To Riley, school was a nightmare; almost literally. Bullies seemed to follow her everywhere and pick on her; all because she has no dad. Counselors weren't even trying to help. She sat in the vinyl chair, waiting for the counselor to come in. Ella, her best friend, was sitting next to her; her ear was pressed up against her iPhone, trying to contact her parents. She frowned.
"This is strange," She muttered as she hung up on the voice mail "Neither my parents nor your mom is answering."
"She always keeps her phone on, in case the counselors call her."
Ella took Riley's hand into hers and lightly squezzed it "You did the right thing. He was bullying you, so it was okay to punch him."
Riley remembered that moment. The latest bully was Harley Johnson, and what he did crossed her line. While at the library, Riley was tripped by him and he said that she 'was daughter of a man who left his family for drugs'. The usual from bullies was being laughed at and called minor, yet rude, names. Furious, Riley gave Harley a black eye and, possibly, a bloody nose.
The door opened and Ms. Garcia, the counselor, slipped in. Her voice was tired as she spoke "What this time, Riley Wellington? You just gave Harley a bloody nose, so I am guessing that he crossed the line."
"A bloody nose? I thought it was a black eye." Riley tried to drift the conversation from the possible I-know-you-were-angry-but-try-not-to-burst-again speech.
Ms. Garcia shook her head in disapproval. "Riley, you are smarter than this. You have a grade average better than anyone here and you gave Ella's grades a boost. What you should've done is tell an adult."
Ella spoke up in a lawyer-like voice "My client was physically and emotionally by Harley Johnson. Before this happened, she had came to you for help and you told her to go to the library to distress. That is where our suspect was waiting for her. And for the record, Riley only helped me with my homework; we were best friends before."
Ms. Garcia only sighed and shook her head again. She was about to say something when the door opened to Mrs. Hawthorne, the principal.
"May I see Riley?" She asked and the counselor nodded. Riley followed her to the office where the school phone was on hold.
Riley held the receiver to her ear and touched the hold button. "Hello?" She asked, feeling nervous.
"Riley Wellington." The voice was masculine, terrifying, and unknown to her. "Mother; Abby Wellington. No record of a father. Born in London, Britain but raised in America. Your address is Apartment 26 at the Village Fiesta Apartments in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You are attending a Albuquerque public middle school as a eighth grader and your mother works at a restaurant. She must have a late working shift just to get you to Albuquerque."
"Actually, Ella's parents drive us there." Riley corrected and the man sighed with annoyance traced in it.
"Your school picture is very pretty. So is your mom's as well. You must of gotten her features. I really want to know where the intelligence come from."
"My mother says I inherited it from my-"
"I think I now know. Let's just say we know your family since your grandfather on your mother's side is a millionaire."
"Whoever you are, leave me and everyone in my life alone." Riley warned.
"I know you want us to leave you alone. But we know where you are and have unfinished business."
Usually, Ella's parents would get them back to Santa Fe. Today was different; nobody came.
"I guess we need to go with Plan B." Riley stated. Plan B was to walk down to the train station and wait for the next ride.
As they walked down, Riley told Ella everything from the phone conversation. Ella gave the idea that it was one of the boys doing something during suspension or detention. But later disregarded it when Riley pointed out that the closet anyone at school had ever gotten to was her address.
The train station wasn't that full of people; which was odd to Riley because by then, people should be crowding the platform. She knew that it wasn't strange for the railroad company to see less people on some days, but it was a weekday. Some other strangers have noticed the wide, open space. "Did you notice that it is very strange that we have less people?" One person said to another.
The ride home was quiet, like the platform. Riley glanced at Ella every now and then, hoping for some conversation to strike. There was, but it wasn't much of a conversation. Ella just brought up the fact that a lot of cop cars were going to in the direction of Santa Fe.
"You sure?" Riley asked "Because there are also some attractions in that direction that require police." Ella had just shrugged and looked away.
The platform for the Santa Fe railroad was like the Albuquerque railroad platform, close to empty. Once of, Riley soon found herself speed walking home; though they were located far into the heart of the town.
"Taxi!" Riley turned around and watched as a taxi came to Ella's side. She rushed inside and waited for Ella to come in. She told the driver the address and waited as they left. Her eyes were mostly focused on her hands, feeling an unknown feeling go through her over and over again. Riley had forgotten the name since the incident at school replaced the original feeling with anger and frustration.
A jerk on the brakes caused Riley to come back to reality. "How long have I been thinking?" Riley asked her best friend, who held up three fingers to signal three minutes.
"Sorry ladies," the taxi driver apologized. "I can't go any further.'' He waved a hand to the police tape that bordered the street where the apartments are. Riley paid the driver, got out, and ran under the tape to enter the building where she and her mother lived her entire life.
Police were scattered everywhere as she got closer to the apartments. As she got to the floor, two body bags were guided downstairs. She was later met by a frightened, elderly woman. Riley immediately knew it was Ms. Nightingale, the woman who live above them. Riley then noticed Ella was behind her.
"Ms. Nightingale, what happened?" Riley asked.
"I don't know," the woman answered "Ella's parents came to your mom for a visit before her shift. That was when I took a nap. Next thing I'm knowing, I woke up to gun shots and someone running away so I called 911." She looked at Ella sadly. "The two body bags held your parents, Ella. But Riley's mom is on the couch and is loosing blood."
They didn't hear much else, they sped off to the room. Ignoring the policemen, they got to the living room where Riley's mom was sprawled on while other people tried to patch up the wounds until an ambulance arrived. Abby looked away and saw her daughter as she tried to smile. A weak gesture to Riley made her come over to the side of the couch. Her mother then said to the paramedics "Do not listen to the conversation." and faced her daughter.
"Mom," Riley said "please don't go."
"I've been shot many times, Riley," Her mother answered "I think I will. There's something I need to tell you." Riley nodded for her to continue. "Your father."
"Yes, I know." Riley answered, remembering "You'll be able to see him again." But her mother shook her head.
"No, he's not dead. He's hiding." Her mother said.
"Your birthplace. London, England." A smile crept on her mother's face as she looked away.
"Why is he there?" Her mother looked back at her.
Her mother closed her eyes with a sigh and grinned. It was all over for Abby Wellington. And only Riley and Ella wept.