Chapter 6: Get a Horse!


When the cute guy in a suit and shades pulled Infinity out of class, I was immediately curious as to what gives. Course, our fearsome foursome—and maybe Devin—were the only ones who really knew who Infinity’s Daddy was. Devin used to make a big joke about it with us, said she didn’t really have to worry about grades and stuff because Daddy would just fix everything if she messed up.

I knew that Finn’s Daddy had nicknamed Devin Obstinate, and I knew why. Every time he asked Infinity to do something, or expected her to do something, Devin was giving her reasons to do the opposite. To be honest, Finn’s Daddy was pretty cool about it, and in the end would let Finn make up her own mind about stuff. But I know that it confused her. She loved her father, but she really liked Devin too.

Devin was in hog heaven. St. Eloise Academy is—was—a girl’s school. Devin was the kid of Dr. Wiseman, and “officially” was being homeschooled, since his daddy didn’t believe in public school, and Devin had been kicked out of the school he had attended in Massachusetts. “Unofficially” he was just as much a student as anyone else at St. Eloise, except he never attended classes. That made him the only boy on campus, and the target of most of the girls there. And out of 500 girls, he chose Infinity.

Maybe that’s what made her give him special treatment. He was cute, especially since there weren’t many other options around. But I thought he was annoying too. He was clever, and he knew it, and he loved to turn students against the teachers, the administrators, or pretty much any adult. He once got Ms. Valentine, our PE teacher, fired by posting photos on Facebook of her walking around nude in her own house. I have no clue how he got those photos, but administration decided that she wasn’t a good influence on the girls, even though it was obvious that she thought she was alone.

Another time, he got almost every girl in school to sign a letter to the Board of Regents asking that male teachers no longer be allowed in the girl’s locker room. That was a joke, and every girl there knew that no man had ever set foot in our PE locker room. But it still caused a lot of commotion in administration, and several girls were called in to determine who had started the letter. No one ever told. Devin may have been a pain sometimes, but he still provided entertainment on a campus that needed it badly.

As always, I watched Infinity when these things happened. When Ms. Valentine got fired, I thought I saw her flinch, as if she was sorry for what had happened and really questioned whether she should be with Devin. But she didn’t do anything, and when Devin continued to do prank after prank, I think her conscience made less and less of an impact on her. Finn had always been strong willed—that’s what I admired about her, and why her Daddy didn’t fight her about her choices. But I gradually saw that will being surrendered to the boy Finn’s father called Obstinate.

The day that the helicopter fell, I ran out of class in Miller Hall when the bell rang, just as everyone else did. More than anything, I wanted to see where Evangelist was taking Finn. I got outside just in time to see the bright blue helicopter, the flash in the sky above it all, the panic among the students and the 20 tons of metal come crashing to earth.

It was crazy. I saw Finn and Evangelist run back to Miller Hall, and I ran with them. When the explosion came, I grabbed Finn by the arm and we ran for the tennis courts on the opposite side of campus. Girls were running in all directions, screaming. Fire and wreckage was falling all around us. The air will filled with smoke and explosions.

We ran as fast as we could until we were away from everyone else. The tennis courts were locked and so we stood against the chain-link fence, catching our breath. Then we saw Kimmy and Marcie, and waved them over. Finally, we saw Devin and his father. Dr. Wiseman would know what to do, we agreed.

We ran over to Devin and Dr. Wiseman, who was talking to Mr. Armstrong, our headmaster. They both had very serious stress lines written across their faces. Mr. Armstrong kept pulling out his cell phone and trying to make it work.

“It won’t work, I tell you,” Dr. Wiseman said. “They used a missile with an electromagnetic pulse. Anything that uses modern electronics—phones, television, radio, even our cars—will be useless.” To emphasize his point, he reached over and took Mr. Armstrong’s iPhone and threw it across the lawn.

Mr. Armstrong stared after his phone, and almost went to retrieve it, then caught himself.

“Well, who is behind this?”

Dr. Wiseman shrugged. “The country has plenty of enemies, but if you had been following the news, you’d know that the most likely candidate is the Asian Coalition. China, Korea, other countries. And they have enough money that they probably hired others as well.”

“Well, we have to do something. We have a responsibility to all of these girls—and their parents. Let’s get the buses over here and transport them somewhere safe.”

Dr. Wiseman shook his head. “You’re not hearing me, Gordon. Those buses won’t work. Your car won’t work. And even if they did, where would you go? Where is safe?”

Mr. Armstrong stared at Dr. Wiseman blankly. “But—but—what do we do?”

Dr. Wiseman stared at Mr. Armstrong for a long moment, deep in thought.

“If this really is war, which I think it is, Baltimore is probably not a safe place. For that matter, neither is the entire Eastern Seaboard. You could send the girls home, but how would they get there? The first thing we need to do is gather everyone together and try to contact the authorities for some direction.”

Mr. Armstrong nodded.

“And let’s see who’s been hurt from the explosion and get them some medical help.”

While the rest of us watched helplessly, Ms. Pittman, our math teacher, arrived with something in her hands. It was a battery-powered bullhorn that she had taken from the gymnasium. She gave it to Mr. Armstrong, who suddenly realized that he had a duty to perform.

“Girls…STUDENTS! Come over here please!” Mr. Armstrong’s voice echoed across the lawn, cutting through the sense of panic that had plagued the school. The other students began walking and running over to where the five of us stood outside the administration building. He continued beckoning, and the girls continued coming in clusters of two, three and four. As they approached, it was as if just the presence of Mr. Armstrong in his suit was enough to reassure them that everything would be okay.

In the meantime, Dr. Wiseman grabbed three other teachers and disappeared into the smoke and wreckage that surrounded the helicopter. They slowly brought body after body back with them, some alive and some obviously not. They lay them out on the grass outside Miller Hall as Mr. Armstrong began talking.

“Students, I know that things look desperate, but we really don’t have any information. So let’s not start jumping to any conclusions. The first thing we need to do is get organized. Let’s organize ourselves according to year. Freshmen over here, then sophomores, juniors and seniors. Now gather into your respective groups.”

I looked for Finn and Devin, and discovered that they were once again standing aside, over by the tennis courts with Kimmy and Marcie. For a minute, I was torn between Mr. Armstrong’s direction and my loyalty to my friends. Loyalty won out, and I slunk over to where they were standing.

“Devin has a great idea!” Finn said, her face beaming. I turned to Devin, expectantly.

“My dad and I have a cabin up on Cape Cod with a sailboat,” he said. “We can go hide up there until this is all over with.”

I stared at Devin, so sure of himself, with three girls beaming behind him, then turned to Infinity.

“Finn, what about your father? It must have been pretty important if he sent someone to come get you. Don’t you think he will be worried?”

Infinity shook her head. “He’s too busy to worry about me.”

“What about our parents?”

Marcie and Kimmy shrugged. “My parents live in Chicago, and Kimmy’s mom is in Europe,” Marcie said. “Where are your parents, Ellie?”

I cringed. “Miami.” There was no way I could get to them, unless what had happened here was only happening here. But what had Dr. Wiseman said? I turned to Devin.

“What about what your father said, Devin? He said that the whole Eastern Seaboard was unsafe. Guys, we’re at war.”

Devin smirked as if he were sharing a great secret. “That’s the beauty of this. Cape Cod is secluded. No one will come looking for us there.”

“And how far away is that? Two hundred miles at least. How are we supposed to get there. Walk?”

“There must be a hundred bicycles stored in the basement of the dorm,” Infinity said. “We can ride bicycles.”

Devin shook his head, that annoying little smirk still on his face. “I have a better idea.” He gestured toward the stables that stood behind the tennis court.

“Horses,” Infinity breathed. “The school has ten of them.”

“And we will need all 10 to make it to Cape Cod. Each of us needs two so we don’t wear them out too quickly.”

We agreed to go back to our dorm rooms and gather what belongings we needed. Devin instructed us to take only what was absolutely necessary, and then meet him behind the stable in an hour. I kept an eye on what was going on on the front lawn, which was pretty much nothing. Mr. Armstrong kept waiting for someone to show up from the government to tell him what to do, and when that didn’t happen, eventually he sent two teachers off on bicycles.

In the meantime, Infinity and I gathered our stuff. I didn’t have a lot, and Finn took Devin’s word literally, leaving a lot of cool stuff behind. We packed our clothes and few personal items Marcie and Kimmy, on the other hand, showed up with three suitcases each, looking like they were ready for the limousine to arrive. That resulted in an argument with Devin as to what was practical to take with them on a horse.

When we got that resolved, it was time to put saddles on our horses. I knew that Infinity loved horses, but I merely tolerated them, and Kimmy and Marcie were about as comfortable on a horse as they were mud wrestling. Devin was nice for once and helped them get the blankets on their horses, and then their saddles. He showed them how to cinch them tight so the saddles wouldn’t fall off, and I smiled as I knew that neither Marcie nor Kimmy would remember his instruction. Finally, we were all packed and ready to go.

Just as we got on our horses, with the spare ones on a leader behind us, the door opened. Ms. Pittman stood in the open doorway, her mouth open.

“What are you kids doing?” she asked.

In response, Devin kicked his horse in the ribs and charged through the doorway. Ms. Pittman dodged the oncoming horse and fell to the ground, letting out a little squeal as she fell. The rest of us followed Devin, and I looked down at Ms. Pittman on the ground as I passed. I worried about her being hurt, but realized that we were at the point of no return.

Devin took us down a path that led away from the front of the school and through a break in the fence in the back that I suspected he had used many times before. It was a beautiful April morning, and if we hadn’t already seen what we had this morning, I could pretend that it was simply a day off from school, a day for a getaway with my friends.

Except that I knew the truth.

We weren’t taking a leisurely horseback ride. We weren’t even students at an exclusive private school for girls anymore.

We were refugees, running for our lives, looking for any opportunity we could find to stay alive.

We had discovered a solution to our lack of transportation. But in the back of my mind, I wondered how long our clever solution would last.

 

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