Inquest Chapter 10

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Chapter 10

Privilege

Nerves have me tapping my desk relentlessly as I watch the door for Milo. I haven’t heard anything in the halls or gotten any unusually threatening looks yet. That’s promising, I think. At the very least I feel confident one of them isn’t dead. I’m more worried about Milo on that front, but traitorous concern for Lance has cropped up a few times as well. It flares in me again. I shoved it out of my head right away, telling myself he deserves whatever he gets, but it is ridiculously hard to pretend seeing him dead won’t hurt me. I close my eyes and hope the general monotone atmosphere is a sign that no one got hurt. They’re both fine. Someone would have at the least blamed me if something bad had happened.

That’s a strangely hopeful thought. Or it might be if everyone didn’t fall completely silent as soon as they saw me. Ms. Hernandez stands up from her desk, ready to launch into another discussion about Perception that I doubtlessly know more about than she does. Her thin lips part to shush everyone as Milo saunters through the door, hands in his pockets, head bobbing to whatever he’s listening to on his iPod. Ms. Hernandez’s lips compress to the point of disappearing completely, but she doesn’t say anything to Milo.

Maybe his plan is working after all. That will make his day. Seeing him free of bruises or other injuries has already made mine. Milo slides into his seat, unzips his backpack, and pulls out a paper bag. Without a word, he hands me the bag and slouches down into his chair. His eyes close a second later.

“Milo,” I hiss.

Nothing.

“Milo, what happened?”

His eyes stay stubbornly closed, but Ms. Hernandez’s eyes snap to me like a predator about to attack. Her glare lingers only a second before she shivers and turns back to her lecture. She’s obviously scared of me, but unfortunately, I’m pretty scared of her too. I shrink down in my seat and rest my feet on the book rack under the chair in front of me.

“Eat,” Milo whispers.

“What?”

Opening one eye, he shakes his head and points at the bag on my desk. “Eat.”

I open the bag and peer into it. It’s not homemade this time, but a cold lunch from the cafeteria is better than nothing. Even though I put money back in my account this morning, I didn’t have time to get anything. “Thanks,” I whisper. But his eyes are already closed again.

As quiet as humanly possible, I take my lunch out of the bag and eat it while I listen to Ms. Hernandez recite the steps you should take to determine if someone is lying to you. She’s jumped quite a ways from yesterday’s painfully basic lesson plan. Discerning the truth of what someone is telling you requires first mastering the ability to feel another person’s emotions. That can take years to learn by itself. After that, you have to be able to untangle the web of emotions that surround people constantly, even more so when they’re trying to hide something. Then you need to be able to sort the individual strands of emotion to find what you’re looking for.

It’s a lengthy process for people who have spent years practicing, something none of the students in this classroom but me has had. I’ve done it so often I barely even have to think about it anymore. As long as I’m relatively calm and not too worked up to focus on my talents, I can feel lies on my skin like ants. Why she’s giving a lesson on this makes very little sense, but I actually find it rather interesting. She brings up some techniques I have never tried, being largely self-taught. The hour speeds by quickly, and the ending bell breaks Ms. Hernandez off midsentence. Despite Milo’s pretending to be asleep a few seconds earlier, he’s the first one out of his seat.

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