Zoe considered it. She hadn't wanted to spend another lesson dwelling on how she was never going to see these people again. But Nate and his cousin were strangers to her—two students that she didn't know well enough to miss when she was gone.

So she shook her head instead. "It's fine. You can sit."

Nate nodded his thanks and pulled out the seat beside his cousin. From the opposite side of the room, Sophie-Ana caught Zoe's eye and sent her a look that would have seen her drop dead if it could have.


Nate and his cousin pulled their own textbooks from their bags. They would have had this class the day before, Zoe realised, while she'd been home sleeping restlessly on the lounge. She wondered if they'd sat at her table then, too—or if Nate had simply chosen it today because she was a familiar face to him.

His cousin—Paris—regarded her curiously, unashamedly staring.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Do I have something on my face?"

Paris cocked his head to the side. "Are you feeling all right?"

It was such an unexpected question that at first Zoe only blinked. Was she that obvious? Did everybody know that she was feeling off today? "I'm sorry?"

"You weren't in class yesterday," Nate clarified, shooting a look at his cousin. "Were you off sick?"

"Oh. Yeah. I just wasn't feeling well is all. But I'm fine now."

Mr Tanner chose that moment to enter the room, saving her from having to elaborate.

She opened her notebook to a fresh page, her textbook to the one that was specified, and then promptly stopped paying attention. Nobody ever paid attention in Mr Tanner's class. He was the sort of teacher who could drone on for hours about how the CIA were covering up the Kennedy assassination, or how September Eleven had been an inside job, which meant he did a whole lot of talking without actually doing much teaching. According to Mel and her gossip mill, the only reason the crazy-eyed man was still teaching was because nobody was brave enough to fire him.

Most of her classmates had decided to carry on their conversations from lunch, and their whispers permeated the air. It was a wonder that Mr Tanner never seemed to hear them—or maybe he simply didn't care.

Zoe usually used the lesson to catch up on homework or assignments from her other classes—but she didn't much see the point in that now if she wasn't going to be around long enough for any of them to matter. Maybe she should pull out her phone and try to get a message to Hayden Parker.

Or maybe she shouldn't. She'd been debating with herself all morning, torn between trying to save Hayden Parker and wanting to keep her own father safe. Sending Hayden a message could have been how those men had tracked down her father. Her dream-self had had the same thought.

And as terrible as it made her feel, Zoe valued her own father's life over those of Hayden and his family.

She took to doodling in her notebook instead in an attempt to chase that thought from her mind. But this was a habit that she'd picked up from Matt, she realised with a pang.

"How long have you lived in Granton Ridge, Zoe?"

Zoe looked up again; Paris raised an eyebrow to go along with his question.

Neither one of the cousins had even bothered opening their books. Either they were fast learners in the way that the things at North Granton Ridge High were done, or they were the sort of people who didn't care about their studies. It was difficult to tell which.

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