Author's Note: Part one of three in a... tri-shot.
Chapter One: Hiding
Row upon row of books rose above her as she collapsed onto the industrial gray carpet, its drab colour stained with millions of different shoe marks. Gwen curled in on herself, hoping that the smaller she got, the less visible she'd be, the less likely it would be that she'd be found, and the less likely she'd be reported for skipping her math midterm.
You have to build a future for yourself, Gwen. I can't take care of you forever.
Her mother's words had haunted her throughout the two weeks she had prepared. She studied, practiced, revised and memorized everything she possibly could. She could inverse, graph, calculate and solve any question on that test, she knew it.
But the fact that she could didn't mean that she wouldn't freeze with a blinding hysteria when she laid eyes on the test.
Of course, she hadn't seen it in class first. She had a friend, Conner, who knew where the master file of tests were; every subject, every grade, every unit. He had snitched a copy of the Math 12 midterm to photocopy and sell, hoping to make a profit, and he had given Gwen a free copy.
She had taken one look at it and blanked. Completely. All the information she had worked so hard to obtain and accumulate went woosh, out the window as she stared at the black and white page.
The only thought that had ran through her mind in that single moment was: Shit, I'm so screwed.
And she figured she would be, so instead of facing the FAIL that would have been stamped on the top of her test with the red stamp her math teacher favored and adored, she had decided to skip. Run away to the only place she felt safe.
The school's library. Brilliant plan, she berated herself as she faced the school's collection of Shakespeare, which was badly abused. The biggest test in her life and she was hiding in the fucking school's library. Of course she wouldn't be found there! If they were to look for her, of course they wouldn't look in the school.
She was hiding. And in the worst place possible.
She knew that she was risking a zero by not being there, but she figured that since she was such an amazing student, the teacher would accept her excuse of her 'female monthly affliction' and let her re-take it. Male teachers generally bowed to the period lie. Too squeamish to ask questions.
She rested her head on her knees, squeezing her eyes closed and praying that the hour and a half class would fly by.
Let them be done quickly. Let this be over soon.
Her eyes opened again, and instead of seeing an extremely bedraggled copy of Othello, she saw a pair of wide, green eyes, and her heart stopped.
"Hello," the possessor of the eyes said in a nice, calming voice.
"What the hell," she wheezed, having not regained the breath that had left her in a fleeting shock of surprise.
"Oh shit, sorry!" The eyes retreated until she saw the whole face, and she studied the strong lines and smooth planes of it carefully, recording everything until she could picture it when she blinked, its image burning the darkness of her eyelids.
"What's up?" She asked as casually as she could ask the odd boy in front of her.
Don't draw attention to me. I'm supposed to be invisible!
"You looked like you were dying or something, and I figured I should make sure you're okay, since I'm trained in First Aid and stuff…" He trailed off rather adorably, rubbing the back of his neck while his eyes looked bashful.
"That's very considerate of you, thanks. I'm just…panicking." She relaxed her legs and straightened them out from the fetal position.
"Skipping the Math 12 midterm?" He asked wisely, hands clasped in front of his bent knees, wobbling in his crouched position.
"How did you know? Are they looking for me? Were you sent to retrieve me?" She demanded, sending herself into a freshly baked round of hysteria. She tried to stand, but her legs had gone numb a long while ago and she tottered, precariously close to falling face first into the strange boy and Shakespeare's collection.
The boy stood gracefully and held her steady, looking down at her in half-amusement, half-concern. "You look the right age and I'm doing the exact same thing; no, I don't think they're looking for us, and… what was the last one?"
"You're skipping too?" She asked too excitedly. Her relief at not being the only one to skip and seek refuge in the library made her feel so much better about her situation and about herself.
He smiled an odd half-smile, the right side of his mouth refusing to match the left. It was a lopsided gesture of comradeship. Quirky. Cute.
"I'm also sure that we aren't the first people to ever cut the midterm, as I'm sure we aren't the only one's doing it today." He replied cheekily. She would have responded wittily but her overwhelming relief continued to wash over her, rendering her sarcastic and cutting retort short.
"Why'd you choose the library? I thought I was a moron to come here." She said.
She could feel a headache coming on because she didn't know what to watch. She wanted to monitor the librarians to see if they started to comb the room for her, she wanted to watch the main doors to make sure there were no teachers coming in to find her, but most importantly, she wanted to watch the odd boy in front of her, who captivated her with his quirky smile and brilliant eyes.
"I'm not staying here." He said, startled that she would have suggested anything like that. "I'm using the back exit. It's the only exit in the school that isn't video-taped. And you know how Mr. Feld gets when people skip.
Mr. Feld was notorious for hunting down and punishing whoever skipped his class. Once he had combed through video footage until he found evidence that Casey Grant had, in fact, gone for coffee instead of going to his second period trigonometry class. He had visited her house personally with the video to show her parents. She had been grounded for two weeks.
Like the Mounties, Mr. Feld always got his man.
"Do you want to come with? Since, you know, you don't really have a plan." He offered, scuffing the toes of his black shoes against the gray carpet, adding to its wear.
She knew she probably should have said no. She shouldn't have been wandering off campus with a boy she didn't know. Her mother would have an ulcer if she found out.
If is a rather big word.
"Sure," Gwen said, watching how his eyes lit up at the acceptance to be his accomplice. He ran a hand through his dark brown hair in shy kind of way. His crooked smile appeared in full force and he snapped out his arms to crack his elbows.
"Cool. Let's go." Unexpectedly – for Gwen – he grabbed her hand and led her to the back exit, with the obnoxious red EXIT sign above it and the tricky push-in handle panels.
"I'm Gwen, by the way." She said as he rested his hand on the silver panel. He looked back at her and smiled.
"Pleasure to meet you Gwen. I'm Win."
As in, the opposite of lose?
But she didn't get a chance to ask him about the curious origins of his name, because at that moment he pushed the door handle, and a siren wailed somewhere deep inside the monstrous building.
"Run!" He yelled, pulling her along through the door and dashing down the pathway going God knows where. During her four years at the high school Gwen had never stopped to inspect the back portion of the school. It was classes, parking lot, and home. End of story.
"Do you know where we're going?" She called, the wind snatching away her volume as they bolted through a patch of trees.
"No, I really don't!" He replied giddily, taking a sharp left into an off-the-paved-road kind of trail. It looked in poor disrepair – like everyone had forgotten it and left it to grow over, alone and unable to defend itself against the crowding wildlife.
Win finally slowed down, causing Gwen to bump into him. He helped her into a standing position gently, and through the tree's shadows and the sun's flickering light as it played peek-a-boo with the clouds, she could inspect the brilliant white of his skin against the tea-leaf tan of her own. Their interlocked hands possessing a ying-yang appearance.
"I think we're safe." Win declared, leading her slowly into the shrubbery.
"Did you know there was an alarm on that door? And what about our stuff?" Gwen asked, her eyes darting everywhere as fast as she could. No bears would sneak up on her.
Win snorted, "Of course I didn't know the alarm would go off. Do you honestly think I would want that to punctuate our escape? And I kind of forgot about our stuff when the alarm chased us from the building. I suppose we'll have to go back for it later." He said, leading them off onto an even smaller pathway.
"You know, just meeting a girl and then leading her out into the middle of the forest isn't a good way to make a first impression. It kind of makes you look like a rapist." The words flowed out of her mouth before she could refine them, slipping between her lips before they hit her slow moving filter.
"Guess you'll just have to trust me."
But in some small, freaky, six-sense way, she already did.
Totally and completely.
Author's Note: Feedback is appreciated, if you don't feel like it, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Twenty Questions.