'She was following you here?' Jace exclaimed. 'Honestly, Mindy, maybe I should take you home.'
'How can you even say that?! I was in the toilets, which were empty when I walked in - I checked - and then when I got out she was washing her hands at the basin next to mine and drying her hands under the same thing!'
'At least she's hygienic,' he laughed and then dropped the humour. 'So, you're saying she was following you by doing the perfectly human thing and using the toilet? Do you not see how crazy your accusations are, Mindy? They're out of this world!'
I crossed my arms and followed him to the car, jumping in in a sulky mood. How could Jace, of all people, not understand me?
'I'm actually scared, Jace,' I said once we'd backed out of the drive. At half time, barely anyone was leaving and we were out on the road in a matter of precise reversing.
I watched his hands tighten around the steering wheel.
'Yeah, but you're scared of pigeons.'
'That is not relevant!' I argued.
'Mindy, you're scared of a harmless bird! If anything, I'm more scared for you for that fear, rather than Jodie "stalking you".'
I crossed my arms and sighed dramatically. 'Why don't you believe-'
The car came to a skidding stop and Jace spun the wheel, avoiding hitting a tall figure on the road. I grasped the dashboard and tried to resist the motion that the sudden stop was forcing on my body. The momentum of it all sent me forward though, regardless of how much I tried to stop my head from shooting out the windscreen.
Jace groaned and cradled his head while I choked and looked warily out the front of the car. The hood had dived into a lump of wet mud, dressing the soft metal in a thick layer of grub.
'Are you all right?' Jace asked, leaning over and touching his hand to the side of my head. It stung when he pressed and made a sticky noise, indicating that something had cut me. He pulled his jacket sleeve over his hand and tried messily to clean the wound.
'Don't worry. Let's just get out of here.' A cold, hard rock of something sat lodged in the bottom of my chest, telling me I wanted to be safely tucked in my bed - as safe as that was, I added in thought with a sigh.
Jace leant out of his chair to check the front of the car. He slapped the wheel and tried the radio.
'I won't be able to reverse. The mud is too deep.'
My heart sunk. The lump became heavier and a chill shuddered through me. 'Don't you have a shovel in the back?'
'Yeah!' Jace said enthusiastically. 'I've also got my dad's tool kit and a jet ski! Let me just get my keys!' He frowned. 'Why would I carry a shovel?'
With a mixture of worry and anger following through me, I threw open the door and jumped into the slush with a squishing sound. I walked around the front of the car and began pushing, purposely oblivious to the mud drenching my jeans and sliding into my boots.
I wasn't sure what was my incentive, what fuelled me to do it, only that I had to push the car. I had to get away. Maybe it had something to do with Jodie and the weird vibe she carried around in her wake. Or it could have just been my fear of darkness and isolation in unfamiliar places.
I should have never agreed to Jace taking me to a rugby game ten kilometres out of town! What had I been thinking?!
With absolutely no luck, the car didn't move and Jace had begun to find the situation more than funny.
'What are you laughing at? If you want to impressive Tahonta College, then maybe you should start doing some real weights! Come help me push your darn car out of this muck!'
He stumbled out of the car, giddy from laughing. 'Ok,' he chortled, 'I'll help you. But, for the record, it's Tontus College, not Tahonta.'
I growled and flung my hair out of my face. 'Does it look like I care?'
'Maybe that's the problem,' Jace muttered, planting his hands on the hood of the car.
There was something hard under my boot, and stiff. It wouldn't move and caught my foot as I dragged my boots through layers and layers of gunk. I groaned and gave it a shove. Something shifted.
'There's something under my foot,' I said, ignoring his remark.
'It's called the ground,' he replied in a strained voice. The car hadn't moved, frozen still in the piles and piles of mud. But while I had stopped, Jace had continued to push, suddenly as enthusiastic about leaving as I was.
'My foot. It's stuck.'
With a sigh, he marched over and grasped my thigh, tugging. A knife wove up the back of my foot, shooting pain up my leg.
'Ow!' I yelped, falling onto him. He caught me and leant me against the truck.
'You're right. There is something down here.'
He released my leg and began using his hands to remove the mud from around my feet, throwing the handfuls of grub over his shoulder. I watched the mud hollow around my feet, revealing something male and also covered in the brown muck.
Jace hesitated before moving to a different place to dig.
I looked down my leg for a moment to glance