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Monday September 26th, 2019

It’s a day like any other at East Bay Academy of the Arts. The sky is overcast, the air is muggy, and the vegan drum circle is unfortunately practicing on the south lawn, forcing Leah to relocate for lunch to the courtyard. She sits alone at a rickety plastic table, already having eaten, completely absorbed in the novel in her hands. Reading keeps her mind from wandering too far, and allows her to decompress. For the moment, there’s nothing to think about except the story coming to life in her head. 

That is, until Ian plops down on the bench in front of her. 

“So I had this dream last night…” Leah looks up with a raised eyebrow. “I was going to school in Iowa or somewhere, and all the kids wore Wrangler Jeans, and they didn’t talk about bullshit the way kids around here do. They talked about real shit, like the price of wheat.” Leah snorts, but Ian continues undeterred, “And I found the whole scene very soothing. What do you make of that?” 

“Why don’t you ask Topaz Kowalski.” Leah gestures to the compost club members laying in the grass nearby. “She does dream readings.”

“See,” Ian lowers his voice, leaning forward conspiratorially. “That’s what’s wrong with this school. There’s a girl named Topaz who reads dreams?” he scoffs. “Everyone’s just too fucking interesting around here. I’ve got interesting fatigue and it’s impacting my subconscious.”

The complaint isn’t a new one. EBAA is a prestigious private high school—highly selective, with a rigorous arts curriculum that only rewards those who claw their way to the top. In a place where everyone tries to stand out, it’s easy to feel pushed to the side. 

At least, in Leah’s experience.

“Is that why you hang out with me?” she jokes. “I’m so bland it gives you a chance to recharge? I get it. My hair is all one color. I’m a virgin who still drinks dairy milk.” Leah shakes her head, allowing some honesty to bleed into her voice. “Shit, I really am boring.”

Ian holds up a finger. “Actually, by being the most normcore person in a sea of freaks, you’ve low-key turned the tables. You’ve become the freakiest freak of all.” Leah smiles, and Ian leans back, content. His eyes drift somewhere behind her. “Well, either you or Fatin.”

Curious, Leah turns around and sees Fatin Jadmani walking down the hallway, phone held out in front of her. She recognizes her instantly, the memory of ‘the tampon incident’ from last semester long suppressed but never forgotten. 

“A true basic bitch,” Ian declares, and suddenly Leah’s glad she never told him about her embarrassing encounter. “A walking, talking Grey’s Anatomy gif. God, I love her.”

Leah laughs, facing her friend. “Why does she even go here?”

“You seriously don't know? Fatin is a cello virtuoso.” At that, Leah turns back around, casting a final glance before the girl disappears down the hallway. “She's like a shoo-in at Juilliard.”

Leah’s laughter dies in her throat. 

Of fucking course she is. 

Of course even the most basic person at this school has some wild, dazzling talent. Something that makes them shine, sets them apart from the rest. Ian has art, apparently Fatin has the cello, and Leah is supposed to have writing, but every word she puts down on paper feels lackluster, even as Ms Wolfe continuously praises her. Surrounded by people who all have something going for them, Leah has never felt more insignificant. And if it wasn’t for Ian sitting next to her in 9th grade English, she’s positive she wouldn’t have any friends either. 

Ian catches her before she falls too deep into her thoughts. “Hey. You wanna hang out later? Maybe play some pool at The Rack?”

Leah declines, “I gotta finish this book. Ms Wolfe is really on my ass this year.”

“‘Cause she knows what a good writer you are.” Ian smirks. “She probably wants to ‘foster your talent’ or whatever.”

“Ew.” Leah wrinkles her nose. “I can’t with teachers who care.”

With care comes expectations, expectations Leah knows she can’t meet. 

Ian nods at her book. “You don’t have to read it, you know. She only assigned it because Galanis used to go here.” He shrugs. “It’s shameless alumni promotion.”

“It’s not so bad,” Leah hedges. 

She picked it up over the weekend and found herself immediately entranced. She’ll deny it until the day she dies, but she’s a sucker for romance stories. Especially ones where she can see parts of herself reflected back at her, characters experiencing what she so desperately wants to feel. This one has just that: an ordinary girl who longs for something more, and finds an all-consuming love that brings her life into the limelight. 

Ian snorts. “Seriously? Have you read chapter six?” He eyes the book distastefully. “A twelve page description of the wallpaper in a waiting room.”

Leah sighs. Ian doesn’t get it, he never will. She picks up the book again. “Well it’s either this, or finishing my paper on A Tale of Two Cities.”

Ian gives her a weird look. “That was due yesterday.”

Leah drops the book onto the table. “Wait, what?”

“Yeah, Ms Wolfe wanted it turned in online because last time she lost some people’s papers.”

“Fuck.” Leah shoves her book into her bag. “I gotta go. I need to see if she’ll take it late.”

Ian quirks an eyebrow. “Why are you even stressing out? You have an A+ in the class.”

Leah scrambles to her feet and lifts her tote bag onto her shoulder. “I need a letter of rec from her for college apps.”

“I don’t think one late assignment will ruin your reputation with her.”

She’s already walking away. 

“Bye!” Leah calls over her shoulder, missing Ian’s wave as she heads inside.

 


 

It doesn’t take long to find Ms Wolfe’s classroom. The hallways are devoid of life since everyone’s still outside eating lunch, so there’s nothing to bar her mad dash to the English department. When Leah reaches the door, it’s cracked open, so she peers inside to check if it’s empty.

It’s not.

“-you know I always love seeing you,” Ms Wolfe says softly, “but I wish you’d let me know before you drop by! I have papers to grade.”

“I’m sorry,” a girl Leah has never seen before responds. She’s wearing a painfully coordinated outfit: a knee-length magenta skirt paired with a lavender blouse and orange long sleeve undershirt. Her hair is cropped short, styled in a bob with bangs. Leah almost does a double take, because how the fuck does someone who looks like they just stepped off the set of Barney end up at EBAA?

“It’s alright dear.” Ms Wolfe folds her hands awkwardly, like she doesn’t know what to do with them. “How have you been?”

Leah backs away from the door, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, but fate has other plans. 

“The same,” the girl laughs despondently. Her eyes flicker nervously around the room, and meet Leah’s. Her eyes widen and she turns back to Ms Wolfe. “There’s someone at the door,” she whispers.

Fuck.

No going back now. Leah pushes the door open and forces a smile, trying her best to look as though she hadn’t been eavesdropping. “Hi, Ms Wolfe,” she says. The girl just gawks at her, but Leah is too nerve-wracked to overthink it. She turns back to Ms Wolfe, tone apologetic, “Sorry to interrupt, but I had a question about the Dickens essay assignment.”

Ms Wolfe presses her lips together, expression sliding into something unreadable. “Right.” 

She doesn’t ask the other girl to leave, which is fair, Leah thinks. “I know it was due yesterday but I totally forgot-”

“It’s alright,” Ms Wolfe cuts her off with a wave of her hand. “I’ve barely started grading them, just get it in when you can.”

Leah frowns. That felt way too easy, considering the high expectations Ms Wolfe has of her students. She’s grateful though, so she doesn’t push it. “Thank you.”

“A Tale of Two Cities, right?” the girl says before Ms Wolfe can dismiss Leah. Her voice is chipper, a complete flip from what it was two minutes ago. “I love that one!” 

Leah raises an eyebrow. The tone of the book is pretty grim, so it’s hard to imagine this girl—the poster child for Target back-to-school sales—enjoying it. “It’s pretty good,” she acquiesces. She glances expectantly at Ms Wolfe, and waits for a dismissal that never comes. 

“Leah,” Ms Wolfe starts unevenly. “How would you feel about giving Jeanette a tour of the school? She just transferred, and I’m afraid I’m a bit bogged down with work at the moment.”

Jeanette squeals excitedly, a sharp sound that pierces her eardrums. Leah hides her discomfort and distaste for the request with a too-quick smile. “I don’t mind at all.” 

Jeanette beams brightly at Ms Wolfe, who returns it with a kind smile. “I expect you to be on your best behavior.”

“Of course!” Jeanette nods rapidly. “Thank you!”

 




Okay, so Jeanette’s at like a 100 right now, and Leah’s going to need her to dial it back to -10 if she has any hope of surviving this impromptu tour. She’s been infodumping in her ear about music for the past twenty minutes and Leah’s considering swan diving into the school fountain just to escape her. 

“-I was scrolling through my Spotify history recently and guess who I listen to the most?”

“Rebecca Black?” Leah guesses, knowing Jeanette will badger her if she doesn’t respond. 

“Oh my god I love her!” Jeanette gushes. “But no. It’s actually PINK! Isn’t that so funny?”

“Hilarious,” Leah deadpans.

“I didn’t actually believe it at first. I totally thought it was going to be Bruno Mars or One Direction. But when I double checked my play count it was her name at the top of the list!”

Leah comes to a stop in front of a red brick department building. “This is the theater department,” she recites dutifully, “where everyone has bad hair and knows the lyrics to Mamma Mia by heart.”

“Oh, I love that movie!”

Leah smiles thinly. “Then you’d fit right in.”

“What play are they doing this year?” Jeanette asks, wandering over to examine the posters tacked against the door. 

“Ham-”

“Hamlet!” Jeanette exclaims, whirling around to face her. “That’s got to be, like, my favorite Shakespearean play of all time.”

Leah rolls her eyes. Is there anything Jeanette doesn’t like? “Didn’t take you for a fan.”

“Well, there’s not much else to read…” Jeanette trails off awkwardly. 

Leah blinks. “Have you tried, I dunno, a library?”

“Yes.” Jeanette bites her lip. “It didn't work.”

“Okay,” Leah says, thoroughly weirded out.

And they leave it at that, because Jeanette doesn’t elaborate and Leah doesn’t want to risk a full on conversation with Jeanette if she doesn’t have to. 

 


 

They reach the next department and Jeanette just about vibrates off the walls. 

“This is-” Leah starts.

“The Music department!” Jeanette nearly trips over herself, rushing over to a display board covered with awards and medals. Her hands hover carefully around them, as if touching them will somehow ruin them. “It’s incredible! For instrumental music alone, there’s orchestra, jazz ensemble, lab band, brass ensemble, percussion ensemble, string ensembles, piano ensembles, woodwind ensembles and jazz combos!”

“Yeah…” Leah says, a little taken aback at Jeanette’s apparent knowledge of the department. Though if she decided to transfer, it makes sense she’s already familiar with the curriculum. 

“Oh!” Jeanette spins on her heel and Leah takes a step back, half-expecting to be rushed. “And down that hallway are the individual practice rooms! I always wondered why they aren’t on the upper levels, since there’s more space for group work down here.”

“Well-”

“There’s also the recital hall, which is just absolutely gorgeous,” Jeanette walks past her, making her way around the corner. “It can seat almost a thousand people!” She turns to face Leah, finally acknowledging her. “Isn’t that amazing?”

“It seems like you already know your way around,” Leah responds, voice laced with irritation, “so I think we can end the tour here.”

Jeanette deflates. “Oh. Okay.”

The sad look on her face is almost enough to get Leah to reconsider. 

Almost.

Leah turns away. “See you around.”

She did her part. Ms Wolfe should be sufficiently placated by the fact that Jeanette isn’t going to get lost looking for the bathroom, though nothing will stop her from annoying the living shit out of anyone who has the misfortune of being in her auditory range.  

Leah’s just glad it’s no longer her problem.

 


 

Monday October 3rd, 2019

Leah’s brushing her teeth in the bathroom mirror when her phone buzzes with a notification. She holds the toothbrush between her teeth, then picks up her phone to read the text that lights up her screen.

Ian (8:20 AM): did u hear the news?

(8:21 AM): What happened?

(8:21 AM): Did the vegan drum circle finally disband?

Ian (8:22 AM): check ur email

Leah frowns, and switches from her iMessage app to Gmail. At the top of her school email inbox is a message from Principal Green. 

 

 

Leah had last seen Ms Wolfe three days ago, in a rush to leave class to catch a movie after school with Ian. Their eyes had met as she exited the room, and Ms Wolfe had wished her a good weekend before she left. 

Now she’d never see her again.

She closes the email and hunches over the sink. She spits out the last of the toothpaste in her mouth as her mind reels, her stomach plummeting to the floor. 

They hadn’t been close by any means. She first met Ms Wolfe last semester in a media theory class. The most Leah ever interacted with her was in class discussions, and occasionally via email to ask questions about assignments. While Ms Wolfe seemed fond of her and impressed by the quality of work she submitted, that was the extent of their dynamic. 

Leah faces her reflection in the mirror, and remembers: 

 

Wednesday September 7th, 2019

“Leah, do you have a minute?”

Leah glances up from packing her tote bag and nods. “Yeah, what’s up?”

Ms Wolfe indicates for her to sit down across from her and Leah complies, moving across the empty classroom to join her at her desk. “Have you considered submitting an application for the upcoming Writing Center’s Summer Retreat? The focus this year is creative writing.”

Leah shakes her head, and Ms Wolfe sighs.

“Leah, allow me to level with you. You currently hold the highest grade in any of my classes, and while I understand grades aren’t everything, you have consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of the material we cover and the technical skill necessary to write out original, compelling work concerning the topics we discuss in class.” Ms Wolfe laces her fingers together. “I get the impression that you’re hesitant to put yourself out there, so allow me to say this: I think you can go far, but if and only if you have the faith in yourself to get there.”

“Thank you,” Leah says awkwardly. “But I really don’t think the summer program’s for me. From what I’ve read, it seems a little… confining. Plus, I have no idea what I’d even write about.”

Ms Wolfe nods sagely. Leah would find it annoying if her teacher wasn’t able to pull it off so well. “I know you’re still figuring yourself out. What you want, what you like, what you want to write.” She leans forward. “But here’s the rub: if you keep waiting until you have it all figured out, you’ll find yourself waiting the rest of your life because you never will.”

“Um.”

Ms Wolfe laughs. “Perhaps I should have worded that better.” She shifts in her seat, reclining back. “Take this as you will, but in my experience you don’t wake up one day and suddenly it all figured out. Even when you think you know what lies ahead, life will keep throwing curveballs at you.”

Leah frowns. “So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that you should give the program a shot.” Ms Wolfe smiles. “You might find that you like where it takes you.”

Leah looks down at her hands, twists her watch around her wrist. “I’ll think about it.”

 

Monday October 3rd, 2019

Leah’s drawn back into the present with another rapid knock on her bedroom door loud enough to startle her.

“Leah,” her mom calls, “breakfast is on the table! Come down now, otherwise you’re going to be late for school!” 

Footsteps retreat down the hallway and Leah slumps against the bathroom sink, her forehead pressed against cool ceramic. She feels like shit, and aches for nothing more than to climb back into bed and forget ever waking up.

Her phone buzzes with another notification. 

Ian (8:30 AM): u ok?

Leah can’t help but laugh at that. She wipes her mouth, rescues her toothbrush from the bottom of the sink and puts it away before replying.

(8:31 AM): Not really.

Ian (8:32 AM): wanna ditch?

As appealing as it sounds to not have to interact with anyone other than her best friend for the day, Leah knows she’ll have hell to pay when she returns home. Her parents, while not strict, will want an explanation, and the last thing she wants to do today is be forced to talk about her feelings.

(8:33 AM): Nah, it’s okay. 

Ian (8:33 AM): u sure?

(8:34 AM): Yop.

Ian (8:34 AM): pfft

Ian (8:34 AM): alright. see u at lunch

Ian (8:35 AM): lmk if u need anything

(8:35 AM): Thank you.

Leah exits the bathroom and tosses her phone on the bed. She looks down at what she’s wearing and sighs; she’s still in her pajamas. She glances towards her wardrobe distastefully, eyes falling on an old hoodie she borrowed from her dad once but never gave back.

Another loud knock at her door startles her.

“Leah!” It’s her mom again. Of course. “I have to get to work soon!” The door handle jiggles, and Leah’s never been more glad for the lock she installed three months ago. “Are you even awake?”

“I’m up!” Leah calls back, scrambling to change before her mom can nag her further. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

She stumbles her way downstairs, fighting to pull the hoodie over her head, but still makes sure to crouch down and pet Gideon from where he’s sleeping on the floor before she rushes out the door.

 


 

Friday October 7th, 2019

Ms Wolfe’s memorial is held in one of the empty auditoriums used by the Music department. Morning classes are canceled so that anyone can attend. Leah goes with Ian, not sure what to expect, but hoping it will do something to alleviate the muddled, confusing feelings she has about her former teacher. 

The room is sparsely decorated, besides a large picture frame with Ms Wolfe’s staff photo propped up in the corner of the room. The gray tiled flooring and dim lighting add to the depressing ambience. There’s a section of seating facing the stage’s wooden podium, which has a mic affixed at the top, presumably for those who are going to facilitate the service. Along the sides of the room are tables stocked full of refreshments and light snacks. 

Ian loads his plate with mini pretzels, and Leah rolls her eyes when he nearly spills them all over the floor. 

“Well,” Ian shoves a handful of pretzels into his mouth, speaking around them,“this still beats out having to go to that alumni talk.” Leah elbows him and he squawks, dancing out of the way before she can do it again. 

“What are you talking about?” Leah asks, crossing her arms. 

“Remember that book Wolfe assigned? The one Galanis wrote?” Leah nods, so Ian continues, “The author was supposed to come talk about it today.”

“Oh… right.”

With the news of her teacher’s passing, she had honestly forgotten about it. While she’d found the book interesting from the get-go, looking at it now only served to remind her that now Ms Wolfe would never be able to facilitate a class discussion about it, or make her write an essay on it. It’s probably laying under her bed, collecting dust somewhere. 

Ian holds up his plate of pretzels. “Want some?”

Leah shakes her head. “Not hungry.”

She never eats breakfast, unless her parents make her join them at the dining table before they go in for work. And even then, she goes for a piece of buttered toast rather than something more filling. Now more than ever, she’s thankful for it.

Despite sharing a connection in having lost Ms Wolfe, she feels uncomfortable in an auditorium full of strangers. Her stomach is churning, her palms are sweaty, and she’s considering hiding in the bathroom before a familiar voice crackles out of the speakers mounted on the stage. 

“Good morning, everyone.”

Leah looks towards the stage and finds Principal Green standing at the podium, wearing a dark blue suit paired with a purple tie. 

“Thank you so much for joining us here today as we come together to remember Rhonda,” he says. “We will begin the program shortly. Until then, please take your seats.”

Leah does Ian the courtesy of letting him finish off the rest of his pretzels so that they can walk over together to the seating area. 

“Where do you wanna sit?” he asks.

“Anywhere but the front row,” Leah replies, shuddering at the thought.

They end up finding two empty seats at the right hand corner of the back row, figuring it’ll make it easier to leave early if they want to.

The memorial begins a few minutes after that, with Principal Green delivering the opening remarks. Ms Mistry, the English department head, comes on stage next to read out the obituary. Leah does her best to stay engaged, but ends up glancing around the room, twisting the watch strapped to her wrist in an effort to work out her nerves.

Her eyes fall on a lone figure standing off to the left side of the auditorium, in front of a set of double doors. It takes her a moment to realize that it’s Fatin of all people, looking down at her cellphone. She’s dressed formally, in an elegant black lace dress, hair styled back to reveal golden hoop earrings. Leah blinks, half-expecting a tacky t-shirt and washed out skinny jeans to replace formal attire. This Fatin in front of her is so different from the Fatin she’s seen in passing, in bathrooms and hallways between classes. It’s disorienting.   

She drops her gaze, taking note of a large instrument case propped up on the wall next to the cellist. From across the room, Leah can’t quite make out her facial features, but she’s certain Fatin isn’t thrilled to be here. 

Ian nudges her shoulder. “What are you staring at?” he whispers.

Leah startles, nearly dropping the program in her hands. “Uh.” Had she really been staring? “Fatin.” 

Ian follows her gaze to the auditorium entrance where Fatin stands, and his eyes widen. “Oh shit. I can’t believe we’re getting a live performance.”

Leah hadn’t even thought about that, but she supposes it makes sense given that Fatin has no other reason to be here.

She tunes back into Ms Mistry’s reading just in time for her to wrap up. “... and her daughter, Jennifer, who could not make it today but is very grateful for everyone’s support.” Ms Mistry folds up the paper in her hands and smiles brightly. “Now for the next part of today’s program, I am very proud to introduce Fatin Jadmani, one of the rising stars of our highly acclaimed music program.” 

A round of applause ensues, and Fatin takes that as a cue to walk up the stairs alongside the podium. She takes a seat on a black bench in the center of the stage, one Leah realizes, that had been placed there while her thoughts were otherwise preoccupied. 

“She’ll be playing a Johann Sebastian Bach piece entitled Cello Suite No. 1, in G Major.” Ms Mistry beams at Fatin, who’s too busy setting up her instrument to notice. “Bach was one of Rhonda’s favorite classical musicians, so this special performance is in direct tribute to her.”

“Oh my god,” Leah whispers. “She’d play classical music all the time during our exams.”

“Looks like you’ll actually be able to enjoy it this time,” Ian mutters back. 

Leah watches Fatin double check the tuning of her instrument, and remains unconvinced. “Maybe.”

As Ms Mistry exits the stage, the lights overhead flicker. Leah glances up, brows furrowed, but they come back on a moment later. She shrugs it off and refocuses on the stage, where Fatin brings her bow to the bridge, and begins playing.

Contrary to her earlier skepticism, Leah is enraptured from the start. The tempo of the song is fast-paced, but Fatin manages to draw out the depth of each note into a lilting melody. She wields the bow like an extension of her arm, each movement seamless and purposeful. 

The sound Fatin creates reverberates deeply around the room, at once mournful and hauntingly beautiful. The world narrows down to one, and Leah finds herself leaning forward in anticipation, watching Fatin’s eyes fall closed to finish the piece. Her expression is not one of poised calm or practiced bliss. It’s pulled taut, like a string under tension, ready to snap. 

Leah can’t help but wonder if Fatin always looks this way when performing on stage. 

The song comes to an end, and the rest of reality floods into sharp relief as the audience erupts into applause. Leah stands and claps with them, watching Fatin bow before making her way off stage. 

“Damn,” Ian whistles. “That was way better than I expected.”

Leah silently agrees.

 


 

Leah excuses herself to use the restroom while tributes from Ms Wolfe’s family and friends are being read out. The hallways are empty, everyone either attending the memorial or at home since morning classes are canceled. She rounds the corner of the English department building and passes Ms Wolfe’s classroom. And then she does a double take—the lights inside are on, even though the room has been left unoccupied for the past week. 

Leah walks over to the window to see if anyone’s inside, but can’t make out anything through the half-shuttered blinds. She frowns at the possibility of someone rummaging through her former teacher’s things and swiping whatever they like. She decides to try the door handle, half-expecting to see maintenance staff on the other side. 

It’s not.

“Jeanette?” 

The girl in question is sitting in the corner of the room, knees drawn up to her chest, body shaking as she quietly cries. Oddly, she’s wearing the same clothes from last week, muted in color. But Leah almost rolled up to school in her pajamas today, so she’s not one to judge.

Jeanette looks up when she hears her name, tears staining her cheeks, snot dribbling down her nose. She curls into herself further when she spots Leah. “Please go away,” she says, voice hoarse. 

Leah stands awkwardly at the doorway, conflicted. As much as she’d love to turn around and forget any of this ever happened, she’s not entirely certain Jeanette would be okay if left alone right now. She leans against the wall next to the open door, far enough from the other girl so that she’s not crowding her. “If you need someone to talk to, I’m here.”

Jeanette laughs harshly, and the bitterness of it startles Leah. “Why do you even care? Last week you got away from me as soon as you could.”

Leah winces, because Jeanette’s not wrong. She hasn’t regretted walking away at all. Leah figures an apology now won’t do much to make Jeanette feel better, so she tries for a different tactic. “How did you know Ms Wolfe?”

It works. Jeanette’s expression shifts from one of coiled anger to something more relaxed, contemplative. She sniffs loudly, hesitating before answering, “She was my friend.”

Leah nods. “You two seemed close.”

“She was my only friend,” Jeanette admits.

“Ah.”

“You don’t need to feel sorry for me.” 

“I don’t,” Leah says. And it’s true. She feels more nervous than anything else, unsure of how to navigate this conversation. Still, that won’t stop her from trying. “I know what it’s like to not really have any friends… and what it’s like to lose one for good.” She sighs. “What I am sorry for is your loss. Ms Wolfe was a good person.”

Jeanette hums her agreement. “She was.”

They fall into a silence that’s not completely comfortable, but is enough for them to hold space for one another. Space to reflect, to remember, to breathe. Leah knows they couldn’t be any more different, but connected by a single common thread, she sees Jeanette for the first time. 

She looks at her and sees a girl, no older than she is, missing her friend dearly. 

“When I was a kid,” Leah starts. “There was a girl-”

The bell rings, causing Leah to nearly shit herself because there’s a speaker right above her head and damn if it isn’t loud as fuck. 

Jeanette scrambles to her feet in a frenzy. “I have to go!” she squeaks.

“Wait-” Leah reaches out to Jeanette as she rushes out the open door, and gasps as her right hand brushes against the girl’s arm, recoiling at the icy feeling that sprouts along her fingertips. She hisses in pain, and glances down at her hand to see… nothing. It looks completely normal. Which makes zero sense, but she has more important matters to settle right now. 

“Jeanette!” Leah calls. She exits the classroom to look for her- 

-and bumps right into Ian, standing just outside the door. “Hey. The memorial ended, so I came to look for you.” He cranes his neck over her shoulder to peer inside the empty classroom. “Uh. Is there a reason you decided to hang out here? You good?”

Leah waves him off. “I’m fine. Did you happen to see Jeanette?”

“Who?”

Leah rolls her eyes. “Jeanette!” She glances around the crowded hallway, but sees no sign of her. “Short. Bob with bangs. Dressed like an elementary school girl.”

Ian laughs. “You’re literally describing Dora the Explorer.”

Leah throws out a hand. “I’m serious!”

“And so am I.” Ian shrugs. “I have no clue who the hell you’re talking about.”

“She was just here!”

Ian gives her a weird look. “I walked up before you came outside, and saw nobody leave before you.”

Leah levels him with a flat look. “Quit messing with me.”

Ian holds his hands up defensively. “I’m not!”

Leah doesn’t believe him for a second. “You can be such an ass sometimes.”

“Speak for yourself.” 

Leah huffs, crossing her arms. As much as she wants to continue her conversation with Jeanette, she'll have to wait.

Ian cants his head towards the cafeteria. “So, you wanna grab lunch or…?”

“Depends.” Leah quirks an eyebrow. “Are they serving soy nuggets today?”

Ian gags. “I fucking hope not.”