Mama and Papa were both screaming. They were carrying me to the bomb shelter three miles away. I buried my head in Mama’s shoulder.
“Nari, when we get there, I want you to hide right away. Don’t wait for anyone. Okay?” Mama asked. I nodded. Tears were streaming down our faces. A man ran up to us and yelled. I couldn’t understand what he said, but Mama did. She ran toward the school with Papa close behind. Mama put me down in one of the classrooms and told me they would be back. I never saw them again.
* * *
I pried my tired eyes open and peeled my forehead off of the desk. I got off the desktop and scuffed the floor as I shuffled over to the janitor’s closet where my dog, Carver, slept. I kicked open the door and clapped my hands.
“Come on lazy bones, if I have to get up, so do you,” I sang. He whined, but raised his head and yawned. I smiled.
We walked down the hall and toward the big double-doors. I pointed out the window and into the meadow. A squirrel was running into a nearby tree.
“Breakfast,” I said. I opened the doors and let Carver run out into the meadow. He tried to climb the tree to catch the squirrel, but had to settle for a rabbit, which wasn’t nearly as tasty.
After breakfast we threw a stick around in the meadow and drew pictures on the black-board (Carver wasn’t very good at that part.).
I was washing the floor with some soapy water when I heard something outside. I tip-toed outside and hid behind the bushes. When I looked over them, I gasped.
* * *
I dove back under the bush, ignoring the sting of the sharp leaves. I couldn’t understand why Carver hadn’t come to me yet. I peeked over the bush again, just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Five metal monsters sat in front of the school and growled. Two people stepped out of each monster and walked into the school. They were talking about how long it would take to “spruce the place up.” I jumped over the bush and into one of the monsters. It was surprisingly cool in the creature, despite the humid summer air. Strange sounds came from the mouth.
I stepped out of the monster just in time to see a woman to walk out of the school with a rope around Carver’s neck. I stood as tall as I could and tried to keep my voice from trembling.
“Step away from the dog, and no one gets hurt,” I said in a surprisingly strong voice. The woman stood there for a moment, I guess trying to decide if I was dangerous or not. She decided I wasn’t and held firm to the rope. I gave her a little half smile.
“Suit yourself,” I said. “Carver, convince her to let you go.”
My dog bared his teeth and jumped on the woman, pinning her to the ground. He growled and barked in her face. The woman let go of the rope and, as soon as Carver let her, ran into the school. I scratched Carver’s head and untied his rope. I held it in my hand like a whip, preparing to drive some invaders out of my home.
“Come on, Carver, we’ve been ambushed.”
We ran into the school, ready to beat some sense into anybody who tried to get in our way. I knocked out two of the men, but I didn’t get anyone out of the building. I ran into my classroom and glanced around. I flung a chair up under the door and threw down my rope. I hid in the corner to catch my breath and go over my plan, but I had to be quick. Just as I was about to leave, I heard a noise behind me. I turned my head just in time to see the book hit me. I felt myself fall to the floor. I looked around, unable to move. I grew very tired, and allowed myself to drift into unconsciousness.
* * *
I awoke to find myself held back to a chair by sharp ropes. I groaned and squinted at the bright light that shone in my face. Soft footsteps came from behind me. I rolled my eyes, even though I knew no one could see it.
“You might as well come out. Just makes it easier to hunt you down after you leave,” I said, getting really annoyed. The same woman who had taken Carver stepped in front of me and leaned uncomfortably close to my face. Her long messy hair and unnaturally white teeth made me think of the evil stepmother in Cinderella.
“You know, you could’ve just asked me to leave,” I said, smirking. The woman snarled.
“You wouldn’t have listened to reasoning,” she said. I raised my eyebrows, finally realizing she thought I was serious.
“I never said I would.”
“Just tell me why you’re living in an abandoned school. Now.” The woman had her light brown hair tied into a messy bun behind her head, and the skin around her beady eyes had no sign of smile lines.
“I feel like being mysterious today, so I’ll just say I was lost,” I said, studying the metal ceiling.
“By the way, where are we? No room in the school has a metal ceiling, or feels this cool.”
The woman was staring at the wall, biting the side of her finger. I used to see my mother do that when she was thinking of a good punishment for me.
“I am going to have someone escort you out of the school and into the city. There, you will be sent back to your parents, Nari Maxwell.” I stiffened.
“How did you find my name?” I asked. The woman did nothing but snap her fingers. Two men came out and stood behind my chair.
“Boys, take Nari to the city. I’ll meet you in the office.” The men untied my ropes and pulled me out of the room. I struggled and pulled until I realized something. If I let them take my to the city, I could finally see where everybody else lived. I gladly walked with the men until we got to the metal monsters. I sat in the back and stared out the glass window. I was finally going to see my parents.
We were moving faster than I thought possible. I stared out the window as we grew closer to town. We passed mothers and fathers and little girls with purple hair. We passed tall buildings and stubby buildings and suburb neighborhoods that never end. I loved it. We pulled into a short driveway, and the two men led me into a tall metal building. My faded sneakers echoed throughout the room. The whole place smelled funny.
“Miss, your mother awaits you in the conference room,” one of the men said. He led me into a warm room with comfy looking chairs and a huge wooden table. A man with short cropped hair sat beside a woman with her hair in a tight bun. The woman stretched her red lips into a strained smile.
“Why, hello dear,” she said. “Who might you be?”
“Ma’am, this is your new foster daughter,” the man said. I smiled.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, as politely as I could. The woman turned and whispered something into the man’s ear. The man nodded. He and the two other men left the room, leaving just me and the woman.
“Now,” she said. “My name is Donna Carpenter, but you may call my Miss Carpenter. And you are?”
“Nice to meet you, Nari. You will be staying with me for a while, so I want you to learn to trust me. I don’t want to rush you, but feel free to ask as many questions as you want. Now for the rules. I will not tolerate lying, rudeness, or sass, and the consequences will be groundings. But, I feel that if you behave, we will get along just fine, okay?”
“Good. Now, let’s go home, shall we?” She rose from the chair and led me back out to her car. It had no top, and it was so black it was sparkling. I sat in the front seat and let the wind whip through my hair.
* * *
It wasn’t long before we pulled into a large driveway in front of an even larger house. It was white and clean and surrounded by beautiful orange trees. A man in a black suit opened the door for us and led us into the house. A giant crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. Two massive marble stair cases led into the four bedrooms, three kitchens, two parlors, library, and swimming pool. A large polished table sat in between the two staircases.
“Well, do you like it?” Miss Carpenter asked.
“I love it!” I said.
“Good. Barbara, show Nari to her room.” A large woman with curly black hair scurried over and took my jet-black coat.
“Right this way,” she said.
Barbara took me to a large wooden door and gave me a quick curtsy.
“Remember,” she said. “Door three.”
I twisted the bronze door knob and walked into my new room. I stopped in the doorway. It was huge! A white king-sized canopy bed stood in the corner next to a bedside table. On the table was an alarm clock, a lamp, a crystal glass full of milk, and a silver plate full of chocolate cookies. A white desk was in the opposite corner of the room right next to a walk-in closet full of clothes. A flat screen TV was hanging over a stone fire place. But the best part was the balcony. It was a fenced in semicircle that overlooked all of the shimmering buildings.
I pulled a silk nightgown out of the closet and put it on. I ate three cookies, gulped down the milk, and climbed under the covers. Man, my new life could use some getting used to.
I awoke to find a plate piled high with pancakes on my bedside table. I sat up slowly, pushing the thick layers of blankets away. The sunlight washed through the room as my white curtains flapped in the soft wind. I wolfed down the pancakes right there in the bed and placed the silver plate on the nightstand. The wooden floor felt cool on my feet as I shuffled to the closet. I picked a black T-shirt and a pair of worn jeans. A pair of knee-high boots waited for me at the closet door. I brushed through my wild morning hair and took the stairs to the main living room. Miss Carpenter was waiting for me with a big black coat and a huge smile.
“Good morning, Nari,” she sang. She shoved the coat in my hands and talked all about today’s agenda. “First, we’ll go to the park, and I’ll show you the lake. Then, we’ll see about getting your jeans hemmed. They’re far too long. After that, I’ll take you to the mall and….” We got in the car and drove for a long while. After a moment of silence, I decided this would be a good time to ask about Carver.
“When are we going to get my dog back?” I asked. Miss Carpenter looked surprised.
“What dog?” she asked. I couldn’t believe it! How could they not tell her about Carver? I tried not to get angry and explain.
“I had a dog, Carver, but he was left at the school. Could we go get him?”
Miss Carpenter looked worried, but quickly went back to the relaxed look.
“I’ll, ah, get you dog later today, okay?” I nodded, but I was still sketchy. Why did Miss Carpenter look so worried? Why wouldn’t she let me come with her? Something wasn’t right.
* * *
The wind whipped around my braid as I stood on the edge of the balcony. Barbara had given me a sweater, but I liked the chill. It helped my think. A big black bird swooped down and landed on the railing. He picked a seed from his feathers and hobbled toward me.
“Do you think I should go check out the school?” I asked him. He cocked his head and squawked. I smiled. “I think so, too.” I ran back into the house and grabbed a flash light. The stairs creaked softly as I tip-toed into the living room. I grabbed my coat and ran outside. I grabbed for my new bicycle, now glad Miss Carpenter bought it for me. I rode until I got to the dirt road that lead to the parking lot. There, I dropped the bike and ran to my old home. I stopped in my tracks and stared at the school. The lights were on, which could only mean one thing. Somebody had taken my school.
* * *
They could take all my fancy clothes, my breakfast in bed, and even my balcony, but they couldn’t take my home. Mother told me not to leave, so I wasn’t just going to let these people take my school. The world seemed to spin around me, sending me tumbling to the ground. I regained my balance and climbed into the attic and curled up into a ball for a while. I stared at my hands, looking for every flaw. I didn’t feel like myself. My stomach lurched. I pulled a mirror out of a little wooden box and stared at my reflection. There it was. I was wearing makeup. I didn’t like the way it looked or the way it felt. I wiped it all off and smiled. I felt like myself again.
I needed to think. What would they do to change my school? They would fix the broken lights, repave the parking lot, and things like that. Luckily, that doesn’t change anything about the inside. If they actually turned my home into a school, I could live in the attic and haunt the people downstairs like a ghost. I didn’t have enough food stored here to live longer than a few weeks, so I’d have to come down sometime. Most importantly, what would Miss Carpenter think? She was so nice to me, I couldn’t just abandon her! I’d send her a letter saying I was at a friend’s house. Hopefully, she wouldn’t wonder how I got friends while living in an abandoned school. It would be tricky, but I could manage.
I crept downstairs and whistled as quietly as I could. I stood perfectly still, listening for the sound of claws hitting the tile. I was just about to give up when I heard faint clicks from down the hall. I looked up just in time to be thrown to the floor by the weight of Carver. I scratched his head and led him into my new home.
That’s about when I started drawing up plans. I had balloons filled with molasses, a slingshot with paper ammo, and a switch I wired up to the lights.
First, I decided to try and scare them off. I watched three teachers sit in my hallway and talk. Right when they got up to leave, I pelted them with paper bullets. They looked around, startled. I started banging on the ceiling, making it sound like it was getting closer and closer to them. They started backing away slowly, but I wasn’t having that. I crawled forward and jumped directly over their heads, sending them franticly running away. I had to cover my mouth to keep myself from bursting out laughing. They ambushed me, now I’ll ambush them.
* * *
I had already been living in the school for weeks before I realized I was the “Lost Soul of Snowfield Academy.” I was looking at myself in my newly sewn dress when I heard some of the kids talking. I crept up to a crack in the ceiling and caught a glimpse of the students. There were two girls and one boy. The taller girl was a brunette, and the shorter girl had dyed her hair a bright blue. The boy looked a little older than the girls, he looked less like a child and more like an adult. Dark-haired girl was talking about the Lost Soul like it was a legend.
“People say that her parents didn’t get her a single toy, but they made them themselves. They got their daughter whatever she wanted, but she was never spoiled. They say she would come to the school at night, climb into the attic, and play with the little wooden puppets her mother made her. She would come so often that she sometimes would fall asleep and run home in the morning. But one night, after the girl had played all day, she fell asleep as soon as she got to the school. When she woke up, she realized she had lost her little puppet. She searched and searched. While she hunted, she tripped on a hammer and hit her head on a toolbox. She died from the damage to her skull.” Brunette stopped for dramatic effect. “She still roams the school, searching for her favorite wooden doll.” Blue-hair girl snorted.
“You seriously believe that stuff, Shauna?” she asked. Shauna looked offended.
“Sure, Lynn, don’t you?” she asked. Lynn was about to answer, but the boy pitched in.
“I don’t think it’s completely accurate, but I do think a little girl might have lost her doll here a long time ago,” he said. Shauna was ready for the hit and struck back.
“Oh yeah, how would you explain all the pounding in the ceiling and that whispering coming from the attic?” she shot. The boy ducked his head, blushing.
“I didn’t think so.”
Lynn shrugged. “I still think the whole thing’s just a story the teachers made up to scare us,” she said. Shauna was not going to have Lynn ruin all her fun.
“How about this? You and I will stay here overnight and tell each other’s parents were staying at Anna’s house. If we don’t see a ghost, I’ll do your homework for a month. If we do see a ghost,we’ll run for our lives and never come back again. Deal?” Lynn smiled. “Deal.”
I decided to make their trip worthwhile. I’d need a lacy but torn dress, some makeup, and I’d need to practice my little girl voice. ;^)
* * *
I sprinted over to my chest, ready to scare some kids. During school hours, two girls decided to stay here overnight to find out if the school was haunted. I felt that I should give them what they apparently wanted, a good scare.
I unlocked the acting class chest with an old silver key hanging from my necklace and dug through piles of clothes, wigs, makeup, and jewelery. I pulled out a torn and burned lace dress, nodding. This looks like something a little dead girl would wear, I thought. Next, I got out a pair of white leather shoes and white stockings. Then, I got out a big briefcase. I popped it open and the sides swung out, revealing an old mirror. Makeup and brushes of every sort lay in front of me. Finally, I pulled out a silver pig’s-hair brush. I didn’t need the blond wig; my hair was already blond.
I slipped the dress over my head and tied the shoes tightly. The last thing I needed was for my shoes to come untied while I was trying to scare people. I brushed my hair and opened the makeup kit. Using the pencils, I drew a big, bruised scar on the side of my head. Quickly, I grabbed the wooden doll I found and sat at the edge of the stairs that lead to the attic, waiting. Soon enough, the front door slammed and the trembling voice of Shauna appeared.
“Are you sure we should still do this?” she asked. “My mom didn’t really buy the whole ‘going to Lynn’s house’ thing.” Lynn shrugged.
“If you’re too scared to go through with this, I can go ahead and give you my math homework,” she said smugly. Even in the dark I could see the relaxed smirk on her pierced face. Shauna sighed. They were both carrying a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, and a set of school clothes. Only Shauna had brought a book.
They walked into the boys’ bathroom, giggling.
“I always wondered what it was like in here. Now I know. Gross,” Lynn said, smiling. They brushed their teeth and took turns changing in the supply closet. While Shauna was changing, I dropped my doll in the attic. I heard Shauna gasp. “What was that?” she asked, her voice trembling. Before Lynn could answer, Shauna broke in. “I bet it was just something in the attic falling over,” she said. Then, I had an idea. I knocked the attic floor. Hard. Lynn gasped. I knocked again. “Knock knock. Who’s here” I said in my best little girl sing-song voice. Shauna burst out of the closet and, based on her annoyed grumble, right into Lynn.
I walked down the stairs and toward the closet, my face blank. “I found my doll,” I said as high-pitched as I could muster. “You wanna help me play with it?” I said. Shauna screamed and flew back into the closet. Lynn opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Finally, Lynn spoke up.
“Um,” she said, her voice weak. “By order of the…um…shadow proclamation, I uh, demand you to-” but Shauna broke in.
“I don’t think ghosts watch Doctor Who, Lynn,” she shouted. The sarcasm in her voice was too strong, and Lynn snapped back.
“Oh yeah, well what do you think we should do?” she asked.
“It’s a little late for that!”
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I burst out laughing. Lynn raised her eyebrows, and Shauna peeked out from the closet. Lynn boiled over and screamed, “What the heck are you laughing about!!” I wiped a tear from my eyes and looked up at the two girls.
Instead of answering, I said, “You know, I could really use your help,” Shauna finally emerged from the closet.
“What kind of help?” she peeped. I explained what had happened to me and why I was here in the first place. Then, I explained why it would be good for them to help me. They both looked amazed.
“Wow,” Shauna whispered. “Of course we can help you.” Lynn nodded. I smiled. Lynn looked down at her watch.
“We should really be going to sleep,” she grumbled. Leave it to a school girl to ruin our night. “Good night, Nari,” she said. They both smiled and walked into the library where they had put their sleeping bags. I smiled. I watched my two new helpers drift off to sleep and allowed myself to do the same.
* * *
I awoke to the sound of Shauna loudly flipping pages in the library, giggling. I peeled my head off the damp floor and shook Carver awake. He growled and snapped playfully. I smiled. Quickly, I pulled a brush through my hair and threw on a clean ruffled black skirt and black T-shirt that had both loose long sleeves and straps. I hopped down stairs and crept into the library. When Shauna looked up, she smiled.
“Morning!” She whisper-shouted. When she saw my new clothes, her eyebrows pulled together.
“What?” I quietly asked.
“Where do you get your clothes?”
“Costume bin in the attic. There’s some really good stuff in there!”
Shauna’s eyes grew big.
“You have a dog,” she said, her eyes not moving. I glanced back at Carver and nodded.
“It’s okay, he won’t bite.” Carver ran up to Shauna and jumped on her, licking her face. Shauna tried to contain her laugh, but failed. She covered her mouth, waiting for Lynn to snap at her. When nothing happened, I pulled the covers off of the sleeping bag and saw nothing. Lynn was gone.
“Where could she have gone?” Shauna asked. I shrugged. I lock the bathroom doors at night, so she couldn’t have been there.
“You go check the cafeteria and I’ll take the halls,” I said. I ran down the main hall and through all the classrooms when the door suddenly swung open. Three men dressed in black ran toward me with a really big bag. I wasn’t going to get dragged out of here and they totally just ruined my good mood, so I decided to fight. One man threw a punch, but I ducked and kicked the back of his leg, sending him to the ground. Another one threw a punch at my head, which I easily dodged. He bent down to pick up his buddy’s pocket knife when I kicked him in the mouth, sending him running out. The last one grabbed my neck from behind, but I got a hold on his arm and threw him over me, crashing him onto his friend who was on the floor. After that I kicked him in the stomach, just for good measure. Shauna then ran into the main hallway, gasping.
“I heard the noise and…uh,” she stopped when she saw the men. “I see you made some new friends there,” she said. I nodded and ran out of the school.
“What about Carver? We can’t just leave him here!” Shauna said.
“He’ll be fine,” I said. When I saw that Lynn’s bike was missing, I grabbed mine and pedaled down the road. Shauna soon followed.
“Why are we leaving?” Shauna shouted over the wind.
“Because,” I said. “I think I know where Lynn is.”