"Is Elly okay?" Megan asked as I descended the stairs five minutes later.
I gulped. "She's not feeling well, Megan," I whispered. "Come on. Let's go home."
"Are you mad at me?" she asked when we got home.
I frowned. "Why would I be mad at you?"
"For failing my tests," she whimpered. "I-I wasn't cheating!"
"Oh, Meggie," I sighed and sat beside her. She scrambled into my lap. "No, sweetie. I'm not mad at you. It was all a misunderstanding. Mr. March will let you retake them tomorrow."
She didn't cry but she was shaking. I rocked her back and forth and started humming. Eventually, she fell asleep but I knew I never would.
Bryant had come over looking furious. I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong but he just insisted that Megan and I come to his house. When we did, he gave Megan a doll then told me what happened, showing me the couch. I had thrown up a few times before going up to see her. She was bruised but that was the extent of the damage on her face and neck. As for the other pain....
I sighed and fell into my seat at the small table. I ran a hand through my hair, crying for Elvira. I felt so guilty; so responsible. I wanted to make everything right again but I didn't know how. Part of me considered going to his house and beating the life out of him but Bryant said he wasn't there. Where else could he have gone?
The next morning, I walked Megan to school like normal. She me up with her friends and I walked in, trying to stay calm. He didn't know that Bryant and I was aware of what he did. When I knocked on his office door, he opened it with a grin. Just seeing his face made me furious. So this is where he had been hiding.
"Your sister is retaking her tests now," he said, pointing, and I saw Megan go into a separate room.
"How long do you think it'll take?" I asked casually.
"No longer than ten minutes. She's a bright girl."
"Can I wait here then?"
He shrugged. "I don't see why not."
He sat at his desk and I glared at him. I had to wait, though, until she was done. My stomach twisted unpleasantly as I watched him. He was whistling happily and grading papers. I kept my hands. To know that yesterday afternoon he had committed such a terrible thing and looked so pleased....
Someone knocked and a woman walked in with some papers.
"Megan Buckley's tests," she explained and passed them to Daniel.
I kept my face even as he graded them. When he marked the grade, he smiled.
"She passed. She got every question right. It would seem I was mistaken."
I nodded slowly and closed the door. I locked it. He frowned at me.
"Yes, mistakes happen," I whispered. "They're part of human nature, after all." I rubbed my chin and stared at him. "Humans are strange, wouldn't you agree? Prone to lies, cheating, and violence."
I walked closer and his eyes hardened. "Yes."
I leaned over and grabbed the front of his shirt. His face was fearful as I dragged him over the desk. I was furious.
"Don't you ever touch her again!" I snarled "I will personally make you regret it."
"I don't know what you're talking about," he lied smoothly.
Our faces were inches away. It was taking everything in me to refrain from hitting him.
"I saw the blood," I hissed and his eyes flickered. "I know what you did. You should be ashamed of yourself."
He just smirked. "She's mine, Thomas Buckley. There's nothing you can do about it now. I have claimed her."
"She's not yours. You stole from her."
I pushed him back in his chair and ran a hand through my hair, trying to take a few deep breaths.
"You know, your little sister is a good student but-"
I pointed angrily at him. "Don't you dare threaten her again!" I yelled.
He jumped to his feet. "You will leave Elvira alone," he hissed.
"No I won't," I snapped back. "By the way," I added before leaving. "Bryant's managed to get an audience with Mr. Pink." Daniel's face went pale. "Excuse me or I'll be late."
I unlocked the door and slammed it so hard the glass rattled and fell out of the frame, shattering on the floor. I stormed out and followed Bryant's directions to Mr. Pink's house. I was so close to hitting him. I knocked and the door opened immediately. It was Mr. Pink and he looked horrified.
"Tell me it isn't true, Mr. Buckley," he begged and I ran a hand through my hair.
"I didn't hit him," I said when I saw Bryant's face. "He's been in the schoolhouse. I think he was there all night." I rubbed my chin angrily. "Mr. Pink, it's true. I'm sorry but that man is an animal and I refuse to let my sister keep going to that school," I snarled. "After I pick her up today, we won't be returning. It is Elvira's wish that we not tell anyone else so I will remain silent for now."
"I'm so sorry," Mr. Pink said. "I never thought he would-"
“Of course he would,” Bryant interrupted angrily. “All his life Daniel March has never been told no.” He looked at me, his face still angry, and I knew why. “You will keep seeing my sister. She needs you.”
I sighed. “I don’t want her to get hurt again.”
“She won’t,” Mr. Pink said. His face was hard as he stood up. “I have a meeting with my grandson. Thank you two for bringing this to my attention. Mr. Buckley, come with me to get your sister. To know he failed her on purpose….”
He shook his head in disgust. I sighed and looked at Bryant.
“Have you told your mother yet?”
“No,” he muttered. “Now that Mr. Pink is confronting him now, though, I have no choice. Come by after you’ve picked up Megan. Elly has asked for you many times.”
I nodded. “I will.”
I followed Mr. Pink to the schoolhouse, barely containing my anger. Mr. Pink threw the doors open and stormed down the hall. Through the broken glass, we saw Daniel running around packing up. He had locked the door but Mr. Pink reached through and opened it himself. Daniel froze.
“Leaving?” Mr. Pink asked.
“I don’t know what you’ve been told but-”
“I’m so ashamed of you,” he snarled. “Mr. Buckley, go get your sister. We will speak later.”
I nodded, glared at Daniel one last time, then went to the third room. Megan beamed and waved.
“Let’s go, Meggie,” I said and she blinked.
“Where are we going?”
We walked down the hallway together. “You’ve been given the day off,” I whispered. “We’re going to see Miss Elvira.”
“Yay!” she said and skipped on our way there. “I passed my tests!”
“I heard. I’m proud of you.”
I was trying to be cheerful but it was hard. When we got to the house, a woman opened the door. She was cringing. Shouting was coming from the parlor. We were at the base of the stairs when the doors opened and Theresa Rivers glared at me before storming up.
“She doesn’t believe me,” Bryant sighed. “I’ve showed her everything but now she insists on demanding it from Elly.” He smiled at Megan who looked confused. “Do you want to see the new dolls we got?”
“Can I?” she asked me and I nodded with a smile.
I walked to Elvira’s room and heard sobbing. The door was cracked open and I was shocked to see Theresa clinging desperately to her daughter. According to Bryant, Theresa hated her. Now, though, she looked as if she was dying inside, knowing what happened.
“Mr. Buckley,” Theresa gasped. “D-Did you know?”
I just nodded, standing in the doorway sadly. Theresa broke into another wave of sobs and suddenly she threw herself on me. I hugged her awkwardly but I was more concerned for Elvira. She was covering her face.
“Mr. Pink is talking to him now,” I said quietly.
“Mr. Pink?” Theresa repeated, sniffling. “Why is Mr. Pink talking to him and not Bryant?”
“He failed my little sister when he found out that Elvira and I were spending time together,” I answered monotonously, still angry about it. Her eyes widened. “Bryant went to confront him but he couldn’t find him. Can I have some time with Elvira, please?”
She nodded. “Yes. I-I have to go report this. There-There will be a trial and-”
She started to sob more and ran out of the room. I sighed and walked over to stand beside Elvira. Before I could sit down, she cried into my stomach. I shut my eyes and stroked her hair.
“She apologized,” she sobbed. “For everything. I don’t know what to do now.”
I sat beside her and put my arms around her. “The first thing you can do is agree to go on a boat ride with me,” I whispered and she looked up at me.
I nodded with a small smile. “I know it sounds simple but you need to get out of here, Elvira and-”
Before I could finish, she kissed me passionately. I held her tightly, unable to hold it back. I was so relieved her mother had actually believed her and was trying to make amends. Perhaps now I could pursue her in earnest.
She didn’t break away from the kiss for a while. When she did, she buried her face in the crook of my neck. I closed my eyes and put my head on hers.
“I will help you,” I whispered. “I will help you with your wounds.”
She sniffled. “And I will help you with yours.”