Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Episode Twenty Six



Episode Twenty Six

Exits

Living just to keep going
Going just to stay sane
All the while never knowing
It's such a shame
-Black Keys


     Tobie opened a groggy eye to the sound of a text message alert. With a groan he swept an arm over the window sill and grabbed the phone.
 

     :Hey man. Bec and I wanna hang today around 1. You down?:: Gus

     Tobie glanced at his alarm clock.

     12:36

     He rubbed his eyes and pulled the phone under the blanket.

     ::Sure:: He typed. ::Meet at Westin::

     He tossed the phone on the pillow and enjoyed a few more moments under the covers before sitting up.

     After a hot shower, and even hotter coffee, Tobie locked the door to his and Holon's apartment and headed down the stairs. The hallway was chilled with the winter wind and he zipped up his jacket before going outside.

     Near the entrance to Westin, he glimpsed Gus' puffy silver jacket. Rebeca stood next to him, her blond waves wafting up from her shoulders in the icy breeze.

     Bike wheels stuck out in front of them.

     "Hey man," Gus said, turning. "Look who we found."


     Jacob peeked out from behind Gus with an embarrassed smile. "Hey Tobie."

"Hey," Tobie said blankly. "What are you doing here?"

Jacob jerked his head towards the sidewalk just beyond the school. Leyah hopped up and down on her hop scotch path, happily singing to herself.

"She wouldn't stop begging, so...yeah."

"Giving in won't shut her up for long,“ Gus said.

"Yeah, probably not. So what's up?"

"Gonna go see a movie or something," Tobie shrugged. "You down?"

"Sure. Lemme just drop off the squirt and I'll meet you guys." He threw a leg over his bike and kicked off, headed towards the sidewalk.

Layah glanced up from her hoping. "Those your friends?" she asked as Jacob braked. "Do they wanna play too?" Her grin faded as Jacob rubbed his eyes. "Alright, brother?"

"I'm fine."

"'nuther headache?'

"Yeah."

"You have pills?"

     "Ran out." He squinted towards the tree line. "Just...so suddenly lately." He swallowed and swung a leg over the bike. "You ready?"

     "I wanna play."

     "We gotta get you home."

     "But I wanna stay with--"

     "Layah! Shut up and get on the damn bike, ok? I've had enough with your stupid imaginary friend. Get on the bike! Now!"

     Layah shuddered, rounded the bike and quickly climbed up on the rack. "You're so mean. Stupid."

     "Yeah, yeah."

     "If you weren't here I'd get to play..."

     The air thickened, titled, sparkled. A mass broke free, swelled and glistened. Jacob pushed off. They traveled towards Westin's edge and were about to vanish down the hill; when, the bike wobbled.
Tobie jolted as the pressure deepen even from the end of the sidewalk. The air around the bike crackled and sparked. Jacob slumped over the handlebars. The bike toppled and vanished. A high pitched scream echoed up from the street.

     "Layah!" Tobie rushed up the sidewalk, Gus and Rebeca on his heels. He leapt over the top, hearing Gus slid to a halt behind him.

     Jacob lay half way down the hill, on his side, motionless. Layah was a few feet above him, under the bike; its revolving back wheel in the air; clackers eerily peppering the air. 

     "Gus, get Jake." Tobie called, skidding forward and kneeling next to the bike. He untwisted her legs from the bike frame and flipped the bike off her. It slid down the hill, screeching against the tarmac. "Layah! You ok?"

     She stared up at him, dark eyes overflowing with tears. "I...think s-so...b-brother...?"

     Tobie glanced over at Gus, standing over Jacob, then back at Layah. "Anything really hurt?" He checked her arms, her legs. Her knees and elbows were skinned, and two sharp bruises were appearing on her legs, but nothing seemed broken. "Stand up for me." He helped her get to her feet. Blood trickled down from her forehead. "Hold still." He pushed back her hair to see a small cut just above her right temple, where the rack could have hit it on the way down.

     "Her wrist looks swollen," Rebeca said, behind him.

     "You think so?"

     "B-brother," she whimpered. "Wh-wheres my brother?"

     "Shh, give me your wrist." Tobie held it gently, twisting it. Layah whimpered, but didn't pull away.

     "Is it broken? Do I need to call my dad?" Rebeca asked, sitting next to Layah.

     "I don't think so. Maybe sprained. Hey, Gus! How's Jake?"

     Gus looked up, kneeling next to Jacob. "I don't think he's conscious, man." He shook Jacob's shoulder. "Jacob? Hey!"

     "Take her." Tobie pressed Layah into Rebecca’s arms.

     She nodded and smiled gently at Layah. "Come here. I have some band-aids in my purse."

     "But...Brother." Layah strained to watch Tobie hurry over to Gus and Jacob.

     "It's alright. Tobie will take care of him. Turn towards me."

     Tobie glanced over his shoulder. The haze retreated to the tree line, the colors fading back into nothing, the thickness in the air lifting.

     "Man...I-I don't think he's breathing," Gus stammered, getting out of the way as Tobie knelt. He pushed Jacob gently onto his back, a scraped and bloody arm flopping back on the road. He put his ear near Jacob's mouth and frowned. "Got your glasses on you?"

     "Yeah." Gus fished a slim case out of his back pocket and took out a pair of glasses. He handed them down to Tobie. He angled them towards Jacob's mouth. A white haze fogged the glass.

     Tobie leaned forward, two fingers at Jacob's temple. A shot of amber frizzled between their skin, like a small electric shock. "Jake. Come on, Jake. You're freakin Layah out. Wake up man."

     Jacob moaned. His eyes opened. "Wh-what happened?" Tobie took his arm and helped him slowly sit up. He reeled forward, but caught himself on Tobie's knee. Eyes shut tight, he ran a hand over his forehead.

     "You tell us." Gus slipped his glasses back into the case.

     "Don't...know...Just felt this pain and..." His eyes flashed open. "Layah!" He lurched forward, as if to get up, but caught his shoulder with a gasp.

     "She's ok."

     They looked up. Rebeca walked towards them, Layah clinging onto her skirt. The little girl's face was clean, a pink band-aid above her eyebrow. The second Jacob turned around, she bolted. "Brother!" She tore from Rebeca’s grip and ran down the hill, tackling Jacob around the middle.

     "Easy. Easy, kid!" Jacob winced as her arms cinched around him.

     "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" she cried, face pressed against his polo.

     Jacob slipped an arm around her. "You didn't do anything. It's ok."

     Tobie stood, dusting off his knees. "Gus, Beca, help these two home. Jake, if you're in pain call a cab or something. Other wise take the subway." He turned up the hill, hands sliding into his pockets.

     "What?" Gus started. "Where are you--"

     "Make sure they get home safely," Tobie called, cresting the hill.

     "Gus?"

     "Yeah, Jake?"

     "Is it...d-dark." Jacob slumped against Layah, then fell forward.

     "Jake!" Rebeca squealed, dropping to her knees.

     "Oh man." Gus lifted him off Layah, who’s cries caught a frantic tinge to them, and laid him back down on the ground. "What do we do?"

     Rebeca knelt, digging in her purse. "It's ok, Layah. It's ok."

     Layah quieted in an instant.

     "Just hold on Jake." Rebeca yanked her phone out of her purse and dialed 911.

     Layah stood. 
 
     "Help’s coming. Gus, make sure he’s still breathing!"

      "Uh, hey, Layah's leaving."

     Rebeca's head whipped around. "Layah! Layah stay here--"

     The girl turned. Rebeca nearly dropped the phone. A voice startled her from the other line.

     "911, what’s your emergency?"

     "I, uh, I." Rebeca blinked. "My friend crashed his bike. He seemed ok, but he just passed out."

     "Remain calm. Is he breathing?"

     "Gus is he..."

     "Yeah, he's breathing. Jacob! What the hell man?"

     Rebeca glanced back. "Yeah he's...breathing..." Layah was gone. She put a hand over the mic. "Layah? Ley--"

     "Miss? Are you there?"

     Rebeca scanned the quad. "Yeah, yeah I'm here. Gus! Go find Layah!"

     "Ok. Take care of him." Gus headed in the direction Rebeca pointed, stilling talking to the dispatcher.

     "Layah? Hey Layah!"







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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Episode Twenty Five


Episode Twenty Five

Game 

Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do the day after.
~ The White Queen

     Rain speckled the lawn, turning the grass slick. Tobie drove the ball between a left fielder's legs, caught up with it, and headed to the goal.

     Gus ran up beside him, quick to match his pace.

     With a grin Tobie jooked left, juggling the ball. Gus fell for it, literally diving for the ball too hard to stop his momentum and belly flopped to the grass, sending up a wave of icy water from the blades. Uninhibited, Tobie picked up speed towards the goal. Grinning at the goalie's obvious nervous expression he counted to three in his head, hit the outside of the box and kicked. The goalie leapt into the air.

     "Goal!" Couch Areney yelled and blew the whistle. “Game. Skins win.”

     Tobie slowed and slid expertly across the wet field, grabbing the goal post. His team mates were quick to run up with high fives and smiles. Tobie nodded, soaking it up as they walked back down the field. He stopped at Gus, sitting up from the grass. "Nice spill." He reached down.

     Gus, hands on his knees, glared up at Tobie. "Yeah, thanks alot." He grasped Tobie's hand and let him pull him up. Tobie clapped his shoulder and they headed over to the coach, already in the middle of next practice's assignments.

     "...and our first game is against Rulster High. So we need to be sharp. Sinclair." He pointed as Tobie took a knee. "Great job out there. Good hustle. Keep it up. Weldon. Work on your footwork. And balance. You could learn a thing or two from Sinclair's form. Alright guys. See you next practice. Go get warm."

     "Learn something my ass," Gus grumbled as they headed to the benches.

     "You could use a refresher course." Tobie's smirk faltered. 

     Gus was staring up at the stands." She stayed the whole game, man," he said wistfully, waving at Rebeca who had her umbrella tightly clenched to her chest. "She stayed in the rain. That's gotta mean something." Gus grinned up at the stands as he toweled off his arms.

     "Yeah. It means she was enjoying watching you belly flop across the field. Gotta say it was very entertaining."

     Gus' attention came back to Tobie with a glare. "Shut up, man."

     Tobie laughed, toweling off his legs. He pulled off his cleats, kicking his bag out from under the benches. Shoving the damp cleats into the bag he slid on his trainers. "I'll leave ya to walk her home then?"

     "Yeah, you will," Gus muttered, viciously tying up his trainers.

     Tobie shouldered his duffel bag and headed towards the edge of the stands. He threw a grin and wave to Rebeca, who waved back and yelled, "Good game!" her umbrella wobbling as she leaned over the stand. Chuckling, Tobie rounded the edge.

     "Good game, indeed."

     Tobie jumped. "Shit! Holon...Man don't do that." He readjusted the duffel. "You here the whole time?"

     "Saw enough. Can't play indoors?"

     "Coach wanted us to get some grass in our cleats. Rain or shine. You know how it is."

     Holon glanced at the wet stands. "Good way to catch cold." He glanced at the bag. The zipper slid back.

     Tobie glared at him then reached into the opened slot. "Pfft..." He pulled out a sweatshirt.

     Holon turned way from the field, encouraging Tobie to walk with him. "There's been an influx."

     "Well no sh--"

     "Noticed the spirit outside the school?"

     "Yeah I saw it. But it dissipated too quickly. And there were too many civilians around." Tobie pulled the sweatshirt over his head.

     Holon looked blank. "Too many civilians."

     "Yeah. Jacob and Layah, Gus and Rebeca."

     "You let a few on looking civilians get in the way of doing your job."

     Tobie stopped dead. "Wh--I didn't--That...It’s not like that!" he spat. "I don't have your..." He lowered his voice, glancing back at the stands. "...abilities. And they don't need to know. Besides," he added, the easy swagger coming back into his voice. "You're getting too much attention as it is. Eddie is gunning for you now, you know. Hassled me earlier. You gotta blend in more, man. Student like, ya know." He slicked back his blonde hair.

     Holon gave him an appraising looking that went on a half second longer then comfort allowed. Tobie shifted on his feet.

     "Keep vigilant." Holon turned away from the path leading back to the student apartments and towards the tennis courts. "And an eye on those two."

     "Who?"

      "Lenburt and his sister."
     Tobie’s eyes narrowed. "Why?"

     “They are of interest.”

     Tobie half halfheartedly resigned himself to not getting a detailed answer and re-gripped his duffle. "Fine. You know; I could come with you..."

     Holon paused, looking over his shoulder. "Pardon?"

     "Nothing. Never mind." Tobie grumbled. "Later."

     They parted, in decided different directions, as the rain gained weight and pounded down on the soggy campus.





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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Episode Twenty Four

Episode Twenty Four 

New Silence

De omnibus dubitandum.
All is to be doubted.
-Rene Descartes



   As he dumped his trash, Tobie glanced at the table near the front of the cafeteria and smirked. Two chairs were conspicuously empty. He placed his tray in the receptacle, waited while Gus did the same, and then headed back to Mayan's Hall.

   Gus prattled on about Rebeca and Sadie and Tobie tuned it out while scanning the premises. No activity. Nothing amiss. He slid back the door to 12A.

   Gus elbowed his arm. "Dude, you hear me at all?"

   This again…I have more important things to do besides listen to you pinning over girls you’ll never get. "Yeah, yeah," Tobie waved dismissively as they walked to their row. "You got it bad for Beca and Sadie and half the other hot girls. You're a broken record, man. Give it a rest."

   Tobie caught a scramble of paper from the first row and picked up the pace, rounded Brooke Kent’s desk where she was re-braiding her hair, and hurried down his row.

   A bark from the other side of the room."Sinclair."

   Tobie looked up from setting his bag on his desk. Eddie heading for his row. Great. "Yeah, what?"

   Eddie adjusted his golden watch with an imperious rattle as he walked between the desks, his light eyes filled with suspicion. "Where's your buddy?"

   "Why whoever do you mean, Edward?" Tobie looped his satchel’s strap around the back of the chair.

   Eddie grasped the clip board with both hands, looking as if he were about to pass judgment. "Where's Hughes?"

   Tobie straightened, a few muscle’s in his arm itching to bunch. "No idea, man. Not a clue."

   "He's consistently late." Eddie squared his shoulders, glancing down at his clip board and flipping a few pages. “Yesterday, two days before….”

   "Yeah? So? Take it up with him." Tobie could feel his patience about to snap. Holon, man you so owe me!

   Eddie gave Tobie a cool look. His eyes narrowed. "Something is going on here. You know something, Sinclair."

   A rush of panic cooled the bubbling anger. Tobie tried to let it dissipate with a short laugh. "Man, you're paranoid. As far as I know, he went home for lunch and lost track of time."

   "Losses track of time allot."

   Tobie's hands slid out of his pockets. He did his best not to let them form fists. "Why ya hassling me, Ed?" Their eyes locked.

   Gus looked sidelong at Tobie. The tension between the boys had ramped up a few notches. He stood up.

   Eddie licked his lips, gaze flicking to Gus then back to Tobie. "You're…you’re his roommate," he said, his voice loosing the haughty overtones.

   "Yeah. Not his handler. Lay off."

   “We don’t have time to play messenger, Ed,” Gus put in, bracing himself on Tobie’s desk to lean closer to Eddie. “Do your own job.”

   Eddie took a step backwards, tripping on Saddie’s backpack. "Well…you…He’s…He's getting detention for this," he finished, voice a bit higher.

   "Yeah, ok Eddie.” Tobie rolled his eyes, reaching down to right Saddie’s bag just as she did. Getting to it first, he gave her a winning smile and set it upright. “You just let him know that.”

   "If he shows up, I will." Eddie backed down Tobie's row. "If he shows up."

   The door slid back and Rebeca walked through. Waving at Sadie, who was already tearing paper out of the notebook, she headed to her desk.

   Lampman entered closely after and the classroom's volume went down a notch. "Hope everyone had a good lunch." He set his bag on his chair and pulled out his notebooks.

   The door slid back just as the bell rang. Eddie's head shot up like a cat hearing a distant mouse.

   Esther came in quickly, both hands on her satchel strap, and hurried to the other side of the classroom.

   Tobie grinned at Eddie's obvious disappointment.

*

   Lampman stood back from the mess of equations on the white board. "And that’s the basis theory of Sentential Logic." He dusted his hands off as the bell rang. "I will be going over it in detail next lesson. Do pages 114 and 126 in your work book, evens only," he added over the growing din of students quickly packing away their supplies. "Have a good weekend everyone."

   Gus swiveled towards Rebeca’s desk. "Gonna watch us today after school?"

   Rebeca threw Sadie a look.

   Sadie rolled her eyes while packing up her algebra book.

   "Come with us, Bec. Come on." Gus practically pleaded.

   Rebeca tossed her pretty hair over her shoulder, glanced at Tobie.

   Gus stepped closer to her. "It'll be a good game. Promise."

   She rested her chin on her hand with a pout. "I don't really get soccer. And Sadie has to get home. Not much fun sitting in the stands by yourself."

   Tobie grinned at Gus' deflated look. "Hey Jake, wanna keep Bec company at our game?"

   Jacob looked up from Adan's desk. "Sure. Gotta get my bike though. Walk me out?"

   "Come on, Bec." Tobie winked, inwardly smirking when her checks flushed a soft pink. "Let’s walk them out together."

   Rebeca stood up faster then even Tobie expected. "Ok."

   The four headed out into the chilly afternoon, rain clouds threatening overhead adding murky gloom to the day.

   Rebeca stopped just before the bike rack. "Who’s that?"

   Jacob turned from unlocking his bike. He sighed. "Ugh...man...That's my baby sister..."

   "What's she doing here?" Rebeca squinted at the little girl hopping up the side walk on one leg, then switching to two, then back to one.

   “Looks like Hop Scotch,” said Tobie.

   Rebeca laughed.

   "She goes to Wintin Conservatory, down the hill." Jacob pulled the lock off his bike and unraveled the chain from around the tiers. "She started walking up here like a week ago after they let out. Freaked her nanny the first time when she couldn't find her. Then she started just...showing up."

   "So she waits for you after school?" Rebeca smiled at the little girl skipping along the avenue, singing softly. "That's so sweet."

   "Nah," Jacob said, running an embarrassed hand through his hair. "She just likes to play up here. She says she has a friend," he added, putting air quotes around "friend."

   Rebeca nodded knowingly. "My youngest brother had one of those."

   "Dad's tried to put a stop to it, but nothing's worked so far. She just keeps coming up here to play."

   "Have you tried drugs?"

   Jacob glared at Gus. "She's only six, man. It’s just a phase." He pulled his hair back and put on his cap. "She'll grow out of it." He kicked off, stirring the bike down Westin's front drive. "Looks like I can't stay though. Sorry Beca. Later."

   "Let's get back," Gus prodded, turning with Rebeca to head back up the Quad. "Don't need coach on my ass anymore. It won’t be a long game, Bec."

   "Yeah, whatever man." Tobie, said, watching Jacob ride up to Layah, his feet leaving the peddles to skim along the sidewalk.

   Layah straightened from searching for the rock skipped into the flowerbed around the grated trees. She let Jacob help her onto the book rack on the back of the bike. Leaning backwards she laced her fingers between the metal rungs of the rack, lurching as Jacob kicked off. Grinning, she waved back towards the Hop Scotch spot.

   Tobie turned to follow Gus and Rebeca. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a thin glistening bit of air raise wavering from the ground, and wave back before fading away.




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Monday, June 6, 2011

Twenty Three


Episode Twenty Three

 Engage


You're happy to believe in something that's invisible but if it's staring you in the face— nope, can't see it! There's a scientific explanation for that: You're thick!
- The Doctor

   "So..." Tobie glanced sidelong at Holon. "How were things?"

   "Eventful."

   Tobie could hear the tinny way Holon’s breath hissed in and out. His gaze strayed to the slight spotting of blood around the other boy’s neck and he rolled his eyes. They walked in silence for a while, passing the library. "And the new demon?"

   "No sign of it. No dissipation of energy. No morphic residue. No leads." 

   "So it really is attached to Layah." Tobie shook his head. "This is going to get..."

   "Complicated."

   As they reached Mayan's Hall and entered the throng, Holon stopped dead. A few students bunched up behind him, the stream momentarily dammed. He turned against them and headed back down the stairs, ignoring the irritated remarks. Tobie, holding the door open at the top, sighed. He squeezed through the students, reached the side of the building, and vaulted over the rail.

   Holon was nearly at the quad when he caught up. 

   "What?"

   "Presence." Holon picked up speed, hands leaving his pockets, coat flapping behind him as ran.

   Tobie kept pace, alert, scanning the school grounds. 

   Holon slowed at the entrance to Westin's; the tall ivy covered iron gates. A bike zoomed up the drive. Its rider glanced at the boys ahead and fingers squeezed the breaks. 

   "Hey guys." Jacob's trainers skidded over the gravel as he came to a stop in front of them. 

   "Morning," Holon said. "Where's your sister?"

     "Oh, I dropped her off." Jacob swung a leg over the bike. "Dad was livid about the last time so I made sure she got to her class before coming up." He rubbed his forehead. "What's up?"

   Tobie glanced at Holon, then back to Jacob. He quickly pulled up a grin. "Oh, nothing. Just saw ya coming up and thought we'd meet ya. Finish the math homework?" He started walking backwards, encouraging Jacob to walk the bike beside him. 

   "Barely. Just this morning. Man algebra sucks."

   "To the inth degree," Tobie laughed, eyes on Holon.

   "Have a headache?"

   Jacob glanced over his shoulder. Holon stared down the quad, back to them. 

     "Huh?"

   Holon turned, considered him a moment, then walked forward. "Do you have a headache?"

   Tobie shot him a glare, which was ignored. 

   "Oh. Yeah. Not bad. I've been getting them in the mornings. It's weird though," Jacob added as the three of them headed towards Mayan's Hall. "They always spike right when I get to school. Must be environmentally triggered." He laughed. 

   Tobie joined in unenthusiastically, eyes on Holon. 


   The buzz of a teacher-less classroom rose as Tobie slid the door to 12B aside. They nodded to Eddie; at his desk but with the attendance role held regally before him.

   "Hey Jake!" Daniel called, sitting on top of Eddie's seat. "Where you online last night?"

   "I'll catch y'all at lunch," Jacob said to Tobie and Holon, heading to his seat. 

   Tobie nodded, heading to his row. 

   Gus reclined in his seat, feet propped up on the back of Esther's chair, arms crossed with a smug grin. "Hey."

   "Morning."

   "Talked to coach earlier." 

   "Oh yeah?" Tobie set his bag in his chair.

   "Yep." Gus turned his smirk up to him as Lampman entered the classroom. "Said I could play forward for the shirts today."

   Tobie's eye brows rose. "Did he?"

   "Yep." Gus grinned. "You're going down Sinclair." 

   Tobie matched his smile and leaned into his desk. "Bring it."

   The squeak of marker on dry erase board broke their friendly competition. Tobie lowered his bag to the floor and sat. 

   Morning passed with Lampman attempting to engage the class in their history lesson. A listlessness encompassed everyone and when the bell rang for lunch he looked as relieved as the students.
Tobie followed Holon out into the hall and waited by his locker for Gus and Jacob to catch up.

   "So ready for lunch. You feelin pizza today?"

   "I have to go."

   "Go?" Tobie frowned blankly. "Go...Oh. Lets go then."

   "No." Holon shoved his books into the locker and closed it with a snap. 

   "Oh come on--"

   "You will stay here. Watch for influx."

   "Man." Tobie's shoulder fell against the lockers. "You gotta be kidding me. Baby sitting again?"

   Holon glanced up at him, meeting his eyes.

   "Yeah. Ok, fine." Tobie shoved his hands in his pockets. 

   Holon turned and headed towards Mayan's large double doors. 

   "Hey," Gus said, pushing through the throng of students. "Jacob's meeting us. Hey, where’s Holon Is he taking off?"

   "Looks like." Tobie turned back to the hall. 

   "Whoa. Skipping out now."

   "Whatever. " Tobie stopped. "I'll meet ya there." Gus shrugged and continued down the hall, catching Jacob near the classroom. 

   Tobie’s teeth ground as he veered towards the large windows by the door. "What are you doing, stalker?"

   Esther jumped guiltily, bag banging against the glass. 

   Tobie snatched the strap, ripping it from her shoulder while stepping close enough to make her jerk backwards and into the window. A few passing students laughed. 

   Esther’s hands curled at her chest, not daring to reach for her satchel. 

   "Listen good, freak, because I'm not going to keep repeating myself. Keep. Your. Distance." His fist tightened, twisting her hip towards him. "Hear me?"

   Esther cringed, staring at the tiny space between them.

   "I said--"

   "Sinclare."

   Tobie glanced up to see Dr. Walker, 10A's homeroom professor, gazing at them impassively a classroom away. 

   "Stop loitering."

   "Yes sir." Tobie grinned. "Just saying a little goodbye." He leaned over Esther, lips brushing her ear. "See you later, sweetheart," he growl as she flinched. With a glance at Walker, busily haranguing a student for running, he dropped the bag. 

   Esther let it hit the floor, turning to the window, one hand on the pane. Her breath fogged the cold window. 

   "Watch yourself." Tobie threw her a wave over his shoulder, missing her lift a shaky finger and write one cramped word into the breath of glass.





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