I was in my room, my horrific room which would drive any person who was even slightly claustrophobic insane, when I heard Lucinda shouting.
"Don't hurt him!" she was crying. "Please don't hurt him!"
I ran out of my room and ran to her door. I tried to open it but it was locked. I banged on it, hard.
"Lucinda!" I yelled. "Open up!"
I was terrified that something had happened to Lucinda, my Lucinda, and I wouldn't be able to help her. Just as I thought I might send a massive gale to shove the door open, it opened. I almost fell over in my attempt to get to Lucinda. Luke was standing in the room - he had been the one who'd opened the door.
He whispered, "Eve's missing. Come down when you two are ready," before teleporting away.
I threw my arms around Lucinda, saying, "What's wrong? What happened?"
She could only shake her head. She was sobbing.
"Tell me, Lucinda, I can help! Tell me!"
I began to kiss her, wanting to chase whatever was bothering her away. I was fiercely protective of her - I loved her. I kissed her cheek, her neck, her head, her lips, always asking, "What's wrong?"
I pulled her down to the bed and held her tightly.
"I love you," I told her. "You have to tell me what's wrong."
Finally, she pushed me away slightly and whispered, "S-Solon's got Tommy."
"Who's Tommy?" I asked, confused.
"M-my little brother. I thought he'd died in the car accident but it turns out Solon rescued him. My little brother!"
A thought suddenly came to me, something I knew Lucinda wouldn't like, but something I had to tell her.
"Lucinda," I said gently, "did you ever consider that ... Solon might be lying?"
Lucinda looked shocked. "What?! What are you saying?! That Tommy might not be alive!"
I stroked her face. "These Black Ones... We can't trust them. I'm really sorry but he might be dead."
"NO!" she shouted. "No!" She shoved me away. "You don't understand! Tommy went missing! No one ever found him!"
"There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that. Look, I know you want to believe he's alive but we can't risk walking into a trap. It's far too dangerous."
"I don't care! I have to get Tommy! Even if it means dying!"
I was horrified. "Lucinda, you can't!" I'd already vowed to myself that I wasn't going to let her die. I wasn't going to break that promise.
"I can! I have to! I can't let Solon hurt Tommy! He's my little brother, William, my little brother!"
"I am not letting you get yourself killed," I growled.
"It's not up to you!"
I was desperate for her to change her mind. I thought I was going to cry as I said, "Lucinda, I love you! I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you! How could I live if you died? Please don't do this."
Lucinda's face softened and she reached out to stroke my face. I closed my eyes and held her hand there.
"I love you too," she said. "But Tommy's more important than me. Wouldn't you do the same thing for me?"
I opened my eyes. She had asked me the cruellest question in the world. I knew that I would definitely do the same for her but admitting that would be saying I approved of her risking her life for Tommy and I really couldn't let that happen. Lying, however, would be worse because I had to be honest with her and because the answer would suggest Lucinda meant nothing to me. She saw the pain her question had caused me and sighed.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but you have to see how I see things."
I hugged Lucinda tightly and kissed her. "I'm going to come with you," I told her. "Wherever you go, I'll follow; whatever you have to do, I'll help you."
I kissed her once more, stroking her hair and caressing her soft skin.
"We have to go downstairs," I finally said.
"Do we?" she asked, looking up at me.
"I want to stay here too," I told her. "But Eve's missing."
Lucinda looked alarmed. "Eve's missing?!" She jumped to her feet.
Lucinda hurried out of the room and I followed her, staying true to my word.
Downstairs, the other seven teenagers were assembled, waiting for us. There was no sign of Harriet and Patrick.
Thinking the same thing, Luke asked, ""Where are Patrick and Harriet?"
Marc closed his eyes and replied, "Asleep in bed. Should we wake them?"
"No," I said. "Let's just sort this out ourselves; we can send Luke back if we need them quickly."
"Come on guys, we have no time to lose," Marc said. He walked outside and we followed him.
"Ouch!" Jade suddenly cried, almost giving me a heart attack
Jake gave her a piggy back. I realised she was barefooted.
"Jade, keep your senses alert," Ben warned.
We had been walking behind Marc for a little while now, following him as he tracked Eve. He suddenly stopped.
"This is the last place she was before she disappeared from my mind map," he noted.
Jade sniffed, as if she could smell something
"I can smell something," she whispered even though we were the only people there. "It smells all earthy."
"Sure it's not Jake?" Ellie joked.
Jade smiled and shook her head. Jake let her down and she crouched to the ground, running my hands along the road.
"She's been sucked under," she said..
Jake picked up a pile of earth, evidence of Jade's point.
"You're right," he told her. "The Black Ones."
"Should we tell Patrick and Harriet?" Zoey asked.
"We could but. What are we going to do?" Marc who was standing next to Zoey replied.
"We could follow her but then what? Marc could you track her?" Ben asked Marc.
"I could try it. I didn't sense Eve leave until it was too late. And her path was faint." Marc explained.
"Guys I hate to be the one to say it but." Luke began. "How are we going to get out? Or where Eve is?"
Luke was right. I wondered the same things myself.
"Ellie, either you're shivering like mad or. The phone on vibrate and going off. Unless it's something else." He winked at her.
"Ugh Luke I'm too tired to care at this moment in time," she replied.
Then she pulled out her phone.
"I'll just go and answer this, you guys carry on," she said.
We all stared at the ground, thinking about what we could do.
"Guys!" Ben suddenly exclaimed.
We all looked up at him. Had he figured out a way of rescuing Eve?
"I think I know what's going on here. When they get sucked into the ground they are being sucked into the other parallel! Eve is in our world now. That's how it works! Someone has been bridging them."
This made sense.
"I'm going after her. I'm invincible, besides this might lead to my dad. You guys stay together! Always stay with a partner!"
He turned to Jake.
"You're the strongest here now," he said. "Protect them."
I was indignant. How could he say that? Everyone else looked like they were thinking the same thing.
Jake nodded solemnly.
"We may have come to a parting of ways now. Ellie's father needs help. I need to find Eve."
Jade wasn't convinced, "What if this just a trap and they're waiting for you?"
Ben shook his head.
"Then it's a trap, I have no choice." He glanced around at all of us.
"On the risk of sounding cliché, you guys are the best friends I ever had."
We had to smile at that.
Ben walked up to the hole and said in deep voice, "I'll be back."
I shook my head in amused wonder. Then I scowled at Jake.
"So, what are we going to do now, protector?"
Jake ignored my tone and replied, "Now, we wait."
We returned to the house and sat down, anxious and apprehensive.
"Does anyone want something to drink?" Ellie asked.
I shook my head but then thought about Lucinda. She was clutching my hand a little tightly.
"Could you make Lucinda a hot drink?" I asked.
Lucinda looked as if she were about to protest but then she suddenly looked tired and didn't say anything.
A few of the others asked for drinks and Ellie went off to the kitchen. Luke followed her.
"So what are we going to do about Tommy?" Lucinda asked quietly.
"I don't know," I admitted. "We'll have to figure this out."
Jake looked at us sharply. "What's this?"
"Never mind," I said, not wanting to distress Lucinda more.
"If something's wrong, it involves all of us," Jake said. "We have to remain as much of a united front as possible."
"Did Ben appoint you leader as well?" I asked.
Jake rose to his feet. "I'm just saying we should stick together."
I stood up too. "Well, I think you're being nosy."
"I just want what's best for the group."
"And I don't?"
"I didn't say that."
"You darn well implied it."
We moved towards each other, glaring.
"Stop!" Jade cried. "We can't fight! The Black Ones will be able to defeat us if we're in conflict with ourselves."
"I'm just telling William that we need to act like a team," Jake said.
"Teams don't act as if some of the team mates need protecting. I could understand if say Marc had gone and said ‘Protect Zoey,' but Ben said we were weak and suggested we were helpless."
"He was just thinking of the team!" Jake said.
"Some team we are then."
Jake punched me.
I became angrier.
"Stop!" Jade and Lucinda cried together.
I tried to calm down.
"Look, I don't want to fight," I said. "It just isn't my secret to give away and I am not going to betray Lucinda's trust.
Jake continued to glare at me.
Suddenly, Zoey stood up and came between us.
"If you two want to fight, you have to fight me first," she said. Marc stood as if to protect her but Jake and I both knew that Zoey was too strong for us and we sat down, still glaring.
"Now you two are going to have to make up. That is, unless you want to be beaten by the Black Ones."
When Jake and I said nothing, Zoey asked, "Do you want to get beaten by the Black Ones?"
Slowly, we shook our heads.
Jade whispered something to Jake. Jake looked at me and said, "Sorry, William."
Lucinda looked at me imploringly. I sighed. I couldn't hurt her.
I turned to face Jake. "Sorry."
Ellie and Luke walked in, looking oblivious.
Ellie handed everyone their drinks. I noticed that she and Luke were smiling at each other. I wondered what had happened in the kitchen.
"Are we all going to get along now?" Zoey asked.
Jake and I nodded.
"Good," she said. Suddenly she looked tired. She went to sit with Marc.
"We've had a long night," Jade said. "I think we should all try and get some sleep."
So we all went upstairs, apart from Jake who opened the door and went outside. I heard a tiger's growl and then silence.
I went with Lucinda to her room and kissed her until she fell asleep on me. I dozed off with her in my arms.