Push and Shove:The Ghost Bird Series_ #6 (The Academy)By: C. L. Stone
The Ghost Bird Series
Push and Shove
FIGHT, FAINT, FIGHT
The fight started with a shout further down the hallway. The words were slurred and the dialect was too different for me to understand, since this was South Carolina, and I was from Illinois. The shout was angry and threatening, which was enough for me to understand something was terribly wrong.
Victor must have understood what was said, because instead of continuing to the staircase, he turned, scanning the crowd with his fire eyes lit up to a brilliant roar, aware and focused. I followed his gaze to a thicker part of the crowd that had stopped.
Two boys punched each other. One of them had very red skin, like he had a terrible sunburn. I didn’t know their names, but recognized both of them. They hung out together in the courtyard. I had thought they were close friends. Now the red kid swung a fist at his friend’s face, and the other retaliated by slamming his book bag at him, full force.
“Victor?” I asked, though my voice had disappeared amid the noise of the crowd.
Victor squeezed my hand. He had a lean figure, slim in the hips. His brown wavy hair was swept back in a stylish way that suited him: an almost-famous pianist and local celebrity. His arching eyebrows capped his brown eyes, lit up with a fire from within and warming when he gazed at me. “Go to gym class, Sang,” he said.
“Don’t get into a fight,” I said.
“I’m just going to watch unless someone gets too hurt.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek quickly before anyone noticed. My heart warmed a little. “Let me do my job. Don’t stop until you get to class.”
I nodded, wanting to stay with him, but knowing my interfering could make things worse. I distracted them enough from their Ashley Waters job, part of which meant school security. The fighting boys didn’t seem to be interested in anyone else, but I was glad Victor was going to watch over it. Victor was going to time to see when teachers and administrators reacted to this fight, monitor who started it, and turn in a report to Mr. Blackbourne.
I left Victor to the fight, knowing he had his cell phone and could call in assistance if he needed it. I crossed my fingers he didn’t need to.
Cell phones had become a problem for us lately. The boys had gotten a security update that they included me in on. We were to avoid using them if possible, and absolutely no Academy business, in code or otherwise, was to be conducted by phone. We had to appear as normal as possible. Normal was uninteresting to anyone who might be listening in.
I weaved my way around gawking students and headed down the stairs. I tried to move quickly and not be noticed. I was having a hard time being invisible and not getting noticed lately. I didn’t think I was anything out of the ordinary. My hair had a slight wave, was dirty blond, a color that Gabriel often said was chameleon-like, as it changed depending on the lighting. I was a little short, which made things easier dodging around students. I did my best not to attract attention.
My fingers hovered over the phone planted in my bra. Touching the cell phone made me feel like I wasn’t too far away from any of the boys. I waited for a chance to get through a narrow point in the hallway.
A bony shoulder jabbed hard against mine, striking with enough force to knock me back. Unbalanced, I fell, landing in an ungraceful mess on the tile. My book bag slid off my shoulders, and the skirt I was wearing skidded up high on my hips.
“Oh,” a female voice said. I glanced up, spotting a familiar pair of disapproving eyes and dark hair. “It’s you.” Her tone implying that she had been fully aware who she’d bumped into.
“Jade.” Jay materialized next to her. He had a shaved head and a hulking figure. I remembered him being on the football team. He frowned at her. “Don’t be such an ass. It’s ugly.”
“Excuse me,” Jade snapped at him. She glared, nearly baring her teeth. “I was trying to get to class. She stepped in my way.”
“She’s Rocky’s girl.” Jay stooped, and without asking, he took my arm. His eyes were cold with distrust, but something lingered behind them. Respect? Loyalty? Responsibility?
I let him pull me to my feet. My cheeks were on fire. I wanted to correct him about being with Rocky. I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. Rocky was handsome, but he was assertive and, to me, too assuming. And the last time I’d seen him, he’d had Jade in his lap. I thought they were together.