“I think… I might cut off all of my hair and become a fairy. What do you think of that, Locksey”
“I think you’ve had too much to drink.”
He takes the pink and green drink out my hands.
“I don’t remember what happened at school today.”
“Somehow, I believe that.” His smile looks very forced, and I find myself leaning towards him, giggling. I want to kiss him. I want to lean close to his ear and ask him about his mark. Just the thought of such a forbidden action makes my cheeks burn.
“Can you believe I’ve never kissed anyone?”
“I haven’t either,” he says with an unblinking, unashamed gaze. The confession startles some of the buzz out my head. That’s not something guys admit, is it?
I glance around. Some of the other kids from our study group are dancing. Where are we? We’d left the library to get food, and I just followed the group. Had I remembered to call and tell my mom? It was the first day of class – just one class – all day with Mrs. Crowley, and she assigned a research project presentation with an essay due in two days.
“Hey…” I turn to look at the half-eaten fish and sweet potato fires, not knowing what I should ask first. “What time is it?”
It’s not as late as I thought, but school has been out for nearly five hours.
“Did I remember to call my mom?”
When I look back at him, his face has paled somewhat.
“Okay.” He moves the drink farther away from me. “I knew ordering this drink would be a bad idea.”
“You did? And I ordered it anyway?” I pull my hands up to my pockets only to realize I don’t have any, and my heart falls into my stomach. “Do I have money to pay for this?”
“Yes, you already paid for it. And no, I… didn’t tell you. I didn’t figure they would put alcohol in it.”
I stare at him. The boy with blonde hair and dark green eyes. What is his name? It has an “L” in it, I’m pretty sure.
“I’m only fifteen.”
“I know. And you’re wearing your uniform. I figured they would have given you the virgin drink or I would’ve said something.”
I feel nauseous. “I drank alcohol,” I mutter. “Anything could’ve happened.”
“It’s okay, I think Jareth and Alexander did, too. Alexander probably bribes them. I think he comes here a lot.” He’s looking at the other kids, and I turn to look at them, too. They’re dancing with some girls I don’t recognize.
Wait, I knew that.
“I thought we had more than one class at school,” I say. “Did I already ask that?”
“Not the first week.” He looks at me. “And no, you didn’t.”
“It’s the first week, and I’m going to get kicked out.” I lay my head down on my arms. But maybe that would be a good thing. My heart starts pounding to a point that I think I might throw up. Maybe then my mom and I can get away. I don’t remember why we would need to, but it’s dangerous here for us. I think.
“No you won’t. Everyone celebrates getting accepted into the Academy. Some people have been going at it for way longer than us. At least we got some work out of the way. It’s because we’re the preeminent group.”
“What?” I glance at him. “Why am I in this group?”
“You’re apparently very talented.”
“And you’re a Locksey.”
I remember! He’s – oh no! He could be a Hunter!
My heart starts to pound, but it quickly calms because Maxton seems okay. He seems nice even.
“Maxton, is this a pub?” I glance around. “I don’t remember what our assignment is about.”
His face turns pale again. “Thalia, you barely had five sips. Are you that sensitive to alcohol?”
“We should be friends. I need a friend, do you have friends, I think…” I rub my eyes when I notice his expression. “I mean… I’m sorry. I’m not thinking. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
His face returns to its normal, tired state, but he smiles. “It’s okay.” He glances back at the dancers. “They’re going to be here for a while probably. At least till curfew. There was a girl back at the library who said you could stay in her dorm. A Marlein, I believe. If not, we should probably get you home.”
“Did I call my mom?” I look down and notice I’m squeezing his arm. I pull my hand away. “Would you remember that? If I did that.”
“Um, I think so. Do you need to call her again?”
“Where are we in the Capital? Is it safe to walk home this late?”
“Don’t you live here, Thalia.”
“I do, but I haven’t for very long.”
“Okay.” He hops off his stool and partially pulls me off mine, holding my arm to steady me. He walks me toward the door.
“Wait, did I pay –”
“Do I have a coat –”
“Do we need to tell –”
“No, don’t worry about them.”
We step outside. It’s cooler, but it’s not cold. It’s dark. A nervous feeling bounces around in my stomach. Don’t Hunters patrol Capital streets at night?
“Do you know where you are, Thalia?”
I glance around. “Do you have a phone I can borrow, Locksey? I mean Maxton. Sorry.”
“I’ll just walk you back to the library.”
Could I trust him? It doesn’t seem like he could let something bad happen to me. He needs me for the presentation after all. Some memories from the library come back, but all I can remember is my first class with Mrs. Crowley. Maybe she will get better once half of the students are kicked out. Maybe I will get to be one of them.
“There seems to be a lot of people still out on the streets.”
“Yeah, it isn’t that late.”
“I heard that Hunters patrol the streets at night.” The statement just came out of my mouth. I don’t look at Maxton to make it less obvious, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
His nonchalance takes me by surprise. “Are we allowed to talk about this?”
“Yeah? We learn about it in school. Didn’t you learn anything about them at your old school?”
“Not really,” I mumble. I wait for his disbelief, his questions. I start formulating answers.
But he never asks.
Before I know it, we’re at the steps of the library.
“Okay, your mom can find you here, right?”
“Yeah, do you have a phone?”
He starts to reach for his back pocket, but I think better of it.
“I can just use the library’s payphone… Do you remember what I did with my extra money?”
His eyes widen. “Oh you gave it to me to hold. Hang on.” He handed me five currents and some coins.
He stares at the ground. “Do you want me to wait with you for your mom?”
“Oh, thank you. I think I’ll be okay though. I don’t want you to have to do that. But thanks.”
He smiles, and it perhaps looks relieved?
“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
(Photo: Oladimeji Odunsi)
I know I have not been giving this the attention it needs, but I had a ton of ideas that just needed time to simmer. Here are the other chapters, and here is where you can read about what I’m trying to do.
I’ve been neglecting this for grander schemes, but summer break is in two weeks! Then I’ll plan to add a chapter every week along with other writing-practice content.