Chapter 2

The formerly quiet room was abruptly thrown into chaos, Clover's carefully constructed facade of peace shattered, blown to bits, and now those bits were frantically asking questions. Clover was kneeling next to the girl whose name she couldn't quite remember, and who was currently hyperventilating; she may have had no memories, but Clover was fairly certain she had never, in her life, been so lost in what to do in a situation as she was at the moment.

The girl was shaking now, and Clover was trying to conceal her uneasiness looking about for help and stroking the girl's hair. Topher was saying something to someone, probably one of the dozens of frazzled kids, Clover figured, but then a warm voice was saying "Move," and she was getting pushed out of the way by a boy who she had certainly not seen among the group of kids she had greeted before.

She was fairly positive she would've remembered this boy's name. Tall, fair skinned, muscled, and beautiful, he was by far the most aesthetically pleasing of the group, which probably meant he was an asshole. But hey, she thought, if I haven't seen my face yet, maybe he doesn't know what he looks like. At once, she was consoled and thoroughly horrified; for some reason, not knowing what her own face looked like felt deeply wrong to her, like she currently knew less about herself than everyone who had met her that day did. She knew that this probably wasn't true, but the thought still felt like an itch, persistent and bothersome.

Hot Boy, meanwhile, was leaning over the girl on the floor, his hands on her shoulders, speaking to her in quiet tones more calming than the rustle of trees in autumn. Her tear streaked face was turned toward him, and her breath was slowly steadying, though he didn't stop talking until she was standing again. She was flushed, clearly embarrassed to be surrounded by so many people while she had been shaking on the floor only moments before.

"Ummm…" she began awkwardly, apparently unsure of what to do in the face of so many eyes studying her like an animal showcase at the zoo. "I'm sorry all of you just had to see… that."

"You had a panic attack," replied Hot Boy, shaking his head. "It's perfectly ordinary, especially considering the circumstance we're in." He looked at the circle that had gathered around him—or, more accurately, the girl—and smiled. It was less of a smile than a brilliant display of straight, white teeth that lit up his blue eyes, and face, and everybody else's as well. Clover suspected that his smile was the kind that even women started wars over, and the dazed look on half the girls' faces seemed to support that theory.

"Well," Hot Boy started, "since I seemed to have missed the introductions, I'm Aiden."

They just stared.

"A-and I'm Ivy!" said the red headed girl. "Not," she added, "that anybody asked but I also missed the intros." She was nervously tucking her hair behind her ears and the curly strands were getting wrapped around her fingers; she was fidgeting, and the fact that she was, apart from the panic attack, being ignored made her shrink into herself. Clover felt a tug of sympathy for her, so she reached over and squeezed her shoulder. Ivy gave a grateful smile that was as adorable as it was incandescent, like a dog beaming at its owner at feeding time.

Aiden, on the other hand, looked slightly confused and definitely bewildered at the rapt attention everyone was giving him. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but Clover beat him to it. "How'd you know how to calm her down like that?"

Hot boy—no, she reminded herself, Aiden—turned to face her, and smiled like he hadn't noticed her before. Her stomach wanted to flutter, but her mind was screaming he shoved you out of the way, of course he noticed you! She settled her features somewhere in between, furrowing her brows in what she hoped was a curious expression.

"Panic attacks are very common, and it's useful to know how to deal with them."

Now he sounded almost patronizing and Clover bristled—she may have had no memories but she was quite certain she wasn't stupid. "That still doesn't answer my question."

"No," he said, and now his voice was soft. "But I don't know the answer."

The tone, not the words, made her bite back her remark. She sighed, putting her face in her hands, but, upon feeling his eyes on her, straightened herself. She put on her best listen-to-me-I-know-what-I'm-doing face and clapped her hands. "Alright everyone, since only one chair hasn't been filled, we might as well get started with the meeting, so if you could just sit down again, that'd be a good first step." She wasn't sure that "meeting" was the right word, but she didn't have anything better to call it.

It didn't seem to matter though, because each person seemed once again glad that someone had taken over the reins of control. They sat quietly in the hard backed gray chairs, peering at Clover and Topher beside her; they had only known each other for an hour, but they worked together well. Clover suspected that he, like her, recognized the importance of herding the people like sheep but didn't exactly want to be a part of that group. The kids were the sheep, and though Clover wouldn't describe the two of them as the herders, they were the closest thing to them.

Aiden, however, hung back a bit while the others were making their way to the chairs and looked from Clover to Topher. There was a crease between his eyebrows as he studied them, and he looked ready to ask something, but shook his head with uncertainty. Clover didn't really understand why he was so flustered, and was about to say so when he asked instead, "When are we going to inspect the floors more thoroughly?"

"I was just about to go over that actually."

"Yeah," Topher broke in, "I figured we could send out search parties or whatever to see what the rooms have, and, you know, escape routes or something in case this turns out to be some creepy-ass sex trafficking place for teenagers."

Clover, about to say something about how sex traffickers probably didn't have the brains enough to wipe out their memories, was cut off by Aiden's abrupt laughter, and the sound was so nice she almost wanted to punch him for causing her lack of wit. I don't think I'm a very nice person, Clover thought, and she wanted to laugh herself at knowing so little about her own mind.

She turned to face everyone as Aiden walked away, an annoyingly charming smile plastered on his face, and then she smiled herself. "Well, in case any of you forgot my name, it's Clover, and no, I don't have any idea what the hell is going on either."

"And I'm Topher," he said next to her, echoing Ivy's earlier gesture; the girl was now sitting gracelessly on the chair, her head quirked to the side as she listened to them. "And I also don't know what's up." he added, gesturing to the space around him with his hands.

"Basically, we know our names, and that we're in a building with four floors."

"Well, whoever was in charge of decorating the place needs to be fired pronto," Aiden interjected, looking with repulsion at the seat he was just barely sitting on.

A few people laughed, and Clover looked away before she could grin at his obvious discomfort, pleasing as it was. "Anyways, we need to inspect the floors, and the best way to do that—

"—is in search parties," Aiden finished, and she desperately fought the urge to glare at him.

To no avail. If people could perish under somebody's gaze, she was fairly positive that Aiden would've been a puddle on the floor with the force of hers. Clenching her hands into fists, setting her jaw, and focusing her gaze on the others, she nodded, and said "Yes. Search Parties. Are any daring souls willing to brave the stairwell and poorly embellished rooms for a few minutes of their life?"

Ivy's hand shot straight up, her expression ridiculously eager, and Clover almost sighed at her childlike avidity. Casting her eyes around the room, searching for another willing person, she found Aiden's hand lazily hanging in the air.

"Anybody," she said again. Implored, really.


Until, a boy, probably sixteen, she guessed, slowly inched his hand into the air, but that was enough for Clover. "Wonderful! What's your name?"

He looked taken aback by her fervor, and said with more doubt than assurance, "Josh."

"Okay Josh, thank you for volunteering! Would anybody like to join Josh?" She was sure she looked a bit crazed, and most likely had an erratic gleam in her eyes, but she couldn't help it; Ivy was now waving her hand around and Aiden had arched an eyebrow that made her want to melt.

Samantha, who was sitting next to Josh, raised her hand—not hesitantly, which thrilled Clover—and declared that they would search the third story room.

After they left the others—Samantha with determination, and Josh with reluctance—Clover bounced on the balls of her feet and clapped again. "Since that's been taken care of, Topher and I will scope out the kitchen, and Ivy and Aiden will take the bottom floor. Any objections?"

And yet again, there appeared to be none besides Aiden's irritated face.