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The fallen star (fallen.., p.14
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       The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series, Book 1), p.14

           Jessica Sorensen
 

  ***

  The astronomy classroom was packed with people. Some of the people I recognized from my class. Others I had never seen before. Hold on. Let me take that back. I had seen them. Since my town’s population is a mere glitch above 1,000, I basically have seen everyone who lives here. I just didn’t know most of their names.

  I headed up to my table that I sat at during class. Aislin was already there, wearing a pink fur trimmed coat. The same pink fur-trimmed her gloves and the top of her boots. She kind of reminded me of a big pink bunny. I tried not to laugh.

  I was really losing it.

  She was texting on her phone, but glanced up as I sat down. “Hey, Gemma.” She smiled.

  The polite thing for me to do would be to smile back, or at least ask her if she was feeling better since she had been sick for the last few days, but right now polite was not in my vocabulary. So I muttered a grumpy, “Hey,” then sank back in my chair and stared down at the table.

  “Is something wrong?” she asked.

  I opened my mouth to say…well, who knew what would have come out considering the mood I was in. I didn’t get a chance to speak, though, because Alex showed up and I was interrupted.

  “What took you so long?” Aislin asked him, flipping her phone shut.

  Alex’s eyes stayed glued on me as he lowered himself into the chair. “I found Gemma running around lost and had to help her out.”

  I scowled at him. “I wasn’t lost.”

  A smile threatened at his lips. “Oh, really?”

  “Yes, really,” I snapped and closed my eyes, trying to pretend he wasn’t there and that the yellow-eyed creatures weren’t real. I tried to imagine that I hadn’t found Sophia and Alex discussing…whatever they had been discussing. That there was no list of dates tucked away in my pocket. I tried to pretend I was just a normal girl whose life made sense.

  The problem was, I had just seen the monster right outside. And that piece of paper with the list of dates on it was practically burning a hole in my pocket. Plus, the jolt of electricity shimmying up and down my back made me hyperaware that Alex was near.

  Still, I kept my eyes closed until I heard a loud clap. Then I sighed and opened my eyes.

  Mr. Sterling was standing behind his podium. He wasn’t dressed in his normal teacher attire; instead he was sporting jeans, sneakers, and a navy blue coat. A black baseball cap covered his bald head.

  He quickly took roll and handed out a packet of papers to each table. Then everyone filed outside to the bus.

  I bounced up and down, freezing and nervous as I waited in line to get on the bus. I didn’t see a single sign of anything yellow and glowing, except for the bus’s lights. I wasn’t going to let my guard down, though. I was going to be very careful and stay close to someone at all times.

  A first for me, but this was my life we were talking about here.

  By the time I got on the bus, every single seat had someone in it. Great. Where was I supposed to sit?

  The little orange lights on the ceiling spotlighted down on me and I felt like such a loser standing there, searching for someone to sit by. I had never talked to anyone besides Aislin and Alex. And Aislin was already sitting by some guy wearing a black beanie. My only other option was to sit by Alex because, of course, he was sitting alone.

  As I deliberated whether or not I wanted to sit by him, I walked by Kelsey Merritt. She was sharing a seat with Anna Miller and Sarah Monroe, all of them donning white coats and pink scarves like they were eight-year-old triplets or something.

  Kelsey smirked at me. “Lost?” she asked vindictively.

  I should have known what was coming, but I was too distracted with the whole where-should-I-sit dilemma, and didn’t notice when she stuck her leg out into the aisle right in front of me. I had very little time to react. I stumbled clumsily over her boot, but fortunately I managed to brace myself on the back of a seat.

  “You’re such a loser.” She snickered.

  The urge to slap the smirk right off her face welled up in me like a bubbling volcano about to erupt. I felt the prickle poke at the back of my neck like it was giving me the go-ahead. At least, that’s how I chose to take it. I lifted my hand, preparing to strike. But before I could swing it down, a set of warm fingers caught me by the arm. Electricity glittered across my skin as Alex dragged me to his seat.

  I glowered at him, but deep down—and I mean way deep down—I felt grateful. I mean, what would hitting her have solved?

  Still, I felt the need to protest. “I didn’t need your help.” I jerked my arm away from him.

  “Now, we both know that’s not true.” He smiled arrogantly. “What were you planning on doing exactly? Hitting her?”

  “No,” I lied.

  He stared at me, unconvinced.

  I folded my arms across my chest. “Well, so what if I was? She would have deserved it.”

  He laughed and shook his head. “You and your temper.”

  “I don’t have a temper,” I argued, which yes, I know, was a lie. I did have a temper. A big one. And it seemed to be getting bigger by the minute.

  “I beg to differ,” he said.

  I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”

  Then we just stared at each other. Through the sounds of people talking, I thought I could make out Aislin’s laugh.

  “You know,” he said, leaning back in the seat, “we were getting along pretty well the other day. It seems like such a shame for us to start fighting again.”

  I turned to face him. “The only way that’s not going to happen is if you tell me what the heck you were talking to Sophia about.”

  “I can’t,” he said simply.

  “Why not?”

  “Because I just can’t.”

  “That’s it? That’s your answer?”

  He nodded. “It’s the only answer I can give you.”

  I threw my hands in the air exasperatedly. “But you’ve told me absolutely nothing.”

  He actually looked a little sad. “I know.”

  The bus jerked forward and the lights went out. Then we were off.

  I turned away from Alex and tried not to think about the fact that I was about to break the promise I made to myself to never go back to the mountains. I tried to let the gentle buzz of sparks lull me into a semi-relaxing state until we reached our destination at Star Grove, a small park that resided at the bottom of the foothills. It was surrounded by tons of trees, and I suddenly wished I had gone home. After what happened in the parking lot, I should have jumped in my car, drove back to my house, locked the doors, and never left again.

  But instead here I was, sitting in a bus that had taken me up to the forest. All because I let myself get distracted. If I hadn’t been so caught up with trying to get the truth out of Alex, maybe I would have thought things through better and jumped off the bus before it pulled away.

  But I didn’t.

  I wish he would just tell me what was going on. I wish I could trust him. It would be nice to have someone I could trust and be able to confide in about the yellow-eyed monsters. Yeah, it was a nice thought. But it was only wishful thinking. And whether wishes were made by blowing out birthday candles or on a shooting star, they never came true.