"I... I..." I was usually quite an articulate person, but something about her gaze had me panicking for a story. I wasn't going to tell her about Jax, but I didn't want to lie to her. "I got lost." I said. That was true anyway, I had no idea where I was.

Her grey eyes studied me carefully, debating my story, Dario seemed to be doing the same from his perch in the tree. 

"Well, it's a good thing Dario found you, your mother has contacted the police, you've been gone all night." Her expression hinted at disapproval, but she kept her calm state. There was a pause. Damn, I had completely forgotten about my mother, that was going to take more explaining than 'I got lost.' 

"Walk with me, my car is waiting at the road, I'll drive you home. And you have leaves in your hair, and mud on your face... Did you try and swim your way through the forest?" Usually a comment like this one would have been sarcastic and funny, but with her steely tone of voice and X-ray stare, it felt more like an accusation. 

I didn't meet her gaze, "No, I just fell over a couple of times, that's all." I awkwardly raked my hands through my tangled hair a few times to remove the worst of the debris. To avoid many more questions, I diverted the topic onto her. "Why are you out here anyway?" 

She began walking, and Dario moved like a shadow above her. "I live near to here, and I enjoy taking Dario out to get good exercise, it makes me feel good to be so close to nature, in such a peaceful environment." The way she talked, it was still without much emotion, but it was somehow different from her usual teacher voice.

I wasn't sure how to respond, we walked in silence for several minutes, watching Dario as he swirled above our heads. 

"Beautiful isn't he?" Said Mrs Voss, following my gaze.

"He is." I said, I wanted to ask her something, but I didn't want to be intrusive. "Is he your... pet or..." I trailed off, not sure how to ask.

"Or my Okan?" She finished for me. I nodded. There was a long pause, and I wasn't sure she would answer. "Dario is my Okan, you know people can hold their Okans outside themselves. Dario is a little like that, but not..." She frowned, as if she had given too much away. Then looked at me. "You're not having any trouble are you? I understand you turned sixteen recently, and it is about that time your Okan reveals itself."

I looked away from her gaze. "I um... haven't got mine yet. I'm sure it will come." I added hurriedly.

She looked at me, her eyes boring into me. "Of course, but Aria," She said as she opened her car door for me. I glanced up at her. "Just in case you have doubts, not everything is as bad as it appears." 

The End

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