18 | A Vibrating String

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"They're checking the undersides of chairs again!" Tom Lamrin announced after peeking through the door.

Marilda sighed and turned to Evanna, who stood dumbstruck. "Last year, this girl got suspended after her diary was found taped to the underside of her chair."

"What do they check exactly?" Evanna managed to croak. "The lockers? Bags?"

She nodded, twin bunches of hair bobbing with the motion.

It was as if someone tipped a bucket of ice down her stomach. She slumped against the wall and watched the activity before her. Do I have my earphones in there? No, you took it out, remember, Ev? What other contraband do you have in there? Think! 

Students clustered together in the corridor, and more spilled out from adjacent classrooms. A buzz of conversation permeated the atmosphere, not unlike an agitated beehive. Evanna's idle stare examined a painting, its focal point being the silhouette of a unicorn. Messy brushstrokes depicted a leaden sky over icy tundra, the bleakness threatening to swallow up the odd creature. Wait, my phone!

"Mari-chan!" Evanna hissed.

"Huh?" Marilda wheeled around, startled by the urgency in her voice. "What?"

"What do they check in phones?"

"Well, everything. Messages, calls, photos..."

"What?"

"What? You didn't know that?"

Evanna dipped her head and clapped a hand to her mouth.

"You bring your regular phone to school?" The other girl leaned on the wall next to her, forehead puckered into a frown. "And you haven't cleaned it?"

She shook her head in one lethargic motion.

"Evie!" Marilda exclaimed, her voice glazed with disbelief.

Minutes slipped by as Evanna observed the proceedings. Her eardrums pulsed with the drone of voices, fueling her mounting anxiety. Her eyes darted to the four boys from Obsidian, who stood some distance away by the wall opposite. They seemed surprisingly relaxed.

The elevator doors opened with jarring abruptness. Four prefects stepped out, gripping handheld metal detectors.

A group of boys were the first to be scanned. The prefects waved the detectors over each person, searching for hidden pen drives. Dead silence now pervaded the corridor.

Evanna's eyes widened when a short prefect strode over, holding her device aloft.

The next second, she sensed the detector positioned behind her head, making her stiffen. Then it made its slow descent to the level of her chest—and beeped, blinking red.

She jumped, staring at the prefect with wild eyes. Huh?

The prefect paused for a moment and continued scanning her, while a smattering of sniggers punctuated the stillness.

Evanna's eyes flitted from one person to the next, lingering for a moment on Shane, who leaned back against the wall, trying to suppress a laugh. Marilda's giggle snapped her attention back to the situation at hand. It was when the prefect moved away that comprehension dawned. She squirmed, her face heating up.

One by one, people were summoned back into their homerooms. When it was Evanna's turn, she drifted into 12-E, wishing that she was invisible.

A dozen students sat brooding, though the checking was still underway. Bags lay emptied on the desks nearest to the lockers, and prefects combed through the contents like a bomb disposal squad. Lycurgus stood motionless, overseeing the operation, while Inoue watched on from the teacher's table. One willowy prefect was stationed next to a front row desk, which showcased confiscated phones.

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