As mid day gets closer, the stuffiness in the air grows. My breathing grows shallow, trying to bring in more oxygen to my overworked lungs.
The chirping birds calls grow quiet as my feet lead me away from the Forrest and back into town, heading home for some saturating water.
"Hey, Ruth" My best friend, Kaitlin says as she catches up with me, falling into step.
"Hi, Kaitlin." I say with the little oxygen I had succeeded to squeeze into my lungs. I continue trying to drag more down my parched throat, wondering at the easiness in which Kaitlin is finding this air.
"Back from the woods?" She asks, longing evident in her oxygen filled air.
"Yup." I wheeze out.
"Want some?" She then asks, causing me to turn to her, brow furrowed. In her hand is a clear bottle. Inside the bottle is clean, clear, pure water. Three ice cubes floating above it.
"Please," I beg, holding my hand out for the bottle which is given to me freely. I greedily spin the lid off the bottle and raise it to my lips, allowing a drop of water to fall on my tongue.
After that one, vitalising, delicious drop of water, I tip my head back, the bottle following y mouth, and allow more of the life saving liquid fall down my throat, relinquishing the power of my lungs.
"Thank you." I breath as I place the lid back on the bottle and hand it back to Kaitlin who grins at me.
"Don't mention it." She tells me as we continue to walk down the almost deserted street. At this time in the afternoon, nearly everybody is inside, air conditioning on full and relaxing, preparing for the afternoons activities. "You ready for school?" She proceeds to ask. I groan.
"Yes. You?" I ask as we turn into my street.
"Yup." She answers, "I can't believe summer is over in less than a week. It's went by too fast." She complains quietly.
"I know," I reply sympathetically, "but just think, we will be seventh years!" I add with more enthusiasm.
"Suppose," Kaitlin sighs, "see ya." She adds as she continues down the street, leaving me to turn I to my own house.
"Richard?" I call to my step father, "you there?" I add as I close the wooden door behind me, shivering lightly at the sudden cool breeze.
"In the study." I here his deep voice reply, "go get yourself some lunch." He adds, without leaving the study. I roll my eyes at the closed door, take off my shoes and walk down the hall into the kitchen.
A cheese and ham sandwich and pint of orange juice later, I find myself in the study, looking at Richards broad back and contemplating wether to answer his latest question with the truth or a white lie.
"Well?" He asks, turning in his swingy chair to face me. I decide on the truth.
"No. I still have two essays to write."
"Well then, go get them done." He tells me, twisting back around to his work. I glare at his back before turning and stalking up the stairs to my room.
Two hours, an essay on Shakespeare and another on the uses of Coriander on burn wounds later, I get up and stretch.
"Ruth, dinner." Richard calls up the stairs. A grimace makes its way onto my face as I head back out my room, down the stairs, and I to the kitchen. Tea, consisting of cheese burger, salad and chips, waits for me on the dining table, across from Richard.
"Hey, Richard" I say politely as I take my seat.
"Ruth," he acknowledges, smiling. "Get the essays done?" He asks.
"Yes." I say, twisting my sore wrist before taking my first bite.
"You will be receiving a few missions this year," he tells me, being one of the head directors of the school, he would know.
"Do you know what they will be?" I ask him curiously, I love missions, but I hate how long many of them can be.
"No." He answers firmly but the twinkle in his dark brown eyes tells me other wise. Knowing him, I don't ask bother to ask.
"Going to practice tomorrow?" He then asks.
"Yeah, gonna call Kaitlin and Darien tonight" I answer, finishing my last bite, "thank you." I say, nodding to my empty plate to show him what I meant.
"It's ok. You go call your team." He tells me, taking the dirty dishes and going over to the sink.
I get up and leave, heading into the sitting room to grab the phone. I call Kaitlin first.
"Hello, Hutchinson household," Mary, Kaitlin's mother answers.
"Hi Mary, is Kaitlin in?" I ask, taking a seat on the white cushioned couch next to the phone.
"Yes, I will just get her." Mary replies. She then lifts the phone from her ear and shouts to Kaitlin that I am on the phone.
"Hi Ruth!" Kaitlin says as she picks up the phone.
"Hi. You free for some training tomorrow?" I ask.
"Umm... Wait a mo, let me ask." I listen with an eyebrow raised as she discusses with her mum the pros of training with me tomorrow. Eventually, Mary agrees. "Yes, I can train. What time and where?" Kaitlin asks me, repeating her mothers words.
"Ten o'clock at the clearing." I tell her and listen as she conveys the message. I hear her mothers confirmation.
"Yeah, sure, see you then." Kaitlin tells me before hanging up. I grin before dialling in Darien's number.
"Hello?" Darien's silky voice calls down the phone. I shiver at his voice then force myself to concentrate,
"Hey, it's Ruth." I tell him, starting to twirl my golden brown hair with my fingers.
"Hi Ruth!" He says, his voice considerably brighter.
"You available for practice tomorrow? Ten at the clearing?" I ask him.
"Yes. I'll be there." He says.
"Good. Looking forward to it," I tell him.
"Same, sorry, I have to go get my tea. Bye." He then adds, putting his phone down.
"Bye." I whisper down the now empty line before putting the phone back, "when will I ever tell you?" I then ask myself.
As the tap in the kitchen turns itself off, I shake out of my self blame and turn with a smile in place as Richard walks in the sitting room.
"Are they able to train tomorrow?" Richard asks, taking a seat on the single chair in the corner.
"Yeah," I say, getting ready to go upstairs.
"Good. You will need it." He adds as I leave the room.
I swallow. I don't like the sounds of that. If we NEED the training, it implies we will be going on a dangerous mission. Many kids don't come back from dangerous missions.
It takes me a long while to get to sleep that night, but when I do, it is dreams of death that plague my restless night,