Chapter Two

Welcome To Billington


"Holy shit, that was intense."

The man grabbed Eve's hand and tugged her forward, shuffling through the hallway so quickly that her little legs struggled to keep up.

"I know," his partner muttered. "I was expecting involuntary manslaughter, maybe manslaughter, but not this."

"Yeah, they're really trying to nail her to the wall."

The men hastened their stride, and so Eve's brisk walk turned into a run. They made their way through the courthouse, past the winding corridors, and into the marble entryway, and all the while the man yanked Eve from side to side with so much force and disregard that at times her feet barely even touched the ground. In that moment, she felt so small--so insignificant.

"We don't have to find an attorney for her, do we?"

"Of course not," the second man hissed as he fiddled with his phone. "The court will appoint someone. And for God's sake, will you get ahold of her aunt?"

"We've contacted her seven times already, even showed up at her house twice. She's dodging us."

"Well, keep trying. We have to get her out of the state's custody. No one will be willing to foster her if it ever comes down to it."

"No kidding." The man gripping Eve's hand looked down at her as if noticing her for the first time, though she didn't bother to meet his gaze and instead stared blankly ahead. He wrinkled his forehead and glanced at his partner. "She okay?"

His partner shrugged. "Probably as okay as she can be, given the situation."

"God, I can't believe it. An eight-year-old chimera charged with second-degree murder."

The words stung Eve as they left his lips. She didn't fully understand them, but she knew the severity they carried.

His partner tossed his phone into his briefcase and led the way down the staircase. "Believe it. This trial is going to be all over the news."

"The news? But she's a minor. She's protected by law--"

"Nationally, yes. But locally?" He laughed. "There's no way this story isn't leaking, and we've got front row seats to her public lynching. Speaking of which--"

The next thing Eve noticed was the sound of faraway voices that, with each step down the staircase, grew louder and louder. Then, she saw the row of glass doors--the exit to the courthouse--and the crowd of people forming behind it. They wore blazers and ties and held cameras and microphones, and soon she could hear their shouting much more clearly: "Young chimera likely to be charged as an adult," "The hottest case to hit San Francisco in nearly a half-century," and "We have to get a shot of her--we have to see her face!" Panic suddenly consumed her; she dragged her feet, desperate to stay as far from the horde as possible, but the man pulled her down the steps without relenting. His partner turned to them both and smirked.

The alarm went off, and Eve immediately sat upright in her bed. Morning had arrived. With a calming breath, she tore herself from her sheets and began preparing for her first day of school.

Conceding defeat, she weaved through the countless pink suitcases that littered her floor, plucked her shoulder bag from the corner of the room, and headed for the door--only to be halted by a small pink pillow that smacked her across the back of her head.

"Where the hell are you going?" Madison pouted. She was still sitting at her vanity applying her makeup.

"Uh, to class?"

Madison turned to Eve and glowered. "Best friends walk to class together, dummy."

Eve sighed and took a seat on her bed. Yesterday, Madison had determined that she was her "good friend," and today she had been promoted to "best friend." It was a title any girl would've dreamed of--that is, any girl but Eve. But there was no use in fighting it; she had a new image to uphold, one that was very foreign to her. She was now a human--an agreeable one, the kind who blended in with the crowd, who didn't attract attention, create friction, or raise questions. If that meant she had to tolerate her roommate's eccentricities, she would do it--with rancor, but still, she would do it.

Madison kicked on a pair of stilettos and took one last look in her mirror. Her outfit shimmered just as brightly as the diamonds on her wrist; her blouse was golden, clearly hand-stitched by an extravagant designer in some far-off country that Eve had never been to. The sleeves were capped at the shoulders and enhanced with silk ruffles that matched the appliqué at the bottom of her snow-white skirt. Her tie was large and tethered into a thick bow across her neck like a decorative ribbon on a beautiful package. As she turned from the mirror, she glanced at Eve, examining her from head to toe.

"Well, we can't all wear couture," she smirked, strutting out the door.

The two girls dashed through Rutherford Hall and out into the courtyard in search of the business building. An ocean of suits clouded Eve's vision: skirts, ties, and trousers in grey, black, and blue stretched as far as the eye could see, and while some, like Madison, made an effort to stand out, Eve for one was happy to blend in with the monotonous majority. She could hear the pitter-patter of Hayden's feet as she scuttled behind them, desperate to keep pace as they located their lecture hall. Eve's first class of the day was Leadership Principles with Professor Clarke, and she had the unfortunate displeasure of sharing it with Madison Palmer and Hayden Von Decker. As the threesome found their seats, the professor approached the podium and began his lecture.

"How many of you want to be here right now?" he asked.

The class was quiet aside from the indifferent mutterings of a few students, and a scant number of hands slowly and reluctantly reached into the air.

"That's what I thought," the professor chuckled. "And to those of you who raised your hands, you're liars." He stepped away from his podium and sat on the edge of his desk. "Look, I get it, I really do. You're here because this class is required. No matter the major, the concentration, the special circumstance or whatever else, you all have to be here. And it sucks."

next →

a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci