Chapter 14: What's Your Problem, Justina?

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The room blurred and I wasn't sure which way was up.

I sunk into blackness for a while, then I could smell something like incense or a scented candle.

There were people dressed in black, one of them holding a candle. There were crystals of different colours shining in the candlelight, reminding me of a glittering rainbow. People were talking in whispers, and then nothingness.

Once I was aware of my surroundings again, I found that I was walking home from school on a wet day and as I started down the hill toward home, my shoe slipped on the wet grass and I lost my footing. I braced for the fall, but it never came. I'd somehow bounced back up onto my feet as if it never happened. I checked myself over and hadn't even gotten any mud on me. I was stunned. There didn't seem to be anyone else around, so I clenched the strap on my bag tightly and ran home.

Things moved on at a faster pace. Other things that had happened to me. A cup falling to the floor without me touching it. My phone falling down between my bed and the wall and when my hand couldn't reach it, it suddenly jumping up to meet my fingers.

A gust of wind coming from out of nowhere and nearly knocking me over when I was angry. Things I'd kept secret for years.

Then the blackness returned.

─── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ───

I woke up, but lay in bed with my eyes closed for a while and listened to the birds singing outside. Why did I feel like I'd hardly slept?

My breath caught. Something felt different. I wasn't in my own bed. My eyes flew open and I looked around the unfamiliar room. It took a few seconds to remember where I was and I took a few deep breaths while I waited for my heartbeat to return to normal.

This bed was a lot more comfortable than the beds at Mirrabooka and the hospital. I sighed. At least there was one good thing in all of this mess.

I sat up slowly and tried to remember what I did before I'd fallen asleep. I'd talked to Jemma and Victoria and then my head started spinning. I didn't remember getting into bed or closing the curtains, but I must have done those things. Johnny had told me he could move stuff around, but could he move something as heavy as a floor-to-ceiling curtain?

There were sounds in the hallway, so I wasn't the only one up.

I yawned and stretched and threw the covers back. I was still fully-dressed. That was odd. Maybe I'd been really tired from the long drive out here and the stress of being dumped with a bunch of strangers that I'd be living with for the next whatever. I shrugged it off.

I opened my door a crack and the smell of bacon hit me. There didn't seem to be anyone around, so I darted across to the toilet. It was separate to the bathroom — thankfully — because it sounded like someone was in the shower.

I was relieved to find an empty hall again when I came out, so I slipped into my room and closed the door.

As I turned from the door, Johnny appeared in front of me with a dazed look on his face.

I jerked backwards. "Johnny! What are you doing? You scared the bejeebers out of me."

He took a step back as he looked wildly around the room. "I... I don't know what happened. What time is it?"

"I don't know. There's no clock in here."

"I seem to have lost time or something. It was dark, but now it's daylight."

"That doesn't make any sense. Did you go to that other plane that Mrs C and Mr J told us about?"

"No." He frowned. "Well, at least, I don't think so. I just seemed to be nowhere. It's just a blank."

"That's weird. Are you okay now?"

"Uh, yeah. I think so." He ran a hand through his hair. "So, what are you up to?"

"I'm going downstairs to see if I can get some breakfast."

He seemed disappointed, but a smile appeared on his full lips. "I'll see you around then."

"Yeah." Stop staring at his lips!

I waved and headed out. The smell of bacon hit me again and I picked up the pace. I hoped they were cooking enough for me too.

Tracy looked up from the frypan as I entered the kitchen. "Good morning, Maddie. I trust you slept well?"

She remembered to call me Maddie. That was a good sign.

"Um, sort of." She raised her eyebrows, but I just smiled. "New place. New bed." Her face relaxed. "I'll be alright once I'm used to the pillow."

I didn't want to tell her I'd spent the whole night having weird-ass dreams.

Tracy motioned toward the kitchen bench. "There's plenty of food, so just help yourself. The kettle is hot if you'd like a tea or coffee or you could make yourself a hot chocolate."

I thanked her and grabbed a plate. Bacon. Eggs. Toast. Yum.

Then I made myself a cup of tea.


I could definitely get used to this.

I found a spot at the table opposite Kellie and she started up an enthusiastic conversation that made me wonder where she found the energy first thing in the morning. I didn't do much talking as I was busy savouring my bacon... oh, and the other food.

"We're going into town today if you'd like to come," she said as she practically bounced in her seat. "I can show you around so you can get to know your way around. I'm guessing Holly didn't stop in town before she brought you here."

I gave myself a mental shake and told myself that I shouldn't be surprised that she knew Holly. Holly had told me about Kellie in the car. That car trip seemed like weeks ago, or maybe it felt that way because I was tired.

Surely it wasn't just because of the weird dreams and the long drive. Something felt off.

Kaydan sat down next to Kellie and gave me a wave.

I waved back. "Hi."

I tensed up when Justina walked in. I hoped she was in a better mood this morning, but I doubted it.

She trudged over to the fridge and grabbed herself a glass of juice and stood watching Tracy cook.

I was waiting for her to say something, but hoping she'd just ignore me. I'd be fine with that.

I tried not to look at her as she asked Tracy if there was any toast.

"Oh, we've run out, Honey. Maddie took the last two slices. You'll have to stick some more in the toaster."

I resisted the urge to look up. Thanks a lot, Tracy. Justina groaned and stomped over to the toaster. I imagined her grabbing the bread and shoving it into the toaster and slamming the lever down; the loud sound of the lever clicking into place confirmed it.

Kellie cleared her throat. "So, did you wanna come into town?"

Oops. I hadn't answered her before. "Uh, sure."

She beamed at me as Justina gave a dramatic sigh.

Kellie turned toward her. "What's your problem, Justina?"

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