"You're auditioning now?" Mish asked.
"Yeah," I answered, out of my funk from the previous day. Being a Healer, though, was still intense information.
"That makes three," Mish muttered, "You, Justin, and Ingrid. I may as well go too." "Justin's auditioning?"
"That's what he told me."
"That's correct," Justin's voice said from behind me. He sat down beside me, squeezing
my hand under the table. I looked over at him, struggling to keep my emotions in check. It didn't matter. We had a task at hand- find any and all information about my past. I looked over at Mish, who was giving me the derpiest grin humanly possible. How are we even friends? Suddenly, Justin went completely pale. He squeezed my hand again, his entire body clenching up.
"What's wrong?" I asked him. He didn't say anything. "Something's wrong... come on, Justin, I'm taking you to the nurse."
I dragged Justin down the hall, though he could barely shuffle along behind me. "Justin, what's wrong?" I asked him again in a panicked whisper.
"I need water," he answered, his voice a bit raspy from dryness. "But there's something
Justin then doubled over in pain, clutching his stomach. Some kind of panic threw me into
overdrive as I pulled Justin to his feet and lugged him down the hall, even with him still clutching his side. The two of us barged into the office, the assistant's eyes snapping up at us.
"He needs the nurse," I explained for Justin. The assistant nodded, pointing us down the hall. I marched Justin into the nurse's office and forced him down onto the cot in there. His eyes squinted in pain.
"I- I'm fine, Leslie," he said, wincing.
"Don't lie to me," I said, leaning against the wall.
"What seems to be the problem?" the nurse asked. Justin looked up at her.
"There's this sharp pain here, on my right," he explained. "I'm also feeling a bit dehydrated." "Now that, I can fix," the nurse said, furrowing her brow and nodding at him. She handed me
a plastic cup before turning back to examine Justin's pains. I filled the cup up from her dingy little sink and set it down on the nightstand next to Justin just as the bell for 5th period rang. "You should get to class," the nurse said without even bothering to look back up at me. I
started to object, my eyes darting up to Justin's. He tilted his head, a sense of security in his expression.
Justin's fine, I thought, though how could that possibly ease my worrying subconscious? I knew I was lying to myself, but regardless, I turned towards the doorway and skulked off to ceramics for another day of making little trinkets that would ultimately get thrown away or broken in the next year or two.
For the rest of the day, my mind was back in that total fuzz. I texted Justin halfway through my 6th period class just to put my mind at ease for a bit.
Me: hey whats going on?
Justin: Nurse couldnt help. im in the hospital Me: What? is everything ok?
Justin: im not ok but i will be dont worry
Don't worry. Don't worry? How could he just tell me he was in the hospital and expect me to not outright panic?
Me: Of course im going to worry!
I typed it out, but deleted it immediately. He didn't need to know that.
The moment the dismissal bell rang, I raced out of the classroom and to the parking lot, where I sat down to call Linda.
"Leslie? What's wrong?, sweetheart?"
"Justin's in the hospital. I need you to take me up there."
"Oh no, what happened?"
"I don't know!"
"Well...I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I can't just up and leave work."
"But it's an emergency! I- nevermind, I'll figure it out."
The line clicked dead and I ran a hand through my flaming hair.
C'mon, Leslie, think.
And an idea hit me. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and ran off to the Performing Arts
Center. Much to my surprise, and seemingly, everyone's surprise, Jane was on stage, belting some random showtune when I crept up next to Craig.
"Craig, you drive, right? I need you to do me a favor," I whispered to him as to not distract my sister. I knew she looked confident, but she must have been shaking in her baby seal leather- skin boots.
"What?" Craig hissed back.
"I need you to give me a ride up to the hospital."
"You're the one who told me to come to these stupid auditions, and now you're dragging me
out? No way!"
"Why does nobody understand this is an emergency?! We can do this the easy way or the
hard way, but you're driving me to the hospital!"
"Forget it, the hospital's at least an hour away."
"I didn't want to play this card, but if you don't get your ass in gear, I swear to God, I'll tell
"Shh!" Craig snipped in haste. "Fine, let's go. I can't sing for shit anyways."
Craig and I traipsed out of the auditorium just as Jane finished off her song.
"Leslie, wait, where're you-"
"You were great, Jane, but I have to go."
"Yes- er, no, he just offered me a ride."
I could just see the wheels turning in her head, processing the fact that her former bully had
not only shown up to audition for a musical, of all things, but that he would go out of his way to do something kind or helpful for either one of us.
"Do you want a ride too?" Craig asked with hesitation. Jane's eyes brightened a shade. Somehow my blundering attempts at matchmaking were working.
I sat in the back, enduring the torture that was awkward, bungled-attempts-at-flirting small- talk. It's one thing when you're a part of the conversation, being nervous and constantly trying to think of what to say next, but it's completely unbearable beig a third party and having to listen to that. I almost felt bad leaving Jane alone with an emotionally-stunted and hormone-riddled confused teenage boy, but I had other matters to attend to. I took a breath at the hospital's reception desk. "Visiting?" The secretary asked.
"Yes, I'm looking for Justin Alder?"
She tapped something into the computer and then looked back up at me. "Room 394, that way."
I thanked her and headed down the hallway, finding the door marked 394 before too long, and slipping inside. Justin was asleep, and I slumped into the chair in the corner.
May as well do some research.
I flipped my phone open and accessed the web browser, typing into the Google bar, 'Halpert Medical Institution'. Immediately, news articles popped up, but one segment stuck out to me.
Megan Halpert and Oliver Thatcher, the two leaders seen here, helped seven other kids escape. The details of experimentation are yet unknown- seven? That's...a lot.
The picture struck an odd familiarity with me. Two kids who looked about my age- when the picture was taken 5 years ago. This dorky, lanky blonde guy with glasses, I guess Oliver, was kissing who I assumed was Megan on the cheek. They seemed familiar to me.
Why can't I remember?!
I slid my phone back into my pocket, unsure if I really wanted to continue investigating this. My eyes panned upwards, noticing Justin stir. His eyes began to open. Before I even realized it, my legs were moving instinctively. I wrapped my arms around him, feeling his warmth again.
"Hi there," he said in surprise.
"You're awake," I muttered, backing up from the bed. Something clicked in my mind. As quickly as it came, my relief was gone, replaced with anger. "You ASS! You COMPLETE and TOTAL SHITHEAD! Don't ever scare me like that again."
Justin gave a chuckle. "That worried, huh?" "Screw you, I wasn't worried...maybe a little." "I told you not to worry. I'm okay."
"It was appendicitis. They did a quick operation, let me rest..." He snaked his arms around me from behind. "I'm fine, I just have to stay here tonight."
I kept my back to him.
"Leslie, listen, I'll be home tomorrow. But we need to start doing our research."
"You're right. I need to know why Jane and I forgot."