Even Russell.
"All right, students." I can feel his eyes on me, but I can't bring myself to look up. I hear the sigh that escapes his mouth though, and then his gaze shifts to the student behind me. "Welcome back. We have a new student here with us today. I'd like you all to give Mr. Wilson a warm welcome."
I hear a few laughs scattered around the room, and Sonia Dawson makes a show of sliding into the seat next to Russell and flashing him an all too knowing smile.
He smiles, too.
I look up when Mr. Rogers says my name. I know what he wants to say. I can feel it on the tip of his tongue. He feels sorry for me. He doesn't understand how I'm sitting here in class when Lydia has been missing for over a week.
He clears his throat and shakes his head. Perhaps, not wanting to publicly say anything about her. What he doesn't know, though, is that- everyone here, we're a family of sorts.
Though so many of them get under my skin, I'd risk my life for any one of them. And they'd do the same for me. Any one of us would have helped Lydia if we had known she needed it. If we had known she was a target, we would've never let her go running alone that morning.
"All right." Mr. Rogers walks to the blackboard, shaking off his concern. "Let's get started."
When I step out of class, Lila and Christopher are waiting for me. I know they're concerned, too. But they also know it's only a matter of time.
With the substantial awards, my mother posted all over the city, the news will come forth. Considering it was broad daylight, someone must have seen something.
Lila smiles. "Was class okay?"
"We don't have to be here." Chris sighs, heavily. "We could skip it. No one expects you to be here, Mae."
My mother does.
"I'm fine," I mumble. "I have to get to my next class. I'll see you guys at lunch."
I rush away before either of them can say anything else. After a whole life of sharing everything, I know they have every right to ask me anything. That doesn't mean I want to wait around to hear it, though.
I can feel his presence even before I enter the classroom. I'm already so attuned to Russell and we've barely even met. I can't help but wonder why.
When I walk into the classroom, his eyes are on me. It's a different feeling from all of the others. Everyone else's is filled with sympathy, but not his. He's curious. He's staring at me as if he felt it, too.
What are you, Russel Wilson ?
I know that these things happen. Sometimes you meet someone and in no time at all, a bond is formed. Not love, exactly. But a way to it.
He lowers his gaze, staring at his desk. He's filled with frustration. Certainly, not what I was expecting.
I take a seat to his left and force myself to avert my gaze. Ivan leans forward in his seat, tapping me on my shoulder. I turn around curiously.
"Hey," He says quietly. "How are you holding up?"
I close my eyes. I know everyone's watching our exchange, listening for my response. It doesn't take Ivan long to realize it, either.
"You've got to be kidding," He mumbles, rolling his eyes. His eyes meet mine and he nods, lowering his gaze.
Russell clears his throat, his eyes hesitantly returning to mine. "Mae, right?"
He smiles warmly. "I'm Russell."
I return his smile and lower my gaze. I open my textbook and class begins.