52 - Where a Catfight is Narrowly Avoided

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52

         We left his house and huddled together outside on the trail. Jacoby kept a hand on my arm, giving me assuring little rubs from time-to-time. I took a shuddering gulp of air and forced myself to think of something else. And the only something else that stood even the slightest chance of taking my mind off of Sam was the Bolt Hole itself.

         It was most definitely nighttime now from what I could gather; there was nothing but black when I looked through the natural windows in the cliff walls, and more lamps had been brought out to light up a giant potluck in mid-swing. It was hosted in the centre of the Bolt Hole, in the clearing. Miniature, person-height lampposts I hadn’t noticed before stood lit outside every house, the top curved down to accommodate the light bulb; it looked a lot like a snowdrop.

         I was puzzled and surprised.

         We hadn’t been inside for very long. The clearing had been empty when we’d first gotten here, and it was now crowded with people…and animals and bugs?

         I glanced at Jacoby to see if he’d noticed the sudden appearance. His eyes lingered on the throng, but a second later he busied himself squinting at his key. I nudged him with my elbow.

         “What are you looking at?”

         He took my key from my hand and squinted at it, too. “Your room’s in Starboard 2. Wonder where that is.”

         I held my hand out for his, and he reached for Beatrice’s.

         “Bee’s is, too.” He frowned for a second, looking between the two of us.

         “What, Flower Boy? Disappointed you won’t be living with us anymore?”

         Jacoby tossed Bee’s key back at her, and stopped to peer at a cluster of arrowhead signs in a four-way path. He pointed to the far right path. “You guys are that way. I’m…this way. Port 1.” He started off towards the leftmost. “I’ll see you guys later, yeah?” He glanced at the potluck.

         I took a large sniff. It smelled delicious even though I was still full.

         Jacoby snapped me out of it when he handed me my stuff with a smile. “Feel better.”

         I returned the gesture and jogged to catch up to Beatrice, who was already halfway down the path. It led us to a large bump in the ground, with Starboard 2 painted on top of a grey background in yellow lettering.

         “Should we knock?” I asked.

         Beatrice scoffed. “Are you kidding me? Tweed gave us keys, didn’t he?” She inserted her key into the lock, twisted it around until it unlocked, and opened the door.

         I stepped inside after her as she descended a set of stairs. We were level with the ceiling at the top of the stairs, and from the door, I could see everything in the room—or dorm room. There were already two girls inside.

         Beatrice glanced around, spotted an empty bed, and threw her jacket onto it. That left me with the bed closest to the steps.

         I set my stuff down and smiled at the two girls. A pixie of a girl with olive skin and curly black hair sat in yoga pants on her bed, a monarch butterfly on her shoulder and a plastic container in her lap, while the bright red lid lay next to her. She was eating dinner, and so was the person on the bed beside her, a slender girl with dyed brown hair. Her lips tweaked in a smile.

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