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Thoughts & Prayers

Chapter One, Scene 3

Sofia

Before biology class even started, Sofia Hernandez had her eye to the stereoscope counting fruit flies. Her best friend since middle school, Caitlyn Moran, sat cross-legged beside her. A ragged run in her tights went from her heel and disappeared under her skirt hem. She perched on a lab stool, swinging her leg, holding her clipboard and a nibbled pencil to tally the numbers of red- versus white-eyed flies. 

            Without even telling her, Cat had adorned her hair with a swath of pink color—her new fashion statement. Sofia was supposed to get a blue stripe, but she was probably going to chicken out. Sometimes Cat was too daring for her, but she longed to be that bold. She had to be that bold to keep up with her friend. But was it in her?

Caitlyn leaned over and whispered in Sofia’s ear. “Guess what was delivered yesterday?” 

Sofia looked up from the scope, knowing immediately what Cat meant. “oh, my God, I hope you brought it to school; I can’t wait all day to see it!” 

“Yes, I stuffed it in my locker. You’re going to love it.” 

“Did you wrinkle it?”

            “The piece of magic that’s going to make us famous? Of course not. It’s folded up in a fat envelope.”

            A distant booming sound made the table tremble. Sofia froze in place. More booms. Then popping sounds moved closer down the hall, like people were smashing the lockers with hammers. Caitlyn dropped her clipboard. Their teacher Mr. Johnson yanked a skinny boy from the hall into the room and slammed the door, locking it and flicking off the lights.

“Not a drill!” Mr. Johnson shouted, “Get down, get down!”

The wrenching sound was on them, visceral. Sofia knew the steps they had practiced since kindergarten, but she stood paralyzed. Hide . . . get away from the door, out of the sightline. No, no, no. The door splintered. Caitlyn flew off her stool. Sofia squealed as someone yanked her to the floor. She pressed her hands to her ears. Shiny red dots splattered across her arms. oh, my God. Caitlyn’s blood. Someone stepped on her foot. The firecracker sound kept going, banging, reckless and absorbing. It moved down the hall. The sound throbbed in her ears. 

            Caitlyn lay with her cheek on the floor. Sofia crawled to her and lay beside her. A strand of pink hair fell over Caitlyn’s closed eye. Is she alive? Sofia brushed it aside. Caitlyn’s wet skirt smelled like iron. 

Mr. Johnson was shrill. “Stay down!” He slipped in the bright red blood pooling from Caitlyn’s leg. His knee hit the floor.        

“Caitlyn, get up.” Sofia sobbed and dragged her friend to the wall, away from the gaping door. 

            Mr. Johnson’s coffee breath wafted over Sofia as he leaned down to check Caitlyn’s leg. With shaking hands, he pulled off his belt and wrapped it around her thigh, tightening it to try and stop the blood loss. Then he crawled away to check the next kid who was hit. His heavy breathing scared her even though his voice droned, “Stay calm.” 

            Caitlyn opened her eyes and looked past Sofia. 

“Cat, can you hear me? I’m here. I’m here.” Sofia shook Cat’s shoulders. Look at me, please, look at me. 

            Chair legs scraped as whimpering kids tried to huddle together. A kid held a phone up. It glowed white. 

I have to call Papi. Sofia jammed her fingers into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out her phone. Her hands shook as she texted her father. Caitlyn moaned. 

            Sofia cupped Caitlyn’s cheek. “Don’t die.”