Four Years Ago

The gray light of the forest holds too many goodbyes. Goodbyes said with the promise that they aren't goodbyes at all. A nervous girl looks up into the eyes of her parents, wishing she could believe that. They've tried to assure her all morning not to worry—the transfer should be straightforward. They'll all be together in Endelor in less than an hour. But she can see the fear their eyes, hear the heaviness in their words. And she can sense a final, urgent farewell lingering beneath their conversation. Yet none of them wants to acknowledge it.

None of them are willing to admit this could be the end.

"I love you my pretistra. See you soon." Her mother kisses her softly on the cheek. Her father pulls her in for one last hug. He squeezes her hand before he lets go, then walks through the long green grass of the port, flashing an uneasy smile over his shoulder.

The girl looks anxiously around the port, feeling guilty that everyone here may soon be in danger because of her. Three girls her same age stand at the edge of the port dressed in her exact clothes, wearing long, black wavy wigs that mimic her hair. Various Evren flutter through the trees, making last minute adjustments, pairing the decoy girls with their guards. One of the decoys crosses the port to stand with the girl's parents, making her cringe. Her parents, along with the decoy, will be the first group to transfer.

They are the bait group.

"Psst!" A voice calls from a tree behind her.

The sound makes her jump, breaking her dark thoughts. She turns to see where it came from.

"What are you doing here?" she hisses at the blonde boy hiding behind the tree.

"I followed my parents. They're your guards during the transfer. Come here, hurry."

The girl looks around to make sure no one is watching, then disappears into the trees.

"I wanted to apologize for yesterday," the boy says, taking her hand, holding it firmly in his own. "I need to say goodbye again, without yelling this time. I'm sorry I've been so angry lately. I just don't have a good feeling about the transfer. I'm worried I won't see you again. And I can't…I can't lose you."

The girl bites down on her lip. "You won't…everyone's been planning this for months. It will be fine." She paints on a smile that refuses to touch her eyes. "You should be excited. It's going to be just like we always hoped. Now that we're thirteen, we'll start at the Academy in a couple weeks and train together every day, without having to hide."

"Yes, but that's if you make it to Endelor."

"I will, I promise."

The boy reaches into his pocket.

"Just in case the transfer doesn't go…as planned, I want you to have this."

The boy slips a gift into the girl's hand.

"You can't be serious. It's too much, I can't take it."

"Yes you can, I want you to have it. I want to be able to talk to you, no matter what."

The boy stares at the girl intently, his eyes desperate, silently communicating the words he can't seem to find. She swallows hard, fighting the angry tears that prickle, threatening to spill. If this transfer does go wrong, she will lose more than her parents—she will lose her only friend too. The thought of not seeing him, not laughing with him, not training with him, leaves her breathless. She can't bear to give him up.

The boy pulls the girl into him, squeezing her tightly. She rests her chin on his shoulder and the memory of the first time she met him flashes through her mind. He has been on her side, against all odds, even before he knew her name. He's as true a friend as they come.

He sneaks a kiss on her cheek before darting into the trees.

"I'll see you in Endelor!"

She stands shocked, touching the tingling spot where the boy's lips brushed her skin. Warm blood rushes to her cheeks, the flush of red shining prominently against the pale gray light surrounding her.

A deep voice calls from the front of the port, "It's time!"

The girl rushes back to the clearing and stands with her guards. She looks up into the kind faces of the boy's parents. I will see everyone in Endelor in less than an hour, she chants to herself. Her guards each take her by the hand and lead her to the front of the port directly behind her parents and the decoy.

The girl's stomach sinks in dread as she watches them disappear, slipping into the void between ports. It is widely anticipated that there will be an attack, an attempt to kidnap her, during the transfer…and now her parents, and the girl she doesn't know, are about to learn if it's true.

"You'll see your parents soon," the boy's mother whispers in her ear.

It's her turn.


Sketches and Eyes

I sit at the top of a hill, looking down over the school grounds. I slip my fingers through the velvet grass beneath me, grateful for the quiet, the stillness of the moment. I've been trying to remember my dream from this morning—which is pointless for me to do, since I can never remember my dreams—but I can't stop myself from trying anyway. There was something in this dream that was new, different, and I need to figure out what it was. Because my dream was not just any dream—it was a memory. A memory I'm desperate for.

Because I would give anything to remember.

I tug on the grass, pulling the blades free from the ground. They rest in my palm, fluttering in the wind. I notice how delicate they are, how easily they can be torn from their home. A burst of wind picks them up from my hand and they scatter, dancing off into the distance. I can't help but think of my mind as the same, memories plucked clean and tossed away, leaving behind a lost girl with no idea who she is or where she came from.

My bracelet chirps at me, making me jump. I look down at the wretched titanium thing with disgust. My free period is almost over. It chirps a second time. I can't bear to hear it chirp a third time, so I push in the small button on the bracelet that disables the alert and shut the thing up.

Normally I try not to notice the heavy bracelet constantly pressing down on my left wrist, but in moments when I'm forced to acknowledge it, my suffocated skin itches, begging for freedom. I move my bracelet around as much as I can and scratch the sweaty skin beneath, but it's not enough. I need it off, even for a few minutes. I look around to make sure no one is close by, and slip my fingers beneath the cold metal.

I close my eyes and pull on the bracelet, searching for the spark inside me. The metal gives way under my control, stretching until I can slide my wrist free. I have no idea how or why I can stretch my titanium bracelet to twice its normal size, but I'm not complaining—all the others girls are forced to wear theirs night and day. It scared me the first time I did it, I don't even know what made me try, but now six months later, it's just a normal part of me—something that comes as naturally as breathing. I drop the bracelet into the grass and sigh with relief.

The wind whips again, tossing the tendrils of my hair around me. I reach up to tame my mass of long, black, wavy hair, pulling it back down, in place. I always keep it that way. I have to. It hides one of the secrets I don't understand about myself. But I want to look at that secret now.

The pond is a few feet away. I scoot toward it and sit at its edge. I pull my hair to the side, and turn to look at the reflection of the back of my neck in the water. At the base of my skull, a silver marking of three triangular points, shaped like the lower half of a six-sided star, glistens against the pale skin of my neck. Whenever I have dreams of my past, it lightly glows. Sure enough, small silver rays of light rise from the marking. The glowing silver looks molten, with specks of diamond swimming in the heat.

I let my hair fall back down and run my fingers through it, staring at my reflection rippling in the water. At the moment my eyes are the same dull gray as the gloomy day surrounding me. My eyes are actually blue, but only when I'm happy. I don't think anyone but Anna has ever seen my eyes blue; at least no one that I know. Maybe someone from my forgotten childhood knew my eyes were blue, but even if they knew or cared then, it doesn't matter, because they don't care now. I touch my finger to the surface of the water, erasing my reflection—just as I was erased four years ago.

I back away from the edge of the pond and pull my sketchbook out of my backpack, flipping through it until I find a fresh page. I may not remember my dreams, but sometimes I get flashes, pictures from my dreams that I'm sure are memories from my childhood. They are the only bits of proof I have that there was something before. I sketch the pictures whenever I can, hoping they might prick my memory into action, but usually they only leave me more confused. I close my eyes, my pencil pressed to the paper, waiting for something to spark.

The rush of wind fills my ears. Its sound tugs at the back of mind—reminding me of something. I open my eyes and begin to draw, hoping I can capture whatever that something is. I could spend all my time like this, doing something I love, lost in the search of my past, with no worries of the present. I lose myself in the sketch, unaware of anything but the sound of the pencil scraping across the page and the picture slowly shaping itself before me.

"They're here!" a high-pitched squeal shouts, breaking me from my daze. I turn to look behind me. Several girls are clustered outside the main entrance of the school jumping up and down as a fleet of limousines parks in front of the school. Boys spill from the limousines in black tuxes with red eye masks in their hands.

Ugh, how could I forget? The Commencement Ball. The spoiled, rich girls who belong in this school have been blathering about it for weeks now. The Commencement Ball is the pride and joy of Praesidia Luxus Institute. The school throws a lavish ball, complete with theme and designated dance attire every September. I've never been allowed to go. Not that I care. I wouldn't know how to talk to a boy, let alone dance with one.

I turn back to my sketchbook, trying to ignore the giggling girls behind me. After a few more minutes of sketching, I stare down at picture, confused. It looks like I drew the inside of a tornado or something. Water, rocks, and even trees fly through the air, and I'm in the middle of the storm, a few years younger than I am now, running. The picture sends shivers through me. Is this something that actually happened to me? Or is it just a dream? As usual, I'm left with more questions than answers. I slam the sketchbook shut and toss it onto my backpack.

"Alevia Knight?" a brusque voice says from above me. I jump in shock, and fold my arms, hiding my naked wrist. Ms. Connolly, the dean's secretary, stands a few feet away. "Ms. McAllister needs to speak to you immediately. Follow me."

Great. What does she want? Ms. Connolly snaps at me to hurry. I pick my bracelet up from the grass as soon as her back is turned and slip it back on, pressing it until it shrinks back to fit my wrist. I shove my sketchbook into my backpack and stand up, following her large, waddling rear into the school.

I feel claustrophobic as I walk through the hallways. Not because of crowding—but because I know every step I take is being tracked by the security team. The bracelet on my wrist feels heavy again, and I try not to dwell on the fact that the wooden arches in the ceiling have sensors that track my every move.

The elaborate security system surrounding me makes me wonder, yet again, how someone so glaringly out of place as myself, came to be at Praesidia Luxus Institute. This very exclusive, very expensive, and heavily-secured private school for girls houses the daughters of wealthy business men, politicians, celebrities, and any other high-profile rich parent who fears their daughter could be kidnapped and used for ransom.

The girls I pass in the hallways carry themselves in a way that leaves no doubt—they are entitled and extraordinarily wealthy. A sharp contrast to me. All I've ever known is solitude. I'm a husk of a girl, incomplete in every way.

My pulse accelerates as I walk into the office. There is no way this little exchange will be remotely pleasant. Ms. McAllister sits proudly at her desk, her eyes narrowed in dislike. Her watchful eyes follow me as I cross the room and take my seat. She reaches her hand under her desk and a loud click reverberates off the walls. I stiffen at the sound. She just turned off the cameras in her office.

"Now then, to business. Tonight is a very busy night for me, so I will have your full cooperation. The Commencement Ball is a logistical nightmare each year and therefore requires my full attention. But today also happens to be September thirteenth, which is the happy anniversary of your arrival at Praesidia Luxus Institute. Therefore, we will have the opening tonight as well."

Each year on the anniversary of my arrival to the school I am required to open a sealed box that contains my tuition—plus a generous bonus—for that school year. Ms. McAllister has nicknamed this tradition 'the opening.' I suppose she thinks it sounds impressive or dramatic or whatever. I despise the whole thing.

First, it means I have to spend time with Ms. McAllister, and second, it's a reminder that my only connection to the outside world is a collection of boxes. Whoever dumped me in this school four years ago wanted to make sure that the administration couldn't take my five years-worth of tuition in full then expel me. So each box has a timing mechanism and personal identification system that requires my fingerprint and retinal scan at precisely 11:59 p.m. every September thirteenth in order to open. This allows me to stay safely tucked away until I'm eighteen. Lucky me.

"In order for the opening to occur on the same night as the ball, the security team has had to make some adjustments to the student tracking program," Ms. McAllister continues, not noticing my faltering attention. "They have unfortunately run into a problem that has now become my problem. When they made the adjustment for you to be allowed out of your room at midnight for the opening, the program automatically grouped you in with the rest of the students attending the Commencement Ball, who will also be out at midnight. I pressed them earnestly to find a way around this, but they have assured me the system will not budge. Therefore, I am forced to allow you to attend the ball." She hisses the last few words as if being forced to allow me to go to the Commencement Ball is the low point in her career at Praesidia Luxus Institute.

"What do you have to say for yourself?" she asks impatiently.

"I don't have anything to wear," I blurt out, just realizing that the ball has some sort of theme that requires specific dress styles and colors. I can tell by the look on Ms. McAllister's face that that wasn't the answer she was looking for. Tears of joy and gratitude seem to be more along the line of her expectation. Since I feel neither, I give a quick "Thank you" with as much sweetness as I can muster.

"Now listen to me, and listen well," Ms. McAllister hisses. "If I have so much as a whisper of a problem from you at the ball or the opening, I promise you, you will be sorry indeed. I will make it my mission to punish you so thoroughly you will wish, almost as much as I do, that you never stepped foot into this school."

I don't tell her I've wished that every day for the last four years.

Ms. McAllister unconsciously twists a diamond ring on her right hand as she speaks. A ring she stole from me four years ago as payment for all her 'additional services.' I'm suddenly livid at seeing it on her finger. Not just because it's valuable, but because it's mine. I have so little to know myself by, and I hate seeing a piece of my unknown past attached to this wretched woman's finger.

"I'm not going to cause any problems," I hiss, venom in my voice.

"Don't you use that tone with me! How dare you speak to me disrespectfully after all the trouble you've caused. I should have thrown you out onto the street years ago! What is this school benefitting from keeping trash like you around?"

Heat rises in my face. I clench my jaw and grip my knees tightly, my fingernails digging in hard.

"What have you benefitted from me? That's a nice ring you have on your finger."

"Excuse me?"

I look directly into her eyes and stare with pure hatred. Ms. McAllister rises from her chair. I keep my eyes trained on her as she slowly walks toward me, a cruel smile on her lips. I feel a sudden burst of pain as she wrenches her hand into the roots of my hair and yanks my head back.

"Look at you sit here so proud and defiant," she whispers, inches from my face. "You think yourself the victim, don't you? Poor Alevia, the forgotten orphan…no one understands…. Pity. But I do understand. You see, I know there is something wrong with you. I know there is something so abnormal about you that even your parents didn't want you. Why else would they have had that woman leave you here with no contact from anyone since? They were ashamed of you."

I sit rigid and stare back hard. I don't react to her, though what she says hits me in my core. I won't let Ms. McAllister see that she has confirmed my biggest fear. I know I'm not normal. I'm sure my parents were well aware of that fact, and they obviously were ashamed. I am so unwanted they have paid a fortune to keep me here unnoticed and out of their lives.

"You have such freakish eyes," Ms. McAllister continues, her foul breath in my face. "You look like a demon with your translucent eyes. Anna may have tried to cover your perverse abnormalities, but I am not so easily fooled. Don't worry though, I don't plan to keep you around for long. I am done letting your filth darken this school. After the opening tonight, I am bringing in experts to open the rest of your boxes. And once they are open and I have the money in my hands, you will be out of this school so fast your head will spin. Now get out!"

Ms. McAllister releases her hand from my hair with another harsh pull. Anger boils inside me, sending jolts of electricity through my veins. I knock her hand away. Another shock amplifies the action, sending her flying across the room. She crashes into the wall behind the desk, and slumps to the ground, dazed.

She shakes her head, and her eyes find mine. They are wide with fear and condemnation, and confirm what both of us know, but don't understand.

There is definitely something not normal about me.

I just wish I knew what it was.

I'm rooted to the floor, still in shock at what I've done. Ms. McAllister slowly stands up, her eyes trained on me. She walks to her desk and picks up the phone.

"I need two security officers, now," she hisses.

I bolt out the door. Ms. McAllister yells something, I don't hear it. I pick up my pace. I know I'll be tracked down by security any second, but I need to get away and calm down. I don't know how my body will react to being manhandled by two men at the moment—I can't have another accident.

I rush through the school, down the hallway that leads out to the courtyard. I push the heavy doors open, relieved they are unlocked, and step outside. I close my eyes, and take a deep breath, trying to slow my pounding heart.

I open my eyes. A flicker of movement rustles the large tree in the center of the courtyard, catching my attention. The blur was so fast I'm not sure if I actually saw it or if it was my imagination. An electronic buzzing sounds through the courtyard. I look up, the four security cameras mounted along the walls begin to smoke. Seconds later they sag limply on their stands.

What on earth?

Another flash of movement rustles the tree. I turn toward it and freeze. A boy stands next to the tree, staring at me as if he can't believe what he's seeing. I stare back at him, stunned. He doesn't look like the other boys who just arrived. Who is he and what is he doing out here?

We continue to gape at one another and my cheeks flush in embarrassment. I know it's rude to stare like I am, but I can't help myself. Something is itching at the back of my mind and I can't focus on anything else. The air around me charges, it feels like lightning is about to strike. My scalp prickles and the strangest sensation whirls in my stomach…like I'm falling down a flight of stairs.

Then it hits me—I feel like I recognize this boy from somewhere. But there's no way. It's impossible. I've never met a boy before. I'm suddenly struck by how unbelievably handsome he is and it only makes me flush more. He's tall, muscular, and wears a navy-blue uniform similar to a police officer's, except there's no vest or writing or badges of any kind on it. He has a halo of golden blonde hair, short and ruffled as if he just removed a hat. But what holds me—and keeps me staring—are his eyes.

I know those eyes.


Confused and Wanted

I swallow hard, caught in his spell. The boy's bright green eyes continue to stare at me, shining like emeralds, piercing, unyielding, and I swear they can see right through me. He blinks rapidly, but seems to come to his senses. He cautiously steps toward me. The charge in the air strengthens, I can almost hear it crackle with electricity.

"How..?" he asks.

Finally I find my nerve and my voice.

"Who are you?" My voice is timid and quiet. Having never spoken to a boy before, I find it completely intimidating. His eyes light up in amusement. He flashes me a dazzling smile of perfectly straight, white teeth. A deep chuckle resonates in his throat.

"You don't know me?" He has a deep, velvety voice with a lilting British accent. I melt a little. A waft of his scent fans around me, sending delicious shivers down my spine. It's a woodsy, clean scent that smells familiar. And I have no idea why.

"I…I don't know. Should I know you?" I'm so confused.

"No, you shouldn't know me. What's your name?"


"That's a beautiful name. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl. Do you go to school here, Alevia?" He draws out my name, knowingly, playfully.


"How long have you been at this school?"

"Four years."

"I see." He smiles that knowing smile again. "And before that, where did you go to school?"

I flush at his question. It's one that I, of course, don't have the answer to.

"What's your name?" I don't intend for it to sound sharp, but it does.

"Kendrick Evers." He closes the gap of the last few feet between us and offers his hand for me to shake. I stare at it tentatively, nervous to touch a boy for the first time. He sees my hesitation and bites down on his lip, trying harder to suppress his smile.

I exhale loudly and reach out to shake his hand, not wanting to be a coward. Our hands lock and a jolt of electricity sparks between us. I start in shock and the marking on the back of my neck tingles. Something flashes briefly through my mind, but is gone just as quickly. Kendrick's eyes light with surprise, I'm sure he felt it too. I hastily pull my hand away and fold my arms protectively around myself.

"Are you not going to answer my question?" he asks.


"Why not?"

"Because it's none of your business." Why does he care anyway? Is that a normal question to pester a stranger about, 'Where did you go to school before?'

"I can't argue there." I see a glint of humor in his eyes again. "I was wondering if you might help me with something."

"Maybe…what do you need help with?"

"I was wondering if there was a staff member by the name of Anna who works here?"

What could he possibly want with Anna? "She's the school nurse. Do you know her?"

"She's an old family friend. Do you know if she's available for visitors? I'd love to catch up with her if possible."

"I'm not sure. You'd have to check in with the security staff before you could see her."

"And what if I don't want to check in with the security staff? Would you be willing to fetch her for me?"

Fetch her?

"I don't think it would work. I'm already out of my designated area. I'm sure someone from security will be here any minute to escort me back."

"Is there any way I can convince you, Darling? It's very important."

Did he just call me darling? With his British accent, it sounds like dahling—and so oddly familiar.

"Never mind, I can see it won't work," Kendrick says hastily. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Alevia. I do hope we see each other again soon." He winks at me and gives me another heart-stopping smile.

The doors of the courtyard burst open behind me, making me jump. Several members of the security team file out. I expect them to charge after Kendrick, but when I turn back to look at him, he's gone.

Two of the security officers roam the courtyard, pointing up at the broken cameras. Another walks toward me angrily.

Here we go.

"What are you doing out here alone? And what did you do to the cameras?" he barks at me.

"Nothing! All I did was come outside. They just started smoking."

"Out of the blue?" he says sarcastically.

"Yes, out of the blue. If you think I did something to them, why don't you look at the footage? All you'll see is me walking outside."

But you won't see my conversation with Kendrick, I realize. The cameras were already destroyed. Was it a coincidence? Somehow I don't think so.

The doors open again, and this time, I sigh in relief. Anna is here. If there is anyone in the school who will help me, it's Anna. She was one of the nurses that cared for me after I woke up in the school hospital with no memory, and she has covered for me on more than one occasion, to help me keep the marking on the back of my neck, among other things, secret.

The security guards stop what they're doing, stunned momentarily, as they always are when Anna is around. She's absolutely gorgeous even in her red scrubs and ponytail. With her perfect mocha skin, bright green eyes, and shimmering long, straight black hair, she makes every model I've ever seen look plain.

The security guard closest to me coughs loudly. The other security guards break from their daze and get back to investigating the cameras. Anna brushes past him to stand in front of me, blocking his way. She looks agitated—which is odd, I don't think I've ever seen her be anything but calm and kind.

"I've been looking for you, what are you doing out here?" she asks, ignoring the security officer's protests.

"I'm not sure myself," I mutter. "I need to talk to you."

"Happy coincidence, then. Let's head to my office."

"Anna," the security officer says sharply, "Alevia is to report immediately to Ms. McAllister's office."

Anna slowly turns to face him, smiling sweetly. "I will escort her."

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that."

Her eyes flash angrily. The security guard swallows hard and takes a step backward. Anna wraps her hand around my upper arm holding me still. The other officers join the standoff, looking back and forth at each other, unsure how to handle the situation.

Anna reaches the hand not clasped around my arm up to her chin and taps it in contemplation.

"What are we going to do about this?" she asks lightly.

A loud hiss sounds from inside the school. Water bursts from the sprinklers in the ceiling. A second later the fire alarm goes off. Students pour out of classrooms, screaming, and the security officers dash back inside the school. We follow, and Anna and I are soon lost in a sea of panicked girls.

"Shouldn't we go back outside? There's a fire!" I shout at Anna through the chaos.

"No, there's not. Follow me!"

"How do you know there's not a fire?"

She doesn't answer, she just motions for me to follow her again. We walk through the deluge of water to Anna's office. She unlocks the door, and I'm expecting more water as we step inside, but her office is miraculously dry. Anna tosses me a hand towel, and I run it over my face, flopping down on the couch.

"Are you sure it's safe to be inside right now?"

"I told you, there is no fire."

"Yes, you mentioned that, but you didn't tell me how you know there's no fire."

Anna rolls her eyes, and waves away my question. She grabs a towel for herself and dries her hair as she peers out the window, smiling at the commotion outside. She turns back to me.

"I want you to forget all of that outside. You said you needed to talk to me about something."

"Oh, yeah." I almost forgot about Kendrick in all the bedlam. "Something weird happened right before you came out into the courtyard. I saw a boy."

Anna clucks her tongue dismissively as if she's disappointed. "There are a lot of boys here today. The Commencement Ball, remember?"

"That's what I thought at first, but I don't think that's the reason he was here. He knew you. He was asking for you."

The blood drains from Anna's face, she looks pale beneath her rich skin. "A boy asked for me, specifically? What did he say?"

"He said you were an old family friend. His name was Kendrick."

"Oh my," Anna whispers.

"Do you know him?"

"Yes, though I haven't seen him in years. He was a boy the last time I saw him."

"Who is he?"

"I was right…."

"Right about what? Anna, who is he?"

"This is the best news I've had in four years. I have to go, Alevia. I have to find Kendrick. I want you to stay here in my office, do you understand? No leaving for any reason."

Anna rushes out of her office, slamming the door behind her. I sit bewildered at what just happened, my mouth hanging open in shock. I gape out the window, hoping to see Anna pass by on her way to the courtyard.

What is going on? And just who is Kendrick Evers?

I pace back and forth in the small office, my mind reeling. A half hour passes and I turn on the TV, trying to distract myself. A headline flashes at the bottom of a news report while a female anchor feeds the latest update.

'Officials have not yet confirmed how many tourists have gone missing, but they estimate it to be somewhere around a hundred. It will be several days to a week before they will release the final number. What we do know at this time is that two tour buses seemingly vanished while en route to Mount Rushmore. Some mechanical debris from the buses was found on the highway, along with swerving lines of skid marks, but the busses and all their passengers are nowhere to be found. This is the second large-scale disappearance on U.S. soil in the last six months.'

The news is depressing. I switch it off and pace the office. After another half hour, finally, the door bursts open and Anna rushes inside, alone.

"What's going on?" I blurt out.

"I wish I knew exactly. Damn, where is he?" she growls.

"I take it you didn't find him." I stare at Anna, waiting for a response.

"Back to plan A I guess," she mutters to herself.

"Anna, who is Kendrick and what's going on? You're worrying me."

"What's going on, is there is someone close by who's not supposed to be here." She bites her lip, pausing as if she doesn't want to continue. "Which means…you're in danger."

I stare at her in disbelief.

"What? That doesn't make any sense. How on earth could I be in danger? I live in the most heavily-secured school money can buy, and if you haven't noticed, I barely exist. So how could I be in danger?"

"Oh, Alevia, you very much exist, and though you don't realize it, there are many outside this school who do. And they want you. Badly."