Chapter 18:

Let's Get Lost Together

Fair, no Fair

Slowly, but surely, I let myself drop to the back of the group, creating some distance between me and them. The further I got away from my peers, the more the pressing feeling between my shoulders subsided and the clearer I could think. When I was sure nobody had noticed that I was not catching up, I went off the tracks and took another deep breath of fresh air.

I carefully stepped through the thick layer of snow which remained untouched with the exception of my footprints, a couple of strewn-about animal tracks and small holes caused by fallen waterdrops from the trees. I was not worried about getting lost as I had previously etched the correct route into my mind and I promised myself I would not stray too far. I would catch up with my classmates before anyone could notice I was gone.

In reality, however, I was exceptionally wrong, (about the 'not noticing I was gone' part, at least,) which I soon realised when someone approached me. A cacophony of birds that had been hiding in the nearby bushes alerted me to the presence of my mysterious follower as they fled for the sound of his heavy footsteps in the crisp snow. I wish I could escape together with them; I would surely be punished for running off if any of the teachers had noticed my disappearance.

I anxiously turned around to face whoever was following me and felt immense relief when -instead of a teacher- a familiar face greeted me.

“Jesus Joey, what are you doing?!” I exclaimed

“What am I doing? What are you doing? Why’d you run off?" Joey looked very worried and took a step towards me. "Did Isabelle do something wrong?”

"No, that's not it! It's just..." I dragged a hand through my messy hair with a deep sigh until my fingers got caught in the tangled strands. "I needed to be alone for a bit. I want to sort out my thoughts but I can't think clearly when I'm stuck in a crowded group."

Joey's posture relaxed and he nodded sympathetically. “That's alright, but aren't you scared of getting lost?”

"No, I'll be okay." I shook my head with a friendly smile. Now that the initial shock of being followed was starting to wear off, I regained my confidence. "You really don't need to worry about me. I wasn't planning on staying away from the group for long and I have a really good sense of direction."

“Well, um, in that case,” Joey nervously scratched his neck and hesitated for a moment, “maybe we can be alone together? If you don’t mind… We don’t have to talk to each other if you don’t want to but… I don’t intend on breaking the promise I made you yesterday.” He looked a little flustered. "We could hang out together if that's alright with you?"

My heart fluttered in my chest. So Joey did remember his promise after all.

Laughing rather awkwardly, he added: “I also get disoriented very easily, so unlike you, I would totally get lost in the woods if I were to turn back to the group now.”

I crossed my arms with a soft snigger and eventually gave in. “Okay, you can stay with me if you want. I wouldn’t want to have the unfortunate disappearance of Saint Clair’s star student on my conscience.”