Where foundlings hide, p.10
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.10

           KL Mitchelson

  Chapter Ten

  I stifle a yawn with the back of my hand, shifting uncomfortably in the hard, wooden chair outside of Ms Gould’s office. I hear the clack of heels and I turn to see my Aunt striding purposefully along the corridor.

  Slim and pretty with pale blonde hair that she wears twisted into a sophisticated knot, Ivy is an older version of Lana. She pulls me into a hug and I inhale her familiar, floral scent.

  She stands back to look at me. “You look pale. Are you eating properly? Sleeping OK?”

  “I’m fine, Ivy. I’m just sorry Ms Gould made you come all this way.”

  “It’s only a short journey,” she smiles. “To be honest, I was glad of an excuse to come see you, I was starting to think I had upset you somehow, you haven’t returned any of my calls.”

  I look away from her, guilt clawing at my insides. “I know, I just-”

  She takes my face in her hands and smiles sadly. “I miss her too, you know.”

  I step back from her touch, her sudden surge of emotion making me lightheaded. “How long are you staying for?”

  “Not long, I have to fly straight back this afternoon, I’m meeting an investor who’s interested in the collection.”

  “I’m so sorry, Ivy. You should have told Ms Gould that you couldn’t leave work, it’s not fair to make you fly all the way from Paris.”

  She waves me away. “It’s fine, Casey,” She sheds her cream mac, revealing a navy pencil-dress that hugs her slender frame. “You’re my niece, my responsibility, and I want to hear what Ms Gould has to say.” Her mouth sets in a thin, determined line. I recognise this expression, it’s the one she wears when she’s steeling herself, preparing for a fight.

  Ms Gould’s door opens and she steps out into the corridor, casting her eyes over Ivy and tugging self-consciously at her worn, black blazer. She extends a hand. “I’m sorry for calling you away from work, Ms George.”

  “Please, call me Ivy.” She says, shaking Ms Gould’s hand and smiling tightly, dangerously.

  Inside the small, stuffy office, Ivy drapes her coat across the back of a chair and sits down with her hands folded in her lap.

  Ms Gould’s desk is cluttered with papers and she sweeps them hastily into the top drawer before taking out a notebook. “I thought we should meet to discuss some of the issues Casey has had since she returned to school. Has Casey told you about the incidents that have happened over the last couple of weeks?”

  Ivy’s eyes flicker to me, then back to Ms Gould. “Despite numerous telephone calls, I haven’t had a conversation with Casey since she returned to school.”

  Ms Gould looks at me with surprise. “Well, not long after Casey returned, a fire broke out in the grounds. I went outside to bring the students in and saw Casey running in the direction of the fire, some students reported that they heard her shouting Lana’s name.”

  I hazard a glance at Ivy, but her face is impassive.

  “The following week,” Ms Gould continues. “Casey got into a fight with a fellow student, Molly Adams. Casey hit Molly, causing bruising to her jaw, then later that night, I found her outside in the grounds with a boy, her clothes soaking wet after apparently falling into the river,” Ms Gould raises her eyebrows at me and then turns back to Ivy. “The latest incident happened a few days ago. A memorial display dedicated to Lana was vandalised, I made the mistake of showing Casey the damage, and I’m sorry to say that she got very upset. She stormed off and I followed her, only to find her throwing Molly down the stairs.

  “That’s not true,” I say. “We both fell.”

  Ms Gould sighs irritably. “You fell because you were fighting again,” she turns to Ivy. “I’ve spoken to the Head Teacher and he is in agreement that Casey isn’t in the right frame of mind to continue her studies right now.”

  I feel winded. The thought of returning to Evergreen alone fills me with dread.

  “May I ask, Ms Gould, are either you or the Head appropriately qualified to make that kind of assessment?” Ivy’s tone is light, courteous, but Ms Gould looks like she has just been slapped in the face.

  “We are teachers, senior members of staff.”

  “But not psychologists.”

  Ms Gould blushes a deep shade of scarlet. “Well no, but, we have a psychologist on site.”

  “Ah yes, Dr Parker,” Ivy says, as though she and Dr Parker are old friends. “And what does she think about Casey’s current state of mind?”

  Ms Gould shifts uncomfortably in her chair. “Dr Parker believes that Casey is still in mourning, I agree, but we have a difference of opinion when it comes to her education.”

  Ivy sits back in her chair, a satisfied smile on her face, and I feel a sudden rush of gratitude towards Dr Parker.

  “But her grief doesn’t excuse her fighting with other students.” Ms Gould says.

  “I agree,” Ivy says, nodding in acknowledgement, “But you said that Casey fought with Molly, suggesting that the altercation wasn’t completely one sided.”

  “Well, yes, but-”

  “And I assume, therefore, that you have also spoken to Molly’s parents regarding her behaviour?”

  Ms Gould presses her hands on the desk, her fingers evenly spaced. “Molly was not seen running towards a fire in the grounds, or returning into school soaking wet after falling into the river in the middle of the night. Casey doesn’t seem to be taking her personal safety seriously.”

  “You seem to believe these incidents were of great concern,” Ivy says. “That Casey was intentionally putting herself at risk, yet you have waited until now to discuss them with me. Is there anything else I should know about?”

  Ms Gould’s mouth opens and closes like a fish out of water.

  Ivy smiles politely. “I didn’t think so. Now you listen to me,” she fixes Ms Gould with an even stare and lowers her voice. “You are in no position to lecture me on the safety of students after what happened to Lana,”

  My head whips around to Ivy, my mouth open. I hazard a glance at Ms Gould. Her face is oddly blank, her mouth slack, and her eyes are wide, unblinking.

  “You are not qualified to comment on Casey’s frame of mind,” Ivy continues. “And you will tell the Head that you’ve had a change of heart, that you would like Casey to stay. Do you understand?”

  “I understand,” Ms Gould says, nodding slowly. “I would like Casey to stay.”

  “I think being the head of sixth form is becoming too much for you, dear,” Ivy says. “All those sleepless nights, all those feelings of remorse and guilt….”

  Ms Gould’s wide eyes brim with tears, but her expression remains blank. I look between her and Ivy, confused by this odd exchange.

  “Ivy, stop.” I don’t know what I want her to stop, because I’m not sure what she’s doing. She appears to have Ms Gould under a spell.

  Ivy stands suddenly. “I thank you for your time, Ms Gould. I am pleased to hear that Casey is doing so well.” She shrugs into her coat, preparing to leave.

  Ms Gould shakes her head like she’s trying to clear water from her ears. “Yes, of course.”

  Ivy looks at me then. “Are you ready, sweetie?”

  I nod, still confused by what has just occurred.

  Ms Gould scrambles around the desk, stumbling a little, and opens the door. She pats me kindly on the shoulder as I leave and I feel a surge of pity towards the teacher that I once got on so well with. She appears to have completely forgotten why she called Ivy here.

  I follow Ivy out of the front door and into the grounds, there is a chill in the air and I pull my blazer more tightly around me. She heads around the side of the building in the direction of the patio and she doesn’t speak until we’re inside the walls, shielded from the rest of the school. She sits down at one of the benches and gestures for me to join her.

  “So, are you going to tell me what really happened?” She asks.

  “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

  Ivy gives a puzzled smil
e. “I’m sorry, I don’t follow.”

  “You did something to Ms Gould,” I say. “You made her agree with you, like you cast a spell on her.”

  Ivy laughs, a high, melodious sound. “Don’t be silly, Casey. I just made her see reason, that’s all.”

  I don’t believe her, but I can’t find the words to explain what I saw. “It just doesn’t make any sense, Ms Gould wanted me to leave, and now, I don’t know.”

  “You’re not going anywhere, dear. Ms Gould doesn’t have a good enough reason to ask you to leave. She knows that now.”

  I nod, but I still feel uneasy.

  “So, it sounds like you’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Are you going to tell me what really happened?”

  “It’s just like Ms Gould said,” I shrug. “Only… there’s more. I keep seeing Lana.” I say the words quickly, before I have time to change my mind about saying them at all.

  Ivy’s brow furrows slightly, almost imperceptibly. “What do you mean you keep seeing Lana?”

  “It’s dreams mostly,” I say. “But I saw her in the reflection of my mirror, and again the night of the fire. Am I crazy?”

  “Of course not.” Ivy says, not quite meeting my eyes. “Sometimes, when we really want to see something, we imagine that it’s there. It’s the same with people. You miss Lana terribly; you wish she was still here, so you see her.” She reaches into her bag, extracts a pair of sunglasses and shoves them hurriedly on to her face.

  “I’m sorry, Ivy,” I say. “About everything, about not returning your calls and-.”

  “Oh, I’m glad you reminded me.” She delves into her bag again and retrieves a shiny, chrome mobile phone. “Now you have no excuse.”

  I smile as I take the phone from her, rubbing my thumb over the smooth exterior. “Thank you, but you didn’t need to do this.”

  Ivy waves me away. “I haven’t bought you anything in ages. My number is already programmed in, along with my email address, so no excuses. I want to hear from you at least once a week, OK?”

  “OK, I promise.”

  “Good,” she smiles, “Now tell me about this boy you were out in the grounds with.”

  My stomach dips a little. “His name is Caleb, he just transferred.”

  “And…? What’s he like? Tall, handsome?”

  I scrunch my nose up. “Yes, and yes, but he can be kind of arrogant too.”

  Ivy sighs. “The good-looking ones usually are.”

  I nod in agreement, pulling at a loose thread hanging from the cuff of my blazer. Something is niggling at the back of my mind, something that Ivy said earlier. “Ivy, what you said to Ms Gould about what happened to Lana, what did you mean by that?”

  Ivy sighs. “Ms Gould was there that night; she was in charge.”

  “No, it was more than that. You seemed to be suggesting something.”

  Ivy puffs out her cheeks. “Ms Gould told the police that she was awake the whole night, patrolling the campsite regularly, making sure everyone was tucked up safely in their tents, but she lied. Ms Gould was on some very strong medication at the time, it made her drowsy. She was fast asleep for the majority of the night.”

  “How do you know that?”

  Ivy shrugs. “One of the other teachers reported it to the police.”

  “But that doesn’t make any sense. She would’ve lost her job, or she could’ve been arrested. If she had been awake, maybe she-”

  Ivy groans. “Let’s not talk about it now, Casey. The police probably just dismissed it as hearsay, I can’t keep going over old ground again. Lana’s gone.”

  Angry sadness starts to build in my chest and I blink back tears.

  She squeezes my hand lightly and I feel a jolt of tension. “I need you to stay out of trouble, do you hear me?” Her voice is not unkind. “I managed to convince Ms Gould to let you stay this time, she might not be so… agreeable next time.”

  I nod silently.

  “And no more fighting, I didn’t teach you to solve problems with your fists,” she peers over her sunglasses at me with an almost amused expression. “Where did you even learn to throw a punch?”

  “I don’t know.” I shrug.

  She pushes her sunglasses back up her nose. “Anyway, just keep your head down, see this year out and you can decide what you want to do next year.”

  “What do you mean,” I ask, pulling a face. “Where else would I go?”

  She doesn’t answer; instead she reaches across and picks up the necklace resting against my shirt. “That’s pretty.”

  “I found it in my room,” I say. “I think it was a gift, but I don’t know who it’s from.”

  “How mysterious.” Ivy lifts her sunglasses to look more closely at the gem, turning it over in her hand.

  “Do you think it’s weird that I wear it, even though I don’t know who it’s from?”

  “Oh no, dear,” Ivy says. “It’s beautiful, you keep it on.”

  When the bell rings for lunch, Ivy calls a taxi and I walk her to the gates. We say a quick goodbye and I promise to call her at the weekend.

  As I head back up the drive, edging around the stone fountain where the water sprays the tarmac, I see Caleb walking towards me and my heart quickens; I haven’t spoken to him since the night he pulled me from the river. I am about to wave, when I see Molly fall into step beside him. Caleb glances my way, but doesn’t speak, he doesn’t even smile.

  Just then, Bria bounds towards me with Nick on her heels. “So, how did it go?”

  “How did what go?” I ask, distracted by Caleb and Molly.

  “The meeting, with Ms Gould…”

  “Oh, it was fine.” I reach the stone steps of the main building and I lean heavily against the handrail, the metal already warm from the sun filtering through a break in the clouds.

  Bria raises her eyebrows at me. “Ms Gould made Ivy fly all the way from Paris to meet with her, and you’re telling me it was just fine?”

  “Ivy… straightened things out and Ms Gould said I could stay.”

  “Well that’s good, isn’t it?” Bria smiles.

  “Forget that,” Nick says. “I want to know what happened with you and Caleb the other night.” Bria nudges him in the side. “Nick, I already told you nothing happened.” She sits down heavily on the steps and pulls Nick down beside her.

  “That’s not what I heard.” He says suggestively.

  “Why, what did he tell you?” I ask.

  “Nothing, really,” he laughs. “I’m just winding you up. Caleb said you and him went for a walk outside and you both got caught by Ms Gould.”

  “That’s pretty much it,” I shrug. “Anyway, looks like he’s pretty occupied at the moment.” I nod in the direction of Caleb and Molly, now sitting side by side on the grass.

  “Don’t worry about that,” Nick frowns. “I don’t think he’s into Molly.”

  I watch as Molly places her hand on Caleb’s shoulder and leans in to whisper in his ear. My stomach twists. “Makes no difference to me. Let’s go for lunch, I’m starving.”

  Later that day, when I return to my room, I find my door unlocked again. I step inside and drop my bag to the floor, realising almost immediately that something is wrong.

  The sheets on the bed have been pulled tight, the edges tucked under the mattress, the quilt smoothed over. I rarely make the bed. Sometimes, if I remember, I straighten the covers up a little, but this looks neat - military neat. Someone has been in my room again.

  I pull back the duvet and pillows, then I crouch on the floor to look under the bed. There’s nothing there, but I have a bad feeling, anxiety clawing at my insides.

  I lift the mattress and peer underneath. There, wedged between the wooden slats, is a clear plastic bag. I pull it towards me, the contents rattling around inside. It’s a can of spray paint, black spray paint.

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