Gone – Chapter Six

10,064 / 50,000 words. 20% done!


Jessica ignored the cheering for Elizabeth. That was probably the most normal thing that had happened all day. She saw Ellen give Amy one last adoring gave before she rejoined the Unicorns.

Jessica rolled her eyes at Ellen’s rekindled infatuation with the lank-haired tomboy, and then shook it off as she tried to ease closer to Janet.

She couldn’t wait to tell her that she had saved her life. She could well imagine the looks the other Unicorns would give her—half admiring, half envious. They would wish they had saved Janet, but they would know that they just didn’t have the grit that Jessica did.

She just needed an opening. She needed a natural way to drop into conversation that she had just saved the life of the president of the Unicorns.

“I’m so glad you’re ok, Janet,” Lila said.

That would do. “Me too,” Jessica added. “I hope your foot isn’t too cold—after you lost your shoe.”

“My foot?” Janet asked. “Why would you think I lost my shoe?”

That was even more perfect. “Well, I saw your shoe fall off when I was dragging you from the store—single-handedly—after you passed out. It was a case of rescuing you or your shoe…” Jessica tried to look humble here. “So obviously I saved you.”

Janet gave her an exasperated look. “What on earth are you talking about, Jessica? You didn’t drag me from the store, I walked out with Mary.”

“No!” It was one thing to be given confusing messages about stupid onion dip, but Jessica remembered dragging Janet out. She got all cruddy from the floor. “The fireball hit and you, Ellen and me all got knocked over and I dragged you to safety when you didn’t wake up, and while I was dragging you, your sneaker came off and it’s still in the store.” Jessica realized that she had used a very snippy tone with Janet, which would not go down well, and attempted to salvage the situation as best she could. “I could go back and get it for you?”

Janet pointed at her feet with both hands, and Jessica saw that Janet was still wearing both sneakers. “But I…” she trailed off, then glanced at Ellen. “Do you remember how it happened?”

Ellen nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, we were talking about onion dip, and it was just like Jessica said, the fireball hit, then Amy saved me.”

Janet shook her head. It seemed that confusion had overtaken her irritation, because her tone wasn’t quite as biting as before. “Jessica, I don’t know what happened to you, but Mary and I were getting grape soda when the fire started, so we dropped everything and ran out the exit. Maybe you hit your head or something? Maybe you saw Amy saving Ellen and got confused?”

Jessica felt a surge of rage. What on earth was going on? She knew she had saved Janet. Heck, she knew that Janet had told her to get onion dip before going back on her word. There was something seriously wrong with Janet today. She knew that the Unicorns weren’t exactly the most supportive group of friends, but actively and deliberately sabotaging someone wasn’t their everyday behavior.

If Jessica was honest, it was the kind of thing that she and Lila would indulge in quite regularly.

Ellen tugged at her arm. “I need to speak to you.”

Jessica shrugged her off in frustration, but Ellen tried again.

“Really, we need to talk.” Ellen pitched her voice low so the others wouldn’t hear.

“Ok,” Jessica said. It might be about her saving Janet. Maybe while she was walking back to the shopping cart, Janet had messed with Ellen’s head too. Not that Ellen would notice, but Jessica might be able to tease out some details Ellen was too dim to understand.

She and Ellen stepped a comfortable distance from the group and Jessica looked at Ellen expectantly.

Ellen toed the ground with her foot for a few moments, staring at the sidewalk with an intensity she usually saved for Amy. Eventually she looked up at Jessica and whispered. “I saw what you did.”

Jessica felt her temper rise again—and in all honesty, her temper had been bouncing from angry to destroy the world with little to no cooldown between mood swings—so it really wasn’t a long trip. “Then why on earth did you tell Janet all about Amy instead?”

Ellen looked confused. “Because I was protecting you, Jessica. We’re friends.”

“You were protecting me?” Jessica repeated. “From what? From Janet’s eternal gratitude that I saved her life? From my future as the next president of the Unicorns? Well, thanks, Ellen! Thanks a lot!”

Ellen looked shocked. “No, you didn’t save Janet’s life. You nearly killed her.”

Jessica’s jaw dropped. “What?”

Ellen leaned closer and dropped her voice to a whisper. “When she shouted at you about the onion dip you made a fireball from your hands.” She nodded her head in the direction of Elizabeth and Amy. “Like Elizabeth’s water jets. You made fire.”

Jessica jerked back. Surely she hadn’t. She would have remembered that. She didn’t remember anything except her frustration and then being knocked on her back by a fireball.

She glanced at her palms. She expected them to be the same ordinary hands she saw every day of her life. And they were. But there were was an ashy carbon smudge on each palm. She quickly stuck them behind her back. Had she made a fireball? It kind of stood to reason that she might have. If Elizabeth had a super power, then of course Jessica would, and hers would be far more impactful, because she was the dramatic twin.

But if people found out, they wouldn’t cheer for her like they did for Elizabeth. She was the one who caused the fire that Saint Elizabeth had heroically put out. And Jessica was having a bad enough day as it was.

There was only one way to deal with this.

She schooled her features into incredulous disdain. “Me? Ellen, what are you talking about? You were the one who created the fireball. I just didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to get into trouble. I decided to save Janet first and come back for you. I figured since you made the fire, you were probably immune to it or something.”

Ellen gave her a puzzled look. “No… I… I would remember…”

Would you?” Jessica did her best impression of Elizabeth, the kind that always forced everyone to open up about their problems. She reached out and tentatively patted Ellen on the shoulder. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt Janet, and it must have been a shock when it happened, but you can’t push your problems on to me, Ellen.” She kept her voice soft and her smile friendly. “I am your friend, and I will keep your secret, but you need to accept what you did, even if we never tell anyone.”

There was a long thoughtful pause as Ellen digested this. “It really was me?” she asked in a faint voice.

“I’m afraid so.”

Another pause, a few head-bobs, followed by a decisive nod. “Oh gosh, Jessica, I’m so sorry that I convinced myself you did it.”

Jessica’s smile widened. “Don’t worry about it. We can keep it between us.”

“Thank you, Jessica.” Ellen resumed her consideration of the sidewalk. “I feel… ashamed of myself.”

Well, that was helpful. If Ellen felt ashamed, then there was no chance of her blabbing to anyone. And if Jessica changed the subject, she might even forget about the whole situation. “Don’t feel too bad. We’ve still got the party to look forward to.”

Ellen nodded. “It’s a shame we didn’t get the snacks. Although I don’t know how we were going to pay. There wasn’t anyone there to take our money.” When she looked up at Jessica, she looked worried. “I don’t know how to pay for something if someone’s not there to take the money, do you?”

Jessica had a rather fabulous idea that would blow the party, the theme and stupid onion dip right out of the water!

She strode back over to the group of Unicorns and said in a clear voice that cut straight through the chatter, “Forget the party, I have a much better idea.” Raising her head and standing tall, she addressed the entire group of students. “The party at Lila’s is cancelled in favor of…”

Now she had everyone’s attention. She teased out the moment, enjoying their incredulous looks. Janet was beginning to look irritated again, and Jessica let the silence linger a second more before finishing. “Well, you guys can go to Lila’s if you want, but I’m going to the mall, where I’m going to get a new outfit for free, get delicious snacks, and then find the very best store to host the most amazing party in the history of Sweet Valley. And when the party is over, I will be hosting the biggest slumber party at Sweet Valley Beds!”

She took half a second to enjoy the dawning realization on everyone’s faces, then started walking away as if she knew everyone would follow her.

In no time at all, Janet had linked her arm through Jessica’s and she was surrounded by Unicorns.

“What a terrific idea, Jessica,” Janet said. “This kind of thing reflects very well on the Unicorns.”

Elizabeth was furious with her sister. She had just won the approval of her classmates and was ready to lead them safely through this crisis and Jessica had jumped in with her silly party idea before Elizabeth could even explain the seriousness of the situation.

“Wait!” she cried. “You don’t know what’s going on! Don’t you even care where your families are?”

A few people looked curious—she noticed Sophia Rizzo, Sarah Thomas, Mandy Miller and Mary Robinson move a little closer to her—but for the most part, people were talking amongst themselves about what they were going to get from the mall.

“We are under a gigantic transparent dome!” Elizabeth said triumphantly.

“That might have been put there by aliens,” Amy added. Then cowered slightly under Elizabeth’s glare.

“Everyone was thrown outside of it,” Elizabeth continued. “The adults are all outside of the dome on Valley Road. I think we need to speak to them. They have news vans there. This is a big deal! We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Jessica turned back to face her sister. “Ok, you do that. We’ll be at the mall partying.”

Elizabeth felt tears spring to her eyes again. “Why don’t you care, Jess? Don’t you miss our family? They’ve been torn away from us. Why aren’t you worried about the dome that’s covering the entire town? Is a party really more important?”

Jessica shrugged. “To answer your questions: I do care, but honestly, it’s barely lunchtime, I’m not missing mom and dad because I usually wouldn’t see them for another few hours. I’m actually looking forward to walking through the house after a shower and not feeling violated by Steven’s stares. And in all honesty, this whole dome situation will resolve itself in about nineteen more chapters.” She glanced at her nails for a second. “These things kind of take care of themselves, so why not party?”

Elizabeth stared at her sister in open-mouthed fury. She cast about for something to say in response to Jessica ridiculous assertions and landed on, “You don’t even know what violated means!”

“Sure I do, it’s that shameful tickle I get when Steven’s close.” Jessica glanced around. “So, if you guys want to follow Elizabeth and do the boring research stuff about why there’s a dome, then go ahead. The cool kids will be at the mall, hosting the biggest and best party you’ve ever seen.”

And with that, Jessica walked away.

And everyone but Amy followed her.

“Don’t tell me,” Elizabeth said with irritation. “You’ve read a book where aliens did exactly this, and everyone abandoned their leader but it was a terrific book.”

Amy shrugged. “Well, that’s kind of how these things go.”