Chapter 1: Out of the Woods

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I almost cried when I saw the lights of a distant building through the darkness of the snow storm. The taxi had broken down two miles out from the town, and I had been forced to walk through the cold. The sun was setting quickly, and I had been terrified that I wouldn't make it to civilization by dark.

Ella probably didn't have any problems with getting around in the snow, I thought. My best friend had been missing for months, and I had been chasing after her for almost as long. I had crossed two continents, and had landed on a third this morning in Switzerland. Finding a way around the world hadn't been easy, and I envied Ella for her mobility. Ever since her power barrier broke, she could fly on an air pocket across the United States in an hour and not be even slightly worn out. I knew the odds of me ever catching up to her were slim, but I had to try.

Most of the time, Lizzy or Ms. Wren helped me to get around. All Lizzy had to do was walk into a junk yard and she could construct a working plane or a car from spare parts in seconds. As long as she was in the vehicle, it held together better than most manufactured models. She had traveled with me all the way through Africa in a makeshift biplane.

Ms. Wren helped me out the rest of the time. Apparently, being the vice principal at a school for superheroes paid very well. When I had told her that I believed Ella was in Europe, she barely batted an eye before booking me a plane ticket to Switzerland; she only stopped to tell me, "Bring her home." I had spent most of my summer searching or thinking on where Ella might have gone at Ms. Wren's house. At first, I had been worried my parents would try to keep me at home, but apparently they wanted me out of their way badly enough that traveling around the world at random wasn't a problem.

I shoved the heavy wooden door open and nearly collapsed into the building. I looked around. It appeared to be a restaurant of some sorts, but it was near empty. A few people milled about, eating, and only one employee was in the room: an elderly man wiping down what appeared to be a bar.

Shivering, I approached the man. "Do you speak English?" I asked him. It was probably a futile hope. Most of the people I had spoken to since arriving in Switzerland either spoke German, Italian, or French. I had studied French in junior high, but not enough to get the information I needed.

Much to my surprise, he responded, "Yes, I speak English. Most tourists speak English, so I chose to learn. You are an American, yes?" He smiled, and his thin gold framed glinted in the light.

"Yes, American. My name is Anita." I responded, sighing with relief.

"You look rather young to be drinking at a bar, so I'll assume you're not looking for alcohol. How may I help you, Anita?"

I dug in my new backpack and replied, "I'm looking for a friend of mine, and I think she may have passed through here recently." The backpack was something I had purchased before leaving to search for Ella. It was large and durable, as well as completely waterproof. It was stuffed with food, water bottles, spare changes of clothes, and a few other necessities. Eventually, I found another important item it held and pulled it out, showing it to the bartender.

"This is a picture of her that I sketched myself. Her name is Ella. She's 5' 9'', super pale, and platinum blonde. Have you seen her by chance?" The man picked up the paper, which by now was creased and slightly crumpled from repeatedly being taken out of and put back into my backpack. I had done it on a plane ride on the back of a paper advertisement for in flight meals. I watched him examine her slender nose and diagonal haircut, her sharp eyes and arched brows. I was proud of the drawing- it was dead-on accurate and done completely from memory.

"I'm not certain," the man began, sliding the paper back to me, "but I believe this young woman passed through here three days ago. I can't be certain that it was her, as she had a grey hood up that covered part of her face, but..." he looked around at the other customers, almost suspiciously, as I tucked the drawing back in my backpack. "...does she have orange eyes, by chance?"

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