Well, I did try to tell them it was a bad idea. Due to my near-constant depressed mood, I knew what it felt like when someone did something like that to you. It could change your personality completely for a second, and I suppose that's what happened to Toni because she was never usually mardy like that.
Bored, I did something I hadn't done for ages. I deliberately read some people's minds. Just random people who were thinking about random, pointless crap, and only the people who had let their barriers down. I tried not to read Tilly's mind; I knew she hated it and she was being very careful to keep her barriers up. But it was nagging me because, as always, I wanted to know what she was thinking.
"Go on then," she told me, catching me a bit off guard. Then she smiled at my confused expression. "Just because it's your Token, it doesn't mean other people can't do it."
"Ah," I smiled back the best I could. She let me into her mind. I already knew that earlier she'd been thinking about ways of getting me to tell her my problem. Now, it wasn't thinking, it was more daydreaming. Generally, she was worried. Not only about Anthony, but about Antonia, Lily, and, as per usual, me. There was something else there, a kind of confusion but also recognition. But every time I tried to see what it was, a mist covered it and I had to stop.
"I can't get to it either," she informed me when I gave up completely and blinked a few times to clear my head. "You know, when you deliberately read people's thoughts, your eyes go all blurry."
"They do?" I asked.
"Hmm," she nodded. We had a free period so we were back in the Yellow Common. We were sat on the rug playing our, as of today, four week long game of Monopoly. "Ha! Yes! You owe me two-hundred pounds!"
"Uhngh." I handed over the money. "Here you go."
She grinned and rolled the dice.
"I have a question for you," I told her.
"Do you think I should get a haircut?" The look that washed over her face was quite amusing.
"No!" she gasped dramatically. "How could you even think about such a thing?"
I grinned. "No, seriously." I insisted. "I was thinking about getting it like Ewan's."
Mil shook her head, a look of complete seriousness over her face. "No, no, no. You can't cut off all your beautiful hair!"
I moved around the Monopoly board and leant over so that my face was about an inch from hers. "And why not?"
"Because I won't let you," she smiled. And then, slowly, she leaned forwards, knowing that I'd lean away. When I did, she laughed. "And that's how."
"That doesn't even make sense," I muttered, and then added, "I think you're a hypocrite."
She shoved me backwards so that I was propping myself up with my elbows, then she laid next to me on her stomach with her hands balled into fists under her chin.
"Well," I balanced myself on my left arm and tugged at a strand of her short silky hair with my right hand. "Your hair is shorter than mine."
"Ah, well, then, yes, that would make me a hypocrite. You're absolutely right." Tilly grinned.
"Exactly," I said. "You only cut it last month. It looked nice when it was long."
"Yeah, but, it was annoying and it had no volume."
I rolled my eyes. "All right, I have a deal for you."
"A deal, hmm?" she adjusted her imaginary glasses. "What are your terms?"
"If you let your hair grow, I won't cut mine."
"Well, that seems fair," she smiled. "But you are allowed a trim. You've got too many split ends."
I was about to answer that with a sarcastic comment, but a searing pain cut across the palm of my hand. As an automatic reaction, I clenched it into a fist, the extra pain acting as a numbing device. I sat up. I was worried to open my hand because I could feel wetness on it.
Matilda, eyes like a hawk, noticed what had happened in the split second before I'd clenched my fist, and she was up faster than I was.
"Axel, you're bleeding!" She exclaimed. As soon as she said it, I noticed the red smudges on my fingers.
"Sh*t," I muttered. I hate blood.
"Open your hand," she ordered. I shook my head. "Axel, do it."
"No," I said.
"I'll make you," she told me. I didn't respond, and she must have noticed the way I was looking at my fist because she put her hands at either side of my face and made me look at her. "Just look at me, not at your hand."
"All right," I nodded.
Tilly was careful to keep her eyes on mine as she pried my fingers away from my palm. It hurt, but I knew she was taking care so I tried not to show it. Then, she put on of her hands gently over my eyes. I closed them.
"Damn it, keep your eyes shut," she told me. I didn't need to be told twice. "'Kay, this is gonna sting a bit."
"Is it bad?" I asked.
"Uh… do you really want to know?"
She laughed. "All right, seriously now. Shall I tell you what it is so that you'll be expecting it when you look?"
"I'm going to look?"
"You're going to have to."
I sighed. "OK, yeah, tell me."
"It's a big cut, and… on second thoughts, you don't have to look. Just hold this on it while I get the nurse. She kissed my cheek and then left the room.
"That look owchie," said the boy leaning over the back of the sofa, staring at me. His hair was blonde, in a bowl cut. He wore a bright purple vest top, and, as he climbed over to sit in the back of the settee, I saw pale yellow hiking shorts. He wasn't wearing shoes.
"Who the heck are you?"
"I'm Milo," he said. "I'm five." And then, without giving me chance to open my mouth, continued at the same, speedy pace, "And you're Axel Moon. I know all about you." He took a breath. "And that was your girlfriend, and she's called Matilda, and she's very pretty," another breath, "And I have to go now. Bye!" he jumped onto the floor and ran out of the door to the dormitories, just as Tilly walked through the main entrance.
"Who were you talking to?" she asked.
"Uh…" I started, but she wouldn't believe that a six year old had turned up in Andelle. "Doesn't matter."
She rolled her eyes. "OK, give me your hand."
I did so, and she cleaned it up a wrapped a bandage around it.
"Thanks," I said. She smiled and hugged me, and then kissed me. Her mind was filled with worry about how it could have happened, and how she might have been able to stop it if she'd known. "Tilly, neither of us knew it was going to happen, it was impossible to see.
Stop worrying so much."
Her barriers went up immediately, and it made me laugh.
She was silent for a second, and then she got up quietly and pulled me onto the sofa. She turned towards me, crossed her legs, and looked quizzical.
"Axel? I've noticed something."
"When I get very close, like this," She leaned into me until I couldn't lean any further away without shifting, and she was very, very close. "You get very nervous," she breathed on me. I swallowed. "Like this."
"And," she continued, leaning closer, deliberately because she knew I couldn't do anything about it. "You look ever so slightly scared. Your breathing goes all shaky."
I swallowed again. "Uhh…"
"And I was just wondering," she moved closer. "Why that is."
"I… umm…" I struggled for words the way I did when I was under pressure. "It's… uhh… hard to explain."
"I'm listening," Tilly whispered.
"Well, it makes me… hmm…" I thought for a second. "Hmm, this would be much easier if you knew how it felt."
"So show me," she grinned, putting one hand at either side of my head on the arm of the sofa.
I grabbed her arms, pushed her backwards to the other end of the seat and, pinning her down, crushed my lips to hers with as much force as I could manage.
She froze for a second in shock, and then struggled for a few more. Then she gave up and kissed me back.
"No," I said. "You're not allowed to do that."
"But-" I cut her off with another kiss. She pushed me away slightly. "That's not fair."
"Yes it is," I told her. She started to object again, so I said, "I thought you wanted to know how it felt." I kissed her again, and she did her best to stay still without reacting, but it didn't last very long. She pushed me away, gasping.
"Oh…" she took a shaky breath in and swallowed, closing her eyes. "I see."
I smiled, breathing an apology because I knew I'd taken it too far.
After we both got our breath back, she giggled.
"I bet no-one's ever played a game of Monopoly like that before."
"That's true," I laughed. "Whose turn is it?"
"Um… can't remember. Let's just say it's mine," she beamed.
"Uh, no way in hell. I'm losing, so that means it has to be my turn."
"You're such a sore loser."
"I know," I grinned as I rolled the dice and moved the little car, only to find that I landed on jail. "Damn. Oh, wait, I know. Visitor's pass."
"Hey! No, that's cheating."
"No it's not."
"Yes it…" she trailed off. That was unusual for her, she liked to finish what she was saying, however long it was.
"Tilly?" No response. "Mil? Matilda?" She was staring at the back of the room close to the floor. I waved my hand in front of her face. She blinked.
"I, uh, found this," she fished into her satchel bag and took out a Me to You bear. It was the one I'd given her for our one-year anniversary and I'd forgotten it was even lost.
"Well, great, but what were you doing?"
She blinked a few times, and then her eyes went wide as if she'd just got a brainwave. "Can we go to Miss Anten?"
"Tell you when we get there. You can give her those questions."
"Yeah, all right then."
Miss Anten's office was hidden on the second floor. She had a special device which told her which students were on their way and then a hand scanner to prove it's actually you.
Mil seemed in a bit of a hurry to get there, so I took her down the shortcut. We scanned our hands and our head teacher let us up.
"Matilda, you seem distressed," she said.
"Uh… Axel needs to give you back those questions and I didn't want him to forget."
I looked at her completely confused. She'd told me that that was the reason I should go with her. But I gave Miss Anten the notepad anyway.
"That's not why you came up," Amy observed from where she was sitting cross-legged on a desk, writing.
Matilda sighed and went and sat next to her. I leaned against the door.
"Miss Anten, I'm confused," Tilly admitted. "I saw this girl in the corridor today, and she scared me. She was younger than Amy. And I saw her again, just now in the Yellow Common."
My eyes widened, Miss Anten looked worried, and Amy stared at Matilda in shock.