Fifteen Minutes Later
“They’re sure taking their time,” I grumbled.
Sage and Gal had already gone through the portals ten minutes prior–though they had gone with my urging, they only left after I promised to cross over in five minutes. Jett was all who remained by my side, watching the far-off corridor for any sign of my guardians.
“Maybe one of them had to use the bathroom,” he suggested. “Or maybe they couldn’t find the right locker.”
I sighed. The second option was more likely since I had forgotten to tell Ax my locker number. “Well, it’s already been more than long enough. Why don’t you go on ahead?”
Jett frowned. “Are you sure? I can stay.”
“Nah, it’s cool. I’m about to leave anyway.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Like you told Sage and Gal you were gonna leave five minutes ago?”
Well, shit, he pays attention. “Okay, fine. I just didn’t want your parents to worry since it’s your first time in a magickal school.”
Jett grimaced. “My step dad might have some choice words for me when I get back.”
“Oh.” I fidgeted in place. When it came to opening up about parents, I was far from an expert. “Good words or bad words?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Honestly, I haven’t known him long enough to have him figured out yet.”
“Well, maybe he’ll just be worried about you–”
My words were drowned out by the sound of warping space. Jett and I spun around in time to see the guy who emerged from the portal. He was about the same height and build as the werewolf, and he had the same Hunter and Junior pins on his lapel, but I couldn’t discern any other familial similarities as his cold eyes passed over first me, then Jett.
“C’mon, our parents will be home any minute. Dad’ll be pissed if he thinks I left you here by yourself.”
“Okay,” was all that Jett said. He seemed genuinely surprised that the other boy would go out of his way to retrieve him from the dark dimension. We locked eyes as he swiftly waved goodbye, and in a matter of seconds both upperclassmen had disappeared through the portal.
I sighed and turned back around slowly, my eyes travelling over the darkness that surrounded me. The mirrors hung in mid-air and curved around the wide lobby. The marble beneath my boots made a satisfying squeaking sound as I ground my toe into the floor. Two antique street lamps towered over me and the mirrors, offering the only light in the room. Beyond the glass portals was vast nothingness as far as my vision allowed; the portal entrance to the academy was underground, a part of the dark dimension that was only inhabited by the oldest surviving undead.
I wouldn’t want to be stuck here after hours… I gulped. Like I am now.
“You don’t need to be afraid.”
I tore my eyes away from the empty blackness behind the portals and began to search the lobby for the owner of the voice–only to lock eyes with a girl standing uncomfortably close to me.
I jumped back at her sudden appearance. “Jeez! You scared the crap out of me.”
She giggled and cocked her head to the side. “That’s exactly what I told you not to be, silly.”
I studied the girl closely. She was unfamiliar, yet by her nearness and tone one would think we had known each other all our lives. She spoke in an accent not dissimilar to Sage’s, though I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing was British or Welsh. Her hair framed her thin face and was such a light shade of blonde that it appeared almost white; like ivory next to her porcelain doll complexion. Her eyes were a pale, frosty blue beneath long, egg shell lashes, reminding me of fresh snow in the evening. She stood only a few inches taller than me, and she remained still as she awaited my response, as if she were frozen in time. Everything about this girl screamed ice. Cold. Beauty.
“Um, hi,” I offered the girl a small wave. She did not move or even blink; she simply continued to stare at me. “Where did you come from?”
“I’ve always been here,” she whispered. Her frosty eyes took on a forlorn glint as they unfocused. It was as if she were transported to another place and time. “Here, waiting.”
I frowned and studied her more closely. Her blazer was disheveled and pulled off of one shoulder. The buttons of her dress shirt were in mismatched holes, her hair hung limply on either side of her face, and there was a tear in her pantyhose. I also caught sight of the pins on her lapel–the infinity symbol that represented the Haunter class, and the full moon that stood for a senior.
“Are you okay?” I asked her. “Do you need help?”
“Help,” she repeated. Her lips the shade of coconut shavings. “Yes, help. I need help.”
Panic swelled in my chest. Is someone after her? “My siblings will be back in a moment–they kind of have my phone with them, so we have to wait for them in order to call for help. We can wait at my place, if that’s okay with you.”
Her blue eyes dimmed at the mention of more people, only to brighten at my suggestion. “Yes. Your place. I would like that.”
She’s being a little weird for my taste, I grumbled internally. Maybe it’s just the shock of whatever has happened to her?
I turned around and took a step toward the nearest mirror, determined. Either way, I can’t just leave her alone. I have to help her.
Then I opened my mouth and proceeded to speak the return spell that Nanny had had me memorize.
“Itzalek bidea ematen dute gaua egun bihurtzen denean. Itzul nazazu etxera atzerapenik–”
I spun around in time to see Val and Ax running down the corridor between the breakfast lobby and where I stood.
“Oh, there they are,” I sighed in relief. “Don’t worry, they’ll know what to–”
I glanced around. I was all alone.
“Why are you still waiting here?” Val called out as they entered the lobby and slowed to a brisk walk. “I told you to go home.”
“And who were you talking to?” asked Axel, his eyes darting around the room.
I shrugged. “I don’t know her name.”
“Whose name?” demanded Val. “There’s no one here.”
“There was a girl here just a second ago,” I insisted. “She looked a bit roughed up and said she needed help.”
My siblings shared a concerned glance. “Um, Cari?” Axel spoke slowly. “I didn’t hear anyone else talking. Just you–and I could hear you from the second we hit the stairs.”
A chill snaked its way up my spine. “I-I swear! She was right here…”
“This is exactly why I told you to go through the portal,” Val argued. “You’re too young to be in the dark dimension for longer than six hours, Cari. This place can really mess with your head.”
I nodded absentmindedly and stepped aside as Val stepped up to the mirror and began reciting the spell. Her words were drowned out, however, by the sound of my heart pounding in my ears.