As she chewed slowly on her sandwich and watched the ducks floating by on the pond, Izzy’s phone buzzed. She stood up from the bench and skulked a few steps away from Fergus, leaving her lunchbox and schoolbag next to him
“Hey, Lauren,” she said nervously. She knew she was in for it now.
“Izzy! What the -? I’ve been -! Ugh! Where are you?”
“I’m just in town, Lauren. And calm down. I’m fine.”
“I’ve had to tell all the teachers you’re sick. I even rang the office just now and pretended to be your mother so that they wouldn’t get suspicious.”
Izzy’s heart fluttered. “Thanks, Lauren. You’re the best.”
“Yeah, I know, but seriously, Izzy, I was really worried about you. Why are you skipping school?”
“I…” Izzy’s heart dropped. Why was she skipping school? The answer was easy. She was scared and was hiding. Story of her life. She couldn’t bare to admit her cowardice and vulnerability to Lauren yet again. “I just felt like it,” she said on the spot.
The line was silent for a second. “Izzy, that’s not like you. Are you worried about the ghosts or whatever?”
“No. That’s nothing to do with it. Come on, Lauren, people skip school all the time. Even you do.”
“But you don’t… Izzy, you should –”
“Don’t worry, Lauren. I’ll call you later.”
Izzy hung up. And then held her phone in her hand and stared at it in surprise and wonder. Had she really just hung up on her best friend? Had she really just lied to her?
She spun around. Fergus was taking a bite from his breakfast roll. Was she really here, in town, skipping school, hanging out with a complete stranger who appeared more than a little bit dodgy?
Was she even Izzy anymore?
“Who was that?” Fergus asked, looking over at her.
Izzy blinked. “Just my friend checking up on me.” She frowned. “Don’t you have too get back to work? Won’t your sister be looking for you?”
Fergus threw an arm over the back of the bench and leaned back, scrunching up the wrapper of his now devoured roll. “Well, you don’t seem in a hurry to get back to school, and your friend is obviously looking foryou. So there.”
Izzy’s shoudlers shot up. “I guess you’re right.”
“Hey, relax. We’re all outcasts here,” shrugged Fergus.
Izzy forced a smile and joined him on the bench again. She found herself comforted by him. Yet another addition to the pile of surprises she'd had that day.