Two - Lost Puppy

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Haley

"I told dad not to come because you said you'd drop me back," I remind Odette.

It's past nine and my dad has a strict ten o'clock curfew, which I don't mind, to be honest. I like being indoors during the night as it prevents me from doing anything stupid under peer pressure.

"Why don't you call your dad and tell him you'll spend the night here?"

I don't answer. Odette, Nancy, Juniper, and Bella watch me as I pace anxiously around Odette's elaborate living room. I know they understand my point of view, but they have nothing to do that would help me.

"Do you want me to call mom?" Odette asks uncertainly.

I sigh. "No, it's okay. I'll just walk."

"It's raining out," Nancy reminds me. "Can't you just stay?"

I pull on my coat and stuff my feet into my sneakers, thinking about it.

"It's okay," I shake it off. "Don't worry, I'll be fine."

"Take the umbrella." Odette hurries after me as I make my way towards the exit. She hands me a big black umbrella.

"Hope I don't get hit by lightning with this on me," I joke, taking the umbrella.

"Keep your phone active and call me right away if something happens," Odette says to me with a nervous expression. "And Haley ... I'm sorry."

Yeah, you should be! 

"See you tomorrow at school."

With a fleeting hug, I exit into the dark and chilly night. Opening the umbrella, I hold it on top of me. It's huge, and I'm lucky that it protects me from the rain.

As I hurry onto the main street, I stiffen my shoulders and grip the umbrella tighter, my other hand closing instinctively around the phone in my pocket. My eyes dart around the empty surroundings as I walk at a brisk pace through the sheet of downpour, taking the shortcut from Odette's home to mine. The dirty neighborhood is deserted, and even the stray dogs seemed to have retired to a dry spot somewhere out of sight.

I keep my eyes on the sidewalk, trying to avoid the open gutters, scattered garbage bags and rotting food leftovers, looking up only when I reach the spot I recognize from earlier in the day. My gaze passes over the buildings I pass, a few windows lit and most of them dark. I can hear multiple conversations going on within those cracked walls, but most of the sound is drowned out by the roaring wind.

The familiar metal stairway comes into my view and I naturally look up towards the first landing. To my surprise, I see a black-clad figure sitting there, back against the door and huddled upon itself.

No, that can't be him ... can it?

Licking my freezing lower lip, I notice Xavier is still wearing the simple full-sleeved black shirt he was wearing at school. His raven hair falls on his face, which is bowed low over his hands resting limp in his lap. His legs are spread out straight in front of him and though his body is relatively dry -- being under the shade -- the ground around his feet is soaking wet.

Before I can figure out what I'm doing, I'm climbing the rickety staircase, my hand coming out of my pocket and gripping the wet railing to secure myself. Xavier's head snaps up when I'm halfway up the stairs, and I freeze, one foot on the upper stair, one lower. I open my mouth, but the widening of his eyes makes me nervous. He looks kind of scary, with one side of his face bruised and dark hair flopping over his forehead, ghostly grey eyes staring at me. I close and open my mouth again, before clearing my throat.

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