Playing With Fire

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After lunch, I walked with Kiera to biology. She chatted as we walked, and I listened, nodding and smiling at the appropriate times. We both entered the room and sat at our tables. Kiera sat in front of me, so she turned around in her chair and looked back at me.

"Do you think Mr. Harder is going to make us dissect a pig today?" she made a fake grossed out face.

I laughed at her impression. "I don't think so. He just said that to get the girls to listen."

She nodded. "Yeah, they were not listening at all last class," she muttered. "Always talking and whispering in the back. Wish they'd just shut up once." She raised one eyebrow mysteriously. "But even the mention of dissecting and blood makes them squeal like piglets themselves!"

Not able to stop myself, I burst into laughter, muffling it with my arm. Blood had never bothered me. Kiera and I were always the first ones to volunteer, since no one else would.

Biology wasn't a problem. As I'd predicted, Mr. Harder never made us dissect pigs, so we just listened to his long speech, and left the moment class was over. Our next and last class of the day was calculus. Mrs. Ringler wasn't in the room yet, but there was no one talking and walking around. Everyone found their seats as soon as they entered. Mrs. Ringler was very strict, and nobody liked to be singled out for taking too long to get to their seat. They all talked quietly with the person next to them at their tables.

Kiera had taken her seat and was doodling on her notes, and most of the others had trickled in by the time I'd arranged my notes and prepared for class.

There was one spot in the floor in the doorway that creaked. Everyone knew where it was, and had all grown used to avoiding it. So when the floor groaned, my head turned, and my eyes flickered toward the door.

Everyone else turned as well, to stare at the person responsible for the sound we rarely heard anymore. The boy in the doorway met the gazes of a few students, then his eyes flickered to me. I sucked in a breath as his dark eyes caught mine. His hair was lighter than mine, but still brown, and somehow it accented his eyes perfectly. He didn't look at me long, then he blinked, and entered the room. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he sat down in an empty seat. The girl next to him stared at him and smiled when he nodded at her. I knew that seat he'd taken belonged to another girl, but she was absent. And I knew this, because the only empty seat in this class, the only one that didn't have a claim on it, was the one next to me. Mrs. Ringler had arranged our seating -in the strict way she did everything- and left me sitting alone. I'd never complained. But now I suddenly wasn't so sure I was good with it. Something about him brought a weird feeling out in me, and I wasn't looking forward to sitting next to him for the rest of the year. A small part of me wished that absent girl had switched classes. But another part of me... wanted her to walk through that door today, so he'd have to take the only place left. The empty seat to my right.


"Hi, dad." I pushed my shoulder into the wall and cupped my hand around the phone. Students swarmed past me, all in a hurry to get home or to work.

"Oh, hey Ellamae. Did you need something? Don't tell me the bike broke down," he sighed, but I could sense the humor in his voice. The voice I'd known all my life.

I smiled into the phone. "No, it's fine. But I need to go to fill it up. I could have run out of gas on the way here! You do realize that, don't you?"

He was silent for a moment. "Well no. I didn't know that. Sorry Ellamae."

"That's fine. I was just wondering if you wanted me to pick anything up on the way home." Tarry was a framer, and he often needed tools that he didn't have for his work, so he'd ask me to pick them up for him.

"Oh, no that's okay," he said. "I think I'm good. But thanks anyway."

"Sure, dad. See you later."

"Bye, Ellamae."

I hung up the phone and followed the flow to my locker. Grabbing my things, I stuffed them into my bag and pulled on my jacket, then exited the building.

The bike was where I'd left it. A few people stood around it, taking a look. I approached it silently, and tried to ignore them as I put on my helmet. By the time I had it on and secured, they'd all drifted away.

"I'll go pick up Cindy and meet you at your place," Kiera said, appearing at my side.

"Oh, yeah I have to go fuel this thing up. Do you mind waiting with Cindy at my place if I'm not there yet?" The thought of leaving Sydney alone at home made my insides clench. If anything happened to her...

"Sure, I don't mind at all," she smiled and clapped her hands together. "We'll see you there!" She skipped away toward her car, and I turned to start the intimidating machine I was sitting on.

Once I made it safely to the gas station, I fueled the motorcycle up, paid for it, and started home.

I was almost out of Fargo when it happened. The van ahead of me suddenly swerved and veered to the opposite side of the highway. I had no time to react, not even gasp as the truck that'd gone out of control flew into my lane and streaked toward me. All I heard was someone screaming, but that could have been the wind. Everything went black.

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