Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety

At first quite nervous, Wil found a surprising level of obscurity behind the words of her story. Her audience helped as well; gasping at Carl’s stupidity, glaring at the incompetent office secretary, leaning forward when she told of reading the internet story, then bursting out in laughter at poor Carl’s panic and intentional pants-dropping.

Even Hope giggled, a sweet chirping noise that Wil suspected Hope rarely voiced.

Not everyone laughed; to her side, Stephen appeared shocked. He almost looked as though he had been the one who spilled chemicals on half his group and then exposed himself in mistake.

Reagan noticed his discomfort. “Relax, Stevie,” she drawled. She wiped at her eyes.

“Stephen,” Stephen mumbled in correction as he glanced down at his chocolate cupcake wrapper.

She laughed a snort. “No shit, Sherlock.”

“Reagan,” Hope said.

The outspoken girl turned to the much smaller, meeker one. Their eyes met before Reagan lowered hers. “Sorry, Stephen.”

Wil nearly choked. Again.

“Thanks, Reagan,” Derek said. “Hope.” He smiled. Wil realized Derek smiled to help others calm down; she wished it had that effect on her.

“So…” Art began. Most shifted to face his direction. “Why’re we meeting today?”

All eyes flitted to Derek. “Welll,” their leader answered, “Stephen and I have been talking more about our group-‘

And the name, I hope,” Reagan interjected.

“Sure,” Derek acknowledged, blinking. His confusion cleared, and he continued, “Um, so we’ve talked about why we got together as a group anyway….” His voice cracked a bit and he swallowed. His gaze shifted around the group. Reagan made a rude gesture, which startled him into a shocked expression, then a genuine smile. “Ha! Thanks, Reagan. Thing is, I think we ought to actually do something with this group.”

Stephen nodded but the others’ expressions ranged from wary to (in Wil’s case) blank.

“You mean….” his main heckler said, “…like the Girl Scouts?”

This time, even Stephen laughed.

“Actually, Reagan,” Derek said, “That’s not so far off…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Nine.
Keep reading to Ninety-One.

 

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine

“Well,” Reagan greeted Wil, “It’s about time!”

Wil glanced around the blue table’s occupants in confusion but realized none of them seemed upset. In fact, several were smiling. Art laughed outright. Compared to Reagan’s laugh of earlier, his sounded from a well of authentic joy. “Relax, Wil,” he said. “No one’s mad.”

Wil tried to relax, but Reagan looked the way she’d sounded: mad at her. To Reagan’s right, Hope still smiled kindly. To Hope‘s right, Derek also smiled. Wil felt something flutter inside her and glanced in the safer direction of her clutched tray of food.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. She couldn’t help it.

Art rose and headed to another table. “You’re fine.” He grabbed a yellow chair. Carrying it and setting it between his chair and Stephen’s, he turned to Reagan and mouthed, Knock it off! Reagan rolled her eyes in response and continued the serious study of consuming her sack lunch. To Wil, Art turned halfway and gestured for her to sit. She did, sliding her food carefully onto the crowded surface.

“Maybe we’ll send Hope next time,” Derek teased.

Reagan snorted.

“You already had Hope deliver the note,” Stephen stated. His lunch was finished and he was in process of eating his dessert. Bits of chocolate cake clung to his fingertips and lip. “Did that fail?”

Reagan snorted again. “Didn’t you hear?”

“No. Hear what?”

The dramatic girl fixed him with a look. “About this morning?”

Stephen glanced around the table. The rest of his friends appeared bemused, though Wil appeared very interested in her chicken-like gravy. He shook his head in the negative, the gesture making him look like a nervous owl.

“Well!” Reagan began, in a tone of conspiracy, “This morning, right after Wil discovered her note, Ol’ Dr. L. decided to change things up in class.” She took a drink from her water bottle. Swallowed. She leaned forward a bit, then sat back up. “Actually, I think Wil should tell it.”

Wil gagged on her soggy green beans. Startled, Stephen observed Wil’s coughing and then smacked her on the back. Wil managed to wave him off and regain composure. “I…” she began, “I know Hope was there.”

The shy girl gave Wil a half-smile. “I was.” Wil sighed in relief. “But,” Hope added, “Dr. L. was in front of my view when I heard the yell.” Wil’s former optimism died.

“Yell?” Stephen asked. “Who yelled? Wil yelled?”

“No,” Wil said. “Well -maybe yes.” Everyone stared at her. She blushed. She didn’t know how she’d been talked into this but saw she couldn’t back out now. “Carl Hurn yelled. His frien- Harry yelled. That girl probably did, too.” She stirred at her stale rice with a bandaged hand. “You see: she’d just gotten our supplies from the closet and set them on her desk. Carl said something like, ‘I know what to do,’ before heading over and tripping or something and crashing right into her…”

 

Continued from Eighty-Eight.
Keep reading to Ninety.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Eight

Yeah,” Wil said. “Harry.” She adjusted her backpack the best she could and glanced over at Reagan’s face. The girl appeared to be somewhere besides the crowded common room they were about to cross. “You all right, Reagan?”

Reagan’s eyes followed a blue spoon-shaped artwork on the wall before she returned Wil’s attentions. “What?”

“I asked,” Wil stressed the word, “If you were all right.”

A few teenagers brushed past them. “Hm …yeah,” Reagan answered. Another group walked between them, eyeing them; sending a nonverbal query as to why the two girls obstructed the base of the stairs.

“Oh.” Wil thought to elaborate; decided against it. “Well!” she said in a brighter tone, “Should we go see what the others want?”

“Oh!” Reagan blinked. “The thingie! -Yeah, Wil, let’s go!” She grabbed for Wil’s backpack again, but Wil was quick enough to pull it away this time.

“I’ll walk faster without the dragging.”

Reagan faced her, hand on hip and frown on face. “Alright.” Her tone did not sound convinced.

Wil smiled in innocence and started forward at a fairly quick pace. Pockets of chattering pupils and phone-hypnotized stragglers stood between her and the hallway to the lunchroom stairwell. She would have preferred a slower pace, but chose this over Reagan’s alternative.

With only a few stumbles and accidental shoulder-bumping, she and her impatient friend made it across. They turned and rushed down the stairs. Wil had enough spare thought to admire Reagan’s graceful descent compared to her own pell-mell lunges before she made it to the bottom without accident.

“Reagan,” she called, out of breath, just before the girl’s shadow turned the corner. The shadow stopped and looked to turn back. Wil stood and walked forward. “I. have. to. get. lunch. first,” she managed to say.

Reagan responded with another hand on hip pose. Wil took it as permission and headed to the counters.

“I’ll tell them you’re coming,” Reagan called. She left. Wil sighed in relief.

“What’s it today, dearie?” the smiling lunchlady asked. Her hair net head appeared more edible than the fare she offered, but Wil frowned and considered the options anyway. She needed to hurry, before Reagan changed her mind.

 

Continued from Eighty-Seven.
Keep reading to Eighty-Nine.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Seven

As Reagan near-dragged Wil out of the art room and down the hallway of classrooms and lockers, Wil couldn’t help but recall Art’s tease that their helpful friend was “domineering.” She tried to get a word in, or at least a trailing sneaker. “Reagan, I-”

Drag.

“But, wait! I-”

“No time, Wil!” Yank.

Wil might have found herself in a helpless twist of clothes and backpack at the lunchroom door if, at the exact moment they passed the office, her captor had not looked back to reprimand Wil’s sluggishness. As such, neither girl anticipated the collision with the exiting boy.

“Ouch!” he said. “What the- Wil!

Wil saw Reagan’s impending curse die on her lips. “Harrison?” she said instead.

Harrison’s face clouded into a scowl. He turned to face Reagan; both she and Wil noticed his bandaged hands.

“Oh,” Reagan said. “Sorry.”

He shrugged a bit, and then had to readjust the folder and book in his arms. His face still scowled. “I don’t mind the burn.” He glanced at Wil, especially at her own, small bandages. “It’s the name.” As he saw understanding cross Reagan’s face, he said, “I’m ‘Harry.’

He turned back to Wil without waiting for a response. He smiled at her. “Hey! D’ya have my phone?”

Wil blinked to recover from his abrupt manner. She was still processing that they’d crashed and that she was not still being pulled. Her eyes focused on the white, bandaged hands before her; traveled up to Harrison’s -Harry’s- face. He had an expectant expression. He’d asked her a question, something about a phone…

“Oh!” Wil said, blushing. “Yeah! I just realized I still had it, but couldn’t remember your name-”

“Harry,” Harry said.

Wil blushed more, if possible. “Right; yeah.”

He stood, still expectant.

“Oh! The phone!” Wil tried to grab for it with her bandaged hand, causing Harry to try to help her, but they both stopped when they realized neither could grasp it.

“Erm, Reagan?” Wil asked. She looked at her friend, but Reagan seemed a little lost. She seemed to be watching something near Harry’s face, or near his startlingly-blue eyes. Wil tried again. “Reagan!”

“Hm- Yeah?” her former captor turned to Wil.

“Uh.” Wil wasn’t accustomed to a speechless Reagan, though she didn’t know the girl very well yet. Maybe her carpool neighbor was sarcastic and talkative with their lunchtime group but not anywhere else. “Could you get Harry’s phone out of my pocket and give it to him?”

Reagan blinked.

“Please?” Harry asked. His tone sounded nicer than before, but still impatient.

Reagan looked back at his eyes; nodded. She reached forward, extracted the cell phone, then gingerly slid it into the side pocket he offered.

“Thanks.” he told her. Smiling a white flash of teeth at Wil, he added, “And thank you, Wil.” He laughed. “Now, I’m gonna try to eat. See ya!” He pushed past the gaping Reagan and a few other teenagers milling around the area and headed down the stairs to the lunchroom.

Wil sighed in relief. “Well, I’m glad I got his phone back. I didn’t even know his name!” She started walking toward the stairs as well; Reagan followed. “He seems like kind of a jerk, though,” she observed.

“Who, Harriso- Harry?” Reagan sounded surprised.

 

Continued from Eighty-Six.
Keep reading to Eighty-Eight.