Home > Fracture (Night School #3)(17)

Fracture (Night School #3)(17)
Author: C.J. Daugherty

A sudden burst of hope, warm as sunlight, filled her. He still had confidence in her. He thought she could do it. And best of all, she’d be working with Rachel – maybe she could figure out a way to mend their damaged friendship at the same time.

‘Definitely,’ she said with heartfelt enthusiasm.

‘Good.’ He stood up and she knew their talk was over. But as she headed towards the door, he called after her. When she turned back he was looking at her oddly.

‘You’re going to be just fine, you know,’ he said.

Taken by surprise, Allie didn’t have time to be anything but honest. ‘I hope so.’

That conversation was the only light in an otherwise dim day, and Allie’s feet dragged as she lugged her heavy book bag up the stairs towards the girls’ dormitory wing after her last class.

When she saw a small familiar figure ahead of her, darting through the crowds of students, she swallowed hard.

‘Zoe thinks of you as a big sister,’ Isabelle had said. ‘She needed you.’

‘Hey, Zoe,’ she called out. ‘Wait up.’

The younger girl stopped in mid-stride. When she turned around, her expression was guarded.

Zoe was a prodigy – just thirteen, she was already studying well above Allie’s level. The two of them had been close last term but after Jo’s death Zoe acted as if nothing important had happened. She didn’t seem to care. Allie never once saw her cry. She just got on with her life as if Jo had never existed.

Early on, Dr Cartwright had tried to explain to Allie how Asperger’s worked but she hadn’t wanted to hear it at the time. It had just been too hard to take.

Now, though, her own actions seemed mean to her.

When she caught up to her, Allie rushed into her apology. ‘I just wanted to tell you again that I’m so sorry for the way I’ve treated you. It wasn’t fair. I’ve been messed up but I shouldn’t have… done that.’

Zoe’s face screwed up, and Allie knew she was thinking it over – flipping through the words as if they were numbers. Adding them up. Coming up with a reply.

‘I forgive you,’ she said finally. ‘But you can’t do it again or I won’t be your friend. And that’s for ever.’

Something fluttered loose in Allie’s heart. She couldn’t lose Zoe. She needed her. She spoke with a fervour she hadn’t realised she felt.

‘I won’t do it again, Zoe. I swear it. And I… I really hope things can go back the way they were. Please. Let’s just… be normal again.’

Clearly satisfied by this, Zoe gave a nod that sent her ponytail swinging. ‘Good. I want that, too.’

Side by side, they walked down the narrow corridor lined on both sides with small white doors, each with a number painted on it in black.

Tilting her head to one side, Zoe spoke with her usual bluntness. ‘Why did you run away? Because you were sad?’

Allie hesitated. ‘Yeah…’ she said eventually. ‘I was sad.’

Zoe seemed to accept this. ‘Where did you go?’

There was no easy answer to this question.

‘To church, in the end.’ Allie’s voice was rueful. ‘Although that wasn’t the plan. Like… at all.’

‘What was the plan?’

‘To go to London and find out who hurt Jo.’ Allie shrugged – it sounded so foolish now. ‘Somehow.’

‘Aren’t you from London?’ Zoe’s gaze sharpened.


‘Nathaniel would have found you immediately. He’d know right where you’d go. It was a terrible plan.’

Allie opened her mouth to reply then closed it again. Zoe had a point.

When they reached the younger girl’s door, Zoe stopped. ‘If you ever decide to run away again, come to me. I’ll help you choose the best place to go. Statistically speaking.’

Allie was surprised by how much that touched her; for a second she didn’t trust herself to speak. When she recovered, though, her reply was fervent.

‘If I ever run away again you will be the first person I tell.’

When she opened the door to her room, the chemical-lemon smell of furniture polish greeted Allie before she’d even switched on the light. She inhaled deeply. Loath though she was to admit it to herself, she was glad her dirty clothes had been taken away and fresh towels stacked on the shelf by the door. Glad everything was orderly.

Outside, cold winter rain tapped against the bedroom window as if it was trying to get in. She dropped her book bag by the desk with a clunk and kicked off her shoes. The room was warm and snug.

Grabbing the thick stack of work assignments her teachers had given her to make up, she sat down on the floor to sort through it – she’d need a lot of space.

‘Let’s see,’ she muttered, frowning as she looked at the first page. ‘This is urgent.’ She set it on the floor to her right. ‘And this is… sort of urgent.’ She set another paper on top of the first. ‘This is’ – she held the next sheet – ‘totally freaking urgent.’

The process continued in that manner for some time as the ‘urgent’ stack grew alarmingly. When she’d gone through everything in the file, she looked around in dismay; the floor was so covered in paper she could barely see the whitewashed wood beneath it.

‘Bollocks,’ she announced to no one. ‘I’m totally screwed.’

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