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I wake up with a knock on the door. I look around, confused at my surroundings. Blank walls. I'm laying on a hard floor with almost nothing to cover me up with.

I turn over and see Chris peacefully asleep. I remember I snuck in here last night once I heard everyone's breathing change from normal to slow and deep.

The knock comes again.

Chris and I both shoot up. I run to the side of the room and hide in the corner while Chris gets the door.

"Good morning, Jennet," Chris greets.

My mom. Of course.

"Have you seen Alice?" she asks. "She was there when we went to sleep but not when we woke up."

"No," he says. "She's an explorer. I'm sure as soon as the sun came up she got up too. Probably is just exploring the school."

"She is an explorer, isn't she?" she says happily. "Thank you."

The door closes and we look at each other with wide eyes.


I look out the window in the door, waiting for a moment where I see no one in the hall. As soon as I get the chance I quickly get out of the room and close it. I walk towards the cafeteria, hearing chatter.

"There you are!" Mom says as soon as she sees me. "I was looking for you."

"Sorry, I couldn't help but look around," I lie with a smile. "I wanted to see what was here."

"Well thank you for following the rules and not going out when it was still dark," she says. "Come on. Get Chris and we'll have breakfast together."

We all gather into the cafeteria and sit down at a table together. My family and Chris. "Just like old times," Mom says with a smile.

I look around the room, scoping it to make sure James isn't around. But he is. He sits a few tables away, facing me directly. Keeping an eye on me. The thought of him watching me creeps me out. But I can't act out. I have to control my emotions and keep them to myself.

"Alice, since you're the healthiest out of the group, I was thinking of having you start today. You can be on the scavenger job. We'll need more of them because of our new guests. I'll get you set up with a partner to go out with right after breakfast. Sound good?" Mom asks as she takes another bite of her fruit.

I nod, but I'm nervous. I don't know anyone. I know it's a good way to get to know them but it's hard to trust anyone anymore.

"I think I'm ready for a job too. Maybe I could join her?" Chris asks. I know what he's trying to do. Get out with me to make sure I'm safe.

"Not on that ankle of yours," Dad says to him. "We'll give you another day or two to rest."

"No, really, I'm fine."

Dad looks over at him with a glare that could kill. "I said we'll give you more time to rest."

Everyone at the table grows silent. Josh and Amy put their heads lower and eat quicker, as if they're trying to get done as fast as they can so they can leave the table. Mom stops eating and looks at her husband, my own father, who's changing for the worst.

"Yes, sir," Chris says. "Thank you."

Dad stands up and leaves his tray on the table. He exits the room swiftly and quickly.

Mom watches him go with sad eyes. She makes eye contact with me. Her eyes are teary and crystal blue. She takes in a deep breath and finishes her food, then cleans up both of their trays and follows him out. For a second I want to tell her not to, but I know she won't listen. She doesn't think anything is wrong. And if she does, she's covering it up with saying he's stressed.

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