It felt weird approaching school knowing I couldn’t actually go inside. I watched from across the street as the students lingered, gossiped and eventually ambled their way through the threshold. I kept my eye out for Allison, but didn’t see her and figured she was already inside – she wasn’t one for idle chit-chat, especially considering today’s significance. Fearful of being spotted, I headed to the nearest coffee shop in order to plot my next step.
The local coffee shop was large and busy and I caught a few glances from pesky do-gooders probably wondering why I wasn’t in school. I ignored their silent, yet nosy inquiries and found a seat near the window with my back facing the wall. I ordered an iced-tea, but five minutes later realized I had chewed on the straw more than I had drunk.
There must be a way for me to see her, I thought when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, the harbinger of necessity appeared, having emerged from the Metro stop. Augustus Sloan and a few of his colleagues strolled past the coffee shop and headed down the sidewalk toward school.
As if a firecracker had exploded in my pants, I jumped up and ran out of the cafe. I knew a shortcut to school and had a feeling I’d better beat them because they were probably going to collect Allison and any others selected for the program.
While cutting through several front yards, side yards and back yards at full speed, it suddenly came to me that my best opportunity for talking to her was during gym class, which she had second period. I hopped the fence and jogged along the edge of the track and field lanes and made my way to the auditorium doors. I knew these would be unlocked because that’s where Allison’s class would be exiting in order to get to the soccer field. I reached for the handle and stopped short of giving it a controlled tug.
Should I wait for her out here instead of going in? I didn’t want to get caught inside, but Allison’s life was more important than a stain on my permanent record. Besides, how in the world would I signal her once they were out here and she was in the middle of a game? Even if she saw me, would she risk everything just to sneak off and talk to me? After all, if her mother’s reaction to me was any indication, I was probably a pariah in her eyes.
I slowly opened the door and held my breath as the iron hinges squeaked. Swallowing fully, I stuck my head in and much to my surprise, the auditorium was empty. I quickly stepped in and hid behind the bleachers as a few students trickled out of the locker room. Allison hadn’t yet come out, but more and more emerged and began gravitating toward their assigned rows.
“Hey,” I exclaimed in a sort of strong whisper when Allison appeared. She was by herself and seemed to hear it, but didn’t look my way. Damn it, I thought and said, “Allison!”
She turned and examined the bleachers curiously. Not seeing anything, she then looked around to see if anyone else had heard it, but there were no takers.
“Come here,” I said in my own voice, feeling more comfortable since the chatter from the other students was now echoing loudly off the auditorium walls.
“Trenton, is that you?” she said in a voice full of intrigue and contempt. I stuck my head out just enough so she could see me. She rolled her eyes, checked around and headed my way.
“Just meet me outside,” I explained. “It’s really important that we talk.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Outside,” I shot back and walked toward the door.
The whistle blew just as I stepped outside. I sure hoped she would figure out a way to see me, I thought, and hid in the wooded area near the end of the soccer field.
The ten minutes I waited amongst the birds and squirrels had me feeling like a convict on the loose. Soon after, the class broke into four teams and began kicking balls around for practice. Allison kept looking around trying to find me and just as I thought about stepping out from behind the tree, she kicked the ball out of bounds.
“I’ll get it,” she shouted and chased the ball into the woods.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. “What kind of craziness is this?”
“I’m sorry to do this. I mean, I know how important today is for you, but I needed to tell you something.”
“I don’t see what’s so important that it couldn’t wait until you got back from your suspension.”
I was tempted to defend myself, but knew this wasn’t the right place or time.
“Allison, a man I know who recruits people like you for his company, told me that you could be in danger.”
“What in the world are you talking about? I think you have gone crazy.”
“Your sister said you’re going back to observe Crimson James, right?”
“That little blabber mouth.”
“Anyway, maybe it has something to do with the Chinese and that wormhole theory everybody keeps talking about.”
“Trenton, I don’t know what kind of company you’ve been keeping, but it’s starting to scare me. When I learned about your birth-father’s past, I tried to keep an open mind, but now I’m starting to wonder ... not to mention your recent behavior.”
“Allison, don’t go on this assignment. Let someone else take it.”
“Why would you care what happens to me?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Allison!” someone shouted from the soccer field.
“I don’t know, maybe you should ask Camille.”
“Camille,” I repeated, wondering how she fit into anything and then I realized. “Sophie, that little bitch,” I said more to myself than to Allison. “What did she tell you?”
“She didn’t have to tell me anything. Matt told me … and I thought what we had was special.”
“Allison, we didn’t sleep together, if that’s what you mean.”
She glanced at the soccer field and kicked the ball out of the trees.
“I think you’ll say anything right about now,” she said, getting teary eyed. “And I don’t think I ever want to see you again.”
With that jaw-dropping blow, Allison joined the rest of the students, leaving a knot in my gut the size of the soccer ball she had just belted. In turn, I wanted to deliver a sharp foot right to Matt’s head. What would possess him to lie to Allison about me and Camille? I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find out, but then I remembered that Number Nine had said we were enemies in a past life and I sighed.