Chapter 9: The Fourth Guardian, part 1

Liza rushed to school as fast as she could. She couldn't believe she had forgot to set her alarm. She woke up fifteen minutes later than usual, has to rush to get ready, missed her bus, and had to run halfway to school. She was out of breath and in fear of her perfect attendance record being in jeopardy. She had been pondering about what Sybil said all night and fell asleep on it. Liza wanted to find the other two guardians soon and but she didn't know when it would be, maybe a week, a month, or longer. There was no telling when.

Liza jogged up the stairway just as the last bell rang. Maybe her attendance record wouldn't be at risk after all. She still had less than a minute to get to first period and luckily it was on the first floor. Liza slowed down to a quick pace as she walked past the lockers. She wasn't really paying attention and suddenly hit something hard yet soft at the same time. Liza fell down, dropping her book bag, and rubbed her left shoulder where it had taken most of the impact. She looked up and saw Annie Wayne, sitting across from her, picking up books. Annie was a sophomore and an honor student, like Liza. She was often seen holding books.

"Oh, I'm sorry, " Liza said as she helped the girl up. "I should have paid attention to where I was going."

Annie looked up at her and smiled. "It's fine; I wasn't really looking straight myself."

Liza suddenly felt a shiver down her spine and her chest tighten. She could have sworn a strange light surrounded Annie. 'Could it be…?' She thought.

"You should get to class, you'll be late," Annie said. "I'd better hurry, too. Bye." With that she walked off.

Liza watched her go with awe. Sybil said she'd know when another guardian would come along. Could Annie really be one of them? Who was she the reincarnation of? What was her element? Liza was so caught up in her thoughts she forgot about class and hurried off. So much for her perfect attendance.

"Are you okay, Liza?" Claire asked Liza at lunch. She looked at her best friend with a concerned expression. "You seem a little distracted."

"Well, I'm still thinking about what Sybil said," Liza said. "And there's something else; I think I know who the fourth guardian is."

"You do? Who?" Claire asked. Julie was also with them and she looked up with an interested expression.

"Annie Wayne," Liza said.

"Thatlittle shrimp?" Julie asked in disbelief. "Are you serious?"

Liza nodded. "Yeah, I bumped into her this morning, and I got a shiver down my spine and my chest tightened. And I could have sworn there was a strange light around her."

Claire's eye's widened. "I saw her in the hall yesterday and the same thing happened to me. I thought it was just something I ate. "

"C'mon, how can she be a guardian?" Julie still wasn't convinced. "I mean, what can she do? Hit a demon with one of her books?"

"If she is a guardian, then she has powers like the rest of us," said Liza.

"So what do you think we should do?" Claire asked.

"I think we should try to get her to hang out with us," Liza said. "If she is one of us, then we should get her to like us so she'll be part of our team easier."

"It's your call," said Claire.

"I still don't think she can be a guardian," said Julie.

Liza made her way to the school library. She had often seen Annie reading during free period and figured it was likely where the girl would be. Liza scanned through the aisle of books and saw Annie sitting at one of the tables with her nose in a book. Liza saw clearly that a light like the one before was surrounding the girl. She was becoming even more certain that Annie was a guardian because she had looked at other girls all day and the same thing didn't happen. Liza took a deep breath and walked over to Annie's table.

"Hi, Annie," she smiled. The other girl said nothing.

Liza frowned and leaned over to squeeze the girl lightly on the shoulder.

"Annie?" She said.

"Hm?" Annie finally looked up from her book and her eyes widened. "Oh, hi".

"I said hi a second ago," Liza said. "It didn't seem like you heard me."

"Sorry, I have the tendency to block people out when I read," Annie said sheepishly.

"Can I sit with you?" Liza said. Annie looked at her quizzically.

"Yeah, sure," she said.

"What are you reading?" Liza asked as she took the seat across from the other girl.

"Napoleon," said Annie.

"Is it any good?" Liza asked. Annie shrugged.

"It's alright; I've read more interesting books," she said.

"Cool, so I was wondering if you wanted to hang out with me, Claire, and Julie after school," said Liza.

Annie looked surprised. "Me? Well…I-I don't know, I mean I usually just stay at home. Why are you asking me? It this is about that bump earlier, you don't have to do anything to-".

"No, no," Liza shook her head. "It has nothing to do with that. It's…a little hard to explain but I've often seen you alone and quiet, and I think you're nice so I thought I'd invite you."

"Well, I appreciate the invitation, but…I don't really hang out with girls my age a lot," Annie said.

"Which is why I think you should come," Liza said. "Your only friends seemed to be books, and I think it'd be good for you to hang out with real friends."

Annie said nothing and so Liza decided it was best not to force her.

"Just think about it," she got up from her seat. "If you want to come, the three of us will be waiting outside the school after class."

Liza smiled and left Annie where she was. She really hoped Annie would come.

School ended and Liza waited outside with Claire and Julie for Annie.

"Do you think she'll come?" Claire asked.

"I hope so," Liza said.

"And what if she doesn't?" Julie asked.

"Then…I don't know; I'll try to talking to her again," said Liza.

"What if we're wrong about her?" Julie asked. "What if she isn't a guardian?"
"Well, then at least she'll know what it feels like to have friends," Claire said.

"Yeah," Liza nodded in agreement.

Annie came out the door behind a trio of boys who were making faces at her. She looked like she was about to cry.

"Hey, knock it off and leave her alone," Liza told the boys. They scoffed at her and ran off.

Liza walked over to Annie. "Are you okay?" She asked as she put a hand on the other girl's shoulder.

Annie nodded. "Those boys can be so mean sometimes. They tease me about being smart."

"Well, maybe if you weren't such a bookworm," Julie mumbled under her breath. Claire nudged her with her elbow.

"So…where are we going?" Annie asked.

Liza smiled. "I take it that means you're coming. We thought we'd get some ice cream and then maybe hang out on the beach? Sound good?"

Annie nodded; the three girls followed Julie to her truck, and Claire and Liza sat up front with Julie while Annie sat in the back. She was awfully quiet during the ride and looked at Julie timidly.

"I think you're intimidating her," Claire whispered to Julie.

"What can I say? She's scared of me, she's scared of everyone," Julie whispered back.

"Let's just try to be as friendly as possible," Liza whispered. "We want her to warm up to us so let's not scare her, okay?"

"Whatever," Julie said.

They reached their destination, a popular ice cream shop where people could sit down and eat. The four girls walked in and sat down at table with high chairs.

"So…Annie, what kind of ice do you like?" Claire asked.

"French Vanilla, though I do like orange sherbet if I'm in the mood," Annie said.

"I like sherbet, too," Liza said. "But raspberry is my favorite."

The girls ordered their ice cream and sat talking to each other about school, boys, and events happening in and outside of school. Annie contributed to the conversation, although just slightly, and the three other girls found things to talk about from what Annie mentioned. Eventually Annie was smiling and seemed to be enjoying herself. She even relaxed a little more around Julie.

"So, Annie, do you like hanging out with other girls so far?" Liza asked as they walked out of the ice cream shop.

Annie nodded. "I love to read in my spare time, but it's nice to get to talk with other girls and share thoughts."

Liza smiled. "I'm glad you think so, because…I know I said we thought we'd go to the beach but in truth, there's another place we'd like to take you."

"Really? What kind of place?" Annie asked.

Liza looked at Claire and Julie. They knew she meant that she wanted to take Annie to see Sybil and see if she really was a guardian.

"It's a...very special place, one which only the three of us know about," Liza told Annie. "We only found out about it a short while ago and…well…let's just say there's been a big change for us since then and I think there might be a change for you, too."

Annie's brow wrinkled. "I don't really understand."
Liza smiled. "Come with us and you will."