Snuggled up in the corner of her bed with all the pillows, sheets, and blankets tucked around her, Melanie sat, knees to her chest, thinking. The nerve he had, disappearing for three whole days without an explanation! Sister Dana had filled her in on Julian's "miraculous" return—no frostbite, thirst, or hunger—carrying that woolen blanket from who knows where. Obviously, he had found some shelter. Obviously, his great ordeal had not been an ordeal. But he refused to give the scantiest detail. Just like him, too. Sister Zoe allegedly had scolded him, and, in Sister Dana's version, Mr. Papp "at least" was duly humbled. Melanie found that difficult to believe, however.

She nestled deeper. Tuesday. She had Chess today at two o'clock. Hours away. The sun was not even up yet. She had wanted to see him all day Monday. Instead, she had done another drawing—Julian making that comic-opera bow. She had made sure to show the stupid grin he had grinned, and just for fun (and to get back at him a little), she had put him in a jester's hat. Served him right.

She leaned her chin against her knees, hugging her legs tightly, slowly rocking. Julian. The bed felt nice and cozy and warm. And wet? She pulled back the covers and lifted her gown to see. A bloodstain spread from between her legs. For a moment she held very still. Her periods, though irregular, had not caused any problems since her injuries had healed. But now, this rust-colored spot beneath her seemed like a wound reopened.

"No!"

Her legs snapped closed. She rushed into the bathroom.

 

 

Tuesday, November 11th, at 6:06 in the A.M. I almost remembered something. It was right at the tip of my tongue, that close. I almost had it. Then it was gone. Everybody thinks I forget on purpose. That's not true. I try. I just can't remember stuff. I probably have brain damage or something.

I haven't seen Julian since he came back. He makes me so mad I could scream. He could have come to see me. He doesn't care, though. He doesn't care about anyone but himself. He wouldn't even tell Sister where he was all that time. She had practically the whole state out looking for him and he just strutted back, all on his own, as if what he did was nobody else's business. At least he got hollered at. Sister gave it to him good. Sister Dana told me that. Except she dislikes Julian so much she might have exaggerated. Why should I care, though? So what if he's teaching me chess? He's probably doing that for one of his selfish reasons, too.

I wandered around all day yesterday taking turns liking him and hating him. Stupid. I wish I could figure out why he's on my mind all the time. Not knowing makes me nervous. I do not have a crush on him. That's kid's stuff. "He's merely a fascinating young man in whom I'm taking a temporary interest." That's how he sounds. I wonder how come? He wants people to think he's smart, I suppose. And he is. Though you'd think a person with all his brains would be a little happier.

She closed the journal and dressed. Maybe he was up and having coffee. He rarely was in the cafeteria at normal times. So, if you wanted to come across him (accidentally, of course), it was best to choose unusual hours and places.

Melanie made her way to the cafeteria.

 

He had not...

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