AN: I apologize for not updating last week. I had this mostly written but I didn't have time to finish it with all of my quarterly exams that occurred last week. It was bad. Imagine all of your subjects deciding to test your knowledge in the same three days. TT_TT
'We need to talk.'
Nine times out of ten this phrase ends in someone crying or in trouble of some sort. When I wake up after a brief two hour slumber and see that message, I'm already cringing. Last night before bed, I turned my phone on silent so nothing would disturb my sleep.
Izzy, though I haven't talked to her at all over the phone, sends me updates daily and sometimes forgets about being courteous with respect to time. Sonny is the same way. If I kept my phone on, chances are it would go off at least three times in the night. After the first night of random messages, I refused to be awoken but such things. It's hard enough for me to sleep as is, I couldn't stand waking up all the time too.
When I woke up for the second time this morning, my body aching instantly as a reminder me of what happened a few hours ago, I suppressed a groan as I reached for my phone to check the time.
Six missed calls. Four voice-mails. Seventeen text messages.
I swear, this was not there when I last checked.
Everyone thinks I'm dead. That's the only conclusion I can think of as I scroll through the messages. Later, on the long bus ride (today is travel day so we'd be on the bus for the majority of the day), I'll go through the voice mails to see what's going on but for now I draft a text that answered the most important question.
'I'm alive. What's going on?'
I sent it to the usual group, a sour taste filling my mouth as I think their freak out is likely caused because they had a similar experience as I did last night. Biting my lip- wincing as I nibble on the cut by accident- I realize that the shower is on and Bindi is at the phone, with her back to me, speaking softly into the receiver. She hangs up, yawns and dials the next number. Ah, that's right. Morning wake up calls; I forgot about those since Maggie or Terry always answered them. I realize how soothing her voice is as she informs the person on the other line it's time to wake up and breakfast is in half an hour. Like everything about her, it reminds me of a mother; this time gently coaxing a child from their sleep. In my mind, that's the perfect way to go.
Since I'm in no hurry to move my aching body, I nestle back into my pillow and check my phone once more. That's when the message pops up from Patrick. 'We need to talk.' Gulping almost comically at the no nonsense vibe I'm getting from the message, I don't expect this to be a cheery conversation.
'What's going on? I'll try to call when I can.' On my stomach, I watch Bindi wake everyone up and the shower run. I'm not sure I want to be awake yet. I'm not sure how today is going to go and how the adults are going to be acting. I'll bide my time until I have to face it.
The phone lit up almost immediately. 'No one could get a hold of you. We thought the worse. Don't ever do that to me again.'
My heart breaks for more than one reason. The first being Patrick just confirmed my worst fear- I'm not the only one to be attacked last night. Otherwise, he wouldn't have cared if he couldn't get ahold of me and he most certainly wouldn't have made contact with the others unless he had a purpose. The second being how I made him worry even though I was perfectly fine. Looking over my missed calls, the majority came from his number.
'I'm sorry. It was hectic here. Couldn't get away- probs won't be able to for a bit. Is everyone okay?'
We continue the conversation over text messages until the shower shuts off and Bindi realizes I'm awake and should get changed once the bathroom is free. I'm careful to appear as uninjured as possible, feeling her scrutinizing gaze on my every move.
But my mind is too preoccupied with what Patrick told me to try too hard. He won't give me details on anything specific but he did admit that someone broke into his room last night during the same time as when it happened to me. I admitted to knowing I was being followed and he chastised me for withholding such information but also confessed to thinking something had been off the past few days.
According to him, Sonny, Sean and Izzy all had the same inkling as us and had break-ins around the same time. Sonny in London with a friend; Sean is abroad in a different part of England studying with some sort of advanced college prep course. Izzy is in Greece visiting her mother's side of the family for the summer; Patrick is currently making his way through France and into Switzerland. Me in Italy on a field trip.
Wrapping my head around the fact that we're all decently spread out around the continent and yet attacked at the same time, the same night doesn't bode well with me. This means a plan was in place- and maybe still is- and there's for sure a group targeting us.
Starting the morning off with a headache. Wonderful.
Magistra and Bindi immediately stop all conversation when I open the bathroom door. Bindi's warm brown eyes stare at me with concern and guilt while Magistra's dark honey color won't meet mine. They were talking about me.
"I'm fine." I want to tell them but why waste my breath?
"How did you sleep?" Magistra asks, her tone uncertain if that's the right thing to ask.
I crack a smile, "as well as one can after such an exciting night." I try to joke; I'm pretty sure Bindi looked green as she turned away.
Today, I've decided, is going to be the longest day of my life.
I'm wrong. I'm always wrong.
Breakfast is an unusual affair involving stares of every kind. People I don't even know from the hotel patrons to staff are openly staring at me. My group is trying to be more sensitive and I have a feeling that there was some kind of meeting before I walked in since the room grew quiet in an instant.
Bumping one of the upperclassmen, my walls down, I can hear Shirley warning them not to make a big deal over what happened last night. It's a sensitive topic at the moment, don't pressure them. Them, obviously referring to me, Maggie and Terry. The upperclassmen looks at me, my neck, back to my face with wide eyes and walks away.
Wonderful. I'm glad they held a debriefing. But, of course, intentionally being coy and dodgy over the subject will just raise more questions over the matter. I'm looking forward to the hours I'll be spending on a bus, trapped with these people.
Whispers follow me as I walk and my list of places I ache grows longer as I add my head. I try to tune them all out. In my mind, I'm going over the story I told the chaperons last night, making sure I remember everything as I told them. I don't want to be in the awkward position of telling the wrong lie. That would get messy.
I eat with the adults. Nibbling at whatever food they put in front of me, none of which seems appealing when my throat is now a muddy red-purple which I have covered with a scarf that Bindi lent me and my ribs are black beneath my shirt. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to swallow. Everything hurts.
But, if anyone asks, "I'm totally fine." I'm a total lair.
During breakfast, Shirley informs me that she'd like me to call my father when we get to one of the rest stops. I tell her that's no problem; he should definitely be awake then.
"Thank you again for letting me be the one to call him." I tell her earnestly and she pats my shoulder. It takes a lot out of me not to cringe away.
Maggie is sitting across from me, docile and empty. I see her looking at the scarf before shoving food around on her plate. She's blaming herself.
Why does everyone always blame themselves?
Next to her, it looks like Terry hadn't slept a wink since the attack, not that I blame her. Her mother looks just as haggard and uneasy. I almost pity them- if you told me yesterday that's what I would think today, I'd call you the lair.
"Maggie dear, would you like to call your parents?" Shirley asks, treading through unknown waters with addressing her.
She snaps to attention, "What?"
Shirley repeats her question in a soft and calm tone, "Since Tru is right on this, it might be better to hear about the attack from you instead of a chaperone. It'll reassure your parents that you're safe."
She takes a second to think and I see behind her Callie is straining to catch my attention from a few tables over. I wave my fingers at her and smile but her gaze goes to my scarf that my hand goes back to absentmindedly tugging at since I put it on. Her face goes white and I understand her concern but I just don't understand why everyone is so worried it. I'm fine. Maggie and Terry are fine. Everyone just needs to calm down and realize that. But, as I look around the room and see everyone staring at us, I know that the hype is more important than the people.
My dad deals with this all the time at work. The people find out about an incident and latch on to everything wrong that occurred but gloss over everything right that happened. He says he normally just ignores what people say. What's in the past is in the past. Nothing will change it.
With that thought, my stomach drops and I miss my dad. I never thought I'd ever say that.
"Yeah, thanks. I'd like that." Maggie whispers, her voice cracks. Her brown eyes are wet and I know that she misses her parents too. Regardless of the grown-up attitude she tries to have, when you're scared, you want your mom to take care of you and your dad to fight off the bad guys.
I look away from the table and the people, focusing on the food I won't eat. How did this trip get to be so complicated? Terry and Maggie are traumatized. The Agency Kids are being attacked and I haven't been able to call them and make sure my best friends are okay. I have a syringe in my bag with an unknown chemical inside. I'm pretty sure that the guy, who attacked us last night, will be following us for the rest of the trip. I need answers and I don't even have the questions to ask.
My head is spinning in circles and I just want to sleep. But that would look bad. And I'm fine. Totally fine.
Being 'fine' is taking a lot out of me.
The first rest stop we hit is three hours outside of the city. I'm the first one off, nearly running to get space. The entire trip so far was a whole lot of awkward silence and avoiding the purple elephant in the room. To get away from that was a breath of fresh air. Literally and figuratively.
My phone is out of my pocket, dialing Patrick's number the moment my feet touched asphalt. He answers on the first ring.
"Tell me everything that happened." We don't greet each other, too worried to care.
"Tell me everyone is safe." I demand of him before I even touch the subject.
"They are. No major injuries, though Iz doesn't feel safe at her family's place anymore. Sean defended himself like we taught him but he says that the campus police don't seem to believe it was just a random robbery. Sonny managed to twist her ankle but she's fine." He reassures me but I'm still not content with this. I need to talk to them too. He takes a deep breath, "Now, you. Explain."
In a flurry of rushed words, I narrate the previous night. I leave out previously meeting my assailant at the airport that first day but I tell him about the syringe. "I knocked it out of his hand and kept it. I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet, but I have it."
"What is their goal?" He ponders aloud, deep in thought. "What do they want from us? A message to our parents or for us?"
I catch myself biting at the dead skin around my nails before I ask him, "What happened to you?" I realize he didn't mention it in the run down at the beginning of our conversation. He doesn't answer for a second and I hear something in German that sounds suspiciously like a call over a loud speaker. Spraining my ears and running over all of the languages I know, I catch something that sounds like 'doctor.' "Are you at a hospital?" I nearly screech at him before I catch myself.
We have another five minutes until I need to be on the bus. From my seat at a picnic table, I see Shirley watching me with intense concentration. She probably heard my outburst and was checking to make sure I wasn't being attacked again. With composure that an actress would be proud of, I put on a sad, forlorn face and mouth, "my dad" to her while pointing at the phone. She nods with understanding and turns away, giving me privacy. I could roll my eyes at her gullibility while trying not to feel like a terrible person for lying flat out to a teacher.
He grows sheepish at my tone, "Ah, um, about that…"
"Patrick… What aren't you telling me?" Fear laces my voice. I don't like where this is going.
AN: And the end of another chapter. Sorry about last week! School is terrible sometimes :'(