Chapter II

"Here, you don't have to drink it. Just hold it," Lilly said as she pushed a red solo cup into her hands. "I'll be right back." Then, before Seraphina could mutter another word, her redheaded best friend was already gone, maneuvering effortlessly between bodies as she disappeared into the crowd.

She squeezed the sides of her cup, condensation collecting beneath her fingertips as she stood around and stared. There had to be at least forty people here, all packed into Blake Walter's living and dining rooms like sardines in a can. The air was thick with body heat and the stench of liquor, and she fought to keep her nose from wrinkling any more than it currently was. Glancing around, her dark brown eyes recognized most of the partygoers from school.

The doorbell rang again, as if the front door wasn't unlocked and unyielding to any passersby, which was how Walter parties went. Open invite, all the time. It was a wonder that his parents continued to allow Blake to host parties, seeing as they always ended in a mess. And just by flickering her gaze down towards the trash that was already beginning to strew the floors, tonight would be no different.

People continued to shove into the front rooms of the house. Seraphina continued to hang by the walls as she slowly edged her way out of the living room. Ten minutes later, Lilly still having not returned, the party seemed to have shifted into full swing. Someone had brought music, which now reverberated through the walls with the same gentle hum of a heartbeat.

Bodies began to sway, chatter soon was drowned out by the music, and someone was gradually dimming the lights. And despite the revelry that clung to the air like fog, mingling with the oxygen and clouding her lungs, Seraphina didn't feel like much in a party mood. For all her desire to forget tonight, it was proving to be more difficult than she'd imagined.

She glanced down at the warming cup of liquor still in her hand. It was piss yellow, meaning it was probably beer, but she'd heard rumors that Walter liked to spike apple juice, so she couldn't be sure.

While passing by, someone bumped into her. The contents of the cup in her hand splashed onto the front of her shirt, wetting the area around her belly button and dripping onto the belt loops of her shorts. Her curse slipped out automatically. "Fuck."

"Oh no, I'm so sorry," the one responsible said.

Seraphina bit back a grimace and peeled the fabric clinging to her navel away from her skin. "I'll be fine," she answered out of half-honesty and half-courtesy. When she glanced up to meet the eyes of the offender, the need to be courteous grew exponentially. "Really," she continued over the beat of the music. "Don't worry about it."

"I'll get you another one," Adam gestured to her half-empty cup, brown eyes softening in concern and regret. "I should've watched where I was going."

"It's fine." She tried for a smile, but the knowledge that he was close friends with Charlie stopped her lips from pulling upwards in the corners too far. "You really don't have to…" Seraphina trailed off at the nervous look he sent her before tearing off to get her another drink. She sighed inwardly. "...do that."

Between the daunting croon of the music and the hum of chatter increasing in volume, Seraphina's headache from before began to threaten its return. She didn't know how long she was standing there when the doorbell rang again, but when a few bodies shifted around and her view of the door became clear, her temples pounded. Charlie had arrived, an easy grin on his face as he greeted several friends. By his side was his new girlfriend, a pretty blonde who dressed like a fashion blogger.

"Great." The noirette murmured beneath her breath, turning around and angling her body in a way that her ex wouldn't see her should he glance over in her direction. The back of her eyes stung, warning of another influx of tears. She spotted Lilly in the backyard, glimpsing through a window. Glad to have finally found her friend, she shot out of the living room and approached her.

Her green eyes looked up and warmed over with concern once she read the emotions on Seraphina's face. Lilly frowned a little."What happened?"

"Charlie and his new chew toy showed up."

"And?" Her hair seemed ethereal in the reflection of the light given off by the crystalline pool surface behind her. Lilly's frown deepened and she pressed on. "You look beautiful. Forget about him. Or make him sorry." A Cheshire grin. "I vote for both."

The noirette gripped the cup in her hands, shaking her head at the suggestion."I'd rather not stay here and watch Charlie and what's-her-name make out against the wall," she mumbled. Which, given his newfound appetite, was bound to happen sooner rather than later. The crown of her head pulsed with another ache.

"Were they already making out?" Lilly asked, glancing around as if she was looking for someone. Her green eyes were chips of faded emeralds.

Seraphina shifted her weight. "Not yet," she admitted. The image of her ex flashed into her mind and she grimaced before continuing. "But get a drink or two in Charlie and all he'll be able to think about is-" She stopped. "Just," she fumbled for the correct words for a moment before, "I know him, okay? It's bound to happen, believe me."

"Chill." Lilly hummed before pointing to the table that was pushed against the back of the house. On its surface were an arrangement of drinks and snacks, most of which Seraphina assumed to be spiked or laced in some form or another. "Mark brought margaritas. Have one and you'll feel fine." She glanced at Seraphina with a glittering smile. "I promise."

Seraphina bit her lip, feeling her emotions flare up inside her before she pushed them down with a shove rough enough to make a rugby player frown in protest. How could she convey to Lilly that no amount of alcohol would make her feel fine? Her life had 'SUCKY' stamped all over it.

Recognizing the purposefully blank look on her face, Lilly nudged her with her elbow. "Hey," she began while absentmindedly waving to some random senior. "We both know all you'd have to do to get Charlie back is to grab and take him upstairs or whatever." Her eyes slid to their left corners to study the noirette beside her. "He's still crazy about you, you know."

Seraphina's heart clenched. "What are you talking about?"

Cool as ever, Lilly took a sip of her drink before continuing. "I ran into him at the gym today. Right when I was about to walk away, he asked me about you." She tucked her straightened, chin-length red hair behind her ear.

Betrayal began to thrum in Seraphina's veins, slowly unraveling the little bits of emotional control that she had left. When she spoke, her voice cracked a little. "Did you know he was going to be here?" She studied her friend's face, eyes roaming over the slope of her nose and the spray of freckles she always made sure to mask with makeup.

Lilly didn't look at her, her lashes framing a set of irises that still darted around, looking for someone, something. "Not for sure," she finally answered through the side of her lips. "But chill." She nudged her again in the direction of the table, silently encouraging for her to take a drink.

Chill.

You don't understand.

Seraphina froze, swallowed the lump that was forcing its way back into her throat, and turned away from her. Now, more than ever, did the realization regarding how different they'd become in the last few months hit her. Their differences were becoming more and more apparent, a fact that Seraphina wasn't sure what to do about.

It wasn't that she disapproved of Lilly's lifestyle choices. Her best friend had accumulated a vehement need to party, a need to lose herself in the crowds of cheering students, a need to spend the night with any guy she chose. But rather than respect that Seraphina wasn't one for that kind of social scene, Lilly seemed to be making more and more pushes for Seraphina to become like her.

It wasn't the choices that Lilly made that Seraphina couldn't find solace with, it was the aftermath, the subtle change in ideology that Seraphina had to somehow alter herself.

And she didn't like it.

In fact, it was a major reason why Charlie had dumped her. Seraphina wasn't willing to change herself for him, for anyone. He found someone who was more suitable for his newly discovered tastes and appetites, and Seraphina was left to grieve quietly by herself.

Grieve. She did a lot of that now.

Charlie. Looking away, Seraphina recalled a conversation she'd had with Lilly back at the beginning of the year, how the ginger had insisted that changes had to be made with someone special, someone trusted. Since then, Lilly had gone that route, only for the boy in question to leave her for someone else within two weeks of the change being made. Now, Lilly had stopped talking about how it was supposed to be special.

"Look," her best friend said, voice pulling Seraphina from her thoughts. "I know you're worried about your parents and your brother." Her expression softened when she turned to look at her head on. "So I'm getting you a margarita and you're going to fucking love it."

Before she could decline, Lilly darted off towards the table, which was now surrounded by a group of people. Seraphina swiveled to follow her, but then her ears picked up the sound of an unmistakable whoosh! and she froze.

No.

Lifting her gaze with some varying form of trepidation mixed with horror, Seraphina's vision caught sight of Wing Guy. He hovered in the air, black wings spread and majestic as they blended with the night sky. His eyes met Seraphina's and he stared- so unsettling, so poignant- before rising against the stars with a single flap. Was he preparing to dive?

Seraphina slammed her attention to the ground, refusing to give the thing any more consideration than was due. And for a girl who prided herself on making wise choices, walking around with her eyes trained to the floor certainly wasn't the wisest. This was proven, in a manner that reflected all things bad luck, when she smacked right into a masculine chest.

This time, the remains of the liquor in her red solo splashed on her feet, dripping onto her toes. She scowled at her own foolishness. "Great. Just what I needed. Stupid, stupid…"

"Good to see you still love to rant to yourself," a familiar voice said. "But I'm sorry anyway."

She stiffened, recognizing Charlie's voice before she did his broad shoulders or his trademark bronze cross necklace. The walls around her heart rose higher, fortifying from steel to diamond as she prepared herself for the volatile degrees of pain that seeing him would cause. She raised her gaze. "It's okay," Seraphina responded. Her voice sounded foreign, even to her. "Adam's already done it once." She gestured to the still-drying stain on her belly.

Seraphina forced herself not to stare at his curly black hair, how it bended over the curve of his brow like a parenthesis, or the way his light brown skin and deep brown eyes still reminded her of warmth and hot chocolate and all the best parts of the colder months. Betraying her mind, her eyes fell to his lips.

His lips that pulled into a frown. "So," he drawled sarcastically. "It's true."

Surprise flitted through her as she tore her gaze away, placing it firmly on the contours of his face. "What's true," she asked.

Charlie's response was deadpan. He almost seemed hurt, as if he were in any position to feel such a thing. The ass. "That you hooked up with Adam."

Seraphina clenched her jaw, and for a moment that was as long as it was tantalizing, she considered lying to him. The stones around her heart fissured like a broken mirror, and the thought of how much it would hurt him appealed to her. She could imagine the look on his face, the corner of his mouth set deep in a frown. It was so, so appealing.

But it was a game, and in light of the stupid games that she'd witnessed her parents playing with each other lately, she couldn't bring herself to do it. As tempting as the thought was, she considered herself above the level that engaging in such a game would force her to stoop to.

So Seraphina only gave him a blank stare, one she hoped was empty enough to be scalding, before turning to leave. "I haven't hooked up with anyone," she said honestly. The tone of her voice left the rest of the sentence to hang in the air, clear as sunlight. Unlike you.

But then he caught her. His fingers ghosted over her elbow, and the warmth of the touch sent oscillations of pain towards her heart, right past the walls she had tried so hard to build. Seraphina stilled, refusing to look at him, and swallowed thickly.

"I heard about your brother," he said finally, dropping her arm. His words were so quiet, too quiet, too filled with caring that didn't match up with the way he'd broken up with her. Charlie continued. "And Lilly told me about your parents getting a divorce. I'm so sorry, Sera."

The lump in her throat was painful now, and tears threatened to spill past her lashes any second. She was moments- too few moments- away from giving in to her desires, from stepping forward into his embrace and crying against his shoulder. They were best friends once. A long, long time ago. But they'd comforted each other. That was what they did. Nothing ever felt better than Charlie Diaz's arms around her, offering strength when she needed it.

But then Seraphina saw her, Charlie's new blonde girlfriend, walking outside with two beers in hand. She knew that before the hour was done, after those drinks had been consumed, her ex boyfriend would be aiming to engage in the changes that Seraphina hadn't been willing to make, and would probably succeed.

She stepped further away from him. "Thanks," Seraphina muttered. Without another word, she walked away to join Lilly at last. Throwing a quick glance to the sky, she was pleased to see that Wing Guy hadn't decided to stick around. He was nowhere in sight.

"Here," Lilly greeted. She pried the near-empty solo cup from Seraphina's hand only to press what looked like a fresh margarita in its place. "Tastes like sunshine. You'll love it."

The glass was frosty, and it felt unnaturally cold against the skin of her palm. Seraphina leaned over to whisper in her best friend's ear, "Did you see that weird guy in the sky a minute ago? Dressed in all black? He was flying, had black wings."

Lilly's eyebrows did their wild, wiggly thing. She stared at the noirette with appreciation, misplaced appreciation."How much of that beer did you drink?" Her laughter filled the night air, curling and mixing with the general chatter.

Seraphina paused and gripped the glass between her fingers a bit tighter. Was she really going crazy? Her focus flashed to the drink in her hand. She didn't think adding alcohol to the situation was a good idea, even now, when she really wanted to forget her encounter with Charlie.

"Seraphina Alexandre? Is that you?"

She turned, eyebrows lifting as she searched for the owner of the voice that called her name. Then, vision landing on a familiar face, Seraphina grinned. She wiggled her fingers, feeling her spirits lift just a little. "Hi, Oliver."

He chuckled as he approached her. "D'never thought I'd see you here," Oliver said. His dark skin glowed beneath the stars. When he spoke again, his signature rasta cap fell forwards against his brow, slotting his dark brown curls from sight. "Didn't think Walter parties were your thing."

She grimaced. "They're not." There was a roar from inside the house, followed by something that sounded a lot like smashing glass. Seraphina winced before continuing, "You wanna take a walk or something? It's a little loud."

He shrugged. "I was just on my way home, but I think I can spare a minute or a dozen for my favorite lab partner. You did haul me through physics, so it's the least that I can do."

Seraphina laughed, a genuine one. Then she turned, nudging her best friend who was aimlessly conversing with a rising junior. "Hey, I'll be right back. Oliver and I are going for a walk."

Lilly glanced at them, eyes scanning their hands for laced brownies most likely. Once she found that they weren't, in fact, in possession of any drugs, her green eyes studied the disabled boy in front of them."Marshall," she finally greeted.

Oliver remained undeterred from her cold tone. "Winters." His light brown eyes studied her inquisitively, like she was a secret he was trying to discover, a puzzle to put together. And then, as quick as it had appeared, the odd expression was gone, replaced by his airy laugh. "I promise I'll have your best friend back before ten thirty."

Lilly snorted, toying with the ends of Seraphina's black braids. "Keep her," she half-joked. "'Sera needs to live a little anyway."

Seraphina rolled her eyes. "And that's my cue to leave," she grumbled. "Come on, Oliver, I think I'm getting a headache."

They talked for what felt like hours. The Walter property was on the rich side of town, meaning that they had more land than they probably knew to do with. Laughing and joking and enjoying each other's presence, they wandered away from the bright lights of the house, drawing nearer to the woods that edged on the property.

Soon enough, the vibrant hum of revelry faded away, offering leverage for the sounds of nightly nature to overtake Seraphina's senses. A silence fell between them for the first time, but it was comfortable. She tilted her head, angling her jaw towards the sky dappled with stars- like flakes of snow on asphalt. The formidal spires of bark and branches rose toward the arches, blotting out the small dots of light with dark leaves.

Crickets chirped, night birds hummed, grass swayed with the breeze. Beside her, Oliver whistled a soft tune to himself. Every so often he would spare a tense glance at the sky, as if he were afraid of something showing up, but other than that he appeared to be at ease. His hands clutched the grips on his crutches, but his steps never faltered. Not that Seraphina was surprised. Oliver Marshall, if anything, was most at peace amongst grass and roots and fields and wildlife.

Seraphina, on the other hand… not so much.

"Ow!" She hissed as her sandals folded beneath the soles of her feet, causing her to trip. Her bare skin skidded against a small thicket of thorns poking up from the ground, pricking the front and underside of her toes.

Oliver stilled at her outcry. He reached out to steady her. "Are you okay?" His eyes lowered to the rope of thorns curling over the grass, and he frowned in tandem.

Seraphina nodded absentmindedly. "I'll be fine," she promised. She tried not to think about the small drops of blood that were beginning to pool around her toes. "I just tripped over my shoes. Not the wisest choice to come out here while wearing them."

He didn't respond.

Her dark brown eyes bore into him. "...Oliver?"

Silence.

His attention was aimed at the ground, characterized by a stare so intense Seraphina wouldn't be surprised if the undergrowth burst into flames. She followed his line of sight, and with a flicker of shock and confusion, she noticed that the thorns were… going away?

It was a peculiar sight, one that couldn't be explained easily. They moved in the same manner of fashion that a snake would, slithering along the ground with the fluidity of spilled wine or water. The thorns seemingly recoiled, and the longer that Oliver stared, the faster they went.

"Am I drunk?" Seraphina wondered aloud. She knew the answer, knew that not a single drop of liquor had touched her tongue since she'd arrived in Blake's living room. But she had no other explanation. "Are there hallucinogens in the trees or something?" She glanced at her friend. "You… do see that, right?"

Oliver looked to her, his light brown eyes taking on that same odd look they had had when he'd stared at Lilly. "What are you talking about?"

Before she could respond, Seraphina's heart lurched at the easily recognizable sound of wings flapping. Her breath caught, and she reached out to grip her friend's arm, not registering his wince at the strength of her fingers enclosing around his skin. Seraphina pointed to the treeline, pointed to the black silhouette hovering between the branches before falling into a regular perch.

"Do you fucking see that?" She cried, her voice hysterical. Seraphina's lungs couldn't get enough oxygen and she shook her head. "I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy. Oliver, do you see that? That… guy with wings."

He swallowed thickly. "I-I don't know what you're talking about, Seraphina. Are you okay?"

She turned to look at him, taking in his expression. Oliver refused to look her in the face. That was the thing about him. He was a horrible liar. A horrible one. Her heart dropped and she frowned. "I know you can see him, Oliver. I know you can."

He shook his head. "Seraphina, did you have too much to drink?" His gaze lowered to the warming martini glass in her hands. "How many of those did you have?"

She didn't respond.

And that's when she noticed that the wind had stopped blowing, that the crickets were no longer chirping. The forest was entirely silent, as if it was holding its breath. Her skin crawled and she turned to look at the winged creature looming in the trees again. She couldn't pinpoint him exactly, but she could faintly make out the outline of his wings- folded, motionless, poignant.

"C'mon, let's go back," Oliver offered. "I was supposed to head home almost an hour ago, and Lilly'll probably be looking for you."

She didn't respond, but allowed him to lead them back towards the Walter house. When Seraphina turned her back, the hairs on her neck stood on end, and she could feel Wing Guy staring at her, staring at Oliver.

Again, they fell into silence on the way back. But this time, the lack of communication was punctuated with an air of tensity that Seraphina couldn't shake. Oliver seemed to be in a hurry, the muscles in his arms tightened as he moved at a pace she could barely keep up with. When they finally reached Blake's backyard, it was as if they had never left. The party was still in full swing, and several students had opted for a little night swimming.

Oliver paused, whipping out his phone. "I'll see you later, Seraphina," he murmured. He didn't even look at her, his attention pinned onto the bright screen in front of him.

She didn't mean to overstep her boundaries, but her eyes lowered to his phone. His text messages were open, and the sole words she managed to catch were enough to jostle her. Subject. Unsuspecting. Move quickly.

"Oliver?" Her voice came out weaker than she would've liked, but never had she been so confused. Seraphina knew that he had been able to see Wing Guy, she knew that he had something to do with the thorns rolling away like a serpentine predator. What she couldn't understand was why she had been able to see that, why he was pretending otherwise.

He looked at her again, this time the faintest twinge of regret swirling in the light browns of his irises. "I'm sorry," he said. "Take care, Seraphina. I'll see you soon."

And before she could respond, he was hobbling away, and a menagerie of lights erupted at the front of the house, complete with sirens. Around her, partygoers scattered at the arrival of the police, but all she could do was stare at the disabled boy who had more surety in his gait than anyone she'd ever known.

Five minutes later, when three Virginia cops walked into the backyard and had everyone line up at the back gate, Seraphina still had the same untouched margarita clutched in her hands. Her mind was racing, her heart was barren, and her skin felt numb.

"Come on, kids," one of the cops said. "The sooner we move you to the precinct, the sooner we can get your parents to come get you."

The words jolted through her, and that was when Seraphina knew for certain that 'SUCKY' was nowhere near enough to describe the state of her life. Not even close.

"Where's Dad?" The words tumbled past her lips without interruption, as if they were always meant to be. And once Seraphina caught sight of her mother stepping into the room at the police station, she found that stopping them probably would've been impossible. "I called Dad."

Evangeline's dark eyes tightened in disapproval as she sank into the seat across from her. "He called me," she stated evenly. "He was busy."

I'm a phone call away, he'd said. He'd told Seraphina that not even twelve hours beforehand. Had that been a lie?

Emotion clenched its fist around her heart, and she found herself shaking her head. "I wanted Dad," Seraphina insisted. No, she needed him. She needed him to keep his promise, to reassure her that he really wasn't leaving her behind as if she meant nothing.

Her stepmother ignored the impassioned sentiment that lighted the contours of her face. When she spoke, her words were flooded with disappointment and ice. "You don't get what you want, Sera. Especially not when," she paused to pinch her nose, "My god." Eva stilled for a moment before heaving a sigh. "How could you do this?"

Seraphina fought the urge to scoff. "I didn't do anything," she said. "Didn't they tell you? I walked a straight line. Touched my nose and even said the alphabet backwards. I didn't do anything."

"They found marijuana there," her stepmother snapped accusingly. Her bone straightened hair moved when she moved, flicking forwards like a rattlesnake's tail.

Seraphina couldn't swallow down her scoff this time. "I wasn't smoking anything either." She folded her arms over her chest defiantly, staring her stepmother down. "I already told you- I didn't do anything."

But it appeared that Eva was on a mission to incriminate her of something, of anything. In hindsight, it appeared that she was searching desperately for an excuse. She hummed before saying, "But do you know what they didn't find there, Seraphina?" A manicured finger pointed accusingly at her. "Parents. You lied to me."

The irony pressed down on Seraphina's chest with a weight too much to bear. She didn't bother holding back. "Maybe I was just following your example," she retorted.

"What does that mean?"

She smirked wryly. "You told my dad that you didn't know what happened to his socks. But you stuck them in the flower pots on the patio. You lied, but I guess it's only a problem when I do it, huh?" Bitterness had long since seeped into Seraphina's tone, still unable to reconcile the fact that her father wasn't there. Why hadn't he come? Why had he left her with a woman unable to express emotions healthily?

Guilt deluged the deep brown of Eva's eyes and she shook her head. With what had to be practiced resignation, the woman whispered to herself, "Dr. Mikaelson was right."

Seraphina frowned. "What does my therapist have to do with anything?" A cold feeling washed over her and Seraphina leaned forward. "Don't tell me you called her. Oh my god, Mom, don't tell me you brought her here-"

"No," Eva held up a hand, a faint shiver of disgust visibly rolling over her at the sight of the noirette's vehemence. "No, she's not here. But it's not just about tonight." She inhaled heavily before exhaling with weight. "I can't do this alone. Not now. It's too much."

"Do what alone?" Seraphina asked, and her stomach slowly began to fill with dread. "What's too much?"

"I'm sending you to boarding school."

"What?" Seraphina held her arms tighter against her chest, caging herself. "What are you talking about?" She shook her head. "No. No. I'm not going to some damn boarding school. Are you crazy?"

"Don't use that word with me," Eva said. She scowled briefly before smoothing out the emotion lines on her face. "And it's not about what you want, Seraphina." She motioned for her to walk out the door. "It's about what you need. It's a school for children with… problems."

Seraphina didn't budge. "Problems? I don't have any problems." Her lips tucked into a grimace at the face her stepmother was aiming at her.

"How can you say that honestly, Seraphina?" Eva narrowed her eyes. "If you don't have any problems, then why am I at a police station past midnight picking up my daughter who's almost seventeen?"

Seraphina swallowed the lump in her throat. "If you would just listen-"

Eva pressed on, blinks of emotion crawling across her face before vanishing. "If you don't have any problems, then why do I have to drive you to sessions with Dr. Mikaelson for those… things you hallucinate?" She stepped forward. "Why do I have to keep waking up in the middle of the night to you screaming like a banshee?"

The noirette girl stood, her throat burning. "None of those are my fault!" She cried out, her voice hoarse. This was becoming too much. Too much. Where was her dad? She needed her dad. "You know that none of those are-"

Her stepmother interlaced her fingers and tightened the strap of her purse over her shoulder. "You're right," Eva responded with tranquility. "They're not your fault." She exhaled through her nostrils before, "They're your problems, and with your father skipping out, I don't believe I'm in any way qualified to help you through them. It's too much."

Hot tears pricked the corners of her eyes. "So you're sending me away?" Seraphina's voice cracked and she schooled her expression as best as she could. "Can you even afford a boarding school tuition? That's just-"

Eva pursed her lips. "Dr. Mikaelson has found a sponsor willing to cover the full cost. Books, uniforms, room and board… we don't have to pay a penny."

Seraphina felt her eyes narrow and she took a step back when the realization dawned on her. "You… you've been planning this." The betrayal was evident in the weakened timbre of her voice, but her stepmother gave no hint of acknowledging it. "You have it all figured out."

"Dr. Mikaelson mentioned the school a few months ago, after she'd had a few sessions with you. She was the one who got in contact with the anonymous sponsor, but I held back on accepting simply because I assumed you would get better." An edge creeped into her expression. "I assumed that it was all just a phase."

She clenched her jaw. "You thought that me grieving was just a phase?"

"That's irrelevant, Seraphina. The point is that I can no longer hold off on it. I'm contacting Dr. Mikaelson first thing in the morning. You're going to this school, whether you like it or not, and you will heal from whatever problems you're suffering from right now." Eva raised a sole eyebrow at the look of protest forming on the teenager's face. "This isn't up for debate. Now," she shouldered her purse once more and gestured to the door. "We've been in this room for too long. Get in the car, and as soon as we get home, you need to start packing. School starts in less than two weeks."

I'm not going, Seraphina told herself as they walked out of the police station. She repeated it again and again until it became a mantra, something to fixate on as she slowly reeled from the news. Boarding school? No. Dad would never allow it.

He simply wouldn't allow her stepmother to send her off to a school filled with… kids with problems. He wouldn't. He wouldn't.

But then, she'd reminded herself, he had said that he was only a phone call away, and look at how that had turned out.

Seraphina swallowed thickly, and for the first time, she began to doubt.