When lunch rolled by he met Zara and the others in the lunch hall. Like most schools different social groups were in their own area of the hall. Zara, Darren and James were in a small table tucked away in a corner, near the curtained off stage. He joined them during what seemed to be a long-standing debate.
“I'm telling you, vampires are way cooler than lycans,” Zara shrugged.
“Please, all vampires do is glare at you. A lycan will rip you to shreds,” James replied, shaking his head.
“Supernatural fans?” Michael asked, laughing. He's read a few of the books and watched the odd movie, but he'd never been that into the scene.
“Haven't you seen this town?” James retorted. “Heck, Zara's weird mum owns the occult shop on the right corner opposite the church,” he added, smirking at Zara. She rolled her eyes at him and picked at her food.
“I'm telling you, magic is real,” Zara said, determination in his eyes.
“As in vampires and lycans?” Michael asked, unable to hide the skepticism in his voice.
“I don't know about that,” Zara said, a small smile tipping her lips. “But witches and stuff – that's real.” Michael opened his mouth to ask more, but Darren's eyes had widened. Zara and James starred at something behind Michael and he spun in his chair. The same group from the coffee shop were here, with two younger students he hadn't seen the day before.
“Dream-crew,” Zara murmured.
“Who's who?” Michael asked quietly, instantly spotting Lewis on the edges of the gang. He was walking with a quiet confidence, Amber at his side. Her hand was locked with the dirty-blond haired guys.
“Zack's the leader,” Zara explained, pointing out the tall guy he'd seen yesterday. The one who'd come to his defence. “He's one of the good guys.”
“And the ones who aren't?” Michael asked, already fearing the answer.
“The cocky guy watching everyone like cattle. He's called Lewis,” Darren answered, leaning in his chair and sinking. Michael realised everyone was doing something similar, trying to make themselves appear smaller.
“Amber, Evan and Anisha follow him like lost puppies,” James said. “The rest seem to be in Zack's corner.” Michael didn't miss the way he said 'seem'.
“And their families run the town?” Michael asked, frowning.
“Anisha's dad owns the mall. Lily's mum runs the town council. Derek's mum owns a lot of restaurants and shops in town. Lewis and Zack's families own most of the real estate since they come from founding families of the town. Although Evan's uncle is running it in lieu until they both turn eighteen. Evan's family was the third founding one,” Zara explained.
“What about their parents?” Michael asked.
“Most of them only have one parent. Something big happened twelve years ago. A lot of people died. Both Lewis, Zack and some of the others are orphans. They all live with Evan's uncle – he's Mr Kilby, the headmaster.” Michael took the flood of information in with a deep breath.
“What happened?” Michael asked, turning to meet Zara's eyes. She glanced at the others and they all shrugged.
“No one knows,” Darren said. “Just that a lot of people died. Everyone was too shocked that it was their families that were targeted. No one really asked for details.” Michael raised an eyebrow, getting the feeling he was missing a lot here. He watched as they sat at a big table in the middle of the room. They seemed as relaxed as they had yesterday. After a few minutes things returned to normal. Michael could still sense the caution in everyone else though. He glanced back at the table, taking them each in turn.
The two younger students were Jasmine and Grace. Evan and Derek's younger sister's respectively. The last girl's name, Michael learnt, was Kim. The last person he looked at was Zack. Michael wanted to thank him for yesterday, but had no clue where to even start. He'd probably just make a complete fool out of himself if he even tried. Dark blue eyes moved to meet his and Michael blinked. He looked away quickly, feeling heat rise in his cheeks. Zara watched the exchange silently, her eyes watching Zack still with a smirk.
“Guess Derek isn't the only one who likes a dream-crew guy,” Zara teased.
“It's not like that. He made Lewis leave me alone yesterday,” Michael explained, feeling his cheeks flush more at her words. Zara expression changed, becoming more serious.
“Lewis was giving you trouble?” James asked, both eyebrows shooting up. Michael nodded, surprised by how worried they were all looking. James muttered a curse, running a hand through his hair.
“What's the big worry? He's just a bully,” Michael said. Zara sucked in a breath at the name and blinked rapidly. Michael realised she was blinking back tears.
“My older brother got on his bad side and said that,” she whispered. “He died two weeks later.” Michael froze, wondering what to say to something like that.
“Zara-” Darren began, reaching out a hand to touch her shoulder. She brushed away from the gesture and stood up.
“I have to get to art class,” she said, her big leather boots stomping as she left. Michael's gaze followed hers and he realised he wasn't the only one. Lewis was tracing her movements, a proud look in his twisted eyes.
“You don't really think Lewis-” Michael choked, unable to say the word 'killed'. James and Darren exchanged a grim look. James sighed, standing up himself. Michael hadn't realised lunch had passed by so quickly.
“The story the police believe is suicide,” James said, shrugging. “Zara's never bought it.”