Where foundlings hide, p.12
Where Foundlings Hide, p.12KL Mitchelson
I blink in the glare of the light above me, tentatively moving my head from side to side. I try to cling on to the images flickering through my mind, trying to piece together what happened.
I saw Lana again, she was here, she hit me with a rock. I followed her and she told me to go back, but I wouldn’t, so she hit me. The memory filters into my mind, slowly, like grains of sand in an hourglass. She checked to make sure I was OK, I remember her leaning over me, then she walked to the cliff edge and she….
No, that’s not right. My head spins with confusion. I’m in the girls’ bathroom near the sports hall, I came here to shower after fencing practice, there was someone in here, messing around, and then Molly... Molly attacked me. She smashed my head into the floor and then she just left, like she didn’t care if I lived or died.
I flinch at the sound of his voice. “Caleb? What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been looking for you, practice finished ages ago,” he says, his face pale. “I was worried.”
I sit up and raise a hand to the back of my head, but all I find is a tangled mess of sticky hair. I look over my shoulder and recoil in horror. The floor is covered in blood.
The front of his T-shirt is stained with red.
“Stay away from me!”
“Casey, please, you’re hurt.”
I swallow a sob. “Every time something happens, you’re there. Are you helping Molly? It’s not enough to get me kicked out of school; she wants me dead now too?”
Caleb’s brow furrows. He looks like he wants to say something, but instead he holds out a hand.
I look at him in surprise, then I put my hand in his, gritting my teeth as the base of my skull tingles and his concern snaps against my skin.
“How did you know.” I say, releasing him.
He shakes his head; his dark hair still wet from the shower. “There’s no time, you need to tell me what happened.”
I search his green eyes. He knows about my gift; he held his hand out to me, because he knew that if I touched him I would know that he was telling the truth. But how is that possible?
“Casey, tell me what happened.” His voice is firm, his tone insistent.
“Molly was here. She pushed me and then she cracked my head against the floor.”
He looks over his shoulder towards the door. “I didn’t see her on my way down here.”
“She was here, she did this and…there was…someone else, in the shower.”
I point at the cubicle where the shadowy figure had stood moments ago behind the plastic curtain. Caleb straightens up and strides towards it. He whips the plastic screen back, but the cubicle is empty.
“There was someone in there, I saw them.” I try to get to my feet, but my head swims.
“Hey, hey, it’s OK,” he crouches beside me, pulling me into him. “I believe you, you’re safe now.”
“Caleb, what’s happening to me?”
He cradles my head against his chest. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“You don’t understand. Before you found me, I thought I was back on the cliffs, I thought I saw Lana again. I have this awful feeling that this is all somehow connected to that night, to her.”
Caleb sighs and his breath tickles my ear. “You hit your head pretty hard.”
I look down at the blood-stained floor. “Is my head still bleeding?”
“No, I don’t think so, but we need to get you checked over.”
I feel the back of my head again, tracing my fingers over my skull. “I can’t find a wound.”
Caleb lightly touches the back of my head and I lean forward so he can look, his fingers gently raking the sticky clumps of my hair. “You’re right, there’s nothing there.”
He looks from me to the floor, wiping his hands on the front of his t-shirt. “Are you sure this blood is yours?”
“Who else’s would it be? When my head hit the floor, I heard my skull crack. I felt the blood pouring out.”
Caleb’s face is suddenly pale. “Whatever injury you sustained, it’s gone.”
“That’s not possible.” I touch the sticky locks again and screw up my nose. “I need to wash my hair.” I scramble to my feet, gripping my towel more securely around me. Thankfully, it kept me covered when I fell.
Caleb grips my elbow for support. “You need to take it easy.”
I grit my teeth as his confusion surges through me. “I’m fine.” My legs are still a little unsteady, but I manage to pad over to the showers.
“Caleb, would you mind waiting for me? In here?” I’m embarrassed to ask, but I don’t want to be alone right now.
“I’m not letting you out of my sight,” He nods in the direction of the cubicle. “Once you’ve showered.” He smiles and the ease of it makes me a little calmer.
I step into the cubicle, only shedding my towel when the plastic curtain is shut firmly behind me.
My shampoo is still where I left it and I gently massage it into my hair. There is no pain now, just fear. It prickles all over my body, making me tremble from head to toe.
The water runs red and then pink as it rinses the blood away. My thoughts are muddled; a confused mess. I remember Molly’s dark eyes and I shudder. None of this makes sense.
When I step out of the shower, I find the floor of the bathroom clean. Caleb stands against the basins, a basket filled with red-stained paper towels at his feet. He is shirtless, showing off the ripple of muscles across his abdomen.
His eyes skim over my wet skin, travelling the length of my arm, then down to my bare legs. I pull the towel more tightly around me. I grab my clothes from my bag and I pull on a pair of soft tracksuit bottoms under my towel. I turn away from Caleb as I drop the towel to the floor and pull a t-shirt on over my head.
When I turn back, he’s standing right behind me.
“Let me see.”
Panic shoots through me. “See what?”
“Your head, let me see your head.” There’s a hint of a smile around his lips as I obediently turn away from him. “Looks fine, but you should let the nurse take a look.”
“There’s no need, you said I’m fine,” I try to smile, but it feels more like a grimace. “I think it’s best if we don’t mention this to anyone. I’m supposes to be staying out of trouble.”
He clenches his jaw as he considers this. I expect him to argue, but he doesn’t. “OK, but on one condition,”
I look at him expectantly.
“You have someone with you at all times. At least until I can speak to Molly, find out what’s going on.”
“Fine. I’ll find Bria, she’ll stay with me tonight.”
“Bria’s with Nick. I’ll stay with you,” he holds up his hands when he sees the look of horror on my face. “I’ll sleep on the floor and I’ll sneak out in the morning before everyone wakes up.”
The thought of a boy staying in my room makes me more nervous than seeing the shadow behind the shower curtain.
Caleb takes the liner from the waste basket and retrieves my blood-stained towel from the floor. He stuffs it into the bag and then ties the handles together.
“I don’t get it, there was so much blood, my head was cracked open like an egg, but…”
Caleb shrugs, dropping the bag to the floor. “Sometimes when I get hurt in rugby, it can look a lot worse than it is. C’mon. You need some rest.” He holds the door open for me.
I stare pointedly at his bare chest. “You can’t walk through school like that.”
“Why not?” He laughs, retrieving his gym bag from the corridor and pulling out a sweatshirt. He pulls it over his head and holds out his arms. “Better?”
“Much.” I say, tying my wet hair into a high ponytail.
We pass a couple of people on the way to the stairs, Caleb greets them briefly, but I continue with my head down, worried about what might happen if I see Molly.
When we reach the sixth form dormitory, we wait until the coast is clear before hurrying along to my room.
Caleb dumps his bag on the floor and scans the space with an air of suspicion. He opens the wardrobe and sifts through my clothes, then he ducks to look under the bed.
“What are you looking for?”
“Just…. checking.” He smiles. He pulls the blanket and a pillow from my bed and lays them out on the floor.
I shove my bag in the wardrobe and then I crawl into bed fully clothed, pulling the covers up to my chin, shivering with cold and unease.
“Here.” Caleb’s hand disappears under the bed, and then he passes me his hooded top that I had kept since the night he pulled me from the river. My cheeks flush. I’d slept in it a couple of times, finding his scent comforting when I woke in the night. I hastily pull it on.
Caleb settles back on his makeshift bed, smirking up at the ceiling. I turn off the lamp and when the lights in front of my eyes fade, I can just make out his form in the darkness.
“Caleb, how did you know what I can do?”
“What do you mean?”
I listen to his steady breathing, not quite able to form the words. Maybe I had misunderstood when he held his hand out to me. “Never mind. What are you going to say to Molly?”
He’s quiet for a moment. “I’m not sure, she’s clearly got something against you, but…”
“I just can’t believe she would intentionally hurt you like that.”
“Well she did, she left me there to bleed out.”
“Did she say anything to you?”
I try to remember, but all I can see is her black eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”
“I’ll speak to her; she likes me so she’ll tell me what I need to know.”
I grimace at him in the darkness and even though there is no way he can see me, I’m pretty sure I hear him laughing under his breath as I close my eyes.
The next morning, I wake to find Caleb gone, the blanket folded up neatly on the floor, the pillow beside it. So much for not letting me out of your sight.
I reach reflexively for the back of my head, running my fingers through my hair, but there is no trace of the wound that caused the horrific amount of blood in the bathroom.
Today is Saturday, so there’s no reason for me to get up, but I feel like I’m burning with energy, so I pull on my running gear and head towards the door.
As I rest my fingers on the handle, it turns. The door swings open and a scream escapes my lips when I see the dark-haired figure on the other side.
“Jeez, Casey,” Orla’s hand flies to her chest. “Jumpy much?”
Bria and Jas appear behind her, their eyes wide with alarm.
“What are you all doing here?” I take deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart.
“Caleb told us what happened.” Bria steps around Orla and pulls me into a hug, her concern surging through me.
“Let’s talk inside.” I say, gently shrugging out of her embrace.
“Here.” Jas sits down on floor and empties the contents of her bag, a variety of breakfast snacks spilling out on to the floor. “I thought you might be hungry.”
“Thanks.” I sink down beside her and take a banana from the pile.
Bria picks up a scrunched up napkin and unfolds it to reveal a stack of streaky bacon. “Caleb said Molly attacked you.”
I peel the banana and take a bite, nodding as I swallow it down.
“What happened?” Orla asks.
“She pushed me and I slipped, then she grabbed my hair and slammed my head against the floor,”
“She could’ve really hurt you,” Jas says, pressing her fingers to her cheeks.
“She did; I was knocked out cold. It could’ve been a lot worse if Caleb hadn’t found me,”
“I don’t get it,” Bria says. “Did you two fight again?”
“No,” I say, a little more impatiently than I intended. “I went for a shower after fencing practice, and someone was in the changing room, they were messing around with the water, trying to scare me or something. I was about to leave and she was standing in the doorway, then she pushed me.”
Orla looks confused. “So, if Molly was in the corridor, who was in the changing room with you?”
I take another bite of banana as I remember the tall, dark shadow behind the shower curtain, the hand that didn’t look human reaching out towards me. “I didn’t see who it was,” I lie. “And they were both gone when I woke up.”
“This is so unlike Molly,” Jas says. “She can be a bitch sometimes, but she wouldn’t do this, she wouldn’t do something so horrid, so violent. Something’s not right.”
“You should report this to Ms Gould,” Orla says.
“And tell her what? I don’t even have a bump on my head,” I turn my head so they can see.
“And it could look bad for Casey,” Bria adds. “Ms Gould will just think she and Molly have been fighting again,”
“Bria’s right,” I say. “And I’m not sure it was Molly, at least, she wasn’t herself. Before she pushed me, her eyes were black, completely black,”
Orla pulls a face. “What, like her pupils were dilated?”
“Yeah, I guess, but I couldn’t even see the whites of her eyes,”
Orla and Jas exchange a look.
“Could she have taken something?” Bria asks.
“She mentioned taking something to cope,” Jas says. “But that was prescribed,”
“Yeah,2 Orla nods. “She said it made her kind of spaced out.”
I chew the inside of my mouth. I know that’s not it, but I don’t know how else to explain the strange darkness in Molly’s eyes.”
“Anyway,” Bria says. “Caleb said we should stay with you until he has a chance to speak to Molly, find out what’s going on,”
I raise an eyebrow at her. “I don’t need babysitting, Bria.” Actually, the thought of having my friends around me makes me feel a whole lot calmer, but there is no way that I’ll admit that I’m afraid.
“It’s not babysitting,” she says exasperatedly. “We’ll all be together tonight anyway,”
She rolls her eyes when she sees my blank face. “The St George’s Day Banquet. It’s tonight!”
“I really don’t feel like going to a party,” I groan. “I don’t even have anything to wear,”
Bria smiles mischievously. “Leave that to me, just say you’ll come to the ball. Please,” she clasps her hands together. “I’ve put a lot of work into this one.”
“Fine,” I stand up and head towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Bria calls after me, “We’re supposed to stay with you,”
“Well…right now I need to pee. You want to come?”
Bria pulls a face.
“C’mon,” Orla climbs to her feet and nudges me playfully in the side. “We’ll wait outside so Molly doesn’t get the jump on you again.”
Where Foundlings Hide by KL Mitchelson / Fantasy have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes