Where foundlings hide, p.13
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.13

           KL Mitchelson
 
Chapter Thirteen

  When Bria said she would take care of my outfit for the banquet, I was expecting one of the many dresses from her wardrobe, something floor length that would fit with the medieval theme. I was hoping for something simple, subdued, but when she arrives at my room to get ready and hands me a dress of midnight-blue lace, I know it was wishful thinking.

  “You need to try it on.” Bria urges.

  I hang the dress from my wardrobe door and shed my old sweatshirt and running tights.

  The gown is cut across the shoulders, the sleeves full, and the hem pools around my ankles when I shrug into it. “It’s a little long.”

  Bria rolls her eyes. “Here, put these on.” She thrusts a pair of silver, strappy high-heels at me.

  I silently obey, wobbling as I slip my feet into the shoes. “These aren’t very medieval.”

  Bria tuts and stands back to look at me, her eyes widening a little. “Wow. You need to look at yourself.”

  “One more thing.” She drags the elastic band from my hair as I step towards the mirror.

  “Ow.”

  She ignores my complaints and fluffs my tangled locks out around my shoulders.

  “Oh.” Aside from the dark smudges under my eyes and the sickly-pale colour of my skin, I look…. elegant. The neckline of the dress is cut just low enough so that my necklace is on show, the shade of the dress and the gem contrasting sharply. The waist is fitted and the long, narrow skirt makes me look much taller than my tiny, five-foot-three stature.

  “Well, what do you think?” Bria asks.

  I swish the dress so that it sweeps the floor around me. “It’s beautiful, is it one of yours?”

  Bria looks guilty. “Actually…it’s yours.”

  “What do you mean?”

  Bria extracts a folded envelope from her pocket and hands it to me.

  I recognise the stationery and the neat handwriting on the front, but when I turn it over, I find an unfamiliar, red seal stamped with the letter ‘D’. I trace my finger over it, before ripping the envelope open, wondering what Ivy would need to write in a letter that she couldn’t send in an email or a text.

  Dearest Casey,

  It’s time.

  Ivy.

  I turn it over, but there’s nothing else written on the tiny piece of paper.

  “What does it say?” Bria asks.

  I hand her the note as I chew over Ivy’s short message.

  Bria’s eyes skim over the words, and then she turns it over. “That’s it?” She looks thoughtful. “I thought there would be more.”

  “Why, what did she say?” I ask. “When did she give this to you?”

  “When she came to see Ms Gould,” Bria says, her eyes still on the note. “She said I shouldn’t give the dress to you until today, it seemed so important to her.”

  “I don’t understand, why didn’t she just give me the dress and the note herself, and what does ‘it’s time’ mean? Time for what?”

  “I have no idea.” Bria shrugs.

  “We both stare silently at the note, then Bria folds it up and places it on the bedside table. “Let’s not think about it now,” she says. “We have to get ready.”

  “In a second.” I want to call Ivy, I need to ask her about the note. I start rummaging around for my phone, shifting papers and books from the desk. When I finally locate it, I find her number and I press the call button. It rings and rings until her voicemail kicks in. Sighing irritably, I end the call and text her instead.

  Thank you for the dress, but what did your note mean? Time for what?

  I clutch the phone in my hands, waiting for a response, but Bria stands by the door huffing impatiently, so I throw the phone on the bed and concentrate instead on getting ready.

  Bria’s own outfit is a gown of ivory satin with bell sleeves and a low neckline. She finishes her look with a golden hairclip and an emerald necklace that matches her eyes.

  She grabs my phone from the dresser and takes a couple of photographs as I pose awkwardly. She looks at the images on the small screen and smiles sadly. “You should send one to Ivy.”

  I take the phone from her warily – I never look good in photographs - but when I see the picture on the screen, my breath catches in my throat.

  The flash from the camera has illuminated my skin, my blonde hair is set in big waves and my lips are painted red. I look so much like Lana it makes my heart ache.

  I decide not to send a photograph to Ivy, but I do check to see if she has responded to my text. My inbox is empty. Disappointed, I slip the phone into the beaded clutch bag Bria picked out for me earlier.

  When we head out of the room, I wobble a little on the high-heels, but it’s difficult not to feel good in the gown, the lining gliding silkily against my legs with every step.

  Bria sashays ahead of me, dramatically swinging her hips from side to side. She stops at the top of the stairs and strikes a pose.

  “What are you doing?” I laugh.

  “Just having my moment. Once you arrive in that dress, no one’s going to look at me.”

  I know she’s only saying it to make me feel good, but I laugh anyway. “Yeah right! Anyway, I’m sure Nick will be looking at you.”

  She blushes a little and threads her arm through mine.

  I take a deep breath when I spot the throng of people waiting in the foyer downstairs and my legs turn to jelly. Bria appears unaffected, chattering excitedly as we descend the stairs, telling me all about how she planned the banquet, but I barely hear her as the crowd of faces turns in our direction.

  I see Caleb nudging his way through the mass of students, Nick on his heels, wearing a golden crown. Caleb is dressed as a knight, his torso covered in a grey tunic, his shoulders encased in metal. His dark hair is brushed back off his forehead and he looks breathtakingly handsome. His eyes widen a little as he takes in my appearance and I feel myself blush.

  As I reach the bottom stair, my heel catches on the carpet and I stumble a little. Caleb catches me around the waist and pulls me into a hug. “You look beautiful.” He whispers.

  A sudden spike of fear jolts through me like an electric shock and I push Caleb away, because the feeling came from him. I search his face for any sign of the panic that I just felt from him, but his expression is even.

  “What’s wrong?”

  I quickly plaster a smile on my face, trying to ignore the tingle at the base of my skull. “Nothing…sorry. It’s just really hot in here.”

  His eyes burn into mine, like he’s trying to communicate some unspoken message, but then Orla and Jas appear beside us.

  “You came.” Jas says. She is wearing a beautiful gown of pink satin, her long, dark hair braided around her head like a halo.

  “Like I had a choice with the Queen of the Events Committee on my case.” I gesture at Bria who has her arms wrapped around Nick’s neck, completely oblivious to our conversation, or anything else for that matter.

  Caleb laughs, then he lightly kisses my temple. “I’ll be right back.” He flashes a charming smile before disappearing into the crowd.

  “Are you two a couple now?” Jas says, grinning widely.

  “I barely know him.” I say, shaking my head.

  It’s true, I don’t know anything about Caleb, not really. Yes, he’s handsome, and he has come to my rescue on three occasions now, but that’s also kind of terrifying, like he’s keeping a close eye on me.

  Then there’s that look of expectation that flashes across his eyes when we’re alone, like he knows that something is about to happen between us. That’s even more terrifying.

  “Well he obviously likes you,” Jas says, watching Caleb as he disappears into the hallway. “Are there are any more like that on the rugby team, Orla?”

  “Huh?” Orla looks distracted as she scans the sea of heads. “No, not like that. Not even close.” She stands on her tiptoes and gesticulates wildly at someone in the crowd.

  “Who are you waving at?” I
ask, trying to follow her gaze.

  “The girls from the hockey team,” Orla nods towards a group of girls, all wearing dresses in the same canary yellow – their team colour - as her own medieval-style gown. “I told them what Molly did to you, they’re keeping a look out,”

  “Orla, there’s really no need. I can handle Molly,”

  Orla puts her hands on her hips. “Oh really? And how’s that working out for you?” She raises an eyebrow, a hint of a smile around her lips.

  “C’mon,” Bria unlatches herself from Nick and ushers me forward. “They’re starting to go in.”

  The crowd starts to dissipate and we follow the throng through the tall, double doors into the main hall.

  Back in the eighteenth century, the hall used to be a ballroom; the ceiling is high and hung with glittering chandeliers and heavy brocade curtains cover the windows.

  Tonight the tables have been set in the style of a medieval banquet, end to end, creating long benches that are covered with red tablecloths, and topped with glowing candlesticks.

  The fireplaces at either end of the room are aflame, bathing the polished floor in half-circles of warm, orange light.

  “Bria, this is amazing.” I say, picking up a fancy goblet from the table.

  “It was nothing.” She shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly, but she looks pleased.

  As we take our seats, I look around for Caleb, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, I am surrounded by yellow, the hockey team at my left and in front of me, their eyes darting around the room uneasily.

  Nick catches my eye as he fumbles for something in his pocket. He pulls out a silver hipflask and offers it to Bria.

  “Don’t you dare ruin this party.” She hisses at him, her face screwed up in disapproval.

  Nick takes a covert sip and slips the flask back into his pocket. He catches me looking and winks roguishly.

  Caleb still doesn’t show when dinner is served – soup, followed by a roast and then cheesecake. The portions are small and quaint, but the plates are big, decorated with sauces cast across the porcelain and finished with sprigs of leaves and berries.

  I barely taste the food as I swallow it down, too disturbed by Caleb’s sudden disappearance and the hockey team, who shift in their seats as they scan the room for Molly.

  After our dessert dishes are cleared away, a band starts up on stage, playing a heavy, rock sound that contrasts oddly with the medieval décor. Nick drags Bria on to the dancefloor and Jas, Orla and the rest of the hockey girls leave the table to dance raucously with the rugby team. I wave them away as they try to get me up too, promising that I’ll join them soon.

  If Lana was here, she would’ve insisted that I had fun, joined in, and I would’ve obeyed so as not to disappoint her. My chest aches at the thought of my sister, sadness squeezing my heart, because she would have loved all of this.

  Ivy’s note flashes through my mind. She says it’s time, but she’s wrong, it’s not time. It’s too soon. Lana’s death left a hole in my heart and it’ll take more than a party and a fancy dress to fix that.

  I think, suddenly, that I was wrong to come back to school, to think that it would be better than staying at home. So far, it has been one disaster after another.

  With a heavy feeling, I get up from my seat, thinking about calling Ivy again, when Caleb appears before me. Despite my objections, he twirls me firmly towards the dancefloor, pulling me close so that I can feel the thrum of his heart.

  His hands are at my back and I feel a flicker of anxiety underneath the heat of his touch. I am about to confront him about the change in his usual self-assured demeanour, when Bria and Nick come careering into us.

  Nick collides with Caleb’s shoulder, he barely flinches, but Nick falls backwards on to the polished floor, laughing hysterically at his own idiocy.

  “I’m so sorry,” Bria tries to pull Nick to his feet, but he just spins around like a tortoise on its shell. “He’s drunk.”

  “No kidding.” Caleb clasps Nick’s hand to hoist him into an upright position. He sways a little, his crown tilting haphazardly so that it covers one eye.

  “Put him to bed before anyone sees him in this state.” Caleb says, draping Nick’s arm around Bria’s shoulder. She guides him carefully across the dancefloor towards the doors, stooping a little under his weight.

  “Shouldn’t you help them?” I ask, frowning at Bria’s back as Nick leans heavily against her.

  “They’ll be fine.” Caleb watches them disappear into the foyer, then he takes me in his arms again.

  “Casey,” Jas taps me on the shoulder, there are stray strands of damp hair clinging to her flushed face. “Sabrina’s not feeling well; I’m just going to check on her,”

  “OK, do you need me to come with you?”

  “No,” Jas waves me away. “You just stay here with Caleb. Orla and the hockey team are still around in case Molly shows up.”

  Caleb watches Jas leave before checking his watch.

  “Am I keeping you from something, Mr Vedmak?”

  He smiles almost lazily. “Not at all.”

  The music slows then. Caleb slips his arms around my waist and presses his lips to my temple. For just a moment, I let myself relax. It’s as though Caleb is purposefully radiating a sense of calm, his earlier panic gone.

  I would’ve melted right there in his arms if it wasn’t for the hairs on the back of my neck suddenly standing on end. I get the distinct feeling that I am being watched and my stomach pitches when I turn to find Molly staring at me from across the room, her expression one of loathing.

  When the spotlights above the dancefloor shift, bathing Molly in a beam of light, I see that sinister blackness in her eyes.

  “Caleb.” I gesture towards Molly and he follows my gaze.

  He says nothing for a moment and then, “her eyes.”

  The floor shudders beneath us suddenly, and Caleb wraps one arm around me, while throwing out the other to keep his balance. The tremor builds, making the whole room shake. There are screams and shouts as people hold on to the furniture, to the walls, to each other as the ceiling quivers, showering the room with plaster and dust. The lights flicker and then blink out. Those closest to the banquet tables have the good sense to snatch up the candles before they topple over, they hastily extinguish them, plunging the room into near-darkness.

  Caleb leads me over to one of the fireplaces – now the only source of light – and urges me to hold on to the mantelpiece. I see the light from the flames dancing on his face as he scans the room. “It’s starting.” He says.

  I follow his gaze and find Molly staring right at us. With a stab of panic, I realise that Orla is standing just a few steps in front of her, holding on to her teammates.

  The tremor seems to increase in ferocity and a huge fracture appears in the wall by the doors, snaking its way from floor to ceiling. There are screams, shouts, some people are crying, but Molly stands stoically, as though unaffected by the shifting floor beneath her.

  “It’s OK, everyone,” Ms Gould yells. “Just hold on tight until it passes.”

  But the quake continues, relentless in its pursuit to knock us all to the ground.

  When a huge chunk of ceiling falls on to a nearby table, everyone starts towards the doors. With a creaking sound, more plaster crumbles away, followed by a stream of water.

  I hesitantly let go of the mantelpiece and turn to grab Caleb for support, but instead, I find Molly.

  She cocks her head to the side, as though considering her next move, then she takes off across the wet floor, stepping effortlessly, unwavering, as though immune to the trembling of the ground.

  She pauses at the main doors and her eyes find me again, she smiles widely, menacingly, and then disappears into the hallway.

  Her intentions are clear; she wants me to follow her.

  So I do.

 

 

 
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